Wow, what a year 2018 was! I started Ostara Metal properly in January and this year has been a rollercoaster of a year, both with my personal life and with music. I will start off by listing my album and live performance of the year, followed by 9 more albums and 5 more live performances in no particular order, and then go through month by month some of my highlights of 2018.
Album of the Year
It will come as no surprise to many of you what my album of the year is. It is an album that came out in February of this year, and I have continuously been listening to it since its release. The band is my top listened band on Spotify, and 3 of my top 5 songs are also by them. The album is, of course:
Grimner – Vanadrottning
Some people may think that this choice for my album of the year is biased. That may be the case, but for me, music is not just about music, it is also about the emotions and memories that music brings up. Because of this album, I have made many new friends, including Grimner themselves, I have visited Sweden and Berlin, and the music brings up nothing but happy emotions and memories. And for that reason, Vanadrottning is my album of 2018.
And in no particular order, my top 10 are completed by:
- Aexylium – Tales From This Land
- Dragony – Masters of the Multiverse
- Korpiklaani – Kulkija
- Vorgrum – Party in the Deep
- Skálmöld – Sorgir
- Kalmah – Palo
- Triddana – Rising From Within
- Auri – Auri
- Heidevolk – Vuur van Verzet
Live Show of the Year
This one was a tough one for me to decide the top spot for, but after a lot of thought, it has to be…
HRH Vikings, o2 Academy Sheffield
And in no particular order, the rest of the top 6 are:
- Wardruna, Albert Hall, Manchester
- Heilung + Jo Quail, Islington Assembly Hall, London
- Grimner + support, The Angel Microbrewery, Nottingham
- Northern Extremity Jorvik Festival Special, The Fulford Arms, York
- Nightwish + Beast in Black, Manchester Arena, Manchester
And now if you want a long read from me…
Ostara Metal’s 2018 in Music
I first started Ostara Metal in September 2017, when I reviewed a small weekend festival at the end of September. I reviewed another album that year, but did not start Ostara Metal properly until 12th January 2018, with my review of Vuur van Verzet by Heidevolk. I saw Heidevolk live in May of last year, and those shows were in fact the reason that I first got the idea to start Ostara Metal in the first place. It was a strong start to the year for me with a release from one of my favourite folk metal bands, and it was to set off a great year in music for me.
February was the start of my live show year, with the Northern Extremity Jorvik Viking Festival Special in York followed swiftly by HRH Metal in Birmingham. Northern Extremity brought Sköll, Valafar, Sellsword and Isarnos to the Viking city, and it was one hell of a night. I didn’t stop headbanging and dancing all night, I certainly had a sore neck in the morning! It was an early morning off to Birmingham, however, and off for two more days at HRH Metal. It wasn’t a full folk and power metal party but there were certainly some folk and power metal gems in there. Particular highlights for me were Evil Scarecrow, Elvenking and Alestorm.
My album of the year also came out in February. Grimner’s third full length album Vanadrottning came out on 12th February. There is so much emotion behind the music and lyrics, it really is a beautiful album.
March brought a not so heavy album which has grown on me over the year, the self-titled album by Auri. Nightwish’s Tuomas Holopainen wanted to write non-Nightwish music, and so Auri was born, featuring Troy Donockley (also of Nightwish), and Johanna Kurkela. The album is advertised as “progressive folk”, and I can see why. It isn’t “folk” music in the strictest sense, but it is a beautiful album taking you on a peaceful journey. It is definitely an album to relax to.
March also brought Grimner’s first trip to the UK with 4 dates, including Hammerfest, York, Nottingham and London. I saw them in Nottingham, and it was one of the most happily violent gigs I’ve ever been to. There was a jig pit from start to finish, one person got knocked out, people were falling over left right and centre, and the coating on my patent Docs got ripped due to so many people jumping on my feet.
April was a quiet month on the live show front, but two excellent albums came out in the month of April. Kalmah released Palo, which was one of my favourite albums of the year. There wasn’t a bad song on that album. Unfortunately, for a while this album had some not-so-great memories attached to it, but I am slowly back to listening to this album once again. April also saw the release of Party in the Deep by Vorgrum, which is definitely a party album. I just couldn’t stop moving around to it when I first listened to it.
Two more excellent album releases came out in June this year. Aexylium released Tales From This Land, a lovely, jiggy folk metal album which is another grower for me. Triddana also released Rising From Within in June, which is a great singalong, tapalong, dancealong album which is yet another album I just keep going back to. June was definitely a folk metal month.
In August there was one major festival for me, and that is the festival on almost every true metalheads list in the UK, Bloodstock Open Air (review part 1 and part 2). After a shakey personal start to the festival, I got to see Skiltron and Arkona for the first time, as well as seeing Sellsword make their epic Bloodstock debut, and seeing the almighty Nightwish headline the festival for the first time.
September brought a much anticipated release from Korpiklaani, Kulkija. It is a beautiful, folky album which takes you right onto a lake shore by a forest on a beautiful summer’s day. It really does remind me of Finland. Also a highlight of September was Power Metal Quest Fest, a fantastic all-dayer which this year was a folk metal sandwich, with the festival opened by Atorc and closed by the quite drunken Red Rum. It wasn’t a great day personally for me, but a wonderful set of bands and some quality UK folk metal.
The last quarter of the year became quite busy for me. Two contrasting albums appeared on the same day. Masters of the Multiverse is probably my power metal album of the year, it’s catchy, cheesy, and just everything I want in a power metal album. I really hope I get to see them live some day. In complete contrast, Skálmöld brought out Sorgir. It’s darker folk metal full of atmosphere, and perfect to lead into the winter months.
I also had the very good fortune of seeing Evil Scarecrow live. They are by no means a folk/power/pagan metal band, but they are such good fun and if you ever get the opportunity to see them, you must do so. You will not laugh so much at a show.
November held two very special live shows for me, which I reviewed in a double feature review. It was very much a spiritual couple of shows for me. Ancient instruments, sagas and poems filed my life in November with Heilung (supported by Jo Quail) and Wardruna performing absolutely beautifully. They were very emotional shows, and I look forward to seeing Heilung again at Wacken Winter Nights, and I hope that I will see Wardruna again in the future.
My year ended pretty well. And December started with my favourite live show of the year, HRH Vikings. There were friends playing who I missed seeing earlier in the year, some bands I never thought I’d get to see live, some new discoveries thanks to the line up of the festival, and some old favourites who I love seeing time and time again. I also saw Power Quest live at Corporation in Sheffield, and then to finish off my live shows of 2018, I saw Nightwish supported by Beast in Black in Manchester. It was my first time seeing Beast in Black live, and I was amazed by just how much energy they had on stage. And as always Nightwish put on an incredible performance.
HRH Vikings website, Facebook, tickets
Power Quest music and merch, Facebook, Spotify, website, tour dates
Nightwish music and merch, Facebook, Spotify, website, tour dates
Beast in Black music and merch, Facebook, Spotify, website, tour dates
Honourable Mentions and Thank You’s
There are many people this year that have helped and supported me this year, and also some bands and organisations who have been kind enough to share my reviews, and also bands who have been kind enough to send me free stuff.
From North sent me a free CD for featuring them in my Sweden edition of Ostara Orbits, and I received a signed CD and a free shirt from Kalmah. I also received a free signed potato from Vorgrum, which is currently in my freezer.
Grimner have been nothing but lovely to me since I first started talking to them way back in February, and I have gone out to Sweden to visit them, and take a belated birthday trip to Berlin to see them and Vorgrum live (as well as Kalevala).
I have also had conversations with members of Midvinterblot and Jörmungand, and also with Vanaheim.
There are also a few albums I have listened to a lot this year which didn’t come out in 2018. I have been listening to Under the Grey Banner by Dragonland, Beserker by Beast in Black, most of Týr‘s back catalogue, and the self-titled The Ferrymen album.
And finally, I would like to thank everyone who has read my posts (especially if you’ve got this far in this post), who has liked my page, interacted with me, said hello, and generally been supportive of this tiny little blog. When I first came up with the idea to create this little corner of the internet in 2017, I was discouraged by someone who I now no longer speak to. I’ve had so many experiences this year in part thanks to this blog, and I’m hoping for a continuation of this in 2019. If we get bigger, then that is one amazing bonus.
I hope you have all enjoyed and are still enjoying this festive period, and I hope you will join me in 2019 for more reviews and experiences!