This year it was rather difficult coming up with a decent list of 2008 albums, mainly because I have been listening to a lot of older stuff and missing out on 2008 stuff as a consequence. It took me quite some time to search and remember albums from 2008 that I really enjoyed as nothing seemed to really stand out at first. I do think that I came up with what would most likely be my list of favourites for this year. There might be things I have forgotten, but I doubt I will update this list after it is officially posted.
Again the same thing happened as I described in last year's "Best of 2007" entry: there is too much music out there that I think I might enjoy and there is too much that I do indeed enjoy listening it. At the same time, there is far too little time to listen to everything that sounds interesting and sometimes you make the wrong choices on what to focus on (goes for life in general as well...). All of this simply means that at some point in the coming year(s) I will listen to some album released in 2008 and wonder why I never picked that up earlier. To err is human...
A Forest of Stars - The Corpse of Rebirth
Not only at the top of the list because it is in alphabetical order, but probably also because this is one of my favourite releases for 2008. Black metal, violins, avant-garde tendencies, strange vocals, gorgeous packaging... this has got it all. If you want to get something more out of your black metal albums, "The Corpse of Rebirth" is definitely worth trying.
Anathema - Hindsight
I have to come clean in writing something about this album, a confession of sorts. Regardless of how shameful it is, I have to admit that I had never really cared about or even really listened to this band before this year. Of course, I had heard a lot about them and I might have heard some random songs of theirs over the years, but that was it. Well, I am glad that I am able to add to that confession that I am glad to have discovered this band and that they have some quality releases (especially "Alternative 4"...). "Hindsight" is a thing of beauty in its own right and despite not being too familiar with most of the reworked songs, that has not kept me from thoroughly enjoying this album.
Black Lotus - Harvest of Seasons
This gem I discovered in the nick of time! Maybe two weeks later and they would not have been on this list at all or they would have been a great reason for editing the list! Lovely black metal with a clear folkish sentiment. Love for nature abound on this album. I cannot help but be reminded of Borknagar at times, especially because of the use of clean vocals, and I do not think that it could be anything but a compliment to be likened to that band.
Doom:vs - Dead Words Speak
While I am still slightly more impressed with the debut "Aeternum Vale", I have to admit that Johan Ericsson has a knack for creating and maintaining atmospheres throughout songs and albums. The music is dark and slow, but unlike a lot of other funeral doom stuff does not get boring or tedious. 'Dead Words Speak' has to be my favourite song hear, especially because of the "chorus".
Enslaved - Vertebrae
Enslaved keep doing it. They release great records and as far as I can tell, they will keep releasing great records until they break up. "Vertebrae" is a great record and, in my opinion, better than "Isa" or "Ruun". I cannot really compare this band with their viking stuff anymore and I guess I can understand why some people would argue that they should have changed their name, but Enslaved's music has shown a clear progression through the years. They are different, but none the worse because of it.
Forefather - Steadfast
Forefather have been pretty prolific in their 10 years of releasing albums, but none of them have ever really stuck to me like "Steadfast" has. "Engla Tocyme" and "Ours is the Kingdom" are decent albums, but "Steadfast" is a firm step beyond the level reached on those two. The music is more complex than before and I still love the way Forefather use clean vocals in their music. It seems like taking a little extra time for producing this record has really paid off.
Mgła - Groza
This album took me by surprise, really. I had heard Mgła on the "Crushing the Holy Trinity" six-way split with Deathspell Omega, Clandestine Blaze and others, but that did not really impress me much. Fast-forward to 2008 and Mgła's first full-length effort. "Groza" ("dread" in Polish... fitting title) is an evil album and what mostly shows that is the quality of the production. Sure, it is not clean or polished, but it fits the music perfectly. Also, great natural-sounding drums. Good job!
Opeth - Watershed
Yep, they made the list. Watershed, what can I say? It took me a fair while to get into the album, but it is admittedly a much better album than "Ghost Reveries" was. I love how Per's keyboard playing is integrated much better within the rest of the music instead of being simply an afterthought. A lot has changed since Orchid, but change need not necessarily be a bad thing in all cases.
Serpentcult - Weight of Light
Traditional doom metal is something that I have always appreciated more than the whole grunty kind of doom metal. Female vocals I have never really liked all that much. It is quite surprising, then, to realise that female vocals work pretty well in traditional doom metal... at least in Serpentcult's case. Nice crunchy music and female vocals. It works.
Taake - Taake
I love Taake... they are probably my favourite black metal band out there and I am not afraid to admit it. Especially not when every single (full-length) release of theirs is great. I am not too fond of some of the EP stuff they have done, but the fact remains that Taake keep giving us some really nice music. There is just something about their material to which no other black metal band seems to be able to get even close.
Ásmegin - Arv
Waiting 5 years for new material by this band and what I heard was very disappointing. Have been reading up on the recording process and the circumstances under which this album was recorded and released and though I can feel for those guys, this is still not a very good album in my opinion. I miss the aggression and the song writing they showed on "Hin Vordende Sod & Sø". Here's to hoping "Tusind Tabte Siæles Kakofoni" will eventually see the light of day.
Dark Age - Minus Exitus
I did not really want to add this album to this section at first, because I usually only put in albums that I looked forward to, but found disappointing or simply horrible upon listening. Anyway, I was sent this album and asked to write a review and damn what a chore it was to listen to this album more than once and write a decent review of it. Horribly insipid music and it still seems to get quite decent ratings all around. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Read my full review here.
Death Angel - Killing Season
Okay, I was not expecting much of this and I guess I got exactly that. Nothing interesting and nothing I would want to listen to again. Lacks speed, lacks focus, lacks basically anything that could possibly make this a good album.
Iced Earth - The Crucible of Man
I have to admit that I was one of the people that were really, truly hoping that Matt Barlow's return would suddenly "fix" Iced Earth again and restore peace and balance to the universe. Alas, "we" were deceived. Although it is nice to hear Barlow with Iced Earth again, it does not make the music any better and I guess if I had been slightly more clear-headed about it, I could have expected that.
Týr - Land
Although "Ragnarok" was a great album, I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed with "Land". The songs are over-long and do not really go anywhere, leaving the album as a whole feeling tedious and uninteresting. For a more detailed review I wrote, see here (never mind the numerical rating, it should have been lower than that).
The Honourable Mentions:
Agalloch - The White
For being a fun little EP.
ColdWorld - Melancholie²
For being a nice piece of depressive music.
Enforcer - Into the Night
For kicking butt.
Fen - The Malediction Fields
For seeming like an awesome album, but not making it into the list because I simply have not had the time to listen to it enough.
Lifelover - Konkurs
For not making it into the list this year... perhaps because it is a bit too long.
C'est tout. Comments, people, comments!