2008 in Music

author PP date 06/01/09

Music fans and casual readers, ladies and gentlemen, I, the Editor-In-Chief for Rockfreaks.net, present you a comprehensive guide to 2008, the most detailed all-around guide to everything important that happened in the rock and metal music scenes in the past year. How many other sites are able to walk you through more or less every single genre relevant to rock music, starting from indie rock and pop punk and ending in hardcore and extreme metal, and do so with a tongue-in-cheek attitude (as often as we can) and in a manner that's pretty damn close to as user-friendly as it gets? That's right, nobody else. And now that my initial pride is starting to diminish at a rate of one word per second, I'll get straight down to business and tell you from the get go that it has been one HELL of a year. So much as happened, so many great releases surfaced in all genres both by existing heavyweights as well as new faces, that even the busiest band whores of you will certainly have had immense difficulting keeping up. But don't worry, it's all here (with a few extremely rare exceptions ;), so enjoy the read, although it might just be best to divide it over several nights considering the sheer amount of material thrown at you in the following pages.

But before I let all of you run loose on the pages of history just waiting to be dusted off immediately, lets agree upon some ground rules here, shall we. First of all, having top10, top20, top50 lists is fucking retarded. You can have 20 magazines and have 20 completely different lists. Or 100 people and 100 new lists. Rolling Stone, Punknews.org, Kerrang etc, I'm looking at you. A much smarter idea is to have each writer from a publication to elect a couple of albums that they will take with them from 2008, the albums that they'll still be listening to when they come back to this article sometime in 2013. No, wait, we're all dead then, but anyway, that's exactly what we've done. Second of all, classifying bands into genres is fucking stupid. There are always bands like Thrice who you couldn't lump into a genre even if your life depended on it, thus rendering such a process completely and utterly useless. Instead, our beloved scribe TL had an excellent idea to classify bands into much broader categories, where you'll still have a perfectly good idea of what type of bands belong to each category. For example, mainstream rock covers bands that are huge enough to be known by almost everyone, they play arenas when they can and dominate the radios. Think of Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, System Of A Down and so on. Scene music is where any band who has ridiculous haircuts or Cheap Monday/Hot Topic clothing goes. Punk and Hardcore is where all the awesome music goes. Alternative Rock is where pop-ish acts that aren't quite big enough to be placed under mainstream rock, including all pop punk, indie rock, etc, etc. Everything else speaks for itself. Have fun and please leave us some comments at the end of the article, feedback is always appreciated for as massive piece as this one! Oh yeah, and if there are spelling mistakes, well, stop whining. It's 4am and I'll fix them once I wake up.

Petteri Pertola, Editor-In-Chief

Table Of Contents

This section contains the records that each writer thinks they will take with them from 2008 to carry on them for the rest of their lives, or in other words, albums that made the biggest impact on each writer. That may not always mean they are the favorite albums of 2008 by the writer, because if you think back a few years ago, how often has an album that you thought as your favorite disappeared from your playlist as years passed by, and the one that was merely in your top20 is still spinning in your stereo? With that in mind, all these are albums that anyone serious about music should own regardless of their normal genre affiliation, as they represent the 'impact' albums as chosen by each of our writers - as you know, great music exists in all genres, you just have to be able to find it. Here's a start:

Petteri Pertola (PP)

Foals - Antidotes

"Cassius it's over... you're second best second best second best second best". I just can't get that fucking line out of my head. I would never have thought a mainstream indie rock band would blow me away as much as Foals did, but hey, it happened anyway. The high-pitch, insect-like guitars and the experimental repetitive vocal work are unmatched by any other band, therefore automatically nominating Foals as one of the most original bands of 2008 if not more than that. Copeland might have written a better overall album in the genre but Foals is the band that had the most impact this year - going from nothing into playing two or three consecutive nights at the 5,500 capacity Brixton Academy is a remarkable achievement - and scoring chart-topping capable singles that also appeal to the non-mainstream listeners is testament to their talent.

United Nations - United Nations

Yes! This is exactly how I want my heavy music to sound like, a perfect mixture of oldschool screamo, punk rock and elements from the heavier music scene: Breakneck speed in a lo-fi instrumental environment topped with Geoff Rickley's (Thursday) unimitable clean croon on top together with Palumbo's insane screams, ohh baby that's just the way I like it. There hasn't been a release like this for... well, I can't even remember for how long, meaning that United Nations make it sky-high on my impact list for this year. This one won't be leaving my iPod any time soon.

Dillinger Four - C I V I L W A R

In a time where most punk rock bands have forgotten what it means to write intellectually challenging, honest music that comes straight from the heart without the slightest worry in the world whether they will fit into a scene or not, Dillinger Four's stunning "C I V I L W A R" is perfectly timed. One of the most influential punk rock bands of the last decade or so doesn't fall short on this one either, only a fool would miss the record where the band finally become slightly more accessible for people outside the punk community. This one will be talked about for years to come.

Gwen Stacy - The Life I Know

"The Life I Know" may not be a creative or even a particularly original album. But it sure as hell is the best album recorded in the post-hardcore/screamo/metalcore scene in the past year by a long shot. On the first few listens, most people bash it for being full of simplistic scene breakdowns, allowing the karate moshers to do their worst, but after a couple of spins, a whole another world opens. Vocalist Cole Wallace's performance is stupendously good, so much so that I'll remember his "WELCOMEEE" scream after the buildup in "Sleeping In The Train Yard" for the rest of my life. Every word and line he screams is perfectly audible, yet just at the right level of coarseness to suit the music. That alone will have your attention for about five or six full spins, and then you discover that the guitars you had already written of actually are disguised as overly simple when they in reality feature an insanely good combination of ear-piercing breakdown and melodic hook. 2008's "Redeemer", for sure.

Greeley Estates - Go West Young Man, Let The Evil Go East

I had already written Greeley Estates off after their mediocre sophomore album "Far From The Lies", but the band came back with a blast on this one. Changing virtually every single aspect about their sound, they are to date the only screamo band I've heard who are able to make their songs sound gigantic and epic as hell without losing any tightness or aggression in the process. And man, those high-flying guitar scales and the tapping on "Let The Evil Go East" combined with the suicidal throat-assault of vocalist Zimmerman are nothing short of brilliant. That alone isn't enough to put the CD on my "impact list" this year, but Zimmerman's vocal performance is. Nothing short of amazing.

Tim Larsen (TL)

UnderOATH - Lost In The Sound Of Separation

"Lost In The Sound Of Separation" is an album I had to assault again and again for a long while before it finally dawned on me what all but our own PP seems to be able to understand, and that is that this record is so good it's hard to even put in words. Transcending terms like screamo and post-hardcore, and even how some of us think of conventional albums, UnderOATH draw us fully into their misery and make us lose all feelings of space, time or track number, highlighting their incredible atmospheres with some downright masterful screaming and drumming. AP once wrote this about Dark Tranquillity, but I feel it fits more to say it here: "If misery had a sound, UnderOATH would be its instrument".

Metallica - Death Magnetic

I know what's coming but it doesn't matter. I know that Lars's drumming is rather sloppy but it doesn't matter. I know that James's voice is growing older, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because the frontman still writes vocal lines that can't leave your mind and it doesn't matter because Kirk and Rob handle the guitar and the bass like it ain't nobody's business. What it all amounts to is such a guitar-splintering no-nonsense piece of awesomeness, bearing Metallica's unique, legendary and unmistakable trademark sound, that it bullies pretty much everything else in rock and metal alike. This is Hammet, Hetfield and Trujillo saying "this is how it's done, and we can do it even if Lars is a slacker", and they're saying it so loudly that it's hard to disagree with them.

Circus Circus - Brooklyn Nightlife

While Circus Circus may not be the band that picked up the most hype or the biggest headlines in 08, they sure as fuck blew my mind, and if you give "Brooklyn Nightlife" a chance, they should blow yours too. The debut album is as raw and untamed melody as guitars can produce, delivered with the energy of a fusion plant and the passion and honesty only the truest of punk rock bands can deliver. Sure it's hard to make out the screamed lyrics and sure it's similar stuff for the whole album, but by God I can't remember hearing an album that ever brizzled with energy the way this does. If you want to feel electricity surging through your body, this is the next best thing to being struck by lightning.

YouMeAtSix - Take Off Your Colours

Upon hearing Take Off Your Colours the first time, your initial thoughts will be drawn towards the bin next to the copying machine that has harbored the poppunk scene of late, but then, anyone who gives this album a couple of full spins in their headphones will recognize the diamond these boys have really dug out. Boasting some of the most memorable vocal melodies, bridges and climaxes of the year especially on the last two thirds of the album, this is as good as anything pop-punk has been since the early days of Fall Out Boy and New Found Glory.

Aleksi Pertola (AP)

Bring Me The Horizon - Suicide Season

Like so many others, I wrote this band off a long time ago for Oli Sykes' obnoxious, disgusting behavior and his childish lyrics, and I was all but intrigued by news that a second album was in the works. Then the band released a three-song sneak preview of it and everything changed. Gone were the cliché deathcore riffs and effect-laden faux-death vocals; in their place were guitars tuned to their lowest, experimental riffs with a clear nu-metal influence, and a deranged yell that can only be described as one of the most noteworthy vocal performances of the year. The raw fury and fuck-all attitude in Oli's voice and lyrics that has served as the band's secret weapon since its inception is all the more audible now, and unmatched by even the most brutal of their peers, though it's the more thoughtful, emotional passages that steal the show. The band's image will still shun many, but one thing stands clear: here is a band that, against all odds, has put out an album to be remembered.

Meshuggah - obZen

Some bands' influence cannot be measured in numbers sold or the sizes of their shows. Meshuggah has found little mainstream success, but is widely considered as one of the most important and influential acts in extreme metal, and with an album like "obZen" it's easy to see why. It strips metal down to its barest, rebuilds it in an abstract form and pushes the genre past its boundaries to cacophonous, calculated chaos where it seems like each member is playing a different song yet everything fits. Supreme technical sophistication, relentless, almost hypnotic polyrhythms and an overpowering volume ensure that "obZen" is no more comfortable than a snuff film, which is ironically what the band's videos can be likened to. It's as distressing as it is intricate - one of the most beautiful and ingenius albums I have listened to.

Protest The Hero - Fortress

It is rumored that when Protest The Hero wrote their debut album, Kezia, it was deliberately too difficult for the band to play. If that's true, then it's a winning formula, because even the most seasoned veterans in progressive metal music have praised the band to the skies. Listening to "Fortress", it's easy to understand why. Unlike so many other bands their age, these guys think outside the box and off the wall, and the result is a defiant, musically virtuosic sophomore album that refuses to belong in any one genre. It's melodic and experimental like The Fall of Troy; it's playful and hard like Between The Buried And Me; and it's spazzy and what-the-fuck like The Dillinger Escape Plan. In "Fortress", influences ranging from the neo-classical to mathcore converge in a stunning display where each member is almost always playing the lead whilst never coming across as without taste. Oh, and let's not forget Rody Walker, whose vocal performance here is nothing short of amazing.

Trivium - Shogun

Trivium's trek has been littered with hatred, first for shamelessly riding the metalcore wave to comparable success, then for (allegedly) shamelessly plagiarising some of the greatest metal bands of our time. Even if there was a basis for those allegations, "Shogun" should silence the hatebreed once and for all, for it seems that the band has finally found its own niche within the scores of other, and often older bands that pride themselves on the thrash metal label. "Shogun" gathers the band's best ideas into songs that tempt the use of a term like modern progressive melodic thrash metal; songs which are so well written and embody such instrumental virtuosity that they send shivers down one's spine.

Vira - Recurrence

If ever there was a band in to export Danish metal over the Atlantic, Vira is it. When their unsigned budget demo looks and sounds like the latest single from an American technical metalcore band with two or three releases in their name, what more proof is needed? "Recurrence" is one of the most jarring and intense barrages of sound released this year, mixing the technical prowess of Meshuggah with the hypnotic pounding of fellow countrymen The Psyke Project, and texturing it with dissonant leads and harmonics reminiscent of Misery Signals. Here is finally a Danish band with genuine international potential, ready to break out of its shell and expand beyond the domestic scene.

Ellis Woolley (EW)

Nachtmystium - Assassins

Topping my list of the albums of 2008 is one I shamefully only awarded 8 to in July - Nachtmystium's "Assassins" bristles with the enthusiasm of a band setting foot in unknown territories, being a near perfect blend of Pink Floyd-ian psychedelic rock and rasping black metal, played with total conviction and control of their instruments. The title-track is the best song I've heard all year, weaving through wholly different timezones and the concluding "Seasick..." triumvirate is sheer divine, utterly relaxing with a common spine throughout but vastly different flesh.

Jex Thoth - Jex Thoth

Again under-rated at the time of review, initially sounding a little too retro for this doomster's ears, Jex Thoth's S/T debut plodded out of the 1970's with all the ritualistic venom of Sabbath at their classic best with the added twist of a possessed hippy woman fronting it. Full of great riffs and genuine doom paranoia, this was the doom release of 2008.

Cult Of Luna - Eternal Kingdom

CoL's fifth album was a revelation for me, combining elements of metal I know well (doom) and those I don't (sludge/'post-metal') into a moving and evocative hour of down-trodden prose, low on the speed but high on the drama and suspense. With a bit of Katatonia here and Neurosis there, "Eternal Kingdom" sounds like a doom band sans the over-riding negativity of their brothers-in-law.

Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull

An early contender for album of the year with a February release date, "The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull" is as vast and mind-expanding as the title. The third album here to suggest a band not yet familiar with 3rd gear, though in this case of Earth, one also not acquainted with distortion. If the intriguing nature of droning ambient tempts you I suggest you buy this album as if nothing else you'll find its soothing nature will reinvigorate you for your usual, more punishing music.

Bilocate - Sudden Death Syndrome

Despite taking a number of listens to grasp the cavernous nature of "Sudden Death Syndrome" the Arabic nature of it's doomy death soon got me interested, being derived from the sprawling tomes of Opeth tempered with added darkness and real beauty in both the performance and song-writing of the band from a country (Jordan) one would have never expected such a band to arise from.

Anders Seneca Bang (AB)

The Monolith Deathcult - Trivmvirate

These Dutchmen really know how to write songs; they've flawlessly mixed intricate elecronica into their blistering death metal. The sound is enormeous, with big electronic soundscabes beautifully supported with abysmal growls and killer DM instrument handling, creating stunningly atmospheric DM. This hasn't been heard (atleast not on this superior level) before; so this is both deeply progressive as well as masterfully executed death metal.

Decrepit Birth - Diminishing Between Words

Bringing back memories of Death, these guys are musicians par excellence. Packed to the brim with soli and leads and superb drumming, "Diminishing Between Worlds" takes technical death metal to a new level where melody is layered into their brutal death metal in such as way that one can only listen with awe and wonder.

Arghoslent - Hornets of the Pogrom

Mixing old school death and old school heavy metal, though undeniably with a pure death metal sound, this album is superbly done. The amount of stupidly infective heavy metal riffs is frightening; the skill with which these are done is just as impressive. Both extremely groovy, beautiful and hateful, this is the fuckin' elite peeps.

Septicflesh - Communion

What do you get when you mix super death metal with 112 guys doing choir and classical orchestral music? Awesomeness, that's what. Septicflesh has done one hell of an impressve death metal album with "Communion", the soundscapes are about the grandest I've ever listened to. The best way to describe this would undeniably be "wicked grandeur".

Hate Eternal - Fury And Flames

One of the most aggressive, brutal and downright frenzied death metal acts around, Hate Eternal has yet again created a super album. Eric Rutan and co. are stupidly talented musicians, and have with "Fury And Flames" managed an incredible chaotic and brutal death metal record.

Mirza Radonjica (MR)

Kings Of Leon - Only By The Night

If any band has stepped up and seized the mainstream in 2008, it has to be Kings Of Leon, who followed up on their "Because Of The Times", which was already great, with an even more brilliant album in "Only By The Night". Every little detail that hindered the last record from truely taking you home have been surgically removed and what's left is a record that displays a band with a strongly recognisable character and a talent for writing songs that stick to your mind like glue. We're still singing along to "Use Somebody" and "Sex Is On Fire" - How about you?

Glasvegas - Glasvegas

In response to Kings Of Leon moving on British territory, by dominating the airwaves with an Americanized version of a sound British band's have otherwise been used to bringing to the limelight, Glasvegas fired back from their Scottish home with a self-titled debut that kicked the island's infamous hype machine into overdrive, and ever since, "Geraldine" has been constantly haunting stereo's near and far. While we're not quite sure if Glasvegas will indeed become "The new Arctic Monkeys", as long as their brand of pop/rock is as captivating as this, we won't mind them stealing airplay away from less creditable artists.

In the realm of mainstream rock, 2008 has been a year that started out seeming like it would be the next-biggest acts turn to shine while all the established giants were sleeping. With U2, Green Day and the big heroes of 07, My Chemical Romance, all resting on their laurels for a bit, Coldplay dared to come out of hiding with the "Viva La Vida, Or Death And All His Friends" album, but then, if our feelings about that album are anything to judge by, maybe they should've worked on it a bit more. Then it's a whole different thing with Kings Of Leon, already kicking up some hype in 07, the band really became one of the biggest winners of 08 by releasing their excellent and highly praised "Only By The Night" album and rocked some absolutely massive sets in festivals and sold out venues all over the place. The British didn't seem to want to admit defeat though, so their media quickly catapulted Glasvegas's debut album to the limelight as a retaliation, and while "Glasvegas" might not have blown "Only By The Night" decisively out of the water, fans of either band should be blessed to have two of such great records to appreciate from one year. Meanwhile Fall Out Boy went even further away from the alternative scene, and dove even deeper into the mainstream with their new "Folie A Deux" album, which of course continued to piss of old fans everywhere. Not that Pete Wentz must care much, considering that he has been busy marrying and having a son with Ashlee Simpson.

However, even as loads of the young guns stepped up to their chances, they had a hard time fighting over the limelight with the amount of legendary names that choose to let 2008 be there comeback year. Rage Against The Machine made sure that most summer festivals of Europe will never be the same, and Zach de la Rocha followed up on the attention by releasing the debut of his sideproject One Day As A Lion, in which he collaborates with ex-The Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore by the way. Velvet Revolver on the other hand decided to call it quits, but little of value was lost, and while Slash and Duff looked around for other things to do, Scott Weiland released his second solo album and got back together with Stone Temple Pilots, who will be recording a new album in 09. Rumours also emerged about Led Zeppelin's potential reunion, but Robert Plant more or less grounded them, so people started talking about Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge as a potential replacement. If that's the case, then there are even more rumours saying that the rest of Alter Bridge have some very lucrative offers if they would kiss and make up with Scott Stapp and reform Creed. Both reunions are still pending as we enter the new year however.

No matter how you spin it though, 2008 will probably always be remembered as the year Axl Rose returned with the Guns N' Roses album that cost him a decade of his life, a fortune and an entire band, and while "Chinese Democracy" is actually a really cool album, it far from lived up to the legendary status and expectations it had gathered over time, and as such, it is hard to really call it a great success. It is however good to see that good old Axl is alive and kicking, as he even took to communicating with fans with a seeming honesty in a series of comments on the fans' message board. Not steering totally clear of drama though, lawsuits did fly when Dr. Pepper failed to instantly make good on their promise to give every American a drink if "Chinese Democracy" did come out before new years. The company has now made good on their promise, however.

On the more uncool side of things, talks of a Kinks reunion were pretty much floored when guitarist Dave Davies claimed that; "It would be like a poor remake of Night of the Living Dead". Paramore went to the verge of breaking up but returned safely - whether the first or last part of that is the uncool one is for you to decide. The poor dude who first tried to leak "Chinese Democracy" instantly got owned by the FBI, while Noel Gallagher of Oasis got assaulted during a show in Toronto. Oasis actually also put out another album this year, called "Dig Out Your Soul" still not managing to pick up on their fame of old - We find this slightly uncool, but of course, you might disagree there. One thing that is uncool no matter what though, is how Travis Barker and DJ AM almost didn't survive their plane-crash, which unfortunately proved lethal to his security guard, his assistant and two crewmembers. An accident also hit Deftones' bassist Chi Cheng, who has been in a coma for almost two months, after he was involved in a car accident in California. On a lighter, but still rather uncool note, 2008 was also another year where Linkin Park and 30 Seconds To Mars continued to gain more money and fame besides doing everything BUT make new music.

In remaining stories, it could also be noted that The White Stripes teamed up with Alicia Keys for the theme song of the second James Bond movie with Daniel Craig playing 007. AC/DC released yet another album playing exactly the same stuff they've always done and we kept loving them for it. Half the bands in the world lined up behind Barack Obama to support his successful run for presidency, while a few (John Mellencamp, Foo Fighters) complained loudly at his opponent John McCain using their music for his campaign without permission. The Raconteurs tried to pull a fast one on the world of critics by releasing their sophomore "Consolers Of The Lonely" only a week after announcing it, trying to cheat them out of their ordinary privilege of being able to listen to and review an album before the public got their hands on it. Some were confused and some were insulted but here at Rockfreaks apparently we still didn't care enough about any of the bands albums. I guess it must have slipped out minds. 2008 also saw new albums from The Killers, Razorlight and Travis respectively titled "Day & Age", "Slipway Fires" and "Ode To J.Smith", only the last of those really made a good impression. Danko Jones put out an album that got them some hype, but really, we just remember them for how insane their singer looks when he headbangs in their video for "First Date". TV On The Radio released an album which we call good while Rolling Stone call it best of the year - We figure they must have partied pretty hard before making that decision. In any case, let's wrap this up by talking a bit about a couple of albums from bands whose style is still anchored in the last decade, as this seemed to hinder Staind, 3 Doors Down, Nickelback (not on their DVD though) and uhh.. Hinder, but failed to slow down Filter and The Presidents Of The United States whose "Anthems For The Damned" and "These Are The Good Times People" both made an impressive comeback if one is to trust PP.

Best Mainstream Rock album of 2008:

Kings Of Leon - Only By The Night

Written by TL

For those who venture outside the mainstream, up and down the more alternative streams, 2008 hasn't been a dull year either, and this section will cater to them through all those indie/poppunk/altrock/whatever bands that are only pseudo-famous in our eyes. Early on Panic(!) At The Disco divorced the majority of their fans by dropping the exclamation point and making their sophomore album more of a Beatles tribute than the emolectro everyone had been drooling for. Here at Rockfreaks.net, PP and I are still at each others throats over whether or not that was a good thing or not. In the mean time, loads of artists took some time off from their day jobs to put out solo records, and effectively we've been gifted with acoustic treats from Anthony Green (ex-Saosin, Circa Survive), Dallas Greene (Alexisonfire, City And Colour) and Aaron Gillespie (Underoath, The Almost). All of them are still members of their respective bands though, which is more than can be said about Thomas Dutton though. Okay granted, he still bears Forgive Durden's name, but the rest of the members don't anymore, however, we're not crying on his behalf when he can still put out as great an album as "Razia's Shadow - A Musical", an album with enough guest artists to fill out the void after 07's "In Defense Of The Genre", by Say Anything, of whom singer Max Bemis also started a side project with Saves The Day vocalist Chris Conley, called Two Tongues. Stay tuned for their album to come out this coming February. While we're at it with the frontmen, let's also remember that Conor Oberst put out his first album under his own name rather than Bright Eyes, even if it was essentially just more of the same stuff.

As for full bands, Weezer came back and added "The Red" as another colour to their album palette picking up some good criticism both for their album and their video for its lead single "Pork And Beans". Speaking of videos, Tickle Me Pink exploded into the awareness of the scenes by being cheeky enough to feature a naked pornstar (a very hot naked pornstar though) in video for their first single "Typical" (explicit version) from their debut album "Madeline", and meanwhile The Matches released their third album "A Band In Hope" and narrowly avoided getting arrested for breaking the law in their video for "Yankee In A Chip Shop". Blessed By A Broken Heart weren't quite as lucky, as their bassist was in fact imprisoned for a short while, for assaulting a security guard during one of the band's gigs in Britain. He explains that he did it to help out a crowdmember to whom the guard was being unnecessarily rough.

So while we're in Britain all locked up with Mr. Chivalry, let's talk a bit about what went on there. Charlie Simpson and Fightstar kept being awesome even on their B-sides album "Alternate Endings", and big brother Will Simpson's band Brigade came out with their second album "Come Morning We Fight", which didn't quite live up to my personal expecations however. On the flipside, YouMeAtSix blew me clean out of the ball park with "Take Off Your Colours", easily grabbing the spot for pop-rock/pop-punk record of the year. In the more established part of England's scene, Bloc Party successfully flirted even more with electronics on "Intimacy" while Kaiser Chiefs stuck predictably to their guns on "Off With Their Heads". Around the same time, Elliot Minor sprang out of the ground with their classically influenced brand of pop/rock/punk, with a handful of songs off their self-titled debut being more catchy than you'd ever imagine. Over in Wales, Kids In Glass Houses gathered hype for their debut "Smart Casual" but failed to deliver, which some would argue could also be said about Funeral For A Friend, who after founding their own label Join Us and promising a return to the aggressive qualities of yore, didn't quite convince us on their fourth album "Memory And Humanity". Out of the British soil we also got Slaves To Gravity, trying to bring back grunge, and Rolo Tomassi, trying to bring out... Weird/psycho/space/techno/noise/chaos! Of course, Snow Patrol put out a new record as well, but that was really just more of the same, and then it was more exciting to sample the debut of Your Vegas, whose rousing brand of dramatic indie rock has potential to take them far. To round ofo this little section dedicated to good old Albion, the last band I want to mention from there is Voodoo Six from London, whose "First Hit For Free" album may be their second, but it's the first I've heard by them, and if you like any kind of hard rock, I just want to make sure to recommend it to you. Oh and The Automatic returned to follow up on their 07 album

and "Monster" hit single, which was also alright, but I'd still check out Voodoo Six over them if I were you.

Anyway, since we're so close, let's go for a slight dash through Scandinavia, starting in Denmark where Veto and Spleen United solidified their positions as kings of the local electro-rock trend, while The Raveonettes fiddled around with a short EP. Rock Hard Power Spray gave us another shot of their straight-forward rock'n'roll, while A Kid Hereafter impressed the hell out of a lot of people not only as their indie selves, but also as their "In The Grinding Light" grindcore alter-ego. Volbeat once again masqueraded as a metal band with great success, continuing to embarrass the fuck out of every resident of Denmark among our staff. Overall we think it's fair to say that we did better than our Swedish neighbours though, at least here in the alt-rock department where The Hellacopters' swan song "Head Off" did little more than put us to sleep. The impression doesn't get better either when thinking of how pop-punk and screamo talents Chemical Vocation and Kid Down both failed miserably on their outings. I had hoped for the Finnish boys in Disco Ensemble to do better on their sophomore, but while "Magic Recoveries" isn't all bad, it's still not quite what one could hope for.

To shift the geographical focus, let's also just remember that Australian The Vines also released yet another album, which no-one around here seems to care about though. Their countrymen in Wolfmother didn't fare much better, as last we heard, the band was down to one member, as singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale was left by his two bandmates over the summer. Then things were better stateside, where there are enough bands to make sure that someone is always doing something good. Death Cab For Cutie kept up the standard on "Narrow Stairs" and Valencia impressed a load of people on their sophomore "We All Need A Reason To Believe". It's things like that, that make us forget how Forever The Sickest Kids brought us one of the most annoying albums of the year, as did Hollywood Undead and Simple Plan, who might have very well been shooting for the mainstream on their self-titled third album, but given how only teen girls with overload on the eyeliner fell for it, we'll stick to ridiculing them in this section even if they are a bunch of nice guys in reality. The Audition and The Academy Is.. also both came out with new albums, failing to impress much. Whether or not Anberlin fared better with "New Surrender" still hasn't been settled between me and PP. In any case, my personal hopes in Everdae died as the joined the r'n'b/rock fad on their second EP. So far, we don't get the hype around The Cab, Danger Radio and other bands like that I'm afraid. While we're at it in pop punk land though, let's just note that 2008 also saw some releases from The Maine, Hit The Lights, Houston Calls and Punchline, the latter of which really kicked up some dust in its wake. Oh and if you don't mind a chick being in front, Hey Monday also fell in line with Paramore on their debut "Hold On Tight".

On a more positive note, Andrew McMahon (of Something Corporate) beat cancer and came back with the entirely alright "The Glass Passenger", and while James Dewees (ex-Coalesce, ex-The Get Up Kids) took his fifth Reggie And The Full Effect album in a much darker direction than usually, it still proved to be an entirely gratifying listen. Mindless Self Indulgence also had a good year, finally getting some kind of break with their release of "If". Meanwhile, Foxy Shazam also managed to kick up some good hype with their debut, which should go down well with especially fans of The Blood Brothers, who, while we're talking about them, would also be well adviced to check out the debut releases from Victorian Halls and Jaguar Love, the latter being the new home of ex-TBB singer Johnny Whitney and bassist Cody Votolato. Relient K put out a B-sides record that's as charming as their albums seemingly always are, which however is more than can be said for Saves The Day and their "Under The Boards", as they haven't been quite lucky with their changes in style lately. The All-American Rejects did a bit better on their third album, but we're still not entirely convinced they're not sellouts. We are quite sure that can't be said about The Mars Volta though, who are getting stranger and more complicated by the album. The Receiving End Of Sirens sadly decided to break up, rather than make one, but instead we got some more shots of experimentation from Portugal. The Man and The Sound Of Animals Fighting, both of which ended up disappointing their biggest fan in the staff, PP, who ended up bullying me into including them in this article anyway, and into giving Copeland's "You Are My Sunshine" the title of best album within this category (THEY DESERVE IT - PP).

Best Alternative Rock album of 2008:

Copeland - You Are My Sunshine

Written by TL

Given how fucked up and entangled the genres of emo, screamo and post-hardcore have become over the past few years, this year, we finally had enough here, so rather than trying to argue and untangle things for you, this category will see us lump all of this music together under the somewhat pretentious "Scene music" designation. We figure that if you like this type of music, you won't care what we call it, and if you don't, you won't either, we all know what we're talking about, so screw labels shall we? My fringe-haired fellows, let's take a look at what's been oiling our gears in 2008.

The first cat that claws its way out of the bag is that of UnderOATH and their return with "Lost In The Sound Of Separation". While our own PP was one of few to never get onboard with this album, this article will reveal what most find to be true, namely that Spencer Chamberlain and his boys have upped the ante and created one of the best screamo releases of a long time - that is if one can even call it screamo anymore. This is impressive, especially because they haven't been spared competition this year, as Akissforjersey, Alesana, A Skylit Drive and Greeley Estates all stepped up their game and brought us some very fine albums. Those were just the ones we expected to come through, and fortunately there was a list of newcomers who decided that it was their time to shine as well, with Circus Circus leading the pack with a melodic hardcore charge that left few standing. Right behind them came other new acquintances in the form of Jamie's Elsewhere and Burden Of A Day, Ligeia and Lower Definition. All of those names screamo fans should be checking out if they haven't already - and if those aren't enough for you, more localised upstarts like Yashin from Scotland, Nato from England, Today I Caught The Plague from Canada, and Trusted Few, Knife Of Liberty and Escaping Autumn all from Denmark, have released EP's or debut albums that should help fill your plate.

Taking a step into a slightly (only slightly for now) cleaner direction, Saosin might have cooled off with the slightly disappointing "Grey EP" and Anthony Green might have been busier releasing acoustic/experimental material than doing anything with Circa Survive, but those band's legacy is already starting to show up long before the demise of either of them. Early in the year Secret And Whisper showed up from the ashes of Stutterfly with an stunning debut in form of "Great White Whale", and later on In:Aviate brought us their take on where this kind of sound is going. Meanwhile, Dance Gavin Dance and Johnny Craig were recovering from their split, the first by releasing a slightly inconsistent sophomore that still had some very brilliant moments though ("Alex English" contends for my personal "Song Of The Year" award), and the latter by releasing a disc full of some of the most hauntingly awesome singing we've ever heard with his new band Emarosa.

As for the more household names, From First To Last finally returned after the loss of Sonny Moore, as did Senses Fail albeit their fourth album proved to be a low point of their career. Another band that descended steeply quality-wise is I Am Ghost, that sacrificed the epic romance of their debut for a pale and cheap imitation that only Aiden can do worse. Before Their Eyes didn't fail as thoroughly, but their sophomore (the review of which is pending) did nevertheless fall a bit short of their debut. And while we're at it with the bad news, BEDlight for blueEYES decided to call it quits after only two albums, which is a shame considering the quality of the first of them. Then it was better to see Hawthorne Heights return, recovered after the death of Casey Calvert - without his screams though, their level of success is still something we can argue back and forth in our staff. The same goes for A Thorn For Every Heart and the somewhat bitter EP they've released after finally getting through a lot of problems with their lineup and label. Our Last Night also came back, now with their screamer being what? 15? 16 years old? - and Emery put out an EP to preview their upcoming 09 album, the sound of which should still make all their fans really happy. Meanwhile Finch kicked up the hype with their new EP, but it was nothing compared to how stoked people are getting about the rumble that can be heard from Glassjaw's working camp. Thrice on the other hand, already released the last part of their Alchemy Index Quadrology, but while that was certainly worth its plastic in hype, the sheer depth of it left many of the more superficial fans stunned. That doesn't matter that much though, because those who are okay with having their screams and riffage built around shameless pop-structures could just get Escape The Fate's "This War Is Ours", as they only seem to have become even more interesting with the addition of Craig Mabbitt (ex-Blessthefall). As for Story Of The Year they just continued going from emo to hardcore even more on their newest record "Black Swan".

Those who prefer to have all the sweet melodies replaced with a proper bashing had their share in 2008 as well though, as Norma Jean followed up on their excellent "Redeemer" with the pretty awesome "The Anti-Mother", which didn't exactly diminish from having Chino Moreno (Deftones) and Cove Reber (Saosin) co-writing on some tracks. Bleeding Through also composed what most agree to be the album of their career and a step up for metalcore in general, while Bring Me The Horizon became even more single minded, viscious and consequently also even more awesome. Raunchy put the pedal to the metal in the most party-friendly of ways, and Burst upped the progression and depth of their metalcore on "Lazarus Bird". And while we're bringing melody a bit back into the picture with those bands, let's all just take a second to mourn Kris Norris's departure from Darkest Hour. If I was the praying type, I'd pray for them to still stay awesome. Going back in a hard direction, Francis Mark and Rob Lauridsen (both ex-From Autumn To Ashes) surprised the world by how much their Warship debut "Supply And Depend" tore things apart, but for those who like it even wilder, Scamp and Hero Destroyed put out a couple of records that'll be worth listening to while waiting for the next records by Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan. And then, just to make sure we've covered all the metal in our core, let's not forget the new records by Haste The Day, Protest The Hero, 36 Crazyfists, Vira, Eternal Lord, Misery Signals and This Or The Apocalypse, the three last of which you shouldn't even consider skipping if you like that kind of music at all.

As for all of those who just want some mean ass breakdowns that they can break out their karate moves to, we'd like to ask you not to ever come to any gigs again in your whole life. Instead, stay at home and destroy your livingroom to the fantastic 08 releases from Gwen Stacy, All Shall Perish, The Acacia Strain and Left To Vanish. The two former we won't blame you for liking, because hey, we like those too, we just don't feel the need to fail at capoeira while we enjoy them, and as for the two latter.. Well, you really need to enjoy senseless breakdowns for those.

Warranting a little paragraph are also the bands that cater to those caught between the screamo and new rave fashions, and while their grandfather Enter Shikari have been biding their time this year, their countrymen in Silent Descent gave the whole technorock fad a metallic trend. Sky Eats Airplane also tried to put some techno in their core, but weren't at all as successful as Attack! Attack!, who have our vote for "Most likely to inherit Enter Shikari's throne at some point".

Outside all of these gridlines we find a few stragglers that are hard to place. Among them are Britain's brand new Open The Skies, whom I dare not try to place anywhere but right in the middle of emo, screamo and metalcore. Fans of good old At The Drive-In should also instantly go and check out the debut EP I Am Alaska released as it is likely to go well down your chimney. Then of course we also need to mention Thursday and their strange but great split with Japanese progressive screamers Envy, and while we're at it, it's hard not to also remember the year as the one where Geoff Rickley (Thursday) and Daryl Palumbo (Glassjaw) brought together a pack of other underground superheroes to form the intense grindcore experience known as United Nations. We must also mourn the removal of "The March Of Flames" from the bandname of Fear Before who also released an album with that title. Apparently the were sick of explaining the long version to gas station employees while on tour. However "Joke of the Year" must either be on I Set My Friends On Fire" whose prank cover of "Crank That Souljah Boy" got over a million plays on Myspace, landing them a record deal which they used to produce an album that was hated by pretty much everyone - Or it could be on Brokencyde and their "Freaxxx", an abomination for which we'd put a price on their heads if we had any money.

Best Scene Music album of 2008

UnderOATH - Lost In The Sound Of Separation

Written by TL

You still with us, dear reader? If you've read everything so far, well done, and if you've just skipped to the best part (which OBVIOUSLY is the punk and hardcore part), then welcome. Now lets make one thing clear straight from the get go: bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, New Found Glory, Pennywise, etc are punk. Bands like Fall Out Boy and Paramore are not. Thus if you're searching for the (non raw-guitar) pop punk bands, jump straight back up to the alt rock category where we've lumped all pop-related things that aren't mainstream enough just yet. Same goes for hardcore: bands like Madball, Sick Of It All, Paint It Black, Shai Hulud, etc are hardcore, bands like 36 Crazyfists, Fear Before, and Norma Jean are not - they are metalcore (or screamo) and for them you should look into either scene or metal section depending on the tightness of their jeans (or hair do). Other than that, you're in for a ride, because both genres featured some phenomenal releases as well as some disappointing ones. Lets just start with punk rock, make our way through the melodic hardcore and punk hardcore fans to finish logically in flat out hardcore.

On the punk side of things, 2008 was easily one of the best years since the golden mid 90s skatepunk / melodic punk rock phenomena which produced some of my (your) favorite bands of all time (Lagwagon, Mxpx etc) - if I was to dub the punk rock year of 2008 something it'd probably be "the return to form year". Lets start with the most widely covered band this year, namely Pennywise, who made headlines by giving away their new album "Reason To Believe" away for free through Myspace, which turned out to be a massive success with over 400,000 downloads. The numbers speak for themselves, but this is their best 'selling' album since their breakthrough "Land Of The Free", and it is this for a reason (other than it was free!). Anti-Flag's latest album returned the spotlight on them, creating renewed hype, resulting in one of the best performances at this year's Roskilde Festival. Goldfinger and Less Than Jake went back to their roots to the delight of anyone whose ever liked to dance to ska-punk, just like Alkaline Trio who realized tight's WAY better than loose and epic on "Agony And Irony" receiving applaud from this magazine, however still not as much as their 10/10 classic album "Goddamnit" which was remastered and re-issued also this year. Perhaps the biggest return to form though came from a band who everyone thought would be content on writing the same song in poppier and poppier form for the rest of their career, No Use For A Name, who dropped an absolute bomb on us with the appropriately titled "The Feel Good Record Of The Year".

At the same time, a whole number of bands who've been frighteningly consistent all along each lived up to our expectations, some to the extent of demonstrating that even their B (and C) material is ridiculously good. Rancid I'm looking at you here, while flirting with the Mxpx and New Found Glory 'best of' collections. In fact, there were so many amazing releases this year that the race to the best album of the genre would've required a nanosecond capable camera at the goal line were this an olympic sport. For example, Rise Against released another masterpiece as a way of saying "hey, we are this generation's Bad Religion, now get off our backs and let us be just that", and Lagwagon were their humorous selves on "I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen To Lagwagon" EP. At the same time, everyone's favorite mid 90s skate punkers from Sweden, No Fun At All, released their first new album in eight years. How they managed to suck live so bad despite such a great album in the works is a mystery to me. Remember Bayside, the band who has always been considered as the Alkaline Trio that hasn't failed yet on a single album? Yeah, they put out a great release as well. And then there's of course Dillinger Four, one of the most influential bands of the 2000s who put out "C I V I L W A R", this year's hands down best punk rock album. As always that's subjective however, since The Gaslight Anthem's "The '59 Sound" won several similar awards across other magazines on the web. Don't miss either unless you are a bloody idiot or a Fall Out Boy fan (sorry, I couldn't resist, but this is the punk rock section after all).

Just like in the NHL (National Hockey League for the soccer fans), it's not always the household names that put up the big numbers year on year. Sweden, for instance, lifted (or returned?) it's collective punk rock scene to international standard with excellent releases from Adjusted and Mike, both bands to look out for in the future. Going on the other side of the pond, then, The Welch Boys and The Briggs surprised everyone with their quality working man's punk rock, if you hate their style of music then you must be working in the banking business or something. That goes for Off With Their Heads too, who made it high up on some end of the year lists (most notably those at Punknews.org). The Wonder Years finally found their way to a proper studio with their newest EP, while the Against Me frontman Tom Gabel went solo and wrote a bunch of punk ballads on his debut EP. Lets not forget Zebrahead's rap-punk either, which is (almost) always worthy of a positive mention, although their latest record split their fans into two. Now that I've already commited blasphemy by referring to hip hop in the article, I might as well mention the Paramore-sounding (and looking) Hey Monday who put out a release much better than the latest by Hayley's troops - watch out for this band to snowball in 2009.

While that's all well and good, not every punk rock release was great this year. Israeli punks Useless ID failed to capitalize on their momentum with their latest, and the long awaited comeback album from The Offspring was only half good - the other half of the album sucked donkey balls. Even though Millencolin's previous album foreshadowed an even greater return to form this year, their 'machine turning 15' was more like machine turning into a mid-life crisis. Flogging Molly's latest wasn't perhaps as miserable as that, but it definitely didn't induce any more drunken lullabies despite their consistent live performances year on year out - Street Dogs had sort of the same problem on their newest album. Me First And The Gimme Gimmes wasn't as lucky though because their latest set of covers was largely deplorable despite a few nice ones on the disc.

As for melodic hardcore / punk hardcore, things looked pretty awesome as well, even if there were much less notable releases in the genre this year. New Found Glory went PROPERLY back to their roots with their new EP, inducing a great deal of nostalgia in all of their older fans. While we're on the topic of nostalgia, how about a new release from the influential 90s melodic hardcore group H2O - that final track featuring Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio was fucking incredible, just like the ridiculously good debut from Smartbomb that completely blew me away - do not miss that album. For other majorly surprising debut albums, look no further than American Armada, who should go down well with any Strike Anywhere fans, or Ruiner's "I Heard These Dudes Are Assholes".

We're going harder and harder here, as you'll notice with the metal (and extreme metal) section coming up shortly afterwards. But before that we have to deal with the few awesome hardcore releases that came up this year. First and foremost, New Found Glory dropped a bomb on all of us by creating a side project featuring all members from the band (the only difference being that Jordan and Chad switched duties) called International Superheroes Of Hardcore, a ravishing hardcore release about the importance of wearing seat belts and not swearing as a kid. Best of all? It was better than most other hardcore releases in recent years, even though the subsequent EP kind of sucked (Harry Potter is NOT hardcore, guys). Paint It Black and Have Heart were both praised to skies on a number of other magazines for their straight forward and brutally honest hardcore, so while they weren't my cup of tea, you should probably be checking those out, as well as the new This Is Hell album, as those are all bands that a shitload of people like but I rated somewhat unfavourably. As for some slightly bigger names, the Shai Hulud album "Misanthropy Pure" didn't disappoint. Sadly, no releases from Sick Of It All or Madball this year, but at least the Agnostic Front vocalist Vinnie Stigma kept the NYHC flag up high with his debut solo album, while Terror's oldschool hardcore was good, if somewhat unsurprising.

Best Punk and Hardcore Album of 2008:

Dillinger Four - C I V I L W A R

Written by PP

When it comes to metal, this year we've decided to divide the world into two, with EW taking care of all the things that thrive under the radar of of the mass media, while I bring you a recap of all things related to the biggest and fattest names in metal. So if you're looking for the obscure, head further down the page to the "Extreme / Underground Metal section" while those that don't mind scratching the surface too can stay here with me.

In the major league of metal there were a couple of releases this year that there's no way to get around, and the most massive of these is of course Metallica's return to form with "Death Magnetic". Some say it's the best album they've written since "And Justice For All", some go even further back to "Master Of Puppets" and even while some criticize it for its production and some sloppy work by Lars Ulrich, here at Rockfreaks, our opinions range from "Great album" to "One of the best fuckin' albums this year". Other than Metallica, another comeback that should not be ignored is Iggor and Max "Sepultura" Cavalera's first album under their family name. Muscular and ballsy no-bullshit fuck you! roaring metal is nothing less than what Cavalera Conspiracy brought us on "Inflikted" and we didn't let that slip by unappreciated either. The last of 2008's "Big three" came in form of Slipknot's "All Hope Is Gone" with which Corey Taylor returned from his resting period with Stone Sour to brutalize the fans of his masked main profession.

As for newcomers, EW might also mention Dragonforce in his part, but I'll double-cover them and their "Ultra Beatdown" album here as well, simply because it seems that everyone and their mothers have heard of them after their appearance in Guitar Hero III. While on the softer side of things, let's also take some time to slander Bullet For My Valentine and the complete and utter failure they gave us with their piece of shit "Scream Aim Fire" album. Man, we hated that record! It seems the British boys have been long left behind by their rivals of old, the Americans in Trivium, who kept pissing all over the haters with almost ridiculously awesome guitarwork on the epic thrasher "Shogun". Meanwhile Meshuggah released "obZen" which sure as hell blew AP out of the sky, and he's probably not the only one. Their countrymen from In Flames on the other hand didn't amount to as much, as their follow-up to the fine "Come Clarity" dubbed "A Sense Of Purpose" far from lived up to its name. Then Children Of Bodom certainly did a better job of putting Scandinavia even more solidly on 2008's map, with their release of "Blooddrunk".

Those with a taste for classic heavy metal should already be well aware that Whitesnake, Alice Cooper and Judas Priest also put out some albums in 08, but except from David Coverdale's troops and their "Good To Be Bad", we weren't at all impressed, as EW even goes to mention Judas Priest as one of the biggest disappointments of the year in his part later. As for Motley Crüe's "Saint Of Los Angeles" we didn't even care enough to remember reviewing it. Sorry, maybe next time.

What we did review, and endorse however, was Soulfly's "Conquer", while we were slightly more hesitant with Darian Malakian's (System Of A Down) new Scars On Broadway project - grading it a good 7 in the end though. As for Motörhead's album number 8791, we don't even dare to doubt Lemmy and his boozy breath, so we threw him a somewhat better grade and prayed he wouldn't notice that it wasn't a perfect 10. The Haunted didn't scare us as much though, as their "Versus" album wasn't quite as impressive as what they've produced earlier. Fellow Swedes in Sonic Syndicate watered down melodeath somewhat, and failed to impress as much as Germany's up and coming electro/melodeath hybrids in Deadlock, who even let a couple of rappers loose on a track on their latest record "Manifesto". If anyone managed to really impress though, it is Gojira and their "The Way Of All Flesh", as they continued to add to their already solid reputation.

Best Mainstream Metal album of 08:

Metallica - Death Magnetic

Written by TL

2008 was the year in which a number of the big guns of metal/hard rock laid down new studio albums to indifferent fan and critical acclamation including Metallica, Judas Priest, Motörhead, AC/DC and most incredibly Guns n' Roses, yet it wasn't only these ancient Monsters of Rock who got their act together while the world around them descended in economic meltdown. The metal 'underground' (this term is used very loosely), like the beetle, is battle hardened and carries on regardless of what happens elsewhere and 2008 has been no different, seeing a number of highly recognised bands releasing new albums - Testament (their first since 1999), Darkthrone, Enslaved, Deicide, Amon Amarth, Dragonforce, Satyricon, Destruction, Gojira, Iced Earth and Opeth to name but a few. To sum up all the main events of a world where these would represent the 'massive' bands in some people's record collections is totally dependent on one's submergence in this cavernous universe, so brevity is the name of the game here.

Let's start with the negative news. Where deaths of major name players have become all too common in recent years the death of Chris Witchhunter, ex- of German thrashers Sodom during their classic period in the late 80's, was the only notable one of 2008. A show featuring Sodom, Destruction and Tankard among others is planned in his name for 11th April in Oberhausen, Germany.

This year's major splits came in the form of Celtic Frost, for good by the looks of it this time, and Reverend Bizarre, who's disbandment reached further than the doom field from whence they came. Bolt Thrower, though not officially disbanded, have announced recording of their follow-up to "Those Once Loyal" has been postponed "indefinitely". With the potential to fit in numerous news categories, Gorgoroth really deserve a section of the annual round-up to themselves. The story for those who don't know runs: guitarist Infernus is kicked out by vocalist Gaahl and bassist King Ov Hell. Unfortunately for Gaahl and King, Infernus was the only original member left, but this hasn't stopped them claiming legal rights to the Gorgoroth name and logo, upheld by Norwegian law which Infernus is currently appealing against. Meanwhile Infernus has put together his own version of Gorgoroth to release a new album in the upcoming months and Gaahl and King have continued touring...under the Gorgoroth name. Confused yet? Oh, and amongst all this Gaahl has found the time to co-design a range of ladies' fashionwear with a guy he has fallen into a homosexual relationship with - two non-musical occupations unheard of in the homophobic and elitist world of black metal.

On the opposite side to split comes some of the more memorable reformations. Though both announced at the tail end of 2007, the reunifications of Carcass and At The Gates have been hugely successful, seeing the two mega-legendary bands at or near the top of numerous European metal festivals playing to a new generation of fans who had previously only seen other bands influenced by these godfather of melodic death metal (among other sub-genres). Following Atheist's widely accepted reformation a couple of summer's back, the impetus for other old-school and/or legendary (I'll let you decide that) bands like Pestilence, Asphyx, Massacre and Cynic to get together had been laid, with Cynic's already spawning a long-awaited follow up to 1993's tech-death metal classic "Focus" in the name of "Traced In Air". Slightly less hyped but no less anticipated than "Chinese Democracy", this is an album that has been prayed for by many followers of technical death metal for long over a decade now. And finally to look forward to next year, the getting together of doom gods Saint Vitus for a headlining show at Holland's Roadburn Festival in April saw tickets sell out in less than an hour, showing what a huge draw they remain. No less godly but this time in the stoner stakes, Sleep are to play a couple of shows in the UK in the springtime. If you haven't heard "Sleep's Holy Mountain" I would like to know why, my contact details can be found on the site.

Biggest letdowns have come in the shape of two wildly different bands - Judas Priest and Cryptopsy. Let's make it clear that for a band to be even be considered as having offered the equivalent of a wet fart of an album means they have produced something great in the past, and this cannot be denied for either. Priest in 2008 released "Nostradamus" after what seemed an eternity, an album so overblown not even it's choice of subject would have appreciated it himself. Since the departure of Lord Worm for the second time and the hiring of a 'singer' and keyboardist/sampler (who has subsequently left) the Cryptopsy have become a pariah amongst forum dwellers and Blabbermouth-postees everywhere. "The Unspoken King" only swelled the anger at the band's perceived change of direction and for better or for worse has been panned from all and sundry.

Despite having it's obituary (no pun intended) written all too often, death metal continues onwards, somehow squeezing out great new albums in a scene so over-crowded it has surely reached the point of a legalised cull. Opeth, Origin, Bloodbath, Decrepit Birth, The Monolith Deathcult, Amon Amarth, Bilocate, Deicide and Unleashed have all stilled however contributed records well worth listening to.

As equally maligned as death metal and all too often newsfodder for the crimes of the genre's main perpetrators, black metal may be in need of a cull but offers a greater and more diverse palette than death metal does currently with a range of bands issuing commendable albums with considerable stylistic differences between the lot. Check out the releases of Darkthrone, Satyricon, Enslaved, Kampfar, Nachtmystium, Taake, Keep of Kalessin and Cradle of Filth.

2008 may be seen as the year 'neo thrash' reached it's peak with the release of numerous albums from the likes of Gama Bomb, Bonded by Blood, SSS, Pitiful Reign and other recent big releases from Municipal Waste and Evile, with many wondering where all these bands can go from here now the initial excitement at the re-birthed scene has died down. Back to the old-school, the releases of Testament, Death Angel and Destruction have caused the most excitement in 2008.

Traditionally playing the undercard to the aforementioned three, doom metal had another quietly successful year with the brilliant Jex Thoth debut album the highlight. In a sub-genre that can spawn numerous ones of it's own, the admirable releases of Earth, Cult of Luna, Grand Magus, Skepticism, The Gates of Slumber, Mourning Beloveth and The Puritan epitomise how broad the doom tree spreads, nearly 40 years after it's slow birth.

Written by EW

You're still reading? You must either REALLY like music, or alternatively, just skipped to the end to find the second most exciting bit (after the punk and hardcore section, ha!), namely what to expect from the next 12 months from the music industry. Let me just take your attention hostage for a moment and say that there's some fucking good stuff coming, but before we get there, I've got a few finals words on 2008.

First and foremost, I'd like to thank all my staff for putting such a tremendous amount of effort into making 2008 happen (or this article - it took something like 25-30 manhours to write up) - without them this site would be much smaller than it is in reality. It speaks volumes when we wrote 622 album reviews, 36 interviews, 12 features, and 59 gig reviews this year, or a total of 729 articles, and that isn't even counting in the 1452 news items that were posted in the past year. Secondly, I'd like to thank YOU, the reader, the music fan, because if it wasn't for you and your support, we wouldn't be where we are today. At the same time, I realize that our magazine can be sometimes difficult to use because of a number of bugs in both the design, code and general usability, so I promise you that's changing as soon as possible - there is a brand new design on the way that really makes the current one look like it's from the 80s. Current estimate for version 4.0 of Rockfreaks.net to go live is around February-March, but given that we want to make it as perfect as possible instead of having a million bugs in the start, please don't kill us if we're somewhat late. But without boring you much longer with all that tedious stuff, let's have a quick look on what to expect next year from the music scenes.

It'll be quiet for another month or so before the shit really hits the fan. February and March sees a number of (hopefully) great releases and even greater tours, it's basically the crazy season in the music industry, comparable to October / November in the fall. There are albums on the way from Reel Big Fish, Cattle Decapitation, Franz Ferdinand, It Dies Today, Sepultura, Leathermouth (the My Chemical Romance bassist's hardcore sideproject), Bruce Springsteen, Napalm Death, Strung Out, Cannibal Corpse, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Architects, Psyopus, Morrissey, Thursday, A Day To Remember, The Sleeping, Lamb Of God, U2, Fightstar, New Found Glory, dredg, Static-X, Meg And Dia, Animal Collective, Smile Empty Soul, Silverstein, Chimaira, and The Chariot - all of these already have release dates tentatively set, and those that will most likely be fantastic from our point of view are bolded. But that list doesn't even include the artists who are coming out with a record but just haven't announced exactly when, these include Alexisonfire, HORSE The Band, Converge, Hatebreed, Killswitch Engage, Lostprophets, Zao, Mastodon, and of course the Deftones record...although that one is a bit of a question mark considering their bassist Chi Cheng has been in a coma for the past two months now due to a car accident. Lets all hope he recovers quickly.

During the summer it'll be interesting to see what musical theme Roskilde Festival chooses this year, and especially if Rage Against The Machine will continue to tour or perhaps even record a new album. It'll also be interesting to see whether Rock Im Park / Rock Am Ring festivals will be able to book as star-struck lineup this year as last year, but something tells me they're already well on their way considering Slipknot and Placebo are already confirmed among others.

As for European tours, All That Remains is bringing along The Haunted, 36 Crazyfists will tour with Poison The Well and Gwen Stacy, AC/DC will visit more or less every country in Europe, Anti-Flag is coming over, Comeback Kid's tour will probably be labeled as the most hardcore tour since Sick Of It All and Madball toured together considering they are bringing Bane and Misery Signals with them, Coldplay returns to Europe after a long break, and of course Metallica will bring Machine Head, The Sword, Lamb Of God and Mastodon along with them on a tour that includes five dates in Denmark on a stage surrounded by crowd from all directions. Rise Against is bringing along Anti-Flag and Strike Anywhere, and UnderOATH will be touring together with Taking Back Sunday. We'll keep you updated in our news section as more dates are announced, but for now, find all the current awesome tours on our tour dates page.

Lets hope 2009 is as good for music as 2008 was.

Over and Out,

Petteri Pertola (PP)


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