It really does seem like every year gets better and better as I do these reviews with each year getting better by the last without exception. The journey through each year is always immensely rewarding for anyone who loves to scour the very underground of metal, rock, and everything in-between as we never know what exactly we’re going to get. While last year was as bombastic as we could’ve hoped for, it’s 2019 that has proven to be potentially the best year for metal in this entire decade!
I came into this year already particularly excited as it signaled the return of past favorites of mine from the likes of Inter Arma to Slipknot to Frosthelm to Aktaion. Even excluding those, this year has been incredibly bountiful on all fronts in every capacity, and I haven’t seen a single fan that could come even close to disappointing. More so than ever, this year’s list was harder to forge than any other. I probably went through twenty different iterations before firmly believing in what I’ve made for you all here, and I hope you can get as much grand excited out of this as I have for the entirety of this year.
Same as every year, if you don’t see an album you think deserves to be mentioned, that’s awesome! There are hundreds upon thousands of albums that I haven’t listened to this year simply because I’m just one guy and can listen to only so much. Feel free to check out my Honorable Mentions of 2019 to see if there’s something you’d suggest, but if not, feel free to yell at me on social media. And also like every year – to listen to the album in question or a song from it click the album and band name and should you want to read my review of the album simply click the cover art. I cannot encourage checking out any of these albums enough for each band is more than worthy of extreme commendation, and I hope you get as much excitement out of them as I have.
There were very few albums that I was excited about going into 2019 than Eremit. It was the very first album that was to be released this year that I heard, and it is still an unexpected masterpiece of monolithic doom that I cannot herald enough! Truly, everything about “Carrier of Weight” holds mastery in every ounce as an unimaginably heavy work that’s as deep as it is mysterious with the talent to match perfectly. I feel in love with the first track, and it’s the simply perfect finale that I knew this was something to talk about over and over again.
If you know me, this entry should be no surprise whatsoever, but even if you know Inter Arma, this album is a surprise and treat like none other. This band has long been known to push the boundaries of their sound in every single way with unmatched mastery and grace, but it’s with “Sulphur English” that we see it taken down its darkest road yet. This record is an absolute marvel of the craft that Inter Arma has come to perfect, and it’s through substantial mastery over their own special corner of metal that they’ve crafted what can only be considered a force to be reckoned with and any who do will get burnt.
A band constantly improving is something that I love to witness, and no other band has done it better than the likes of Esoctrilihum who in roughly 18 months after his debut releases this absolutely massive effort as his fourth album, and it couldn’t be any more scrumptious. It brings together everything that Esoctrilihum has become known for over his already grandiose back catalog of albums in such exquisite fashion that the unfathomable chaos that’s reined in here is immensely intoxicating even in its simplest moments. It’s entrancing, menacing, and everything that the wide realm of extreme metal deserves.
Death metal with some traces of crust has been a combination that we’ve been seeing for a long time now, but there hasn’t been a better example of it than here with Goregäng. Their first full-length is an absolute tour de force of unrelenting death metal that does not know the meaning of mercy, and “Neon Graves” just keeps on giving at every single possible turn. The whole of this monumental works refuses to waste any sort of time between the massive riffs and constant energy that delivers from every feasible angle in such a way that captures you right from the beginning and doesn’t let you go until the very end where you’re a pulsating mass of blood and flesh begging for more!
Psychedelic doom is far from something new by any means, but it’s Zaum that has brought it to another since their debut work, and it’s here with their third, “Divination” that they raise the bar yet again. Consisting of just three tracks but having loads of content and excellence to sift through in each of them, there isn’t one little bit of this lucid dream that isn’t awesome. Zaum has crafted a truly dense jungle filled with hidden lore and many secrets the likes of which each is more delicious than the last, and it’s through immaculate musicianship “Divination” is elevated to something truly breath-taking.
It was throughout this year that Clouds Taste Satanic really spoiled us with not one but two titanic releases, and while “Evil Eye” was an achievement all on its own, it’s “Second Sight” that tops everything this band has ever done before it! With only two tracks but forty minutes to work with, there isn’t a single riff, solo, or piece of atmosphere that isn’t trembling with real presence and power such that it becomes nigh on irresistible right from the beginning. Clouds Taste Satanic has already perfected their craft before, but it’s here with “Second Sight” that we see them take it a step further.
There were few releases in the world of extreme metal that were as anticipated than Cattle Decapitation’s brand new work, and it’s universally renowned as their best work and it’s not hard at all to see why. “Death Atlas” takes elements that have made the last two Cattle Decapitation works so enthralling and bringing them up another notch to bring forth something that’s not just unbelievably engrossing and heavy, but poignant and deep on a scale that even they haven’t pulled off in such glorious fashion until now.
This was an album that I have been looking forward to for years now, and to say that Crypt Sermon has evolved from something already great into a phenomenal band that demands to be heard would be making a drastic understatement as they’ve brought the current state of their style to a true modern epitome with every track that makes up “The Ruins of Fading Light”. This is epic doom at some of its absolute finest and will definitely be hailed as a landmark of the style for years to come, of that I have no doubt whatsoever.
Experimentation can lead a band to grand new heights that are almost always ripe for magnificent new adventures, and no band captured that idea better this year than Elder as they truly impressed us with “The Gold & Silver Sessions”. Three tracks of kraut rock that are nigh on immersive and superbly psychedelic, Elder travels down a road they never have before that results in showing us they truly are undisputed masters of their craft.
The underground is a vast realm where many legendary bands can be foreign to even someone like me who loves scouring it, and it’s a wonder I never came across the macabre beauty that is Officium Triste sooner. Topping off a grand run of 25 years of god-tier death/doom, “The Death of Gaia” is the crowning achievement of the style for this decade and comes in good company as Officium Triste show us what they’re truly made of at every single turn that they come across throughout this entire emotional work.
These guys have been a high point of death metal for me in recent years, but it’s only now on their third effort that they’ve crafted something that has truly shaken me to my core! Everything that’s poured into “Abominate” as well as all that it spews forth is nothing short of some of the most intoxicating death metal that I’ve ever heard, and Firespawn truly knows how to set the very earth on fire with their immense power that is not to be fucked with for even a microsecond!
Each year always presents us with fresh and new bands that we can analyze with fresh ears, and none felt like they delivered the goods more than Devil Master with their downright venomous display of black metal that we rarely see. Each track of this flamboyant but evil record writhes and twists around every corner that this band eagerly turns, and there isn’t one piece that leaves us feeling unsatisfied.
Featuring members of Gaerea, this monstrous record is a far step away from anything both members have attempted before but they execute it as though they’ve been doing it for decades as “Lone” is a marvel in just about every single right. Oak lumbers forth with immense power and tremendous knowledge about their craft. It’s every single ounce of this debut record that provides the realm of death/doom with yet another massive act that needs to be watched for fear of missing something truly grand.
There are many bands that now go into the soundscape known as cosmic black metal, but there still isn’t a single act that does it as wondrously as Midnight Odyssey who has proven time and again to be a true master of his craft, and it’s with the first of the “Biolume” series that he provides us with what’s thus far his magnum opus. Like all of his efforts, so much is poured into this record and the result is no less than eclectic work that’s as mesmerizing as ever and all the more enthralling.
I firmly believe there isn’t a more unique band in all of the metal world than Les Chants du Hasard specifically because this act isn’t metal, but greatly influenced by it. Orchestral music is far from anything I actively seek out, but there is no other entity like that of Les Chants du Hasard, and it’s with “Livre Second” that we’re treating to a truly one of a kind listen that no other band in this realm can bring to the table.
As one of the great legends of the underground of death metal, Paganizer needs little introduction for those who know what they’re talking about, but it’s with “The Tower of the Morbid” that they nailed everything right on the head like they never have before. Everything brought to the table here is exactly the sort of Swedish death metal excellence that we’ve come to expect from Paganizer, but make what’s surely one of the essential works of its kind that’s come from this decade.
It was with their debut full-length that Gatecreeper really seemed to take a hold of the death metal community in a way that very few modern bands can accomplish, but it’s with “Deserted” that they showed us what they’re truly made of. Everything is taken up to the next level. The riffs, the nastiness, the approach, the art, and the goddamn heaviness is all risen to another tier that puts Gatecreeper at the forefront of modern death metal more than ever.
Likely the biggest release in the metal world this year, Slipknot did not disappoint whatsoever. “We Are Not Your Kind” is the boldest and most experimental record that this landmark band has put out this in over fifteen years by far with it carrying the power, the potency, and the capability to deliver us an experience that’s the truest thing to the spirit of Slipknot that we have ever seen before.
This release was, easily, one of the biggest surprises for me to come out of 2019. Warcrab’s previous effort was solid in many ways, but it’s with “Damned in Endless Night” that Warcrab truly comes into their own. Unfathomable heaviness with a massively deadly concoction of death and sludge metal permeates every song in this album, and it’s with immense power and presence that Warcrab leaves an undeniable mark on the listener.
This album is the very different of something out of left field as I, as well as many other listeners, were not expecting something like this to come out of Lord Dying. The very cover art tells you that something is different this time around, and it’s the content of “Mysterium Tremendum” that still continues to impress me. It’s an extremely colorful and dynamic album of godly proportions that keep on giving with both riffs and progressive mastery that shows us Lord Dying are constantly evolving their sound.
It’s every year we’re granted at least one great folk metal work that takes the craft above and beyond, and it was Wilderun that provided us with this year’s edition. “Veil of Imagination” is an absolutely perfect name for such a work as Wilderun does everything in their power to make this the perfect soundtrack to a fantastical world like we’ve never seen, and they succeeded wildly.
It’s more often than not when a band brings forth their sound of death/doom metal, it’s a real mismatch of the two styles where neither get enough time to shine, but it’s in the case of Weeping Sores’ “False Confessions” that couldn’t be any further from the case. Right from the beginning, this album sets itself apart from the rest in terms of sheer presence and heart-wrenching soul, and it’s the end of this record that shows us Weeping Sores is a bold and vicious new act.
A true regular in my playlists, it’s in the little morsels that are their EPs that Hybrid Nightmares really does seem to shine, and that’s exemplified in no scenario better than with “Obelisk”. Despite only having a handful of tracks, this EP has loads of power and progressive heaviness to call its own as Hybrid Nightmares only furthers their uncompromising sound throughout the whole of this work in such grandiose fashion that each track is still as earth-shaking since the first time I listened to them.
Following their change in sound that they introduced on their last album, it’s here with “Mercy” that Flesh of the Stars has surprisingly already molded their sound from something very interesting and promising to a blossoming and constantly self-challenging approach that’s as gorgeous as it is stunning. Now more than ever, Flesh of the Stars has proven themselves to be a band not to be underestimated or ignored.
Triumvir Foul has been a band that I’ve proudly been following since their very first demo back in 2015, and it was quickly that they become a true force to reckon with, but, for me, it’s with their blasphemous opus here that they’ve outdone themselves. “Urine of Abomination” is more straight forward than ever before but that somehow makes them all the more deadly as they bring harsh noise to the table to further drive home just how evil their sound is, and it oozes out of every possible note that they throw down.
Even before this release, Howling Giant had very little to prove for themselves as they had already established themselves as a stoner act that was nigh on entertaining to listen to with every new album that they’d dish out, but it’s with “The Space Between Worlds” that they top themselves. As their first full-length album, Howling Giant leaves no stone unturned here as they smash through with riffs abound and undeniable energy to show they’re at the top of their game with this album.
There are many works of death/doom that have graced our ears not just this year, but this decade as a whole and it’s The Drowning that astounded with “The Radiant Dark” in such a way that many aren’t shying away from calling this one of the best records of its kind that they’ve heard in years. It takes the very nature of the style and compresses it into something so concentrated that it becomes damn near impossible to wretch yourself away from as The Drowning leaves you awestruck at their amazingly beautiful work.
There weren’t very many albums that had me right from the cover art like what had happened to me with Esogenesi who proved to be a marvel the likes of which many, including me, were not expecting. This eponymous work really accomplishes the feat of carving its way deep into your soul such that by the end of it you’re left craving for more to fill the emptiness that the material had left in you while wanting the unending heartache to end for its pain is all too real and all too strong.
Having already proven themselves to be above their competition, it’s with “Above Empires” that shows us Aktaion is on a level the likes of which any band in the world of metalcore rarely achieves. Every track we’re treated to here is just as heavy as it is melodic, the vocals are more captivating than they’ve ever been, and the musicianship on “Above Empires” seems to be second to none in the whole realm of metalcore.
Of all the bands this year that I wasn’t expecting to see on this list, Vampiric was the most unexpected. Only having three songs to the act’s name before this, it was “The Magic of the Night” that confounded me in the first five minutes and it’s months later that it continues to enchant me. Immense spirit and fantastic energy drench every song here to make “The Magic of the Night” something that any fan of blackened thrash needs to investigate as Vampiric proves themselves to be a surprise act meant for greatness.