What a year! I was absent for most of it but that didn’t mean I wasn’t lurking and listening to albums. I’ve kept the list honest this year, with the releases I’ve listened to the most. If you’ve come here expecting to see SLIPKNOT and TOOL then you can go to Metal Hammer for that. As always I’m featuring EPs as well as albums…so behold! My Top 20 releases of 2019!
20. HOUR OF PENANCE – Misotheism. Release date: 25 October.
It’s been a couple of months since Italy’s HOUR OF PENANCE dropped the meaty slab of death metal that is Misotheism and it still absolutely slays. Out of all the brutal death metal releases which have dropped this year, Misotheism is one of the most consistently punishing. Tracks such as The Second Babel and Lamb of the Seven Sins are violent delights. The brutal grooves and relentless battering of the senses are a morbid treat. Instead of focussing on how fast or how extreme they can go, HOUR OF PENANCE ensure there is some form of structure and substance to their songs which is sometimes missing in extreme music today. If you’re also a glutton for punishment then you could do a lot worse than giving Misotheism a spin.
19. ABIGAIL WILLIAMS – Walk Beyond The Dark. Release date: 15 November.
It’s great when a band’s first album in almost five years doesn’t suck. ABIGAIL WILLIAMS have always been a bit of an oddball (in the best possible way) and have upset the most cvlt of black metal fans through the years. Walk Beyond The Dark is their best album since In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns. That’s a big statement I know, but it just emphasises my point on how good Walk Beyond The Dark Is. Atmospheric enough to be gripping and chilling, succinct enough to remain ambitious without overstaying its welcome. Sun and Moon and Into the Sleep are some of the more storming tracks on the album, but no second is wasted on this beauty. The darkness and colossal atmosphere is something else and proof that ABIGAIL WILLIAMS have not lost an ounce of intensity. In fact, it seems they’ve gained more.
18. BAEST – Venenum. Release date: 13 September.
I’ve probably said this a few times but BAEST are what I wish BLOODBATH still were. Their old school death metal is addictive as hell and with Venenum their second album, they sound beastlier than ever. The riffs are utter filth and the venom spat by frontman Simon Olsen is some of the most terrifying you’ll hear from a modern death metal band. Heresy, As Above So Below and Sodomize are ferocious additions to BAEST’s arsenal of death metal delights. With hellish lyrics and a relentless delivery, BAEST are firmly on the rise to extreme metal royalty. This year saw their ascent escalate with successful support slots for the likes of DECAPITATED and ABORTED. Their recorded material is impressive but their live show absolutely slays. One of the most promising death metal acts out there, beware the BAEST.
17. WORMED – Metaportal EP. Release date: 19 July.
Another death metal delight, this time in the form of WORMED’s incredible EP Metaportal. Their technical death metal is some of the best I’ve heard all year, like old school DECAPITATED with extra speed, madness and sci-fi themes. Metaportal is four tracks of unapologetic tech death bludgeoning. 2019 saw some albums which should have been EPs and some EPs which should have been full-lengths, including this one. Spain is rapidly gaining a reputation for its quality, extreme death metal acts and there’s no reason why WORMED can’t join Spain’s metal elite. A polished slab of the most unforgiving metal around, Metaportal shows the newbies how it’s done. Full length next please!
16. CRYSTAL LAKE – Helix. Release date: 15 February.
The last couple of years has seen Japan’s metalcore troupe CRYSTAL LAKE grow from strength to strength. Last album True North was a bit all over the place, but Helix is an absolutely punishing release. Aeon has remained one of my favourite songs of the year with its flawless execution. If the same focus was given to the remainder of the album then Helix would rank higher in the list. Agony and +81 are other bangers and things get brutal again with the heavy Hail To The Fire. Helix features lots of riffs to die for and some of the most ferocious drumming of the year, but it’s front man Ryo Kinoshita who is the [not so] secret weapon of CRYSTAL LAKE’s appeal. The technique and talent on display in Helix is incredibly exciting. Once they tap into which sound works best for them and stick to it, world domination awaits.
15. AENIMUS – Dreamcatcher. Release date: 22 February.
Californian brutal troupe AENIMUS are slowly but surely working their way through the ranks to being one of the best progressive extreme acts out there. I’m surprised they haven’t gained more recognition off the back of the incredible Dreamcatcher album. One of the most polished and consistent extreme records of 2019, Dreamcatcher is a spectacularly dark record. Any moments of light and optimism are briskly extinguished to maintain a fiercely dark atmosphere. Songs like The Ritual fill the empty BLACK CROWN INITIATE-shaped hole that is in our lives at the moment, while My Becoming could have been what we wanted from SHOKRAN this year…there is something for every extreme metal fan on Dreamcatcher. Fingers crossed we get more live shows and we can get our faces ripped off in person.
14. SCHAMMASCH – Hearts Of No Light. Release date: 8 November.
One of the most atmospheric black metal bands out there, Switzerland’s SCHAMMASCH never fail to bring the most chilling and ambitious black metal to our ears. SCHAMMASCH achieve blackened brilliance without all the cringey cvlt gimmicks of the genre. Hearts Of No Light is another superb effort from the Swiss demons. Polished and bold, but not so it loses any raw power or impact, the album is sure to finally put the band on a level which they deserve. There are a few interesting nuggets on this album which hint at the band experimenting with new ideas and approaches (the bewitching I Burn Within You anyone?) which is exciting as some black metal bands churn out the same stuff year after year. SCHAMMASCH are a band you can’t wait to hear more of or see what they conjure up next. All hail the new dark lords!
13. THIS GIFT IS A CURSE – A Throne Of Ash. Release date: 14 June.
I made a bold statement at the beginning of the year, saying 2019 was going to be the year for black metal and sludgy hardcore. Sweden’s THIS GIFT IS A CURSE mix all these genres into a terrifying aural assault in the form of latest album A Throne Of Ash. This album is anything but uplifting and optimistic. Harking back to the glory days of CURSED and chaos, THIS GIFT IS A CURSE have produced one of the most bleak, yet rewarding albums of 2019. The unforgiving Blood Is My Harvest and Gate Dweller provide some of the noisiest and most disorientating metal of the year. If you’re a sensitive soul then avoid THIS GIFT IS A CURSE.
12. MYRATH – Shehili. Release date: 3 May.
Shehili by Tunisian metallers MYRATH is a bit of a gem. If you like your progressive metal with a little extra something, then MYRATH are for you. They often get compared to ORPHANED LAND but MYRATH are more power metal than oriental metal. MYRATH write catchy songs and go easy on heavy messages, so it’s a good time all round. Tracks like You’ve Lost Yourself, Dance and Darkness Arise are absolute belters. If you don’t get your shimmy on with this album then you might not have a musical bone in your body. Shehili is a solid, catchy, polished album that is a fun listen and rewarding every time. Well worth checking out.
11. CAR BOMB – Mordial. Release date: 27 September.
Ah CAR BOMB. Previous album Meta was mathcore perfection, yet with Mordial they have pushed the boundaries further and created something so genius and mindblowing I am almost lost for words. I mean, we all fell in love with the laser effects on Dissect Yoéurself but CAR BOMB mostly avoid gimmicks and let their otherworldly music speak for itself. Some fans have expressed their dislike of the ‘clean’ vocals but I love the DEFTONES edge they give. Mordial is one of those albums that you find yourself shaking your head at in bemusement and awe. The crunchy, metallic riffs, the whirring instrumentation and crazy time signatures all add up to a cacophony of brilliance and madness. Indulge if you dare.
10. GODEATER – All Flesh Is Grass. Release date: 27 September.
America might dominate the tech metal scene but Glaswegian darlings GODEATER are sure as hell worming their way upwards to the British elite. Their debut album All Flesh Is Grass has thankfully smashed out of the UK tech bubble and has been invading its way into the wider metal community, both at home and overseas. Environmentally conscious but not in the way that dominates the music, GODEATER are a band with a conscience…and tasty riffs. Standout songs Silent Spring, Blood Moon and Inertia Haze exhibit the technical brilliance of the band, but technical brilliance which also shimmers with heart and soul. There is substance to the songs which prevents it from becoming soulless guitar noodling. This is only the beginning.
9. ISSUES – Beautiful Oblivion. Release date: 4 October.
ISSUES’ first self-titled album was perfection and their second album Headspace fell short of expectations, so I wasn’t expecting much from third album Beautiful Oblivion. That was until they released lead single Tapping Out and I got all excited by its promise of a heavy direction. When I first listened to the album I was bitterly disappointed. But once I got over that it wasn’t the self-titled 2.0, I began to appreciate the gem that it is. Mature, catchy and subtly heavy, Beautiful Oblivion is a solid, melodic metal album. It’s a passionate, thoughtful, polished slab of joy, but nothing quite prepares you for the brilliant Flexin and its irresistible hooks. Some might see ISSUES as a guilty pleasure. I see them as a melodic band worthy of your attention.
8. TIDES FROM NEBULA – From Voodoo To Zen. Release date: 20 September.
Polish post-rockers TIDES FROM NEBULA released their most ‘electronic’ album to date, with the incredible From Voodoo To Zen. From the breath-taking opening track Ghost Horses to the sublime closer, Eve White, Eve Black, Jane, TIDES FROM NEBULA have created a post-rock masterpiece for the 21st century. The synth greatness which ensues in tracks such as Dopamine and the mesmerising title track, elevate your senses to a stratospheric level. The shimmering tracks take you on a journey and the bright, crisp sounds are oddly reassuring and positive. An outstanding album by one of the greats. Phenomenal.
7. SIGNS OF THE SWARM – Vital Deprivation. Release date: 11 October.
I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed SIGNS OF THE SWARM new album Vital Deprivation. I’ve always liked them, don’t get me wrong but they have seriously stepped up their game with this latest effort. Last year it was all about WITHIN DESTRUCTION for slamming deathcore, this year it’s about SIGNS OF THE SWARM. Songs such as Malformed Dissonance and Malevolent Enslavement bring the best slamming grooves, while Lost Within Reflection and Tempting Death (featuring Tom Barber) bring something a bit more mature and nasty to the table. It’s really promising to hear such a huge jump in progression between albums, I wonder what SIGNS OF THE SWARM will pull out of the bag for album number four?
6. VOYAGER – Colours In The Sun. Release date: 1 November.
VOYAGER have always been a quality prog band but with newest album Colours In The Sun they have really surpassed themselves. It’s the old cliché of the album being their poppiest, yet heaviest to date. But it only takes one listen to realise this is true. Tracks like Colours, Brightstar and Reconnected are some of the best songs VOYAGER have ever penned. A glorious highlight is the magnificent Entropy which features none other than LEPROUS’ Einar Solberg which makes for a terrific proggy surprise. Colours In The Sun is the band’s most solid and consistent release and it’s a gem from start to finish. Fun, upbeat, heavy and catchy…what’s not to like?!
5. PORT NOIR – The New Routine. Release date: 10 May.
PORT NOIR’s previous album Any Way The Wind Carries was my second favourite album of 2016, but their newest effort The New Routine hasn’t quite matched its predecessor for me. BUT, The New Routine is still one of the slickest releases of 2019. PORT NOIR have dropped their heavy, progressive edge and embraced their funkier, poppier side, and it’s divine. Tracks like Champagne, Blow and Flawless are some of the catchiest and smoothest songs of the year. They will have you groovin’ and movin’ in no time. No one really qute sounds like PORT NOIR and their experimental side is utterly irresistible.
4. NUMENOREAN – Adore. Release date: 12 April.
Over the course of the year Adore has really grown on me. NUMENOREAN are one of the most promising post-black metal bands out there and I’m beginning to wonder how they will ever top this masterpiece. So many blistering yet moving tracks feature on Adore; the brilliant Horizon, the bewitching Stay and all the cacophony of terrors in between. NUMENOREAN appeal to the blackgaze community with their black metal approach and their melodic twists. The atmosphere that NUMENOREAN create is unlike any other, it’s both chilling yet heartwarming, an amazing feat without losing any of their impact. An incredible album by a band still so early in their career. Ones to watch for sure.
3. GHOST IRIS – Apple Of Discord. Release date: 22 February.
Danish progressive metallers GHOST IRIS are always one of those reliable bands you know are going to smash it with every release. Latest album Apple Of Discord is a magnificent release and easily their best record so far. Last album Blind World hinted at the band’s talent at writing brutal yet catchy tunes, but nothing prepares you for what they’ve achieved with Apple Of Discord. Crushing riffs with Jesper Vicencio Gün’s menacing growls and impressive cleans are the order of the day. One of the standout songs The Rat & The Snake features the bludgeoning growls of TRAITORS’ Tyler Shelton and is unforgettable. GHOST IRIS also drop some absolute belters with the likes of Heaven Was Pure Hell and The Devil’s Plaything to keep you nodding along. Such an underrated yet talented band!
2. PIJN & CONJURER – Curse These Metal Hands. Release date: 16 August.
Is this an EP? Is this an album? Who the hell cares this trumps most releases which have dropped this year. PIJN and CONJURER are both exciting up and coming bands from the UK, but together they are phenomenal. Curse These Metal Hands sees the material the bands wrote for ArcTangent Festival finally see the light of day as a recording. It mixes the mesmerising post-rock of PIJN and the storming venom of CONJURER and the result is something so special it makes me want to weep. High Spirits sounds like MAYBESHEWILL with BARONESS riffs and a bit of the ol’ shouty, shouty. whereas Endeavour sounds like a KYLESA/CONVERGE gritfest and I’m all for it. Such a treat.
- CARTOGRAPHS – wilt & blossom. Release date: 1 March.
Well, here you have it, my favourite release of 2019. Earlier in the year I said this was a contender for album of the year…and no other release has topped it for me. Post-metal is seriously gaining some traction and Denmark’s CARTOGRAPHS have proved they are one of the genre’s most promising bands with the sublime wilt & blossom. The passion, the fire, the grit and the power in each song is unforgettable and incredibly striking. Wilt Over Time and Peace Was Never Mine To Be Found are two standout tracks but the biggest gem of them all is the superb Through The Garden Gate with THAT riff and all the feels. It’s no surprise no other band have touched the top spot for me after this release. Listening to wilt & blossom again nine months on feels like I’m listening to it again for the first time. I am winded by its colossal power and numbed by its heartwrenching melodies. Just…incredible.