Metalmance’s Top 20 Releases of 2019

The best 20 releases of the past 12 months

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 PENANCEMisotheism. 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.

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Misotheism


 

19. ABIGAIL WILLIAMSWalk 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.

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Walk Beyond The Dark


 

18. BAESTVenenum. 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.

Roundup – September 2019 feat. Venenum


 

17. WORMEDMetaportal 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!

Roundup – July 2019 feat. Metaportal


 

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.

Crystal Lake – Helix review


 

15. AENIMUSDreamcatcher. 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.

Aenimus – Dreamcatcher review


 

14. SCHAMMASCHHearts 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 CURSEA 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. MYRATHShehili. 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.

Roundup – August 2019 feat. Shehili


 

11. CAR BOMBMordial. 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.

Roundup – September 2019 feat. Mordial


 

10. GODEATERAll 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.  

Tech Fest 2019: Part 1 feat. Godeater

Roundup – September 2019 feat. All Flesh Is Grass


 

9. ISSUESBeautiful 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 NEBULAFrom 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 SWARMVital 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?

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Vital Deprivation


 

6. VOYAGERColours 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 NOIRThe 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.  

Roundup – July 2019 feat. The New Routine


 

4. NUMENOREANAdore. 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 IRISApple 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!

Ghost Iris – Apple of Discord review


 

2. PIJN & CONJURERCurse 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.

Roundup – August 2019 feat. Curse These Metal Hands

Pijn & Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands review


 

  1. 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.

Cartographs – wilt & blossom review

Roundup – September 2019

Looking back at the hottest albums and singles of the month.

August might have been a mad month for mainstream metal releases but September has certainly seen its fair share of mammoth albums from the underground. This roundup sees the staple Top 3 releases of the month and then a look at September’s singles, of which there have been some huge releases! But to start things off I introduce my discovery of the month. If you stick around long enough you can dip into a highlight from the archive. See you in October!


 

Metalmance’s Discovery of the Month

IVY CROWN

I have to confess, Danish metalcore troupe have been on my radar for a little while now but after last month’s single Our Worst Days and the fact their debut album is out in October, I’ve been giddier about IVY CROWN this month! Previous singles Run and Lonesome and Cold (which features Kim Song Sternkopf from MØL) have been promising good things from IVY CROWN. Newest single Our Worst Days has an infectious sense of mischief and fun, but underneath each track is a dark undertone which makes this all-female group even more intriguing. Gaining momentum in the Danish scene, it won’t be long before IVY CROWN make their mark in the UK. With the forthcoming album being produced by Chris Kreutzfeldt (CABAL), vocal production by Mirza Radonjica-Bang (SIAMESE) and guest appearences from the Danish talent of Sternkopf and GHOST IRIS’ Jesper Gün, you can get a sense of what a big deal the women are becoming in their homeland. You’ll be silly not to check them out! 


 

Metalmance’s Top 3 Releases of September

This month has been hard to rank my Top 3. A special mention must go out to 65DAYSOFSTATIC and their amazing new release, replicr. This band always surpass themselves yet remain humble and create outstanding soundscapes. However, this month has seen some monstrous albums and here are the best three…

1

CAR BOMBMordial. Release date: 27 September 2019.

After releasing the singles Dissect Yourself and Scattered Sprites, I knew I was going to love this new CAR BOMB release. However, I had no idea how much Mordial was going to blow me away. It’s felt like a long wait since 2016’s breath taking album Meta, but the growth by CAR BOMB since that album is bewildering. I have seen a lot of mixed responses about Michael Dafferner’s clean vocals on some of the songs but for me, it adds a surreal element to their music, making them sound like a mathcore DEFTONES. Meta was always going to be impossible to top, and thankfully CAR BOMB haven’t given us more of the same with Mordial. Yes, their distinct mathy riffs are there, yes the songs are insane, but there is now so much depth to their textures and dynamic it is staggering. Second track Fade Out even has a pang of indie and shoegaze underneath the brutality and it makes for an interesting listen. CAR BOMB are still a band who are evolving after almost two decades in the game, and that is terrifyingly good.

 

2

BAESTVenenum. Release date: 13 September 2019.

If like me, you believe BLOODBATH should have called it a day after The Fathomless Mastery, Danish death metallers BAEST could easily fill the death metal void in your life. After last year’s incredible Danse Macabre, BAEST have stepped the menace up tenfold with Venenum. Each track drips with venom and malice. Reaping from old school death metal influcnces, the band conjure up filthy riffs and hellish growls. Main singles Vitriol Lament, Gula and As Above So Below do standout, but album highlights come in the shape of Empty Throne and Sodomize with their beastly grooves and violent lyrics. Causing a stir in the European scene after huge tours supporting the likes of DECAPITATED and next month ABORTED and ENTOMBED A.D., the band are constantly on the up. For the love of metal, listen to BAEST.

 

3

GODEATERAll Flesh Is Grass. Release date: 27 September 2019

GODEATER’s debut album All Flesh Is Grass is everything I wanted the new SHOKRAN album to be. The Glaswegians have nailed technical death metal with oriental passages thrown in but with an important environmental message too. Not willing to shy away from the planet’s climate issues, GODEATER are unleashing their views with their equally compelling music. The fast pace and brutality of their songs is mightily impressive for a new band, but the atmosphere they conjure would be the envy of bands twice their age. Tracks like Salvation and Inertia Haze also boast ABIGAIL WILLIAMS-esque blackened brilliance. Unlike some of their UK Tech Metal scene contemporaries, GODEATER write ridiculously technical songs, but with enough heart and substance to actually keep you interested. If the band have achieved this masterpiece with their debut album and so few shows under their belts, imagine what GODEATER will be capable of with album number two.


 

September Singles

It’s mad to think we’re still promised so many awesome albums before the end of 2019. Some of the tracks below are singles from forthcoming albums and they are a sign of the quality to come. If metal keeps up like this, then we’re in for a blistering end of year. Behold my top singles from September!

SCHAMMASCHRays Like Razors

It’s been a while since Switzerland’s black metal elite SCHAMMASCH have graced us with their infectious misery. Rays Like Razors hints at a progression in sound for the band. The dark atmosphere and intense black metal is still there, but the crisper production and polished madness somehow makes the band sound bolder and even more frightening. The mature sound on show here pushes the envelope of black metal. SCHAMMASCH have always been atmospheric but the tone here is absolutely suffocating with an edge of the progressive. By the end of the track you feel like you haven’t received the full blow of what the band is promising, but this hopefully means the band will unveil all that they have up their morbid sleeves on the full length.

 

END OF DAZEReach Out

Who said metalcore was dead? Harking back to the sound of the late noughties, these young Britons are channelling MOTIONLESS IN WHITE, ATREYU and ASKING ALEXANDRIA and other bands of that ilk, but with more heart and less make-up. Hailing from Weymouth, END OF DAZE is threatening to bring British metalcore back to glory. Even though their sound isn’t anything ground-breaking, Reach Out included, there is something so pure and brilliant about what they play, you can enjoy the music exactly for what it is – good, honest metalcore. The metal scene is so saturated with bands searching for likes and followers, if a band is sincere and write enjoyable songs then I’m all for it!

 

BLACK CROWN INITIATEYears In Frigid Light

You may remember BLACK CROWN INITIATE’s last album Selves We Cannot Forgive made it to the top spot in my 2016 Album of the Year list. So it goes without saying their forthcoming album is one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year. They finally released the first track Years In Frigid Light this month and I’m having mixed feelings about it. The vocals are too high in the mix and it takes a long while for the song to really get going, but the dissonant air is spectacular. Once again the clean vocals raise the track to new heights, but the impact is too late and underwhelming. After a three year wait, the song unfortunately doesn’t cut it for me.

 

KILL THE KONGInterstellar

Yet to make a mark on the British scene, Swedish metalcore outfit KILL THE KONG have been on my radar for a few years now and have been featured in my blog a few times. New song Interstellar sees the band further remove themselves from their dual-percussion element (thankfully, as there’s only so many tribal rhythms you can include before it starts to sound repetitive) and deeper into metalcore territory.  The energy is still infectious and it sounds like KILL THE KONG are finally hitting their stride. Bold, heavy and energetic, the Swedes should really start to gain more attention now. They’ve proved they have the staying power and ability to evolve, they just need to continue working hard and hone their sound to becoming something unstoppable. 

 

ABIGAIL WILLIAMSI Will Depart

ABIGAIL WILLIAMS mastermind Ken Sorceron has been teasing new AW material for a while now but this track seemed to drop out of nowhere. I Will Depart is the opening track for forthcoming album Walk Beyond The Dark and it spells a new era for the American black metal band. This terrific track sees the band return to the blackened brilliance of their glory days, but with an older and wiser air to proceedings. The technicality remains and the atmosphere is colossal, but the writing is more focussed making for a brutal assault. If the remainder of the album is as mesmerising as this, then we’re in for a right ol’ black metal treat.

 

LOATHEGored

LOATHE were responsible for one of the darkest and most chilling albums of 2017, The Cold Sun. If single Gored is anything to go by, then LOATHE will surpass themselves with their darkest and most furious material to date. Crushingly heavy and suffocating, LOATHE are not here to soothe your soul or ears. The dense riffs would make CODE ORANGE proud but it is the intensity of the band which always shakes you to the core. Vocalist Kadeem France sounds like a man possessed on this single, his unnerving vocals leading the way for the hefty racous of riffage which ensues. Truly spectacular, LOATHE have been going from strength to strength but this release will be sure to see them rocket to the Kings of the heavy British scene.

 

LEPROUSAlleviate

It’s a good thing that I’m a huge fan of Eurovision otherwise I might never revisit LEPROUS again after their new single, Alleviate. I love the song and the band, but I find it amusing how they’ve evolved from being the backing band for IHSAHN and now LEPROUS seem to be the backing band for Einar Solberg. Even if the band are going down a pop route, they still make better pop music than the majority of chart artists. The subtle elements happening in the verses keep things interesting but it is the catchy folk pop chorus which will continue to pull in new fans. Read below for a snippet of my first post about LEPROUS from the Metalmance archive.


 

From the Archive

After the recent release of two singles from LEPROUS’ forthcoming album Pitfalls, I wondered if I could have predicted their prog pop direction… 

Band to watch: LEPROUS

Deliciously on the melodic end of the metal spectrum, LEPROUS’ beautiful melodies are made the more spine tingling thanks to the incredible vocal talent of Einar Solberg […] There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack.”

Weekly Roundup #3