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 – August 2019

The best discoveries, bands and albums of the past 31 days.

August has been an absolute mammoth of a month! With releases from metal heavyweights SLIPKNOT and TOOL there have also been stellar releases in the underground scene. Read below to find out my Top 3 releases of August! However, this roundup begins a little differently, featuring Metalmance’s discovery of the month, a band who I am very excited about!. Also in August’s roundup I feature a catch up of albums I’ve been enjoying on my blogging break. If you stick around for long enough you will also be reacquainted with a gem from the archive and a roundup of all my posts this month. Enjoy! See you next month.


 

Metalmance’s Discovery of the Month:

SOULSPLITTER

Almost ready to release their debut conceptual album Salutogenesis on 26th September, SOULSPLITTER have already secured a place at this year’s Euroblast as well as a European tour with fellow proggers HEAD WITH WINGS! The German band have been busy for the past three years writing the album and getting up to fifty other musicans and creative artists involved. The video for their first single Moloch (video above) which came out in May, features a hand painted animation by a group of Berlin artists and it is this sense of art and collaboration which really shines through the band’s ethic. Channelling the beautiful melodies of DISTORTED HARMONY and the madness of WITHOUT WAVES, there’s no telling which way SOULSPLITTER will turn. This month the band released new single The Maze and it’s a more melodic track similar to their future tour mates HEAD WITH WINGS and it hints at SOULSPLITTER becoming something special! If you’re lucky enough to check them out in Europe in the coming months, be prepared to be perplexed and blown away in equal measures!     


 

Metalmance’s Top 3 Releases of August

It was hard to pick my Top 3 releases of the month considering the quantity and quality of releases we’ve seen these past 31 days. Below are my favourite three releases of August as well as a special mention. Let me know what you’ve been enjoying this month in the comments!

1   

PIJN & CONJURER – Curse These Metal Hands. Release date: 16 August.

I am still totally enamoured with this brilliant EP by two of the country’s most promising bands! PIJN and CONJURER are both on Holy Roar’s terrific roster and Curse These Metal Hands is the result of a collaboration between the two for last year’s edition of ArcTangent festival. Luckily for us the bands have finally reworked and released the tracks into this musical masterpiece. Mixing the superb post-rock beauty of PIJN and the ferocious intensity of CONJURER, Curse These Metal Hands is a sublime concoction of the two and it has such a powerful nostalgic slant to proceedings I find it utterly irresistible. Every day I am inundated with songs and albums so it takes something extra special these days to really make an impression on me and stick. Curse These Metal Hands is one example and I will shout about how brilliant this material is for the years to come! Read my full review below for more thoughts.  

Pijn & Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands Review

2

UNPROCESSEED – Artificial Void. Release date: 9 August. 

After last year’s amazing album Covenant, I was eagerly anticipating UNPROCESSED’s Artificial Void and it’s totally smashed all expectations! This album is bolder, more confident and more creative. Artificial Void is bursting with ideas but the band are experienced enough to deliver these ideas into one coherent album and the result speaks for itself.  The guitar work is stellar as usual, ANIMALS AS LEADERS and MESHUGGAH fans will be pleased, but what is so astounding about the band is the guitars sound so explicitly UNRPOCESSED which is an incredible feat for such a young band in the tech scene. Track Fear is a superb example of how the band are successfully entwining their revolutionary djent, TESSERACT vibes and atmospherics of NORTHLANE into an album which sounds so fresh in the midst of a stale which is at the risk of becoming stale. Absolutely stunning.

3 

HUMANITY’S LAST BREATH – Abyssal. Release date: 2 August.

One of my most eagerly anticipated albums of 2019 finally dropped this month, Abyssal by the heaviest band on the planet, HUMANITY’S LAST BREATH. It’s not higher up my Top 3 list as I thought it would be because after the initial joy of the absurdly heavy elements, it gets a bit samey. The insane tones and heaviness created with the usual instruments of metal is something to be desired. Unforgiving and punishing from the first track Bursting Bowel of Tellus to the haunting last track Dödgud, HUMANITY’S LAST BREATH are reinventing heavy. Unfortunately the band are still yet to translate their godlike live presence into record format, and that is one thing Abyssal lacks. Once HUMANITY’S LAST BREATH work out how to how to do just that then they will truly be unstoppable. 

Special Mention

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE – Atonement. Release date: 16 August. 

I might upset a few people when I say the last two KILLSWITCH ENGAGE albums with Jesse Leach back on vocals left me uninspired and bored but it is such a joy to listen to Atonement and hear the band have their fire back! Having Howard Jones do a guest spot on The Signal Fire was a genius idea, but throughout the album you can hear the band’s passion shine through and no other band quite matches their inner strength and optimism. Even though they’re the kings of metalcore (I don’t care if you hate that word) they’ve always tried to push their sound and no two albums sound the same which is something I really admire. With Atonement KILLSWITCH ENGAGE have harder metalcore twangs going on as well as groovier moments (i.e. Know Your Enemy) but the huge choruses are still their best weapon and this album is unsurprisingly chock-full of them. I’m going to be bold and say Atonement is the best album with Leach since Alive Or Just Breathing and I couldn’t be more thrilled.             


 

Metalmance Catch Up

Below are three more albums I have been jamming while on my blogging break. Check them out and make sure you don’t miss out too!

MYRATH – Shehili. Release date: 3 May 2019.

Tunisian metal probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but if you know me you’ll know I have a soft spot for North African and oriental metal. I love the fresh dynamics bands like MYRATH can bring to the metal community and it is extremely reassuring to see Shehili be enjoyed by metal fans across the world. The traditional instruments sit seamlessly beside the modern metal components and it always makes for stunning results. Often likened to Israel’s ORPHANED LAND, you can understand the comparison because they’re not your typical Western metal. However, MYRATH are less dramatic in the political sense and they sound a lot more classic metal than the extreme tendencies of ORPHANED LAND.  I hope you like huge choruses because MYRATH have a lot of them. Songs like You’ve Lost Yourself and Born To Survive may be deemed as cheesy to some but you cannot deny the impact MYRATH have with their heavy riffs and melodic moments. If you’re looking for something a bit different then MYRATH might be for you!

OSIAH – Kingdom of Lies. Release date: 3 May 2019.

I absolutely adored 2016’s album Terror Firma by deathcore merchants OSIAH. This year’s album Kingdom of Lies is even more devastating and brutal which is a terrifying achievement. Unlike some of their contemporaries, OSIAH have a bit of substance to their work which keeps you interested. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet but there is just a bit more ‘soul’ to their savagery. I don’t mean Dusty Springfield soul, but there is something underneath the layers which make OSIAH sound alive and not another deathcore puppet in an oversaturated scene. Also, their talent is unparalleled and the brutality is overwhelming. Jamie Graham (ex-HEART OF A COWARD) makes an unexpected appearance on Awakening which gives the song an extra something. Overall it’s just a bloody brilliant face-ripping album by a British band who deserve a listen.

ANY GIVEN DAY – Overpower. Release date: 15 March 2019.

There is something safe and familiar about ANY GIVEN DAY and I really don’t mean that in a bad way. They sound like a mash-up between KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, SOILWORK and EVERGREY (a glorious mash-up if you ask me) with their beefy riffs and melodic choruses. They’re not reinventing the wheel at all but not every band has to be. ANY GIVEN DAY are just a band who are very good at writing straight-up enjoyable metal and catchy songs. Overpower is the band’s boldest effort to date and has seen them earn headline tours across Europe. Tracks like Taking Over Me are a real stomper whereas opener Start Over exposes the band’s penchant for groovy melodic goodness. Check it out if you want some wholesome metal!


 

From The Archive

This month saw German slamming death metal troupe STILLBIRTH release Back To The Stoned Age, a collection of the band’s songs reworked with their current line-up and it’s a fantastic beastly package. Last year I reviewed their album Annihilation of Mankind, here’s a extract of what I had to say…

STILLBIRTH – Annihilation of Mankind. Release date: 31 August 2018.

“Fifth album Annihilation of Mankind is an evident step up in terms of brutality and groove – no wonder Unique Leader Records want a piece of the forthcoming carnage. Like its namesake, this record absolutely annihilates the lugholes.”

Stillbirth – Annihilation of Mankind Review


 

DON’T MISS…

Metalmance review of KILLERKORP

Killerkorp – PAIN EP

Metalmance review of CHAOS REIGNS

Chaos Reigns – A Horrific Accident EP

Metalmance review of KRYSTHLA

Krysthla – Worldwide Negative

Metalmance review of STILLBIRTH

Stillbirth – Back To The Stoned Age