And so we round off another year. 2019 was good to us metalheads. That being said, it’s surprising how easily this top 11 coalesced.
Despite having a bumper year, full of great albums, I am but one man, so I’m going to miss things. Of the albums I definitely know I missed, these are probably my biggest laments:
Children of Bodom – Hexed
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Valeno
Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave
Leprous – Pitfalls
Mayhem – Daemon
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Queensryche – The Verdict
Tool – Fear Inoculum
Torche – Admission
Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence
And so, without further adieu, here’s the best damn eleven albums from 2019.
11) Nocturnus AD – Paradox
Profound Lore – 2019/05/24
What I said then: The band has lost absolutely nothing over the years; absolutely killer, high-octane death metal.
What I say now: I love the sci-fi vibe on Paradox. It doesn’t just sound technical; it sounds weird. That healthy dose of the bizarre gives the familiar Florida sound a vibrancy it sorely needs.
10) Pseudcommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/08/23
What I said then: It fills your reality with noise to the point that even the air starts to feel heavy.
What I say now: Alienating and discomforting, this remains one of the year’s toughest listens. But in the hidden depths of noise are secret whispers of melody. Of songs so bleak they must remain obscured for our sanity.
The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
(Atmospheric Sludge – United States of America/Sweden)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/02/22
Bit of a cheat as it was self-released in late 2018, but Sentient Ruin brought this nightmare to the surface. Hateful and misanthropic, this is a masterpiece of sonic horror.
9) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Roadrunner Records – 2019/08/09
What I said then: The band’s sound has matured, maintaining a familiar level of vitriol but has become more expansive, as befits their status as one of metal’s most bankable acts.
What I say now: The depth of talent that Slipknot have dared to incorporate is remarkable. They’ve given a sophistication to their sound without sacrificing the venom their performances are best known for.
8) Mgła – Age of Excuse
Northern Heritage – 2019/09/02
What I said then: Age of Excuse sounds as fresh and intimidating as Groza did ten years ago.
What I say now: In a year that saw merely acceptable releases from multiple black metal icons, it took these Poles to show how venomous and furious the genre can still be. They are a mighty tempest of darkness.
7) Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
Nuclear Blast -2019/10/25
What I said then: This isn’t some fae trickster or changeling; this is the wild hunt, riding high in saddle, their doomed quarry hounded by spirit and mist alike.
What I say now: There’s a fine balancing act on display here. It is undoubtedly more aggressive, but it still retains the warming dreamlike quality that makes Alcest so charming. It’s a malicious beauty.
Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
John Dyer Baizley for Gold & Grey by Baroness
I’ve always had a deep and abiding affection for Baizley’s art, but the work he put into Gold & Grey is absolutely stunning. I could look at it for hours and still find something new.
6) Death Angel – Humanicide
Nuclear Blast – 2019/05/31
What I said then: They have penned an album of thrash anthems that will absolutely stay fresh and loud in your mind.
What I say now: It’s mind-boggling how consistently fantastic Death Angel have been. You absolutely cannot complain about more of the same when everything they do is so damn good.
5) Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence
Season of Mist – 2019/11/08
What I said then: They’ve created a swirling void of utter despair that threatens to suck all life into its infinite depths.
What I say now: Esoteric have that wonderful ability to make funeral doom so much more than low, slow, and miserable. There is a richness of tone and a warmth to their delivery, which gives it soul.
4) Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation
Profound Lore – 2019/03/04
What I said then: The vocals are akin to someone drowning in acid, the guitars are like a frenzied ice-pick attack, the drums might as well be hammers swung at your joints, and the solos are like the gears of a horrifying trap grinding into action.
What I say now: These depraved degenerates can seriously play. As straight up hostile as this is, it’s only as effective as it is because they’ve honed their monstrous craft to a razor’s edge.
The Dillinger Escape Plan Memorial Award for Most Kick Ass Live Act
In a year with ample competition, Behemoth stood taller than all the others. They have a flair for the dramatic, blast harder than they do on wax, and and curate a fantastic live set. It’s metal maximised to the limit.
3) Cloud Rat – Pollinator
Gilead Media – 2019/09/13
What I said then: It’s the vast vista of humanity with all its foibles and tumults, but sped up to the bpm of a stressed hummingbird’s heartbeat and viewed through an obscuring heat shimmer of pure ferocity.
What I say now: Cloud Rat have always been building to something. All that energy. All that drive. All that passion. It all led to this: a humanity affirmation wrapped in a blistering assault.
2) Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness
20 Buck Spin – 2019/05/10
What I said then: They’ve forged a path to greatness and paved it with talent.
What I say now: Spirit Adrift tap into the same heavy metal wellspring that made Sabbath essential. Heavy and melodic with bone-shaking rhythms, but done in a way that’s 100% fresh. Old school remade anew.
1) Devin Townsend – Empath
InsideOut – 2019/03/29
What I said then: Proving that any emotion delivered stridently enough can provide an intense experience, Empath is a manic blast of over-the-top positivity.
What I say now: I reckon it’s impossible to not love this. It radiates an aura of chaos that in no way diminishes the pulsating good vibes. To be so unabashedly in your face but with all smiles is unique.
So that was 2019. Stay tuned for my Top 100 of the past decade.