Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 2 (70-41)

Welcome to part 2 of 4 of the Best Albums of the Decade. Part 1 may have been a bit eclectic, but part 2 veers gleefully into the false at times. Every albums belongs here though.

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70) Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Profound Lore – 2015

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Leviathan doesn’t make easily accessible music and Scar Sighted is particularly dense. Meaning is obfuscated under layers of distortion and discomfort. Then, once you peel everything back and get to the core of it, all that’s there is an inky, impenetrable heart of blackest misanthropy. To search for meaning in this lucid nightmare is akin to pinning down a shadow; it’s there, you know it’s there, but it’s so intangible that it can never be grasped. It takes an already intense album and twists the knife in your mind.

69) Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
Roadrunner Records – 2012

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If, like me, you think Magma was a hard reset for Gojira, it’s because they hit the wall with L’Enfant Sauvage. They took everything they had built upon over the preceding albums; all the progressive elements; all the technical nuance; all the interplay between light and dark, and threw it at this album. The end result was their most intense album. It could easily have spiralled into a noisy, disjointed mess, so it’s genuinely impressive they managed to keep the reins on it. When going all or nothing, it’s a damn good thing to land on all.

68) Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Anti- – 2015

New Bermuda is Deafheaven making an adamant statement that, yes, they are a black metal act. They still lean into the emo and shoegaze elements that have made them (in)famous, but they’ve made a subtle course correct back to the genre fundamentals. It’s a deeper experience than the Black Metal with Feelings (New from Pixar!) that came before. It’s murkier. It’s more chaotic. And, somewhat ironically, it’s a more human experience for it. It pays raw emotional dividends without feeling forced.

67) Devourment – Conceived in Sewage
Relapse – 2013

Here it is, folks: the only brutal slam album I have returned to over and over. I keep coming back because it delivers far more than it promises. I’m not afraid to say that while slam has its moments, ordinarily I find it a bit repetitive for my own taste. Conceived in Sewage is anything but that. It definitely brings the mosh-amping violence, but its headbanging-friendly chug is complemented with memorable melody. What’s on offer here is a complete album, not just a collection of mosh bait.

66) Dälek – Asphalt For Eden
Profound Lore – 2016

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I don’t know a lot about hip-hop, from a critical perspective, but ambient, drone, and noise are right in my wheelhouse. Dälek’s return album is massively successful in building hypnotic and haunting music that sits squarely at the intersection of the aforementioned genres. Soothing, yet discomforting, it’s the sort of music that cuts straight to the soul without you noticing the incision. On top of that are some of the most insightful, impassioned lyrics to be recorded this decade. It’s a beautiful flash of genius.

65) Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate
Deathwish Inc – 2014

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You’re not going to find another band like Wovenhand. Main man, David Edwards, writes intense, almost apocalyptic Christian lyrics and performs them over a blend of country, punk, and a fistful of different folk influences. And Refractory Obdurate is the album that best brings these disparate elements together. Majestic, yet oddly intimate, it’s a clear window into the mindset of its creator. Don’t let the God bothering put you off; musically, it’s a stunning album built around a wholly unique worldview.

64) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Relapse – 2015

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“When I sleep I dream of death.” Prior to this gut punch in the masterfully depressing Sparrow, you might suspect that Windhand are approaching some difficult subject matter, but then all doubt gets ripped out. The stoner doom fuzz immediately takes on a whole new, unfathomably dark tone. It ceases to be fun, if a whisper troubling. It immediately becomes a deliberate attempt to obfuscate something very real and absolutely awful. I say attempt, because the darkness permeates it totally and cannot be hidden.

63) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Roadrunner Records – 2019

I had to force myself to remove my metal elitist hat and acknowledge that Iowan nontet have actually produced a fantastic piece of contemporary metal. A massive part of that success is a laser-like focus on how they want their finished product to sound. Gone is the flailing, uncontrollable angst of their first albums. Gone (hopefully forever) is the creative malaise that followed until now. This album’s ebbs and flows have a maturity that harnesses anger and repurposes it to drive home a massive sound.

62) Ghost – Opus Eponymous
Rise Above – 2010

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Hard to believe that from this humble little album, Ghost would go on to become the satan pop behemoths they are today. I say hard to believe, as who would have thought that the combination of black metal themes with psychedelic doom composition and Broadway theatrics would lodge so well in the psyche? But as much as they have gone on to bigger things (and will only get bigger), they still haven’t topped their debut. It works on every level it wants to work on. A haunted house inhabited with actual Satanists.

61) Obituary – Obituary
Relapse – 2017

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Obituary have been around for a seemingly forever and, if you have heard much of their post-millennium material, you’d believe it. I was still a fan, but you could hear the tiredness in their approach. But then they dropped their self-titled and all of a sudden their legendary status was on full display again. It’s not just that they play heavy. They always nail the heaviness. It’s that they fully unleashed their swampy swagger, melding the chug of Florida death with a ripping rock and roll nasty.

60) Gold – No Image
Profound Lore – 2015

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To grossly oversimplify thing, goth music is basically post-punk that skews heavily pessimistically romantic. Deathrock takes goth and performs it in a way that not-miserable people might enjoy. Gold lives up to those gross oversimplifications and exceeds all expectations in doing so. It’s an album that routinely gets me right in the heart, but encourages me to feel good about feeling sad. That to live an experience that leaves a genuine emotion is far better than to live safely in a bubble of emotional numbness.

59) american – Violate and Control
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2017

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When I first reviewed this I settled on “The Intersection Between Black Metal and Noise Without Truly Being Either” as the genre tag. On re-review, I don’t think I could have described it any better. They hammer home a distinctly post-human sound by combining the most aggressive elements of the two genres. But there’s a sophistication that takes much unpacking to really appreciate. It pushes its extremes to prog or post- proximity, but never at the expense of its savage atmosphere.

58) Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Century Media – 2018

As someone who came very late to the Deicide party, you may not be surprised to learn that I hold the band to a tougher standard than I probably should. They left me cold for a long time and I’ll rake them over the coals for far more minor infractions than I would bother with ordinarily. So that I unabashedly enjoy Overtures speaks volumes about how good an album it is. Their particular focus on melody pays off spectacularly. There is no chug here; every track speaks to the greatness of a death metal original.

57) Mgła – Age of Excuse
Northern Heritage – 2019

As paragons of Satanism at its most objectivist, Mgła often makes me uncomfortable. I’m not afraid to say that, because out of this discomfort is born a fascination. They take me to places I wouldn’t ordinarily travel and force me to justify my own existence. Age of Excuse perfectly encapsulates this forbidden fascination. Its will is totalitarian, its confidence is unwavering, and it wields a massive axe to winnow the herds too weak to stand with it. Selfish desires have never sounded so virtuous.

56) Baroness – Yellow & Green
Relapse – 2012

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There’s an awful lot to like about this double album, but what sticks with me the ability to sound so huge, so absolutely stadium shaking, while at the same time sounding so intimate that they could be playing just for you. It helps that they strike the perfect balance between barnstormers and contemplators, but even taking that into account, there’s something extraordinary about their performance. They went out of their way to be everything at once, and with genuine compositional skill, they are.

55) Ludicra – The Tenant
Profound Lore – 2010

Ludicra’s swansong album is a remarkable example of deft songwriting. It’s powerfully evocative of urban alienation, ably channelling the feeling of insignificance when surrounded by towering, grey, brutalist edifices. But The Tenant is also redolent of a hostile, fae otherness. That underneath the all too human theme of isolation is an unseele court waiting to prey upon the unsuspecting. This is an album that loses the listener in a world that feeds on uncertainty and discontent.

54) Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence
I, Voidhanger – 2018

When I listen to these Belgian progressive death dealers, they get me thinking about progressive titans like Opeth, Gojira, and Enslaved. But, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice In Vengeful Reverence ranks above all their offerings. It all comes down to approach. This album makes me think about the other bands because it forges its own path. It delivers its sinister sound with a striking freshness. Wild yet crisp, like a conifer forest in the dead of winter, it’s what the genre needs.

53) Rotting Christ – Aealo
Season of Mist – 2010

This is Rotting Christ getting their ultra-melodic, slightly folky take on black metal just right. Later albums taught me that it’s a far more delicate balancing act than you would think. I think the thing that truly makes Aealo work is it’s relentless. It keeps coming at you and coming at you; it might deviate and try different strategies, but it never stops. It relies upon that aggressiveness of purpose to keep your attention rapt. There’s no rough edges or abrasiveness; there is only melodic triumph.

52) Bastard Priest – Under the Hammer of Destruction
Blood Harvest – 2010

I had been using the term bastard metal for a few years prior to this album for describing bands that were an amalgamation of black, death, and thrash metals, but Bastard Priest really take that term and make it their own. They’ve got the surging immediacy of thrash, the blood and guts of death metal, and the stench of the void of black metal. It’s an album packed from start to finish with sonic evil, made all the more nasty by how memorably entertaining they are. They’re the raging kings of the bastards.

51) Death Angel – The Dream Calls For Blood
Nuclear Blast – 2013

Sharp as a surgical scalpel and whipcord taut, The Dream Calls For Blood is the highlight in Death Angel’s reformation. The band were already the hallmark of consistency amongst Bay Area bands; they haven’t dropped a clunker this millennium. But this album stands even further apart from the rest. It’s the little things. Simple, yet incisive lyrics draw the listener in. The tracks are timed for maximum impact with minimum filler. It’s all about the point: getting there, staying there, and delivering.

50) YOB – Atma
Profound Lore – 2013

Setting a lofty standard for heaviness, Atma is exactly the sort of album that should convert doom non-believers into wide-eyed zealots. The low, rumbling riffs move with tectonic force and when they are matched with the pained, screeching vocals, the end result is seismic sonic upheaval. YOB genuinely sound like they could move mountains or shift our planetary axis on this release. But it’s more than heavy. There’s a subtly too it that belies its heft. It’s delicately crafted art wrapped in riffs.

49) The Haunted – Exit Wounds
Century Media – 2014

That intro track doesn’t really brace you for the onslaught to follow, as The Haunted storm the ramparts with everything in their not-inconsiderable arsenal. I really can’t undersell how hard and how fast this album comes at you. It even has what I would call a false closer or two; you might get sucked into thinking the gas is about to ease off only to get whiplash from the damn thing suddenly red-lining again. It’s a non-stop roller-coaster of high-octane, performance-tuned metal.

48) At the Gates – At War With Reality
Century Media – 2014

You can’t really say it’s a spiritual successor to Slaughter of the Soul. It’s a different beast. Gone is the white-hot angst and in its place is a black-hearted desolation. To say this album is bleak is to undersell it. The band haven’t tried to be what they were then and it shows. They’ve matured as people and this is passed on to the music. Its thematic maturity is mirrored in the music; the full-frontal assault of their youth is replaced with a sinister display of calculated, pernicious aggression.

47) Shining – Blackjazz
Indie – 2010

It was very tempting to review this with just a meme; this one in fact. Straight up, this reinterpretation of jazz through a black metal lens never settles enough to be normal. It just keeps escalating and distorting and intensifying. It doesn’t have an off switch; even when it winds down to a lower tempo, that’s no relief because the mood shifts as well to keep the overall effect challenging. But for all the madness, the relentlessness is memorable in the extreme. It carves itself into your goodwill.

46) Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu
Svart – 2013

It helps to remember that Oranssi Pazuzu started life as a psychedelic rock act that came to black metal later because Valonielu sounds like the band took a bad trip and experienced apocalyptic visions. You can tell that they weren’t born of the dark; that the dark came for them and they embraced it. There are moments that sound genuinely revelatory; that the band knows how to open the doors to perception. The end result is an album that is equal parts enlightenment and absolute terror.

45) Kreator – Gods of Violence
Nuclear Blast – 2017

Multiple songs that I sing along loudly and badly to. Several songs that legitimately choke me up. Suffice to say, this album really speaks to me. It helps that the Teutonic thrash titans upped their game and produced their best album this millennium. It’s clockwork precise, but it cranks along at a blistering pace. But the inescapable fact is what makes this so good is that it is ridiculous fun. Thrash is supposed to be the music of beers and good times. And, holy crap, this brings a raucous party.

44) Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us
Nuclear Blast – 2016

I’ve seen and participated in debates about whether these bruisers are grind, pv, or hardcore. On reflection, they were wastes of time. What matters is how infectious their animosity is. YWNBOOU is hostility fed steroids and then unleashed with a fervent mania. It goes straight for the lizard brain and plays upon its instinctive need to luxuriate and wallow in negativity and aggression. It draws you in deep, which goes to show just how seductive those primal feelings can be.

43) Hail of Bullets – On Divine Winds
Metal Blade – 2010

Hail of Bullets, in their three album existence, were death metal’s foremost world war two historians and On Divine Winds was their most engaging lesson. The war in the Pacific certainly provides a wealth of subject matter (Pearl Harbor, kamikaze, nukes, etc), but that they could translate it into such engaging and memorable lyrics makes it so much better. And then to lay those lyrics down over gunfire drums and heavy machinery guitars to perfectly marry military theme to cataclysmic sound? It’s masterful.

42) Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Epitaph – 2012

Are Converge the most emotionally mature band in metalcore? I’m struggling to think of anyone more so. They have always taken intensely, challengingly poignant themes and refracted them into blustering howls of catharsis. All We Love is a standout in this regard. It’s affectingly heavy. Draining would be my preferred term, but for their convulsive mathcore driving the energy levels up into the extremes. Its ebbs and flows chart moments of beauty and pain and the deltas where they intersect.

41) Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
Nuclear Blast – 2014

There is a wonderful, almost guilty satisfaction to this album. It’s like being curled up in bed on a wet day when you should be at work. The rhythms are so catchy and they swell so majestically through the choruses. And then there’s the lyrics, which are fist-pumping, rabble-rousing, sing-along good times. But underneath it all is determined seriousness. Grand Magus care deeply about how they present their heavy metal and have tied everything up with an eye to both history and fate. Triumph and power says it all.

Albums of the Year 2019

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

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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
Behemoth

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.

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So that was 2019. Stay tuned for my Top 100 of the past decade.

September 2019 Review Round Up

That was a hell of a September. It was a catch up month for Metalshopped, so shout out to the taxman for giving me a nice refund of my own money. It felt good to mostly clear the ol’ shopping list.

You know what else feels good? Listening to Empath. Devin Townsend has unleashed a spectacular, insane hit of joyous ridiculousness. It’s prog without limits.

Also reviewed this month is Blut Aus Nord’s Hallucinogen. Another cracking album for sure, but it should have been included next month. Some dick leaked the album early, so Debemur Morti responded by upping the release date. While it’s nice to have the album early, it’s bullshit that it happened that way. Support content creators; fuck pirates.

The year and the decade are both winding up, but there’s still a hell of a lot of good in the pipes. Got pumped, stay pumped.

As usual, you can hit me up on Facebook. Always happy to hear feedback and suggestions.

See everyone next month.

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Album of the Month
Devin Townsend – Empath
(Progressive Metal – Canada)
InsideOut – 2019/03/29

Proving that any emotion delivered stridently enough can provide an intense experience, Empath is a manic blast of over-the-top positivity. The album is an extended love song to existence, and not in the bubblegum, everything-is-awesome sense. This is a shining beacon highlighting the warts and all nature of life in all its glory.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
01101111011101100110111001101001 – SDSS J0333+0651
(Brutal Death Metal – Antarctica and Mars but actually Argentina)
Amputated Vein – 2019/08/09

I’m ashamed of how much I like this, because, let’s be honest, astronomy slam sounds like the Dunning-Kruger effect put to music. But I don’t think anyone other than the band could have predicted how precise and energetic SDSS would turn out. No lazy interchangeable chug here. There’s not a second of wasted energy; all mosh, no rest.

Abyssal – A Beacon in the Husk
(Death Metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore – 2019/06/21

Abyssal continue to be one of the most ably evocative metal acts out there. Like their previous album, Antikatastaseis, A Beacon in the Husk takes me deep into the hell realms of Dante’s Inferno. This time, I’m transported to the Wood of the Suicides. It’s dread. It’s horror. It’s entrapment. It’s the knowledge of damnation at your own hands.

Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
(Progressive Black Metal – France)
Debemur Morti – 2019/09/20

It’s an irritating but necessary pun that best describes Hallucinogen; it’s intoxicating. From its diverse vocal range to its Hendrix-meets-Mayhem melodies, it’s an album that pushes progressive black metal in directions it doesn’t usually go. It challenges expectations and rewards the active listener with its psychedelic visions.

Cloud Rat – Pollinator
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Artoffact – 2019/09/13

Who would have thought grindcore could be so grandiose? So majestic? Dare I say it? Epic. Pollinator is something very special. 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. A stunning act of musical severity.

Consummation – The Great Solar Hunter
(Blackened Death Metal – Australia)
Profound Lore – 2019/06/07

The fury of the ascendant sun combined with the patience of the greatest hunter; it’s hard to think of a more appropriately named album. Especially since it’s, well, great. It’s always impressive to see a band manage an elevated level of aggression with the forethought and maturity to build up to bigger pay-offs. And this album pays off big time.

Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear
(Progressive Metal – Sweden)
Metal Blade – 2019/09/20

Cult of Luna give themselves all the room in the world to craft their music. It’s an expansive approach that yields the dividends they were expecting, as the band’s signature part-progressive, part-post metal sound is given free reign to soar to dizzying acrophobic openness and crunch into claustrophobic oppression. Stirring stuff.

Darkthrone – Old Star
(Blackish Metal – Norway)
Peaceville – 2019/05/31

I love Darkthrone’s “We don’t give a shit; we play what we want” attitude. You couldn’t have an album like Old Star without it. It plays out like Mayhem covering Lynyrd Skynyrd, or maybe vice versa. Oozing with attitude, it’s an album for getting smashed around a camp fire with mates after a hard day of blasphemy and church burning.

Destruction – Born to Perish
(Thrash – Germany)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/08/09

Destruction have to start aiming up. Thrash doesn’t have the luxury of resting on its laurels anymore. To plateau is to stagnate and the genre is littered with albums that, while not bad, fail to inspire because they’re a rehash of what came before. It’s been like that for a long time and these German titans seem to have missed the memo.

Devourment – Obscene Majesty
(Brutal Death Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2019/08/16

For a band that has been held up as a pillar of a genre often (self-) described as super ignorant, there’s an awful lot of intelligence packed into these ten songs. Suspiciously melodic passages too. It’s like the band care why their fans are smashing each other to a pulp in the mosh and are trying to give them better reasons to do so.

Fall of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2019/07/19

Ordinarily, I tend to use ephemeral as a pejorative. Light weight. Lacking substance. That’s not the case with Patterns in Mythology. It’s ephemeral in the fae, life is fleeting way. It gives the black metal on display a curious otherness; it allows the band to explore airier, more beautiful sounds while still retaining the blackened fire.

Full of Hell – Weeping Choir
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Relapse – 2019/05/17

Full of Hell have tended to land their grindcore firmly in the experimental, avant-garde camp. Very easy to see their talent, not always as easy to enjoy their efforts. Weeping Choir breaks free of this. Still absolutely willing to experiment with grind’s form, but it is delivered as such an all-out assault that all niggling doubts vanish.

Gaahl’s WYRD – GastiR — Ghosts Invited
(Black Metal – Norway)
Season of Mist – 2019/05/31

This feels like an important album. Like there’s another leap forward contained within, up there with Bathory’s early work or Mayhem’s De Mysteriis dom Sathanas. The icy ferocity of the music is matched with a dark poetry that you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with the genre. Gaahl truly is one of this generation’s greatest skålds.

Garsdghastr – Slit Throat Requiem
(Symphonic Black Metal – Sweden/United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/04/26

Damn, this is sharp. I don’t expect symphonic black metal to have such a wicked cutting edge to it. But there’s no florid Dimmu-esque melodrama; there is only a ruthless dedication to making the most hellish synth-led racket they possibly can. It serves as an almighty reminder that black metal should, in all its myriad forms, intimidate.

Grand Magus – Wolf God
(Heavy Metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/04/19

I am, and will remain, a big fan of Grand Magus, but my fandom isn’t so one-eyed that I can’t acknowledge their faults. And vocal delivery is certainly a problem. JB’s vocals don’t have a great deal of range, which is fine when there’s a cornucopia of badass riffs to distract. Wolf God, alas, does not distract. It’s all a bit flat and uninspiring.

Inter Arma – Sulphur English
(Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2019/04/12

Coming across as less cataclysmic and more cathartic, Sulphur English still sounds distinctly like Inter Arma. And, yet, not. Subtle stylistic deviations are the mark of a band expanding their sonic brand. They still build tension deliberately and intensely, but they direct it differently. It’s an organic evolution to their approach to darkness.

Mgła – Age of Excuse
(Black Metal – Poland)
Northern Heritage – 2019/09/02

Complacency is the greatest enemy of consistency. It’s understandable that a band with a distinct sound and approach to their craft might to resistant to change to the own detriment. It’s why Mgła are so impressive. Age of Excuse sounds as fresh and intimidating as Groza did ten years ago. And they’ve sacrificed none of their signature sound along the way.

Mizmor (מזמור) – Cairn
(Blackened Doom Metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2019/09/06

Cairn sounds like an album attempting, but failing, to outrun itself. A great jovian heaviness acts as a gravity well, forever smashing the fevered black metal back to earth and forcing it to crawl at a near drone. It’s a thoroughly entertaining synergy of energy levels, merging the anti-human and the inhuman into one malign force.

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
(Nu-Metal – United States of America)
Roadrunner – 2019/08/09

A fine return to form, Slipknot have moved past the necessarily disjointed Gray Chapter and the terrible Stone Sourness of the previous two albums before that. 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.

Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
(Death Metal – Canada)
20 Buck Spin – 2019/07/19

If you’re going to be prolific, you’d better hope you’re good. And the thoroughly restless Tomb Mold are just that. Planetary Clairvoyance breathes fire into every track, making what is essentially an old school album fresh again. This is what happens when a band deeply care about their end product and have the smarts to deliver.