Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 4 (10 – 1)

Here we are. The best ten albums to see release between the years 2010 and 2019. These are the sort of albums that will appeal to any metalhead, regardless of usual genre preferences. Classics. All of them.

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10) Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
Dark Descent – 2018

You could crack your neck headbanging to it. You could dislocate fingers trying to emulate its solos. It’s brutal without ignorant chug. It’s technical without gratuitous fret masturbation. And at all times it remains as old school as a slate chalkboard. This album single-handedly gives me hope for the death metal genre. Every year puts up good albums. Sometimes even a great one surfaces. But I was worried that the days of the mind-meltingly phenomenal were gone. This allays all my fears.

9) Bliss Signal – Bliss Signal
Profound Lore – 2018

You won’t find a more satisfyingly immersive listening experience. The successful combination of evocative black metal with the primal electric hum of grime results in an almost trance-inducing state. It’s an album that pushes the limits of its stylistic roots far past expectations; it’s as far as removed from Mayhem as it is from Dizzee Rascal. But in finding this previously undiscovered musical niche, Bliss Signal have become a will-o-the-wisp, irresistibly luring us far off the beaten path.

8) Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness
20 Buck Spin – 2019

Divided by Darkness has some of the most infectious riffs ever put to wax; a rhythmic pathogen with truly pandemic potential. Spirit Adrift sit right on that cusp between true heavy metal and epic doom metal, so they’re able to get huge sounding guitars that move with implacable purpose but are able to simultaneously linger and luxuriate. I’m not sure exactly how it’s possible for one album to be both immoveable object and irresistible force, but this legendary juggernaut is absolutely both.

7) Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
Profound Lore – 2015

Channelling the long held ascetic notion of transcendence through suffering, Prurient’s ninety minute monster of an album stretches the limits of what can rightfully be considered noise to deliver sixteen tracks that cleanse the soul with fire then clad it in glorious white. The looped synths, heavy distortion, and screeching feedback allow the listener to enter a truly meditative state, despite being absolutely and unrepentantly punishing to the ears. Challenging and almost overwhelming, yet wondrously sublime.

6) SubRosa – More Constant tham the Gods
Profound Lore – 2013

I struggle to think of any other band in the stoner doom world that operates at the level of sophistication that SubRosa does. They present emotionally challenging themes without dumbing down their real world complexity. And rather than just plucking the heartstrings and letting it reverb, the band dare to fill their scores with as much life musically as they have thematically. This is an album that was great on release, but has aged spectacularly because of the dynamism the band challenged themselves to play.

5) Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Ipecac – 2018

What is immediately clear here is that when Daughters decided to do a new album, their original shouty, jarring brand of noise rock wouldn’t cut it anymore. What they delivered is swooning, anxious, complicated, and absolutely enthralling. It’s an album that understands, at a fundamental level, all the things that scratch and irritate the psyche. As such, you can’t exactly call it a comfortable listen, but it’s almost impossible to turn off. It’s a masterpiece of emotive songwriting.

4) Devin Townsend – Empath
InsideOut – 2019

What we have here is prog at its most organic sounding. In many respects this comes across as a stream of febrile consciousness. All the transitions, exclamations, and assorted oddities flow into each other and somehow make total sense. It’s like Devin is channelling his inner James Joyce and this is his Ulysses. Don’t underestimate the strangeness; Devin has pushed his sound far out to sea on this. But as overwhelming as it can sound, the raw and joyous humanity on display will fill you with light.

3) Ihsahn – Àmr
Candlelight – 2018

In what may well be the best album he has ever done, Ihsahn has delivered a bleakly captivating dissertation on isolation, loneliness, and depression. There are moments that genuinely cut deep into the soul, where the emptiness at the core of existence is so clear and unquestionable that it hurts. The challenging themes are backed up with a progressive score that is free-wheeling and compelling; it demands to be heard, but its arrogance is well-deserved and hard-earned.

2) Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones
Century Media – 2010

The acrimonious break up of Celtic Frost is the fuel that feeds this raging inferno. I know that Thomas Fischer is on the record about needing a certain level of discord in his life to get the most out of his creativity, but I didn’t think that it was humanly possible for one man to hate as deeply as he does. This is more than simple invective; this is an invocation of anger so profound that if magic were real, a certain former drummer would cease to exist. It’s power is stunning and transcendent on all levels.

1) Cobalt – Slow Forever
Profound Lore – 2016

“In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
– Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)

Hobbes was making his case for a mighty ruler by bleakly positing what he considered the natural state of mankind. He genuinely believed that strong, unified control would alleviate this brutish state of nature. However, even if you subscribe to this vision of totalitarian necessity, you also have to acknowledge that life isn’t that simple. Humanity falls through cracks in society all the time. Cobalt understand this; that even in this society we have built to shelter us from ourselves, it’s all too common for people to slip through, to re-enter the state of nature. Slow Forever is replete with a grubby, grasping desperation that is absolutely terrifying because of its raw humanity. This is music of the lost, of the outsider, of people stripped of all but existence. Its struggles are visceral and its desires are violent. It exposes the uncomfortable truth that society is the lie we tell ourselves to hide our all too animal nature from each other. Listen to this and feed your beast.

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.

July 2019 Review Round Up

Another July been and gone. Thankfully it left behind some gold. I was starting to worry about it being a year of good releases not great releases.

The absolute best was Spirit Adrift’s Divided by Darkness. Holy shit, that is a fun album to listen to. Almost completely derailed my month because it’s all I wanted to listen to. It still is to be honest, but I pushed through.

Not much else to say this month. It’s been a month where life has been a little bit in the way of music, but that happens.

Hit me with feedback, suggestions, or recommendations on Facebook.

See everyone next month.

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Album of the Month
Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness
(Heavy Metal – United States of America)
20 Buck Spin – 2019/05/10

This is a rollicking good time. It’s as heavy as some of the greats of modern US doom, but it’s played at a much faster tempo. The vocals are delivered with an intensity usually reserved for the Georgian sludge masters, but they’re clean as a mountain spring. There’s so much to like here. They’ve forged a path to greatness and paved it with talent.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Aggressor Id – Aggressor Id
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2019/01/07

Grind with enough touches of slam and metalcore to trick me into thinking it’s pv. Not complaining though. Each track seems to mimic the ebb and flow of a different violent outburst. It flares and seethes, then goes cold and festers. It covers the full range of anger with a fluency that tells of intimacy with the emotion born of experience.

An Isolated Mind – I’m Losing Myself
(Black Metal – United States of America)
I, Voidhanger – 2019/03/16

When your standard black metal act deals with isolation, it tends to be in the “Behold! The tundra!” sense. An Isolated Mind comes at it from the social sense and, in doing so, have encapsulated musically the bleak despair and burgeoning madness of being persistently alone despite being surrounded by a sea of humanity. Uncomfortable yet rewarding.

Enforcer – Zenith
(Heavy Metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/04/26

Enforcer have always been a bit on the lurid side: flashy, fast, and ridiculous. So you wouldn’t think them glamming things up a bit would change a whole lot. But it did. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. Zenith comes across as a mash up of Ghost and Motley Crue, and as much as I’m a fan of both, it’s an odd combo. I enjoy it, but it’s definitely distracting.

False – Portent
(Progressive Black Metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2019/07/12

Listening to black metal has exposed me to all sorts of weird stuff, but I first got into it because of the absolute majesty of Emperor. It’s a sensation I don’t often find in the genre anymore. But I found it in False. Portent is heavy on grandeur; it’s three extended tracks allow for many a dramatic swell. I’m completely awestruck.

Friendship – Undercurrent
(Powerviolence – Japan)
Southern Lord – 2019/06/17

Undercurrent sounds sinister. Terrifyingly so. It’s heavy and aggressive, for sure, but it’s strength lies in its tension. It’s like limping away from an arse-kicking, only to get that nagging feeling that your assailants are still there, following. Watching. It’s an album that speaks of malice past, present, and future.

Lice – Woe Betide You
(Blackgaze – Spain/Sweden)
Season of Mist – 2019/05/10

When I heard Teitanblood and Kvarforth (of Shining infamy) were collaborating, I honestly didn’t expect sad and angry Alcest. It’s an odd sort of outcome. Kvarforth is definitely still channelling his tortured self, but the music is tonally weird. Not necessarily bad; it seems designed to never let the listener find comfort. Maliciously arcane.

Nucleus – Entity
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Unspeakable Axe – 2019/06/14

A for concept; C, C+ for execution. Old school death with a peppermill twist of tech is a pretty solid idea for keeping the sound fresh. But I can’t shake the feeling this is sonic porridge. I’m sure some people will take enjoyment, nourishment, and comfort from it; but for me it’s just a little bit stodgy and dull. Not bad, but hard to recommend.

Rammstein –
(Neue Deutsche Härte – Germany)
Universal – 2019/05/17

What to make of Rammstein’s technically untitled seventh album? Is it worth the decade of waiting? Is it a suitable swansong should, as I suspect, they break up completely and finally? To answer: it’s great, mostly, and yes. More electronic leaning than I expected, it keens closest to Herzeleid but with a defter touch. A circle well closed.

Redbait – Cages
(Hardcore – United States of America)
New Age Records – 2019/06/14

While I am very appreciative of the uptick in proudly left hardcore, there is still an interplay between message and delivery that needs to be balanced. Redbait have a cogent and poignant message, but bury it beneath a delivery so furious that much of it gets lost. I don’t expect the band to play nice; it would just be nice the anger sounded more directed.