If 2018 was the year of solid but not spectacular metal, then 2019 was the year of comebacks. Tool, Exhorder and Possessed each released their first new album in decades. This list had been revised about four or five times simply due to the sheer volume of quality material that was released this year. There were pleasant surprises, comebacks and letdowns. Without further ado here are the top ten metal albums of 2019.
10. Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue
A Different Shade Of Blue is not just a worthy successor to Laugh Tracks, it almost completely outclasses it in every way and offers more of everything that made the debut record so compelling. It’s more metal, more hardcore and faster. There are some death metal parts, more breakdowns, more anger and certainly more energy. While it is not groundbreaking, it is a very well-crafted and put together hardcore album, and that is enough to make it stand out.
9. Hideous Divinity – Simulacrum
Hideous Divinity is a perfect representation of Italy’s brand of death metal: “Italian dudes playing instruments really fast.” They have always written powerful material but Simulacrum confirms their transition from blunt brutality to intelligent death metal. The album is filled to the brim with huge staccato rhythms interspersed with grinding sections of dissonance and lashings of memorability. In short: this album is over 50 minutes of the almighty riff.
8. Misery Index – Rituals of Power
This is yet another battering ram triumph of ferocious, no-holds-barred fury and killer groovy riffs from one of death metal’s most consistent and punishing acts. Their grind and thrash-infected style of muscular death metal matches up perfectly with their trademark passionate, insightful and vicious socio-political tirades. Rituals of Power is the weightlifting metal album of 2019 and it is without a doubt going to have a few songs as mainstays during live performances.
7. Possessed – Revelations in Oblivion
32 years. That’s how long it’s been since the godfathers of death metal, Possessed, last released an album. Vocalist Jeff Becerra is out to resurrect the dead with a whole new lineup and they do not disappoint. Beccera’s one-of-a-kind hoarse bellow leads the charge backed by frenzied riffs and killer drums. After a horrific accident that left him paralyzed in a wheelchair, Becerra sounds like a man possessed. This record is fast, furious and features a boatload of classic thrash moments. This is just about the best album they could have produced after three decades.
6. Gomorrah – Gomorrah
Can I take “Jaw-dropping albums from unknown bands” for $2000 please? Thanks for taking a wrecking ball to these rankings. The duo’s sophomore release is filled to the brim with pitch-shifted guitar bends that ooze and undulate, rhythmic growling and borderline militaristic drumming by hired drum god Hannes Grossman. It is impressive how tight, well-written and beautifully fluid this album is. Each track is a brutal wonder to absorb and enjoy, and this is an incredible album that raises the bar for technical death metal.
5. Mayhem – Daemon
The infamous Mayhem dropped their newest album after what seemed like much longer than five years. I guess that goes to show how uninspired their releases have seemed aside from their chilling debut De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. However, where De Mysteriis was cold, worldly, curious and terrified, Daemon is incendiary, aggressive, pained and enraged. Daemon’s artistic vision is executed by musicians who are, without exception, masters of their craft. This is not an easy listen by any means, but well worth it if you have the time and the stomach.
4. Baroness – Gold & Grey
Baroness has expanded their own progressive repertoire by going from plain sludge to the realm of hard rock/heavy metal but with a haunting atmosphere. And while this probably will not change the minds of those who think Baroness is a hipster metal band similar Mastodon (not the first time they have been compared to their contemporaries from Atlanta), think of the sound on this as brooding progressive stoner rock. It is a beautiful masterpiece of well-written, spacey songs. An argument could definitely be made for Gold & Grey being Baroness at their peak.
3. 1914 – Blind Leading the Blind
With a band name like that, it should come as no surprise what their lyrical themes are. It was originally released on November 11th, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the conflict, before being rereleased this past May on Nuclear Blast Records. What really separates this album from other war-themed bands is the sheer pathos behind it, especially by death metal standards. The articulate vocals and unsettling samples may serve as an aesthetic gateway, but combining these elements is what truly makes this something unique. There is something distinctly haunting here; it’s obviously stylized but it feels horrifyingly real.
2. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno
The kings of Italian death metal grace us with another scintillating album. Francesco Paoli’s return to vocals after over a decade behind the drumkit brings back a level of raw, primal ferocity not seen since their debut. Veleno has them doing precisely what they do best: blending their classical orchestral sensibilities with brutal death metal in an epic, soaring and beautifully intense album with the drums being STUCK ON CAPSLOCK.
1. Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
There are few bands that view lyricism as a truly equal part to composition and performance as Deathspell Omega. They’ve been defining and redefining this universe for a while now, and their latest release is a concept album about propaganda. The mastery on display here is perhaps even more intriguing for the fact that Deathspell Omega chose to record this mystifying and complex album live in studio on analog equipment and then also mix it with analog equipment. The ringing forward motion of the intricate guitar work, the natural reverb of the drums, the absolute weight and tone of the bass guitars, all meld to create an awe-inspiring dynamic befitting of a truly unique record.
Aephanemer – Prokopton
If Kalmah and Ensiferum were one band.
Moon Tooth – Crux
Incredibly catchy and interesting prog metal.
Stormlord – Far
Quality symphonic goodness from the veteran act.
Enthroned – Cold Black Suns
Atmospheric, unpredictable blackened death metal.
Inter Arma – Sulphur English
Heavy, ponderous sludge that pushes forward like a tectonic plate.