Wow, it’s already that time of year again. It has become an annual tradition at our putrid site to launch our year-end LISTMANIA orgy with the appearance of DECIBEL mag’s Top 40 list. It has become a tradition in part because, in my humble opinion, it’s still the best print publication out there for fans of extreme metal, and also because they always manage to jump out of the starting blocks first in the race for publishing YE “best of” lists – and they’ve done it again this year, though this year it took me by surprise. I think I’m still stuck in October. Anyway, here we go again!
The DECIBEL list will officially appear in the magazine’s January 2020 edition, which hasn’t yet hit my own mailbox, but DECIBEL again decided (for the fourth year in a row, or maybe the fifth) to scoop their own list rather than letting leeches like me leak it. They published the list on-line yesterday, and so I can now again re-publish their list without too much guilt, beyond the sheepishness that comes from being one of the factors that forced them to start outing themselves in the first place.
Of course, there will be a lot more content in the January issue (which has Blood Incantation on the cover), including commentary about each of these 40 albums and why they were selected, as well as dozens of contributor-conceived year-end Top 5 lists, a Hall of Fame feature on Madball’s Set It Off, and a brand new Carcass picture flexi disc containing the band’s first new song in six years,. You can order a copy of that HERE.
Before turning to the DECIBEL Top 40 I’ll share again the thoughts that I share every year at this time about the phenomenon of year-end lists in metal. I see no reason to amend the words, especially since that would involve effort.
Such lists continue to serve several useful purposes. One, of course, is to introduce fans to albums they may have overlooked. I also know people who don’t buy much music during the year and actually wait to read year-end rankings before preparing their shopping lists. And, perhaps most obviously, they give us something to discuss and argue about. Because apparently we don’t have enough to argue about already, even in the age of Trump.
And it’s easy to argue over year-end lists. No matter who compiles them, they’re going to leave out albums you think should be included, they’re going to include albums you don’t think belong, and they’re going to screw up the rankings. I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? The only list that could possibly satisfy any individual fan from start to finish is the one they make for themselves.
I usually try to hold my own comments to a minimum when I post these year-end lists from print publications and “big platform” sites, mainly because I can’t manage to make a list of my own. But here are a few observations about this one, just to get the conversation started — though I do hope you’ll continue the discussion in the Comments to this post.
First, none of these albums was self-released; all were backed by labels, although a few of them are quite small and obscure. Make of that what you will. Among these 40 label releases, a whopping six came from 20 Buck Spin and three from Gilead Media, which gives the two Migration Fest organizers 20% of the whole list. Four others were released by Relapse, and six other labels had two albums each on the list (Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Prosthetic, Nuclear Blast, Metal Blade, and Dark Descent, with the latter having two in the Top 5).
Second, as the person responsible for our weekly SHADES OF BLACK column, and therefore someone who spends a lot of time each week listening to new black metal, I’m usually disappointed by how few BM (or “blackened”) releases find their way on DECIBEL’s list. Last year there were six. But this year the number jumped to 10, with honors awarded to Abbath, Misþyrming, Schammasch, Falls of Rauros, Funereal Presence, Darkthrone, Obsequiae, Mayhem, False, and Blut Aus Nord, with the latter two in the Top 10 (the number goes to 11 if you include Mizmor). As expected, there are a lot of big household names in that group, which crowded out other names that belonged,
Third, I shook my head when I saw other names that I thought were a real stretch for a Top 40 metal list, particularly a Top 40 list that’s supposed to be focused on extreme metal, and shook it more vigorously when I saw one of those sitting in the No. 2 spot. That’s not the only head-scratcher in the rankings either. And, for my tastes, there are some genres represented here that I just don’t care that much about, and albums in those categories that just made me yawn, if I ever got past the first track.
But I will also say, as I do every year when I see what DECIBEL has compiled, that the list includes a decent number of deserving names, even judged according to my own nasty tastes — including the one at the AOTY spot. You might not agree that Blood Incantation‘s new one is the best full-length of 2019, but it certainly deserves to be in the conversation.
And with that I’ll shut up and let you guys read the list and continue the conversation in the Comments. I’m quite sure you have opinions.
40 Devil Master, Satan Spits on Children of Light, Relapse
39 Smoulder, Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, Cruz Del Sur
38 Nocturnus AD, Paradox, Profound Lore
37 Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo, Flenser
36 Misery Index, Rituals of Power, Season of Mist
35 Vastum, Orificial Purge, 20 Buck Spin
34 Candlemass, The Door To Doom, Napalm
33 Toxic Holocaust, Primal Future: 2019, eOne
32 Abbath, Outstrider, Season of Mist
31 Cerebral Rot, Odious Descent Into Decay, 20 Buck Spin
30 Baroness, Gold & Grey, Abraxan Hymns
29 Misþyrming, Algleymi, Norma Evangelium Diaboli
28 Magic Circle, Departed Souls, 20 Buck Spin
27 Schammasch, Hearts of No Light, Prosthetic
26 Opeth, In Cauda Venenum, Nuclear Blast
25 No One Knows What the Dead Think, No One Knows What the Dead Think, Willowtip
24 Inter Arma, Sulphur English, Relapse
23 Falls of Rauros, Patterns in Mythology, Gilead Media
22 Die Choking, IV, DCIVE
21 Idle Hands, Mana, Eisenwald
20 Cattle Decapitation, Death Atlas, Metal Blade
19 Funereal Presence, Achatius, The Anja Offensive
18 Darkthrone, Old Star, Peaceville
17 Haunt, If Icarus Could Fly, Shadow Kingdom
16 Obsequiae, The Palms of Sorrowed Kings, 20 Buck Spin
15 Venom Prison, Samsara, Prosthetic
14 Devin Townsend, Empath, InsideOut
13 Mizmor, Cairn, Gilead Media
12 Mayhem, Daemon, Century Media
11 Full of Hell, Weeping Choir, Relapse
10 False, Portent, Gilead Media
9 Sacred Reich, Awakening, Metal Blade
8 Spirit Adrift, Divided by Darkness, 20 Buck Spin
7 Blut aus Nord, Hallucinogen, Debemur Morti Productions
6 Possessed, Revelations of Oblivion, Nuclear Blast
5 Tomb Mold, Planetary Clairvoyance, 20 Buck Spin
4 Crypt Sermon, The Ruins of Fading Light, Dark Descent
3 Gatecreeper, Deserted, Relapse
2 Lingua Ignota, Caligula, Profound Lore
1 Blood Incantation, Hidden History of the Human Race, Dark Descent
I am really looking forward to that Blood Incantation, though I feel putting them at #1, with all the hype, is almost expected. There are a few others I have not heard yet, but scratched my head at #2, as well as #15. Venom Prison gets a lot of love, and while I like the album, the mix is just too loud and compressed for me to listen with any great regularity. There are, as usual, good choices, some head scratchers, and some to which I have not listened, and now, I shall.
Top 3 for me this year are Nocturnus AD, Mayhem and Possessed
Mayhem, Borknagar, and Possessed for me as top three (although not necessarily in that order). Exhumed needs to be somewhere on that list. I need to spend some more time with that Spirit Adrift album…
Yes Borknagar! Number one for me
Blut Aus Nord is in a good spot, Cattle Decap ain’t even out yet although I can’t bloody wait. As far as well-known bands, guess Alcest will be seen on some of the more indie sites. Can I just say: I wonder, where the Xoth is White Ward? Nay worries, we know where the best lists are to be found and I’m fuckin psyched for Listmania, and for the infection to commence.
Thank you man. White Ward was one of the albums I had in mind when I mentioned deserving names being crowded out, and I agree that Xoth’s new one is excellent too.
White Ward’s newest is a record I haven’t really given a full listen yet but I expect I will probably love it in a year or two.
Also, in a year positively stacked in a sepulchre overflowing with putrefaction and putrid blackened glory, Nocturnal Departure has debuted the fuck out of the void in Inquisition rituals. (art over artist mongery aside). Never expected to encounter it on Decibel, but I did ofcourse skry it on NCS
Not a bad list, overall, for one of the bigger metal media sites out there. Basically what I expect from Decibel. A few albums I like mixed in with a bunch of overrated media darlings, and one or two albums I don’t know.
As one of my fellow writers said, “That’s a Decibel list alright.”
Easily the best list from them in years. Interesting to see three albums Ime ager to hear, that aren’t out yet, that are all high entries on the list. Expectation can be a bitch and I’ve already gotta grapple with my own, so lets hope these albums (Obseuqiae, Cattle D, Blood Inc) all live up to the extra hype!
My top three for now, in no order.
Falls of Rauros
Where is The Offering ? “Home” will be my favourite album of the year, I think. Pure heavy metal madness.
It looks nothing like my personal list, but that’s to be expected. As Islander knows, I pay special attention to Iceland, and I think the Misthyrming was quite good, but the Oermagna and Andavald debuts were both better.
My own list, not made until late December, will certainly include Vargrav, Foergjord, and Minenwerfer.
Pretty good list. I know YE lists are personal and subjective but it’s a shame Kampfar wasn’t included. Their latest is an absolute banger start to finish.
I know power metal is, for some crazy reason, metal’s whipping boys BUT power metal had a ridiculously tremendous year overall. Paladin released an album that is easily good enough to be on every YE for 2019.
Nailed it! That Paladin is high on my list, maybe number 1.
Paladin is definitely high on my list this year. That album rules so hard!!
Great to see Blood Incantation, Cryptic Sermon, Blut aus Nord, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Funereal Presence, Idle Hands, Misþyrming, Candlemass, Vastum & Smoulder.
Lingua Ignota is a real head scratcher. Gatecreeper continue to be highly over-rated. Possessed and Sacred Reich are way too high for “fairly good to ok” albums. Like Gatecreeper, False are horribly overrated.
Needs more Mork, Angel Witch, Slough Feg and Gaahl’s Wyrd.
ABYSSAL A Beacon In the Husk ?????
Massive album…been enjoying that one
I think it was one of metals’ weakest years in years. However, there were some solid albums. #2 is a joke. I don’t mind it being on the list, but give me an f’n break.
Missing Wilderun – Veil of Imagination. Such a good album and my personal AOTY. Also first time poster here. Hello ladies & gentleman <3.
I look forward to these lists every year. Is Brendan Sloan providing a list this year as well?
I intend to ask him if he will. I haven’t yet gotten my shit together to send out invitations, but soon….
I’m still wondering what the hype is with Gatecreeper. Cattle Decapitation’s masterpiece should be much closer to the front. Venom Prison? Hmm, that was one of the dozens of albums I had on my “stuff I liked” list, but I can think of so many other bands within that relative subgenre that would trample it all day long (i.e., Shadow of Intent, Carnifex, Kublai Khan, etc). Glad to see some commonality with some releases here that also appeared on my personal list: Nocturnus A.D., Falls of Rauros, Cattle Decapitation, Mayhem, Misery Index, etc. I finally comformed to the sound of Haunt, and I also appreciate the introduction to Magic Circle. I normally don’t pay much attention to bands representing that style, but sometimes it’s appealing when I’m temporarily breaking from my more brutal and obscure counterparts.
I’m not in opposition to Blood Incantation banking that first place spot. Spectacular release. I think it was seventeenth on my overall list. But, no surprise, many releases on here shouldn’t be. Where’s Nile, Hideous Divinity, Car Bomb, Ereb Altar, In Mourning, Ashbringer, Saor, etc? I already anticipate the neglect of the proggy/tech death entries, but they’re definitely missing out on Human, Aenimus, Allegaeon, Equipoise, Inanimate Existence, and the like.
Ultimately, as a popular magazine exposed to more eyes than most of the underground publications, not a bad list at all.