Nov 272019


As part of our annual NCS LISTMANIA extravaganza we re-publish lists of the year’s best metal that appear on web sites which appeal to vastly larger numbers of readers than we do — not because we believe those readers or the writers have better taste in metal than our community does, but more from a morbid curiosity about what the great unpoisoned masses are being told is best for them. It’s like opening a window that affords an insight into the way the rest of the world outside our own disease-ridden nooks and crannies perceives the music that is our daily sustenance.

One of those sites is PopMatters. It has been in existence since 1999. In its own words the site “is an international magazine of cultural criticism and analysis” with a scope that “is broadly cast on all things pop culture”, including “music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet”. PopMatters claims that it is “the largest site that bridges academic and popular writing in the world”.

As in past years, today PopMatters published a list of “The 20 Best Metal Albums“, this time for 2019, and this time under the by-line of Spyros Stasis. You’ll find that list below.

After perusing the list one of my NCS colleagues remarked, “The PopMatters list feels MUCH more like the author actually cares about what is ‘best’ and not just ‘what our readers want us to choose'”. And I think that’s a very astute observation.

This is also definitely the most interesting and unpredictable list I’ve yet seen in our collecting of lists from print zines and “big platform” web sites. Yes, obvious efforts have been made to cover a range of genres, some of which will not personally appeal to every reader who comes our way (they don’t all appeal to me either), but the list does seem to be the result of genuine effort and honest thought.

And at least in my case, it serves to nudge me to listen to some of the albums here that I had either put aside for a later day and then forgotten about, or neglected on purpose.

I also have a high degree of confidence that the No. 1 choice will not appear in that position anywhere else — but I’m kind of delighted to see it in that position here.

To read the explanations and descriptions for each of these choices at PopMatters, go HERE.


20. Copperhead – Gazing in the Dark [PTP]

19. Drastus – La Croix de Sang [Norma Evangelium Diaboli]

18. Ossuarium – Living Tomb [20 Buck Spin]

17. Have a Nice Life – Sea of Worry [Flenser/Enemies List Home]

16. Dawn Ray’d – Behold Sedition Plainsong [Prosthetic]

15. Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Calling [Gilead Media]

14. Necropanther – The Doomed City [Self-Released]

13. Vimur – Triumphant Master of Fates [Boris Records]

12. PH – Osiris Hayden [Svart]

11. Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race [Dark Descent]

10. Lord Mantis – Universal Death Church [Profound Lore]

9. Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect [20 Buck Spin]

8. Exhorder – Mourn The Southern Skies [Nuclear Blast]

7. Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence [Season of Mist]

6. Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance [20 Buck Spin]

5. Baroness – Grey and Gold [Abraxan Hymns]

4. Inter Arma – English Sulphur [Relapse]

3. Sunn O))) – Life Metal/Pyroclasts [Southern Lord]

2. BIG|BRAVE – A Gaze Among Them [Southern Lord]

1. Waste of Space Orchestra – Syntheosis [Svart Records]


  1. Not half bad WSO is a fucking great release. Also the necropanther pick is pretty tight

  2. Yikes, ‘Popmatters’? Anyway, they picked all the easiest choices that you could learn about by rooting around on facebook for 2 minutes.

  3. From the list: Releases from Tomb Mold and Ossuarium were pretty good…

  4. I really cannot get into Inter Arma and I have no idea why. I’ve been trying since Sky Burial, dammit! Also just not a Sunn O))) guy (although I don’t think it was bad), Gold and Grey was real good but not top 5 good, and Planetary Clairvoyance didn’t grab me like Manor of Infinite Forms.

  5. I love Drastus. While you were looking at Blut aus Nord, these were the French black metal assassins you should’ve watched out for!

  6. Yellow Eyes, Blood Incantation and Vimur are a few of my favorites.
    I was very pleased with that Have A Nice Life album and now consider myself a fan. One of the best album artworks of the year.

    Drastus, Ossuarium and Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts, specifically, got a lot of play around the household, as well.
    Couldn’t get into this years Inter Arma, though. Was in love with the last two.

  7. Oh yeah! That time of the year again when we have to buy a ton of music that we have missed during the year!

  8. Ooh, Yellow Eyes and Dawn Ray’d.

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