(NCS contributor Wil Cifer returns with another year-end list. His lists are always eclectic, and not the usual picks you’ll see at many other places, and this year is no exception.)
There goes 2019 with all its cats at the tables, baby Yodas and Thanos memes. As people become angrier at the world around them the need for darker and heavier metal increases. Yeah, Blood Incantation put out a pretty good one, but was it something I really wore out?
I could pick all the cool albums and throw on here or I can pick the albums I acutally listened to more than a handful of times The one thing that is consistent is every time I make these there are grumbles about how I forgot your mom’s favorite tech death band or why would I choose a band that paid to go into a studio and record songs when Inverted Nun Dildo farted blast beats into a tin can?
The answer to those questions is: Every morning I wake up to a few dozen promos in my in-box from record labels, PR companies, and Satan himself. I automatically delete anything in the headline that says technical, slam, bestial, or raw. Because I know it will sound like all the other bands whose albums I could only get two songs into. Then I look for things hinting that they may be dark, have melody, and perhaps do something different than all the other bands. I normally end up deleting those too, after pressing play and hearing that it should have been described as a bestial slamfest. Yes, I hear Necro Abortion Technical Institute and yes, it was deleted.
You might have read my reviews throughout the course of the year here and other places, so the spoilers have been alerted, and some of these should come as no surprise. Four of these bands I have been a long time fan of, others I clicked the right places at the right times. All of these are in my iPod being listened to, and that is what matters.
I am OCD so try to rank them in accordance to what my Last.Fm page told me to, but if I make ten of these lists I am sure there are sight variations, as my iPod might have influenced me otherwise on any given day. Here are MY top 20 Metal albums of 2019. If you don’t like, go point r and cry to baby Yoda as he eats your asparagus and snap your fingers.
20. Portrayal of Guilt – “Suffering is a Gift”
Kids these days like to call this power violence. To me it just sounds like nasty depraved metallic hardcore with psychotic spasms. Anything to the artfully abrasive left of Converge is normally not focused enough on songwriting for me, but these guys won me over.
19. White Ward – “Love Exchange Failure”
This is not the first time I have heard black metal mixed with jazz. It is, however, the first time a black metal album made me feel like I was in a David Lynch movie. Atmospheric black metal for when the atmosphere you are creating is for midgets that talk backwards.
18. Darkthrone – “Old Star”
Sometimes this album is what I expect from Darkthrone and sometimes it is what I would expect from Darkthrone making a Celtic Frost tribute album. I love Celtic Frost, so it’s fine with me, though maybe next time it will be more Cold Lake.
17. Wristmeetsrazor – ”Misery Never Forgets”
There is a mix of various styles on this album. All of them are dark and tormented. They throw hardcore breakdowns in sparingly against explosions of emotion vomited up in blood. The ambiance is unsettling in all the ways I want.
16. Phobia – “Generation Coward”
This slab of dense snarling hardcore with a grind lashes out at the social shit fest we call the world, and provides the anthems with which to burn it down.They make me feel they mean what they are growling.
15. Alcest – “Spiritual Instinct”
These guys were melding black metal and shoe-gaze way before Deafheaven. Oddly, neither of those two elements plays a dominant role in this album, but it is a more metallic and aggressive offering than their past two albums.
14. Gaahls Wyrd – ”Gastir – Ghosts Invited”
With black metal becoming increasingly neutered, it was a relief to have Gaahl back drinking to what matters… Satan. More melodic than expected, it shows a much greater range of songwriting than what he did in Gorgoroth. What it doesn’t have in feral spirit it has in depth.
13. Creeping Death – “Wretched Illusions”
Yeah I know all the cool kids have Gatecreeper on their list. This album scratched that same itch for classic-sounding death metal in a way that was more fun for me.
12. Karyn Crisis’ Gospel of the Witches – “Covenant”
As a big fan of her old band Crisis, I will take anything I can get from her. Her voice has a great deal of personality no mattar if she growls or croons. The sophomore outing for this project finds the songs having more of a slither to them than the first one.
11. Death Angel – “Humanicide”
It’s astounding this album is nominated for a Grammy. It thrashes as much of the same ultra-violence they carried in the ’80s. It still grooves like Frolic Through the Park, which is my favorite album by these guys, This is topped off by the fact Mark’s voice still sounds great. This is all I could ask for from them.
10. Blut Aus Nord – “Hallucinogen”
The French band has created a vast and almost symphonic album that is more blackened this time around. The songs have a flowing drone over the steady undercurrent of double bass. They are always evolving their sound, and this album stays true to that.
9. Fister – “Decade of Depression”
The sludge kings celebrate their birthday with an album that covers horror movie scores and Slayer, and manages to make both sound creepier as they levelled up on this side quest.
8. Coffins – “Beyond the Circular Demise”
The guitars on this album feel more streamlined, making it come across as a more accessible outing despite the gurgle of the guttural growl. Accessible to fans of more mainstream death metal, not the general public, as this album is still heavy as a hundred hells.
7. Hippie Death Cult – “111”
Dismal blues-soaked dirges perfect for worshippers of the mighty bong. The guitars might cause acid flashbacks, but the mesmerizing melodies of their singer ground the songs in this garden of retro sludge.
6. Vous Autres – “Champ Du Sang”
This album gives the case as to why I am not interested in black metal bands preoccupied with a steady diet of blast-beats. This French band shows how you can journey deeper into the abyss without them. If you read my reviews you know I prefer darkness over the average metal trappings, and this might be the darkest album on this list.
5. Life of Agony – “The Sound of Scars”
The Sound of Scars tells me this is the album that should have come after Ugly. Not as dense and hardcore-influenced as the classic River Runs Red. Caputo’s voice is back where it needs to be to restore and uphold the band’s legacy. These songs have warranted hours of repeat listens.
4. Exhorder – “Mourn The Southern Skies”
The Louisiana swamp thrashers who inspired Pantera to give us a powerful display of vulgarity return after eating nails in the bayou for 27 years. Kyle Thomas is at the healm of this album with his vocals, which bring the right balance of grit and soul.
3. Lord Mantis – “Universal Death Church”
This is the album for when you are overcome with self-loathing but also overcome with the need to head-bang. This might be the best-produced album on the list. It has an organic warmth that doesn’t detract from the evil of their hefty attack.
2. Cold in Berlin – “Rituals of Surrender”
This band yet again marries post-punk to doom with even more bleak yearning than their last album. This hits the sweet spot, being equally heavy emotionally and sonically, while still bringing the crushing sludged wall of guitar….
1. Pulchra Morte – ”Divina Autem et Aniles”
Lots of bands jumped on the death doom bandwagon this year, this band actually felt it. This album came out early in the year and stuck with me, earning the top spot. With double-bass that invokes classic ’90s death metal and an endless supply of catchy riffs, this was in rabid rotation.