(For the sixth year in a row, we’re grateful that Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood) accepted our invitation to share with us and you a list releases from the past year that made an impact on him. His lists always provide welcome discoveries, and the one this year — which is divided into two parts — is no different. You can find Part 1 here.)
I knew the moment I hit “send” on the first part of this that I’d remember a few records I wanted to write a bit about. That’s one of the nicer things about years like this: there’s so much out there worth listening to that you somehow forget all of it when you’re pressed to talk about it. Like I said previously, this is more of an “odds & ends” part of the shit I filled my ears with in 2019. So rather than fill space with more pointless exposition let’s just get right to it:
Vanum “Ageless Fire”
One of the biggest surprises and most impressive shows I’ve seen in recent years was Vanum at the Red River Fest in 2017. Absolute intensity and power that rarely gets seen in American black metal. What isn’t a big surprise is that their debut for Profound Lore is one of the best records of 2019. To say that this is America’s answer to Drudkh would be selling them short but it’s a good starting place for someone who hasn’t heard this (or their other work) yet. Stellar atmospherics mixed with commanding vocals and a wealth of ideas helps prove that America isn’t just soft & friendly “black” metal nor is it some asshole in his basement trying to record vocal takes in between his mother yelling at him to get a job.
Yellow Eyes “Rare Field Ceiling”
Any time there’s a new Yellow Eyes record it’s pretty much a fucking no-brainer that it’s going to be one of the best records that year. Rare Field Ceiling is a bit meaner than 2017’s Immersion Trench Reverie but keeps with the same weird feelings of discomfort throughout. This band is consistently great but also constantly leaning into a strong forward momentum. Some definite VBE/Virus moments percolated throughout, kind of giving it a sense of that whole “when black metal went weird” 1997 thing journalists were shilling, but really produced a new progression into where darkness can go. Fucking great, as expected.
Integrity / Bleach Everything
As some of you know, I’m a big proponent of the split format. But what especially works is when both bands coming together have two very strong visions and one common goal that they share that makes the entire thing special. This is one of those instances.
I mean both of these bands could have recorded whatever they felt like and this still would have beeen probably the best split of the year, but the theme of paying homage to Septic Death (and their split with Rocket From the Crypt on Bleach Everything’s side) is unique, and a refreshing idea for a split.
Integrity’s use of old Septic Death source material gives their side an abrasiveness that serves to scratch a few itches, and I already gushed over having new Bleach Everything recordings in Pt 1. Mandatory listening for fans of punishing music.
Sarin / Vegas
Sarin were new to me before this split, and holy fuck they’re the best kind of surprise you could get on a split. Vicious hardcore with some fast, nearly black-metal-esque parts, they sound like they’d be at home on the Youth Attack label. Flip side is Vegas being fucking harsh and strange. So, business as usual.
If you didn’t get enough violence in your music in 2019 then this split is a pretty fucking strong remedy. Listen to my advice, I rode in an elevator with a doctor the other day.
Thy Serpent / Ash Pool
Big year for surprise come-backs. I had no idea to expect anything new from Thy Serpent… well.. ever. I knew about the reissues and what not a bit back, but this was entirely out of the blue for me (probably because I don’t pay attention but fuck you for judging). The bigger shock is the song they chose to return with. This is a much harsher and raw side than you’d remember from any of their recordings, save the (excellent) demos.
Ash Pool is a project I’ve slept on way too long on, I’d only ever listened to the First Taste of Power demo. so I have fifteen years of catching up to do. Needless to say, their side of the split is fucking fantastic with some extremely satisfying genre maneuvering. Both bands complement each other very well and I’m very interested in seeing where they both chose to go next.
Diplodocus “Slow and Heavy”
I really wanted to hate this. One of the things that irritates me about dungeon synth these days is the proliferation of stupid gimmicks and “funny” projects. It’s because I’m not a fun person that I seem to detest fun in most of my music choices, the way some of you won’t eat gluten because you read about it on some blog. But fun won’t hurt me, it might even do me some good. So against my better judgment I gave this a listen.
And here I am on my favorites of ’19 list about to eat shit and tell you this is the one of the best DS releases of this or any year, especially “Side B”. It’s incredibly well thought-out and layered dungeon synth with so much density you could be forgiven for thinking it was written for guitar. A lot of it reminds me of Mortiis, not in as much as it’s a clone but because Diplodocus has that ability to take you places. I’d say “journey” but that’s more pretense than recommended in your daily intake.
This is a really special recording and refreshingly devoid of quests for maidens fair.
Dropdead “Demo 2019”
2019 was the year of bands getting their fucking vans stolen. This is another one of those stories, but the silver lining (for us) is that it gave us access to the demo Dropdead were using to work on their next full-length, which should be out next year.
In an effort to help raise money to get a new van they decided to release ten songs and they’re pretty different than what you’d expect if you were familiar with this long-running institution. The riffs are a bit slower (not by very fucking much) and vocalist Bob Otis has a more enunciated approach than in the past, giving the songs more of a Conflict feeling, without the danger of getting stabbed by the frontman for no real reason. I’m very excited for the direction they’re taking, and the new record that will undoubtedly be in this column next year unless I get hit by a bus, in which case someone can write up some posthumous shit about how I would’ve rated the LP.
Poison Idea “Pig’s Last Stand”
Not really much to write about this except that it’s the best live record Poison Idea ever did and it’s great to have it done justice on vinyl.
So that’s 2019. At least what I’ve listened to. I’m still behind on Wolfbrigade, Martyrdöd, Devil Master, etc, a batch of records I know I’ll find value in that I just haven’t given myself the time to listen to. And next year is showing promise with new records from Mortiis, Integrity, Dropdead, and hopefully (and I think I’ve said this every fucking year for awhile now) the new (Infamous) Gehenna “Negative Hardcore” album. And that’s just what I’m expecting, because hopefully there’s a new, undiscovered batch of musicians I’ve yet to hear of that will release records that will make up next year’s list.
Enough positivity though, January is loaded with messages of “New Year New You” etc., which all adds up to horseshit anyway. So enjoy the last few days of the year and go fuck yourselves til next time.