Jan 212020

photo by Vamperess Imperium


EDITOR’S NOTE: Beginning with 2014, Semjaza, the main creative force behind the Greek black metal band Thy Darkened Shade, shared with us his year-end lists of favorite metal and non-metal releases. We did not have a 2018 year-end list from him because at that time he had embarked on a much more extensive project that would not be limited to releases from that year, but would encompass recommended music across the significant span of his listening (a significant span both in years and in genres).

This extensive list was completed many months ago, and so although it includes 2019 releases, it doesn’t include all of them that might have been on it. The delays in beginning to post the list were our own, not Semjaza’s. And there have been further delays in continuing with the lists, again our fault. Now we reach the end of the project… so far… because Semjaza plans to write more.

Part 1 included an introduction to this entire series, lists of favored split releases and full-length releases, and a special focus on French black metal. You can find all of that here. Part 2 (here) was devoted to more recent releases that Semjaza listens to most nowadays, and Part 3 was a continuation of that list (here), which focused on releases by Invictus Productions. Part 4 (here) was a further continuation, focusing on releases by Iron Bonehead and World Terror Committee. And this Part 5 again focuses on favored releases from the last two years.



It is true, Judas Priest indeed released a killer album that I totally love, namely Firepower, and their live performances are still nothing less than magical. It is really good to see the old heavy metal guards still keeping it true in contrast with some known “metal celebrities” who wimped out completely.

Let’s now focus on more underground releases:


Armory – The Search

Speed/ thrash metal feast!  The power of the riffs!


Black Oath – Behold the Abyss

Killer melodic doom metal from the grave. One of the best doom metal releases of the last years along with Out of the Garden by Crypt Sermon. Also, check: Blasphema Secta by Abysmal Grief for killer Italian horror doom metal.


Candlemass – The Door to Doom

Yes, I am definitely a Candlemass worshiper. However, I definitely prefer Messiah Marcolin as their singer. Their first album was for sure a masterpiece too. The singer Johan Längquist returned here and he is also great. I was waiting for the new album with expectations due to his return as well. Candlemass is for sure the ultimate doom metal band. A band that most of the time deliver and are honest with their music, I really respect them for that. For sure The Door to Doom wasn’t as great as their first 4 albums, but still, there are some fine songs here to listen to.


Condor – Unstoppable Power

One of the ultimate black/thrash albums I heard, as simple as that.


Deceased – Ghostly White

True death/thrash metal from the grave.


Black Viper – Hellions Of Fire

Amazingly great hm. The riff feast here is filled with evil speed metal vibes, I loved their album.


I have to add here that the new Cirith Ungol track sounds absolutely mind-blowing. They are one of my favourite bands of all time and they completely nailed it with their new track called “Witch’s Game”. I can expect only great music from their return and I can’t wait for that. Hopefully, Brocas Helm and Heavy Load will return too with new music to take the epic metal world by storm. Recent live shows of the three of them were really inspirational and a dream come true as well.


Let’s not forget that Manilla Road‘s Shark died with his boots on, completely like a metal maniac, a totally honourable musician who still inspires with some of the most epic metal hymns ever. Check The Edge of Sanity: 88 Demo Session by Shelton Chastain.


Obviously, Satan returned, and for sure they know how to nail their metal with their classic sound, Cruel Magic (2018) is here to stay. For me, this was the best heavy metal album I heard lately. It upholds all the great traditions that made Satan a killer metal band.


Sacral Rage is the best heavy-speed with prog elements band from Hellas and one of the best nowadays worldwide. I saw them live recently with Voivod and they rule totally. Beyond Celestial Echoes is a must for maniacs who love Agent Steel, Mercyful Fate, early Annihilator, or more progressive metal bands like Watchtower or even later Death.


Solstice returned with their epic doom metal magic and White Horse Hill proves they still know how to record great metal. One of their best releases thus far. The acoustic parts are also killer.


Manacle – No Fear to Persevere…

What a total neck-breaker. This is close to early Fates Warning and Savage Grace — one of the best recent true metal findings.


Traveler – Traveler

A fine classic metal band that I’ve followed since their demo. Here we have a totally killer heavy metal album with obvious Judas Priest and Iron Maiden references. Just check the “Behind the Iron” track and its obvious “Back in the Village” influence (not a rip-off but true heartfelt worship), the “Starbreaker” Judas Priest inspiration, and be convinced.


Vultures Vengeance – The Knightlore

Yes, this is cult classic heavy metal the way it should be! Traditional riffing, killer vocals, a bit close in times to Tim Baker or even very early Blind Guardian.

And now that we are on it, another similarly named band called Vulture will have a new album called Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves out soon. Judging from their previous album and the track they have now online, we will probably be speaking of one of the best speed/heavy/thrash releases of recent times.


Voivod – The Wake

A totally reliable unique band, who influenced the black metal scene as well, returned with The Wake. And what can I write here? Along with Satan, probably my favourite metal album of 2018. Obviously, as I listen to the album, I absorb it more and get even more into it. In the beginning, I was really skeptical if Chewy could continue the legacy of Piggy, but now I am sure he was one of the very few great choices. Truly inspirational music.


  1. Haven’t checked out all yet, just wanna day I’m insanely happy to see Armory at the top of the list (I know, it’s alphabetical, but even so 😀 ) I had just picked up psychedelic rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s first real full on psych speed-metal album “Infest The Rat’s Nest” (first full on metal, but if you like the idea of wild, energetic, spacey, and conceptual psychedelic rock with metal riffing go check out their “Nonagon Infinity” and “Murder Of The Universe” albums. I love all they have done but “Infest..” and those other two are quite so for the metal heads with a penchant for psych rock here. Year Of The Goat but with speed and spaced-out-ness) and next week I was just browsing the crates and saw Armory’s first album, spaceman caught in tentacles on the cover, jumped on YouTube and thought it was just the right thing for a guy like me to follow up King Gizzard’s “Infest The Rat’s Nest” with. It wasn’t solid but did the trick, and I’m pumped about picking up their latest now!

  2. All these lists rule! I am buying a lot of the cd’s due to these.

  3. Witches Game was the best song of 2018

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