2019 was a pretty fucking great year for Metal Heads. We got new albums from Opeth, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Cattle Decapitation and Devin Townsend, amongst so many others. A year like that makes it difficult for someone like myself whom drowns himself in music to choose a top 10. Hell it was difficult to do what I did, which was choose my favorite albums from each month to create my “top 10” list of 2019, there were a lot, and I mean a LOT of contenders and they all wanted to fight to the death! Just to give you an idea, the month of March, while it was a no brainer choosing Devin Townsend, if he hadn’t released an album there were still 3 or 4 contenders for my favorite album from March alone, what the actual fuck! No complaints though, I was able to pull through and I think I compiled a solid list of albums this time around. The best part was, I didn’t even have to try to think about it by the end of the year, it was just already done!
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what albums I just couldn’t turn off in 2019.
January: Swallow the Sun – When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light
I honestly thought January, of all months, was going to be an easy one to pick from. It’s not uncommon for bands to come out swinging early on in the year, but we had solid albums from both Swallow the Sun and Soilwork, then you throw in an up and coming band like Gorgon and they’re coming in at full force as well!?! Talk about a panic attack! It seemed like an open and shut case at first. Soilwork’s, Verkligheten, hit fucking HARD! Then a week later, Gorgon came at me with their second album, Elegy and I won’t lie, this almost took the month. If it were nearly as simple as putting Soilwork and newcomer Gorgon up against each other, Gorgon was going to take the cake. But, at the last minute, enter Swallow the Sun with, When a Shadow is Forced Into The Light, and it was almost instantly Soil-who? It doesn’t help that Swallow the Sun released one of my favorite albums of 2015 with, Songs From the North I, II & III, so I was eager to find out what their follow-up would sound like. To answer that question, damn near majestic, that’s not to say that Soilwork and Gorgon, amongst others, didn’t put up a fight, because they fucking did. And if this list were the top albums of January those would’ve been fighting for first place til the end. However, this is the list for 2019 and I had to choose one. I stand by that choice as I do the rest of them but, damn that is not how I thought the year would start.
February: Saor – Forgotten Path
February wasn’t too much easier. This was another month that I thought for sure was going to end much differently. My heart was set on Rotting Christ taking Black Metal History month by a long shot. What I didn’t know was that when I listened to Saor’s Forgotten Path, I was going to be moved so much by it that it quickly surpassed Rotting Christ’s, The Heretics in the dust. There’s just something about an album that utilizes some non traditional metal instruments and not only make interesting music with it but, it was an album you could get lost in and that can go a long way.
Since we are finished with the first couple months of the year, I will say that when I was creating this list, I had to change albums on the list quite a bit. I went back and forth in February between the two bands. Some of the criteria I was looking for when choosing albums were:
- Did the band produce something I haven’t heard before?
- Did the musicians pour their heart and soul into the album?
- Is there replay value?
- Would I travel to see this live?
- Is there at least one song that I crank the stereo and sing along to?
- Would this make a great addition to my vinyl collection?
- Was it written by Devin Townsend?
If the answer to any of those questions was yes, then often times that album won. Now, that last question seems a little too “on the nose” doesn’t it? That brings us to March, probably the most unfair month of album releases, let’s find out why. . .
March: Devin Townsend – Empath (Album of the Year)
This month was the one and only “No Brainer” for me. Does it help that, Devin Townsend is my favorite musician? No. Does it help that, I had already listened to this album for almost a month straight before it came out? Hell No! Does it help that, upon first listen I knew this was the most special album to come out in a LONG time? Fuck NO! Hell, if Empath hadn’t come out at all, Brymir would have had a fighting chance and probably won the month of March. However, revert to the beginning of this paragraph and the last question of my criteria. Empath, not only met every criteria question, but it truly was a fucking mind-blowing album! There were songs that when I heard the opening riff for the first time and every consecutive time after that, I exclaimed “I fucking love this song!” that doesn’t happen too much for me, until we get to September, but we’ll get there in a few months. Brymir’s Wings of Fire truly was the only album that had a fighting chance against Heavy Devy, regardless he was going to win cause, well DUH, but they are still in heavy rotation on my playlist, so kudos to you Brymir!
April: Mephorash – Shem Ha Mephorash
I will be honest, I don’t remember much of the releases from April. Not because they weren’t memorable, but It’s January 2020 and I have had 8 months of relentless metal release after relentless metal release to sort through. I know there were some solid albums, but lets face it my memory is for shit these days. However, I do think I changed April’s album from Inter Arma’s Sulpher English to Mephorash’s Shem Ha Mephorash at the last minute. That was a tough one because, on one hand you had this really great Doom Album that incorporated some clean vocals and some of the greatest songs of 2019 to have been released since Devin Townsend. But on the other hand, you have this crazy Blackened Death Metal group that rivals some of my favorite Behemoth albums. From the opening track to the end of the album, you just feel like you are in league with something pure evil and you just don’t want to turn it off! If you haven’t listened to Mephorash at all, check out Shem Ha Mephorash for sure, but first go to the opening track of their 2015 album, 1557 – Rites of Nullification, that has to be one of the most epic intros I have heard in a long while and that my friends is saying a LOT considering all the different bands I listen to, but “Riphyon – The Tree of Assiyah Putrescent” is a song bands like Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir wish they wrote and didn’t. Shem Ha Mephorash is a new level of Black Metal, I really see these guys opening for Behemoth or Rotting Christ sometime in the future.
May: Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno
May was truly difficult to narrow down. There were quite a few albums released that I thoroughly enjoyed, however when it came down to it, Fleshgod brought it home. Another Italian band, Stormlord released their new album Far this month as well, and while it was almost a winner, Veleno had a handful of tracks that were just mind-blowing. Probably one of my favorite Fleshgod songs is on this album too, “Absinthe” among others. There were plenty of other releases that came out in May, that if I could remember them, I would mention them. Maybe, I should’ve been writing this at the end of every month. Then, not only would this have been finished already, but I would have a little more to talk about the next few months.
June: Bloodred Hourglass – Godsend
Chris introduced me to these guys earlier in the year or maybe late the year before. It isn’t every day that a band gets brought to my attention and I enjoy their release this much. But alas, here we are. This is where my releases get foggy, I am sure there was plenty, but Godsend really is a solid album. They are very reminiscent of bands like Omnium Gatherum and In Mourning, and maybe a little In Flames, which is what got me hooked. Older In Flames of course, can’t get into the newer albums as much as I would like to. Upon further research, I discovered it was Baroness, Heilung, Gygax and Howling Sycamore that had releases competing against this album. Baroness just didn’t do much for me at all. I have loved all their previous releases and live they are untouchable, but the Gold and Grey album was just okay. Maybe when I go back to in the coming months that will change, but it wasn’t my top album for the month. As for the other three, all great fuckin’ albums and picking between them is next to difficult. However, when it boils down to it my top album has to be something I will want to throw on from time to time, or never take off the turntable and currently I have to say Bloodred Hourglass just takes the cake.
July: Abbath – Outstrider
Again, I don’t remember any of the July competition to discuss why this album won. However, from the second this album starts thru the end this album is relentless! I remember the first album came out and I was excited about it, but it didn’t blow me away or anything. But, with Outstrider it’s like he tried a little harder with this one. I wish I had picked up the vinyl when Abbath was in town. Guess I will just have to bring it into Music Record Shop and pick it up there. Did some research, Batushka and Tomb Mold each had an album come out this month. Tomb Mold is very solid, but I couldn’t get away from Abbath. Batushka was good just not great, don’t get me wrong I still want to own it but it wasn’t as strong a contender this time around.
August: Finsterforst – Zerfall
I can tell you that this was not the original album I picked for August. What I can’t tell you is what was in it’s place before I changed it. Now, I know Tool released their long awaited album and Slipknot put out their new one. But, if I am being honest that new Tool album was not all that. Congratulations you can write 15 minute songs with great musicianship and boring vocals. “Tempest” was the only song worthwhile on the album and not Grammy winning worthwhile (but who am I to say that Death Angel had the best Metal release of those listed), just the only song that didn’t put me to sleep, and I love PROG! Slipknot, released one of their best albums in years, but I have grown out of my Slipknot loving phase and I just couldn’t see myself listening to We Are Not Your Kind over and over. Hey Tool you want to hear a 10+ min song worth listening to, check out the first track on this Finsterforst album, or any lengthy Devin Townsend song, Porcupine Tree or Opeth song. I could keep going, but you get the idea. Finsterforst has always put out quality albums and Zerfall is no exception.
September: Borknagar – True North
Okay, back to a really tough month. There was a ton that came out in September, most notably Opeth, Korn, Borknagar, Vitriol, Cult of Luna, and Monolord. Shit, there was a LOT of great albums in September and for the longest time it was a toss between Opeth and Vitriol. I loved every album mentioned above, but none of them and I mean NONE of them compared to when I first listened to True North by Borknagar. I hadn’t listened to much from the album prior to it’s release, maybe like one song they put out before hand. The rest of the album I wanted to be a surprise. Holy shit, what a surprise that was! From start to finish it has the most songs that’ll get stuck in your head on one album. Some of my absolute favorites happen one after another on the beginning of the album, but “Voices” that one builds up to something special. I am just excited they will be touring the US here very soon, meaning I finally get to see them!
October: Ossuaire – Derniers Chants
I can’t lie, October was a HUGE month for metal releases. Exhumed, 1349, Dawn Ray’d, Alcest and others. Shit, I can’t get enough of either of those albums. But, this month I went a different route, I chose something I couldn’t have. At least not on vinyl. Ossuaire released their second EP of the year in October, the first came out in March, I believe. Now there are rumors circulation that the Two EPs will be put on vinyl together in the coming year, and if that happens you bet your ass I will be buying it. Derniers Chants took the month of October for a few reasons. The album art is awesome, the music itself is like nothing else out there. Just 43ish minutes of raw black metal from Quebec!
November: Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas
We are finally coming toward the end. November was basically a no brainer, I mean it almost went a completely different route, but in the end November was meant to go to Cattle Decapitation. Death Atlas is one of their best releases to date, just really solid Death Metal. Travis Ryan does things with his voice that sound almost alien, and then you have the dude from Phish on there. What the hell is going on here?? 55 minutes of top quality metal, thats what! It really sucks because Wilderun came out swinging, like it was going to be a Death Match between them and Schammasch for the title and then BAM, fucking Cattle Decap. jumps in the ring last minute with Death Atlas and it was TKO! But if you are looking for some great Power/Prog metal definitely check out that new Wilderun album.
December: Arkona – Age of Capricorn
December was actually hard! Not in the there’s so much coming out sense, that you might be thinking. In fact, quite the opposite, hardly anything came out. There was that surprise album from Acacia Strain and maybe a couple other things, but that’s about it. Arkona isn’t even the same band you might be thinking of, female fronted, Pagan/Folk metal band from Russia. No, this is a Black Metal band from Poland that I came across kinda last minute, thanks to Dreathus from Xaemora for posting about them. As soon as I heard the first song off this album, I knew it was the one to finalize my list! Seriously give this album a listen, you won’t regret it. And that ladies and gentlemen is the end of my top pics from 2019.
Below is a quick list of the albums that fought hard to win, but couldn’t quite finish the job. Not to say they aren’t worth a listen because they absolutely are! I wouldn’t even bother mentioning them if they weren’t worth the listen. Maybe next release guys, maybe next release!
Schammasch – Hearts of No Light
Stormlord – Far
Brymir – Wings of Fire
Cloak – The Burning Dawn
Gorgon – Elegy
Wilderun – Veil of Imagination (fucking brilliant new album)
Soilwork – Verkligheten
Vitriol – To Bathe From the Throat of Cowardice