Not that I suspect anyone is keeping track (or cares), but I wrote a paltry 3 album reviews for Metal Nation in 2019. In no way, shape, or form is this an indication of the quantity and quality of this year’s releases—quite the opposite actually—and I have no real excuse to offer as to why I was so lazy in my writing in 2019. I’d like to change that in 2020, but we’ll see how things go…
As has been the case for several years now—and completely counter to what the arbiters of popular culture would have you believe—the world of rock & metal is a swirling cauldron of activity, full of creative, expressive music. If you are reading this, you probably already know this to be true. The list below is simply a collection of albums that spoke to me in some form or fashion this past year. Calling it a “Top 10” is a misnomer, because I am positive that there are albums that came out in 2019 that I’ll eventually get around to listening to (culled from the list of others!) which will likely impact the composition of this very list. But I gotta draw the line somewhere. Let us begin…
10. Grotto – Lantern of Gius (Stickman Records)
9. Bask – III (Season of Mist)
8. Druids – Monument (The Company)
7. Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness (20 Buck Spin)
6. Lord Dying – Mysterium Tremendum (eOne Music)
5. Moon Tooth – Crux (Pure Noise Records)
4. Tool – Fear Inoculum (Dissectional/Volcano/RCA)
3. Green Lung – Woodland Rites (Kozmik Artifactz)
2. Opeth – In Cauda Venenum (Moderbolaget Records)
1. Baroness – Gold & Grey (Abraxan Hymns)
Heilung – Futha (Season of Mist) – From Heilung’s Bandcamp page: “Their primeval musique concrete blends ancient Germanic tongues, lush geophonic recordings (crackling fires, breaking ice), and the percussive thunder of archaic weaponry (swords, shields, arrows) in a reverential ceremonial experience.” Yeah, that sums up the Heilung sound better than any description I could come up with. This is a truly fascinating band, with an ancient take on what music is and can be.
Monolord – No Comfort (Relapse Records) – In all actuality, this album probably belongs in my Top 10. Monolord’s past albums were a little too one-note for my tastes, but No Comfort finds the band weaving dynamics and melody into their lumbering song structures with satisfying results. Check No Comfort out, if for no other reason than to gaze upon one of the best album covers of 2019.
Angel Du$t – Pretty Buff (Roadrunner Records) – Angel Du$t is a “super group” of sorts, comprised of members of Baltimore hardcore bands Trapped Under Ice & Turnstile, but the music bears no real resemblance to that particular scene. This a sunny pop/punk album through and through, but it is performed by musicians whose talents far exceed what one would typically expect from that genre. A very enjoyable listen!
Kings Destroy – Fantasma Nera (Svart Records) – One of the aforementioned 3 albums that I actually reviewed this year, as I said it in my review, this is a very solid album full of well crafted & dynamic hard rock songs.
The Claypool Lennon Delerium – South of Reality (ATO Records/Fontana North) Nothing Les Claypool does can be considered usual, and his 2nd collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Sean Lennon is no exception. This album is trippy and weird—as one would expect—but also highly enjoyable.
Horseburner – The Thief (Ripple Music) – Horseburner reminds me a little bit of early Baroness, with their–at times, galloping, and at other times, serpentine–take on progressive sludge. The Thief is full of really great songs, and its frequent shifts and turns will yield ample rewards for the patient and persistent listener. If The Thief happens to suit your fancy, be sure to check out their 2016 release Dead Seeds, Barren Soil.
Year of the Cobra – Ash & Dust (Prophecy Productions) – Given that Year of the Cobra is a 2-piece consisting primarily of bass, drums, and the angelic vocals of Amy Tung-Barrysmith, it is especially impressive that they’ve expanded their sound as profoundly as they have since their 2016 LP …in the Shadows Below.