It is said that every 1000 years, there comes a list written in stone with the undeniably, adjectively, universally correct on all aspects, music albums of the world. This is not one of those lists.
For all the fancy, colorful lights every Christmas, all the cookies, the celebrations, the most wonderful time of the year, jingle bells all around, the real reason December is one of the bearable months of the year is because of 1st, the longest night (winter solstice), and 2nd, all the music / movies / book nerds of the world unite to present once again their favorite shit. Wherever you look, on every cool Youtube channel, blog and website, people start uploading their own best of with thorough analysis that very few people really care about, except us, the ones who do it.
Especially when it comes to music, it is a loved activity to criticize the mainstream lists of big websites, the obscure lists of underground websites, any list that is not your own completely, and at the same time feel some justice when you see some of your most listened records on other people’s lists as well. This procedure has always worked as an intrinsic cleansing at first, in order for the year to have a proper closure, and much less to get exposure and recognition from external factors, like other people.
I started putting this together earlier than usual by late November even, when usually up to the 20th – 21st of December I keep listening to new albums. Because of this, I missed most of the full-lengths released this month and most notably for me, Halphas, NEDXXX, Arkona and Israthoum, which I have only listened a couple of times each so I couldn’t make a concrete opinion about them. I might re-listen stuff after the change of year at some point, even though then I will be even busier with the top albums of the decade list.
What got stuck in my mind regarding 2019 musically, is that not many Greek bands in the extreme underground actually made the cut. There’s a bunch of good Greek black metal records, some death metal, yet none of them was, in my ears, impressive or innovative. I think there is only one Greek band in the list below. It has been a repetitive event for all the previous years and just now I noticed, which might be the reason I subconsciously choose to always to a side lists with releases from Greece.
Apart from that, it has been a fairly turbulent year in and out of the music realm, lots of stuff happening with the future looking, uncertain at best. I always stick to my music responsibilities, but I don’t know how meticulous I will be next year, or how I will be in general, for that matter. If you know me at all, expect mainly black and death metal in 99% of this list. Oh, and by the way, Tomb Mold’s new album was not that great. No.
If you want a proper appetizer before diving in into the main list for the year, below are some other posts I made since the beginning of December in case you have missed them:
A pack of all the albums that had a positive impact on me can be found here, and spots 30-21 are referenced below:
30. Verwoed – De Val
29. Botanist - Ecosystem
28. Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition – Chapter 1: War, Horrid War
27. Ruine – Ruine
26. Cirith Gorgor – Sovereign
25. Altarage – The Approaching Roar
24. Батюшка – Панихида
23. This Gift Is A Curse – A Throne to Ash
22. Coffins – Beyond the Circular Demise
21. Vortex of End – Ardens Fvror
TOP 20 METAL
ALBUMS OF 2019
20. Barshasketh – Barshasketh
| recrudescense |
Immediately from the first seconds of “Vacillation”, Barshasketh’s enslaving musicianship had me hooked. It maintains its effectiveness for as long as it lasts, hammering down great riff after great riff, forged upon a very well written and robust record that contains some of the best black metal of the year. I have listened to them in the past but none of their previous releases kept me on the go, yet now the self-titled album totally crushed me, and I enjoyed the ride. There are strong elements of Swedish melodic black metal on the guitar work, all of the tunes are fast and heavy, while my most listened tracks would be “Ruin I” and “Ruin II”, as well as the introduction piece. An interesting detail is that Barshasketh use a certain melody for the very first guitar riff to introduce the album, and a very similar one is playing in the beginning of the last and longest track “Recrudescense”. The eerie instrumental closure of this piece sends the album to its way smoothly back creepily, a perfect conclusion.
19. Superstition – The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation
| unreclaimed blood |
While I never really got into Triumvir Foul, members from Ash Borer have been trying some more death metal with Superstition (at least, that was the way I found this band out) and it worked much better. This record’s plenty of frantic guitar lines and harsh yellings, burst up a very energetic result with no fillers and no playing around. The musicianship is on point and the compositions have some really intriguing passages, with the tempos changing frequently and the collaboration between the two guitars being truly a joy to listen to. Superstition’s core is in a mix between old school death metal and extreme thrash, but it’s much more thoughtfully complex than what would come to mind when hearing about a band that plays like that. The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation has all it needs to please the ears of death metal fans out there, but also to impress the more needy listeners with its musical repertoire.
18. Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult – Mardom
| beaconed towards the golden age |
Hands down their best album to date. The most infectious, fast and entertaining tracks they have ever written. Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult maintain the status of a legit black metal band for many years now, they have several really good albums so far and have been around long enough to be considered veterans. You know what you’re going into when picking up such a record, but with Mardom the compositions are just perfect and consistent throughout the whole listen. Every track that was playing, I was thinking that “ok, that’s the highlight of the album”, but then, the next track hit me. Mardom is great, it’s intense and quite powerful, with many tunes deserving spots in playlists of the best metal of the year. The sound of the record is solid and the lyrics are on the spot, some sparse ambiance and doom elements here and there, audible bass and of course, amazing vocal work by Onielar.
17. Akrotheism – Law of Seven Deaths
| manifesting Tartarus |
It’s the only Greek metal album that made it to this list and just now I realized that compatriot bands didn’t go too far during 2019 in my books, compared to previous years at least. I appreciated Akrotheism’s debut very much, yet never expected this kind of growth for their follow-up, which feels like the band has taken a totally new turn into a more complex, more multi-layered, and more sophisticated direction, presenting Law of Seven Deaths as a separate and hefty tome in their discography. Dancing elements of orthodox black, Gorguts-like death, a hell of a powerful production and lot’s of great musical ideas coming and going, it made me wonder during the first listen but quickly built up to win me over. Give it some time and it will not go to waste.
16. Kêres – Ice, Vapor And Crooked Arrows
| dream of clouds |
Kêres, a band with a big history and numerous demos, released their first full-length in 2014. Whatever I have listened from them is interesting, but with Ice, Vapor And Crooked Arrows they finally hit bull’s eye. It’s a record with a thick production wall, distant vocals and coherent, well-written black metal, yet despite all the noise it’s audible and actually creates a nice and cold atmosphere. The compositions are not exaggerating, and all the instruments just add a little bit, when in a sense Kêres is one of the more unique bands to come out of the otherwise straightforward and blasphemous Finnish underground scene. Ice, Vapor And Crooked Arrows is tough but melodic and is listened while being laid back, as it contains the old school black metal patterns of icy guitar lines – pale synths in the back, while the vocals sound great and the bass is present. Remarkable album!
15. The Deathtrip – Demon Solar Totem
| animal ancestor spectres |
I remember squeaking like a happy little pig when I first saw the artwork for this album released, five years after The Deathtrip’s amazing debut that I’m still listening to this day. Too bad Vikotnik’s vocals are missing, but that doesn’t draw the record back at any point. The dissonant, ice-cold guitar riffs are the essence of Demon Solar Totem, which seems to give out a pattern of The Deathtrip using three word album titles so far. The dream line-up now has Kvohst on vocals, the compositions are reminiscent to Deep Drone Master but not exactly the same, featuring absolutely compelling tracks like “Angel Fossils”, “Surrender to a Higher Power” or the self-titled piece. And all those riffs man. I can’t get enough of this guitar playing, it seems repetitive but cutting edge and hypnotic, what Norwegian black metal today offers in the top-quality section.
14. Krypts – Cadaver Circulation
| essence disperses to echoes |
Fun fact is that the album that marked my beginning of writing reviews more frequently, was with the Krypts debut Unending Degradation in 2013. Back then they were just a promising band with a production that could do better. Six years later, they might be one of the heaviest and more impressive active death metal bands and Cadaver Circulation ensures this statement with an injection of pure excellence. The sound is fixed, the compositions are immense, the lyrics are dim, vocals are king, each track is a mammoth crushing down the listener and as a whole the record is plain brutal. Krypts are now a band with more dimensions than just the regular heaviness of a death metal band and Cadaver Circulation flows like a cursed charm, you will be addicted to it after the first listen.
13. Departure Chandelier – Antichrist Rise to Power
| against a faithless society |
One of the bigger surprises of the year as I didn’t expect Departure Chandelier to release a full length album after all this time. It’s a great underground band sharing members of Akitsa and Ash Pool, and Antichrist Rise to Power came along in perfect timing after Akitsa’s masterpiece from last year, Credo. If you haven’t heard the band’s first demo “The Black Crest of Death, the Gold Wreath of War”, and especially their split with another wondrous underground band, Blood Tyrant, you’re missing out. Departure Chandelier might get a bit more exposure now with Antichrist Rise to Power, with its noisy sound and nice concept, as well as a perfect use of distant synths and great guitar melodies. The vocals are harsh and the record stands against clean production, while the compositions are, in a sense, nostalgic. Of course, its unique material is only natural coming from the unconventional minds of its band members.
12. Gaahls Wyrd – GastiR – Ghosts Invited
| the speech and the self |
I have been nurturing the idea that Gaahl is really flourishing away from Gorgoroth, with most of his side projects, musical or not, being quite above average with the chaps in the other band are not delivering for some time now. Gaahls Wyrd is not his personal project but a band where he is another member, don’t let the name fool you, and Ghosts Invited is an inspiring piece of art putting shame to boundaries. The production is nice, the instrumentation is intriguing with a few black metal elements and a great dressing of a wide variety of vocals, it has enough avant-garde elements but not too many and within its diversity, it’s rather balanced. Ghosts Invited is one of my favorite works including Gaahl from the decade.
11. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
| vermin filled hearts |
I got a mini-heart attack when I saw that a member from Teitanblood was also part of Kvarforth’s new and worthless project, Lice. That totally unbearable record had me thinking that maybe Teitanblood would also turn into something that bland and boring, but they proved me wrong with yet another amazing album, The Baneful Choir. While the record starts a bit slow, with an introduction and two middle paced tracks, hell is soon unleashed after that and then the constant chaos is just consuming all around, with scourging compositions filled with attacking after attacking guitar line. Since the band has two huge albums on their back already, and a handful of solid EPs, the expectations are always high but I believe The Baneful Choir pays off. Its intimidating nature makes it of of the hardest hitting metal albums out there for the year, with excellent musicianship and stellar vocals.
SIT COMFORTABLY NOW, YOU AND ME BOTH HAVE MADE IT TO THE TOP TEN.
10. Enthroned – Cold Black Suns
| the spectrum was no longer |
Being one of the first bands I listened to a long time ago, and especially their first full lengths up until Armoured Bestial Hell being loved releases within the whole genre, I have never stopped following Enthroned. The direction they took with Pentagrammaton and onwards appealed to me but no record, while being legit, had the characteristics that would take them a step further into glory. Until now. There is a big change that has happened to the band’s sound, but mostly through masterful experimentation rather than addition of unnecessary elements or extra instruments. Cold Black Suns is a bestial album with bone chilling compositions, impressive atmosphere and a very aggressive nature, quite unique musically and very forward thinking in all its aspects. For people long enough into black metal, it often happens that you get into a record and you have listened to the whole of it with the first track. Cold Black Suns has you clocked with numerous very interesting musical ideas, going back and forth in all of its songs. This is a perfect album and finally an achievement by Enthroned that should nail them in the black metal hall of fame.
9. Vacivus – Annihilism
| all of your dreams torn asunder |
I remember I saw a post by Wrest from Leviathan suggesting Vacivus and before that I didn’t know the band. In fact, the first listen of Annihilism left me wondering what’s the catch, especially because of the guitar lines of the first track that I remember didn’t strike me very well. To this day, the tables have now turned, and it is one of the best death metal releases of the year. Its relentless and aggressive spirit is constantly ongoing and they manifest a form of straightforward death, with deep growls and heavy riffs, not that much into experimentation or melody, just sheer brutality. The tracks are addictive (e.g. “Shards”, “Ecdysis”, “Terminus”) and the production is making its mark too. This is another addition to my catalog of to-go-to death metal bands of the 10’s, in the likes of Cruciamentum / Dead Congregation / Incantation and so on. I added Father Befouled last year, I will add Vacivus now.
8. Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
| we will burn and not explain, and this will feel ecstatic |
When The Synarchy of Molten Bones was released, I considered it as an EP so this for me works as the full length that comes after Paracletus. And this by itself, is maybe the most important follow-up to any band’s previous album to the next, no matter how old or popular other extreme metal bands are. The Furnaces of Palingenesia is a massive album that will take up a lot of your time not only with its dazzling music, but also with the impressive lyrics / text. It is a very intense listening experience and as much as I loved Synarchy, this is a much bigger wave here. One of the more transparent DsO records and a bold statement to the metal world, which works better to be listened as a whole and not to pick specific tracks off it. Analog, live recording by the way. I watched this video a couple of months ago and couldn’t help but laugh a lot, and to think these people have a metal reviewing channel. It’s like listening to a coal miner talking about knitting. Not your territory, not your understanding.
7. Sinmara - Hvísl stjarnanna
| spellbound with nauseating fevers |
Sinmara landed on no. 14 in my 2014 list, with their debut album Aphotic Womb, and I was digging that album very much especially because of my affection to their previous band, Chao. It’s been just a handful of releases since then, but Hvísl stjarnanna has a more well-rounded, musically complex enough structure that creates an album with a haunting atmosphere. I like both albums for different reasons, but I caught up with Sinmara when they played in Stockholm some months ago and saw that they deliver perfectly live as well, giving justice to their great music. Hvísl stjarnanna has several memorable tracks and can’t be missed if we’re thinking of the year’s top black metal.
6. Mgła – Age of Excuse
| and there’s a hundred eager razors |
This band’s undeniable growth into fame the last few years brought a lot of controversy as well, yet their albums always stand very high in best-of lists of many online magazines and not only. I have appreciated Mgła from their first EPs, I liked Groza, I loved WHTN, and I liked Exercises in Futility, with a secret (and possibly, stronger) crush on their brother project Kriegsmaschine. Age of Excuse has plenty of memorable moments and exactly the blend of music the band has been playing since its inception, the compositions do not disappoint and not the aesthetics around them (lyrics + art). As Exercises in Futility left such a loud echo to the scene, the next step for the band would have been tricky but Mgła were not created to fail or miscalculate. All the tunes in the album are epic, the flow is great, the lyrics are once again a pinch right in the heart, all in all it kicks ass, that’s more or less the story.
5. Drastus – Le croix de sang
| every echo of the black rain |
This year was pure bliss for the headquarters of NoEvDia. Brilliant releases. Drastus returns fourteen years after the release of their debut in 2005, and the project is stronger than ever. It feels as good as seeing Paragon Impure coming back to life last year, only multiplied by ten. Le croix de sang is a poisonous sting filled with breathtaking moments and a scourging atmosphere, well-thought and heavily dominating, with perfect musicianship and bombarding tracks. A coherent record with a grip that is very hard to let go, as it’s totally compelling from the beginning. The thick guitar lines combined with the effective drumming, as well as the harsh screams, make Le croix de sang a top tier album from whatever aspect you look at it. I don’t know if Drastus was active all these years, but my brain was not ready for this goliath record that I’m glad I now own.
4. Andavald - Undir skyggðarhaldi
The Icelandic scene is rising, but not all bands are good by definition. Since some of my favorite bands of the genre in general are from there, I always get excited when I see a newcomer come around, but it doesn’t always work out. Hopefully, Andavald is just another addition to the greats with their debut Undir skyggðarhaldi, a massive, long and compelling work of exquisite musicianship and ideas. They do not repeat the lines of their fellow men, instead they focus more on longer, more dreamy compositions to create a thick, dim curtain as an atmosphere. Undir skyggðarhaldi is so beautiful that when it’s done, the listener feels as if they’ve woken up from the sweetest sleep and back to the sad reality, while beind totally withdrawn during its run. I read on Metal Bandcamp about an analogy of Andavald’s vocal range to the Dutch band Dodecahedron, which I didn’t think of myself at first but totally makes sense, just imagine that in slower, more bewildered tracks. Impressive, can’t wait to see this band’s next steps.
3. Deus Mortem – Kosmocide
| stars shall decline in decay |
I was aware of Deus Mortem and their previous material had a certain merit, yet it’s with Kosmocide that they put the final nail on the coffin. A collection of very energetic tracks, with their characteristic style and wonderful guitar lines all around. The band punches you straight in the face with top-notch ideas, opaque elements of Norwegian black metal (in “The Seeker”), and Dissection (in “Ceremony of Perversion pt. 2”) that make the whole process even more exciting. The production is great, and the quality of black metal featured is at the highest level. Kosmocide, a scintillating cluster of melodies and dissonance, memorable as hell with an authentic and convincing sound, is Deus Mortem’s best work so far.
2. Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
| thoughts within soil |
There has been more talk around this album than I had imagined, due to the fact that the apparent fanbase following Blood Incantation is an offence to old school death metallers, as well as their music being a rip-off of obscure (and magnificent) bands of the nineties like Timeghoul and Demilich. Do these people share the same hate for Chthe'ilist? Until I look around really hard for a fuck to give, I will be listening to the band’s second album Hidden History of the Human Race, all day long. Since their first EP in 2014, I have been into whatever they do and their debut was, and still is, a blast in my regular playlists. This time, their lyrical explorations as well as lucid songwriting makes this album very pleasing to listen to, as it shares fast and intense death metal moments with instrumental additions, not to mention the trippy video clips and a cover that resembles 70’s sci-fi art, what’s not to love? Four tracks are featured in Hidden History, and they are all my favorite. And as always with metal, it’s better to listen to the music and never discuss with the rest of the fuckheads in the scene about it.
1. Misþyrming – Algleymi
| everything that once prospered |
This band shook the scene with their debut album in 2015, which was a very inspiring and organic record with plenty of awesome ideas and serious potential. Back then, while I went over it several times I recognized some key good elements and a couple of highlight tracks, but it was more enjoyable to watch them play live (maybe the best live black metal act in the world) than listening to Söngvar itself. In my opinion, the force inside Misþyrming that was holding back in that album, is now unleashed with their second release and a monstrous masterpiece of our time, Algleymi. At last, the production is also improved into something more professional, giving justice to the vocals and drums (a slightly painful subject when talking about the previous album). Flawless, strong, with brutally honest lyrics, amazing artwork, excellent flow. It is a learning course on the proper use of keyboards, its rock’n’roll elements are flourishing, the thunderous compositions completely dominate throughout the listen. We are witnessing the path of one of the best black metal bands of the recent years, and this is one of the most passionate records I have EVER heard.
That's all folks,
stay alive and
see you next year.