Illness, pneumonia to be exact, decided to take me out of commission for most of 2019 but now I’m finally getting back on my feat and I’m ready to rejoin civilization in health, if only to get my metal fix. In my absence there’s been a tremendous amount of incredible albums that have come out that need to be heard so here’s my massive new metal collection for the entirety of 2019 so far.
Sulphur Aeon – The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos
I don’t know how anybody can so into all this OSDM when bands like Sulphur Aeon are out here just fucking crushing death metal. Sulphur Aeon, the Lovecraft inspired, melodic and moody, death metal purveyors have been topping themselves with each release and now with their third have delivered their best album to date and one of the best death metal albums of the year. Perfect songs and riffs, weird atmosphere, melodic all day, and the perfect blend of the Lovecraft ideas and death metal, never veering too far into the Lovecraft aspect where it overpowers the music. Get on this fucking band.
Eternity’s End – Unyielding
Expectations were fucking high on this one as Eternity’s End delivered a top-notch, progressive power metal face punch with their 2016 album The Fire Within. Happily, this one is every bit as good, if not better. This is exactly the kind of power metal I was craving all of 2018: creative, balls to wall, majestic, and 100% infectious. This came out at the tail end of 2018 so I’m counting it for 2019 and we should all be so fucking lucky.
Death Fortress – Reign of the Unending
Death Fortress, click fucking clockwork, release a new album almost ever year, they release it super under the radar, and it’s always a monstrous slab of unendingly awesome, nasty, blackened death metal. This is no different and is beyond awesome as the band has earned at this point. Pummeling riffing, unending drive, this is one to be beat, slackers.
Vanha – Melancholia
Vanha was a surprise find from 2016 and one of the albums that made take notice of what was going on over at Black Lion Records. At that point Black Lion was dealing mostly in symphonic black metal and melodic death metal but out came Vanha, a one man, melancholic, death/doom band that pulled all the right My Dying Bride strings for me. I’m such a sucker for that highly emotive, depressing, borderline goth death doom stuff and Vanha have delivered just that with their new album. Highly anticipated by me and well delivered.
In Shadows and Dust – Enlightened by Darkness
In Shadows and Dust delivers some solid meat and potatoes styled black/death metal. Some insanely good riffing going on at parts. I feel like this review is fairly cut and paste and this band sounds better than most doing this style but it’s a little to throwback and not enough oomph for me. Decent though.
Acathexis – Acathexis
In the tail end of 2019 Acathexis quietly released this album made entirely of black metal awesome. Featuring the main dude behind the endlessly rad Mare Cognitum and some other excellent players, Acathexis takes an extremely aggressive approach to melodic, atmospheric black metal that never once leaves you wanting for more. It’s so fucking riffy and catchy, and well-composed it’s almost stupid, and the its nonchalant release makes it feel like it’s almost a gift. If you like more of the blasting moments of Mare Cognitum and some atmosphere with your black metal you’d do well to put this album on.
Nekrofilth – Worm Ritual
First out of the Colorado metal gate for the year is Nekrofilth. The name is a good idea of what you’re about to get into here: over the top, filthy, black and roll styled metal with a bit of a sense of humor and some punk attitude. Super fun for what it is with a lot of bands doing this kind of style.
Saor – Forgotten Paths
It’s a foregone conclusion that if Saor puts out new music in any given year it’s going to be amongst the best released of that year, and of course, not waiting to exert their metal dominance over 2019, Saor fucking sets the bar for the year only 11 days into it. This is like the perfectly distillation of all things Saor. We have the sweeping, lush, soundscapes, the celtic, folk infused instrumentation and melody, the beautiful atmospherics, and that undeniable production sound. This is a triumph for Saor and another amazing album in a catalog already full of amazing albums.
NightWraith – NightWraighth
Is atmospheric, death/doom a thing because that’s exactly what NightWraith is doing. There’s parts that remind me a lot of doom bands like Khemmis, or the more death metal side of funeral doom bands like Shapes of Despair but then there’s this highly atmospheric, almost black element that would not be out of place on a Falls of Rauros album. Maybe a little disjointed with all that’s going on but horns up to them for trying to make something different work. And from Denver so fuck yes.
Embrional – Evil Dead
A totally underrated straight up death metal band that isn’t relying on “OSDM.” Embrional were going for straight up, unrelenting, evil death metal, with more than a little in common with fellow country-mates Vader’s unrelenting drive but on Evil Dead Embrional throws some (I use the term loosely) “progressive” riffs and timing into the mix to spice it up just a little while not sacrificing any of the intense death metal drive that attracted me to the band in the first place. Killer fucking release that will likely go sorely overlooked this year.
Astrophobos – Malice of Antiquity
One of the better black metal Lovecraft bands that is going criminally overlooked but it seems this time they went far more into the Dissection side of things I previously remember. Fine with me, they still have the weird Lovecraft atmosphere and the impressive riff chops. Killer band.
Malevolent Creation – The 13th Beast
You can’t fuck with some of those early Malevolent albums. Especially in terms of Floridian 90’s death metal and with the untimely passing of their seminal vocalist Brett Hoffmann it seemed maybe that was there was going to be for Malevolent. Surprisingly quickly after his passing the band announced their 13th album would be released early 2019. I mean, it sure sounds like Malevolent, solid, riff based Florida death metal done exceedingly well, and kudos to the band for wanting to keep it up, but it’s a fairly typical release. Solid death metal for sure but nothing that’s lighting the night on fire.
Ancient Bards – Origine (The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2)
I have no idea what the concept here is between Black Crystal Sword Sagas and I don’t really care. What I do care about is that Ancient Bards makes super cheese-tastic, Euro-styled, symphonic power metal that is catchy and fun. There’s not much more to in than that. Won’t be on any best of lists but it’s sure fun.
Panopticon – The Crescendo of Dusk (EP)
Completely unsurprising is how awesome this new Panopticon EP is. Somewhat surprising is how he manages to keep making top-quality black metal that just runs fucking circles around every other band. What I particularly enjoy about this EP is that it’s like a condensed version of his previous double disc album The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness in so much as there is the first, black metal, atmospheric, riff heavy oriented, classic Panopticon sound, then the second song is a more natural, folk heavy, emotionally weighty, clean-sung song and if you heard Scars you’d know the double album is split like such, metal side, folk side. While that album is breath taking, I like the one-two, 22 minute punch of this EP and its tribute to the northern lights. Panopticon can do know wrong and he’s got the catalog to prove it.
Altarage – The Approaching Roar
Like Portal if Portal had more conventional song structures. Like Altarage don’t go full on experimental, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They like to keep the sound somewhat grounded in a kind of recognizable structure while still reveling in bizarre and dissonant, bone-rattling noise. I just can’t help and compare them to Portal when I hear them, a band I much prefer, but a band I can’t listen to very often due to just how out there they are. Altarage, and this is no diss, are more casual listening Portal to my ears. Still a lot to take in and not an everyday kind of band, but good at what they do.
Seed of the Sorcerer, Womb of the Witch – Spell Book I: Ceridwen EP
There’s no shortage of doom bands around Denver but none that sound like Seed. Rugged and filthy, Seed revel in the nastiest of the death/doom corners, evoking the feeling of an ancient, nameless evil that has lurked for centuries. Not content with just the deepest, murkiest death/doom weight, Seed throws in a fierce black metal attack on “Three Drops” before plunging into an almost funeral doom like dirge. Seed is doing doom their own way and that originality is exactly what the genre needs. Fucking killer, Denver represent.
Noctambulist – Atmospheres of Desolation
Denver is on fire this year already. Noctambulist play in that same technical, murky, experimental, dark pool that bands like Ulcerate swim around in. Noctambulist incorporate in to their take dissonant black metal, slight melody, and just fucking dense, weighty, production. I dig this sound but it lasts me a while. Hail, Denver!
Vanum – Ageless Fire
Vanum is the combined efforts of members from Ash Borer, Fell Voices, and Yellow Eyes from amongst others and you can imagine with modern, forward thinking black metal bands like that Vanum would dwell in similar territory and you’d be fucking right. Vanum, however, add a grand, majestic, even melodic at times, atmospheric style and amplify that on their sophomore release. It’s a feast for the ears and proof that this band is doing rad stuff.
Thornbridge – Theatrical Masterpiece
Sweet fucking surprise for me! I had no idea Thornbridge even had a new release coming out, finally giving me more sweet German power metal to listen as well as burning their previous debut album What Will Prevail into the fucking ground. That album showed up in 2016 during a fucking glut of power metal and just blasted the genre in the face with exactly what it needed, which was catchy, well written, grand songs and presence. Thornbridge doesn’t rewrite any power metal rules but they wholly embrace the genre and the edgier Euro style that German bands are sort of known for. There’s still a lot of grandiose and large scale moments, the album is called Theatrical Masterpiece and while it’s not a masterpiece, per say, it is rather theatrical. More so than the last. More aggressive as well, which is a welcomed addition. I’d say this one might not hit me as hard as the debut because I was so desperate for some good power metal at the time, but this is just as good as that album and makes me giddy as fuck that on their second album they didn’t stumble or falter and have produced another high quality power metal album because we sure fucking need them.
The Three Tremors – The Three Tremors
The Three Tremors concept (a play on the “Three Tenors” of opera) originally came into being as a project featuring the massive vocal talents of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Geoff Tate in the early 2000’s and fizzled away producing nothing tangible. The concept was resurrected last year this time featuring Tim Ripper Owens of Rob Halford, Judas Priest replacement fame (or infamy) as well as a stint in Iced Earth and his highly underrated Charred Walls of the Damned project, as well as Sean Peck of Cage and more recently the Mercyful Fate guitarists reunion band Denner/Sherman where he’s been crushing the vocals, and the legend that is Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin of the fucking amazing Jag Panzer and Satan’s Host. Phew, let me catch my breath. Of course I was drawn to this project based on the pedigree alone and I fully expected it to be a classic, power metal infused heavy metal cacophony of cheese and brilliant vocal performance, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a stripped down, heavy, American power metal album that musically exists to let the three vocalists bounce off each other and shine in their own ways. Ripper is unmistakeable and continues to impress me when he’s doing his own thing and not being wedged into established bands. Cage has a powerful voice but seems a little out of his element here as both vocalists, good as they are, are pretty much overpowered by Conklin’s amazing and unmistakeable voice. When they’re all bouncing back in forth Conklin dominates, as do the songs where he’s featured. The others have their moments as well and when they’re isolated they hit the mark but when all three come together it’s a bit of a mess. None of the vocals mesh well together as all three are such dynamic singers, but it’s kind of a glorious mess of power metal and indulgent cheese. I fucking love it.
Seer – Vol. 6
Seer have molded their melodic, atmospheric, sludgy doom sound into their own beast. Never quite any of those styles yet all of them at once, Seer push up the melody and riffing on this album and continue to make killer doom tinged music.