2019 Metal Albums of the Year
This past year was full of quality metal records. Did you miss anything crucial?
This was a very challenging list to compile. The amount of material to get through wasn't just vast in terms of volume but was also dense in its content. Two of the most crowded categories happen to be some of the most taxing to binge (that would be Prog and Math), so nothing came easy.
New to this year's format will be the addition of 2018 snubs (shoulda been there) which were either the victim of a total brain fart by yours-truly, or something I hadn't heard and was later mentioned by readers that I later discovered. Feel free to do this same this time around so I don't leave anyone out that is deserving.
Lastly, there are a couple things you should know before you read this and get your panties in a twist:
- I am only human and can't possibly listen to everything out there. There is just too much. I do my damnedest, but Jesus, it's a lot. There may be omissions. Sometimes by design, sometimes not. Just comment and I will be as inclusive as possible in my 2019 snubs follow up.
- Certain sub-genres will not be represented here. I can't stand doom, don't follow the hardcore scene much anymore, and am not partial to anything folk, for example.
- Some albums landed in secondary sub-genres that they may not rightfully belong in. That's because some categories are so impacted and had so many eligible candidates I chose to recategorize them in a less crowded category.
- New for this year: Album of the Year overall, Comeback OTY, and Letdown OTY
Sound good? Let's roll.
2018 Snubs (My bad! Shoulda been there.)
Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy (Progressive Tech Death)
Pressure Cracks – Pressure Cracks EP (Metallic Hardcore)
Greyhaven – Empty Black (Progressive Metal)
Death Lab – EP2 (Tech Death)
Sharkteeth Grinder – Volume 2 (Math/Grind)
Frontierer – Unloved (Math)
Rolo Tomassi - Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (Progressive Mathcore/Post-hardcore)
Tallah – No One Should Read This (Nu-Core/Nu-Death Metal)
2019 Album of the Year
Periphery – Periphery IV: HAIL STAN (Progressive Djent/Metalcore) – HAIL STAN is one of the most beautifully written albums I have heard. In fact there are moments that are just downright emotional. As usual the production is super clean and Spencer's vocal range is incredible and Matt's drumming is technical without coming off as overplayed. One thing that I really appreciate is the focus placed on the rock elements of the music and the emphasis of electronic tracks. Don't get me wrong, it's still there but used with more discretion in a supporting role, not dissimilar to what you would find from Tool, and actually it would be appropriate to apply that observation to the album as a whole, just that it contains more focus than past works. I have always respected Periphery despite not giving their music a significant portion of my listening time, but their music felt a lot like showmanship as opposed to a cohesive, well written album. With this release Periphery demonstrated that they are far more than just talented individual musicians – they came together to write incredible music. If HAIL STAN didn't do anything to convince you otherwise I can't help you.
2019 Comeback of the Year
As I Lay Dying – Shaped by Fire (Metalcore) – Say what you want about Tim and his transgressions. The guy made a huge mistake and did his time. All I know is that if I judged all the musicians, artists, and athletes by their character I would be reduced to my kids' sounds of nature noise machines. Morality aside, these guys sound better than ever musically. Phil's shredding is otherworldly and Tim's growls are insanely brutal. These tracks are so fucking catchy and melodic you're likely to be embarrassingly caught belting them out at a stoplight.
2019 Letdown of the Year
Opeth – In Cauda Venenum (Progressive Metal/Rock/Folk) – Doesn't the genre description say it all? What a confusing amalgamation. The singles gave us hope though, didn't they? I was one of those suckers calling my metalhead buddies swearing up and down this album would be different and we would see a return to form. How disappointed was I when I got to track four and realized it was just the illegitimate child of Heritage and Sorceress. I think its safe to say the Opeth we all grew to love, or even worship, is gone and never to return. Ten year ago, the only consolation for this sad reality was Bloodbath. Now it's just a sad reality. Pour one out for the homies.
Best Death Metal Album
1) Allegaeon – Apoptosis (Death Metal/Melodeath) – It's no coincidence that Allegaeon's frontman made this list twice this year: Here and as part of Contiuum's consortium. His effortless guttural growls juxtaposed with the band's superb melodies are stitched seamlessly into one of this year's best efforts. For me Melodic Death Metal can have, for lack of a better word, a cheesy feel if not executed properly, with melodies sometimes contradicting or interfering with a style that is, by nature, heavy as a really heavy thing (pun intended). Allegaeon threads that needle beautifully and uses harmonies in all the right places to augment what is otherwise sheer brutality.
2) Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race (Brutal Death Metal/Progressive Death Metal)
3) Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (Death Metal/Grindcore)
Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect (Blackened Sludge/Death)
Continuum – Designed Obsolescence (Brutal Tech Death)
Best Technical Death Metal Album
1) Hannes Grossman – Apophenia (Tech Death) – Is there any limit to this dude's talent? Take the prog elements out of Alkaloid, throw in some Obscura, and you have a ripping solo album!
2) Cognizance – Malignant Domain (Tech-death)
3) Dream Void – Divinization (Tech-death)
Sidian – Carry My Bones (Progressive Tech-death)
Wounds - Light Eater (brutal tech-death)
Best Grindcore Album
1) Fawn Limbs – Harm Remissions (Grind/Math/Tech Death) – Damn were these guys surprising. Fusing elements of crusty math and grind with heavily distorted feedback and pissed off vox, this is one of the nastiest sounds you haven't heard yet. Come for the album art, stay for the music.
2) Misery Index – Rituals of Power (Grindcore/Speed Metal)
3) Serpent of Gnosis – As I Drink From the Well of Inebriation (Grindcore)
Ground – Mourn Innocence (Grindcore/Power Violence)
Phobia – Generation Coward (Grindcore)
Best Instru-metal Album
1) Thrailkill – Everything That Is You (Progressive Technical Metal/Jazz-fusion) - Now the namesake of its founding guitarist, you may remember these guys formerly as Mammoth. These tracks are intricately written and nuanced with an absolute shred-fest in every track. The drumming is technical as well while uplifting synth waves dance in the background. If you are a fan of jazz fusion such as Exivious and The Nova Collective, do not pass on these guys.
2) Pound – ** (Mathcore/Sludge)
3) Anamorph – Lucid (Progressive Technical Metal)
I Built the Sky - The Zenith Rise (Progressive Shred Metal)
Arch Echo – You Won't Believe What Happens Next! (Progressive Shred Metal)
Best Progressive Metal
1) Soen – Lotus (Progressive Metal) – I really struggled to put these guys into the #1 spot due to the brevity of actual 'metal' music on the album. What I mean by that is three out of the nine seem to really lose steam after an absolutely mind-blowing first half. The fact that only a two-thirds of the album is that exciting speaks to how compelling it is, however. Soen recorded an album that was everything I wanted for from Opeth and Tool, by proxy. It's not a radical display of technical musicianship but the songs are beautiful and well written with wonderful bridges and choruses alike. Thoughtful lyrics and Joel's best vocal display to date make this an almost perfect record.
2) Warforged – I: Voice (Progressive Death Metal)
3) In Mourning – Garden of Storms (Progressive Metal)
Tool - Fear Inoculum (Progressive Metal)
Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark (Progressive Black Metal)
Best Mathcore/Noisecore Album
1) The Callous Daoboys - Die On Mars (Mathcore) – How bout them Daoboys?! You know that total vacuum left in your soul after The Dillinger Escape Plan announced their retirement? Consider yourself healed. This album has it all. It's maniacal and vicious but no exhausting. It's easy to digest but not oversimplified. If there was a record between Miss Machine and Ire Works, it would sound like Die On Mars.
2) The Number Twelve Looks Like You - Wild Gods (Progressive Mathcore/Screamo)
3) Freighter – The Den (Mathcore)
.gif from god - approximation_of_a_human (Math/Noise)
Car Bomb - Mordial (Mathcore)
Other Honorable Mentions and Must-Listens
Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue (Metallic Hardcore)
Sparrows – Failed Gods (Post Metalcore/Screamo)
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno (Melo Death/Symphonic Death)
Humanity's Last Breath - Abysmal (Technical Deathcore)
Vale of Pnath - Accursed (Blackened Tech Death)
Geoda - Here & Now (Progressive Tech Death)
Kissies - S (Noisecore)
Cloud Rat - Pollinator (Noise/Grind)
The Sound That Ends Creation - Music Designed to Give You Ideas... Incase You Should Run Out of Ideas (Math/Noise)
Eluveitie - Ategnatos (Folk Metal/Melo-death)
Vertex - Scalable (Mathcore)
Avandra - Descender (Progressive Metal)
Valis Ablaze - Render (Progressive Metal/Djent)
Die Choking - IV (Grindcore)