Another year down and it was a great year for metal! While 2018 was a grand year for metal, I did not think that 2019 could come close. I was wrong. Let me repeat that – I was wrong. There has been a LOT of great metal released this year.
To me, 2019 has been the year of debuts, comebacks, and surprises. There were several debuts this year that were mind-blowing. There were some bands that made wonderful comebacks. However, the best part of 2019 was the many cool surprises.
Putting together a Top 25 list was an incredible challenge this year. While my tastes run to extreme metal, I appreciate that there was great metal in ALL genres in 2019. Death and black metal bands continued to churn out great music. Thrash made a comeback. Strong sludge and doom bands keep making great sounds. And sleaze metal, the bastard child of glam metal, really came on strong. This makes me happy since glam metal was my gateway into the metal pool. We have bands from all genres in my list, so there should be something for everyone.
What I find most interesting about music is the subjectivity of taste. That’s why I’m so interested in the Top Music lists of others – I love to see what they liked and compare it to what I liked. That’s what a Top Music list is – the records that got the most play from the author. So, these are the 25 records that played the most in my playlist this year.
- Whitechapel – The Valley (released 3/29/19)
This record entered the top spot on release and never released it. This record is Phil Bozeman’s most autobiographical to date. Whitechapel creates an amalgam of different emotions: anger, pain, sadness, and acceptance. Those emotions are where the power is. I still get goosebumps when I listen to the single When A Demon Defiles A Witch.
- Vessel of Light – Thy Serpent Rise (released 10/11/19)
Vessel of Light was formed when Dan Lorenzo (Hades, Non-Fiction) got together with Nathan Opposition (Ancient VVisdom) to write music. Thy Serpent Rise shows more of an edge than the previous releases. This is their third release and it offers a grittier, more full sound. Their first two releases were solidly in the riff-based metal / doom sound. Thy Serpent Rise keeps those sounds and adds groove, sludge, grunge, and good old-fashioned rock and roll.
- Belzebubs – Pantheon of the Nightside Gods (released 4/26/19)
If you think that Belzebubs is a cartoon-gimmicky band, you are mistaken. If you don’t listen because of that, you are missing out. These guys are brilliant black metal with very creative lyrics. So, if the gimmick turned you off, jump in and give it a listen. You might be surprised.
- Venom Prison – Samsara (released 3/15/19)
Venom Prison offers a brutal listening experience that is difficult to forget. The experience is liberating, which is the surprising part. Larissa Stupar’s vocal delivery really makes this band stand out.
- Liv Sin – Burning Sermons (released 9/6/19)
In 2015, one of my favorite bands, Sister Sin, called it quits. I was heartbroken. However, out of those ashes rose Liv Sin, fronted by Sister Sin vocalist Liv Jagrell. This is the band’s second release and it doesn’t fall into the sophomore slump. This album is a hard-hitting metal sound that forms a perfect companion for Jagrell’s vocals. Well worth a listen.
- Paladin – The Ascension (released 5/17/19)
Paladin is a band from my hometown of Atlanta, which is home to several standout metal bands. Wild, fast, and overflowing guitar solos make this a standout album. Until this record came out, I didn’t know that I needed a blend of power, thrash, and melo-death metal, but I do.
- Mo’ynoq – Dreaming in a Dead Language (released 1/11/19)
Black metal as a grandiose statement? That’s what you get with this album. This North Carolina band adds a layer of poetry that black metal has been missing. I’m excited to see where they go from here.
- Eugenic Death – Under the Knife (released 3/15/19)
The second North Carolina band on this list, Eugenic Death makes thrash cool again. Eugenic Death’s lyrics are deep, dealing with topics such as poverty, hunger, and war. This social awareness sets them apart from the other thrash bands.
- Shadow of Intent – Melancholy (released 8/16/19)
This is Shadow of Intent’s third release and they have proven to consistently put out good music. I’ve never been a big deathcore fan, but these guys make me rethink my position.
- Vulture – Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves (released 6/7/19)
Vulture is a German speed metal band that feeds my nostalgia for old-style speed metal. This is one of the few albums that doesn’t have a weak track on it. Each track is consistently good.
- Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance (released 7/19/19)
Tomb Mold put a new album out. That’s all I needed to hear to know that it would impact this list. They take death metal and add their own stamp to it by taking a dip in the prog pool. A fusion that shouldn’t work but does. I’m in.
- October Tide – In Splendor Below (released 5/17/19)
October Tide’s fourth release (after a 10-year breakup) offers a sound reminiscent of early Opeth – great melodies with progressive riffs. It’s rare that a band can remind you of another band yet bring something new and fresh. October Tide does that.
- Allegeon – Apoptosis (released 4/19 19)
Few bands have garnered the praise from fans that Allegeon got out of the box. Allegeon started with a technical, proggy, melodeath sound. Even though those styles remain, this record moves them closer to death metal. There’s a brutality here that’s been missing in the previous releases and I like it.
- Imminence – Turn the Light On (released 4/26/19)
Remember that I said that 2019 was a year of surprises? Here’s one of those. I never expected to like a djenty alternative metalcore sound, but that’s what Imminence provides and I’m all in! Throw in a violin and you’ve uncovered another surprise. This is well worth the time to listen – you might get hooked.
- Nightfell – A Sanity Deranged (released 9/13/19)
A Sanity Deranged is the most balanced album to date for Nightfell. This band blends death, black, and doom metal into a wall of sound that wraps you up in the atmosphere they create and carries you away. My only complaint is that it clocks in at a short 35 minutes, leaving me wanting more.
- Midnight Priest – Aggressive Hauntings (released 5/10/19)
The cover art of Aggressive Hauntings is a throwback to the metal era of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, King Diamond, and Udo-era Accept. So is the music. Midnight Priest isn’t trying to create anything new, they are just creating good, fast metal.
- While She Sleeps – So What?! (released 3/1/19)
I’ve never listened to While She Sleeps before, but this record’s blend of industrial and nu-metal grabbed my attention. It was enough to make me excited for more from them.
- Death Angel – Humanicide (released 5/31/19)
In 2019, thrash made a big comeback. Humanicide was a major part of that resurgence. This record comes out swinging and doesn’t pull punches. There are no dull moments on this record – it doesn’t get slow enough for boredom to set in. These guys keep bringing it.
- Hath – Of Rot and Ruin (released 4/12/19)
Of Rot and Ruin is one of the most impressive debuts of the year. Yes, they have an earlier EP, but this is their LP debut. Hath is another band that draws inspiration from early Opeth. There are so many layers to this album that it takes multiple listens to unwrap them all.
- Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion (released 5/10/19)
Even though Possessed has been overshadowed by bands such as Slayer, Deicide, and Cannnibal Corpse, they continue to bring their version of extreme metal. And it continues to be great. Revelations of Oblivion is an album of old school thrash mixed with speed metal. Throw in a little death metal and you have the sound.
- Cloak – The Burning Dawn (released 10/25/19)
Cloak, another band from my hometown of Atlanta, have accepted the mission of making black metal fun. I first saw them when they opened for Tribulation and they blew me away! The new album continues this brand of black and roll.
- Misery Index – Rituals of Power (released 3/8/19)
Even though Rituals of Power is a tour de force, Misery Index remains true to their roots. Their sound has remained a constant in extreme metal. The evolution of their production makes this their best record.
- Haunt – If Icarus Could Fly (released 5/17/19)
Haunt is one of the most prolific bands on this list. Their album Burst into Flame was #9 on my 2018 Best Of List. Yes, 2018. That wasn’t enough so, in 2019, Haunt made my Best Of List again. Haunt takes me back to the days when I listened to anthemic metal and that’s not a bad thing.
- Idle Hands – Mana (released 5/10/19)
It’s obvious that Idle Hands is having a blast on this record. I know that I am. They fuse 80’s goth with classic metal and throw in a pinch of glam to make their music glow. This was one of the biggest surprises for me. I love this band!
- Malevolent Creation – The 13th Beast (released 1/18/19)
Like Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation is based in Florida but made up of members from New York. This blend gives both bands a unique sound. While Malevolent Creation doesn’t get the recognition that the other Florida death metal bands get, they have persevered and continue to put out solid music.
There they are – my Top 25 Records of 2019. I am excited to see what 2020 brings!
I am Mark Morris and I don’t dance – I headbang! I am a longtime metalhead, going back to the early 80’s. I love all types of metal – classic, power, and death metal are my favorites. I love conversation with interesting people, and I can be found on Twitter at @marknotjohn. Keep it metal!