James' Top 15 Albums of 2019
Peace out 2019. Only a decade or so left before our planet crosses the threshold toward uninhabitable! WELP, at least there was a ton of great albums released this year? No really, it seems like there were album of the year contenders on every corner. There was lots of comebacks/return to form type records from long-time favorites, as well as holy shit, mind-blowing albums from newer bands that earned themselves spots on the ol' favorites column from here on out. Analyzing my top picks, I've come to release that I have a thing for bands with duel vocalists and that I apparently will never get tired of blast beats…ever.
So here we go. This list is a brief rundown of some of my favorite releases from 2019, not necessarily the best of their class or genre, just the ones I cranked the loudest all year (mostly at the gym or my desktop editing photos into the wee hours of the morning.)
15. SPIRIT ADRIFT Divided By Darkness
(20 Buck Spin)
How has Spirit Adrift released the best Ozzy solo album in decades? No really…how?! It’s not 100% doom, it’s not 100% retro 80’s, it’s just damn good metal [with a capital ‘M’], boasting monster hooks and killer guitars galore.
14. POSSESSED Revelations of Oblivion
(Nuclear Blast Records)
The proto-death metal masters are back with their first album since…[checks notes] 1986? Jesus Christ! Jeff Becerra’s new Possessed lineup kills it here plain and simple. This is arguably the finest assortment of riffs you’ll hear all year.
13. EMBRACE YOUR PUNISHMENT Nameless King
(Miasma Records, Vomit Your Shirt)
Holy beat down, Batman! This is some walloping, heavy ass shit, my friends. Although lacking a PhD in subgenres, and being unable to identify the subtle nuances that differentiate slam from brutal deathcore or what have you, I can say with absolute certainty that this album fucking rules. There's even guest features from Devourment, Internal Bleeding, and more!
12. CULT OF LUNA A Dawn to Fear
(Metal Blade Records)
Cult of Luna had the daunting task of following up their 2016 masterpiece collaboration with Julie Christmas (and my favorite album of 2016) this year and guess what, they delivered! Cult of Luna are in a league of their own when it comes to post-metal mastery, and goddamn epic tracks like “Nightwalkers” simply reiterate what we already knew: this band slays.
11. GATECREEPER Deserted
Who else expected Gatecreeper to follow up their gargantuan 2016 record, Sonoran Depravation, by going full-on caveman and getting even MOAR br00tal? Welp, we [re: I] were wrong; as these desert-dwelling distortion fiends got all sophisticated on us and released a surprisingly polished and mature album in Deserted. It’s still pummeling as hell, it just sounds kind of nice while doing so.
10. TOMB MOLD Planetary Clairvoyance
(20 Buck Spin)
Musically rich and sonically filth, Tomb Mold’s latest death metal jamboree feels like it was recorded by Swamp Thing on planet Dagoba, and it freaking rules. How vocalist/drummer [or is drummer/vocalist?] Max Klebanoff pulls off double duty like this utterly blows my mind. Planetary Clairvoyance is just sick ass modern death metal.
9. EXHUMED Horror
The gore metal masters are baaaaaaaaaack. THIS is the Exhumed I first lost my shit over back in the projectile vomiting good ol’ days. There’s a renewed sense of ferocity on this record that just rips super hard from start to finish. Buzzsaw riffs, insane/disgusting vocal interplay between Matt Harvey and Ross Sewage and blast beats up the ass. What’s not to love? Exhumed have been relatively consistent gore masters throughout their careers, but the energy displayed on Horror feels super old school and we absolutely love it.
8. MISERY INDEX Rituals of Power
(Season of Mist)
Riffs upon riffs, neck-snapping grooves, blazing drums, and excellent duel vocalists tearing shit up; Rituals of Power is another killer addition to Misery Index’s damn near spotless discography. It’s a shame this band has only released two albums over the past decade, but what are ya gonna do? That being said, I’ll take sporadic quality records like this, over clockwork ‘meh’ LPs any day. Hails to Jason, Mark, Adam, and Darin for knocking it out of the park once more with another classic, fascist bashing soundtrack.
7. DIE CHOKING IV
Despite what you might have heard, Die Choking’s long-awaited second full-length album was actually written and recorded by flesh and blood humans. Yes, as hard as that might be to fathom, the mind-bending, technical grindcore captured on IV is not the result of AI computations. This album is fast, vicious and best of all, weird as hell! Die Choking are not afraid to spice things up and take the listener off into left fucking field sometimes and it rules.
6. IMMORTAL BIRD Thrive On Neglect
(20 Buck Spin)
Crusty/prog-ish/black metal perfection. Immortal Bird’s sophomore album is something I keep coming back to over and over. The grimy production is raw enough to maintain its edge, but clear enough to enjoy the absolute mind-fuckery musicianship on display here. Looove the guitars, one foot blasts, and Rae Amitay’s tortured raspy vocals. By the time I reached the fourth track “Avolition,” I knew we were in ‘album of the year’ territory for sure.
5. DESPISED ICON Purgatory
(Nuclear Blast Records)
The deathcore champions are back. Well, Despised Icon have been back since 2016’s Beast, but their new album Purgatory rips so hard, it adds another few exclamation points to their grand return. Seriously, once the serene opening instrumental track subsides, the album’s titular track explodes right out the gate. Breakdowns, weird tech guitar shit, the amazing bad cop/monster cop interplay between duel vocalists, and of course, Alex Grind absolutely murdering the drums. Have you seen his drum playthrough video for “Light Speed” yet? It’s fucking craaaaaaaaazy.
4. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THE DEAD THINK No One Knows What The Dead Think
Discordance Axis sequel anyone? Yeah, sure why not… wait WHAT? How are we mere mortals fortunate enough to receive this bounty, No One Knows What The Dead Think's stunning, out of nowhere album. If you’re unfamiliar with Discordance Axis’ groundbreaking/unhinged approach to grindcore, just close your eyes and prepare to get your mind blown and or face completely peeled off. Rob Morton’s riff algorithm is completely unstoppable, Jon Chang’s vocals are as ear grating [in the best way] as ever, and Kyosuke Nakano is the blast beating, secret weapon/ new addition.
3. AMON AMARTH Berserker
(Metal Blade Records)
A lot of familiar names have churned out “return to form” albums this year. Amon Amarth are not one of them. No, their latest album Berserker is a goddamn springboard/launching pad. The band has been riding high for well over a decade now, but Berserker is going to push them into the freaking stratosphere. The only thing I can compare this to is Metallica’s Black Album only without the zillions of ensuing dollars. I’m talking perfectly written and recorded songs that maintain enough crunch to satisfy their melodic death base, but have enough hooks and breathing room to energize stadiums of Iron Maiden fans as well. It may sound silly saying this about a veteran act like Amon Amarth, but Berserker is taking them places.
2. MAYHEM Daemon
2004’s Chimera was my Mayhem album. I had no idea what True Norwegian Black Metal was when their previous records came out [yay relatively normal childhood!], so Chimera was and still remains my favorite “modern” Mayhem release [modern = post-murder/arson era]…or at least it was, because fuck my ears, Daemon is absolutely amazing. After many, many spins of Mayhem’s newest album and spiritual successor to their legendary/infamous De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, I officially want a do over. Daemon is my new non-arson/homicide Mayhem record. Fun fact, my favorite thing about this entire album is Necrobutcher’s bass! Dude channeled all that negative Lords of Chaos energy into the band’s best album in decades. Congrats!
1. BLOOD INCANTATION Hidden History of the Human Race
(Dark Descent Records)
I love Immolation. I love early 90's Death. Unsurprisingly, I love any band that sounds like Immolation covering early 90's Death. That's my quick summation of Blood Incantation's insane, album of the year release, Hidden History of the Human Race. It's four epic songs of absolute musical carnage. Truth be told, I was sold from that screaming dive bomb harmonic at the 0:18 sec mark on the opening track, "Slave Species of the Gods." From that early point, I was hooked and stayed utterly captivated by this band until the final somber moments of "Awakening from the Dream…(Mirror of the Soul)." In the words of Ninja from Die Antwoord, this is some next-level shit.