It’s that time of year again – where we write out our Album of the Year lists and listen to our friends lists sipping hot cocoa next to the Christmas tree quietly trying to forget that climate change is going to kill us and everyone we love. Every year writing my album of the year list is a unique challenge. On the one hand, you want to document the best things to come out in a given year, but on the other shouldn’t you just be representing the records from the year you realistically see yourself coming back too? Then again, there is a strong argument to be made that there is no point listing bands everyone else will be listing, even if they did put out great records. Shouldn’t we be using our platform to give attention to the bands who need help to grow? So, with my list, I tried to do all of these things. It’s a little weird and varied, but I’m curious to hear you guys’ thoughts.
15. DREADNOUGHT Emergence
(Profound Lore Records)
Dreadnought have essentially become a fixture of my year-end lists at this point. I believe this is the third time they’ve made it. Emergence sees the band continuing to grow. I’ve long thought they were perhaps the most straight-up talented band in metal. Seriously, what other group has a guy who can play drums AND saxophone simultaneously? Yeah, I thought so. Emergence is a thrilling fusion of doom, prog and so much more. I think that Dreadnought have the potential to start to break and I’m curious to see where their unique blend of ideas goes next.
14. MOON TOOTH Crux
(Pure Noise Records)
I’m not too proud to admit that Crux was a late addition to this list. My Metal Injection colleagues really turned me onto just how good Moon Tooth had gotten. The opening blasts of this record grab the listener by the throat and then they never let go. In short – this is a high energy rock and roll record that is impossible to forget. It comes screaming out of the gate and manages to impress from start to finish. I could easily see Moon Tooth becoming the next Mutoid Man or similar.
13. HOWLING GIANT The Space Between Worlds
(Blues Funeral Recordings)
Let me head this off by saying that ‘Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express’ is my favorite heavy rock song of 2019. On The Space Between Worlds Howling Giant really lean into the fact that they are unapologetic music nerds. This is an album with some of their best production to date and some very tight, very fun singles. This is absolutely feel-good hard rock and if you need something to lift your spirits on a troubled day then The Space Between Worlds is the release that will get your fist-pumping.
12. CLITERATI Ugly Truths/Beautiful Lies
The raw rage that Cliterati bring on Ugly Truths/Beautiful Lies is delicious. A record that adds to the feminist punk canon Cliterati come out spitting venom here. If you want a punk record driven by righteous rage then this is the album for you. Ugly Truths/Beautiful Lies fits nicely in the latest offerings from Tankcrimes Records too – a look back at the world of classic punk, but with the ideals we need for the future. A huge step forward for the band too – Ugly Truths/Beautiful Lies is certain to remain on my heavy rotation.
11. GLITTER WIZARD Opera Villains
(Heavy Psych Sounds)
Glitter Wizard is a band who have been on my radar for years and Opera Villains is without a date their finest work to date. As someone who has been a longtime fan finally seeing them live in January was the icing on the cake – proof positive that Glitter Wizard are absolutely one of a kind. Their stage show is dramatic and fun. It has garage punk and stoner rock overtones. It’s the sort of record that, much like Ecstatic Vision’s latest, can sit on a shelf next to classic Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop albums. Absolutely a release worth spending time with.
10. WHITE WARD Love Exchange Failure
(Debemur Morti Productions)
White Ward won the black metal world's heart in 2017 with Futility Report. These jazz-meets-black metallers have always had a unique vision behind what they are doing. Now Love Exchange Failure sees them building on their early promise. Debemur Morti Records is one of the best black metal labels in the game and it wouldn’t surprise me to see White Ward emerge as one of their flagship acts in the next few years. Love Exchange Failure is a record you can really sink your teeth into with a nice blend of ideas and genres executed perfectly.
9. CULT OF LUNA A Dawn To Fear
(Metal Blade Records)
I think that a lot of people weren’t sure what was going to happen with Cult of Luna after the Mariner record with Julie Christmas. That album was such a stunner that the group's first record as simply Cult of Luna in six years had to be a masterpiece if the band didn’t want to fall by the wayside. Fortunately, they managed to put out A Dawn To Fear a record that is in many ways their best offering to date. A huge leap forward from the ominous monochromatism of Vertikal this record continues to add to the group's potent legacy.
8. HORSEBURNER The Thief
Ripple Music has signed a lot of cool stuff in recent years, but this is one of my undisputed favorites. The Thief sees Horseburner building on early promise to put out a ripper of a stoner rock record. With heavy Mastodon vibes throughout and grandiose lyrics, the listener can get lost in, The Thief is a sonic journey. The simple poetry of this record is thrilling. If you’re looking for your next heavy rock ripper then seek no more – Horseburner is the band for you.
7. BASK III
(Season of Mist)
It’s always interesting to me when a band elegantly fuses a pair of disparate genres. Such is the case with Bask’s III. While the band has certainly been building up to this, III fascinates in its unique blend of prog, Americana and stoner rock. What you end up with is a distinctly earthy record that remains self aware and exciting throughout. It’s a miracle of songwriting and seems to continually see the band improving. This is a unique offering a fulfillment of the group's potential, definitely something to dig into. It’s like if Pink Floyd grew up listening to Willie Nelson and decided to put out a stoner rock record.
6. ECSTATIC VISION For The Masses
(Heavy Psych Sounds)
Since the stoner rock boom began in the early 2010s with bands like Gypsyhawk, one group has shined past the unending fuzz of bland riffs. This has always been Ecstatic Vision. They are a band who deeply understand the Detroit 60s rock scene. A group that has a passion for the weirdo English psych sound. They dug through their MC5 and Troggs records to craft a sound that is wholly their own. For The Masses is a masterful offering. It is a continuation of that noble canon and shows some of the band's finest works to date.
5. NOVEMBERS DOOM Nephilim Grove
It’s rare that a doom metal band puts out their best record thirty years and many albums into their career. But here we are. Nephilim Grove is a stunner from start to finish. The single, ‘What We Become’ is in my humble opinion the best metal song of the year. To call this record an achievement for Novembers Doom is an understatement. It is proof positive that Novembers Doom have more than merited their position as elder statesmen of the genre who are still capable of beating the young bucks at their own game.
4. ALCEST Spiritual Instinct
(Nuclear Blast Records)
Alcest are just going to keep getting better and better aren’t they? When I heard Alcest break out some of this material for the first time at Prophecy Fest this year I knew we were in for a treat. Then I got the whole record and I couldn’t help but scrape my jaw off the floor. This album sees the band refining and honing their unique take on post-black metal. It may be one of Alcest’s prettiest records to date, but it is also among their deepest. There are simply so many layers here – I am incredibly curious to see where Neige takes the sound next.
3. OBSEQUIAE The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings
(20 Buck Spin)
The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings is one of those records that’s going to be on everybody’s lists just because of how many itches it scratches. This is a band that has put together a black metal record that perfectly evokes the magic of medieval Europe. And yet it’s not a corny album. Instead, it’s a fascinating listen that shines immaculate from start to finish. It’s a unique take on the genre and the conception is, from start to finish, masterful. Obsequiae had been on my radar for quite a while, but it feels like this is the record where they proved they are among the best in the game.
2. DARKTHRONE Old Star
I’m biased. I have thought Darkthrone were the greatest black metal band in the world since middle school. While I have loved their past few offerings, Old Star really feels like a return to the Darkthrone of yore. It’s heavy and evil, but the band is unafraid to bring in more than a few nods to the hard-rocking magic of The Underground Resistance as well as certain punk touches. This is a Darkthrone record that ticks all the boxes of what makes a Darkthrone record great, and for that alone it should grab your attention. This is one I will be revisiting for decades to come.
1. KNOCKED LOOSE A Different Shade Of Blue
(Pure Noise Records)
This is the record that is singlehandedly revitalizing hardcore. This isn’t a band playing to the Code Orange tropes or a group who bring in touches of avant-garde and death metal like Full of Hell. Both of those bands are great – but they aren’t Knocked Loose. What Knocked Loose has done here has been to double down on what years of touring in the hardcore scene have taught them. They have created a hardcore record that, while it doesn’t break any new ground, is just the perfect iteration of what hardcore should be in 2019. This record is a monster and will unquestionably smash your face in. Arf arf, motherfuckers.
Just remember – Epstein didn’t kill himself.