We've heard from Metal Injection readers. We've heard from site staff. Now we're turning an eye to the folks who contribute all the wonderfully-written lists and reviews. Check out all their picks – all of which are purposefully not the big names – below!
The Anchoret – It All Began With Loneliness
The Anchoret's recent album It All Began With Loneliness is a hauntingly complex, yet beautifully challenging exploration of introspection and solitude. The band blends its progressive metal foundation with a wide range of influences, including jazz, blues, and classical music, to create a sound that is both evocative and contemporary. Ambient textures go hand-in-hand with melancholic undertones, each track unfolding like a chapter in a deeply personal story.
The songs are subtly developed, with intricate details that set them apart, in a genre flooded with a worrisome lack of originality. Their sound is complex, yet they manage to avoid the common pitfall of becoming too chaotic. Overall, a remarkable debut album, from a band that needs to be discovered by the prog-metal community. – Joel Barrios
Cinderblock CA – Attitude Era
You'd think that '90s pro wrestling and tough guy hardcore isn't nearly explored enough, at least not to the degree of LA hardcore up-and-comers Cinderblock. Their combination of classic East Coast hardcore and the trendier beatdown style comes ridden with samples of pure '90s WWF degeneracy. Easter eggs include a WOOO from Ric Flair, a hello ladies from Macho Man, not to mention a classic promo from Stone Cold Steve Austin. It's done about as tastefully as humanly possible, with catchy riffs and moshable grooves to boot. It's hard as nails, rounded off by a good sense of humor. Cinderblock shows that it's okay to have a laugh with your friends before suplexing them into the center of the Earth. – Max Heilman
Horrendous – Ontological Mysterium
This foursome from Philly are able to take influences from classic metal bands like Maiden and, mesh those with '90s prog-influenced death metal masters like Cynic and Atheist. Brimming to the top of the extreme metal scene in terms of muscianship, this band dispenses with traditional metal song structures and creates something truly unique and original. There is really nothing that sounds like this band and it's really difficult not to love these guys. They make extreme metal fun and invigorating. – Jeff Podoshen
Høstol – Länge leve döden
In my opinion, Høstsol's debut, Länge leve döden, ranks among the greatest black metal albums of all time. This masterpiece features Shining's Niklas Kvarforth and Manes' Cernunnus, as well as Ajattara bandmates Rainer Tuomikanto and Kalmos. The brilliant lyrics to the phenomenal first track, "As Seen Through the Eyes of the Prophet", were penned by Tuomas Tahvanainen of Cold Prophet. The poetic texts throughout the record are pure perfection as are the compositions and performances of each member. Mr. Kvarforth's vocals are simply sublime. – Jillian Drachman
Judiciary – Flesh + Blood
Texas-bred pulverizers Judiciary took every subgenre of hardcore and crunched it together with classic thrash and Gojira to make Flesh + Blood. It's so fucking heavy… so damn precise… so seemingly effortless, yet totally unique. Flesh + Blood has been unjustly slept on the entirety of 223, so pick your head up off the pillow and give this beast a listen. – Graham Hartmann
Never Ending Game – Outcry
Fueled by the pulse of old-school hardcore, Detroit group Never Ending Game punched into summer with their second full-length record Outcry. A track feature from Trapped Under Ice's Justice Tripp, choppy metal guitar moments and group melodies make this record a stand-out amongst bands confined to a singular sound. Never Ending Game commanded both old and new hardcore fans to pay attention with their 2019 debut record Just Another Day, and after Outcry, I can’t stop listening. – Caitlin McMahon
Plague Bearer – Summoning Apocalyptic Devastation
I've been a huge fan of Seattle's Drawn and Quartered for many years but hadn't given proper attention to Kelly Kuciemba and Herb Burke's other project, Plague Bearer. This year finally forced me to correct my mistake with the absolutely phenomenal Summoning Apocalyptic Devastation. Imagine the Incantation/Immolation-style death metal championed by Drawn and Quartered, then blend in more melodic black metal elements, and you have the irresistible heretical stylistic brew concocted on this album.
Pay particular attention to the melancholy brutality exhibited on "Decapitated Angels", "Under One Sign", and "Churches Are In Flames" to see what I mean. On the other hand, if you simply crave vicious sonic terror, you really need to check out "Rise of the Goat" and "Unholy Black Satanic War Metal". This is what extreme metal was meant to be infectious, exhilarating, and at least a little scary. – J. Andrew
Reticulatus – Reticulatus
This year, the EP that stands out as my favorite is the self-titled release by Reticulatus, dropped merely two weeks ago. Hailing from Ohio, this four-piece beatdown band brings in a fusion of Hatebreed and Paleface Swiss vibes, which I absolutely dig. I'm a total fan of those intense, heavy riffs, and they deliver that raw, in-your-face energy throughout the EP, keeping those chugs alive and kicking. – David Pope
VVON DOGMA I – The Kvlt Of Glitch
On his second solo outing ex-uneXpect bassist ChaotH (Frédérick Filiatrault) fused edm with a few progressive metal flavors, topped it with Cynic-like vocoder, and quietly released a prog masterpiece. His nine-string bass work remains the centerpiece of the record, but in a way where the songs are not just a vehicle for his virtuosity. The Kvlt Of Glitch is a prog ride that even includes a Radiohead cover that barely sounds like the source material. – Daniel Cordova
Xerosync – 4dot8
The debut LP from Xerosync (Mile Marker Zero's Jake Siberon and John Tuohy), 4dot8 is a wild prog experience based on Game of Thrones. Simply put, it's an remarkable journey full of moving songwriting and intricately colorful instrumentation. The first two tracks alone (cosmic instrumental "Competing Powers" and gorgeously sophisticated ballad "The Ashes of You") highlight their knack for fusing the futuristic complexities of, say, Dream Theater and Ayreon with the top-notch songwriting of Riverside and The Pineapple Thief. Fortunately, the rest of the sequence lives up to that promise, making 4dot8 a masterful introduction that needs to be experienced. – Jordan Blum