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The MMA Best of 2019 - Staff Picks

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    Posted: 01 Jan 2020 at 3:54am
Metal Music Archives
Best of 2019
The Staff Picks

As a forerunner to our annual best of year presentation (vote now) MMA staff members select their highlights from the year just gone. This list is not intended to represent an official ranking; the albums have simply been ordered by the number of comments left by MMA admins and collaborators.


Opeth - In Cauda Venenum

Progressive Metal

No, it's not Opeth's return to the classic death metal infused extreme progressive sound of yesteryear. But it is their best and most metallic album since Mikael Åkerfeldt retired his growl in the studio. Style wise it's a natural progression and refinement of their last album Sorceress with elements of prog, metal, psych and folk all mixed into one very coherent package. They also recorded two versions, one in English and one in their native Swedish, a first for them. If anything it's the Swedish one that's the most interesting even to non-Swedish fans even though English may be a more natural stepping on point, so make sure you've picked up the double disc version. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

I haven't been the biggest fan of the current run of Opeth albums following their abandonment of death metal elements starting with Heritage. That, Pale Communion and Sorceress have all gone down with me as merely OK albums. In Cauda Venenum however, really clicks with me. This isn't a return to the Opeth of old by any means, but it's certainly their best album in over a decade. It's not even that different to Sorceress in terms of style, but everything seems to work much better this time around. I know a lot will disagree with me, but for me this was the point that Opeth re-found their feet.

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams

I’m sure no one can be in any doubt by now that Opeth’s extreme metal years are long gone. Whilst they have no doubt lost many fans along the way those that stayed for the ride have seen them develop into one of the best prog bands on the planet. They pretty much perfected their heavy prog style on their last album Sorceress but In Cauda Venenum sees them equalling it with another collection of impeccable songs.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams

Amazing how Opeth continues to crank out one album after another but even after dropping the death metal dressing, still manages to craft some metal related prog that allows the hooks to sink in and results in the perfect mix of styles.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team

A band that for me can do little wrong, be it the blackened death metal of the early days, the symphonic prog of later albums or this one. In Cauda Venenum feels like a natural progression from Sorceress, an album which to me was unfairly derided. Anyway, the new album continues with the prog rock theme of later releases and liberally throws in heavy guitar to provide a bit more bite than on the last couple of albums. And it comes in both English and Swedish; two discs in different languages being a tactic widely employed by Italian prog and Japanese heavy metal bands in the past. A quality release.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Overkill - The Wings of War

Thrash Metal

Overkill have always been perhaps the most consistent thrash band in the world, never releasing anything that could be considered less than solid, and their 20th full length release, The Wings of War is no exception, containing more of the same fast, hard hitting, energetic and at times raw old school sound the band has always been known for. Easily one of the best thrash release of the past few years!

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

How do Overkill keep delivering such killer thrash album after album? Who knows, but long may they continue doing so!

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams

You can always rely on Overkill to deliver the goods, and Wings of War is no different. Mosh pit ready riffs, beefy grooves, and Bobby Blitz spitting thrash fire.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator

Another solid release from Overkill. Maybe a slight step Down in quality from the last couple of releases, but only a slight step and still a high quality release.

- UMUR, Collaborator/Retired Admin, Errors & Omissions Team

The lords of thrash are like the energizer bunny they keep going and going and going. While legends like Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer have long crashed and burned, these New Jersey pioneers out of the same early thrash cauldrons are still going strong with one consistently killer old school thrash album after another. While the goods are delivered on staggeringly regular basis, Overkill still knows how to spice up each album and give it its own personality. The Wings of War is yet another album that cranks out addictive thrash metal riffs with dripping with attitude melodies. What more can you ask for in 2019?

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team



Cult of Luna - A Dawn to Fear

Atmospheric Sludge Metal

Cult of Luna has always been one of those quite well known metal acts that I've been aware of for a long time and have even reviewed their work on occasion (and highly at that) but it was only with their 2016 collaboration with Julie Christmas that the band began to truly resonate with me on a personal level. A couple of years ago I'd have said that album, Mariner, was untouchable. Then they released A Dawn to Fear and proved me wrong. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

By now, Cult of Luna has this comforting sort of timeless consistency to them - utterly massive guitars, pushed along by a marching drum and bass combo, giving their music a Krautrock-like repetitive driving force unlike most of their more atmospheric contemporaries.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator

Atmospheric sludge metal with a spaced out journey through two discs. Cult of Luna cranks out one of its most addictive albums of its career with lengthy sprawling compositions that offer enough variety to keep the lengthy listening experience from derailing.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team

A superb release from Sweden’s Cult Of Luna, delivering eighty minutes of atmospheric sludge that pushes the band into a league of its own via-a-vis its contemporaries in the scene. You really should have this album.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race

Death Metal

I have not yet heard the first Blood Incantation album Starspawn from 2016, but most of the guys in the band are also part of the death-doom act Spectral Voice, whose debut made a massive impression on me in 2017. If anything, Hidden History of the Human Race marks an even bigger one, one of those rare cases where an album looks set for top tier status even after a single listen. If there's one complaint to be made about it, it's just that's it's too damn short with only four tracks, one of them taking up half the album on its own. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

Possibly the death metal album of the year, as much as any one person can claim something to be the case. Blood Incantation's second offering is a beast of proggy death metal separated into two halves. One consisting of three shorter tracks followed by an 18 minute beast. Overall it's too short, it leaves you wanting much more out of it than it delivers, but what is here is basically death metal gold dust. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams

There are three or four albums vying for the top spot in my album of the year list. One of them is this one from Blood Incantation who have produced a masterpiece of cosmic progressive death metal. I’ve played this one to death since it arrived and don’t see that changing anytime soon.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams

Cosmic death metal with references to Pink Floyd, 70s prog rock and Morbid Angel. A nice sprawling album that has a few flaws but otherwise is an enjoyable journey into what could be called psychedelic death metal.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team



Nile - Vile Nilotic Rites

Technical Death Metal

By 2019 Nile are basically the kings of technical death metal. Even after suffering the blow that was the exit of Dallas Toler-Wade, they return with their ninth album as strong as they've ever been. Vile Nilotic Rites is just the latest in a line of powerful death metal releases and while it won't blow the seasoned listener away the same way as anyone's first Nile album would, it's certainly a great addition to anyone's death metal collection. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

It’s always an event to look forward to when Nile release an album and whilst they have occasionally stumbled – At The Gate Of Sethu springs to mind, even at their weakest they still deliver quality technical death metal. Vile Nilotic Rites finds a band at the top of their game. Whilst you won’t find any surprises here they have released an album to equal  their strongest moments, even if they haven’t bettered them. 

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams

Nile is another band that is business as usual but when that business is decked out tech death metal infused with ancient Egyptian themes and folk music, that's all right with me. While Nile stopped using the folk instruments for a few albums, they are back bringing the band back to the early roots that made them stand out.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team

Nile is one of those bands who have only rarely made a lesser album and never a bad one. Latest release and first since the exit of Dallas Toler-Wade Vile Nilotic Rites is certainly not one of these very rare blips. While I don't find it absolute top tier Nile, it's certainly a release you won't want to do without if you like the band or technical death metal in general. As an aside, also make sure you check out the other band of new blood Brian Kingsland, Enthean. You'll hear why this guy got into Nile. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams



Wilderun  - Veil of Imagination

Progressive Metal

All but completely dropping the folk element that so characterised their earlier work, Wilderun's third effort seems to find them trying to fill the extreme progressive metal void vacated by Opeth over a decade ago. That is, if Opeth were a lot more symphonic. While comparisons are easy to make, it's clear that Wilderun are not copycats and Veil of Imagination firmly establishes them as rightful heirs to that throne. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

For Wilderun, it seems that folk metal is out of fashion. It's a shame in some ways as their debut is one of my favourite folk metal albums of this last decade, but band's change and third album Veil of Imagination is a fine work of extreme progressive metal. If this is the direction they'll be sticking in, then I can only imagine that even better things will follow in the 2020s.

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams

Wilderun’s third album sees them changing direction somewhat going for a more symphonic prog metal style at the expense of the folk elements. As good as those first two albums were they’ve topped them both with Veil of Imagination. The sound is big and cinematic on their finest collection of songs yet and anyone with a love of mid-era Opeth should check this out immediately. 

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams



Elvenking - Reader of the Runes - Divination

Folk Metal

Riding on a massive high for most of this decade, Italian power/folk metal act Elvenking has undeniably never been in a stronger position than they are right now. Reader of the Runes - Divination, their tenth studio album, is just the latest in a line of high quality releases that started with Era in 2012 (and the preceding Red Silent Tides is also still pretty good). The 2020s are looking bright for Elvenking.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

This is the sound of a band who has their style completely mastered, at this point, and now they're just expanding on it and utilising it to its full potential. Throughout their career, they've developed both a full on aggressive, speedy power metal sound, as well an epic, melodic folk metal style, to go along with some epic symphonic arrangements, and this album puts everything together into a blender, for the best results possible. Just like their previous two albums, this one shows a band clearly at the top of their game.

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

Musical genres have acts who you can count on to be reliable due to having completely mastered their craft. You will no doubt know of many such acts, like Amon Amarth for melodic death metal. For folk metal, Elvenking has become one such act, with Reader of the Runes - Divination, marking the fourth in a line of exceptional releases. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams



Sabaton - The Great War

Power Metal

Sabaton will always be one of my all time favorite bands, with even a disappointing album like The Last Stand still managing to entertain me time and time again. Thankfully, though, The Great War is a big return to form, containing the same mix of speedy and slower tracks as Heroes, along with the seamless flow of that album, moving from highlight to highlight, while also having a very important concept, and executing it to perfection, with optional narration, excellent lyrics, and a stunning ending sequence. At the same time, there are plenty of amazing individual tracks here, as well, so anyone just looking for some addictive power metal, with little care for the lyrical themes, will also find a lot to enjoy here. 

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

Swedish bands seemed to have enjoyed a good year in 2019. Sabaton continues with its war-themed power metal, with the focus of The Great War being, well the Great War. The lyrics at times are a little clumsy and the European power metal is well, what it is, but this is another quality enjoyable release from one of the most consistent bands out there on the metal battlefield.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams

Sabaton is a band you can always rely on to deliver excellent power metal that is equally cheesy and badass. In that sense, they're the successors of Manowar. You'd think album after album of war themed anthems would get old after awhile, but Sabaton proves that when you sound this awesome it doesn't matter.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator



Dream Theater - Distance Over Time

Progressive Metal

Following their highly controversial 2016 release, The Astonishing, this album represents a very "back to basics" approach, meant to win back some of the fans they've lost over the past few albums. As a result, it's their most streamlined and accessible release to date, with a focus on heavy guitar work and strong melodies, over the more complex arrangements and lengthy songs the band is usually known for. Not one of their best efforts, but still a strong release, as usual.

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

A band I fell in and out of love with, it’s great to see the band return to some semblance of business as usual. The songs are shorter and more direct, the musicianship as high as ever and the Disneyesque musical The Astonishing left behind. A good Dream Theater album.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams

Like many I know, I wasn't able to feel much love for Dream Theater's previous, admittedly highly ambitious, album The Astonishing. This follow-up release Distance Over Time shows the band doing something that, while much more safe than last time, is exactly what they needed after such a divisive last album: Dream Theater doing what Dream Theater does best.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Allegaeon - Apoptosis

Technical Death Metal

Tech death can be a challenging genre to get right, as you obviously need to have insane levels of musicianship to pull it off, but at the same time, an ability to craft good songs is required, so that it doesn't all turn into aimless showmanship. Thankfully, Allegaeon are masters of their craft, with some excellent musicianship, as well as an ability to craft some at times very heavy, at time atmospheric, at times melodic, and at other times complex tech death, that always manages to keep me engaged. Their previous albums were already awesome, but with Apoptosis, they have upped their game in a big way, creating easily the most consistently enjoyable tech death release I've heard in a long time, possibly ever!

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

A band I’ve not visited since 2012’s Formshifter, which is something I’ll need to revisit based on the ratings given to the band’s previous two albums. Apoptosis is a top-draw progressive / technical death metal album that makes for compelling listening for the full hour of the release.  

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams

Despite my not being able to get into previous album Proponent for Sentience as much as my discovery album Elements of the Infinite (I will have to try the former again, though), I've had no such hurdle with Allegaeon's latest offering Apoptosis. This is nearly an hour's worth of very solid tech death work that never feels like it's outstaying it's welcome. A feat that many bands fail to pull off.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Avatarium - The Fire I Long For

Doom Metal

Avatarium's previous album left a lot of their doom metal roots behind and while still pretty good, didn't have the staying power for me like their first two did. It's a sentiment I've seen shared by a few others I know like the band. Luckily Avatarium returned to playing doom metal on fourth album The Fire I Long For, a return to fine form and most definitely the album I longed for for the last couple of years. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

While I wouldn't call their previous album, played in more of a heavy psych style than doom metal, any kind of a letdown, it is good to hear Avatarium getting back to what they do best with The Fire I long For. A brilliant release that grabs at the first listen, it's an overall album of the year contender for me. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams



Blazon Stone - Hymns of Triumph and Death

Power Metal

It's become something of a running joke among power metal fans that Blazon Stone sounds more like Running Wild than Running Wild does. While they wear this influence openly on their sleeves, it isn't only that their sound being straight out of classic Running Wild makes them the better band at this point in time, it's that their song-writing itself, always the most important thing, is certainly a cut above their idols current output, including their surprising return to form album Rapid Foray.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

The best Running Wild album..... That Running Wild themselves never released! Jokes aside, though, Blazon Stone have always done a great job of taking the classic late 80's/90's sound that band had, while putting their own stamp on it, and this album may be their absolute best to date, with some insanely energetic, hard hitting and catchy power metal anthems.

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Infest the Rats' Nest

Thrash Metal

After making no less than fourteen prior albums, none of which would have earned the band a place on Metal Music Archives, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard did something no one expected. They released a thrash metal album. Not content to just release any old thrash metal album either, they also released a rather unique sounding thrash metal album. Infest the Rat's Nest (there's a thrash metal title if ever there was one) has a sound that I'd best describe as stoner thrash metal and is one of this year's more unusual metal releases. And at this point anything is possible regarding what the band will release next. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

Their first metal album consisting of a mix of thrash metal with some stoner/psychedelic vibes, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard was not a band that this time last year we'd expect to be writing about on a metal website's best of year. But I guess stranger things have happened. Turns out and these guys are a very good thrash metal act. No one can say at this point whether they'll release anything else like this, or of metal in general, but they sure gave a gift to the world of metal with this one.

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams



Waste of Space Orchestra - Syntheosis

Atmospheric Sludge Metal

A collaboration act between Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising, only the former of which I'm previously familiar with, Syntheosis may go down as a one off (as far as I know) but what a one off it is. Existing mainly in the sludge/doom metal vein, territory more familiar to Dark Buddha Rising by all accounts, it still contains many hallmarks of Oranssi Pazuzu, including abundant psychedelic elements, black metal, experimentation and most key of all, a hypnotic spaciness. Speaking as someone who has previously enjoyed only one of the parent acts, I can guarantee that their fans won't be disappointed by this collaboration effort and that it's made me want to get to know Dark Buddha Rising as well.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

A newcomer that is really two bands in one. Dark Bhudda Rising and Oranssi Pazazu team up to create a new cosmic ride through a space rock infused mix of death doom metal and black metal making one of the most interesting releases of the year.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team



Abbath - Outstrider

Black Metal

It's no secret that I found Abbath's debut post-Immortal album a bit uninspired and that it was completely blown away by what former comrades Demonaz and Horgh went on to do with his old band. With Outsrider Abbath has stuck back in a big way. This album is a statement that he is very much still relevant within the black metal scene and personally I think he's now gone one better than Immortal.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

As a long standing fan of Immortal, the break up between Abbath and Demonaz (who were basically metal's quintessential blood brothers), came as something of a shock. Between the two, the now Demonaz fronted Immortal produced a superior post-split first album, with Abbath's being rather lacklustre. Outstrider is basically his comeback release, this time rivalling what Immortal did on Northern Chaos Gods. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams



Arch/Matheos - Winter Ethereal

Progressive Metal

The reunion of John Arch and Jim Matheos of the early Fates Warning was a big deal back in 2011 when they released Sympathetic Resonance. Eight years later they've done it again and if anything made an album that is even better than their first one. Winter Ethereal, with it's riff driven old school progressive metal sound, kicks my arse in a way that progressive music seldom has a right to. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

A great sophomore release from Arch / Matheos. The first one was quite brilliant and this one follows suit. Technical progressive metal with a World class singer in front.

- UMUR, Collaborator/Retired Admin, Errors & Omissions Team



Astralium - Land of Eternal Dreams

Power Metal

Almost every year, it seems, at least one new power metal band will come out of nowhere and blow me away with their debut. In 2019, it was Astralium, with their brand of melodic, heavy and epic symphonic power metal, that falls somewhere between early Nightwish and some of Epica's heavier, speedier material, with the occasional use of male vocals, to go along with the already excellent lead vocals. 

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

It's been a while since I found a new band in the symphonic/power metal vein that really did it for me. The search for one is over now that Astralium has hit the scene with their debut Land of Eternal Dreams. High quality stuff full of promise of even better to come. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Whitechapel - The Valley

Deathcore

Whitechapel have always been a cut above most deathcore bands, with great musicianship and songwriting, as well as a willingness to experiment and push outside the boundaries of their chosen genre. This release is their more experimental yet, with plenty of clean vocal sections and some awesome atmospheric sections, to go along with their usual sound, and everything comes together surprisingly well. 

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

A band and a genre many metalheads hate, Whitechapel return with a more progressive offering and a tale apparently based on real events. Breaking up their trademark deathcore with clean vocals and atmosphere, this is a solid release by the band.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult - Mardom

Black Metal

Black metal is one of those genres that has been really diverse since its early days but sometimes it's nice to know that the spirit of the original sound is alive and well. One band that does that really well is Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult (there's a black metal name if ever there was one), from Germany. This is a band with a great black metal back catalogue and while not their best album, Mardom is another great one. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams

I've always been very much impressed by black metal act Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. While they could never been called the most original act on the scene (nor do they intend to be), they prove that there's still life in a classic formula. One of the best acts playing this style today.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Esoctrilihum - The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods

Death Metal

Having started out playing atmospheric black metal, it didn't take long for Esoctrilihum to make a switch to a more death metal based sound with two albums released in 2018. Latest release The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods continues that same sound. This one man act is well on its way to becoming one of the death metal's genres most key acts. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams

A brilliant atmospheric black metal debut that hinted at great things to come was released by Esoctrilihum a couple of years back. At that point few could have guessed that even from 2018's double helping onward that those great things would actually be more death metal based and even fewer that the act would have been all the better for it. And yet here we are and I for one wouldn't change a thing.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Ancient Bards - Originne - The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2

Power Metal

Their previous album left me a bit disappointed, but this one is a welcome return to form, bringing back more of the simple power metal of their first two albums, while still having tons of surprises, some complex arrangements, and an amazing epic length closing track. I loved their second release, Soulless Child, but this one may have just topped it, with even better songwriting and performances all around.

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams

A high quality symphonic power metal act who blew me away as early as their debut, Ancient Bards still continues to deliver the goods with fourth full-length (after a five year gap) Originne. If you're a power metal fan and aren't listening to this band yet you really must have been living under a rock during the 2010s.

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Vltimas - Something Wicked Marches In

Death Metal

An early contender for my album of the year came in March with Something Wicked Marches In. Vltimas, a supergroup of sorts, saw the welcome return to death metal of ex-Morbid Angel vocalist David Vincent who’s in fine form here. It also featured one of death metals best drummers Flo Mounier of Crpytopsy fame. Last but certainly no least is ex-Mayhem guitarist Rune Eriksen who defined the album with a collection of searing guitar riffs that had me immediately checking out those Mayhem albums I’d ignored for so long.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams

I heard of David Vincents (Morbid Angel) involvement in a new death metal project a while back and have waited with great anticipation of this release ever since. It does not disappoint. Fans of old school death metal and Morbid Angel in particular should find very Little to complain about here.

- UMUR, Collaborator/Retired Admin, Errors & Omissions Team



Mayhem - Daemon

Black Metal

Mayhem are a band that I only really began to fully explore quite recently and I discovered I’ve been missing out on some first rate black metal. Daemon may on the face of it seem less adventurous than much of their previous work but such is the quality of the songs aided by a strong production that it’s fast becoming one of my favourites by them.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams

Toning the jarring jangly chords that landed them in pseudo-prog territory since their debut, Mayhem returns with another excellent no nonsense and no frills slice of black metal.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team



Inter Arma Sulphur English

Atmospheric Sludge Metal

Sulphur English starts off as a slightly off-putting doom/grindcore/black metal hybrid, but eventually transitions into Pink Floyd-eqsue psychedelia with piano, acoustic guitar and tribal drums, then back again, via every style of music in between.   There is a lot to absorb here, and it grows better with every listen.  The end result is much more cohesive than anybody could expect, and it's all enclosed in an overlaying sludgey dirge.  You're in for a journey with this one.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator

Crushing blackened post-sludge / death-doom from Virginia’s Inter Arma, Sulphur English is the band’s heaviest album to date. It’s also even better in my opinion than 2016’s excellent Paradise Gallows. This is a dark and menacing album and not an easy listen, with themes of mental illness, death and loss. Possibly my album of the year.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind

Alternative Metal

I've never really been a fan of Slipknot, but We Are Not Your Kind surprised me. It's like a new and improved version of the groovy nu metal they're known for, this time with great hooks, breakdowns, and much improved vocals. Taylor was always the weak link for me, but his vocals have gotten a lot better, sounding legitimately aggressive and menacing.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator

Slipknot deliver what is arguably their strongest release to date with We Are Not Your Kind. Experimental, bleak at times, vicious in its delivery and memorable, this is a great alternative metal album with a bit of groove thrown in for good measure.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams


Soilwork - Verkligheten

Melodic Death Metal

Oh well...they did it Again. Produced another high quality melodic death metal album (well...death metal may not be all that correct these days, but it´s hard to label, so melodic death metal will do). Powelful metal with brilliant vocal melodies and strong musical performances from all involved.

- UMUR, Collaborator/Retired Admin, Errors & Omissions Team

Another band that screams consistency, Verkligheten (Reality) is the third top draw release on the bounce from these Swedish melodeathers. Catchy with anthemic choruses and as Kev Rowland on this site called out, a touch of popstastic melody thrown in for good measure. This is a nicely nuanced album that benefits from repeated listening.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Possessed - Revelations Of Oblivion

Death Metal

Seven Churches, the debut album from Possessed is legendary and regarded by many as the first death metal album. Despite only vocalist Jeff Becerra remaining from the 80’s who’d have thought that 33 years after their last album they’d return and better it with some of the best death metal of the year. Damn, I need to put this album on now!

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams

"Revelations of Oblivion" delivered the true full potential of what Possessed always threatened, but never managed to produce in the 80s. This is not a comeback. This is Possessed, done in the style of Possessed.

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams



Saor - Forgotten Paths

Atmospheric Black Metal

A rather short one from Saor for 2019, not even clocking forty minutes and only having four tracks, Forgotten Paths is another impressive record from sole musician Andy Marshall. It's a prime example of what it means to deliver quality over quantity, although with the level on display here it seems apparent that if he'd wanted to Marshall could have delivered a more substantial release and lost none of the record's impact. A small complaint, that and he's succeeded in making sure we all check in to whatever he does next with Forgotten Paths. 

- adg211288, Admin, Black Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Opera Magna - Del amor y otros demonios

Power Metal

For the past 5 years, Opera Magna have slowly been putting together an epic trilogy of EP's, each one on its own containing some epic symphonic power metal, with slight prog and neoclassical influences. In 2019, with the completion of the final one, they can now be put together, and the result is absolutely breathtaking, with some of the most epic, varied and overall enjoyable songwriting on any recent power metal release.

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Rhapsody of Fire - The Eighth Mountain

Power Metal

The odds seem stacked against them, with both Fabio Lione and Luca Turilli no longer part of the band, and instead working on their own version of Rhapsody, but somehow, this release ended up blowing me away, and marks the start of a new era for the band. Surprisingly enough, this feels more in line with the classic Rhapsody sound I know and love, with tons of speedy power metal, some folk passages, some epic theatrical parts, on occasion, and two amazing epics, not at all plagued by narration. Definitely one of my all time favorites from the band, where I wasn't expecting a whole lot.

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Gloryhammer Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex

Power Metal

When it comes to pure comedic fun, Gloryhammer can't be topped, as their entire concept is both ridiculous and somehow extremely entertaining, and this album goes above and beyond, with some hilarious narrative moments, to go along with some of their catchiest, most addictive power metal anthems to date, concluding with their most ambitious, dramatic, complex and just overall best track to date. 

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Twilight Force - Dawn of the Dragonstar

Power Metal

Twilight Force is a band I've always loved musically, as their style of epic symphonic power metal strikes a chord with me, but between production woes, bad narration and an irritating lead singer, I've never enjoyed their past releases as much I should. That's changed with Dawn of the Dragonstar, as while their production quality could still be better, the narration has been greatly reduced, and they've brought in the excellent Alessandro Conti, which has led to the band finally reaching their full potential, with some of the absolute best choruses I've heard in a long time, while musically, everything is as perfect as on previous albums, to help make this easily their best yet!

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Beast in Black - From Hell With Love

Power Metal

Anton Kabanen has always had his own unique style, mixing elements of power metal and classic heavy metal, with some more surprising elements like techno and AOR, and with this release, he has produced possibly his most diverse, crazy and overall most addictive release to date. There's a little something for everyone here, just as long as they're willing to deal with some epic cheese moments, which are of course in full supply, though every song here is amazing in its own way. 

- DippoMagoo, Collaborator, Power/Neoclassical Metal, Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Teams



Borknagar - True North

Progressive Metal

With the departure of vocalist Vintersorg, Borknagar has moved a step closer to going back toward the sound heard during ICS Vortex's original tenure with the band and while it still has more in common with their last couple of albums than Quintessence, it really does feel just that bit like the Borknagar of old. A step up for me from Winter Thrice. 

- 666sharon666, Admin, Black Metal, Heavy/Glam Metal/Hard Rock Teams



Disowning - Human Cattle

Death Metal

This is an object lesson in how to make a great old school death metal record, all the more impressive for being their debut album. Over half the albums in my staff picks are death metal  but with so many quality releases like this one coming out this year it’s hardly surprising.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams




Wormwitch - Heaven That Dwells Within

Melodic Black Metal

Wormwitch’s Heaven That Dwells Within is melodic black metal at its best. The fact that their melancholic melodies remind me of Tribulation, one of my favourite bands of recent years, is a bonus and I’m still playing it regularly eight months after its release.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams



Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance

Death Metal

2019 has been another great year for death metal and Tomb Mold play my favourite type – dense, murky, aggressive, atmospheric and incredibly heavy. This band are fast becoming one of my favourites in the genre.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams



Crypt Sermon - The Ruins Of Fading Light

Traditional Doom Metal

Two doom metal albums in particular grabbed me this year. The first was the excellent The Door To Doom from Candlemass. The other was the second album from Crypt Sermon, The Ruins Of Fading Light which is probably the best traditional doom album I’ve heard in recent years. Song after song of incendiary riffing backed by strong musicianship and great vocals. Anyone with even a passing interest in doom has got to hear this.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams



Insomnium - Heart Like A Grave

Melodic Death Metal

Heart Like A Grave sees Insomnium returning to the shorter song format after the epic Winter’s Gate.  Nevertheless it’s still full of the kind of soaring melodic death metal you’ve come to expect from this great band with an album that not only equals but sometimes betters their best work.

- Nightfly, Admin, Death Metal, Doom/Stoner/Drone Metal, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal Teams



Alcest - Spiritual Instinct

Atmospheric Black Metal

Spiritual Instinct feels short in this era of 100+ minute long albums (LPs?  What are those?), but it's a brilliantly composed and executed album without filler or dull tracks.  The instruments sound huge, and Alcest have really nailed the balance between heavy and soft here, in signature blackgaze style, making this possibly their most engaging listen since 2010's seminal Écailles de Lune.  Truly hypnotizing.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator



Lord Mantis - Universal Death Church

Sludge Metal

For a while it looked like Lord Mantis had come to its demise, and I don't think anybody really anticipated this album's existence.  And yet here they are, as violent and shocking as ever in sound and imagery.  With a great, clean production that lets all the headbanging riffs shine, and as much variation in style and influence on display as ever, Universal Death Church is not one to miss for fans of the uglier, wilder, almost unclassifiable side of metal.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator



Mgła - Age Of Excuse

Black Metal

Bleak, nihilistic and deceptively technical.  The members of Mgla all have distinctive playstyles, but without stepping over each other, making for great synergy as a band.  Age of Excuse, like its precursor Exercises in Futility, has this oceanic quality to it - pulsating waves of riffs, but also a slower tide-like movement to the entire piece of music.  Recommended listen for fans of traditional black metal that isn't recorded through a potato.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator




Entombed A.D. - Bowels Of Earth

Death 'n' Roll

How much can one really say about this album? It's the same Entombed we know and love, name aside, chainsawing through your eardrums one catchy yet crushingly heavy banger of a track after another.  Fun, high-energy stuff; bet you can't sit still.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator



This Gift Is A Curse - A Throne Of Ash

Sludge Metal

Harsh, depressive, grinding and bludgeoning.  A Throne of Ash is blackened sludge at its heart, but with prominent hardcore influences.  You've got to be in the right mood to listen to an album like this, which basically imprints blast beats in your skull.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator



Sunn O))) - Life Metal

Drone Metal

In a sense, Life Metal is a continuation of the cheerier (if there were such a thing) Sunn O))) compositions like Alice from 2009's Monoliths and Dimensions, or their 2014 collab with Ulver Terrestrials.  There are subtly beautiful themes and melodies buried in the feedback and droning, making this album album worth dedicating 100% attention to - otherwise the best elements could be lost in the background.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator



Herod - Sombre Dessein

Sludge Metal

Downtuned, riffy sludge with djent and hardcore elements and plenty of atmospheric buildups.  Headbangable goodness.  Think Cloudkicker meets Sumac and The Ocean.  I'm not sure how a band this instantly enjoyable has stayed under the radar for so long.

Triceratopsoil, Honorary Collaborator



Pissgrave - Posthumous Humiliation

Death Metal

Tight, frantic death metal with mangled and mutilated vocals, Pissgrave have a love for all things gory and guttural.

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams



Ramallah - The Last Gasp Of Street Rock n' Roll

Hardcore Punk

While Ramallah is more melodic than you might expect from a bunch of Boston hardcore veterans, make no mistake - "The Last Gasp of Street Rock n' Roll" is still tough and brutal.

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams



Sacred Reich - Awakening 

Thrash Metal

This has been a long time coming - 23 years since the previous album, 13 years since the band got back together. Fortunately, it was well worth the wait. Sacred Reich used to do muscular, socially conscious thrash metal. So Sacred Reich created an album which delivered just that.

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams



Birdflesh - Extreme Graveyard Tornado

Grindcore

The Swedish sickos are back with another offering of bad puns, good humour, and gut churning grind.

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams




Raised By Owls - Dreadful

Deathgrind

Who thought it was a good idea to let Raised By Owls release a whole album on their own? No one? Oh, so they did this by themselves. Think of Monty Python reimagined as a DIY metal band - absurd, quintessentially British, and no one outside the band fully understands what the fuck is going on.

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams



Dawn Ray'd - Behold Sedition Plainsong

Black Metal

Beautifully atmospheric and brutal, "Behold Sedition Plainsong" proves black metal can do politics without fascist fuckwittery.

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams



The Meads Of Asphodel - Running Out Of Time Doing Nothing

Avant-garde Metal

Er... weird, weird, weird! Listening to this is the metal equivalent of the Victorian pastime of visiting the asylum on weekends for entertainment. Hard to understand, but compelling. Did I mention it's weird?

- Vim Fuego, Admin, Thrash/Speed/Groove Metal, Grindcore & Various Artists Teams



Korn - The Nothing

Nu Metal

Korn had already gotten back on track with their last album, The Serenity of Suffering, but The Nothing turns the power and heaviness all the way up. Sounding their darkest and most anxious since Issues, The Nothing shows itself as not only the best of the year but one of the band's very best albums.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator



Vargskelethor - Skeleton Metal III

Thrash Metal

When not playing Doom wads or shredding in Scythelord, Vargskelethor Joel is making some of the best comedic death/thrash out there. Like Psychostick, it's not run by the humor alone, the music speaks for itself. Crushing riffs, endless hooks of both old school thrash and death variety, and the almost spastic exuberance of Joel's vocals, this is where it's at. Who else is playing Exciter on steroids like Speed Metal Spooker displays?

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator



Dealer - Soul Burn

Nu Metal

One of the best new bands to come out of the nu-metalcore scene, with screeching guitars, fantastic breakdowns, and all out screaming. Sometimes all you need are hooks and heaviness to deliver the goods.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator



Ningen Isu - 新青年

Heavy Metal

Despite being around since the late 80's, 70's metal revivalists Ningen Isu have recently been gaining more popularity from this newest album. It's a great blend of 70's style heavy metal, stoner, doom, as well as a bit of thrash thrown in the mix.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator



Saint Vitus - Saint Vitus

Traditional Doom Metal

This was a surprise, as I wasn't expecting the original Saint Vitus lineup to come back for another self-titled album. I think this being Scott Reagers's first album since 85's Hallow's Victim helps make the band sound rejuvenated. It starts right where that album left off, sometimes it just takes a new (old) face to freshen things up.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator



Rock Goddess - This Time

Heavy Metal

Rock Goddess's comeback with the It's More Than Rock and Roll EP was fantastic, and continued from the high energy heavy metal of their debut back in the 80's. This Time is more of the same, and there's no problem with that. Songs like Are You Ready? and Calling to Space show that these guys still got it after all these years of being away.

- Unitron, Honourary Collaborator



Esoteric - A Pyrrhic Existence

Funeral Doom Metal

Esoteric returns with another ecellent two disc ooze of trippy funeral doom metal that sticks to the playbook but does it so well that it ranks high for my picks of the year.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team



Deathspell Omega - The Furnaces Of Palingensesia

Black Metal

Any DSO album is reason for celebration. The band has mastered the art of creepy black metal like no other. This band may have peaked about ten years ago but still continues to crank out some of the best black metal in the biz.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team



Helium Horse Fly - Hollowed

Avant Garde Metal

This band is impossible to describe without hearing it. Totally unique sounding in the world of avant-garde metal. Dissonant and angular and completely out of the box.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-garde Metal Team



Pensees Nocturnes - Grand Guignol Orchestra

Avant-garde Metal

I've always loved circus music in metal since Mr Bungle mastered it so long ago. Pensees Nocturnes return with their unique mix of black metal and circus music that sounds like a carnival in hell.

- siLLy puPPy, Collaborator, Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal Team



Idle Hands - Mana

Gothic Metal

I had never heard of this band before reading a chance review on another site, but it was a very nice surprise to hear this combination of heavy metal, goth rock, and 80s styled UK pop/rock type vocals and vocal melodies.

- UMUR, Collaborator/Retired Admin, Errors & Omissions Team



Car Bomb - Mordial

Mathcore

Everyone loves mathcore, don’t they? This is typical Car Bomb in many ways and builds nicely on the excellent Meta that was released three years ago. It’s a maelstrom of djenty chaos that takes effort to digest and to understand that this is a finely tuned work of progressive hardcore metal with every note exactly where it should be.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Killswitch Engage - Atonement

Melodic Metalcore

Surely the most consistent melodic metalcore band around, Atonement is another solid release from Jesse Leech and the boys, this time featuring guest slots from ex-vocalist Howard Jones and Testament’s Chuck Billy. There’s little here in truth that you won’t have heard before, but KSE do it so well. Certainly worth the money.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Whitesnake - Flesh & Blood

Hard Rock

After the hit-and-miss Purple album, Whitesnake return with 13 (18 on the deluxe version) old school hard rock. Sounding in places like Led Zep and elsewhere like how Whitesnake used to sound, albeit with the blues dampened somewhat, Whitesnake are in good form and Coverdale delivers a great vocal performance.

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams



Rob Halford - Celestial

Heavy Metal

Revisiting the Winter Songs format, Halford returns with another selection of Christmas favourites given a metal makeover. A couple of fillers and a couple of killers, but overall great fun. Why would you not want this playing on Christmas Day?

- Bosh66, Admin, Sludge Metal, Metalcore/Hardcore Punk Teams





Edited by adg211288 - 12 Jan 2020 at 1:43am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jan 2020 at 9:03am
Although this post has my name on it a good chunk of the work on this presentation was done by Paul (Nightfly) so a public shout out to him for the help and for stepping in when I was unable to complete it for personal reasons. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nightfly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jan 2020 at 9:14am
My pleasure Adam.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vim Fuego Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jan 2020 at 10:22am
Clap to you both!

Lists like this show how great this site is. Looking at the breadth and diversity of this list, it's amazing to see the range of different things everyone listens to and appreciates.Cool
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jan 2020 at 11:23am
Yeah I like the diversity of the list too. That´s why the reviews on the FrontPage never get boring. Always a new genre/artist being reviewed.
 
Great Work with the list both of you Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bosh66 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jan 2020 at 11:40am
Great work lads, thanks for doing it. And I agree wholeheartedly with Patrick and Jonas’ comments.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nightfly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2020 at 3:51pm
Thanks guys. Yes diversity is right, there were loads of albums, as can be seen, that only featured on one list.
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