This list is based entirely on my Apple Music Replay results, which shows the songs, albums and artists I actually listened to in 2019, for better or worse.
2019 was by all accounts a really great year for metal and the numbers show that I listened to almost none of it. This is all the stuff I thought was great but for whatever reason, didn’t listen to enough to make the main list.
- All of my friends bands who released albums this year. I’m not gonna list them because god knows I’ll forget someone.
- Amon Amarth, Bezerker — Every time Amon Amarth makes an album I don’t like, they come back with that one I do. It’s comfort food, but it’s really well cooked.
- Cadaver, “Circle of Mobidity” single — Every few years, I realize what a brilliant piece of work Cadaver’s 1992 album, …in Pains is. This was such a year, and my rediscovery of that album was rewarded with the band’s first new material in ages.
- Entombed A.D., Bowels of Earth — Any time LG Petrov wants to bellow over some beefy OSDM, I’ll listen.
- Diamond Head, The Coffin Train — Very solid album from the old masters. Recommended.
- Disillusion, The Liberation — Back after years of exile following their experimental album, Gloria, this sounds like the band that released Back to the Times of Splendor.
- Excruciation, [E]Met — Equal part grim, gothic death rock and 1st wave metal (think Venom, but smarter). Very odd band that’s been around forever.
- Exhorder, Mourn the Southern Skies — Brutal and savage. Kyle’s on fire.
- Manegarm, Fornaldarsagor — If you like anthemic Viking metal but Amon Amarth is too simplistic for you, try this. Similar musical & lyrical vein, but a more challenging listen.
- Novembers Doom, Nephelim Grove — Massive, dark and memorable. Their finest hour. Well done.
- Ragnarok, Non Debellicata — Great Marduk-ish black metal.
- Runemagick, Into Desolate Realms — Doomy Swedish death metal.
- Tronos, Celestial Mechanics — Shane Embury & co. make Godflesh music. The cover of “Johnny Blade” sealed the deal for me.
- Vltimus, Something Wicked Marches In — David Vincent, Flo Mournier and Rune Eriksen (Blasphemer from Mayhem) make a death metal record. And it was good.
Apple Music says I listened to a lot of Overkill this year, but I didn’t play Wings of War enough to make my Top 10 albums. Probably because I added it to a playlist containing every album back to Ironbound and hit shuffle.
11. Flotsam & Jetsam, The End of Chaos
Proof positive that a band can release some of their best material 30 some years into their career. Excellent production, tight songwriting, killer riffs and Erik AK still has one of the best voices in metal. Don’t let the cover throw you.
10. Uriah Heep, Firefly
I’ve been a Uriah Heep nut for a while, but this was the year I really embraced the John Lawton era. Dude’s a powerhouse, he just had a bad perm.
9. Darkthrone, Old Star
I like my black metal like I like my coffee: cold and grim. The joke doesn’t work, but the album does, even when it goes all sideways.
8. Memoriam, Requiem for Mankind
If five WWII tanks started a band, it would sound like Memoriam. This one didn’t grab me as much as the first, but it’s a damn good pummeling and a step up from the second.
6 & 7. Edge of Sanity, Evolution & Lock Up, Hate Breeds Suffering
In August, I finally finished building out an office / studio space in the garage. I spent a week mudding, taping, and sanding drywall in a sweltering room well over 100° and for whatever reason played a lot of Edge of Sanity and Lock Up during those days. When in hell…
5. Brian Eno, Music for Installations
This was my go-to chill out album this year. It’s a moody five-and-a-half hour collection of pieces composed for — wait for it — installations. Press play, zone out.
4. Borknagar, True North
Few albums captured my attention this year quite like this one. Simen Hestnaes (aka ICS Vortex) and Lars Nedlund (Solefald) have long been two of my favorite clean singers in metal and they’re both on fire here. Hooks for days. But the dark horse killer of the record is the very last song, “Voices.” Lars sings an ethereal, spiritual sort of blues melody, and it becomes a huge prog-metal earworm when the band kicks in. It’s probably my favorite metal song of the year and I was so glad to see the band recognized it enough to make a video for it.
3. Little Big (entire catalog)
Little Big is a Russian punk/trash/art group who write irritatingly catchy pop/techno/EDM and make insanely great videos. Their whole catalog is worth digging into, and this year they delivered a really good single (“Arriba”), a nice little EP with at least one gem (“Bananas”), and best of all, the truly excellent single+video, “I’m OK”. They’ve been a constant presence throughout the year but this tune was my pick-me-up track pretty much since the day I heard it.
2. Warrior Soul, Rock ‘n’ Roll Disease
If there’s an overall album that dominated my stereo in 2019, this is it. Kory fucking Clarke, rock and roll casualty, finally knocks another one out of the park. The hyper-political alt-metal major label incarnation of Warrior Soul I fell for in the ’90s officially died around 2000, but Kory started using the name again in the late-2000s and has released four good-to-great albums since. Destroy the War Machine (2009) had a handful of absolute gems, Stiff Middle Finger (2012) wasn’t so hot, but five years later, we got the much stronger Back on the Lash (2017), which was marred only some dodgy production choices. Rock ‘n’ Roll Disease was released this summer and it finally has both the tunes and the sonics. To the haters, Kory’s voice is demolished by years of abuse, but to me it’s no more shot than Lemmy’s was and no one gave him shit for it. Hopefully Kory’s got a few more years in him because this feels like the start of something. “Oh, it burns!”
1. Lindemann, “Steh Auf” (video)
If I have to pick something as the high water mark for the year, I’m gonna go with this video. Not sure how much I love the album just yet (the first Lindemann album was fun in large part due to it’s completely over the top lyrics and this one’s entirely in German), but this song slays and that video is flat out amazing (wait for the horses). And who knew Peter Tagtren was such a great actor? If my obsession with Die Antewoord, Little Big and Lindemann this year taught me nothing else, it was how far a compelling video can lift a great song.