10. Vitriol – To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice (Century Media Records)
Portland, Oregon bringers of belligerent death Vitriol have crafted a balls-to-the-wall death metal record where every instrument fires on all cylinders. The musical elements on To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice are the amalgamation of all things extreme and unforgiving. This is a band of instrumentalists that manhandle their strings, disgorging erratic riff after erratic riff, all while the percussion blazes a path of unrelenting turbulence.
9. Hath – Of Rot and Ruin (Willowtip Records)
New Jersey blackened death metal outfit Hath have remained quite an underground presence since their formation back in 2014. On Of Rot and Ruin, Hath are able to meld together components of prog-metal with blackened riffs and acoustic elements with heaps of heaviness (think Opeth meets Whitechapel meets Behemoth). The combinations and variety of heavy elements that these guys are able to play so flawlessly is addictive and leaves you wanting more. Hath have gone above and beyond on this record and created a captivating piece of music that demands your attention.
8. Leprous – Pitfalls (Inside Out Music)
I think Pitfalls is such a tremendous release for Leprous. Coming off of their last brilliant (in my opinion) release Malina, the newest record offers a refreshing perspective that sees the Norwegian quintet augmenting their sound with a significant amount of pop-inspired framework, making it a tad more accessible in certain respects while simultaneously texturizing their already unique presentation of sound.
Through the use of accentuating vocal patterns, Einar Solberg’s voice has once again played an important role in the overall sound of this album, utilizing both pristine control and power to convey an intense emotion. The band have taken their unique, instrumental nuances to new heights, continuing to experiment with percussive sounds, guitar effects, cello, and violin, building on the layers of their sound that continue to escalate from quiet and subtle to explosive and heavy.
7. Killswitch Engage- Atonement (Metal Blade Records)
The bottom line is that I truly love everything that Killswitch Engage release, and Atonement is no different. This album is full of KSE-fashioned melodic thrash/hardcore segments and soaring choruses, a fundamental sound that this band had a hand in pioneering and have continuously constructed for 20 years. Vocalist Jesse Leach employs some smooth and monstrous new vocal techniques that elevate favorites such as, “Take Control” and “Us Against The World.”
From the supremely groovy riff that explodes in “Know Your Enemy” and the powerful chorus in “The Signal Fire” (featuring the loveable Howard Jones), to the massive, concluding breakdown in final track, “Bite the Hand That Feeds,” this album hits with power, strength, and meaning, not to mention a monumental collaboration with the almighty Metal Blade Records.
6. Soilwork – Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast Records)
The 11th release from one of my favorite Swedish metal bands of all time, sees the band continue to develop their dynamic songwriting, consistently becoming more seasoned with every release. Verkligheten intertwines the raw speed of their earlier works and combines it with the heavier, melodic side of their latter half releases. Soilwork do a great job introducing powerful rock grooves into their melo-death foundation. These guys continuously push the boundaries of their sound, presenting powerful songs with unrivaled vocal choruses and stellar string melodies.
5. Idle Hands- Mana (Eisenwald Records)
Mana, the latest release from Portland, Oregon group Idle Hands, is one of those albums that completely came out of nowhere and sunk its hooks into me. When I say hooks, I mean both metaphorically and quite literally as far as the alluring choruses on this album go. There’s almost an unexplainable attraction I have to the gothic rock, new-wave inspired, heavy metal sound these guys produce. It may most likely be because I don’t generally listen to anything quite like this, and it was perhaps an accessible bridge into that world. Idle Hands tempted me with the first single “Nightfall,” dragging me through darkly addictive, melody-driven ballads from there on.
4. Sadistic Ritual – Visionaire of Death (Unspeakable Axe Records)
What Sadistic Ritual manage to create on their first full-length offering Visionaire of Death is a magnificent crossover of old-school thrash and Carcass-inspired death metal. This record combines competent musicianship with high energy to create a magnificent medley of insanely wicked speed riffs and super hard-hitting grooves. After a short introduction in the opening track, “Visionaire of Death,” the lead riff sets the intensity of the journey ahead, and it had me all ears. Plain and simple, this is some highly addictive thrash/death played proper in 2019.
3. Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue (Pure Noise Records)
With A Different Shade of Blue, Knocked Loose have developed a bolder and more rugged tone, generating an even more colossal atmosphere for their breakdowns to hit harder and their words to abrasively slice straight through the ears of every listener. A Different Shade of Blue creates a whole new identity for Knocked Loose, solidifying new heights of aggression, bolder tone, riff variation, and all-around explosiveness.
This is a beast of an album that keeps the hype going for this band to continue to do great things and please the underground fans that comprise the hardcore and metal communities. What I love about this record is the amount of energy and personality Knocked Loose put into each track and that energy streamlines from the start until the very last seconds of closing track “Misguided Son.”
2. Engulf – Transcend (Everlasting Spew Records)
Hal Microutsicos comprises the one-man army that is Engulf and creates a truly dominating force of death metal. Transcend is the third chapter of three EPs (I highly recommend the other two chapters, Subsumed Atrocities and Gold and Rust) created by Hal, drawing on some of the faster, more viscous elements of old-school death metal. Engulf comes alive through a swirling tornado of Pestilence, Morbid Angel, and Gorguts inspired ferocity, with an added technical twist personal to his style of writing. This EP is an absolute monster and has great, high-quality production.
1. Vulture – Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves (Metal Blade Records)
A classic, 80s-soaked treat out of none other than the thrash-lands of Germany, home to some of the most legendary speed metal acts of all time, comes the almighty Vulture. Like the predecessors from their country of origin, the band whips up an onslaught of riffage and a lethal dose of speed on their latest Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves.
Fans of Kreator, Overkill, Exodus, Agent Steel, and Mercyful Fate will have no problem finding exactly what they crave within this release. This album comes jam-packed with battering drum fills, a top-notch, dueling guitar assault, and enough echo surrounding the production to make it fit right in with the best albums from 1985/1986. This one was crafted for the premiere battle-vest-wearing, studded-belt-sporting, truest of metalheads. This is one powerhouse of a thrash record, and for those into the old-school, I urge you to experience this musical assault.
Honorable Mentions (way too many to name):
Musmahhu- Reign of the Odious (Iron Bonehead Productions)
Warforged- I:Voice (The Artisan Era Records)
Darkthrone- Old Star (Peaceville Records)
Haunt- If Icarus Could Fly (Self-released)
Vukari- Aevum (Vendetta Records)
Tomb Mold- Planetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin Records)
Blood Incantation- Hidden History of the Human Race (Dark Descent Records)
Malignant Altar- Retribution of Jealous Gods
Please be advised that this was a fun way to reflect on some of my most listened to albums of 2019, none necessarily better than the others. There were just so many tremendous releases of this year (in and out of metal) that deserve to be highlighted, but for the sake of the list, this is what I came up with. Hope you all enjoyed!