METAL DISCOVERY'S TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2019
I hereby present my 2019 top 20 albums list. It's been an interesting selection process this year as, revisiting my reviews, since originally awarding scores, I came to the realisation that I'd perhaps been a little too overzealous for some. And likewise for the contrary; certain albums have continued to improve with each new listen, and my adoration for them has grown to significantly greater levels of emotional profundity. Infected Rain's 'Endorphin' is one such album, which scored a nine from me at the time of reviewing, but has since become an indubitable ten out of ten; an utter masterpiece, in my opinion, and a hundred per cent what the metal genre needs more of right now - fresh ideas and originality! There are, of course, albums that I immediately awarded top marks to, and still agree with my initial evaluations. Devin Townsend's 'Empath' is, above all others, worthy of note here, as I remain of the opinion that it's one of the best albums released by anyone, ever (the fact I promised to eat all my own socks if it didn't end up in a whole load of end of year, best of 2019 lists has nothing to do with it!). And it's 'Empath' and 'Endorphin' that deserve their places right at the top of my list here; two albums that stand tall above all others I've had the pleasure of reviewing this year. Other albums on the list are in no particular order, and each of them have been selected for a variety of merits...
Devin Townsend: 'Empath'
Inside Out, 29th March 2019
"The man’s delved deep into his psyche and emotional core to conjure up pure musical transcendence. Dev’s made some truly incredible records over the years but, with 'Empath', he's excelled even his own mightily high standards."
Infected Rain: 'Endorphin'
Napalm Records, 18th October 2019
"There are familiar handles and tried-and-tested genre idioms, but they're pushing these into refreshingly expressive directions... Infected Rain have, ultimately, forged their own path through a modern metal playground of innovation."
The Offering: 'Home'
Century Media, 2nd August 2019
"Such is the breadth of The Offering’s amalgam of subgenres, it’s like a sonic diachrony of metal’s decades-old history, all on one album; all within the same song, at times."
Children of Bodom: 'Hexed'
Nuclear Blast, 8th March 2019
"...'Hexed' is amongst their finest work, and certainly a step above their previous two albums ...where bursts of refined virtuosity are blended with a fiercely aggressive sonic assault to utter perfection."
Lacuna Coil: 'Black Anima'
Century Media, 11th October 2019
"These Italians sound not only like a band emancipated from their own compositional shackles, but re-energised to the point where they’ve succeeded in pushing themselves into fresh sonic territory."
Borknagar: 'True North'
Century Media, 27th September 2019
"This is Borknagar indulging in a side of the band that's always been there; almost recalibrating and creatively capitalising, based on the talents and strengths of the remaining members."
Disillusion: 'The Liberation'
Prophecy, 6th September 2019
"This is narrative based prog metal at its finest, where the music both reflects and drives along poetic lyrical matter on what proves to be a riveting journey from beginning to end."
Ioanna Gika: 'Thalassa'
Sargent House, 5th April 2019
"...some deeply moving soundscapes that are awash with cathartic-fuelled melancholy, but coloured with the ever-burning flame of optimism."
Svart Records, 22nd November 2019
"...music that’s enriched with menacingly dark and pervasively abject atmospheres, yet adorned with mystical allure throughout. It’s this very blend; this at-odds duality, that makes the album such an engaging and intriguing listen."
Karyn Crisis' Gospel of the Witches: 'Covenant'
Aural Music, 25th October 2019
"At times, songs’ narratives revel in ritualistic devotion, where music and words combine in potently bewitching pleasures. At other times, it feels like incantations are at the fore; tantalizing and mesmeric mantras that are loaded with formidable yet enticing allure."
Blood Red Throne: 'Fit to Kill'
Mighty Music, 13th September 2019
"Blood Red Throne have managed to conjure up an affectively morbid atmosphere that conveys a serious sense of menace, be it through sonic ferocity or brooding, down-tempo gloom."
Louise Lemón: 'A Broken Heart is an Open Heart'
Icons Creating Evil Art, 15th March 2019
"Laidback, beautifully dark and sultry, this album has seen Louise build on the promise she showcased on 'Purge LP' to deliver a melancholic masterpiece."
Mörglbl: 'The Story of Scott Rötti'
Free Electric Sound, 15th February 2019
"Looking at the photo of the band in this digipak, with their kooky expressions... brings it all back... brilliant... I love these nutters! Virtuosos? Yes! Deranged? Oh, definitely, yes! What a great combination! And it's a delight to have 'em back."
Tillian: 'Lotus Graveyard'
Self-released, 20th April 2019
"...the eleven cuts on this album have actually been loaded with all kinds of nuances, depths, and layers that seem to only become apparent on repeated listens. ‘Lotus Graveyard’ offers much more than is initially apparent."
Altitudes and Attitude: 'Get it Out'
Megaforce Records, 18th January 2019
"‘Get It Out’ ultimately succeeds in simultaneously being a refined exercise in perfectly conceived and realised songcraft, and an outing in raw, rediscovered innocence, harking back to bygone days of rock/metal of yore."
De Staat: 'Bubble Gum'
Caroline Records, 18th January 2019
"...these sonic mentalists are back, with studio album number five, for another invigoratingly unhinged aural experience...‘Bubble Gum’ is sheer fucking bliss; loaded with music that challenges, excites and moves, in equal measure."
Leah: 'Ancient Winter'
Ex Cathedra Records, 15th November 2019
"...a timely seasonal release and will undoubtedly provide a perfect soundtrack for the cold winter months, as songs feel like big, warm hugs. A sonic seamstress of fairy-tale folk, Celtic caresses and mediaeval murmurs, she's forged a blend that's magical, enchanting and heartfelt."
The Dark Element: 'Songs the Night Sings'
Frontiers Music, 8th November 2019
"...another set of finely crafted, deliciously melodic songs, chock full of catchier than catchy hooks and refrains. The musical pairing of Olzon and Liimatainen continues to be a winning one."
Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin' Stones: S/T
Strawberry Moon Records, 13th September 2019
"Wicklund indubitably has the wow factor. Her artistic personality weaves through each and every bar of every single song, and oozes a ton of sonic charisma. She’s a momentous talent... Ladies and gentlemen, I present the next big thing in renovated retro rock."
Siri Svegler: 'Awake'
Sophie Records, 13th September 2019
"...thwarting expectations along the way... Svegler dips her toes into all kinds of genres, with varied instrumentations providing the perfect sonic backdrop to her evidently malleable voice."