Top 20 2019 Pete Woods (Editor)

What a year 2019 has been musically, the sheer wealth of releases has made it a really difficult task choosing the albums that have made it special. The last few months have in particular been intense with a flood of stuff coming out, making you wonder if there will be any bands even left to bring new music out in 2020. There are various factors that have to be considered here, firstly those albums that have been treasured throughout the year and created a lasting impression and then those that have blown away recently. It’s simply been impossible at times even keeping up with those that have not been personally reviewed and some normal choices have no doubt fallen by the wayside, simply listened to and meant to go back to or come just too late in the year to get heard properly and included. That’s why my list in particular is missing out on some normally expected firm favourites and that’s a list in itself. I guess I am not the only writer affected similarly. Then again that’s good, in an overcrowded market only the real gems get through and the albums we have actually bought (digital download not doing them justice) been sent physically and backed up by seeing on stage. It’s as ever a personal thing with no right or wrong answers. As I write this, I expect the lists here are going to be very varied from writer to writer. Thanks for reading through them and everything on the site in 2019, onwards to next year we go!

1: New Model Army – From Here (Attack Attack)
Almost 40 years into their career and hitting new peaks of maturity the Bradford post-punk troubadours notch up another career defining album. Timeless songs and stories combined with the fantastic live energy means there is literally no greater love and a top spot from me.

2: Helheim – Rignir (Dark Essence)
Bad weather never prevented Vikings from plundering all and with these Norsemen penning an album in tribute to the rain the progressive blackness plummeted out the speakers rather than the sky. Rignir is like being caught in a storm and the soaking it provides is nothing short of life-affirming.

3: Pensees Nocturnes – Grand Guignol Orchestra (Laldo Productions)
There’s no shortage of clowns in Black Metal and these Gallic ones are the real deal. A carnivalesque thrill ride through the circus with an avant-garde twister ride thrown in for good measure. All aboard the magic roundabout and hang on for your lives.

4: Bergraven – Det Framlidna Minnet (Nordvis)
The stuff of dreams, nightmares of the mind and compulsively twisting melodies. This one gets in your head like a fever dream and refuses to budge. A weird, trippy and hypnotic listening experience that curiously lingers in the senses with hallucinatory prowess.

5: Rotting Christ – The Heretics (Season Of Mist)
Not such an unlucky 13th album from the Hellenic masters of blasphemy and an irreligious treat. Sakis and co triumph with a commanding presence amalgamating the best parts of their distinguished career into a fiery mass of fury. Pious and Poeish in all the right ways.

6: Moon Far Away – Athanor Eurasia (Prophecy)
Russian fables and folklore provide the backdrop to my most gorgeous album of the year. Falling in love with this from the very first spin Athanor Eurasia is an enchanting and lovely album with history and classicism at its heart. What’s not to love about this traditional feast?

7: A Pale Horse Named Death – When The World Becomes Undone (Long Branch)
This steed summons doom in a world that is very much still coming down. Sal Abruscato and his not so merry men give a wry lesson in misery complete with a dashing of self-hatred and loathing. Frankly it put a smile on quite a few faces, after all misery does love company.

8: Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence (Season Of Mist)
This would be number one if there was an album most likely to fuck with your head award. Esoteric have never provided a quick fix or done things the easy way. This sprawling double album is no exception to the rule but what twisted visions and nightmares it leaves you with.

9: Novembers Doom – Nephilim Grove (Prophecy Productions)
Sublime atmospheric doom from Chicago, full of lush harmonies and passionate interplay that is far from one-dimensional. Nephilim Grove doesn’t so much as haunt in a pale way but completely overpowers making repeated listens obligatory. Another timeless classic in the making.

10: Dreams Of The Drowned – I (Drowned Anthem Records)
Taking the skewed and weird other-worldy atmospheres of avant-garde Scandinavia along with some arcane structures reminiscent of Killing Joke, this French act came out of nowhere and intrigued and baffled in equal measures. More mushroom tea vicar? Not half!

11: Mayhem – Daemon (Century Media)
12: Darkthrone – Old Star (Peaceville)
13: Kampfar – Ofidians Manifest (Indie)
14: GosT – Valediction (Century Media)
15: Verheerer – Monolith (Vendetta Records)
16: Darkend – Spiritual Resonance (Dark Essence)
17: Subhumans – Crisis Point (Pirates Press)
18: Asphodèle – Jours pales (Ladlo Productions)
19: Ehlder – Nordabetraktelse (Nordvis)
20: Gurthang – Ascension (Immortal Frost)

Top 20 Andrew Doherty

1: Laster – Het Wassen Oog (Prophecy)
“Het Wassen Oog” ebbs and flows through oceans of atmospheric, fluid and avant-garde black metal. It’s not designed to be an easy ride and can be nightmarish, but its off centre mentally disturbed world implants itself in the brain. “Obscure dance music” is how Laster sometimes describe their music. This diverse album is irresistible and utterly epic.

2: Rendezvous Point – Universal Chaos (Long Branch Records)
Some prog is too exaggerated, but this hits the spot. Not only does it do that with its vivid movements and atmospheres, but it paints pictures.

3: Hecate Enthroned – Embrace of the Godless Aeon (M-Theory Audio)
Huge and comprehensive, imposing and atmospheric, this album from UK veterans Hecate Enthroned unashamedly take us back to a golden era and swamp us in a sea of black metal symphony.

4: Fallujah – Undying Light (Nuclear Blast)
Epic melodies and structured technical metalcore make “Undying Light” another dynamic and irresistible experience from this Bay Area band.

5: [ówt krì] – Arra (NCCTMMRN)
Quite apart from the ingenuity of being played in part on a self-built instrument, this dark and ambient work from creator Kenneth Kovasin’s [ówt krì] takes us into the innermost recesses of our mind. Potentially scary as we float helplessly through the collection of waves, sighs, thunder and other assorted sounds in this pitch black space, the four pieces of “Arra” trigger our imagination and wake up our consciousness, transforming the aura of nothingness into a vividly visual and spiritual experience.

6: Kayo Dot – Blasphemy (Prophecy)
Stylistically a work of unusual dark avant-garde prog, “Blasphemy” is gripping.

7: In Mourning – Garden of Storms (Agonia Records)
Epic as hell and with tinges of a reborn Opeth about it, each passage is fresh and takes us on a prog metal journey.

8: Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling (Gilead Media)
An interesting take on black metal here. It’s spooky, fluid, dirty and obscure – intriguing and enticing.

9: Misanthropic Rage – Towards the Grayscale Aphorism (Godz of War Productions)
The imagination and creative powers of this black metal band from Poland stand out again on “Towards the Grayscale Aphorism”. This album is imperious and atmospheric. Misanthropic Rage subject us to punishment of the most listenable kind.

10: Darkwater – Human (Ulterium Records)
This is the band’s first album for 9 years and wow. “Human” is vibrant like a living being. It’s template melodic prog metal without forgetting to include excitement.

11: Darkthrone – Old Star (Peaceville Records)
12: Atlases – Haar (Rain Without End Records)
13: Ni – Pantophonie (Dur et Doux)
14: Soilwork – Vergligheten (Nuclear Blast)
15: Tottumiskysymys – Tottumiskysymys (NCTMMRN)
16: Skøv – Skøv (self-released)
17: Triste Terre – Grand Oeuvre (Ladlo Productions)
18: White Ward – Love Exchange Failure (Debemur Morti)
19: Voyager – Colours in the Sun (Season of Mist)
20: Planchettes – The Truth (Rise Above Records)

Top 20 Angela Davey

1: Lingua Ignota – Caligula (Profound Lore)
The raw anger and emotion on this album is so powerful and really resonates with me. Absolutely flawless from start to finish.

2: Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race (Dark Essence)
I think this might be my most favourite death metal album ever?! Absolutely bonkers and just gets better with each listen.

3: Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence (Sargent House)
As great as Chelsea’s heavier albums have been, I’ve really enjoyed her stripped down back to basics approach to ‘Birth of Violence’ – it reminds me why I fell in love with her music in the first place.

4: Dawn Ray’d – Behold Sedition Plainsong (Prosthetic)
What’s not to love about anarcho-punk black metal? They sound like Fall of Efrafa meets Wiegedood and I’m into it.

5: Pharmakon – Devour (Sacred Bones)
This is one of the most hateful sounding albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to and I’m itching to see it live.

6: Uniform & The Body – Everything That Dies Some Day Comes Back (Sacred Bones)
I can’t remember the last time a The Body collaboration didn’t make it onto my AOTY list – this is the ideal soundtrack for creepy as fuck dance party.

7: Full of Hell – Weeping Choir (Relapse)
This album goes hard. Are this band capable of making a bad album? I highly doubt it. So, so good.

8: Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear (Metal Blade)
The heaviest I’ve heard Cult of Luna sound for a long time – this reminds of me of their early material but way more developed. Every track is just absolutely enormous.

9: Friendship – Undercurrent (Southern Lord)
I had never actually heard of Friendship before listening to this record and was instantly blown away. It’s the ultimate hybrid of sludge and powerviolence and every song is dripping in spite.

10: Big|Brave – A Gaze Among Them (Sargent House)
Stunning. I’m slightly obsessed with how beautifully this album is written. Sargent House have absolutely nailed it with their release roster for this year.

11: Darkthrone – Old Star (Peaceville)
12: Sunn O))) – Life Metal (Southern Lord)
13: Cloud Rat – Pollinator (Artoffact)
14: Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror (Dais)
15: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (Bad Seed)
16: Helms Alee – Noctiluca (Sargent House)
17: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell (Polydor)
18: Coffins – Beyond the Circular Demise (Relapse)
19: L7 – Scatter the Rats (Blackheart)
20: Mgła – Age of Excuse (No Solace)

Top 20 Andy Barker 

1: Eluveitie – Ategnatos (Nuclear Blast)
The first Metal outing for the new line-up proving that they’ve lost none of their previous presence and ability, setting things up nicely for an exciting future.

2: Frozen Crown – Crowned In Frost (Scarlet)
By far my top Power Metal release of the year. Vocals, drums, guitars, songs, production, image…hell, EVERYTHING gelling perfectly on this impressive second release. Italy’s latest claim to the Power Metal…errr…crown.

3: Borknagar – True North (Century Media)
As usual with Borknagar, more time with a release allows the genius of their albums to further unfold, and ‘True North continues to reveal it’s wares’ – a truly unique Extreme Progressive Metal band.

4: Nocturnalia – III Winter (The Sign)
Slipping almost totally under the radar, this uniquely talented band push their own boundaries to deliver an excellent album that surpasses retro/psyche/doom into something fresh and different.

5: Evergrey – Atlantic (AFM)
Another excellent release from this rejuvenated band that pretty much invented the Dark/Power Metal ethos.

6: The Ossuary – Southern Funeral (SCR)
Incorporating what seems like all eras of Spiritual Beggars (among others), expanding on them, and totally making them their own, this is one of those excellent, timeless albums that without the fabulous Ave Noctum I would probably have been totally unaware of.

7: Within Temptation – Resist (Spinefarm)
After so many years wandering in the Metal wilderness (or ‘On Roadrunner’ as it can also be known…), Within Temptation now have the space to re-invent themselves and this is surely their strongest release for many years.

8: Beast In Black – From Hell With Love (Nuclear Blast)
An utterly insane and eccentric Power Metal gem, further proving who was obviously the real song-writing force in the once-great Battle Beast.

9: Anthem – Nucleus (Nuclear Blast)
A strong and immensely competent return by these Japanese Metal trail-blazers from the 80’s

10: Last In Line – II (Frontiers)
Beginning to find their own identity with this second release – Melodic Heavy Metal delivered in that riff-heavy, classy way that Dio himself would surely approve of.

11: Avatarium – The Fire I Long For (Nuclear Blast).
12: Elvenking – Reader Of The Runes Divinator (AFM)
13: Northtale – Welcome To Paradise (Nuclear Blast)
14: Angel Witch – Angel Of Light (Metal Blade)
15: Pythia – The Solace Of Ancient Earth (Golden Axe)
16: Wormwood – Nattarvet (Black Lodge)
17: Visionatica – Force Of Luna (Dr. Music)
18: Cellar Darling – The Spell (Nuclear Blast)
19: Waylander – Erius Wheel (Listenable)
20: Wind Rose – Wintersaga (Napalm)

Top 20 Doogz

1 Idle Hands – Mana (Eisenwald)
Not my usual cup of tea, but I do surprise myself occasionally. An old school blend of Blue Oyster Cult, Ramones, Sisters Of Mercy and Iron Maiden, with an intangible contemporary twist. Absolutely delightful.

2 Istapp – The Insidious Star (Trollzorn)
Third album of efficient and competent folk black metal from the sun hating Swedes. Conveys a savage undercurrent balanced with a sense of melody throughout, with each track offering something different for the listener.

3 Venom Prison – Samsara (Prosthetic Records)
“Samsara” is brutal yet surprisingly progressive. Fast and loose in places but never sloppy, Venom Prison periodically tap into an emotional melodic vein without losing any of their intensity.

4 Orm – Ir (Indisciplinarian)
Raw and unbridled at times, thoughtful and melodic in other moments. A fantastic album that brings further musical progression to black metal, whilst respecting the aesthetics and sensibilities that the genre represents.

5 Abyssal – A Beacon In The Husk (Profound Lore)
Utterly cavernous and immersive blackened death metal. Definitely worth taking the time to absorb and explore, this kind of music isn’t for casual listeners.

6 Paladin – Ascension (Prosthetic Records)
Surprisingly tight blend of traditional metal, thrash and melodeath, effectively balancing each of these influences to produce something relatively fresh.

7 Necronautical – Apotheosis (Candlelight)
Conveying a vibe that’s both grandiose and chilling, Necronautical show here why they are considered one of the leading lights for UK black metal, with a raw contemporary vibe that I haven’t seen since the days of Thus Defiled.

8 Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen (Debemur Morti)
Taking the expansiveness of their “777” trilogy and mixing it with the organic sensibilities of their “Memoria Vetusta” trilogy, BAN have reinvented themselves AGAIN whilst maintaining an unmistakable sonic identity.

9 Fen – The Dead Light (Prophecy)
Fen marginally evolve their sound in an experimental yet tighter direction, managing to introduce more spacious atmospherics and trickier rhythm chops, illustrating once more why they are so highly revered in the world of progressive black metal and beyond.

10 Funeral Fvkk – Carnal Rites (Solitude Productions)
I discovered this gem whilst browsing through BandCamp one evening. Ignore the silly name, this is top quality German funereal doom highlighting the child abuse epidemic purveyed by members of the clergy.

11 Cult Of Luna – A Dawn To Fear (Metal Blade)
12 Nile – Vile Nilotic Rights (Nuclear Blast)
13 Yeruselem – The Sublime (Debemur Morti)
14 Hope Drone – Void Lustre (Moment Of Collapse)
15 Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze – Offerings Of Flesh And Gold (A Moment Of Clarity)
16 Abnormality – Sociopathic Constructs (Metal Blade)
17 Crom Dubh – Firebrands And Ashes (Van Records)
18 Can Bardd – The Last Rain (Northern Silence)
19 Have A Nice Life – Sea Of Worry (Flenser Records)
20 Damin – A Fine Game Of Nil (Apocalyptic Witchcraft)

Top 20 Fraggle

1: Tool – Fear Inoculum (RCA)
It couldn’t really be anyone else for my AOTY. Tool were the stand out musical moment of the year for me. Not because they finally released their long awaited follow up to 10’000 days (2006), but because even after such a lengthy absence and running the risk of the anticipation giving a false impression of the release, it lived up to the hype and it deserves ALL the praise it has received. ‘Pneuma’ is a mesmerising experience which sits up there with the material they put out on Lateralus! “Invincible” is fantastic and the title track itself, “Fear Inoculum” is classic Tool. It is an album to get lost in for hours or even days at a time. Spiral out, keep going.

2: Mother Of Millions – Artefacts (ViciSolum)
Third time’s the charm for the Greek progressive metal outfit Mother Of Millions given how their previous releases both scored close to that coveted 10 out of 10 score. This time out, they got it and it wasn’t a hard conclusion to draw. Artifacts is a stunning slice of emotive and atmospheric excellence. Dynamic, fantastic composition and spot on delivery, it forgoes complexity for overall impact and much like Tool, it is a piece of music you can simply lose yourself in. The album also serves as a fitting tribute to the legacy of keyboardist Makis Tsamkosoglou who sadly passed away earlier this year whilst performing on stage with the band.

3: Goatess – Blood & Wine (Svart)
Sweden’s Desert Rock inspired Stoner/Doom gods return once again with the follow up to my 2016 album of the year (Purgatory Under New Management). Once again, it is a massive slice of hypnotic and mind melting grooves and melodies which give you a liberating experience as you lose yourself in the riffs. Once again, it is a masterclass in atmospheric stoner vibes and powerful doom driven rock. Lose yourself to the spirit of Bacchanalia with this release!

4: Silvertomb – Edge Of Existence (Long Branch)
The long awaited project of Kenny Hickey (Type O Negative, Seventh Void) finally surfaces. Some might say this is simply the second Seventh Void album we never got the chance to hear due to the band ceasing to exist anymore, but with all respect to Silvertomb, whilst the two entities may sound similar, they are totally different musical beings. “Edge Of Existence” is a solid release which has a massive presence, sonically and atmospherically. Dark and imposing, loaded with great riffs, plenty of vocal bite and some sweet sounding guitars, I can only hope Silvertomb take us beyond the edge.

5: Mass Worship – Mass Worship (Century Media)
Swedish metallers Mass Worship have come out with what is easily the best, straight up metal album of the year. It sounds a lot like death metal, it feels a lot like thrash and death metal and it is certainly as intense as both of those together. 27 minutes of pure headbanging, massive riffs and unrestrained aggression. I’ll call it now, Mass Worship are one to watch in the next few years!

6: Eternal Storm – Come The Tide (Transcending Obscurity)
One of the essential releases of 2019 as far as I am concerned. A stunning debut album which blends elements of progressive metal and death metal, crafting a vast and immersive sound for you to get lost in. Intricate compositions and mesmerising arrangements of melodies draw you along like the currents of an ocean and before you realise, you will be lost in the endless expanse this Spanish 4 piece have created.

7: Queensrÿche – The Verdict (Century Media)
The legendary progressive metal outfit keep on delivering the goods. Revitalized after replacing Geoff Tate with Todd La Torre, they have came up strong once again with ‘The Verdict’. Cutting edge riffs, a hard metallic kick and plenty of thought provoking lyrics, all hallmarks of what makes a good Queensrÿche track are loaded into this release and the band certainly pulls no punches with the delivery. It might not be as good as their pre Empire days, but it’s damn close!

8: A Pale Horse Named Death – When The World Becomes Undone (Long Branch)
Brooklyn Doom outfit A Pale Horse Named Death started this year off for us with a wonderfully bleak album which brought a touch of the 80’s Goth stylings to the massive Doom presence Sal and his fellow horsemen are known for. Mixing misanthropic melodies with despairing Doom, it is a fantastic release which is possibly the most beautiful bleak sounding thing I have heard in a long time!

9: Rendezvous Point – Universal Chaos (Long Branch)
The promising Norwegian Progressive metallers are back again with the follow up to their widely praised debut ‘Through The Solar Storm’. Impressive on record and in a live setting, this band continue to push forward with their music, drawing more and more into their cosmically charged sphere of influence. Sticking more with overall impact as opposed to momentary flashes of individual brilliance and virtuosity, “Universal Chaos” has plenty to offer which will keep you engaged from start to finish.

10: PIST – Hailz (APF Records)
The fast rising, filthy groove quartet have gone from strength to strength over the years and have taken the next step in their careers by putting together a solid release. Mixing their own musical preferences with the sludgy grooves they are known for, PIST have created a sound which shows just how dynamic and versatile they are. Harsh and blackened elements meet the familiar pounding grooves resulting in a chaotic mix of energetic and headbang compelling metal. Hailz to PIST!

11: Dream Theater – Distance Over Time (InsideOut)
12: Sacred Reich – Awakening (Metal Blade)
13: Destruction – Born To Perish (Nuclear Blast)
14: Sabaton – The Great War (Nuclear Blast)
15: The Hu – The Gereg (Eleven Seven)
16: Flotsam & Jetsam – The End Of Chaos (AFM)
17: Danko Jones – A Rock Supreme (M-Theory)
18: Xentrix – Bury The Pain (Listenable Records)
19: 11 Paranoias – Asterismal (Ritual Productions)
20: In Mourning – Garden Of Storms (Agonia Records)

Top 20 Giz

1: Atlantean Kodex – The Course Of Empires (Van Records)
These unique gentlemen and lady have such a promethean flame within that it imparts a fearlessness, it seems. They will not hide their learned nature, they will not dumb down their words or their music. They strive to be the best they can be and rail against the the anti-intellectual tide with the one voice they have and the voice the times need. There is no doubt. That voice is simply extraordinary

2: Abduction – All Pain As Penance (Inferna Profundis Records)
Howling, twisting, cloying and frightening UKBM. Intense, unafraid to brush past progressive and with a truly unique and unsettling voice. This truly is the roar of the abyss looking back.

3: No One Knows What The Dead Think – S/T (Willowtip)
Borderline, maverick, genius; this is life affirming, grin inducing hypergrind that takes you places no other grind band can or wants to. They have gone out in a perfect, beautiful firestorm. Catch you later grind cowboys, catch you later.

4: Kull – Exile (Black Lion)
If you have never heard Bal Sagoth then Kull will be a shock; bewildering even. That though is their genius; sit back and just let the magnificence of the songs lead you. .

5: Saor – Forgotten Paths (Avantgarde)
Beautifully composed and performed, with a production that lets sharp bright piano notes shine, raindrop like, alongside deeps, rich guitar before the riffs and the keyboards and fiddle swell, rise and lift you away.

6: Aephanemer – Prokopton (Primeval Records)
Melodic death metal in my end of year list? Inconceivable! I spend a great deal of my time listening to horrible raucous black metal and noise so anything this melodic that drags me out into the light has to be something special and Prokopton is.

7: Black Cilice – Transfixtion Of Spirits (Iron Bonehead)
This isn’t black metal for dabblers. It’s not a place to begin your black metal journey but, if you’re already in here and the primitive but utterly focussed appeals then here is Black Cilice. Totally on their own terms.

8: Moon Chamber – Lore Of The Land (No Remorse)
Between the true class of the songwriting, a magnificent display of classic metal playing and, frankly a virtuoso vocal performance Moon Chamber have dropped a stunning album for anyone who likes to keep a part of their soul True.

9:Vircolac – Masque (Sepulchral Voice Records)
A delirium of dirty death metal and black filth with the storytelling of M R James. Wierdly unsettling, indisputably intelligent, compellingly filthy and dangerously charismatic.

10: Druadan Forest – Dismal Spells From The Dragonrealm (Werewolf Records)
This is dark, ambient music from an auteur. It is breathtaking in its scope and its thought and its ability to evoke.

11: GoST – Valediction (Century Media).
12: Twisted Tower Dire – Wars In The Unknown (No Remorse).
13: Midnight Odyssey – Biolume Part 1- In Tartarean Chains (I, Voidhanger).
14: Waylander – Eriun’s Wheel (Listenable).
15: Mork – Det Svarte Juv (Peaceville)
16: And Now The Owls Are Smiling – The Comforting Grip Of Misery (Clobber Records)
17: Darkend Nocturn Slaughtercult – Mardum (War Anthem Records)
18: Written In Torment – Maledictus Dies Illa (Self Released)
19: Sellsword – Unto The Breach (Self Released)
20: Sathamel – Horror Vacui (Self Released)

Top 20 George Caley 

1: Rammstein – Rammstein (Universal Music)
I always underestimate my love for this band and even in the lead up to this records release I cared little for it. Upon hearing the lead single Deutschland I was underwhelmed but as a whole the album blew me away. It is likely my most consistently listened to album of 2019 and is a testament to the bands talents. Easily up there with its predecessor and prior classic albums from these juggernauts of alternative music.

2: Equipoise – Demiurgus (The Artisan Era)
Can Technical Death Metal get any better? The answer is no. This is totally insane, all over the show and indeed over the top Technical Death Metal that sets the bar for the future of the genre. Its label is equally an integral part of the progression of Death Metal and its more Sci-fi laden sub-genres. I cannot place into words how fantastic this record is, quite possibly this could be my favourite Technical Death Metal album of all time.

3: Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (Metal Blade Records)
I was so ready for this album to be a flop. Countless times we are let down by our favourite bands, yet Cattle Decapitation have found their niche. Not only that but they have stuck to it and elevated it over the past few albums. Death Atlas feels like the climax to it all, and I only hope that it isn’t the final hurrah before a slippery slope. Although this I doubt, I have been and continue to be blown away by this band, without a doubt one of the greatest Death Metal bands around today.

4: Horrific Demise – Excruciating Extermination (Comatose Music)
This band came out of nowhere, a titanic supergroup with a whole host of talents. I had no idea what I was walking into when I listened to this album. I was stunned and thrown back to my first indulgence in Brutal Death Metal. The word true gets bandied about a lot in Metal, often comically but in the case of Excruciating Extermination the word is valid. This is true Brutal Death Metal at its finest.

5: Devourment – Obscene Majesty (Relapse Records)
I’ve been a fan of Devourment since I first found Brutal Death Metal and I worship everything they do. They are probably one of my favourite bands of all time and my obsession for them runs deep. When I heard of the release of Obscene Majesty I was ecstatic. Upon hearing it my excitement bubbled over. A totally nostalgic trip back to the roots of the band and arguably the heaviest album of 2019, chock full of Slams and filth ridden barbarity this is a record that’ll be spinning for years to come.

6: Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Darkroom)
Now for the curveball! I was introduced to Billie Eilish by my fiancé, who I would add is also a Metalhead. I was impressed by the minimalistic, dark and brooding Pop of this apparent newcomer. I even watched her set at Glastonbury (on the TV) and it was then that I decided to go in for the album. My enjoyment for this album only grew as the weeks past by, I simply couldn’t turn it off. There are big bold moments alongside lighter tracks and overall some of the best Pop music the world has had to offer in decades.

7: Green Lung – Woodland Rites (Kozmik Artifactz)
I don’t often talk about Doom or Stoner music and for the most part I let it all just float past me. Generally every year though something catches my attention. This year that was Green Lung, I’m a big fan of Occult Rock in the vein of Coven or more latterly Church Of The Cosmic Skull so when I heard Woodland Rites I was hooked. I actually forgot about this album for a time but tracks continuously rattled in my head. Thus I went back and realised that this has to be one of the best albums of the year.

8: HammerFall – Dominion (Napalm Records)
When I first got into HammerFall I lost my mind, they are without a doubt my favourite Power Metal band and upon hearing my first few tracks of theirs I went out and purchased their entire discography. Alas here we are in 2019, I was apprehensive of this record as the last two have been huge disappointments to me. Dominion however is a complete return to form and a joy to behold. I like this as much as many of my other favourite records from this band and I hope that this sees the band back on top of their game.

9: Implements Of Hell – Sea Of Necrophenomena (Amputated Vein Records)
You want Slams? Look no further, this blood drenched slab is here to serve up the hammers. In fact I would boldly state that this release is a prime snapshot of the current Brutal Death Metal scene. It employs Deathcore themes and whips them into submission beneath the almighty hammer of Slam. It is a unity of the two with the Death Metal portion still on top. If you want to know how modern Death Metal should sound then it’s right here.

10: 1349 -The Infernal Pathway (Season Of Mist)
Like a nocturnal animal I only tend to come out for Black Metal in the winter. So imagine my amazement when I heard The Internal Pathway. This is purist Black Metal with old school ethics that still sound relevant. Most importantly it doesn’t lose sight of the fact that this is entertainment and as such should be enjoyed and memorable. This release showcases some of the genres best riffs of the year alongside some stunning and impressive songwriting.

11: Fulci – Tropical Sun (Time To Kill Records)
12: High Command – Beyond The Wall Of Desolation (Southern Lord Recordings)
13: Whitechapel – The Valley (Metal Blade Records)
14: Epitaphe – I (Aesthetic Death)
15: Funereal Presence – Achatius (Sepulchral Voice Records)
16: Frostmoon Eclipse – Worse Weather To Come (Immortal Frost Productions)
17: Full Of Hell – Weeping Choir (Relapse Records)
18: Exhumed – Horror (Relapse Records)
19: Embludgeonment – Barn Burner (Comatose Music)
20: Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race (Dark Descent Records)

Top 20 Nick Griffiths

1: Full Of Hell – Weeping Choir (Relapse)
Brutal, powerful, compelling, challenging…simply brilliant. Album of the year by an absolute country mile, equal parts complex and skull shatteringly heavy this album deserves to be top of any right minded metal fan top 10 of not only this year’s albums but for many years to come. Simply stunning.

2: Pelican – Nightmare Stories (Southern Lord)
Huge sounding, complex and multi layered. This builds on the promise of Pelican’s previous albums and delivers huge soundscapes of light and shade that make up what is a bona fide masterpiece.

3: Cave In – Final Transmission (Hydrahead Records)
Dripping in tragedy and song writing genius, Cave In return with an album that could’ve been morose and inward looking but delivers gentle lullabies and steel wrought metal classics with an album that improves on each listen and establishes Stephen Brodsky as one of metal’s most dynamic and creative frontmen.

4: Russian Circles – Blood Year (Sargent House)
Dense and multi-layered, this release builds on the promise of Russian Circles back catalogue and delivers a collection of epic instrumental soundscapes that burn into your very soul. Complex, heavy, beautiful and savage, this is the album that should deliver the band to the big leagues.

5: Swamp Coffin – ‘Flatcap Bastard Features’ (Bandcamp)
Brooding sludge from Rotherham, this magnificently sounding debut is a thing of majestic ugliness. Grimy, filth ridden tunes that swing, rock and grind, this is hopefully a precursor for even better things to come from one of the finds of the year.

6: Implore – Alienated Despair (Century Music)
Melding all the best bits from post hardcore, grindcore, black and death metal, this breakdown heavy, sledgehammer heavy album is a brutal kick to the balls and blast beat to the solar plexus. One of the best things I have heard this year.

7: Car Bomb – Mordial (Holy Roar Records)
About as complex an album as you would hope to hear from time signature’s worst enemy Car Bomb who return with a collection of brutal exercises in syncopated mathcore that further builds of their already mythical status as one of the godfathers of this genre.

8: Whitechapel – The Valley (Metal Blade)
Straight down the barrel, brutal vignettes of deathcore. No bells, no whistles just straight forward slabs of brutal and genre defining metalcore that grooves as the songs sweat under their heavyweight density. Not exactly reinventing the wheel nor world changing but a hugely competent and enjoyable collection of tunes that deliver in spades.

9: Baroness – Gold and Grey (Abraxan Hymns)
Despite distancing themselves from their heavier earlier work, Baroness return with a mature sounding collection of songs that are at times melancholic and joyous as the vocal harmonies syncopate with the rich walls of guitars to deliver their one part later day Mastodon musings with two parts Nick Drake/The Smiths rock sensibilities.

10: Norma Jean – All Hail (Solid State)
Having constantly delivered immediate and compelling albums of ferocious metalcore, Norma Jean have slowly edged themselves into broader post metal territory and All Hail is another prime example of a band finding their voice on an album that broods and snaps necks in equal measures.

11: Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin)
12: Carnifex – World War X (Nuclear Blast)
13: Entombed A.D. – Bowels Of Earth (Century Media)
14: Warcrab – Damned In Endless Night (Transcending Obscurity)
15: Korn – The Nothing (Roadrunner/Elektra)
16: Pixies – Beneath The Eyrie (Infectious/BMG)
17: Cult Of Luna – A Dawn To Fear (Metal Blade)
18: Acid Reign – The Age Of Entitlement (Dissonance)
19: Life Of Agony – The Sound Of Scars (Napalm)
20: Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts (Southern Lord)

Top 20 Matt Mason

1: The Wraith – Gloom Ballet (Southern Lord)
L.A. Death Rock. Take Samhain, Killing Joke, Southern Death Cult , T.S.O.L and the betwixt early albums Sisters and mix em up with some sunshine and this is what you get. Damn damn fine.

2: Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (Metal Blade)
I gotta stop saying that I don’t really like Death Metal. Been a lot in the last couple of years that have blown my reticence away. This latest release from CD is a case in point. Razor sharp riffs, big singable choruses, huge bass sound and on point opinions on the state of mankind. Just mammoth.

3: Numenorean – Adore (Season of Mist)
Numenorean have taken a lake of emotion and thrust it into the bleak beautiful world of Post Black Metal forcing the listener to look up from their New Rocks and Converse and gaze at the sky instead. Angry, emotional, heartrending, passionate, magnificent, inspirational. Every track oozes with life – as dirty and raw and covered in bodily fluids and joyful sweat as it should be.

4: Pixies – Beneath the Eyrie (BMG/Infectious)
This was a magnificent surprise. I have liked the last couple of Pixies releases but there were always tempered with the loss of Kim Deal whose bass playing , vocals and awesome presence made up so much of the Boston band’s DNA. Well Beneath the Eyrie blew away any churlish worries. What an album , crammed full of monstrous college rockers and the majestic proto grunge that was the soundtrack to the early 90’s.

5: Dawn Ray’d – Behold Sedition Plainsong (Prosthetic Records)
Punky black metal with elements of folk over some necrotic nastiness. Real protest music.
At 46 I am probably a little too old to be given a kick up the arse by some revolutionary music but just as they did in 2017 these guys have reminded why I do what I do in my daily life and why people still need to get angry. Subhumans, Minor Threat, Flux of Pink Indians, Youth of Today, Crass and Dawn Ray’d. Information not procrastination.

6: New Model Army – From Here (Attack Attack)
Just as angry. Just as relevant. Just as filled with passion and melody and arm waving rhythms as they ever were. A little older. A little calmer but still evoking the feeling of family and togetherness. Thanks guys.

7: Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance (They grow inside 2) (20 Buck Spin)
The next big thing. A phrase that gets bandied about far too much, bringing with it a curse and the inevitable tall poppy syndrome that follows. Since their inception in 2016 and the release of “Primordial Malignity” the following year , Toronto’s Tomb Mold have had the collective Death metal scenes gums flapping. Planetary Clairvoyance is a septet of blistering tracks that manage to feel spiky and moist at the same time. Like a martian swamp complete with many tentacle beings with eyes for teeth. I can even forgive them for losing the “u”.

8: Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (Roadrunner Records)
I have never really knelt at the altar of Slipknot. I have only seen them on purpose once when they first played Brixton (could I sound any more hipster). Every time I hve seen them since at festivals or on a bill with other bands I like I have been impressed and I have always enjoyed their singles but found the albums to be lacking in substance. We Are Not Your Kind changed this . A grown up collection of kick arse tunes with fantastic staying power. Viagra metal. I was shocked at how much I loved this album.

9: Rammstein – Rammstein (Universal)
Another band that I poo pooed outside of the banging singles . (Du Hast has saved many a dance floor for me from Belfast to London) . Rammstein’s 2019 opus sounds like it could be a best of except containing songs you haven’t heard yet. From the opener it drags you on a sweaty dance floor and swings you round by the nips.

10: Abbath – Outstrider (Season of Mist)
At the time of writing Abbath has cancelled his remaining tour dates and is seeking help for issues that have affected him for quite some time. Best of luck old bean. A top , top guy.
In Outstrider Mr Doom Occulta and his new band of merry men and woman have released a stonker. A wonderful blend of Black Metal and Rock and Roll. . Pounding drums, neck wrecking riffs and fist pumping vocals pepper all 9 tracks. This is the sound of a man reborn in ice.

11: Blink 182 – Nine (Columbia)
12: Torche – Admission (Relapse)
13: Cave In – Final Transmission (Hydra Head)
14: Bethlehem – Lebe Dich Leer (Prophecy)
15: Danny Brown – Uknowwhatimsayin (Warp Records)
16: Pando – Negligible Senescence (Aesthetic Death)
17: Brutus – Nest (Sargent House)
18: Green Lung – Woodland Rites (Kosmic Artifactz
19: Coffins – Beyond the Circular Demise (Relapse Records)
20: BellRope- You Must Relax (Exile on Mainstream)

Top 20 Reverend Darkstanley 

1: Mephorash – Shem Ha Mephorash (Shadow Records)
Ritualistic black metal has never reached such heady heights. The black winged love-child of Nightbringer, SepticFlesh and Schammasch, Shem Ha Mephorash is as theatrical and beautiful as it is aggressive and abysmally dark. Hell awaits? Have blood, will sign today…

2: Schammasch – Hearts of no Light (Prosthetic Records)
Cracking album. An avant-garde, black metal orchestra, collecting myriad sounds that could easily turn me off in the wrong hands but are here deftly laced together and marvellous to behold.

3: Crimson Moon – Mors Vincit Omnia (Debemur Morti)
Last album, 2016’s Oneironaut has frolicked so malevolently in my mind for the past three years that I was a little nervous before hearing this. Could it compete? I should not have doubted this weaver of dark genius. Epic sorcery at work.

4: Misþyrming – Algleymi (NoEvDia)
And how could anything be better than Söngvar elds og óreiðu? Deftly worked and bringing in new influences that mean the trance-like fun of sitting through this is like the aural version of leaping and sliding along one of their Icelandic glaciers on drugs.

5: Rotting Christ – The Heretics (Season of Mist)
Does anyone sound like Rotting Christ? Nope. Could they have merged their last couple albums together into one and we’d still all have been happy? Yes. But this is hardly a creative cul de sac: more a holding pattern for circling leather-winged demons and just as fascinating to bear witness.

6: Murg – Strävan (Nordvis)
The third of a killer trilogy by a band that crafts sharp-edged feral, black metal. There were several black metal bands beginning with ‘M’ competing for top 10 slots: Malum, Mayhem, Mara and Mgla. But Murg do the best album covers so they won.

7: Lingua Ignota – Caligula (Profound Lore)
The other side of the casual sexism and unforgivable misogyny that stalks the heavy metal music scene, are the lyrics and music of Kristin Hayter. Abused by a big shot in the local music scene, then subjected to humiliation during the police investigation that followed, Hayter’s music is the screaming anguish of a real life 1,000 years (and longer) of oppression.

8: Avatarium – The Fire I Long For (Nuclear Blast)
First, Jennie-Ann Smith’s voice… Second, this is the band’s best yet despite Leif Edling’s involvement being on the wane. Like listening to a smartly-suited Candlemass caught in a weed-consumed, abstract dream.

9: Keys of Orthanc – A Battle in the Dark Lands of the Eye… (Naturmacht Productions)
Summoning may have created the benchmark when it comes to Lord of the Rings-themed twiddly-twonky black metal, but boy does this give the whole genre a spray of freshness under its orcish armpits. I’m lovin’ it.

10: Death Wolf – IV: Come the Dark (Blooddawn Productions)
A unit formed to hail the Misfits but which has now well and truly morphed into a three-dimensional slab of beating, gothic, punk-metal all of its own. Former Danzig fans need apply. Morgan from Marduk included free with each copy.

11: Magic Circle – Departed Souls (20 Buck Spin)
12: Mara – RÖK (Immortal Frost Productions)
13: Necronautical – Apotheosis (Candlelight Records)
14: Denial of God – The Hallow Mass (Osmose Productions)
15: Funeral Fvkk – Carnal Confessions (Solitude Productions)
16: Enthroned – Cold Black Suns (Season of Mist)
17: Malum – Legion (Purity Through Fire)
18: Árstíðir Lífsins – Saga á tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr (Ván Records)
19: Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen (Debemur Morti)
20: Véhémence – Par le Sang Versé (Antiq Records)

Top 20 Paul Maddison

1: Traveler – Traveler (Gates of Hell)
A Canadian traditional metal thunder force, a slab of genuine metal. This album is a gem, featuring members of Gatekeeper, Hrom and other great bands, my wishes have come true they’ll be gracing our shores early next year with…joint favourite…

2: Riot City – Burn the Night (No Remorse)
A Canadian Judas Priest… a solid metal album that you will return to time and time again. There is no doubt where the influence lies, there is no doubt this is a great record. Full of energy, excitement and to top it, they will be joining Traveler next year in the UK & Europe. I really can’t decide on a winner…

3: Idle Hands – Mana (Eisenwald)
Over since their EP, this has been a band that’s crossed boundaries. They are a different choice for me personally, but their grit and warmth is truly remarkable. If vocally you take some 80’s goth/new wave influence and mix with a touch of gothic inspired metal, the result is truly a magical potion.

4: Midnight Priest – Aggressive Hauntings (Metal on Metal)
Their second release in English, wow, this really hits a spot. Again, it’s traditional metal, its powerful, energetic and filled with ripping melodies and guitar work.

5: Bewitcher – Under the Witching Cross (Shadow Kingdom)
Another full length from this US Motör-Venom styled outfit. Beastly, nasty and energetic, they give what they do best and take no prisoners.

6: Wraith – Absolute Power (Redefining Darkness)
It’s not as rotten as some blackened thrash/speed/punk I could mention, but it’s possessed with enough energetics to make the most boring music fan in the world take note. A kick ass ride from start to finish.

7: Haunt – If Icarus Could Fly (Shadow Kingdom)
Haunt are in a stable place and produce consistently good traditional metal music. A new release already planned for the immediate New Year, there is no slowdown in prolific song writing that’s for sure.

8: Ruff Majik – Tårn (Lay Bare Recordings)
This South African band are a touch of an enigma. I originally came up with black metal stoner, but then you also get many other facets to their music. This is their latest in many numerous releases, a swathe of expression and experimentation, a very exciting album.

9: Fatal Embrace – Operation Genocide (Iron Shield)
These German thrashers have been going for a while now. There is no pretence of escape from their heavy influence of both Exodus and Slayer. This latest, I was amazed by the production and the energy of the drumming. In short, a powerful thrash album.

10: Vvlva – Silhouettes (World in Sound)
This is the third release I have from these German Prog. Rockers. This is a touch heavier than their last outing providing a magical journey through the soundscapes that you would expect from such a style. There’s heritage mixed with modernism, a classic sound, a modern delivery. A really cool album for prog. fans.

11: Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast)
12: Seax – Fallout Rituals (Shadow Kingdom)
13: Smoulder – Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring (Cruz Del Sur)
14: Diabolic Night – Beyond the Realm (High Roller)
15: Survival (Mex) – Svrvival (Sanatorio)
16: Mystik – Mystik (I Hate)
17: Workshed – Workshed (Rise Above)
18: Sadistic Ritual – Visionaire of Death (Unspeakable Axe)
19: Aphrodite – Lust and War (Fighter)
20: Syrinx – Embrace the Dark, Seek the Light (Church Recordings)

Top 20 Slavica

1: Lingua Ignota – Caligula (Profound Lore)
Lingua Ignota is the most original and uncompromising female act in extreme or avant-garde music since Diamanda Galas, challenging pre-existing notions of femininity. Caligula, Wagnerian in scope and sound, is monumental, gigantic, breath-taking and terrifying. The artist’s vocals range from operatic singing to black metal screeching and rasping, the music goes from classical to noise to experimental. Lyrical themes circle around abuse, trauma, survival, and revenge. Definitely the most astonishing album of 2019. Give it a listen and feel your blood freeze in your veins and your hair stand on end.

2: Idle Hands – Mana (Eisenwald)
Traditional heavy metal mixed with new wave and goth rock. What’s not to like? Very melodic and often catchy, all of the album’s 11 songs have an almost instant appeal. Gabriel Franco’s dark and deep vocals and the fast drumming with its double kick outbursts prevent the band’s sound from ever becoming too soapy. Appropriately gloomy, yet fun to listen to. Excellent.

3: Heilung – Futha (Season Of Mist)
Heilung seek to enliven the Northern European Iron Age and the Viking period and they go to great lengths to achieve that. Their shows, something between performance, ritual and concert, are exceptional, the atmosphere unique. Futha, very much like the live album Lifa, contains elements of a play or a performance piece. There are monologues and battle sounds, sounds of arrows flying and hitting their mark, there are the sounds of fire and ice. The music is dominated by singing and percussion, enhanced with echo-effects and deep buzzing noises. A trip back to times past.

4: Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen (Debemur Morti)
Blut Aus Nord are a long-established black metal band, but Hallucinogen is not just another black metal album. The band have always displayed a fancy for industrial metal and psychedelia, but never so pronounced as on their newest release. Here, traditional black metal elements form the basis onto which industrial and psyche elements have been attached. In addition, there is chanting and choral singing, calling medieval times to mind. An innovative and visionary album and a step forward for a band that has been active for 25 years.

5: Enisum – Moth’s Illusion (Avantgarde Music)
Lore-infused atmospheric black metal. The album’s themes and lyrics show a closeness to and a love for the band’s native landscapes and for nature in general. The destruction of nature by man is thematized, as is the interconnectedness of all things on earth. Origin, music, artwork and lyrics form a consistent whole, and the end product is as satisfying as a mathematical equation. Beautiful.

6: White Ward – Love Exchange Failure (Debemur Morti)
From Odessa, Ukraine comes black metal combined with lounge jazz, featuring piano and saxophone, with an overall noir note and a velvety feel. Love Exchange Failure offers a very unusual and captivating combination of sounds and a peculiar blend of moods: melancholic, but angry, depressed, yet still in awe of the world. The album was definitely one of the surprises of 2019, recognized by Roadburn festival and promptly invited. The band deliver a killer show. Go see them if you can.

7: The Wraith – Gloom Ballet (Southern Lord)
Settled somewhere between goth rock, punk and post-punk, Gloom Ballet will appeal to anyone who grew up during the 1980s and listened to all of the above. Midtempo and melodic without being annoying or kitschy, the music will remind you of Killing Joke, Samhain and New Model Army. The vocals have a natural credibility, as does everything else these veteran musicians present us with. Great, gripping music, and utterly unpretentious. Punk!

8: Schammasch – Hearts Of No Light (Prosthetic)
A medley of sounds, from classical to psychedelia, stoner and black metal, all brought together under a dark cloak. Schammasch, much like Blut aus Nord and Deathspell Omega, push black metal towards the avant-garde. The complex soundscapes and lyrics of these messengers of the approaching apocalypse will offer you food for thought for many hours.

9: Mgla – Age Of Excuse (No Solace)
Amidst the controversy about cancelled shows in Germany and accusations of being a bit too right wing even for Polish standards, Mgla released a new album without telling anyone. And it’s great: melodic, furious, expertly-played, sweeping black metal. Lyrics and artwork display the characteristic nihilism and misanthropy, and there is nothing that would indicate that the apocalyptic horseman on the cover would use his sword selectively.

10: E-L-R – Maenad (Prophecy
Another great debut, named after the female followers of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. The album’s soundscapes are rich, lush and hugely atmospheric. Sounds are constantly reverberating as if they were bouncing off of walls. The deep, loud and pronounced drumming calls rites to mind, as do mantra-like lyrics and the double female vocals, often delivered through a haze. A great album no matter if you like post doom or not.

11: Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces Of Palingenesia (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
12: Sanhedrin – The Poisoner (Cruz Del Sur)
13: Bednja – Doline Su Ostale Iza Nas (Transcending Obscurity)
14: By The Spirits – Visions (Eisenwald)
15: Yeruselem – The Sublime (Debemur Morti)
16: Silence In The Snow – Levitation Chamber (Prophecy)
17: Radare – Der Endless Dream (Golden Antenna)
18: Consecration – Plava Laguna (Geenger Records)
19: The Moth Gatherer – Esoteric Oppression (Agonia)
20: Temple Koludra – Seven! Sirens! To A Lost Archetype (Transcending Obscurity)

Top 20 James Jackson

1: Defeater – Defeater (Epitaph)
Continuing the theme of their previous four albums this self-titled is based around the narrative of a broken family torn apart by war and its consequences, along with the characters they come into contact with. Defeater don’t do things by halves, cinematic in scope with lyrics that read like a very bleak piece of literature. This is angry, intelligent, emotional post-hardcore that continues to break your heart while kicking your arse. Five perfect albums and counting.

2. Coilguns – Watchwinders (Hummus Records)
I’d never heard Coilguns before I reviewed Watchwinders, only noticing them on some interesting support slots, but what an unexpected treat this turned out to be. It’s radical and contemporary, weaving hardcore, punk, metal and even a little pop together to create an exciting sonic explosion. Witnessing them play a chaotic headlining gig in Gdansk only confirmed how intimidating they can be playing their scattershot bursts of sharp punk rock.

3. This Gift is a Curse – A Throne of Ash (Season of Mist)
Oh good lord, where to start with this? A Throne of Ash is ominous, filled with dread at every turn and at times makes the listener feel like they’re being repeatedly punched in the face until there’s nothing left but a bloody pulp. It’s an exercise in sheer aggression, creating an almighty wall of noise which is at times is exhausting and unpleasant but also rewarding. The epic closer ‘Wormwood Star’ is glorious, featuring an earworm hook that burrows under your charred skin and sets up camp for months.

4. Victims – The Horse and Sparrow Theory (Relapse Records)
The metal, rock n roll and d-beat punkers have released an album that is heavy in all senses of the word. Yes it’s overtly political but it’s very now and very necessary. Everyone should sit up and take notice of the music and lyrics that Victims furnish upon us. A rollicking good ride; fast, heavy, loud and above all, thought provoking. It deserves a moment of your time.

5. Ithaca – The Language of Injury (Holy Roar Records)
This debut full length from the London hardcore upstarts was another unforeseen poke in the eye. Ferociously ambitious and not afraid to speak their mind, it’s the sound of a band taking the baton for contemporary metal and running with it. A smorgasbord of genres; metal core, post rock, doom and math core all held to together by Djamilia Azzouz’ impassioned vocals and intimidating growl.

6. Downfall of Gaia – Ethic of Radical Finitude (Metal Blade Records)
Not ones for short snappy song titles, Germany’s Downfall of Gaia created another slab or bruising yet soothing post black metal. Ethic of Radical Finitude is at times heavy as hell but also has an ear for a killer melody, taking black metal to some interesting new places. Witnessing their intense live show at a tiny venue in Warsaw confirmed their place in my top ten.

7. Vokonis – Grasping Time (The Sign Records)
This third full length from the Swedish stoner doom rockers was another wonderful surprise. No doubt created ensconced within a haze of dubiously smelling green smoke, Grasping Time was a joyous throwback to the 1970s. There may have been plenty of dreamy moments of tranquillity that doth their tweed flat top caps to Pink Floyd, but Vokonis also know when to let rip, at their best when cranking things up and cutting the riffs loose.

8. Employed To Serve – Eternal Forward Motion (Spinefarm Records)
The album title pretty much sums up Employed to Serve and their year. On a high after releasing their critically acclaimed debut The Warmth of a Dying Sun they kept up the momentum with this sophomore release. It’s dense and very heavy, the sound of a band refining their sound and maturing nicely.

9. Opium Lord – Vore (Sludgelord Records)
Vore is thoroughly dark, unpleasant and violent; it’s a glimpse into the minds of some twisted individuals. The album contains elements of sludge, doom and black metal while having a raw, rough around the edges quality, managing to bridge an unlikely gap between bands such as YOB, Eyehategod and Trap Them. It’s a difficult listen; it gets under the skin, the type of album that compels the listener to have a wash after listening to it.

10. Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear (Metal Blade Records)
The highly influential Cult of Luna return to reclaim their place at Post Metal’s top table and show the chasing pack how it’s done. This is sludge/post metal at its best, an immersive album to get lost in. Weighing in at 80 mins, this is no quick fix and not for those with short attention spans, set aside some time to get to grips with it; it will be well worth it.

11. Russian Circles – Blood Year (Sargent House)
12. Norma Jean – All Hail (Solid State Records)
13. Latitudes – Part Island (Debemur Morti Productions)
14. Une Misere – Sermon (Nuclear Blast)
15. Pelican – Nighttime Stories (Southern Lord)
16. Desert Sessions – Vols. 11 & 12 (Matador Records)
17. The Fifth Alliance – The Depth of the Darkness (Consouling Sounds)
18. Venom Prison – Samsara (Prosthetic Records)
19. Cave In – Final Transmission (Hydra Head Records)
20. Baroness – Gold & Grey (Abraxan Hymns)

Top 20 Mark Eve

1: Infidel Reich – Reichenstein (Helter Skelter Records)
BOOM! My fave release of the year, this DM crew have cut an album that not only totally rocks but lyrically is a much needed shot of “fuck you!” in the arm of all the whining muppets that live in a world of perpetually manufactured offence.

2: Warfist – Grunberger (Godz Ov War)
Only just pipped by “Reichenstein” these Poles have nailed it on their 3rd album. Dripping with hooks and ridiculously addictive. Their blend of death / black / thrash metal is an alcoholic joy!

3: Possessed – Revelations Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast)
The big boys are back…..after thirty odd years All the cynics that thought it would be just a “cash grab” were made to eat their words. This album is more than worthy of the Possessed name and is, if anything, better than “Seven Churches”….there I said it ….. come at me bro!

4: Gods Forsaken – Smells Of Death (Soul Seller Records)
The Swedes unleash the gore soaked DM fury on their second album and immediately shot up the Swedeath pecking order with this classy old school horror-fest which is still on heavy rotation in these parts.

5: Malevolent Creation – The 13th Beast (Century Media)
Following the sad death last year of vocalist Brett Hoffman, many thought the band would call it quits but these death metal stalwarts don’t know the meaning of the word and have bounced back from tragedy with one of the best albums of their career. Brett would be proud.

6: Come Back From The Dead – Rise Of The Blind Ones (Transcending Obscurity)
Creepy, nasty, atmospheric, doomy, deathy goodness. These Spaniards know exactly what they’re doing and have a really unique yet at the same time familiar sound. Great album.

7: Overkill – The Wings Of War (Nuclear Blast)
The most consistent and BEST thrash metal band in history unleashed their nineteenth album and what can I say…. It’s Overkill! Blitz’s tungsten pipes are still in fine form and they couldn’t write a crap song if you paid them. Green & Black for life!

8: Deserted Fear – Drowned By Humanity (Century Media)
Germany’s best kept secret (along with Chapel Of Disease) continue their ascent into the death metal stratosphere with their most accomplished, mature and, dare I say it, progressive album yet. If you haven’t listened to DF then just get all four of their albums and thank me later.

9: Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (Metal Blade)
Regardless of whether you’re a yoghurt knitting vegan activist or not, this is an incredible death metal album and creates some amazing sonic landscapes within its savage barbarity. I always like the band and now I like them more. Killer.

10: Queensryche – The Verdict (Century Media)
I’d loved Queensryche since “Rage For Order” back in ’86 but kinda drifted away around the time of “Promised Land” so this was in all honesty the first material I’d heard from them in twenty five years and wow! What a cracking record. Todd La Torre’s vocals are amazing and the hooks sink in right from track one.

11: Exumed – Hostile Defiance (Metal Blade)
12: Exhorder – Mourn The Southern Skies (Nuclear Blast)
13: Destruction – Born To Perish (Nuclear Blast)
14: Whiskey Ritual – Black Metal Ultras (Folter Records)
15: Bones – Diseased (Transcending Obscurity)
16: Grand Magus – Wolf God (Nuclear Blast)
17: Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites (Nuclear Blast)
18: Encircling Wolves – Anti-Social Experimentation (Self Released)
19: Burial Remains – Trinity Of Deception (Transcending Obscurity)
20: Coffin Rot – A Monument To The Dead (Blood Harvest)

Top 20 Chris Davison

1: Dun Ringill – Welcome (Argonauta Records)
It just had to be this album for the album of the year for me. Such a remarkable, psychedelic mix of metal, doom and rock that gets under the skin more than a dose of scabies. “The Door” has been the stand out track of the year for me. I originally gave this an 8 out of 10, but on reflection, I’m remarking it a 9. Have that!

2: Memoriam – Requiem for Mankind (Nuclear Blast)
After the minor misfire of “The Silent Vigil” (the production robbed it of much power), Karl and the boys come roaring back with a career best with “Requiem for Mankind”. Banger after banger here, with “Austerity Kills” bringing the righteous fury. Essential.

3: Diabolic Night – Beyond the Realm (High Roller Records)
Unapologetically metal, featuring more tasty licks than your average trip out to an Ice Cream factory. More denim and leather than a Saxon convention.

4: Konkhra – The Alpha and the Omega (Hammerheart Records)
A surprising but very happy return for my favourite Danish death metal band of all time. Often the bridesmaids but never the brides, this is another rock-solid slab of brutality.

5: Exhorder – Mourn the Southern Skies (Nuclear Blast)
Not so much back from the dead, more back from the state beyond death. A huge return for the Exhorder boys, in which their trademark southern-tinged groove metal is once again at the top of that particular tree. Everyone that shamelessly ripped them off should again listen with their heads bowed.

6: Morass of Molasses – The Ties That Bind (Wasted State Records)
Absolutely ridiculously catchy and groovy stoner rock which sparked a spirited debate between Spenny and I about whether or not there is a bass present in this work. (Note: there isn’t – I hate being wrong!)

7: Suhnopfer – Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes (Debemur Morti Productions)
Never did I think that I would be writing the words, “excellent one man French black metal”, and yet here I am. Food for the mind; superbly wrought and furiously enjoyable.

8: Runemagick – Into Desolate Realms (High Roller Records)
From the obscure ends of the metal spectrum, a huge, roaring return to power from the masters of the murky, the mysterious and the willfully bloody awkward. Runemagick are back into top form here.

9: Usurper – Lords of the Permafrost (Soulseller Records)
Back from the undead, and twice as urrrrrrrrrrgh as before. With a death grunt more gruntly than even Tom G Warrior can come up with these days, Lords of the Permafrost was a (very) welcome Emperor’s Return for these Celtic Frosted chaps.

10: Nixa – Opus Tierra (War Anthem Records)
The kind of album that has made me wish I’d come across them far earlier. Superb, top end doom metal with a splash of vocal heroics.

11: Lord Dying – Mysterium Tremendum (eOne)
12: Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness (20 Buck Spin)
13: Coffins – Beyond the Circular Demise (Relapse Records)
14: Death Angel – Humanicide (Nuclear Blast)
15: Carnal Forge – Gun to Mouth Salvation (Vicisolum Productions)
16: Xentrix – Bury the Pain (Listenable Records)
17: Exhumed – Horror (Relapse)
18: Maniac Abductor – Casualties of Causality (Inverse records)
19: Dead Witches – The Final Exorcism (Heavy Psych Sounds)
20: Undead Prophecies – Sempiternal Void (Listenable Records)

Top 20 Martin Harris

1: Borknagar – True North (Century Media Records)
The moment this superb album starts it thrusts upon the listener a tapestry of beguiling emotion where scintillating musicality is stitched onto enthralling blackened texturizing.

2: Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites (Nuclear Blast Records)
The sonic Egyptologists have once again unveiled a metaphoric sandstorm of swirling musicianship amidst a bombarding deathly assault that is impassioned and cinematic.

3: Rhapsody Of Fire – The Eighth Mountain (AFM Records)
Continuing the cinematic theme and the Italian symphonic power metal act releases yet another bombastic and captivating album that is lavished with pristine arrangements and stratospheric playing.

4: Here Lies Man – No Ground To Walk Upon (Ridingeasy Records)
Few bands are as quirky as this US act whose hybridisation of African beats with 70s rock is truly infectious as each toe tapping anthem will have you utterly gripped.

5: Soilwork – Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast Records)
A huge return to form for the Swedes as their melodic death metal is peppered with supreme vocals, sumptuous song writing but most importantly of all brilliant and catchy songs.

6: Allegaeon – Apoptosis (Metal Blade Records)
Flying the flag of melodic death metal meets a technical dosing Allegaeon manage to harness that balance of outright bludgeoning with skilful playing prowess terrifically.

7: Legion Of The Damned – Slaves Of The Shadow Realm (Napalm Records)
Battering, bludgeoning, bulldozing this Dutch outfit’s latest proposition equates to being beaten to a pulp as every song unleashes a savaging assault courtesy of knifing riffs, bone crushing drums and an awesome production.

8: Imperium Dekadenz – When We Are Forgotten (Napalm Records)
Are there any bands that capture the melodic and atmospheric black metal scene so ingeniously and stunningly as this German act! Their ability to meld intrinsic vitriol with palpable emotion is unsurpassed.

9: MisÞyrming – Algleymi (Norma Evangelium Diaboli Records)
Dark, dense, foreboding and unreservedly barbaric this Icelandic black metal act continues to terrorise the world with their brutalising blackness.

10: Beast In Black – From Hell With Love (Nuclear Blast Records)
The 80s was such a good decade for music, is a statement you’ll hear from those who were there and this Finnish bunch absolutely love it with their bounce infested heavy metal that reincarnates a stadium rock feel that has been missing for a long time.

11: Equilibrium – Renegades (Nuclear Blast Records)
12: Exhorder – Mourn The Southern Skies (Nuclear Blast Records)
13: Wraith – Absolute Power (Independent Released)
14: Thy Art Is Murder – Human Target (Nuclear Blast Records)
15: Necroticgorebeast– Necroticgorebeast (Comatose Music)
16: Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond The Dark (Blood Music)
17: Dwarrowdelf – Of Dying Lights (Flowing Downward Records)
18: Hypno5e – A Distant Dark Source (Pelagic Records)
19: Sabaton – The Great War (Nuclear Blast Records)
20: Voyager – Colours In The Sun (Season Of Mist)

Top 10 Spenny

1: Rosalie Cunningham – Rosalie Cunningham (Cherry Red Records)
in a year of some rather good metal, this unashamedly quirky Prog masterpiece wins the top slot. Emerging from Purson under her own name, Ms Cunningham is a multi-talented artist and musician whose breadth of creativity is staggering.

2: Kadavar – For The Dead Travel Fast (Nuclear Blast)
These three Germanic flare wearing hairy hippies just keep on getting better and better. For a real treat, buy the expanded CD/DVD edition where they hit the stage with a slew of guest musicians to give new textures and nuances to their timeless sound.

3: Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – Very Uncertain Times (Rise Above Records)
Sometimes, in these Very Uncertain Times, you just need fun; these three greasy rockers deliver that by the bubbling bucketful.

4: Saint Vitus – Saint Vitus (Season of Mist)
Two things I did not expect to happen in 2019 were the return of Scott Reagers to a new Saint Vitus album, and then after their fantastic Glasgow show to be drunkenly singing Mott The Hoople songs with Dave Chandler in the local Wetherspoons. Both, however did, and are highlights of my musical year.

5: Clouds Taste Satanic – Evil Eye/Second Sight (Kinda Like Music)
I really couldn’t separate these two releases from the instrumental doom machine that is Clouds Taste Satanic. Two parts of the one massive musical opus, on any other year they would have topped the list, a sign of just how hard this was to compose for me.

6: Morass of Molasses – The Ties That Bind (Wasted State Records)
Expanding their sound with some notable guests and a distinctly more trippy sound than their prior releases, this release highlights the ability and potential of MoM perfectly.

7: Angel Witch – Angel of Light (Metal Blade Records)
2019 sees the long awaited new album from one of the NWOBHM acts that influenced so many later bands, and it did not disappoint. Stunning musicianship, and songs that are influenced apparently by somebody taking a sneaky look at my Blu-ray collection, this is an essential purchase.

8: Bloody Hammers – The Summoning (Napalm Records)
More horror movie inspired music, this time from Transylvania (North Carolina) goth duo Bloody Hammers. Simultaneously dark and catchy, once this CD hit the player I practically had to hide it from my better half to stop it getting worn out.

9: Hawkwind – All Aboard The Skylark (Cherry Red Records)
Captain Brock’s crew have never really been off form, but for their fiftieth anniversary it is more than appropriate that they produced one of their strongest albums for many years. All you could want from the pioneers of space rock is in this album.

10: Gorilla – Tree Creeper (Heavy Psych Sounds Records)
Four word review “simply excellent hard rock.” That is all.