2019 had a strong lineup of metal and rock albums. Plenty of epic returns from Slipknot, Tool, and Rammstein, with other bands continuing the cycle of making new music, then hit the road. Everything from the experimental to simple heaviness had something to offer that was special to the final year of the 2010s.
Here are my top albums of the year:
#11: Amon Amarth – Berserker
Vikings, mythology, and death metal that is an excellent combination that Amon Amarth figured out a long time ago. Now with decades worth of experience, they still bring out melodic brutality with harmonic twists to take their fans through some history and lore behind the infamous Scandinavian pillagers.
The Swedish headbangers may not deviate from their formula much, Berserker is a prime example of such, but that does not stop them from being irresistible once that riff action kicks in and Johan Hegg starts screaming about history and Norse mythology.
#10: Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Continuing that train of history and mythology comes from Nile. The legendary death metallers have made a name for themselves by going through a time machine into ancient Egypt while delivering brutal music.
Vile Nilotic Rites is both skull shattering and epic. Seven Horns of War brings out a grand production across 9 minutes. The flip side to familiar territory in the graveyard that is death metal comes from tracks like Revel In Their Suffering and The Oxford Handbook Of Savage Genocidal Warfare. This record has so much to offer while scratching that itch for a different scenery compared to most bands in this scene.
#9: Killswitch Engage – Atonement
Killswitch Engage’s flavor of metalcore continues to show off with each record as they sprinkle in rock and hardcore ingredients to separate themselves from bands that overproduce breakdowns rather than substance. Atonement is the group’s ultimate example of everything they stand for musically and thematically. Everything from the heartfelt single I Am Broken Too to the aggressive Know Your Enemy to anthems like I Can’t Be the Only One, there is something for any mood.
#8: Periphery – Hail Stan
Progressive metalcore innovators Periphery never ceases to amaze me by their sheer talent. No doors are closed off from creative endeavors like the electronic breakdown in CHVRCH BVRNER or the orchestral closing for Crush. You never quite know what to expect, yet you do with the balance of familiarity and experimentation.
Unlike most of the metal scene, Periphery can jump from silliness like the 16-minute ride that is Reptile, following a stoner trying to save the world from aliens. Then the pioneers take a sharp turn with It’s Only Smiles, where vocalist Spencer Sotelo reflects and grieves over his sister who passed away.
Musically and lyrically, nothing can prepare you entirely for their most innovative release yet.
#7: Rammstein – Rammstein
I never got into the German legends until this release showed me what I have been missing out on my whole life. Industrial grit and speaking in German sounds so brutal for a band that are not even that heavy, especially compared to everyone else on this list.
The weirdness of Rammstein had been growing for a decade in between records, and they have unleashed a bizarre masterpiece that defies all expectations, especially from this outsider. It is a front to back flawless launch that makes me worried that it will be their last release as it was a fight between themselves to get it made.
Also, while every track is meticulously crafted to perfection, one thing that this Rammstein has done above anyone else is making the best music video I have ever seen with Deutschland. If you do one thing after reading this article, please watch that video.
#6: Carnifex – World War X
Carnifex continues to be unapologetically heavy and depressing with their seventh album. Mental health is their brand from day one, and Scott Ian Lewis continues to bring out his darkest emotions, reaching all the way down from hell and back to deliver this emotional rollercoaster.
As self-taught musicians, the instrumentation soars above everything else done in the past. Riffs that have more complexity than all of the preceding records combined with melodic solos, nasty bass lines, and drumming that is both well thought out and destructive.
Deathcore can get stale, but this year has shown it is more than what naysayers have to say. The Californian metalheads are here to show you why as they push the boundaries for the confined subgenre of extreme metal. With first time collaborations with Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz and guitarist Angel Vivaldi, Carnifex are heading towards something big in the future, and the whole underworld of heavy music better be watching.
#5: Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas
Like Carnifex, Cattle Decapitation has their own brand, except instead of agony, it is climate change. For a group who have had the same message for over 20 years, they still manage to be more thought-provoking than before. Death Atlas is an apocalyptic juggernaut that delivers a nihilistic viewpoint towards our demise as humans plunge the world into utter annihilation.
A mixed bag of deathgrind, straight death metal, and a touch of black metal, this is the highest form of brutality. Not only a profound look at one of the world’s biggest issues, but it should be looked back on throughout heavy metal history of a genre-defining album.
#4: Fleshgod Apocolypse – Veleno
Symphonic death metallers Fleshgod Apocolypse must have come out of a time machine and discovered death metal as that would be the only explanation behind their look and sound. They come is looking as elegant as Hannibal Lecter, and eventually, get their high class looks ruined by getting drenched in blood.
The band figures out how to balance their Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde’s personality by adjusting the classical music and extreme metal to work together better than any other release. Carnivorous Lamb highlights their violent nature while Monnalisa showcases the dark beauty that hides behind the mask.
#3: Shadow of Intent – Melancholy
It seems every deathcore band wants to outdo one another with depressing records. Shadow of Intent certainly beat out Carnifex with Melancholy. The name says it all thematically, but not musically. It is a sweet middle ground of intensity, heaviness, and beauty with symphonic elements dolloped throughout.
The true cherry on top is a guest spot with Trevor Strnad from The Black Dahlia Murder. You can never go wrong with one of the best vocalists in the death metal scene.
#2: Whitechapel – The Valley
Again, another band seeking out to make a miserable album and the winner this year goes to Whitechapel. Vocalist Phil Bozeman has one of the most moving stories in the genre. He has tackled his troubled past throughout most releases, but this lays it all out, hopefully putting his demons to rest.
Outside of being a heartstring puller, The Valley takes what was established with the last two records and nails it. Previously, Whitechapel has tried going into more melodic and groovy directions that worked to an extent, but not in anyway astounding. This is where the skull shattering breakdowns blend with the new style cohesively.
Us metalheads always hear about a band putting out their heaviest album to date. Well, this is weird as the seventh creation from the Southern headbangers is both their softest and most brutal at the same time. Third Depth and Hickory Creek predominantly feature Bozeman’s haunting clean vocals. Meanwhile, Forgiveness is Weakness, We Are One, and Black Bear are some examples of how The Valley goes above anything the group has done since the old school days of This is Exile and The Somatic Defilement.
#1: Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Slipknot went from more melody than experimentation for a long time after the release of Iowa. WANYK takes everything they learned and cranks it to 100. The legendary masked metalheads bang out brutality with Solway Firth, create new anthems like Unsainted, and go into their weirdest directions since the first two albums with Spiders and Death Because of Death.
This is a statement to the world that these Iowans are kings for a reason. WANYK is the best album of 2019 and out of the entire decade. Long live the Knot.
What are your favorite albums of the year? Let me know in the comments.
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