2019, the year that closes the decade and with it a lot of interesting releases in the Heavy Metal world. In this article, you’ll get to see my top 20 favorite albums of the year. It was no easy task to choose just 20, a lot of talented bands released quality stuff this year, but I believe these are the ones that close the decade on a high note and gives us hope for more in the future.
2019 seems an odd year for me to be writing a post about my albums of year, and to have so many albums I want to name-check or mention. See, early in the year I stepped down from my role within Ghost Cult – nothing the Cult did wrong, just a question of life and balance. Stepping back from direct exposure to every rock, metal or alternative release should have meant I had fewer albums to care about, but, actually, it’s afforded me more time with each of the albums that I have connected with. Continue reading
Carcass with Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast) in 2013, Behemoth and The Satanist (Metal Blade) in 2014, Ghost in 2015 and 2018 with Meliora and Prequelle (both Loma Vista), Magma (Roadrunner) by Gojira in 2016, and 2017’s Emperor of Sand (Mastodon – Reprise) is our legacy. Those incredible, scene-enhancing, ear-destroying releases are the standard-bearers by which Ghost Cult‘s albums of the year are to be judged. These are the albums of our times; and following another sensation year of great alternative, rock, and metal, the pantheon cries out for more, for another slab of wax, another Album of the Year to join them… the very best of 2019.
With a fully democratic poll of the views and votes of the length and breadth of Team Ghost Cult (including our photographers, reviewers, newshounds, podcast and YouTube contributors) taken, with no editorial steer or amendment, we present to you Part 1 (75-41) of the Official Ghost Cult Albums of the Year for 2019, for your vulgar delectation… Continue reading
Buckle up, you’re about to enter an epic journey. If you’re just like me, that gets into the music and just get chills by listening to certain melody arrangements and you just cry; yes, cry, then this album will probably lead you to that (maybe not necessarily crying, but you catch my drift). It’s not because the music is necessarily sad, this is not the case here, but rather from the excitement of what you’re listening to. Well, that was my initial reaction to Wilderun’s third album, Veil of Imagination (Self-Released), I literally couldn’t stop the tears coming out of my eyes in awe of what the information my brain was receiving. The first track ‘The Unimaginable Zero Summer’, my absolute favorite, by the way, it’s a summary of what you will get from this album. From epic choir vocals to great instrumentalization, this album surely brings a great variety of elements that will make any Progressive Metal fan jump in excitement. Continue reading
Sleep at the Edge of the Earth (self-released) is the second album by Wilderun, a Folk Metal band from Boston, Massachusetts. They aim to not only play Folk Metal that can hold its own against the great European bands, but that also incorporates some of the American Folk traditions.
The opening number, ‘Dust and Crooked Thoughts’ immediately brings about that folky feel with acoustic guitars and running water, and is a very serene opening to the album, mirrored by the beautiful ‘Sleep at the Edge of the Earth’ that closes the album. Following on the introduction come the bulkiest bit of this album: the tetralogy of ‘Ash Memory’. These four songs are connected but all have their own distinct feel. ‘And So Opens the Earth’ is very bombastic, while ‘Hope and Shadow’ is very peaceful and gentle. ‘Bite the Wound’ is out and out Metal, while ‘The Faintest Echo’ has a very dark sound. Besides this wildly varying but effective tetralogy, I especially like ‘The Garden of Fire’, which is a very heavy song and has really interesting melodies and lines that really caught my attention.
Sometimes when a band tries to merge all their favourite styles of music together they end up falling on their face, but not so with Wilderun. For me the key word of this album is balance. They highlight an acoustic guitar in the midst of an onslaught of metal, and add all the heavy edges to an atmospheric folk section. The different vocals styles – regular vocals, chant-like vocals, and grunts – are always in perfect harmony with the music they feature in, and that’s exactly the way I like it. In fact, I frequently found myself grinning with joy at a particularly good riff or vocal line, because this album is a lot of fun.
Distinctly disturbing and beautifully harsh are words that best describe Chicago’s blackened death metal upstarts Immortal Bird. Although their debut release Akrasia (Closed Casket Recordings) has a scant four songs on it, the songs take the listener on an icy veined adventure to the soul. Running the gamut from classic black metal tropes, to modern death metal writing skills, a touch of thrash and some other impressive musical avenues too.
Masterminded by vocalist/drummer Rae Amitay (Thrawsunblat), she co-wrote all of the songs on guitar too, showing off her versatility in stepping out from behind her drum throne. Many times with projects like these, you get the impression the music is a foil for a singular vision, but the tight recording and strong performances of guitarist Evan Berry (Wilderun, Replacire) and bassist John Picillo sound like a true band. The production team of Jeff Ziolo, Kurt Ballou mixing at Godcity Studios, and mastering by Brad Boatright definitely eschews the no-fi tactics of most of the genre. The first track ‘Spitting Teeth’ exemplifies this approach with an unsettling guitar riff which gives way to a maelstrom of beats and screams. There are some great riffs and exciting tempo changes in this track that might be lost with lesser production values.
‘Ashen Scabland’ is just a hellish track. It definitely has an ebb and flow to it, with some mellower parts blunting the caustic slam of the thunderous drums. Fittingly the lyrics are equally as rough as the track, perfectly melding thoughts of regret and rage as much as the music does. ‘Akractic Seminar’ might almost be classified as avant-garde- blackened thrash and doom. The song kind of sneaks up on you with a discomforting tone. You get lulled by some discordant guitar work and a slight bit of clean singing, before getting your ears and your ass stomped in again. ‘The Pseudoscientist’ not only brings back the lyrical intellect, but being the shortest track on Akrasia, it has a sick urgency to it. The harrowing scream of pain at the halfway mark will curdle the blood of the toughest kvlt brood. The first flight of Immortal Bird is a bleak, but pleasing one.
Keith (Keefy) Chachkes