Best of 2019: 40-31

40. FLESH OF THE STARS, “Mercy” (self-released): Chicago doom band Flesh of the Stars went strangely under the radar for a lot of people this year, which is a real shame because their fourth record “Mercy” is one of the more imaginative slabs of this stuff that was released in 2019. Self-released and crawling under everyone’s cloud cover comes this impressive five-track, nearly 48-minute album that starts off with the 22-minute title track that is one of the most stunning songs of the entire year, as Rachel Rustemeyer adds her vocals to the song (she also appeared on 2015’s “Hide”) which just helps push that epic over the top. The rest of the record ain’t half bad either, friend. Check it out. (June 21)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fleshofthestarsdoom/

To buy the album, go here: https://fleshofthestars.bandcamp.com/

39. LUNGS, “Estuary” (self-released): Minnesota sludge doom dreamers Lungs always wear their gigantic imaginations on their sleeves, which they do again on their second record “Estuary” that helped make our autumn that much more intriguing. The band has their moments when they can be heavy as all hell, but they’re not afraid of melody, vocal harmonizing, and beauty, which makes their material stand out among a field that’s fairly saturated. Tracks such as “Matriarch,” “Oak,” and the monstrous “At the Estuary” made for some enthralling listening and also kind of slipped under some folks’ awareness this year. Luckily there’s no time limit for falling deep into their clutches. (Oct. 18)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lungsmusic/

To buy the album, go here: https://lungsmetal.bandcamp.com/

38. CHEVALIER, “Destiny Calls” (Gates of Hell): Wrap your arms in spikes, grab whatever Medieval weapon you have at your disposal, and ride into relentless battle with Finnish classic speed metal freaks Chevalier, who will be waiting for you with instructions. Led by hellfire-raising singer Emma Grönqvist (surely she makes Doro Pesch proud), the band stomps guts and brings the spirit of the early 1980s along with them on this 10-track, 46-minute record that has tons of blazing high points from “The Immurement,” “The Curse of the Dead Star,” “Stormbringer,” and “A Warrior’s Lament.” This band is a mighty force just getting started. (April 26)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Chevaliermetal/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.gatesofhellrecords.com/

37. BLUT AUS NORD, “Hallucinogen” (Debemur Morti): French black metal (I guess!) experimenters Blut Aus Nord are not likely to ever take a rest or fail to challenge themselves when it comes to making music, which is obvious from their 13th record “Hallucinogen.” The title tells you everything you need to know, as your mind will be sent into the cosmos to roll around and explore outer worlds. The band never has been more trancey than they are here, and the music simply follows them on this intellectual journey that runs over seven tracks and 49 immersive minutes.  Everything feels weird, and savagely so on “Nomos Nebulean,” “Sybelius,” and weird closer “Cosma Procyiris.” Starting to think the alien god promo photo might be more real than we know. (Sept. 20)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Vindsval.official/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

36. EXHUMED, “Horror” (Relapse): “Horror” might be the most well, duh album title of the year, but it does fit this long-running death-grind band since that’s what they’ve basically bathed in for years and years now. Their ninth record is a 15-track, 26-minute demolition derby of terror where the blood is splattered liberally, and you can’t get too comfortable in one spot before you’re neck jerked into something totally different. From “Unsound” to “Scream Out in Fright” to “Naked, Screaming, and Covered in Blood” to “In the Mouth of Hell,” these guys set fire to you and laugh while they watch you burn. (Oct. 4)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ExhumedOfficial/

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

35. ATLANTEAN KODEX, “The Course of Empire” (Van)”: Heavy metal can be a glorious, epic thing, though for a long time, it felt like bands were just growling and growling, pushing to the backburner the idea that strong singing can be just as effective. German metal titans Atlantean Kodex take things back to the time when Maiden and Priest ruled the Earth, and their great third record “The Course of Empire” delivers jolt after massive jolt of history and fantasy on this 10-track, 62-minute opus. You have to be clinically dead not to feel the enormous rush this band supplies, and if you find yourself swept off to an imaginative adventure taking on this record, there’s no way you’re alone on that one. (Sept. 2)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Musician-Band/Atlantean-Kodex-187524197964771/

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/index.php?language=en

34. IN HUMAN FORM, “III” (I, Voidhanger): Massachusetts-based progressive black metal band In Human Form never seem to have a hard time twisting our brains up and giving us mental meltdowns as they do on their devastating third album “III.” At three tracks and 47 minutes (um, the songs are long, in case you didn’t figure that out), the band goes all out with mixing all kinds of metallic psychosis into this stunning display, and their use of straightforward sax as a major factor in their music is an extra ripple that feels a little strange at first but totally makes sense as these songs work their way into your brain. Honestly, if I had more time with this record, this might have landed higher on the list. (Dec. 13)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/inhumanformihf/

To buy the album, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

33. ASHBRINGER, “Absolution” (Prosthetic): Putting on a record and hearing the band’s passion and energy pour right out of the speakers and into your own heart is a massive experience that helps you connect to the creators. That’s long been a trait for atmospheric black metal force Ashbringer, and that’s all over their tremendous third record “Absolution,” their debut for Prosthetic Records. There’s not a moment of the record that doesn’t flood with power, but a personal favorite for me is second track “Wilderness Walk” that captures their allegiance to nature and their surroundings in such an honest, genuine manner, you can’t help but get caught up in the emotion. The seven other tracks are great, too, but this is one of my favorite songs of any genre this year. (June 28)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ashbringermusic/

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://shop.prostheticrecords.com/

32. VALE, “Burden of Sight” (The Flenser): Metal’s supposed to be heavy and aggressive, and so much of it is, but then there are bands and records that make it feel like you’ve been flattened by a dump truck moments into the thing. Vale’s debut “Burden of Sight” is one of those albums, as this black metal/crust unit has complete destruction in mind on this six-track, 33-minute pounder, with vocalist Kate Coysh out front unapologetically destroying you. “Final Flesh” is an ideal opener as it sets the stage early about the carnage you’re about to witness, and they never relent over “Guilt Among the Dead,” “Starvation Eternal,” and “Grief Undone.” You’ll feel the effects of this thing long after it’s done, so ice down those muscles. (May 24)

For more on the band, go here: https://valeoakland.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://theflenser.com/

31. L’ACEPHALE, self-titled (Eisenwald): Long-running, Oregon-based black metal unit L’Acephale almost killed us on a long drive back from NYC during the spring. Let me explain. Second track “Gloria in Excelsis Mihi” came on, and the hypnotic singing from Geneviève Beaulieu (Menace Ruine) had us in such a deep, meditative trance, we thought we were going to drive off the road to our demise. That track, though, is a testament to how this band can get into your mind and alter what you’re seeing and hearing, setting you on a strange adventure that’ll devastate and entrance you along the way. I always have a hard time encapsulating L’Acephale’s vibe, so is that good enough? (April 19)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lacephale/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.store.eisenton.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.eisenton.de/label/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.