A December to Despair: The AMG Staff Picks the Top Ten Records o’ 2019

The end of another year. The end of a decade. Time is the everflowing stream Dismember forgot to mention. 2019 saw us breaking in and brainwashing a brand new horde of unruly n00bs, and for the most part, they aren’t totally terrible. They are however constantly underfoot and getting themselves into unnecessary mischief. They’re in the skull pit looking for the bones of friends long departed, they’re splashing around in the ichor of the promo sump, swinging on meathooks in the murder room and stabbing at one another in the electric needle hut. Very little of these daily shenanigans increases staff productivity or improves AMG Blogwork’s bottom line. Because of this lackadaisical work ethic, 2020 will be a year of draconian discipline and brutal expectations. Deadlines will be both unreasonable and non-negotiable, and metalcore and no-fi basement black metal will be dolled out like rich, creamy justice for the slightest infraction. Rejoice, ye n00b crew, and make very merry while you can. The new year will be a much different slice of ape cake, served cold and without a drop of hobo wine to chase it with.

By the way, here is a series of lists by our beloved staff members. We won’t apologize for their tastes, but some of them probably should.

Dr. Fisting

#(ish): Devil Master // Satan Spits on Children of Light
#10: Nocturnus AD // Paradox
#9: Misery Index // Rituals of Power
#8: The Neptune Power Federation // Memoirs of a Rat Queen
#7: Cave In // Final Transmission
#6: Sacred Reich // Awakening
#5: The Wildhearts // Renaissance Men
#4: Opeth // In Cauda Venenum (Swedish Version)
#3: Idle Hands // Mana
#2: Arch/Matheos // Winter Ethereal
#1: Wilderun // Veil of ImaginationIt was a tough call between this and Arch/Matheos, but in the end, AMG’s unofficial house band emerged triumphant. While their previous record set a high standard, Wilderun has raised the bar in almost every aspect imaginable. Veil of Imagination is incredibly complex musically, with some emotionally powerful moments throughout. Side note: I’m still pissed off that I missed a rare live appearance by these guys earlier this year.

The album cover of Wilderun's - Veil of Imagination - a slightly surrealist, twisted tree covered in flowers

Honorable Mentions:

Darkthrone // Old Star
Sanhedrin // The Poisoner

Song o’ the Year: Idle Hands “Jackie”

Biggest Disappointment: Baroness // Gold & Grey


#(ish): Blood Incantation // Hidden History of the Human Race
#10: Fvneral Fvkk // Carnal Confessions
#9: Dawn Ray’d // Behold Sedition Plainsong
#8: Necropanther // The Doomed City
#7: Immortal Bird // Thrive on Neglect
#6: Vimur // Triumphant Master of Fates
#5: Sunn O))) // Pyroclasts
#4: Exhorder // Mourn the Southern Skies
#3: Tomb Mold // Planetary Clairvoyance
#2: BIG|BRAVE // A Gaze Among Them
#1: Waste of Space Orchestra // Syntheosis – “The world is coming to an end, but we don’t care, because we’re moon-tan nocturnal, vinyl-consuming animals drifting easy through friendly space. An analog trance, nothing can doom this groove!”

Honorable Mentions:

An Isolated Mind // I’m Losing Myself
Cult of Luna // A Dawn to Fear
Drastus // La Croix de Sang
Mizmor // Cairn
Schammasch // Hearts of No Light

Song o’ the Year: Sunn O)))“Between Sleipnir’s Breaths”


#(ish): The Moth Gatherer // Esoteric Oppression
#10: The Offering // Home
#9: Thank You Scientist // Terraformer
#8: The Night Watch // An Embarrassment of Riches
#7: TheNightTimeProject // Pale Season
#6: Insomnium // Heart Like a Grave
#5: Fvneral Fvkk // Carnal Confessions
#4: Dream Tröll // Second to None
#3: Dialith // Extinction Six
#2: Borknagar // True North
#1: Aephanemer // Prokopton – This has been a big year for me personally, making my reviewing debut after finally escaping the server room. It’s also been a big year for metal, with a string of absolutely top-notch releases inciting a frankly worrying degree of unity in the writers’ room. Apehammer sit atop them all, with a phenomenal record precision-crafted to press all my buttons. It’s a testament to the rest of the year that I even had to think about this choice. It’s a testament to the strength of Aephanemer’s songwriting that Prokopton was still the obvious #1 choice.

Honorable Mentions:

Alcest // Spiritual Instinct
Belzebubs // Pantheon of the Nightside Gods
Dead Feathers // All Is Lost
Quayde LaHüe // Love Out of Darkness

Best Thing I Missed in 2018: Midas Fall // Evaporate

Song o’ the Year: Borknagar“Up North”


#10. Pound // ..
#9. Devourment // Obscene Majesty
#8. Cattle Decapitation // Death Atlas
#7. Fen // The Dead Light
#6. Blut Aus Nord // Hallucinogen
#5. Falls of Rauros // Patterns in Mythology
#4. Laster // Het Wassen Oog
#3. Deathspell Omega // The Furnaces of Palingenesia
#2. Esoteric // A Pyrrhic Existence
#1. Mizmor // Cairn

The album art for Mizmor - Cairn

Honorable Mentions:

Xoth // Interdimensional Invocations
Unfathomable Ruination // Enraged and Unbound
Blood Incantation // Hidden History of the Human Race
An Isolated Mind // I’m Losing Myself
Caina // Gentle Illness

Biggest Disappointment: 2019


#(ish): Eternal Storm // Come the Tide
#(ish): The Drowning // The Radiant Dark
#10: Árstíðir Lífsins // Saga á tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr
#9. Véhémence // Par le Sang Versé
#8. Wilderun // Veil of Imagination
#7. Slow // VI – Dantalion
#6. Aether // In Embers
#5. Aephanemer // Prokopton
#4. Atlantean Kodex // The Course of Empire
#3. Arctos // Beyond the Grasp of Mortal Hands
#2. Embrace of Disharmony // De Rervm Natvra
#1. Rosk // remnants – I’ve always had a soft spot for neofolk, and I gushed enough about this album in my earlier review that this shouldn’t be a surprising pick for anyone who has read it. But to put it simply, remnants is a special, powerful, and expertly crafted album. The simplicity of its concept gives way to a powerful and emotional performance complemented by a rare production that I consider basically perfect. This is an album of pure, beautiful, expertly-illustrated sorrow, and it is one of few albums that I can listen to regardless of prior mood or setting. I really can’t recommend it enough.

Honorable Mentions:

Manntra // Oyka!
Evohé // Deus Sive Natura
Crown of Autumn // Byzantine Horizons
Soen // Lotus

Song o’ the Year: Slow – “Incendiaire

Biggest Disappointment Avantasia // Moonglow


#10. Esoteric // A Pyrrhic Existence
#9. Spirit Adrift // Divided by Darkness
#8. Misþyrming // Algleymi
#7. Blood Incantation // Hidden History of the Human Race
#6. Cult of Luna // A Dawn to Fear
#5. White Ward // Love Exchange Failure
#4. Aephanemer // Prokopton
#3. Fvneral Fvkk // Carnal Confessions
#2. Eternal Storm // Come the Tide
#1. Sinmara // Hvísl Stjarnanna There was a lot of really good black metal this year, but none hit the spot quite like the sophomore album from Icelandic black metallers, Sinmara. Striking the perfect balance between fury, power, and dissonance, Hvísl Stjarnanna managed to improve upon Aphotic Womb in every way. Its sound is cavernous, intimidating, yet accessible, and it improves as the tracks progress. While the first half is fantastic, the second half is simply on another level to anything I’ve heard this year (and I listened to a lot of black metal). Starting with “Crimson Stars,” the album really explodes with the final three songs. They are, quite simply, staggering: building upon and complementing each other perfectly. I knew when I first heard this that it would probably be the number 1 album of the year for me. Nothing I heard subsequently really came close to displacing it. Essential.

Honorable Mentions:

Drawn into Descent // The Endless Endeavour
Venom Prison // Samsara
Mayhem // Daemon
Obsequiae // The Palms of Sorrowed Kings

Song o’ the Year: Aephanemer“The Sovereign”

Biggest Disappointment: Baroness // Gold & Grey

Dear Hollow

#(ish): Yellow Eyes // Rare Field Ceiling
#10. Altarage // The Approaching Roar
#9. Belzebubs // Pantheon of the Nightside Gods
#8. Cult of Luna // A Dawn to Fear
#7. White Ward // Love Exchange Failure
#6. Fit for an Autopsy // The Sea of Tragic Beasts
#5. A Swarm of the Sun // The Woods
#4. Hwwauoch // Into the Labyrinth of Consciousness
#3. In Mourning // Garden of Storms
#2. The Great Old Ones // Cosmicism
#1. Abyssal // A Beacon in the Husk – A sleeper hit that snuck in for a killer listen. The one-man act’s fourth full-length is a flawless and devastating tour de force of esoteric death metal, abstract, dissonant, and doomed up in ways like-minded brutalizers neglect. A Beacon in the Husk is an ambitious concept album whose blackened, noise-saturated sound reflects its turbid poetry, a sunless journey of discovery through the eeriest corridors of things unknown. It’s the aural equivalent of an eclipse: mysterious, unknown, and terrifying, but imposing and unforgettable. It’s a challenging listen that requires multiple visits, but the jagged shards of light found within the murky gloom are more than worth the effort.

Honorable Mentions:

Venom Prison // Samsara
Vanum // Ageless Fire
Hashshashin // Badakhstan
American Football // American Football [LP3]
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds // Ghosteen

Biggest Disappointment: Fallujah // Undying Light – Because really?


#(ish): Maeskyyrn // Interlude
#10. Ashbringer // Absolution
#9. Glare of the Sun // Theia
#8. Nachtterror // Judgement
#7. Fvneral Fvkk // Carnal Confessions
#6. Warcrab // Damned in Endless Night
#5. Grima // Will of the Primordial
#4. Rosk // remnants
#3. The Drowning // The Radiant Dark
#2. Slow // VI – Dantalion
#1. Cult of Luna // A Dawn to Fear – I love this record and this band but went back and forth on picking it as my AotY. I worried that choosing a relatively mainstream album might damage my metal cred. But then, recalling my intensive AMG training, I asked myself: what would Steel say? And I’m confident he would say: “who gives a shit, you’ve got no fucking credibility, n00b!” With that pep talk under my belt, I’m sticking with it. I’ve been a big fan of Cult of Luna ever since The Beyond but A Dawn to Fear is arguably their heaviest and, for me, strongest outing to date. Johannes Persson’s harsh vocals are at their devastating best, while, across the satisfyingly massive runtime, the rest of the band layer texture upon rich texture. The organ, bass, and drums all sound stunning, and the guitar is both crushingly brutal and melodically beautiful. Even 60 minutes in, closing tracks “Inland Rain” and “The Fall” still slay me every time. Any doubts I still harbored melted away when I saw them live a few nights ago. So fuck credibility!

Honorable Mentions:

A Swarm of the Sun // The Woods
Downfall of Gaia // Ethic of Radical Finitude
Kull // Exile
Kval // Laho
Schammasch // Hearts of No Light

Song o’ the Year: Borknagar“Tidal”


#(ish): Anthrocene // Nucleation
#10. Astralium // Land of Eternal Dreams
#9. Suldusk // Lunar Falls
#8. Insomnium // Heart Like a Grave
#7. Brymir // Wings of Fire
#6. Russian Circles // Blood Year
#5. Alcest // Spiritual Instinct
#4. Belzebubs // Pantheon of the Nightside Gods
#3. Aephanemer // Prokopton
#2. Wilderun // Veil of Imagination
#1. Paladin // Ascension – While coming up with this list of my top albums from 2019 was troubling, to say the least, selecting my #1 was a no-brainer. Paladin’s debut album Ascension is 49 minutes of pure, limitless fun. Hailing from Atlanta, the power thrash group galloped onto the metal scene in late spring with such exuberance and freshness, they were impossible to ignore. Ascension almost immediately became one of my go-to albums from 2019. As if Ascensions’ melodies weren’t catchy enough, the sounds of my boyfriend learning the guitar parts from “Black Omen” drifted from our studio room night after night throughout the summer, causing them to be even more permanently ingrained in my brain. And let me tell you; I’m still not tired of it! Seeing Paladin live in October proved both how impeccably technical and charismatic each of the four band members is. 2019 belongs to Paladin, and I can’t wait to see what new heights they ascend to in years to come.

Honorable Mentions:

Arctos // Beyond the Grasp of Mortal Hands
Big|Brave // A Gaze Among Them
Florist // Emily Alone
Penguin Cafe // Handfuls of Night

Song o’ the Year: Paladin “Black Omen”

Biggest Disappointment: Sonata Arctica // Talviyö

Legal Disclaimer: The tastes of the AMG staff do not reflect those of AMG, Steel Druhm, or Madam X (collectively known as AMG Management). Unauthorized attribution of the aforementioned tastes to AMG Management will be considered a “dick move” in direct violation of our comment section rule and subject to excessive Banhammering.

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