238 unique releases. 27 overlong lists. 10 collective favorites. And 1 frustrated compiler at the center of it all.
Using forgotten witchcraft and sophisticated algebra,1 and having negotiated unreliable contributors trying to break back into The Hall while drunk on hobo wine and spoiled eggnog, I am proud to have compiled and now to present our grand finale to the 2019 list season: the AngryMetalGuy.com Meta List. My personal views aside, the site has widely acknowledged this as a great year for our hallowed genre, a year which has featured noteworthy releases from bands both established and fresh, and ranging from the cheesiest power metal to the most crushing doom. It’s the latter of these two which seemingly won the year, taking home the coveted top spot and another two places in the top six. But take note of all of these releases and prepare to splash your Christmas cash as failure to do so means you’ve missed the releases which most pleased the AMG crowd.
However, I am duty-bound to register the displeasure of a vocal minority within our ranks; a minority which is horrified that the number 1 below is, in fact, the number 1. Its relative simplicity, and similarity to bands which existed 35 years ago, lends credence to the notion that this is ultimately an exercise in uncovering a list of lowest common denominators. This list rewards albums with broad appeal across our sizable network of writers, rather than the novel outliers.2 I also want to make a bemused shout-out to Blood Incantation, Insomnium and Black Sites, all of whom accrued 5 or more list selections but, because they were bottom-end selections, did not even get near the aggregated list. Compare this with our aggregated choices for 7, 8 and 10 below, all of which only hit 5 lists but were rated much more highly. Better luck next year lads. – El Cuervo
10. Soen // Lotus – [#2, #3, #4, #7 #HM] – Soen‘s progressive opus Lotus hit early in the year and has remained in rotation over the ensuing 11 months to hit no fewer than 5 of our lists. First and foremost highlighting the unbelievable vocals of Joel Ekelöf, Huck N’ Roll noted back in January that “Ekelöf is no longer ‘just’ a singer; he has matured into the band’s focal point, and a true force.” Meanwhile, Angry Metal Guy elucidates that “Lotus finds Soen delivering on their vision completely and growing as writers along the way. Not only is the album brilliantly produced – even the crushed master sounds good, [and] the vinyl master is divine – but the songwriting shows that Soen is maturing before our eyes and it is gratifying to see.” Great vocals, song-writing and production – what more could you want?
9. Devourment // Obscene Majesty – [#1, #2, #6, #9, #10, #HM] – Boldly proclaiming that “Obscene Majesty is the heaviest album ever,”3 Kronos was one of a number of writers who loved Devourment‘s latest. Crossing the (imperceptible, to my ears) line between brutal death metal and slam, the vocals are described by our Ferrous Beuller as “tectonic,” while the production is “inhospitable,” and the riffs “comprehensively obliterated” his body, mind and soul. Only with metal could a record be a “bone-rattling torrent of filth” and also Record o’ the Year but such is the case for Kronos. The two writers cited in this blurb are the resident death metal extremists so regard their authority by acquiring Obscene Majesty.
8. White Ward // Love Exchange Failure – [#2, #4, #5, #6, #7] – Representing by far the most interesting atmospheric/post-black metal in the recent past, “Love Exchange Failure is a brooding and melancholic yet romantic examination of modernity, utilizing shimmering guitars, lonely pianos, and a smooth saxophone. It never quite explodes but the creeping tension and ominous crescendos consolidate it as the most hypnotic and emotionally affecting release of 2019″ (El Cuervo). Defying easy categorization, White Ward have forged a sound which is somehow musically pristine but tonally gritty, laying jazz over its commentary on city life. TheKenWord explains this contrast: “it’s incredibly difficult to blend the smooth character of a saxophone with the icy malice of black metal, but thanks to a sturdy infrastructure and magnificent flow, this record makes the most of its constituent elements. And like the best things in life, it gets better with age.” This is the sound of black metal in 2019.
7. Firelink // The Inveterate Fire – [#2, #3, #5, #6, #7] – Opening in alarming fashion, Eldritch Elitist shouts that “The Inveterate Fire is so good that it makes me fucking angry. Firelink is just two guys recording music in a tiny bedroom with programmed drums. The Inveterate Fire should not be one of the best – and best-sounding – releases of the year, and yet it indisputably is.” Further combing through the specific qualities boasted by Firelink, L. Saunders highlights that “epic shredding, soulful melodies, and thrashy, skinflaying aggression shine on The Inveterate Fire, coalescing into an absolutely ripping platter of proggy, blackened melodeath, that’s fresh, exciting, and utterly vicious.” And remember that this is just a debut; just imagine where next year’s sophomore work could take us.
6. Slow // VI – Dantalion – [#2, #3, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #HM] – Sometimes I have to work hard to write these summary blurbs. Sometimes my job is very easy. I’ll let GardensTale tell the tale of Slow‘s crushing slab of funeral doom: “VI is a massive, gorgeous piece of symphonic-infused doom that moves like a glacier and hits like an avalanche. Layer upon layer is stacked, slowly grinding guitars joined by strings and keys subtly building into an emotionally complex structure that weighs as much as a neutron star. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be ground up under a tectonic plate while several orchestras play appropriately dramatic music at you, here’s your chance”. ‘Nuff said.
5. The Drowning // The Radiant Dark – [#1, #1, #2, #3, #7, #ish] – Immediately contextualizing The Drowning and The Radiant Dark, Master of Muppets declares “long have I loved the Peaceville Three, and yet never have I felt that any one album ever managed to fully master the brave new doomscape that the legendary assembly helped to forge – until now. Weeping guitars, pummeling drums, powerfully plodding tempos and the very voice of Hell adorn this gem in expertly nuanced doses.” Not only was it his #1 for 2019, it was also that of TheKenWord, describing this as “the easiest [list-related] choice I made. Say what you will about the drum performance (which is fine, shut up) or the mixing (okay that needed work) or some other unjustified third thing,4 nobody wrote better songs than these Brits in 2019″. Strong words for a strong record which is strongly loved.
4. Aephanemer // Prokopton – [#1, #1, #3, #4, #5, #ish, #HM] – Taking the melodeath crown for 2019, Prokopton fuses nifty, memorable riffs with synthetic strings, claiming their top spots and forging what Sentynel calls “a phenomenal record precision-crafted to press all my buttons” and what Dr. Wvrm calls “some of the most deliciously catchy melodies you’ve ever had poured down your throat.” The Wvrm goes on to remark that “Prokopton is one of the strongest markers in the genre that I’ve heard in since starting here. No caveats: no 120-minute runtime; no gimmicky joke track; no living up to glories past; just pure, unfiltered greatness”. If you don’t like pure, unfiltered greatness then I guess you shouldn’t bother with Prokopton. I further guess that even if you don’t like pure, unfiltered greatness you will probably enjoy it.
3. Idle Hands // Mana – [#2, #3, #3, #3, #4, #6. #6, #9, #ish, #ish] – Though Idle Hands garnered no RotY awards, it nonetheless swept up recommendations during list season like nobody’s business. While it isn’t thoroughbred metal, Mr Huck N’ Roll characterizes Mana as a “cool-when-it-shouldn’t-be brand of metal meets goth meets new wave” and that “front to back, this album is a blast to spin, with nary a single weak track.” Likewise, Steel Druhm observes that “every song is catchy and hyper-memorable, from the Overkill-adjacent speed of “Give Me to the Night” to the classic goth anthem, “Jackie,” you can’t shake these tunes out of your head once they’ve laid eggs”. You would do well to listen to the Druhm and Huck; not just because they’re old(e) and wise(ish), but because they’re absolutely right.
2. Wilderun // Veil of Imagination – [#1, #1, #1, #2, #6, #8, #9, #10, #HM, #HM] – There are insufficient superlatives to accurately describe what has been achieved here. El Cuervo attempted to encapsulate the component elements by commenting that “Veil of Imagination is a symphonic, progressive, deathy, blackened, folksy triumph, from its dizzying, behemothic opener to the equally vast and delicate finale.” Clearly there was some agreement over this as Wilderun picked up 3 top awards and 7 other list mentions. The elusive Dr. Fisting concurs that “Wilderun has raised the bar in almost every aspect imaginable. Veil of Imagination is incredibly complex musically, with some emotionally powerful moments throughout.” I’ll let Angry Metal Guy Himself wrap this one up: “it’s records like this one that remind us all of the strength of the full-length album as an art form.” Such albums remind us to step back to appreciate what music can be.
1. Fvneral Fvkk // Carnal Confessions – [#1, #1, #1, #3, #3, #5, #7, #7, #10, #ish, #HM, #HM] – With over 20% more voting points than its nearest competitor,5 the godawfully-named Fvneral Fvkk, and their debut release concerning the atrocities perpetrated against children by the Catholic Church, cantered home with the top award. No fewer than six top five selections and three #1s facilitated this win. Understandably, our writers tended toward the emotional impact of Carnal Confessions. Cherd of Doom describes it as “masterfully despondent,” while the ever-eloquent L. Saunders notes that it is “a compelling, disturbing and heart-wrenching slab of epic doom […] depressive but highly addictive, Carnal Confessions managed to send chills down my spine, make my eyes well, and head bang in unison, a rare quality indeed.” In summary, and in the words of drunken simian Steel Druhm, “this is hands down the best doom album of the year as well as the best overall metal album.”
- More like “forgotten algebra and sophisticated witchcraft” AMIRITE!? – AMG ↩
- Though, given what’s in the 2nd spot, that narrative does fall apart a little bit… – AMG ↩
- Patently inaccurate in a world which contains Kiss by Carly Rae Jepsen ↩
- Despite this adulation laid at the feet of The Radiant Dark by some in our ranks, it was equally criticized by others. I think this split roughly falls along the lines of who listens to their music through their stock iPhone earphones, and those who don’t (oh snap… – AMG); those who don’t could not ignore the brickwalled master, muddy mix and distracting drum tones. ↩
- It should be noted that El Cuervo figured this out because I tried to save the day for Wilderun by firing people to invalidate their lists. Alas, it was too difficult to get the number down to a reasonable amount of collateral damage just to make sure that Flaccid Fecvndity didn’t win the top prize. – AMG ↩