Mark Z.’s and L. Saunders’ Top Ten(ish) of 2019

Mark Z.

I grew a lot this year. No, I didn’t get more mature. I didn’t take on a new job, start flossing my teeth, or throw away my stuffed animal collection. I grew by stripping away things which were no longer worth caring about. I remember seeing Adam Jones explain the theme behind Tool’s Fear Inoculum, about how it’s partially about overcoming personal anxiety, such as no longer being afraid to wear socks with sandals. What the fuck? I thought to myself. This guy is decades older than me, and that’s the sort of stuff that consumes his thoughts? In 2019, more than any other year, I stopped worrying about things like that. I abandoned all shame, all pain, all guilt, all fear, all pursuit of higher meaning. Why keep lying to myself? After a year of exhaustion, I have achieved clarity. Only one thing truly matters to me anymore. I exist for one goal, one purpose, one reason:


Everything in my life is either directed toward this goal or an impediment to it. I recognize that some may share my ambition. As such, in addition to numerical rank, all of the below albums carry a Bang My Fukkin Head for the Master in Hell (BMFHFTMIH) Factor to help you determine which albums are best suited to pounding Michelob Ultras in your living room while neglecting all personal and professional responsibilities. Happy end of decade. Horns up fukkers!

#(ish). Idle Hands // Mana – A metallic Sisters of Mercy wasn’t something I realized I needed, nor was it something I expected to work so well. Admittedly, I like the sound of their debut EP a little better, but nonetheless the galloping goth metal of this Portland quintet’s debut earned its way onto many of my playlists and certainly deserved the recognition it got from this site and others. Not a big one for headbanging, but we all need something moody now and then. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 3

#10. Funeral Storm // Arcane Mysteries – The melodic and mystical sound of Greek black metal is here in full force on this Hellenic trio’s debut. Years in the making, the material here is actually fairly simple and direct, but that’s never been a bad thing in my book. Add a suitably mysterious atmosphere and some spectacular melodic riffs, and you have an album that’s sure to please fans of Varathron and Rotting Christ. Even if the headbangability is a bit on the low side. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 3

#9. Counterparts // Nothing Left to Love – Goddamn do I fucking love Counterparts. This Canadian melodic hardcore quartet put out one of the best albums of the decade with 2017’s You’re Not You Anymore, and while Love is a bit less consistent, it still achieves some truly dazzling heights. “Separate Wounds” and “Imprints” have earned their place on my list of favorite Counterparts songs ever, while the closing title track is an experimental, moody rock piece that somehow works despite being so radically different. Meanwhile the pummeling and mathy rhythms of songs like “Wings of Nightmares” were more than enough to get my noggin moving. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 6

#8. Cara Neir // Part III/Part IV – This Texas duo have spent their career evading easy categorization, and while I’ve always enjoyed them, they haven’t always blown me away. This fifth album is the sequel to Neir’s Part I/Part II debut from ten years ago and it houses some of the most gripping material I’ve ever heard from the band. Existing somewhere in the crawlspace between black metal, screamo, and post-hardcore, this album strikes with a desperate emotion that stems from its sharp dissonance and off-kilter melodies⁠—as if Discordance Axis were covering Touché Amoré. Add in some post-rock touches, wailing background singing, and even an outright trip-hop track, and you have one of the most eclectic and compelling albums I heard in 2019. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 4

#7. Coffin Rot // A Monument to the Dead – No matter what happens in life, nothing hits the spot like a really good death metal album. Despite their fetid lyrical content, this Portland quartet delivered riffs which felt surprisingly fresh, not to mention rhythms which made me reconsider the meaning of the word “pummeling.” Add in some truly distinct songs and you have what Holdeneye properly declared as “a fantastic sounding take on old school death metal.” Heads were fukkin banged. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 7

#6. Musket Hawk // Upside of Sick – Sludge and grindcore need to be combined more often. Musket Hawk understand this, and they spend 25 minutes trying to convince you of it with their third album Upside of Sick. In the vein of Soilent Green, this Maryland trio pound through an unrestrained and punky blend of sludge and grind that goes straight from banging riffs to big sludgy epics to surprisingly evocative melodies. The six songs here are all distinct, well-written, and complement each other in such a way that Sick just feels incredibly complete as a album, not to mention being refreshingly free of bullshit and containing plenty of moments that get the head bobbin. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 7

#5. Alcoholocaust // Necro Apocalipse Bestial – Holy fukk. Here it is, the album that (based on the name) I expected to be a 1.5 blackened thrash disasterpiece, but instead ended up being the siren song for my inner alcoholic. Who would have thought the production would be so good? Who would have thought the riffs would slay so hard? Who would have thought I’d put a fukkin hole through my wall while blasting the chorus of “Speed Metal Tornado?” This, my friends, is the sound of abandoning your job, your loved ones, your earthly possessions, and transcending into a state where the only things that matter are beer and riffs. This is blackened thrash that’s tailor-made for going into a liquor rage, pissing all over your boss’s desk, and leaving a shit in the coffee pot on the way out. Trust me, it’s what the Dark Lord would want. BMFHFTMIH Factor: Fukkin 10

#4. Mystifier // Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia – At the start of 2019 I knew nothing about Mystifier, but boy am I glad I decided to take a chance on them. Protogoni is the Brazilian blackened death trio’s first new album since 2001 despite having formed in 1989 and released several albums in the 90s. Retaining the otherworldly aura, ritualistic vibes, and buzzing riffs of their early works, Protogoni shows them refining their songwriting into something far more accessible than it has any right to be (just give “Six Towers of Belial’s Path” a listen). The variety here is superb, and the core sound of Sarcófago meets Beherit meets Rotting Christ was more than enough to keep Protogoni in my listening rotation throughout the year. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 5, but don’t let that stop you

#3. Kryptos // Afterburner – I like classic heavy metal riffs, but in recent years I’ve started enjoying clean vocals less and less. Indian quartet Kryptos apparently heard my plea and answered it. One of our fellow writers described Afterburner as being “only riffs,” and while that might be considered a slight against any other album, here the riffs are so good that it’s not a negative at all. Check the galloping hooks of “Afterburner,” the Judas Priest crunch of “Cold Blood,” or (my personal favorite) the impossibly catchy melodies of “Mach Speed Running.” Though the harsh vocals may keep some away, the flow here is great, the songwriting has just enough mixups to keep things interesting, and as a whole Afterburner is pure, slick heavy metal fun. BMFHFTMIH Factor: 8

#2. Slutvomit // Copulation of Cloven Hooves – In a dark corner of the Pacific Northwest, the forces of black, death, and thrash metal came together and forged Slutvomit’s second album. In the spirit of Nifelheim and Nocturnal Graves, this is relentless and raw extreme metal whose initially abrasive nature belies just how damn good it actually is. Check the catchy oscillating notes of opener “Command for Triumph/Genocide Lust,” the dramatic climax of the title track, or the crunchy headbanging riffs that constantly crop up in the album’s second half. With each passing day after my review published, I constantly found myself wanting to return to Copulation⁠—to revel in the searing riffs, to wallow in the Slutvomit, to let its utter lack of fukks carry me away. Copulation is music of spikes, leather, and sticky bathroom stalls. It’s niche. It’s unforgiving. It doesn’t care about you passing judgment. You either embrace the Vomit or you fukk off. Either way, fukk you. BMFHFTMIH Factor: Fukk you

#1. Downfall of Gaia // Ethic of Radical Finitude – The world is dying. Downfall of Gaia know this, just look at their name. But whereas Cattle Decapitation’s newest seems to have garnered mixed reception while operating under a similar theme, Gaia’s newest seems to have gone largely unnoticed. That’s a damn shame, because this is easily the best album the German quartet have ever produced. I’ve always enjoyed their blend of black and post-metal, which in my eyes has placed them as torchbearers of the Altar of Plagues sound. With Ethic, the band have collected their best traits into one grand and cohesive opus, an album where every moment works within both the individual song and the album as a whole. There is rushing black metal and tense ambiance, there are weeping leads and rumbling buildups, and through it all there’s a sense of desperation as the listener realizes that maybe humankind is committing suicide on the grandest scale. Powerful, relevant, and brilliantly executed, this was easily my favorite work to come out of 2019. BMFHFTMIH Factor: We’re beyond that

Honorable Mentions

  • Urn // Iron Will of Power – Anthemic blackened thrash that showed these Finns delivering their most mature and vicious work yet. Similarities to Destroyer 666 and Desaster are always okay in my book, and ultimately Power ended up being one of my favorite blackened thrash albums of the year.
  • Witch Vomit // Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave – Portland really killed it this year (see Coffin Rot above) and Witch Vomit’s second album was a great example as to why. Relentless, concise, and well-crafted, this death metal platter reeked like an Autopsy yet ripped like a ravenous reanimated corpse. Plus, the band has vomit in their name.
  • Barbarian // To No God Shall I Kneel – Knuckle-dragging, hairy caveman metal with a lot of hooks and even more variety. Fluttering classic metal harmonies go surprisingly well with the gruff roars, and closing the whole thing out with a bellowing singalong epic was a surefire way to earn this Italian trio’s fourth album a spot in my collection.

Disappointments o’ the Year

  • Astronoid // Astronoid – Coming off a stellar debut that sounded like Deafheaven mixed with Coheed & Cambria, this Boston band’s self-titled second album floundered under dull songwriting and sluggish tempos. Considering their debut remains one of my favorite albums of the decade, I can only hope they turn it around for #3.
  • Ketzer // Cloud Collider – I was wrong to give this a 3.5 as it easily deserves a point lower. While this German extreme metal band’s fourth album marks an improvement from 2016’s Starless, that’s like saying the beer shits you had this morning were an improvement from the post-Taco Bell eruption you experienced last Saturday. The vocals lacked conviction, memorable riffs were scarce, and overall it seems we’ll never get the Satan’s Boundaries Unchained Part II that I want so badly.
  • Ares Kingdom // By the Light of Their Destruction – Hardly a bad album, but once again the 3.5 I gave it was far too high. In a conscious effort to be more primitive, memorable riffs are either obscured or wholly absent. While the approach isn’t bad, Light pales in comparison to the death-thrash trio’s first two albums.

Song o’ the Year

Counterparts’ “Imprints” – A pummeling and progressive melodic hardcore anthem of the highest order. The fact that those leads during the chorus and final minute were actually written and performed by a human being are almost enough to make me believe in a higher power. The way those notes bend and soar in the outro while vocalist Brendan Murphy screams like his skin is being peeled off his back just makes me want to blast this so loud my windows blow out.

Song o’ the Year – Runner Up

Riot City’s “Burn the Night” – Occasionally something is so over-the-top that you can’t help but enjoy it. “Burn the Night” is a great example, a classic heavy metal banger that puts the pedal through the fukkin floor and sends your eyeballs flying to the back of your skull. You hear the vocalist hit an impossibly high note during the verse and SURPRISE he keeps singing at that register until the chorus smacks you upside the head with its driving riffs and fist-pumping gang shouts. I guarantee that there was at least one speeding ticket issued because of this song.

Song o’ the Year – Your Glorious Exit

Kryptos’ “Mach Speed Running” – Those cruising melodic riffs are so damn catchy and carefree that it’s impossible not to crack a smile. This is what it feels like to be driving down a coastal highway in a pink convertible, the stereo blaring and the top back, all worries left miles behind you. Bring it on 2020!

L. Saunders

Being a part of Angry Metal Guy over the past five years has been a fun and rewarding journey, watching the blog grow in stature, expand and develop into the juggernaut of awesomeness it remains today, with a truly inspiring group of people and top notch writers. The place has been a rock for me during the past couple of rough years, where personal and professional challenges have produced plenty of life hurdles. In the end, the positives outweighed the negatives for me in 2019, despite some difficult times and challenges.

As has become my life norm, AMG has kept me grounded and occupied, even if once again I haven’t contributed as much material as I would have liked. In a bumper year of heavy music, 2019 delivered the goods. Yes, perhaps it didn’t quite deliver a multitude of truly groundbreaking and phenomenal works, but I can scarcely recall listening to so many great and borderline great albums in a calendar year during recent times.

I listened to a shit ton of music this year and a lot of it was pretty damn good. Various albums enjoyed high rotation throughout the year, including Misery Index, Moon Tooth, Beastwars, Venom Prison, and recent highlight Obsequiae, yet were eventually bullied out of the list zone. I also concede I wasn’t brvtal enough, not investing ample time into albums from Pathology, Devourment, and Unfathomable Ruination among others. And I only recently began getting acquainted with highly lauded albums from Aephanemer and Eternal Storm. I’m certainly looking forward to the post-list season catch up period.

I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude for the tireless hard work, support, and inspiration of the entire AMG community, from the big wigs and editors, Angry Metal Guy, Steel Druhm, Madam X, Doc Grier and Dr. Wvrm, to the killer tech skills of Sentynel, and the wonderfully creative writing skills from the ever-growing team. Last but not least, a heartfelt thanks to our amazing readership for being there day in, day out and helping make this blog the authority of metal journalism it is today. Wishing everyone a safe and happy holidays and a great 2020.

#(ish). Gomorrah // Gomorrah – The talented Canadian duo raised the stakes on their lean and mean sophomore LP. Aided by the brilliant percussive talents of Hannes Grossman, Gomorrah is a brutal, atmospheric, and blasty example of modern tech death, bolstered by engaging, memorable songwriting and jaw-dropping musicianship. The compact run-time proved complimentary to the album’s replay value. Gomorrah set the bar at an intimidating height for technical death in 2019.

#10. Necropanther // The Doomed City – I have an unhealthy addiction to Necropanther, which began with last year’s phenomenal Eyes of Blue Light opus. Wasting no time, Necropanther return with another crackerjack album of some of the coolest metal on the fucking planet. What it may lack in the jack-in-the-box, livewire melodicism and instantly penetrating hooks of Eyes of Blue Light, The Doomed City compensates through a more well-rounded and dynamic attack that has reaped rewards through repeated listens. And I get the feeling this is an album that is going to keep on giving, with its scorching barrage of thrashy, blackened, and righteously entertaining melodeath, featuring insanely catchy riffcraft and truly one of a kind vocals from Paul Anop.

The album cover of the Record of the Month: Disillusion - The Liberation#9. Disillusion // The LiberationTool weren’t the only band returning from a 13-year gap between albums. Germany’s unsung progressive melodeath innovators Disillusion dropped their long awaited third album, The Liberation. Thankfully, the band returned to a sound closer to their classic debut, rather than the disjointed experimentation of Gloria. However, The Liberation is no rehash of past glories. Instead it’s another inspired, melodramatic explosion of vibrant prog and sleek melodic death. The exceptional album highlights, “Wintertide” and the title track, are perfectly executed progressive metal epics, while “Time to Let Go” is a dreamy, emotive, and utterly addictive gem.

The album cover of Wilderun's - Veil of Imagination - a slightly surrealist, twisted tree covered in flowers#8. Wilderun // Veil of Imagination – Although not quite the follow-up I was expecting from the brilliant Sleep at the Edge of the Earth, Veil of Imagination has grown on me considerably with each listen, revealing its depth, intricate layers and deceptive hooks. Ambitious, progressive and symphonic folk metal with a healthy, Opethian death metal kick, Veil of Imagination is a frequently stunning album, only held back slightly by some bloat and occasional moments that come across too cheesy and melodramatic for my tastes. More often than not it’s a majestic, superbly written, and finely crafted evolution of their signature style.

#7. The Offering // HomeThe Offering’s oddball genre bending assault on the senses should dissolve into an awkward, incoherent mess, yet somehow the band make it work on their superb debut LP, Home. Home is a wildly adventurous and frequently thrilling ride of technical, modern prog metal that whips power, prog, thrash, death, metalcore, djent, and various other oddities, into an aggressive, innovative and hugely addicting sound. The songs are catchy, technical, full of dynamic twists and overflowing with character and creativity. Tunes “Waste Away,” “Lovesick” and “Failure (S.O.S)” are stomping, vibrant modern metal anthems with old school attitude, while “Home” is a sprawling, spectacular prog extravaganza.

#6. Firelink // The Inveterate Fire – Appears that 2019 was the year of stunning debuts. The Inveterate Fire, inspired by the Dark Souls trilogy, signals the emergence of Atlanta’s Firelink as a new voice in the underground. I slept on this earlier in the year, but it has since stormed its way into list territory with a series of generally lengthy, razor sharp and compelling compositions. 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.

#5. Warcrab // Damned in Endless Night – UK’s Warcrab pummeled my senses upon my delayed discovery of their 2017 LP, Scars of Aeons. Damned in Endless Night takes things up a notch and is the band’s most accomplished, impressive work to date. Effortlessly combining bluesy, NOLA-esque sludge and downtrodden influence of countrymen Iron Monkey with a meaty dose of classic Bolt Thrower, Warcrab continued refining and polishing their imposing sound into a deadly weapon of destruction, where death, doom and sludge collide. Chock full of groove, soul, sledgehammer riffage and memorable writing, Damned in Endless Night is a formidable slab of metal.

Soen - Lotus#4. Soen // Lotus I’ve been a big fan of Sweden’s prog metal maestros Soen since I came across their sublime sophomore album, Tellurian, and awarded it Album o’ the Year honors back in 2014. Production issues aside, Tellurian resonated with me on a deep, personal level. In theory Lotus is the band’s best work. And while it hasn’t gripped me with the force of Tellurian, it’s a superb album which finally sees Soen come to their senses in the production department, while continuing their emotive, chunky and contemplative brand of classy progressive metal. Canadian guitarist Cody Ford fits the Soen sound like a glove, adding some epic, Floydian-esque solos to the typically crunchy, infectious prog metal riffs.

The Odious - Vesica Piscis Cover#3. The Odious // Vesica PiscisI missed The Odious when they made an initial splash in the progressive metal scene back in 2011-2012. The surprise factor certainly made Vesica Piscis extra special, as I became swiftly acquainted with this long gestating sophomore album, as well as the band’s impressive early works. Easily one of my most played albums of 2019, I simply couldn’t get enough of Vesica Piscis and its colorfully written, shape-shifting compositions. The Odious embraced their progressive complexities while incorporating a wide palette of sounds and influences, from spazzy math rock, djent, death, hardcore and Alice in Chains inspired ’90s alt rock. Somehow the band managed to make it all come together with an unpredictable, highly memorable, and cohesive collection of killer tunes.

#2. Sermon // Birth of the Marvellous – Emerging in a shroud of mystery, one-man project Sermon, aided by the elite drumming of Vader’s James Stewart, brought an intriguing conceptual context into the darkly progressive musical core. There was stiff competition in the progressive metal landscape of 2019, but Sermon produced a stylish, epic and beautifully composed album brimming with energy, emotion and stellar songcraft. Wrapped in an excellent production and featuring the powerful, understated vocals from the anonymous mastermind, Birth of the Marvellous delivered on multiple levels.

#1. Fvneral Fvkk // Carnal Confessions – Narrowing down and locking in a number one pick was another difficult endeavor this year. In the end I landed on the incredible debut LP from Germany’s Fvneral Fvkk. I didn’t consume a huge amount of doom this year, and though I remember being impressed with their 2017 EP, I couldn’t have imagined this band, comprised of scene veterans, would deliver such a compelling, disturbing and heart-wrenching slab of epic doom, combining traditional and modern doom tropes into an unforgettable package. Calling out the despicable sins of members of the clergy, Fvneral Fvkk crafted a gut churning collection of harrowing tunes. 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. The album has remained in high rotation and is without doubt one of the finest doom albums in recent years. Songs like “Chapel of Abuse,” “Alone with the Cross,” and “The Hallowed Leech” will squeeze your soul, break your heart, and have you scrambling back for more of Fvneral Fvkk’s mournful, riffy doom and deeply affecting melodies.

Fvneral Fvkk album cover

Honorable Mentions

  • Car Bomb // Mordial – New York powerhouse Car Bomb finally landed on my radar. Mordial is a feisty, brain scrambling blend of intricate mathcore, alt rock, and searing extreme metal, executed in violently propulsive bursts of color, complexity and cement smashing grooves.
  • Blood Incantation // Hidden History of the Human RaceHidden History of the Human Race is another impressive, mind-bending platter of Floridian-styled old school death, filtered through a modern, progressive lens. More appreciation time would no doubt have found the album ranking higher.
  • Tool // Fear Inoculum – I’ve been a Tool fanboy since the late ’90s, so despite all the hype, false starts, and Maynard’s pretentious bullshit, I was skeptical but hyped by a new album. Fear Inoculum is the least hooky and immediate Tool album, unfolding in complex layers of winding progressive rock/metal. Yet it still sounds unmistakably like Tool, albeit in a more restrained, meditative state. It’s a frequently engaging listen and welcome return.
  • Shadow of Intent // Melancholy – Symphonic deathcore you say? I’m as surprised as you, but Shadow of Intent do deathcore better than most. Melancholy is an over-the-top blend of brutality, bombast, technicality and sick grooves.
  • Paladin // Ascension – It’s an exhilarating experience to step outside your comfort zone and be blown away. I don’t much care for power metal, yet Paladin’s debut LP Ascension kept sucking me back for more of its delightful guitar pyrotechnics, classic metal harmonies, and aggressive injections of thrash and melodeath.
  • Borknagar // True North – I’m relative latecomer to the Bork party. Though I have a soft spot for 2012’s Urd, beyond that, my experience with the band is limited. That changed with True North, a truly epic blast of blackened prog, loaded with earworm hooks, sensational clean vocals, and elite musicianship.
  • Weeping Sores // False Confession – Maybe I didn’t spend enough time appreciating the very good album from The Drowning. More likely I was too absorbed with the debut LP from underground powerhouse Weeping Sores, led by Pyrrhon mastermind Doug Moore, for my death-doom fix.
  • Black Sites // Exile – Chunky, riff-driven old school metal with a sleek modern sheen, Exile is loaded with catchy metal anthems, great musicianship, and improved production. Overall, it’s a strong progression from the impressive debut.
  • Spirit Adrift // Divided by Darkness – An early year highlight, Divided by Darkness solidified and refined the sound adopted so successfully on Curse of Conception. Spirit Adrift continued evolving into a rifftastic juggernaut, wielding thunderbolts of classic metal and hard rocking doom.
  • No One Knows What the Dead Think // No One Knows What the Dead Think – Sleek, gritty modern grind handled by scene legends crafting top shelf material.

Best EPs

Man Must Die // Gagging Order

Wormed // Metaportal

Disappointment o’ the Year

Finding out the mastermind behind one of my favorite modern metal bands is a cowardly, abusive dirtbag was a punch in the guts, tarnishing the legacy of an incredible band. Further to this, fuck the scummy Nazi enthusiasts infiltrating the metal scene and rearing their ugly heads. They need to be called out, shunned and driven back into the rat holes they emerged from.

Song o’ the Year

Disillusion’s “Wintertide” – There were many strong contenders for Song o’ the Year honors. In the end I wanted to close out 2019 in epic, bombastic fashion. Enter Disillusion’s monstrous “Wintertide,” from their long awaited comeback album, The Liberation. Bringing together all the grand elements that make Disillusion such a special band in the field of innovative progressive melodeath, “Wintertide” is a winding tale of dazzling beauty, gripping hooks, and seismic dynamic shifts.

« »