My Favorite Records of 2019

2019 my consumption went down compared to previous years. I played even more guitar than last year, that’s probably why I didn’t listen as much. According to last.fm, I still listened to a lot. I also released an EP with Tides Cult. There’s 35 records instead of 25 because there were just too many good ones, I guess. I make the rules!


Albums I released in 2019

Tides Cult - Your Memory Has Tarnished This Beautiful Place

Google Play | Spotify | Bandcamp


And now, on to my favorites of the year…

35.) Teeth - The Curse of Entropy

Google Play | Spotify

I’m not very familiar with Teeth, so I’ve never experienced their older, sludgier material. However, this is death metal greatness right here. In a year overflowing with quality death metal releases, Teeth managed to keep it unique and tight throughout this gem.

34.) Warforged - I: The Voice

Google Play | Spotify

Fellow Chicagoans Warforged released a companion film for I: The Voice. That is the best way to experience this record. Technical death metal at it’s finest.

33.) Blackwater Holylight - Veils of Winter

Google Play | Spotify

Really excellent sludgy, doomy, stonery riffs from 5 badass ladies in Portland, OR. This record is so damn catchy, good luck getting the hooks out of your brain.

32.) Alcest - Spiritual Instinct

Google Play | Spotify

Kodama was a massive record, and this is the worthy follow up. Definitely a different feel, as seems to be the theme on all their records, which is something I love about Alcest. They blur the lines between post-metal, black metal, and an almost pop like song creation. I got to see them do Kodama in full, they should do the same thing for this one!

31.) Haunter - Sacramental Death Qualia

Google Play | Spotify

Texas brings the heat! These dudes unleash a fury of blackened death metal. Great riffs throughout.

30.) Schammasch - Hearts of No Light

Google Play | Spotify

Schammasch once again bring the theatrical emphasis to the party with their brand of black metal, and I love it.

29.) Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond the Dark

Google Play | Spotify

Ken Sorceron has full embraced Abigail Williams as a solo project, and more power to ya, buddy. This album rips. This band rips, particularly the last two records, this and The Accuser. Atmospheric black metal at it’s finest. And some fantastic album artwork, yowza.

28.) Liquid Signal - Neuronicae

Google Play | Spotify

My buddies from Indiana released their debut full length this year and it’s a banger. Outstanding drumming and guitar riffs throughout, but my highlight is the final track, Cytherean Breaks. That was one of my favorite songs of the year, great job, friends. And, to top it off, my friend and the wizard, Nick Gurley, evokes the magical cover artwork out of his wonderful brain and into our eyes. One of the best album covers of the year.

27.) Misþyrming- Algleymi

Google Play | Spotify

Icelandic Black metal solo project from D.G. (also of 0) turned into a full band for live shows. If you dig black metal, this record is for you. Incredible debut.

26.) No One Knows What The Dead Think - No One Knows What The Dead Think

Google Play | Spotify

I remember listening to this record on the train and just wanting to headbang the entire time. Visceral grindcore that makes me want more at the end of the record.

25.) Vitriol - To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice

Google Play | Spotify

I got to see this band for the first time before I heard their record in full (they opened for Cattle Decapitation at the Metro). That show was the stuff of legends, and Vitriol had a large part in that. They were mesmerizing live. I didn’t hear a single missed note in their performance. 2019 was a year of death metal masterpieces, if anything, and Vitriol played a large part in that, too.

24.) Spirit Adrift - Divided by Darkness

Google Play | Spotify

Chase Mason and Nate Garrett make some really good music, they’ve got two records on my list this year. Spirit Adrift finds a beautiful balance between ferocious riffs and melody on Divided by Darkness. So many nods to the heroes of heavy metal. I love the track with Witch Mountain’s Kayla Dixon, “Living Light.” One of these days I’ll get to see them live.

23.) Alex Ludovico - #medicinemondays

Google Play | Spotify

My homie from LA, formerly of Chicago, formerly of Gary, IN. Alex Ludovico released 50 songs last year. 50. Five. Oh. While they were mostly one off songs, there were several collections of songs, too. I know this isn’t really a single release, but fuck it, it’s my list, I can do what I want. 88 cents gets stuck in my head for lifetimes everytime I hear it. The Vivian Maier EP rules. GI/Chi rules. The Scarf Tissue EP rules. Check ‘em all out, there’s so many great songs here. Glad I got to play a show with him in 2019 (an acoustic set from one of my bands, About Thieves), let’s make that 2 in 2020.

22.) Dreadnought - Emergence

Google Play | Spotify

My favorite Dreadnought record is still Bridging Realms, but Emergence is a close second. An unholy amalgamation of black metal, jazz, death metal, and classical song writing thrown into a melting pot and simmered to flavor. I love this band, and they keep getting better and better. They absolutely crush live, I hope to get to see them again sometime soon.

21.) Immortal Bird - Thrive on Neglect

Google Play | Spotify

Another Chicago band, Immortal Bird opened up the Cattle Decapitation Metro show that I attended because Full of Hell had their van stolen and Author & Punisher could not make the gig. That was my first time seeing Immortal Bird live, and I’m pissed off it took me this long to witness their brutality in person. Rae is on another dimensional plane when it comes to live performances, the rest of us just stand in awe. Incredible live performance, and it was perfectly captured on record for Thrive on Neglect. They describe themselves as “crusty blackened proggy deathgrind” and that nails the description of their sonic assault on the senses. Incredible record.

20.) Cult of Luna - A Dawn to Fear

Google Play | Spotify

I love this band. Their collaboration with Julie Christmas, Mariner, is just breathtaking. This record, A Dawn to Fear, brings them back to their crushing sound. Deafeningly loud, sludgy, post-metal at it’s finest.

19.) Mizmor - Cairn

Google Play | Spotify

One man from Portland, OR, goes by A.L.N. He is the lone mastermind behind Mizmor. Cairn is a heavy listen, both thematically and musically. Lending equal parts of doom, sludge, black metal, and droning post metal, Mizmor crafts songs that evolve inside the same track and coalesce into beautiful songs that at most times do not share the somber tone of the underlying lyrical themes. This juxtaposition, in my opinion, is really cool, and makes for a really unique record listen. I loved the guitar production on this record, absolutely massive sounding.

18.) Gatecreeper - Deserted

Google Play | Spotify

Chase and Nate from Spirit Adrift in their second entry on my list. Gatecreeper is such a fun band. This is a death metal classic in the making. They’ve grown a lot since Sonoran Depravation. Guitar production is awesome, and Chase’s screams sound otherworldly on the record.

17.) Cloak - The Burning Dawn

Google Play | Spotify

Black ‘n Roll is the perfect genre for Cloak. This was a great follow up from To Venomous Depths, and they pull off all these songs live. Riffs for days…

16.) Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance

Google Play | Spotify

They just put out Manor of Infinite Forms last year. Here’s another full length of classic death metal tunes just one year removed. I said it last year, and I’ll say it again: Tomb Mold is slowly becoming one of my favorite death metal artists. Planetary Clairvoyance rules.

15.) Xoth - Interdimensional Invocations

Google Play | Spotify

Andrew Rothmund from Invisible Oranges recommended me a song before this record came out, and it was a banger. Then the whole record drops and my face gets melted off. Tech death at it’s finest. And that album artwork…

14.) ALPDRUCK - ALPDRUCK

Google Play | Spotify | Bandcamp

Another recommendation from Andrew Rothmund. This EP is ferocious, and one of my most listened to records of the year. Flesh Vortex might be the best song title of all time. This is my favorite grindcore record of 2019, I’m really looking forward to the next release, whenever that may be.

13.) Black Midi - Schlagenheim

Google Play | Spotify

This is such a weird record. The vocals were kind of offputting at first but by the end of the first listen to I was hooked. Some of the best drumming of the year captured to tape. This is a mathy rock album that you can’t listen to just once. “There’s lead in the water, there’s blood in the water.”

12.) Mo’ynoq - Dreaming in a Dead Language

Google Play | Spotify

Outstanding black metal record. Not quite sure how to pronounce their name, but I am guessing moy-noke?

11.) Ataraxie - Résignés

Google Play | Spotify

This record is dense and grimey and awesome. I’d love to see this band tour with Inter Arma, as they evoke similar feelings and reactions from their compositions. This is best enjoyed start to finish in a single session.

10.) Murk Rider - Exile of Shadows

Google Play | Spotify

Another very long record of black metal goodness. Some people think this is a bit long winded of a record, which is totally fair. I happen to love this including all the interludes and weaving back and forth between chaos and beauty. I love the natural sounds interspersed. I love the production (gritty without sounding like it was recorded in a shoe box). Quite ambitious and I felt like it paid off in the end. I cannot recommend this enough, at least once.

9.) Russian Circles - Blood Year

Google Play | Spotify

Heaviest Russian Circles record yet. I love this band. Another Chicago local. If you dig their previous output you will surely love this, as well.

8.) Devin Townsend - Empath (Deluxe Edition)

Google Play | Spotify

What a weird fucking guy, Devin Townsend is! I love this album. It is so bizarrely all over the place but it’s presented in such a brilliant fashion. The production is immaculate, either you like that or you don’t. The drum production on this record is some of the best I’ve ever heard (not to mention the drumming itself is out of this world good). Devin surely knows how to craft memorable songs.

7.) White Ward - Love Exchange Failure

Google Play | Spotify

The first time I listened to it I immediately played it one more time. I love this record. I highly recommend listening to this on a rainy afternoon. Black metal mixed with jazz (including the beautiful, throaty saxophone applied liberally) just works. The first time the galloping drums come in after the intro of the title track I get goosebumps every time.

6.) Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race

Google Play | Spotify

Highly acclaimed record. Even pitchfork likes it so it has to be good, right ( :-P )? After I heard this the first time I couldn’t stop listening to it for about 2 weeks. I feel like the last song on this record, the 18 minute long “Awakening from the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul)” deserves to be included in the Best Death Metal Songs of All Time discussion.

5.) Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising

Google Play | Spotify

Singer/songwriter Natalie Laura Mering, known as Weyes Blood, released this incredible record in April, but I didn’t really discover it until the fall. Tim, the drummer in my bands Uncouth and Tides Cult, recommended this to me, but it took me a while to get to it. The first time I listened to it I think I was a bit distracted. I revisited this later in the year and it sunk it’s teeth into my brain. I could not (well, cannot) stop listening to this record. It’s magical and very close to a perfect record, in my opinion. Andromeda, Everyday, Movies, Mirror Forever…the whole record is stunning.

4.) Cattle Decapitation - Death Atlas

Google Play | Spotify

When this first came out, I listened to it non stop for 4 playthroughs. It’s outstanding. The last 3 Cattle Decapitation records have proven they have a rightful place among death metal royalty. Personally, I love the melodic sing/shrieking that Travis Ryan is doing on this record, but I can see how it would be a turn off for others. The production on this is so good. The guitars are so crisp and tight. This was my favorite death metal record of 2019. AND I got to see them perform a lot of this live. Their 80 minute set at the Metro will go down as one of the best performances I’ve witnessed. They didn’t miss a note all night.

3.) Tool - Fear Inoculum

Google Play | Spotify

How many years does it take to create a Tool record? Apparently the answer is 13. Fear Inoculum is an excellent record, even if it does sound a lot like 10,000 Days. This very well could have been the second half of 10,000 Days and that would have worked just as well. I am a very big fan of this band, though, and I am pleased that I enjoyed it as much as I did (I was worried). Danny Carey cemented himself in the “best drummers of all time” conversation with this record. Flawless drumming throughout. Adam, Maynard, and Justin are all great, as well, but Danny stole the show. As I consumed this more, I think Pneuma, Invincible, and Descending are my favorites. They crushed these songs at Chicago Open Air and when I saw them at the United Center.

2.) Baroness - Gold & Grey

Google Play | Spotify

Baroness is one of my favorite bands. If there’s one record I listened to the most from 2019 I think it’s Gold & Grey. The harmonies that John Baizley and Gina Gleason have summoned forth are the stuff of legend. I am not the biggest fan of the clipping production, but it’s been a part of Baroness records for years, so it’s not a big deal to me. The songs are so good, who cares? After hearing Gina sing with John on this I think it’d be interesting to hear them re-record some of the older material, just to hear what it sounds like in a studio. I think this is my second favorite Baroness record now, closely behind Yellow & Green. The guitar work on this is typical Baroness guitars, which means I love them. John and Gina really play off each other throughout, and the dizzying array of pedals and tones employed really make things interesting. Sebastian and Nick have continued to innovate in the rhythm section. This is particularly noteworthy in tracks like Seasons and I’m Already Gone (which has one of the year’s best bass lines on it). Pale Sun is incredible, I can’t believe it was an improvisation in the studio. I got to see Baroness twice last year and both times they brought the house down. Hearing Gina sing those harmonies on the older material was incredible. I can’t wait to see where they go next in the studio. And the cover artwork is incredible!

1.) Inter Arma - Sulphur English

Google Play | Spotify

My top 4 has rearranged itself a lot through the winter months. In fact, up until a few days ago I probably would have topped this list with Death Atlas. But, it’s my list, and I make the rules, haha! Inter Arma has slowly become one of my favorite bands. Since The Cavern, I’ve thought that they’ve truly innovated in ways that are wholly unique in the extreme music realm. Sulphur English is no exception. I feel like this is their heaviest record to date. Yes, all of their records have been very heavy, but there’s something about the riffs and song writing on this album that particularly move the Earth in ways that they haven’t done before. When I saw them at Reggie’s in June, they played Citadel, which is arguably the heaviest Inter Arma song to date. That riff, you know the one, the hook riff, on Citadel…Steven Russel and Trey Dalton found the magic riff and it gets me every time. Mike Paparo’s vocal delivery on this record is what I expect since Sky Burial, and it continues to cement his place amongst the best in the business. Andrew Lacour holds down the low end, playing off the guitars and drums perfectly. T.J. Childers is one of the best live drummers I’ve ever witnessed, and his performance on Sulphur English matches what he did on Paradise Gallows. Speaking of Paradise Gallows, I still don’t know which one I like better. They’re both great in their own right, but I think at this moment I still give the nod to Paradise Gallows.

Honorable Mentions

Comments

comments powered by Disqus