2020 Best of Metal: #3 Intronaut-Fluid Existential Inversions

Release date: February 28, 2020

Origin: Los Angeles, California

Personnel: Sacha Dunable-guitar/vox, Dave Timnick-guitar/vox, Joe Lester-bass, Alex Rudinger-drums

At #3, we have another band whose very existence felt in jeopardy over the past few years. Their last album was released in 2015 and after extensive touring, the band took a much needed break. In the interim, original drummer Danny Walker was let go due to sexual harassment allegations. This loss seemed to put the band on what felt like a permanent hiatus. Luckily for all of us, the band regrouped and have released one of their strongest albums to date. They enlisted journeyman drummer extraordinaire, Alex Rudinger, to handle the drum duties. This album contains all of the pot influenced post-metal, jazz-tinged, progressive metal that you’ve come to expect from these guys. Just as tight of a band as there is in the world of metal. Fun fact: the was the only 2020 release that I got to see performed live prior to covid shutting everything down when they opened for Cult of Luna in February.

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
3. Intronaut-Fluid Existential Inversions
4. Elder-Omens
5. Paradise Lost-Obsidian
6. Blues Pills-Holy Moly!
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

Heathen-Empire of the Blind

Fourth album overall for a band whose first album came out in 1987 kind of sums up Heathen’s status as a back-bencher in the Bay Area thrash scene. That’s not meant to imply that their past material has been sub-par, but Heathen has always felt like a band that only exists when it’s band members’ other gigs are at a standstill rather than an actively healthy musical entity.

Heathen has always lived in the shadows of Metallica, Testament, Exodus and Death Angel as far as the San Francisco Bay Area metal scene is concerned. Hell, their most well-known member, guitarist Lee Altus, is probably more well-known for his stint in Exodus than he is for his Heathen material. But, I guess credit is due to the band for not completely giving up on this entity entirely and sporadically putting out decent material. Dude needed something to do while Gary Holt was running around with Slayer the past few years.

This latest album really doesn’t feel like a thrash album to me. Sure, there’s a bit of that Exodus-sounding crunch to some of the guitar riffs, but the sound on this album feels more akin to American power metal more than anything. It kind of lives in that Jag Panzer, Onward or Firewind realm of power metal rather than the aggressive classic thrash sound that is normally associated with the Bay Area. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s just that Heathen normally gets lumped in with the thrash scene and I think it kind of does the band a disservice. The sound on this album is a little more melodic and little more in the traditional vein of metal. I think vocalist David White’s performance and vocal style contribute highly to the power metal vibe. He’s got that silky smooth power metal voice that doesn’t really have that razorblade bite a lot of thrash singers possess. I guess what I’m saying is if you go into this one expecting a little less thrash and a little more power metal, you might have a better reaction to the album as a whole.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Edward Van Halen 1/26/1955-10/6/2020 R.I.P.

Classic Eddie Van Halen, you might as well jump! | Rock n roll music, Rock  and roll bands, Van halen

Fuck this year. Everything about this year has just been crap and we’ve lost quite a few musical heroes during this time, but it is just devastating to lose another giant of the rock and metal world. Losing both Eddie Van Halen and Neil Peart in the same year is just not cool, universe. Not cool at all.

Eddie was one of the primary influences on my musical tastes as a burgeoning little headbanger. I still have a very weird memory of being in elementary school and there being a talent show. A group of older kids came out and did this air guitar/lip synch version of You Really Got Me from Van Halen I. Yeah, that was the level of “talent” at this show. Anyway, I believe that was the first time that I actually ever heard Van Halen and regardless of the ridiculous “rendition” the kids put on, the song just blew my impressionable mind. That guitar sound. So much crunch. So much sear. It is just indescribable what that guitar sound did to my insides. It just gave me goosebumps and made me feel electric. Van Halen I ended up being one of the very first metal albums that I ever bought (along with Screaming for Vengeance…yeah, I knocked it out of the park with those two). Many, many hours were spent air guitaring to those Roth-era Van Halen albums.

The influence of Eddie’s unique sound and style of play can never truly be measured. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that every hotshot guitarist that came out in the 1980s metal scene was solely inspired by Eddie. The stable of imitators is very long. However, nobody ever reached the crunch of his sound on those early Van Halen releases. Some of the sounds he was able to wring out of the guitar are just inhumane. Seriously, go listen to Eruption again. Some of those sounds are just so fucking sinister. Hell, I still maintain that the riff to Unchained is quite possibly the greatest riff in the history of mankind. Plus, in addition to the amazing playing, let’s give kudos to the pure joy of playing that he brought to his live performances. He always had this big goofy grin on stage and looked like playing before a crowd was just the greatest thing in the world. I’m sad to say goodbye, but I’m really happy we still have all these great albums to revisit. Hopefully his death will result in some youngsters today to go back and discover his playing for the first time.

Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape

I feel like I keep saying this a lot of late, but here’s another album to simply cherish for its mere existence. It’s a sad state of affairs in our current climate, but for bands the size of Black Crown Initiate, the prospect of surviving as an active entity is fraught with peril. From hearing some stories surrounding the making of this album, the fact that this thing even exists is a miracle and a testament to the dedication of the members of the band to keep plugging away in the face of multiple obstacles. I fear that so many metal bands are going to find themselves in this state of affairs going forward with the lack of touring.

This is full length number three for Black Crown Initiate and it has been four long years since their last release. Things had been so quiet on their front as far as touring and new album news that I really started to fear we had lost these guys for good. It sounds like the band members had gone through quite an upheaval on personal, financial and health fronts. As a result, this album is coming from a very dark place. I can only thank these guys for remaining committed to this project and seeing this album to its end because they really came up with something special on this release.

Black Crown Initiate is a member of the technical death metal genre, but they been one of the few bands in that genre that has managed to find that sweet balance between the technical and the creative. Sometimes the bands in this sub-genre can veer into the pure masturbatory indulgences of speed and aggression that end up ruining any attempt at creating any memorable songs. Black Crown definitely has moments of technical brilliance and flash, but it is all focused to serve the songs and the album as a whole. Added flashes of acoustic and odd timings and rhythms throughout also give their take on technical death metal a more unique and memorable impact. Also, on this album, it feels as though the vocals have almost been split evenly between the demon growls of James Dorton and the angelic croon of guitarist Andy Thomas. The dichotomy of the two styles elevates the album to such a cool place.

This is just a phenomenally forward thinking and emotional gut-punch of a death metal album. This is the kind of album that transcends the genre and it really carving out an interesting space all its own.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

Riley Gale 5/1/1986-8/24/2020 R.I.P.

This was a tough one. There have been a number of prominent metal musicians pass away recently (and I plan to address each of those in future posts. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to properly address each just because everything in the world just seems so bleak and fucked up right now), but Riley’s death really shook me. I think it’s because he died so very young and with so much life left to live. Riley and his band, Power Trip, were just beginning to break into some relative mainstream success and it really felt like this band’s future was very bright. We only got two full length albums out of these guys and it really feels like a loss in that we’ll never get to see where these guys would have gone in the future. In addition to fronting a great band, Riley seemed like one of the good dudes on the metal scene. He championed the causes of the little guy and always spoke out in a uncompromising manner on the issues important to him. Metal needs more dudes like this.

For those of you that weren’t familiar with Power Trip or had a chance to see them in a live setting, I’m sorry to say that you really missed a chance to see a band and a frontman who knew how to properly put on a metal show. From the moment these guys would hit the stage, it would be as if a bomb went off. Power Trip was pure energy, aggression and catharsis personified. They had perfected that blend of old school 80s thrash metal with a bit of a hardcore punk attitude. Their shows were not for the weak of heart. If you ventured into one of their pits, you knew going in there was a real possibility of coming out bloodied and bruised. But it was glorious release and there aren’t many bands that I’ve ever seen live that just catapulted a routine metal show into something otherworldly. I was lucky enough to see Power Trip at the very beginning of their career and also during their stints opening up for some of the heavy hitters of the metal world. The first time I saw them was at the Scoot Inn in Austin during SXSW. They were the opening band during a free day show that also included Kadavar, Orange Goblin and Clutch. They hit the stage at 1pm and I had made a point to get their early to see them. Even though there weren’t many people at the venue yet, I was completely floored by their performance. Riley was one of those guys who just exuded confidence, charisma and enthusiasm that made it impossible not to get fully immersed in what the band was doing on stage. Riley was a headbanging whirling dervish jumping around the stage in his trademark ball cap and mustache. This band just held nothing back. They were there to go completely all out whether there were 20 people in the crowd or 500 people. They only played a 30 minute set, but they won me over in a big way that day. I was able to see them in numerous clubs over the course of the next few years and even got to see them open up for Lamb of God and Anthrax at the Moody Theater in Austin. It was so cool to see this hardcore bunch of kids playing at one of the classiest concert theaters around.

So, if you didn’t know Power Trip before reading this, go pull up a copy of Manifest Decimation or Nightmare Logic and blast ’em loud. Riley was a special dude and the metal world is a little less interesting without him.

Here’s some footage I shot the last time I saw Power Trip in 2018 at the Mohawk in Austin. Hopefully it will give you a sense of how intense being in the pit at one of their shows was like. Audience participation was always a big part of the show.

Witchcraft-Black Metal

Witchcraft – Black Metal Review | Angry Metal Guy

This album title feels like a troll.  There is absolutely nothing metal happening on this album.  Honestly, there’s not much in the traditional sense of the band Witchcraft going on with this album.  This feels like a continuation of vocalist (and really only member of Witchcraft left) Magnus Pelander’s solo album, Time, from a few years back.  It’s just Pelander and an acoustic guitar presenting some very dreary songs.  I’m not opposed to acoustic albums per se, but it doesn’t feel like this one every really gets off the ground.  The songs feel so insular and isolating that they almost reach into that singer/songwriter territory that becomes downright irritating and self-absorbed.  Many times during my listens of this album, I kept imagining that scene from Animal House when Bluto grabs the hippy crooner’s acoustic guitar and smashes it to kindling.  I’m just kind of confused about putting the Witchcraft name on this album.  As I said before, it feels like this is a direct continuation of his previous solo release.  I wish he would leave the Witchcraft name for his metal output.

2 flip flops out of 5

A Fan’s Dilemma

Advisory:  This is a non-metal post.  I have personal story to tell.  It’s kind of a confessional and sort of a mental exercise of sorting out my own thoughts about the Houston Astros cheating scandal and how it has affected me and my identity as a fan.  Indulge me, if you will, but this has been weighing on me for some time and I think I just need to get it out.

I have other interests than just metal.  One of my other loves is the sport of baseball and, more particularly, I have been Houston Astros fan for most of my life.  My fandom comes from the fact that I was born in the city of Houston and the Astros ball club was always a scrappy little underdog of a team with the most amazing technicolor rainbow uniforms.  Sure they didn’t have the glorious history as the blueblood franchises like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers or Cubs.  But it was always a point of pride that they weren’t the type of club trying to throw as much money as they could at as many free agents as they could to win a championship.  It always felt like the Astros were going about it the right way.  It always felt as though they were a decent set of guys and I, for the most part, felt good about having the Astros as my team.  Sure, there were rumors of Mike Scott scuffing the ball in ’86 and you had whispers surrounding the Astros in the 90s during the heydays of the steroid scandals, especially when Ken Caminiti revealed his long term drug use.  In hindsight, it’s hard to look back on those teams and not suspect that either member of the club’s iconic duo, Craig  Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, weren’t tainted in some manner during this time especially given their close friendships to Caminiti.  However, as a fan, it was easy to look the other way during this time because the steroid and human growth hormone issue was so prevalent during this time.

I believe the first time that I really started feeling a tad conflicted about my fandom with the Astros started when they made one of their more blatant splash into the free agent market when they signed both Andy Petitite and Roger Clemens from the hated Yankees.  At the time of the signing, Clemens, along with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, was one of the poster children of the steroids era and really represented the shitty side of professional sports (i.e. putting wining at all costs above everything else).  However, I, being the loyal fan, brushed aside any concerns about his possible cheating when the team began to win and even managed to make the World Series in 2005.  It was all awesome until it ended up coming out later that Petitite had tested positive for human growth hormone and his statement implicating Clemens as well.

So, let’s skip ahead a few years to this current crop of Astros.  You had to be a dedicated fan to be a fan of the Astros during the lean years.  The ball club changed ownership and the new regime brought in a new GM, Jeff Luhnow, to try and turn the team around.  The strategy resulted in the stripping of the club of all of its valuable parts and starting from scratch through the draft.  It was a wasteland on the field because the team was basically fielding a team made up of Triple A talent.  However, the strategy ultimately worked because the Astros had several successful drafts that resulted in a core group of young players that were extremely talented.  Sticking with the team through the lean years made it all the more satisfying when the team began to win.  And it is hard to discount how great these players seemed.  They always looked like they were having fun playing this game and it felt as though they all really enjoyed each other’s company as well.  It felt like a band of brothers in the best sense.  I got a lot of joy watching these guys play and I felt proud to show off my Astros colors wherever I was.  It just felt cool to be a fan of the Astros.  When they won the World Series in 2017, I was just beside myself with joy.  I never thought I would see the day that my scrappy little team would be crowned champions.  What made it even sweeter was that we weren’t the fucking Yankees.  We did this the right way.  Built from the ground up with a good group of dudes.

At least that’s what I thought….

I feel like I should have seen this coming.  My first sense that things weren’t as cool as they seemed in Astros land was when Yuli Gurriel made a slanty-eye gesture regarding Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish after he took Darvish deep in Game 3 of the 2017 World Series.  I was shocked and embarrassed by the gesture.  Now, for his part, Gurriel seemed contrite and genuinely sorry for the gesture and repeatedly stated that the gesture wasn’t malicious in intent.  But, c’mon, man, that’s just not something you do.  Then, in 2018, my fandom took another hit when the team traded for Roberto Osuna in 2018.  Osuna as a member of the Blue Jays had been serving a 75 game suspension from MLB after being arrested for beating up his girlfriend and mother of his son.  This was the first public face of the win-at-all-costs mentality that had gripped this team.  The Astros had a publicly announced zero tolerance policy against domestic violence by any of its players or staff.  Yet, here they were, signing a dude who was just coming off a serious suspension for a credible report of domestic violence.  It is very possible that the only reason Osuna wasn’t in jail was the fact that the victim had returned to Mexico and refused to cooperate with police in Toronto.  Houston’s management team gave lip service to doing due diligence in regard to the incident and Osuna’s off-field behavior and declared themselves satisfied that Osuna was working to change his future behavior and that there had been no further incidents since the alleged abuse took place.  It was just a coincidence that Osuna was one of the best young relievers in the game and Houston had a gaping hole in the back end of their bullpen.  Fuck our values and integrity.  We need a closer!  This really felt like a sellout by the team in my opinion.  But, they were still winning and I rationalized the move as being OK as long as Osuna didn’t get in anymore trouble.  Second chances and all that.  And from all reports, Osuna hasn’t had any off-field issues since he came to Houston.  But, I felt like shit every time he came into a game and helped them win.  It just felt dirty.  It stopped being a feel-good story.

And then at the end of last season as the Astros were attempting to win their second World Series title, rumors starting swirling about a pitching signal cheating scandal through the use of a replay camera and video feed that was located off of the Astros’ dugout.  Once again, I tried to rationalize it away.  These guys aren’t cheaters.  Look at Altuve, Correa and Springer.  No possible way these guys would stoop to cheating.

Well, I was wrong.  And they were wrong.  And I am fucking pissed.  The 2017 World Series Championship doesn’t mean shit.  It’s gone in my opinion.  Never happened.  Reading the Commissioner’s Report on the scandal shows that this rot infected every level of this organization.  MLB took decisive action by suspending GM Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch for not stepping into to stop the cheating.  The Astros themselves decided to take this punishment further by firing both Luhnow and Hinch.  I think the action taken in both instances was more than justified and a step in the right direction.  However, as the Commissioner’s Report noted, this was a player driven cheating scheme.  The only two members of the Astros named personally as being direct participants and ringleaders of the scheme were former bench coach, Alex Cora, and reserve veteran player, Carlos Beltran.  Cora is currently under investigation for his possibly using the same sort of cheating scheme in 2018 after he took the managing job with the Boston Red Sox.  Beltran had been hired this offseason as the new manager of the New York Mets, but was subsequently released after the report.  Both Cora and Beltran have been fired by the Red Sox and  Mets respectively for their part in the cheating scandal.

Since the report didn’t single out any other players, there is no telling which guys were involved in this scheme.  As a consequence, they are all culpable.  There have been a few players who were with the Astros in 2017 that have come forward and offered apologies and statements saying that they should have stepped up and stopped it.  The four players that have made such statements, Joe Musgrove, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Marwin Gonzalez, are all no longer with the Astros.  Musgrove, to his credit, went as far as to say that it is hard to deny that the 2017 championship isn’t tainted.  There aren’t any current Astros that were on the 2017 team that have come forward with any comparable statements.  And I know there are legal issues and their agents have probably instructed them to not make any statements, but I find it fucking cowardly that no current players have made any statements of explanation or regret.  Alex Bregman gave a standard legal-speak during an Astros Winter Caravan stop with the lame, “The Commissioner came out with a report, MLB did a report and the Astros did what they did….I have no thoughts on it.”  That kind of shit is not going to cut it in repairing a damaged relationship.

So, where does that leave fans of the Astros?  Do we simply move forward as if nothing ever happened?  Do we still celebrate the 2017 championship?  Do we forgive the players for their deceit?  Do we stay in a state of denial and claim that everyone cheats and that the Astros were simply doing what everyone else in the league was doing?

I don’t really have an answer.  But my feelings for my team have changed.  I can’t look at this group of guys the same way.  Maybe I’m just being naive, but I want to believe that what I see on the field is real.  I want it to be the product of fair play.  I want to be proud to be a fan and have confidence that when they win that they are doing in a fair and just manner.  As of right now, I’m not there.  Every story I see about the Astros seems to be in this la-la land where the scandal never happened and they are expecting all of us to simply rally around the team with no questions asked or explanations given.  And I don’t want to hear excuses like, “Everyone else is doing the same thing.”  I don’t give a shit if they are.  I want my team to be better than everyone else.  Even yesterday, owner Jim Crane announced that there will be a team meeting to discuss a strategy in handling the matter going into the 2020 season.  I think we deserve better than “a strategy”.  I think every single player needs to come out and publicly own this shit.  There needs to be an unequivocal “We fucked up.  We cheated.  We apologize to the Dodgers and to their fans and to our fans for the deceit.  It will not happen again.”  And, honestly, even if they do come out in Spring Training and offer explanations and acknowledgment of fault, I’m not sure it is enough to make me feel better about my continuing affiliation with this ballclub.

This has been a really sad period for me.  I feel like I’m on the verge of a break-up.  I’m not sure where I go from here.  I’ll probably keep an eye on the team this year and see how the players react to the scandal going forward.  Maybe they can make amends.  I just don’t know.  But, there is a real possibility I move on to a new team.  Which also feels terrible.

It feels as though this is just a symptom of the time we live in.  Everything is terrible and everyone is looking for the quickest route to success at all costs regardless of the consequences or how many people it ends up hurting.  From Wall Street and the economy to our political system, there is a rot that is destroying everything good and decent.  When I can’t even find solace in rooting for a baseball team as a respite from the outside bullshit the world throws at me on a daily basis, I have to question what the hell are we doing wrong.

At least metal is still fucking awesome.  Nobody mess with that.  Please.

Addendum:  The Astros just had a press conference this morning to address the scandal.  Owner Jim Crane apologized, but actually said that he didn’t feel as though the cheating by his team affected the outcome of the 2017 World Series.  He said that they had a good team and seemed to imply that they would have won it even if they hadn’t cheated.  Then why did they do it, Jim?  And why did you fire Luhnow and Hinch?  If the cheating made no difference in the outcome, why have any repercussions within the organization at all?  Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve also gave extremely brief statements that basically sounded like canned answers.  We’re sorry.  We were wrong.  But we’re moving on to 2020.  Everybody rally around the family!  Yay!!  This just isn’t going to cut it with me.  I think I may be done with this team.

Sean Reinert 5/27/1971-1/24/2020 RIP and Reed Mullin 2/12/1966-2/27/2020 RIP

So, 2020 has definitely started in a truly terrible manner, especially in the world of rock/metal drummers.  The past few days has seen the passing of two more noted drummers.  Obviously, neither of these gentlemen are going to inspire the worldwide mourning that Neil Peart did, but both deserve a shout out for their contributions to the art form that we love.

Sean Reinert was primarily known for his work with the groundbreaking death metal/atmospheric fusion band, Cynic.  Cynic was a heralded cult underground band that was one of the first death metal bands to incorporate a variety of other musical genres and elements to death metal.  The foundation for Cynic was laid when Reinert and long-time musical partner Paul Masvidal joined Chuck Schuldiner in the seminal death metal band Death on their acclaimed album, Human.  Reinert’s drumming style incorporated a creative style into the traditional death metal sound that influenced countless death metal drummers as to the different boundaries that could be pushed in this genre.  Equally important to his musical legacy was the fact that Reinert was among the small minority metal musicians to come out as a gay person.  His death is particularly jarring for me personally simply for the fact that we were the same age.

Reed Mullin was a founding member of the cross-over punk band Corrosion of Conformity.  COC started out punk, but eventually evolved into one of the mainstay bands trading in American sludge/grunge rock.  Mullin was one of those drummers that wasn’t flashy, but he had his own sound that was just solid and recognizable.  His work on their albums released throughout the 90s were some of the highlights in a time when metal was struggling to find its way after the 80s heyday.  Mullin’s battles with alcohol dependency and health issues in recent years had led to his stepping away from the band in recent years.

Cheers to you both and thanks for sharing your musical talents with us all.

Neil Peart 9/12/1952-1/7/2020 RIP

Well, I had a sinking feeling that 2020 was going to be a giant shit of a year and it just started off with a bang.  First post of the year and it has to be a eulogy to one of my favorite musicians of all time.

Those of you that know me know that Iron Maiden is my favorite band.  Now, if they are #1, Rush would be #1a.  Rush has always been a band that polarizes people.  It seems that people either really love Rush or they really don’t care for them at all.  I am of the opinion that their 40+ year career is one of the most innovative and creative and, dare I say, classy in the history of rock/metal music.  And although I’ve always viewed Rush as three equal parts, it is hard to understate the importance Neil Peart was to the creative entity that was Rush.

In my early days, a big part of me wanted to be a rock drummer.  Peart was instrumental in this dream.  He made the drums more than just a timepiece.  He made the drums musical.  His memorable fills and intricate rhythms were as recognizable as any classic guitar riff or singer’s melody.  I’m fairly certain that he made air drumming a thing.  In addition to his mastery of the drums, he was the wordsmith of the band and penned the great majority of their lyrics over the years.  In a lot of rock music, the lyrics are usually fairly banal and usually take a back seat to the music and presentation.  Peart was different in this regard.  Thoughtfully nicknamed The Professor, he used his well-read background to forge lyrics that challenged and inspired the listener.  Who amongst us weren’t able to relate to the sentiments of Subdivisions or get whisked away to sci fi and fantasy tales such as Cygnus X-1 or 2112?  Peart was an unparalleled talent and the world will be a little bit less interesting without him.

In addition to his music endeavors, Peart was a wonderful writer.  For such an introverted person, Peart would pour himself onto the page.  I found it interesting that he was known for being such a private and guarded person and yet he would bear the raw emotion and heartbreak for everyone to read.  If you were a Rush and Peart fan, I cannot recommed his memoir, Ghost Rider, which centered on his attempts at rebuilding a life that was shattered when his daughter was killed in a car accident and then his wife later succumbed to cancer.  He embarks on a cross country motorcycle journey that took him across both Canada and the U.S.  It’s a moving look at loss and the grieving process and also serves as a wonderfully descriptive travelogue for North America.

So, pull out Farewell to Kings.  Rock out to YYZ.  Do the air drum fills to Tom Sawyer.  Celebrate the life of Neil.  Because we’re only immortal for a limited time.

The Year in Metal 2019

Hmmmm.  We’ve reach the end of the 2010s decade here in the land of metal.  Overall, this has been a really good decade for metalheads and the state of the genre is still very healthy.  However, 2019 was a bit of a disappointment in general for the state of new music.  Sure, there were some strong albums that came out and we’ll be reviewing those in the upcoming weeks, but looking at the entirety of releases spanning the year and the level of quality was a little down in comparison to past years.  Once again, the biggest trend for me was the amount of stellar material coming out of bands with debut albums or band that are just two or three albums into their career.  This trend towards younger blood bringing solid material provides a hefty dose of optimism for the health of the scene overall.  The more established bands are still cranking out decent material, but 2019 found these bands falling a bit behind the younger and hungrier up-and-coming bands.

On the live music scene, for me anyway, this was another jam-packed year of really good musical performances.  I got to scratch quite a few bands off of my “never seen” list this year.  Riverside, Panopticon (both acoustic and black metal sets), Demons and Wizards, Monolord, Windhand, Voivod, Robin Trower, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Zeal and Ardor, Warforged, Spirit Adrift, The Claypool Lennon Delerium and Arkona were all first time concerts for me this year.  Other highlights were getting to seeing Saxon still defying the toll of time by giving one of their more energetic club shows I’ve seen by them, Rivers of Nihil playing last year’s masterpiece Where Owls Know My Name in full along with a touring saxophone player, Plague Vendor and their hyperkinetic vocalist Brandon Blaine making a case for becoming one of the more interesting frontmen going, witnessing Michael Schenker and his merry band of past vocalist joining together for a lovely evening of metal nostalgia, bonding with Panopticon’s Austin Lunn about the Galactic Cowboys, seeing critical darling Spirit Adrift up close and personal in a club the size of a large kitchen, witnessing an acoustic Chelsea Wolfe show in a church, and nearly losing a toe during the massive convergence of two tours consisting of Psycroptic/Voivod/Revocation/Sick of It All/Municipal Waste/Napalm Death. (Flip Flops Forever!)

The 2019 Top 20 Best of Metal album review begins tomorrow.  I know this is like the day before Christmas for you little metalheads.  Get to bed early tonight and it will be here before you know it.