2019 Best of Metal: #11 Imperium Dekadenz-When We Are Forgotten

Release date:  8/30/2019

Origin:  Black Forest, Germany

Personnel:  Horaz-vox/guitar/keyboards and Vespasian-guitar/bass/drums/keyboards

There is usually at least one black metal album that grabs me each year.  Imperium Dekadenz was the black metal band to make the biggest impact on me this year.  This album is black metal in more of an atmospheric vein than your traditional Scandinavian black metal.  Their sound reminds me a bit of some of the black metal coming our of the Pacific Northwest, such as Agalloch and Wolves In the Throne Room.  It feels more about layers and emotion than blast beats and odes to evil.  Plus, these guys hail from the Black Forest in Germany.  I mean, c’mon!  You have to be on board for that.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

11.  Imperium Dekadenz-When We Are Forgotten
12.  Memoriam-Requiem for Mankind
13.  Horseburner-The Thief
14.  Cult of Luna-A Dawn to Fear
15.  Bask-III
16.  Cave In-Final Transmission
17.  The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure
18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #12 Memoriam-Requiem for Mankind

Release date:  6/21/2019

Origin:  Birmingham, England

Personnel:  Karl Willetts-vox, Scott Fairfax-guitar, Frank Healy-bass, and Andy Whale-drums

Sometimes an album doesn’t need to be groundbreaking or forward thinking for it to be awesome.  This album proves this point.  This is a purely throwback, old school death metal album.  Nothing more, nothing less.  But it is performed in such a perfect manner that I have found myself revisiting it over and over this past year.  The guitar riffs are just so crunchy that I want to wrap them around me like a warm blanket.  Plus, you’ve got the English inflected death growl of Bolt Thrower’s Karl Willetts leading the charge.  Just a great embrace of everything great about death metal

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

12.  Memoriam-Requiem for Mankind
13.  Horseburner-The Thief
14.  Cult of Luna-A Dawn to Fear
15.  Bask-III
16.  Cave In-Final Transmission
17.  The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure
18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #13 Horseburner-The Thief

Release date:  8/9/2019

Origin:  Parkersburg, WV

Personnel:  Jack Thomas-guitar/vox, Matt Strobel-guitar, Seth Bostick-bass and Adam Nohe-drums/vox

Horseburner is another of these bands I had not heard of prior to listening to this album for the first time.  They are another band out of the excellent West Virginia metal scene and remind me of Red Fang or early Baroness.  Much like Bask from earlier in the list, it feels like you could slot these guys in the group of band creating what I would call a new southern rock that combines elements of southern rock, metal and stoner/doom into a cool incarnation.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

13.  Horseburner-The Thief
14.  Cult of Luna-A Dawn to Fear
15.  Bask-III
16.  Cave In-Final Transmission
17.  The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure
18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #14 Cult of Luna-A Dawn to Fear

Release date:  9/20/2019

Origin:  Umea, Sweden

Personnel:  Johannes Persson-vox/guitar, Fredrik Kihlberg-guitar/vox, Magnus Lindberg-percussion/guitar, Andreas Johansson-bass, Kristian Karlsson-vox/keyboards/samples, and Thomas Hedlund-drums

Bleak and unrelenting is what Cult of Luna has brought on their latest album.  Well, shit, you can say that about every Cult of Luna release.  But it feels like this latest album is the soundtrack for the coming apocalypse.  I think I mentioned in my review from earlier this year that the title of this album is simply perfect.  Normally, the dawn represents rebirth and renewal.  In this scenario, the dawn is to be feared.  The illumination provided by the light of day will more than likely bring horrors rather than beauty.  Sometimes it better to leave things in the dark.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

14.  Cult of Luna-A Dawn to Fear
15.  Bask-III
16.  Cave In-Final Transmission
17.  The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure
18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #15 Bask-III

Release date:  11/8/2019

Origin:  Asheville, NC

Personnel:  Scott Middleton, Zeb Camp, Jesse Van Note, Ray Worth

Bask is a band in a similar vein to a number of bands coming out of the southeastern portion of the U.S.  It’s almost as if a new crop of bands are creating a new version of southern rock.  And I fucking love it.  Bask brings a bit of southern rock, grunge and stoner metal and blends it in a very groovy and melodic manner that is just infectious.  Right in line for fans of All Them Witches, more recent The Sword and Royal Thunder.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

15.  Bask-III
16.  Cave In-Final Transmission
17.  The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure
18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #16 Cave In-Final Transmission

Release date:  7/12/2019

Origin:  Methuen, MA

Personnel:  Stephen Brodsky-vox/guitar/bass, Adam McGrath-guitar/vox, Caleb Scofield-bass/guitar/vox, John-Robert Conners-drums/vox

This was a touching and bittersweet posthumous album for Caleb Scofield.  Scofield passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident in 2018.  Luckily, Scofield had recorded some parts for Cave In’s next album prior to his death and those parts were incorporated into Last Transmission.  Overall, this is a very somber affair that captures the sadness of losing a friend and band member.  This one has quite a bit of depth and the emotions that created this album are on full display.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

16.  Cave In-Final Transmission
17.  The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure
18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #17 The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure

Release date:  1/25/2019

Origin:  Nashville, TN

Personnel:  Neal Morse-vox/keys/guitar, Eric Gillette-guitar/vox, Randy George-bass, Bill Hubauer-organ/keys/vox, Mike Portnoy-drums/vox

Well, some of you will quibble as to whether this is metal or not.  This is pure prog, but there is enough heavy moments on this thing to qualify it as metal for me.  Neal Morse and his merry band of proggy collaborators have presented yet another double album of material.  This is probably the least preachy album Morse has produced since he turned his life over to Jesus.  It also marks the third album produced by the same lineup that makes up The Neal Morse Band and it really feels like this incarnation of his solo efforts is really starting to gel.  I feel like this is the best album Morse has produced since he left Spock’s Beard.  It’s always difficult to come up with a double album of material and not have a chunk of filler.  So, it is all the more impressive that this one has no fat or tracks that feel like filler.  It is honestly solid from beginning to end.  If you’re prog inclined, this is like manna from heaven.  See what I did there.  Bible reference.  That’s just for you, Neal.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

17.  The Neal Morse Band-The Great Adventure
18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #18 Borknagar-True North

Release date:  9/27/2019

Origin:  Bergen, Norway

Personnel:  ICS Vortex-vox/bass, Oystein G. Brun-guitar, Jostein Thomassen-guitar, Lars A. Nedland-keys/vox, Bjorn Dugstad Ronnow-drums

Album number eleven for this longstanding band of Norsemen who revel in a very melodic and epic version of black metal.  This latest release saw long time bassist ICS Vortex take over the lead vocal spot.  It also feels like a very prog influenced album with lots of 70s style synths that give the usual frostbitten proceedings a bit of a brighter feel than past releases.  I dig these guys’ attempt at continuing to push what is acceptable within the realms of what is normally a very staid genre.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

18.  Borknagar-True North
19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #19 Herod-Sombre Dessein

Release date:  2/15/2019

Origin:  Vevey, Switzerland

Personnel:  Mike Pilat-vox/guitar, Pierre Carroz-guitar/bass, Bertrand Pot-guitar, Fabien Vodoz-drums

Switzerland.  It conjures images of chocolate, clocks, idyllic mountain hamlets and money laundering.  What it does not conjure is the caustic sonic wasteland which Herod has wrecked on their latest album Sombre Dessein.  This is an ugly album.  And I say that as praise.  This is not an album for someone looking for something to put a little pep in their life.  This is disjointed.  This is loud.  This is abrasive.  This is post-metal done really well.  Vocalist Mike Pilat provided vocals for The Ocean at one point and the album was put out by Robin Staps’ Pelagic Records.  So, the sound is kind of in line with The Ocean, but just a little more dark and abrasive.  The album also features a guest spot by Carcass’ Bill Steer.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

19.  Herod-Sombre Dessein
20.  Vintersea-Illuminated

2019 Best of Metal: #20 Vintersea-Illuminated

Release Date:  9/27/2019

Origin:  Portland, OR

Personnel:  Avienne Kiuttu-vox, Riley Nix-guitar, Jorma Spaziano-guitar, Karl Whinnery-bass, Jeremy Spencer-drums

Vintersea is a relatively new band that is adding to the legacy of other metal bands from the Northwestern U.S.  Whereas many of the bands from this area tend to either fall into the grunge or environmental pagan/black metal scene, Vintersea comes at it with a very slick progressive melodic death metal attack.  Featuring the combo angelic and demonic vocal stylings of Avienne Kiuttu, this second overall release for Vintersea made a fairly immediate impact on me and I really look forward to see where this band takes things in the future.  The title track from this album was one of the more memorable songs to come out in 2019.  Just epic in scope.

4 flip flops out of 5