We’re taking a look back at our favorite memories of the past year. Check out all of our lists here!
2019 delivered plenty of interesting and experimental sets in the metal world. My picks for the year (listed in order by release date) run from mainstream to extreme… Tweet your thoughts and recommendations for 2020 releases to @radio_sara!
A poignant note on Mark Morton’s solo album is that it contains one of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s final recordings. “Cross Off” is a standout track. This album offers so much more, though. An eclectic group of guest vocalists allows room for experimentation and demonstrate Mark’s range as a guitarist. Lamb Of God fans will recognize his tornadic style, but this project reveals his talents beyond groove and thrash; the more restrained “Axis” is a prime example. Favorite Tracks: “Axis”, “Back from the Dead”
In Hinduism, ‘Samsara’ is the cycle of death and rebirth. Desperation grows when trapped in a never-ending loop. This is a concept explored by Venom Prison on their sophomore album, using brutally real examples in their lyrics. Extreme and unapologetic, ‘Samsara’ rips at every obstacle in its path to break the vicious cycle. Favorite Tracks: “Uterine Industrialization”, “Self Inflicted Violence”
When executed sloppily, prog-metal is disorienting to the point of nausea. When done right, as Moon Tooth demonstrates, it becomes a sonic Rubik’s Cube: tricky with its twists and turns, but fun to see how fast you can solve the puzzle. Listening to Crux, you become lulled into intense concentration, then sideswiped by a burst of energy. Robust vocals cut through the labyrinth without getting in the way, making this a palatable album for those averse to screaming in their metal. Favorite Tracks: “Omega Days”, “Rhythm and Roar”
Eleven albums in, Amon Amarth carry on the legacy of viking lore in steady vigilance. The album’s title is a nod to warriors who stormed through battle in a trance-like state, decimating everything in their path. Rather than a simple retelling of viking mythos, the Swedish metallers charge forward with empathy and passion, making this the perfect soundtrack to raise a glass (or a horn) to toast your sisters and brothers in arms. Favorite Tracks: “Fafner’s Gold”, “Raven’s Flight”
Attention to detail is a trademark of Baroness. From planting album art Easter eggs to filling every sonic crevice on this album, ‘Gold & Grey’ is a complete piece with no part left untouched. Shades of the band’s heavy past are apparent on tracks like “Seasons”. This is the first record to feature Gina Gleason, who’s a perfect fit on guitar and creates beautiful vocal harmonies with frontman John Baizley. Favorite Tracks: “I’d Do Anything”, “I’m Already Gone”
The third LP from Tomb Mold is old-school death metal with an overtone of stargazing curiosity. Instead of absorbing the cosmos in wonder, however, they expose outer space as the horrifying, heinous black hole that it is, using atmospheric textures over galloping guitars and blast beats. “Phosphorene Ultimate” provides an interlude to the madness, and “Heat Death” tucks us in after an exhaustive search of the stars. Favorite Tracks: “Planetary Clairvoyance”, “Infinite Resurrection”
Corey Taylor promised to push the boundaries of Slipknot’s creativity and experimentation with ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, and the traveling demon circus delivered. They retain mass appeal by cutting the fat - it’s heavy, but not gluttonous. The album stays balanced by playing with tempo: “A Liar’s Funeral” pumps the brakes so we can catch a breath, while “Spiders” trades out guitars for minimalist piano as the centerpiece. Favorite Tracks: “Unsainted”, “Solway Firth”
I’ll be honest: the wait for Tool’s follow-up to '10,000 Days' was so excruciating that I spared myself the blue balls and stopped caring months before it dropped. Once it did, though, I was drawn back in by the massive payoff for the fans, the lore that surrounded it, and the musicianship of the album itself. While the lengthier tracks feel self indulgent, it’s a formula (or lack thereof) that works for Tool. That said, my favorite song on the record is also the longest one, clocking in at almost 16 minutes. Favorite Tracks: “7empest”, “Invincible”
Chelsea Wolfe embraces fragility in a genre that celebrates brute force. Her vision of delicate doom on ‘Birth of Violence’ is gorgeous and melancholy and plays out like a folk-metal movie soundtrack. This is the record you put on as your coven is preparing for a ritual. Favorite Tracks: “Deranged for Rock & Roll”, “Preface to a Dream Play”
Gatekeeper have taken the frostbitten feel of Nordic death metal and fried it to a crisp under the hot Arizona sun. This blistering LP has a swagger that softens the blow of its nasty assault and brings you stomping back for more. Kurt Ballou, the Rick Rubin of extreme music, was enlisted to sharpen the edges, putting a shine on one of the most exciting metal albums of the year. Favorite Tracks: “Barbaric Pleasures”, “Sweltering Madness”
An honorable mention goes to sludge-slingers Tides of Sulfur. The Cardiff trio created an EP that’s loud, suffocating and truly terrifying. I hope they make it stateside in 2020! Favorite Track: "Worms"