Every year on The Metal Dad Radio Show we do a two-episode round-up of our Top 20 Metal Albums of the Year. It’s nothing more than one man’s favorite records, but we have a ton of fun with the shows and the countdown over the course of two weeks probably gives us more joy than it really should.
Putting this year’s shows together, for whatever reason, seemed infinitely more difficult. There were just too many great metal records this year and that’s a brilliant problem to have. With that in mind we’ve decided to expand things a bit and offer up our Top 40 albums of 2019.
Numbers 40 through 21 are below and once each radio show airs we’ll unveil numbers 20 through 1 here as well. The Top 20 will air on Cygnusradio.com on Thursdays (Dec. 12 & 19) at 7 pm Eastern, and Fridays (Dec. 13 and 20) at 2 pm Eastern.
40. Traveler – Traveler
Earlier this year a friend of mine asked for a recommendation for any “new bands playing old school metal” and without hesitation Canada’s Traveler was the first one I recommended. Playing a brand of traditional metal that sounds straight out of the storied NWOBHM scene, Traveler wrote some of the catchiest metal you’ll hear this year filled with ripping solos, soaring riffs, and fantastic vocals. The complete package for fans of metal done the old ways.
39. Angel Witch – Angel of Light
Speaking of the NWOBHM, 2019 saw the return of one of that scene’s best exports. While their 2012 comeback record, As Above, So Below, was a triumph you could make a very convincing argument that this album is the band’s best work since their classic 1980, self-titled debut. The fact that we are even talking about a band putting out some of their best material almost forty years after their debut album is miraculous itself. It’s not hyperbole either. Chunky riffs abound and there’s enough dark atmosphere here to really cement this band’s rep as one of the heaviest to come out of that original NWOBHM scene.
38. Lightning Born – Lightning Born
It was a really solid year for the stoner rock/traditional doom scene in 2019 and North Carolina’s Lightning Born was one of the brightest stars in that hazy galaxy. Featuring Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity and members who have spent time in such stoner stalwarts as Bloody Hammers, Hour of 13, and Demon Eye, you knew right out of the gates this band was going to bring the thunder, and bring it loud. While the prerequisite Sabbath worship is present, this band really stretches their songwriting wings in ways that most modern day stoner rock bands are either afraid to or don’t have the chops for.
37. Orm – Ir
Two years ago Denmark’s Orm came out of the proverbial darkness and obliterated everything in their path, offering up one of my absolute favorite albums from 2017. Once again Orm hits us with a slab of blackened metal of epic proportions. The two-track Ir is 47 beautiful minutes of progressive and doom-laden black metal. It’s an album that strays further into black metal territory than its predecessor, yet somehow still retains the majesty of the bands more doomier roots.
36. Verwoed – De Val
I won’t even pretend like I had heard this Dutch black metal act before their debut, full-length showed up in my inbox. One of the great, blackened blessings in this bleak and weary world is discovering new artists, and when one of those new artists is able to deliver an album of complete nightmare fuel like this one it’s truly magnificent. Fans of atmospheric black and death metal should find a way to get this album into their ear holes as quickly as possible.
35. Superstition – The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation
I first discovered this band at the end of last year when The Metal Dad Radio Show did a segment on bands from New Mexico. I was absolutely hooked the minute I heard their two 2018 demos. Their debut full-length for the mighty 20 Buck Spin label was well worth the anticipation. It’s a dirty, nasty slab of old school death metal similar to a lot of what was spewing out of Florida in the early ’90s. Death metal has become something of a crowded field once again, but this is one band to definitely keep an eye on in the years to come.
34. Suspiral – Chasm
The Spanish masters of occult black metal return with their newest harrowing sonic experience. This band writes albums that even the most ardent metal supporter might shy away from out of pure terror. The atmospheres, the sonic brutality, all of it comes together in this absolutely grotesque, cacophonous blast of supernatural hatred. For fans of the most extreme corners of the black metal world it’s absolutely delicious.
33. Ringworm – Death Becomes My Voice
Since their 1993 debut, Cleveland’s Ringworm have been one of the heaviest and most barbaric hardcore bands in the world. Their brand of metallic hardcore has a heavy emphasis on the ‘metallic’ with riffs that would make thrash fans salivate. For a band that’s put out some absolutely killer material this album stands very close to, if not at the top of the mountain. It’s an unrelenting collection of songs that hammers you from note one in the best way possible. Circle pits are highly encouraged while listening to this record.
32. Borknagar – True North
One of the most prolific acts in extreme metal over the last 20+ years, this is Borknagar’s eleventh full-length album since their 1996 debut. Much like a snowflake, no two Borknagar records are exactly alike either. True North sees the band expand their prog leanings, while also reaching back once again to their more primal, blackened roots. The end result is not just a worthy follow-up to 2016’s massive Winter Thrice, but arguably one of their best albums of the last two decades.
31. Crypt Sermon – The Ruins of Fading Light
Easily one of 2019’s most anticipated albums for me and I was not left disappointed. Their 2015 debut knocked me for a loop and stands as one of my favorite metal releases of the decade. The Ruins of Fading Light picks up right where Out of the Garden left off – a veritable bevy of traditional metal meets early doom on a never-ending, sonic battlefield. This is metal truly done in the ways of old to near perfection.
30. All Hell – The Witch’s Grail
North Carolina’s All Hell are one of those acts that seemingly take all their influences, toss them in a blender, and just let the contents spew all of the place with no intention of ever cleaning it up. Blackened thrash with punk rock aesthetics might be your best bet at descriptors, but there’s something much more raw and visceral about this record that helps it defy nominal genre definers. If you like your metal or punk fast and pissed with a twist of horror then make your way to this album without hesitation.
29. Abbath – Outstrider
Abbath’s post-Immortal output has been nothing short of stellar, especially for fans of his former outfit. Taking all the elements that made Immortal one of the premiere black metal bands in the world and peppering in various metal and hard rock influences, Abbath has been able to create something wholly unique. This album sees him stretch his songwriting even further away from his blackened roots. It’s been a musical progression that is well worth keeping track of.
28. Murg – Strävan
I have no idea why, whenever anyone begins a discussion of the best active black metal bands in the world, this band isn’t mentioned with the first few names. For my money, Murg has quickly become one of Sweden’s greatest black metal exports, certainly one of the best over this past decade. Strävan completes a trilogy of records that truly showcase this mysterious band’s penchant for writing swirling, churning, atmospheric black metal. Fans of black metal that isn’t afraid to consistently digress from the genre’s norms, without compromising the brutality, will find a lot to love on this record.
27. Swallow the Sun – When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light
Released all the way back in January, this was one of the first truly exceptional records of 2019. This band’s brand of melodic, atmospheric doom is both serene and crushing, often times all within the same track. There’s a sort of gloomy beauty that presides over this record in particular as they create something that feels even more expansive than previous material. It’s the type of record that a dark room and a good pair of headphones could send you on your own fantastic voyage of, sometimes depressive, self-discovery.
26. Critical Defiance – Misconception
This was another band I uncovered through The Metal Dad Radio Show when we did a segment focusing on bands from Chile. This is their debut album released through Unspeakable Axe Records and to say it’s an absolute ripper would be a drastic understatement. If you had told me this album was some long lost thrash classic from 1987 I would not even have blinked. Taking cues from some of the scene’s biggest champions, especially those of the Teutonic variety, Critical Defiance write thrash metal that’s the perfect soundtrack for destroying as much shit as humanely possible.
25. Devil Master – Satan Spits on the Children of Light
After Relapse Records released their first two demos as a comp album last year, this was another one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2019. Listen, if you are going to wear hooded cloaks and carry around candelabras you better bring the goods, and Devil Master does just that. I’ve seen a lot of ‘Celtic Frost meets punk rock’ descriptions online, and honestly that’s not a bad take, if not an overly simplistic one. This album packs in about a thousand hours worth of horror movies into a crusty/d-beat package that constantly dances in and out of first wave black metal territory. It’s a raging, spooky good time and fans of any of the aforementioned bands or genres will find a lot to mosh to on this album.
24. Bask – III
Easily one of the most unique bands and albums on this list, North Carolina’s Bask play this sort of stoner rock meets dark Americana hybrid that winds up sounding even more fascinating than you’d expect. While they fit in with a lot of bands emanating from that whole “Southern metal” scene, they also have a sound that’s completely unlike any other heavy act crawling out of Atlanta or Raleigh or any other major Southern metropolis. I’ve been somewhat obsessed with this band since their 2014 debut and each album since has just upped the ante. A gorgeous and captivating record worth as many listens as you are willing to commit to it.
23. Darkthrone – Old Star
The original masters of the storied second wave of black metal return once again with another veritable exposition on the history of heavy music. Eighteen albums into their wondrous career and I’m convinced this band can do no wrong. Old Star sees them reach back into metal lore and come through the time machine with a handful of influences including traditional heavy metal, thrash, doom, and of course all things blackened. This band gives zero shits these days about what anyone thinks and has consistently been putting out records they themselves would want to own. I’ll take that type of authenticity every day that ends in ‘y’.
22. Spirit Adrift – Divided By Darkness
This band has been somewhat of a darling of the traditional metal/doom scene for a couple years now, and I was personally curious to see how they would respond after their 2017 album, Curse of Conception was universally lauded. It would have been real easy for this band to follow in the footsteps of so many others and begin to turn their sound towards something more accessible to the general masses. Instead they doubled down and delivered an album that’s nothing short of an old school doom masterwork. Heavy, yet soaring in all the right places, this is an album that can become extremely addictive in a short period of time.
21. Full of Hell – Weeping Choir
Is it grindcore? Death metal? Blackened crust? Probably all of the above and then some. Full of Hell have once again delivered one of the year’s most extreme albums. Each song is a roughly two-minute bullet right to the back of the head. It’s a raging, nasty album the way that few other bands could even attempt to replicate. Arguably their best and most hate-filled album to date, this record is not for the faint of heart.