Personal Top 20
|1. Sabaton – The Great War
Sabaton are one of the best of the “newer” bands that have emerged post 2000’s. Their latest album was perhaps the single album that I listened to the most in 2019. Seeing them live in the fall where they played so many songs from THE GREAT WAR nailed home for me the excellence of the album, the band, their image, and lyrics etc. They have it all and are unstoppable. When people moan about “what will be left when all the older dinosaur metal bands retire?” – this is one of the handful of metal bands that are there to take up the reigns and in many ways, have already.
|2. Borknagar – True North
Borknagar are a unique band and I consider them to be one of my favs. They were probably the band that I spent the most time in 2019 listening too overall. You can’t label them as simply one style other than “metal” as they have progressive black metal, folk and melodic metal elements throughout their glorious music. The song “Up North“, although featuring clean vocals is perhaps my fav song of 2019. The only bummer, long-time vocalist Vintersorg is not on the album nor in the band any longer.
|3. Death Angel – Humanicide
Thrash masters return with their stellar studio album once again proving that the old guard thrash bands are still the best and have a lot of fire and power to offer!
4. Abbath – Outstrider
It was a rough year for the black metal legend from Immortal, Abbath. Addiction is a terrible thing and the frontman imploded on stage during the South American tour. Hopefully he can keep his drinking under control or quit entirely because we need him and his music in our lives for much longer. Despite the crap news, the 2019 release was fantastic! Now hopefully his previous band will also release a new album soon.
5. Darkthrone – Old Star
I’m a fairly newcomer to Darkthrone. However, OLD STAR is a fantastic METAL album. Black metal takes a back seat to the trad metal and Black Sabbath styled riffs, which works wonderfully. A few faster/blacker songs would not go astray though.
6. Soilwork – Verkligheten
This is a band that I LOVED for their first several albums. Then they kinda got too metalcore/nu and I stopped paying attention. This album is not exactly a return to their old sound, but it is a huge step back into a more METAL direction. The hardcore-isms that turned me away are nearly all gone and we have great riffs, solos, singing and all around great songs. I was happy to have the band back in my regular listening rotation, like welcoming back an old friend you lost touch with.
7. HammerFall – Dominion
Straight up heavy metal is the name of the game these days with HammerFall. They don’t come off so much like a “power metal” band these days with mid-tempo songs being more the rule of law. I prefer their speedier songs to the uninteresting (to me) tracks like “(We Make) Sweden Rock” and all their ballads. If they dropped that and upped the speed, the album would have been further up my list. Their place at #7 though is testament to how much I do still love the band tho!
8. Mgla – The Age of Excuse
This band is fantastic. I love everything about them. The image is perfect. The grimness of the black faces and hoods. The riffs are deadly. The production is excellent. One of black metal’s finest bands period.
9. Gloryhammer – Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex
This band makes me smile, sing along, raise mystical orbs. They are perhaps the most over the top visually/lyrically band I love. I would love to see them live someday.
10. Frozen Crown – Crowned in Frost
This is another “new to me” bands whose album got a lot of spins in 2019. I like that many of the songs feature duel male/female vocals.
11. Iron Savior – Kill Or Get Killed
Those riffs! They can do no wrong in my books.
12. Tyr – Hel
Not their best album, but still fantastic.
13. Overkill – The Wings of War
How they keep the fires raging this late into their career is inspiring!
14. Imagika – Only Dark Hearts Survive
Welcome back guys! hope there is more to come!
15. Månegarm – Fornaldarsagor
Falling under the “new to me” category I really enjoyed this album in 2019. A blackened/folky/power metal mix that works well.
16. Turilli/Lione Rhapsody – Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution)
While I prefer their tales from the enchanted lands etc sound, this modernized version of the band still has the magic.
17. Crystal Eyes – Starbourne Traveler
Finally a new album from this heavy/power-metal band.
18. Dragonforce – Extreme Power Metal
Cheesey, but fun as always.
19. Freternia – The Gathering
Welcome back Freternia, you’ve been missed!
20. Beast in Black – From Hell With Love
This is a weird band. Metal for people into pop/dance music? Dance/pop for people into metal? I dunno, but the vocals are amazing and it’s just too damn catchy to ignore.
Best Metal DVD/Blu-Ray
Helloween – United Alive
Capturing live, what many of us around the world witnessed live in 2018/19, this was easily my top live video for the year.
Best Live Album
Tribulation – Alive & Dead At Sodra Teatern
A different kind of concert preformed in an historic venue with a seated audience. The band played two Acts – the first is the DOWN BELOW (2018) record in its entirety, while the second second act contains songs from songs from 2013’s THE FORMULAS OF DEATH and THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT. They completely left out their debut death metal album THE HORROR – likely because it’s so different from their current gothy/melodic/blackened metal style.
Sabaton with HammerFall in Toronto, Oct. 2019.
Sabaton have been regularly coming to North America and building a big fan base for a few years. That’s why they were the headliners for this tour despite HammerFall being the senior band. HammerFall have not toured regularly here and it was evident because the Sabaton army was definitely the dominant force. That aside, both bands played amazingly and it was my first time seeing HammerFall even though I’ve been a big fan since they saved traditional power metal back in 1997.
Best New Band (debut full length was from 2019)
While I got into several new (to me) bands in 2019, none of them were on their first album in that year.
My Favorite Discovery of 2019 was…
Manimal – an epic power metal band, that I had heard before but never really gave a serious listen to until 2019 with the album Purgatorio. In the Primal Fear vein with heavy riffs and soaring vocals. Excellent.
Runner up: Lord of the Lost. I don’t really listen to much in the way of goth metal, but this German band caught my ear in 2019 with their 2018 release THORNSTAR.
Best Local Band
Same pick as last year, Emblem. Very cool NWOBHM styled band.
Disappointments of 2019
Nothing comes close to the disappointment of Slayer’s retirement. Yes they went out on their own terms and still on a high, but I was hoping there was more wind left in the slatanic sails.
Hopes for 2020
Would like to hear new albums from King Diamond, Kreator, Helloween, Satyricon, and….can Gamma Ray please do something?
Also, just maybe, some new Vintersorg, now that he’s not involved with Borknagar ( 🙁 ) he should have more time for his own band and to get an album out. Same for Immortal. They didn’t tour or make any videos from their 2018 album…so hopefully that means they have been writing the new album and it will come out soon!!