30 Albums That Ruled 2019 + Runners Up +A Long Overdue Update

The death knell on 2019 is ready to sound, no doubt in a luminescent display of fireworks, booze, and senseless hollering of Auld Lang Syne. And as we cheer on the beginning of a new decade, which promises more of the same fear & loathing – as well as a torrent of groan-inducing trends no doubt – we must not forget the music which helped pull us all through a stomach-wrenching year of farces and, on a personal note, creative ennui. This is what this list aims to be. This is my list. It is a compendium of music that frankly owned the final year of the 2010s for this lone enthusiast of the riff. There are a tonne of releases I would have loved to have made it on this list, many of which differ greatly from the predominant genres featured here, but as I began putting this together I realised I needed to prioritise the albums which did more than leave stupid-grins upon my haggard-like face. Some additions were added as my list for The Metal Observer was submitted, and some, many of you might argue, do not deserve a place on this list, or at least as high up as they are. Poppycock. These were the albums which made my year.

But first, a little update is necessary. Things looked promising for Cult of the Ibex around June and July. I was writing on a daily basis, and publishing just as frequently if not more so. But a number of overwhelming factors began to take precedence and consume my daily life. The biggest factor in this is my job. I won’t go into too much detail as to what I do but certain incidents transpired which forced me to reevaluate my attitude towards it – spoiler: this is a positive as I have since garnered more responsibilities – resulting in me staying longer and working harder. After most days I was too physically beat to do anything creative. On the plus side this, plus a drastic change in eating habits, has seen me lose almost 4st since May! Huzzah, right? The most life-changing factor however was my marriage to my beautiful partner in crime; whilst the buildup to our October wedding became increasingly stressful (have we done this, what do we do about that and so on) the actual implications of this weighed on my mind immeasurably. Obviously I couldn’t be happier, but the one thing they never tell you about getting married is how it changes your perspectives and your mind. I wish I knew, as this, on top of everything else – including finances, worries of the future, what I actually want to do with my life – has thrown my mind into chaos. Possibly more on that part later.

That is why this site has been inactive since July. I’ve had numerous review requests come in, with the promise I would get to them. I still intend to, but as of now I am starting afresh with Cult of the Ibex. I am working on creating a space at home for writing and will get to them. This site, and its unrelated sister site, are my babies and I want to see them flourish.

Anyway, you’ve read enough of my boring-ass life and excuses to cover you for the coming decade. You’re here to read a list. So let’s get on with it!

 

The Runners-Up + 30 Albums That Ruled 2019

Being an on-and-off contributor to The Metal Observer has given me a Top 30 mentality, but because this collage-creator has some snazzy look for Top 40, the past couple of years has seen me shoe-horn in an extra ten albums to fill this list. No I am not that superficial, there is a method to all this! The following ten albums previously featured higher up in the list and, instead of leaving them out entirely, they deserve their acclaim just as much as winning group. Here begins the list from position 40 down to 31:

 

Nebula – Holy Sh*t (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Bright Curse – Time of the Healer (Ripple Music)

This Sun No More – In Circles (Self-Released)

Mars Red Sky – The Task Eternal (Listenable Records)

The Black Wizards – Reflections (Kozmik Artifactz & Raging Planet)

Howling Giant – The Space Between Worlds (Blues Funeral Recordings)

Lowburn – Phantasma (Argonauta Records)

Legendry – The Wizard and the Tower Keep (High Roller Records)

Riot City – Burn the Night (No Remorse Records)

Zed – Volume (Ripple Music)

 

30: Savage Master – Myth, Magic and Steel (Shadow Kingdom Records)

 

30

 

The third album from Kentucky’s most, ahem, savage axeslingers, Myth, Magic and Steel is as fantastical as it gets. Rampantly blazing a scorching trail through a land filled with death and carnage is no easy feat, but frontwoman Stacey Savage commands her legion with swift and effective resound, ultimately making light-work of anything in their path. Her wrecking crew slice and dice with razor-sharp precision whilst she bewitches her enemies even closer, as heard in the rousing Devil’s Ecstasy and The Owl. Every song here has the potential to be its own hit, turning heads of 80s stalwarts (before they are cleaved off), with choruses to make Angel Witch jealous and more infectious riffs than you can shake an iron-clad fist at. Easily their most accomplished work to date. And as for that finale?

 

 

29: Vulture – Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves (Metal Blade Records)

 

29

 

If you thought 2017’s The Guillotine was a triumphant slab of old-school speed metal then the German’s follow-up will shred whatever is left of your skin clean off, leaving nothing but a pile of bones spread across the room once they’re done with you. On Ghastly Waves Vulture have absolutely nailed the production and perfected their songwriting and execution, resulting in a masterful collection of memorable licks dished out at breakneck speed courtesy of S. Genozider and M. Outlaw. Vulture’s music has always possessed this spectral quality – as if the tormented souls of aeons past have been unleashed upon the world – and this has clearly been ramped up on hits like Beyond The Blade, the furious Tyrantula, and their insane rendition of Thin Lizzy’s Killer On The Loose. Rip out your heart and join the chorus of the damned!

 

 

28: Destroyer of Light – Mors Aeterna (Argonauta Records)

 

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Unless you’ve been locked in a basement for 24 years, odds are you are incredibly familiar with Austin’s finest dealers of doom’n’gloom. Their first for Italian label Argonauta Records, Mors Aeterna sounds like some apocalyptic battle between light and dark, life and death; a blistering culmination of their repertoire up to this point. As haunting as it is heavy, there is enough sonic torment to keep you going until the inevitable endtymes approach, with soul-carving odes such as Afterlife, Burning Darkness, and Loving The Void keeping you company along the ride through their own colossal hell. If this is what the eternal death sounds and feels like then sign me up right now, for there is comfort within these labyrinthine compositions.

 

 

27: Stew – People (Ripple Music)

 

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If there was ever any doubt that Sweden is the ruling homeland for all things classic rock, then this power trio is here to quell them all and silence the naysayers. The concise nature of the music on People is as precise as it got in 2019: blunt and never messing around, every single note played sweeps you off your feet to boogie like you have never boogied before. Unlike some of their peers though, Stew clearly know when and how to have fun as testament in, well, name a song, Play The Fool and Afraid Of Getting Nowhere fiddle with the blues as if it were oxygen, whilst Endless Journey screams from the deepest depths of the heart. It’s pure rock’n’roll at the end of the day, and whilst the darkness of Kadavar’s latest is immeasurably great, it is this thumping debut which claims dominion should you need a classic chaser with your spirit of choice.

 

 

26: Caustic Casanova – God How I Envy The Deaf (Magnetic Eye Records)

 

26

 

God how I do envy the deaf, not having to hear some of the rubbish out there and such; but then I have to tell myself “if I were deaf I would not get to hear the really good shit” and boy does the new Caustic Casanova record fit the bill! A blistering tirade of punkish-stoner garage rock with some of the thickest bass grooves this side of Motörhead, this eclectic collection of wickedly punchy songs raucously blends together the finest elements of all heavy music and ought to appeal to every riff enthusiast out there. Chock full of slick wit and ingenious motifs, …Envy The Deaf does more than punch through the silence: it obliterates it, one dirty potent groove at a time, with the most mischievous of grins sprawled across its maniacal face. You’ll find fewer records providing the good times quite like this one does.

 

 

25: Officium Triste – The Death of Gaia (Transcending Obscurity)

 

25

 

You know that feeling when a group returns after a very long time and they release an album that’s not just good but utterly phenomenal – and one of their best?  That is the feeling crawling through your veins as this monumental return to form beckons the four horseman to bring forth the apocalypse. There is a staggering depth and beauty flourishing beneath The Death Of Gaia so recognisably Officium Triste’s handiwork that its melancholic majesty is absorbed without question, drowning you with wave upon wave of crushing elegance. Don’t believe me? Try not to be overwhelmed by the scale of World In Flames or the sumptuous sorrow of The Guilt and if you reappear without that glimmer of tragedy in your eye then you are simply not human my friend.

 

 

24: Idle Hands – Mana (Eisenwald)

 

24

 

This year’s gothic rock/post-punk sensation deserves every ounce of praise headed their way, for Mana, simply put, is an electrifying smash from start to finish. For this lowly enthusiast, to write about this record without gushing is a challenge, for since it landed in my mailbox it has been on near repeat across the span of the year. A lightning storm in a bottle that would not seem misplaced in some cult serial-killer flick, this deep-blue hued goliath oozes with an intense darkness that snatches you whilst you dream, leaving the otherworldly imprint of Give Me To The Night,  Dragon Why Do You Cry? and It’ll Be Over Before You Know It etched within your soul for an eternity. Plus it’s a blast to sing along to!

 

 

23: Smoulder – Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring (Cruz del Sur Music)

 

23

 

It is no secret the greatest heavy metal known throughout the land is steeped in myths and legends. The greats know this and, as their sublime debut proves all too well, so do Toronto’s Smoulder. On …Wild Daring, this valiant five piece ride gloriously into battle, their hearts and souls galloping to the pounding of war drums, to the rousing beat of Bastard Steel and The Sword Woman; to the rallying rushes of Collin Wolf and Shawn Vincent, who prove their chops among some of the genre’s more wellknown heroes. Let not the brief running time belie the true impact of this record for this is as epic as debuts get in every sense of the word, thus ensuring the dominance Canadian heavy metal held in this final year of the 2010s.

 

 

22: Spirit Adrift – Divided By Darkness (20 Buck Spin)

 

22

 

The evolution of Arizona’s Spirit Adrift continues to do nothing but astound in an age where the likes of Pallbearer and Elder are surging lightyears ahead of the contemporary doom scene; ever since 2016’s stellar debut Chained To Oblivion these guys have been hot on the heels of the frontrunners and at times even surpassing them. Divided By Darkness not only blows the doors to the pantheon of greatness clear off their hinges it casts its blinding light far and wide, tearing at the fabric of darkness and illuminating deep within our mortal vessels. The crisp metallic production is partly to thank here, but it is the raw talent of its progenitors who power this beacon of hope, and songs like Angel And Abyss and Tortured By Time triumphantly capture your attention and beckon you to their immense power.

 

 

21: Sanhedrin – The Poisoner (Cruz del Sur Music)

 

21

 

Stripped back to the bare essentials of old fashioned heavy metal might just be the most denim-and-leather statement you could stick on any band practicing this most ancient tradition but Sanhedrin own this with utter pride as sophomore record The Poisoner proves. Eight songs of the purest, most rollicking rock’n’roll await the intrepid enthusiast with boundless energy, blood, and just a smidgen of steel to boot. Jeremy Sosville’s riffs seem to be carved from the heftiest of stone whilst Erica Stoltz commands with primordial might as she rallies all who hear her call to the frontlines. It’s albums like this that rip all the bullshit away with terrific power which impact you the most, leaving your denim-clad skeleton roaming the earth for aeons to come. And show me a better song than The Getaway. I dare ya. I double dare ya, punk.

 

 

20: Kal-El – Witches of Mars (Argonauta Records)

 

20

 

Miss the days when the tube-bursting, mind-bending fuzz of Electric Wizard actually did to you what Darryl Revok did to Cameron Vale (and that first ConSec scanner)? Well, Norway’s Kal-El may just be your poison! Now cruising through the cosmic void on album no. four, this Norwegian troupe warp space-time with effortless ease and allow only their inescapably catchy hooks to drive their intergalactic vehicle of doom to their next destination. Witches of Mars is the continuation of their endless journey beyond the solar system, a phenomenally dense object bursting with enough gamma radiation to cook any object two galaxies over! Whilst its tripped-out cover of JJ Cale’s Cocaine is immensely enjoyable, it is the title track and Moon Unit which ought to be championed here. So, when is that tour with Cybernetic Witch Cult gonna happen?

 

 

19: Troll – Legend Master (Shadow Kingdom Records)

 

19

 

As it turns out, lumbering hairy beasts of mythologies past not only live and breathe every word uttered in the musky tomes from whence they spawned, they can also fill the pages of awaiting volumes with enough magnum opuses to be heralded among the greatest achievements known to mankind. Such is Legend Master, the befittingly-titled sophomore from Portland’s grooviest warlocks Troll; a feat of truly epic proportions, every one of its five tales a deeply woven oeuvre spawned from an illustrious imagination whilst Lou VanLanning’s powerful, drudging riffs cleave huge swathes of land from the American plains. If Troll continue down this road of such grand mastery, it will not be long before their name is uttered alongside the frontrunners of heavy metal – period. Legendary does not begin to even cover it.

 

 

18: Green Lung – Woodland Rites (Kozmik Artifactz)

 

18

 

Perhaps the most widely praised British group of the year (as far as doom goes anyway), Green Lung have enjoyed nothing but endless success across the span of 2019 and just one listen of the triumphant Woodland Rites is enough to see why. Steeped in enough occultic folklore to make both Hammer Horror and Cathedral jealous, and evoking the most ancient of British traditions – musically and spiritually – this immeasurably wicked debut peers from beneath its sinister cloak and unleashes a myriad of creatures, riffs, and choruses great and small. It doesn’t just evoke the power of the devil: it embodies it, wearing it like a second skin, using it to lure even passers-by into their ritual. To name any stand-out here would be an injustice, so you’ll just have to open up your heart, let the devil in, and be consumed by him to find out.

 

 

17: Sacri Monti – Waiting Room for the Magic Hour (Tee Pee Records)

 

17

 

Could psych rock get anymore powerful in 2019 than this phenomenally bombastic release? Plenty sure did try but frankly Sacri Monti did more than surge ahead of the pack with their second full-length it is; a graceful ode to the music of yore, to a time long forgotten, to a place few of us will ever tread. Waiting Room bursts with a kaleidoscopic intensity, birthing a fluvial haven where molten ideas become one , and simply ignoring the constraints of the medium; step foot into this sonic utopia and you shall be cocooned with Solaris-like waters (sans memories). Everything is safe (yet inexplicably untamed) within this space, and whilst the momentous singing of every instrument, every note, and every motif blends in and out of itself, you are left in a gleeful stupor. Simply put, this is as magical as a trip will ever get.

 

 

16: Candlemass – The Door to Doom (Nuclear Blast)

 

16

 

The old guard, it would seem, stepped into 2019 with hunger in their eyes, blood on their minds, and boy did they ravage the land until they had their fill. But out of all of them, it would be Candlemass who would leave their fiendish imprint carved into the very soul of men and women the world over – they’d even by nominated for a goddamn Grammy! The long-awaited return of vocal maestro Johan Längqvist proved to be nothing short of triumphant, having lost none of his power with age, and seemingly tipped the band into some kind of stellar overdrive; the riffs are are meaty and so plentiful you could feed two thousand souls with them! Even at its quietest, moments like Bridge Of The Blind stand proud against the goliaths of Astorolus and House Of Doom. Simply put, you just don’t get any better than Candlemass and this record cements that fact.

 

 

15: The Lord Weird Slough Feg – New Organon (Cruz del Sur Music)

 

15

 

It has seemed like an eternity since Digital Resistance, even more of one since The Animal Spirits, but the endless wait for their holiness’ The Lord Weird Slough Feg to re-emerge and reclaim their throne came to a glorious end with this fantastical spellbound collection of myths and legends. Mike Scalzi and his band of merrymen seriously outdid themselves with New Organon, catapulting an infinite supply of metallic dirges and tales long thought lost to the ravages of time into fields of hardened denim-clad warriors. There is an air of true heroism in the galloping valour of The Apology, New Organon, and The Cynic whilst the jugs of mead which are Sword of Machiavelli and Coming Of Age In The Milky Way are bottomless and full of merriment. The true heirs to the likes of Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road have certainly returned and long may they rule over us!

 

 

14: Abrahma – In Time for the Last Rays of Light (Smallstone Records)

 

14

 

From its utterly forlorn and soul-crushing opening right through to its devastating finale, Abrahma’s third opus is the sonic equivalent of drowning in the middle of the ocean during some tragic storm. The purest of dread and melancholia oozes from every orifice not just from this record but from those whose ears dwell upon it long enough; take the eviscerating gloom of Lost Forever as a how-to manual of evoking colossal sadness. Sebastien Bismuth’s voices flows along with the tormented lashings of the guitars as his tales of desperation pour out to touch deep into the void and pull out a plethora of ghosts for company. …Last Rays of Light strikes a haunting chord that lingers as you fall foul to its punishing spell, and is one of the finest doom incantations you’ll hear from the continent.

 

 

13: Kamchatka – Hoodoo Lightning (Kamchatka Music)

 

13

 

Where does one even begin with writing about how bloody brilliant Hoodoo Lightning is? This raw and gritty affair takes you through some hallucinogenic brawl-fest in some lowkey spit’n’sawdust bar like so few releases of this calibre manage these days; its bluesy interior however shines through after every punch is pulled. Like a diamond in the rough it manages to maintain a roughness yet is undeniably polished to the brink of perfection. Its hefty, meaty production allows these Swedish trio to bear their soul out more than any record they have released to date but, of course, their songwriting is simply reaching the fingers of some deity high above for songs like Blues Sciences 1 & 2, Monster, and Let It Roll (that fucking climax!) are beyond divine. Or, if you’d rather I cut the bullshit, Hoodoo Lightning rocks just a little bit harder than everything else – it fucking rocks, okay?

 

 

12: The Devil and the Almighty Blues – Tre (Blues for the Red Sun)

 

12

 

Why Salt The Earth alone did not receive more accolade than it deserves as one of 2019’s most eloquently crafted songs I will never know. That’s not to say the third album from Norway’s kings of doom-rock wasn’t highly praised – it sure as hell was – but it just does not feel like enough. The build-up of its epic 12-and-a-half-minute opener is a monumental masterclass of song execution and if that wasn’t enough it’s followed by five more slinking, stripped-back, earthen tunes; all of which crafted by men who stand tall and proud atop the highest of peaks – men of the land, born of root and soil, heirs to the throne of the sky. These melodies are timeless, rich, and replenish even the most depleted of souls. Music seldom gets as profound as this.

 

 

11: Traveler – Traveler (Gates of Hell Records)

 

11

 

2019 has been, quite frankly, the most phenomenal year for heavy music from the Canadian shores but it is Traveler who burst through the asteroid belt and crashed down to Earth with their eponymous debut which truly set the metal world ablaze. So much energy blasts its way through the physical barrier one could almost remark Traveler as some kind of extraterrestrial radioactive entity for very few young bands feed off each other’s rapport quite like this leather-clad battalion of speed and fury. Blistering licks and solos run wild here and boy don’t you dare think you can tame them, not for a second, because they will shred the skin clear off your body and bound you in chains; run alongside them however and you’ll be freer than a stallion in the Old West. Songs like Street Machine, Behind The Iron, and Speed Queen are so exquisitely crafted and executed they’d no doubt feature on a Canadian Metal rewrite should Darkthrone ever write one, and let’s not get started on Jean-Pierre Abboud; the guy is a living legend in the making and his voice is just perfect for this style! Long live the new kings!

 

 

10: Redscale – Feed Them to the Lions (Karma Conspiracy Records)

 

10

 

Few records have been spun to death quite like this eargasmic slab of wax in the Cult’s household. Even since its release back in July, the near constant rotation of some of the heaviest songs to grace my ears has never ceased to amaze, thrill, and leave me craving for more! Picture some messianic child birthed from the likes of Greenleaf, Clutch, Orange Goblin, and Lowburner, and you have yourself the definition of the word ‘phenomenal’. Through every hardened groove, every monstrous motif, and every word even muttered from this astonishing pipesmith, Germany’s upcoming warriors of the riff will send your neck into the operating theater time and time again. Feed Them To The Lions is the epitome of cool, and frankly, much like The Devil and the Almighty Blues, I am left shocked as to why this went relatively unnoticed. Do yourself a favour and turn yourself over to this beast and submit to its every demand.

 

 

9: Magic Circle – Departed Souls (20 Buck Spin)

 

09

 

In hindsight this should probably have landed much higher up on this list, for the sheer power bellowing from this proto-doom behemoth is unfathomable; it rattles your earthly foundations like a godly warhammer yet with all the finesse of a paladin’s staff. These songs spell the kind of sonic destruction long-missed since the heyday of Pagan Altar (there’s good reason vocalist Brendan Radigan has taken up the late Terry Jones’ mantle) not just in their swelling magnitude as heard on I’ve Found My Way To Die and Nightland but also in terms of scope – the acoustic prowess of A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares is staggering – and composition – Gone Again is as well-crafted a song as they come in 2019. Departed Souls is truly magical, and its mark has remained ingrained in our souls since its release.

 

 

8: Mono – Nowhere, Now Here (Temporary Residence Records/Pelagic Records)

 

08

 

Maybe I’m bias because Mono rank up there among my favourite bands of all time; maybe it’s because tenth album Nowhere Now Here was not only my first review for Kerrang Magazine in 2019 but my first successful review pitch; or maybe it’s because the simmering neon hue of its urban soundscape evokes a sense of longing – either way there is simply no denying how incredibly immersive, how staggeringly rousing this record truly is. Theirs’ is a sound which wields a phenomenal strength, one which has been building over their 20 year history, but with Nowhere Now Here Mono have reached sonic nirvana; one totally enveloping wall of sound after another carefully constructed before crashing down upon itself. Mono move souls with the same ease they move mountains, so naturally for the longest time this was the album to beat. But as far as their long career goes this is the pinnacle of everything they have built to date.

 

 

7: Darkthrone – Old Star (Peaceville Records)

 

07

 

The temptation to leave this blurb simply as “it’s Darkthrone motherfuckers, end of discussion” has been ridiculously tempting, but it must be quelled. Needlessly to say it takes a lot for these two heavy metal titans to release an unimpressive piece of music – more effort than composing something truly magnificent – which is a feat many of us take for granted. The music runs through their veins, they live and breathe the stuff, and here on Old Star every style the duo of Nocturno Culto and Fenriz have perfected bleeds into this ironclad portent of chain-breaking doom. Grizzled music for grizzled people if you will, it harkens back to the glory days of Hellhammer (like every Darkthrone record since The Cult Is Alive) but just feels a lot more refined, which is saying something. You can’t get as blunt a tune as any of these six odes of darkness, nor are you likely to in the future. It’s Darkthrone motherfuckers, end of discussion.

 

 

6: Horseburner – The Thief (Ripple Music)

 

06

 

Back when this site was releasing articles left, right, and centre, a song by the name of Hand Of God, Man Of Stone dropped and to say it blew me clean out of the water is a complete understatement. To call The Thief a masterpiece of contemporary heavy metal does little to relay the sheer wallop this record packs: from its central motif to the furious ragers Drowning Bird and the aforementioned single cascading deep into the earth’s crust, each song is a well-timed sonic assault perfectly blending an endless variety of styles into one brutally sensational musical experience. The level of precision running throughout ought to impress even the most stubborn of enthusiasts regardless of genre preference as songs wind round their tales with enough searing riffs and explosive hooks to make Mastodon jealous. And just when you think you couldn’t be impressed any further they throw one thunderous curveball after another across your face, leaving you ridiculously mesmerised long after the album draws to a befitting close. Pure genius.

 

 

5: Monolord – No Comfort (Relapse Records)

 

05

 

Rust, that earth-shattering goliath Monolord unleashed back in 2017, sure was a fine record right? It finally tipped those riffs and the songs which they built way over the edge and catapulted the band towards the pantheon of the greats. It seemed nothing they could have done would have bested that beast but weren’t we all wrong! No Comfort launches itself from its predecessor’s successful framework and weaves it through dense atmospheres of smoke and fire; what emerges from the other side is the smouldering wreckage of what once was, metamorphosing into this wondrous deity of heaviness. Their songwriting became something otherworldly with this release, as Larvae and No Comfort will be a testament of, but despite their old shell burning to dust on the ashen ground behind them they never lost sight of what Monolord is all about – the crushing weight of the doom riff. “From the ashes I’m born again / Skywards we fly” Thomas Jäger croons – such a statement as never been truer than with this modern classic.

 

 

4: Hippie Death Cult – 111 (Self-Released/Cursed Tongue Records)

 

04

 

Should you see plume upon plume of acrid smoke rising from out of Portland, Oregon, odds are it originates from wherever the hell the four heads that make up Hippie Death Cult spawned from and now dwell. Now, if the name alone does not intrigue you then perhaps you’d better pay attention to what their rampaging steamroller riffs and pummeling bass attack tell you, because just one spin of tracks like Breeder’s Curse, Pigs, and Treehugger is enough to leave you doe-eyed in the headlights of their oncoming doommachine. Then you’ve got the utterly evil-sounding Unborn (those drums alone are ominous enough) and the 70’s-drenched monument that is Black Snake begs which beckons the inevitable endtymes nearer; add it all up and you have a sneering jubilation of mankind’s ultimate peril – demise by our own hands – and boy are they relishing in it. Debuts seldom leave you foaming at the mouth quite like this one! Man those incendiary solos leave you with goosebumps….

 

 

3: Crypt Sermon – The Ruins of Fading Light (Dark Descent Records)

 

03

 

Behold the ruins! Rejoice the sermon of the crypt! The regal stalwarts of doom rode their iron-clad stallions through the battlefields painted in blood and emerged ever more triumphant with The Ruins of Fading Light, an epic tome of heavy metal of the most grandiose order. Brooks Wilson (clearly a legendary voice in the making) and co have ramped up their assault in every conceivable way and have vastly improved on their already striking brand of music which first came to light in 2015’s Out Of The Garden. Heck, this record blows their predecessor and practically all their contemporaries out of the water with the likes of The Ninth Templar (Black Candle Flame), Key Of Solomon, and The Snake Handler ascending towards the heavens on the back of Sleipnir like some blinding light. Each song is its own masterpiece and shows just how far Crypt Sermon have grown into their own armour, and are now poised to take over the world!

 

 

2: Inter Arma – Sulphur English (Relapse Records)

 

02

 

Bow down to the might of Portland’s masters of bone-crushing heaviness” is not a phrase you ought to be using this day and age to convince anybody of Inter Arma’s majesty. Four albums down the line these legends build from strength to strength before unleashing their lucid cacaophonic supernovae upon you. What makes Sulphur English so damn special is its restless vibrancy oscillating underneath its waxen surface; it’s not just pummelling riffs a la A Waxen Sea and Citadel but immensely intricate atmospheres burning and exploding in the forms of The Atavist’s Meridian and Blood on the Lupines. As if that was not enough, Howling Lands and Stillness add a more subtle yet even more devastating darkness into an already multi-dimensional entity. It’s a breathtaking sensory experience one can easily get lost forever in; a mesmerising trip through molten consciousnesses and incendiary wastelands whose blazes cannot be quelled by any mortal.

 

 

1: Atlantean Kodex – The Course of Empire (Ván Records)

 

01

 

Only one album can come head and shoulders above the rest, and after weeks of switching this accolade with the previous three records, it seemed obvious that this honour ought to go to Germany’s gods of epic heavy metal Atlantean Kodex. After six long years from the genre-defining The White Goddess they set sail to conquer Europa once again with yet another majestic tapestry of glorious anthems made from the finest of golden strokes. Even when the music takes a downward descent into darkness, such as that heard in Chariots, the cinematic surge sweeping through every passing gallop adds whole new levels of grandeur; though not straying too far from its predecessor’s splendour these elements still manage to make it stick out like a rose among thorns. How can music sound this magnificent? One often ponders this whilst cranking Atlantean Kodex to high volumes and being transported to an otherworldly domain where the thunder of hooves rule over the land. As a result, no matter how many times the songs get played and replayed, one is never left less astonished than before. I just simply close my eyes and be transported. I would say there is never going to be anything greater than this record on such a scale, but I also said this about The White Goddess, so….

 

 

 

 

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