What a hell of a year and so many great gigs and festivals I nailed. Met most of the important people on the Baltic Sea, in Europe, in the United States of America and in England. To name a few top gigs… Electric Wizard NDF Tilburg, Incantation NDF Tilburg, Naglfar NDF Tilburg, Grave Miasma NDF Tilburg, sunno))) San Fransisco, Iron Maiden Oakland, Iggy Pop Dalhalla, King Diamond Copenhagen,Band of Horses Stockholm, Slægt Roadburn, Venom Rejmyre, Blasphemy London, Nuclear Assault SDF, Witch Stockholm, Molasses Roadburn, Vulcano London, Candlemass Stockholm, Sólstafir Stockholm, Adorior London, & At The Gates Roadburn. I most likely have forgotten a great number but these are the spots I get thinking of right here, right now.
So to get into the music. A great year for great music and it´s been so hard to choose just a few that will end up on the list. So many great ep´s, demos and live albums too, that are disqualified. This is a list for Full Length ONLY New Recorded Songs… So, I am writing this enjoying a great pint of Julmust.
- Vastum “Orificial Purge”
Oakland and the Bay Area is responsible for a lot in my life. So much great music I can not even start to namedrop as it would be stupid in the end. In 2016 I had the opportunity to see Vastum play at California Death Fest in Oakland (now fest re-located to L.A.). I only knew slightly about them as they had members from Necrot, with whom I was more familiar with. Surely when in Oakland, go check it up. So I discovered an energetic Death Metal band living on their own planet follow their rules and regulations and live they did act like an L.A.-hardcore band in 1981, yes, IT was that intense, believe me. Kicking off their fourth full-length album with a short, horror movie-ish intro and then sparkle brutally into “Dispossessed in Rapture (first Wound)” with a small guitar bridge then into the wall of intense sound that persionifies this band so good. The title track provokes the heavy and depressive sounding side of the band, multifaceted main songwriter and bandleader Leila Abdul-Rauf overestimates her self here with darkened riffs under sad melodies. “Reverie in Autophagia” be my all-time favorite song by this band, I assume. It creeps, with a bulldozer behind it, sneaks behind the corner and crawls under your skin to rip your soul apart. This IS Vastum 2019, and I can not wait for them to return to Stockholm (if they do, because there were like 50 people last time… a modern disaster).
2. Seer “Vol. 6”
Canadian dark doom from Vancouver. Yes. This is an utterly exceptional one, finally. They´ve been on to it many times but never nailed it as this. You can hear it already at the start of the record with “Oath of Exile” that something is coming your way during the majestic intro turning into a Bathory-ish acoustic guitar. With an intro like that smacked off by a dynamic bonk with brutal guitars and aggressive drums with a wider soundscape on top with the vocals start with “Brother… heed their torment…the prophet’s absolution”, you know that you are home. The vocals from Bronson Lee Norton is an eclectic misery of sounds. Over the groovy doomy pounding tunes of generic Canadian Metal as we want it. Just fvkktastic y´all… BUY!!! I cannot for my life believe that it was not discovered and more hyped by the stonerdoom-prompts. Just figure this might be too heavy and too metal for them. It really does not get that easy poppy “roadburnnickadick”, mean you can not just nick your head to this band live… NO!
YOU MUST HEADBANG!
3. sunno))) “Life Metal”
We know the drill with sunno)))´s drone by now. Still, they snare your throat in the first chord… always and there is always a time when they do it more than usual. Like here. opening up with the dreamy and fantastic heavy “Between Sleipnir´s Breaths” featuring the fantastic cello, haldorophone & voice of Hildur Gudnadóttir. Stephen O´Malley and Greg Andersson really stunned me this time. “Troubled Air” is less and a bit held back, the very suitable continuation of the record. Also getting to the horns and voicescape in the mid of the song leaving a large haze of melancholy upon the very melancholic sculpture these lads are building here. The c-side is a 19 minute long “Aurora”, pending from cautious caressing of the strings and landing in the uphill, a stormy, cold Autumnal British night in the greyest and rainiest October. “Novae” ending this record in a 25-minute long epic tale with the darkest parts somewhere after 12 minutes reminds me of being up on a hill in a Tuscan thunderstorm with a long march in front of you before you see any shelter and you surely enjoy every single step you are taking despite you are hungry, tired and cold… a true masterpiece.
4. Ares Kingdom “By the Light of Their Destruction”
Since the glory days of Order From Chaos Mike Miler & Chuck Keller had a place in my heart. They did not let me down with Ares Kingdom, either. “Starry beast climbs the sky, serpent swims in night’s black sea, shining dimly across it’s length, alphard, the heart, the Solitary one… the Hydra Void” Alex Blume’s vouce starts off this record like the rest of the band hyper sharp on turbulent speed. This trio from Kansas have many musical skeletons in the closet and they are not afraid to blast them all upon us, song by song. “Dark Waters Eridanus” starts up with a bridge built upon create drumming upon a pounding riff and by the end of it comes the YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHRRRGHH… blergh! “Allergy” is a dimension of wrapped heaviness with voice & sound effects and remains the great surprise of this record. “Talis Chimera Est” concludes the record with some war march-ish drum intro exploding into hydra speed of blackened death bloody metal. Some true brutal moments before the 37 minutes are all by. Splendid, as usual..
5. Denial of God “The Hallow Mass”
These long going Danes have been sailing their hardships with their noses high in the underground over all the years. Blackened Death Metal from the 1st Class, expect nothing less whatever you are listening too. This record is under that cover, too. You need to run, nearer to the speaker. Original members since 1991, Azter on Guitar, and his master´s voice Ustu Mallagam trolls their melodies over the old school and the struggles are long and tough. accompanied by Galheim on drums, they aim beyond this world in a horrific satanic realm with samples from horror films spicing up the life of this record and it feels so generic. The breath taker “Undead Hunger” & “The Hour of the Worm” are the most fighting songs on this, their only third, full-length album. Leaving it only to the great masterpiece and probably the best song of 2019 overall…
6. Swervedriver “Future Ruins”
Everybody who knows me knows my attraction for depressive, psychedelic shoegaze and the Britons. So, no one is happier than I that Swervedriver do exist in 2019 and make music like if it still was the early nineties and their guitars were loudly generated all over Europe, for pop fans, for rock fans, for metalheads, for the people who know what a great moody guitar is all about. Adam Franklin declares that he had nothing to dream so he dreamt of you… says it all. “Merry Winter” is the super fantastic grey afternoon in March, it is still some ice on the streets and the sky looks like November and everything is boring, still, you find it cozy and you do like it. Going from easy chewing gum pop in the start it fades towards the dark horizons and the slowly imperfect horror of a hung overish Sunday in the finalizing “Radio-Silent” going from a dissonant plink to a silent noise of abstract gazing melodies into a sea of feedback. “Drone Lover” be my fave pick on this one and I hope we hear more from them soon. This is so far from over, believe me.
7. Dark Throne “Old Star”
I have no clue how many times Fenriz and Nocturno Culto changed the styles and concepts for Dark Thorne, but numerous. I do not like everything they did, but when they do something I do like. I normally like it a lot. “Old Star” is an album with odd song titles, that certainly makes them more interesting, like “I Muffle Your Inner Choir”. This is an album Celtic frost could´ve done in a Celtic Frost-way in the ’80s but did not do so. They were pretty much around here but not really exactly here. So the inspiration is clear. These dudes heard a few “Ugh´s” inside of them composing it. Already the second song, “The Hardships of the Scots” stung me for this. Heaviness and simple Black Metallic-riffs from the lost ancient times. Yes. The boring and depressive strain after 4:19 that follows the rest of the song is so fantastic. It raises this song to the skies. The rock mid-tempo “Alp Man” is an interesting one, well the whole shit is kinda equally great.
8. Candlemass “Door to Doom”
“Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” is by far the most played Swedish Metal-record in my home/walkman since I first got it in 1987. Therefore my expectations might be too high on this one when vocalist Johan Längqvist returned to the band some 33 years ever after. It is not an easy thing coming back after 33 years to please fans and to sound as they think you should do. It is not him who is the problem here, though. No, the songs sound more like the “King of Grey Islands”-era than maybe the songs we wanted to hear. I do not know, maybe this record was written with Mats Levén or Rob Lowe in mind, I do not know when Leif wrote them. It is still the fact that it is these songs I am listening to now. “Under the Ocean” is a typical Rob-song in my ears. A song written for Johan would be a bit drier in the arrangement to suit Johan’s voice better. It is really a great Candlemass-record, maybe in the same class as “King of Grey Islands” or “Death, Magic, Doom”, but it does never hit the higher limits of Candlemass, like the first or fourth album. I had my hopes for a little, little more. Well, there is always the next time. The weakest song in my ears is the single “Astrolus: the Great Octopus”, where Tony Iommi do a guitar solo. So, you´ll see, we´re still speaking high horses here. “The Omega Circle” is a fantastic song, that they should play live.
9. Aoratos “Gods Without Name”
Some times it is the co-incidents. A great friend of mine, Jordany, an American from the Netherlands, happened to visit Stockholm for a few days of work, a gig with Slash and I snatched her up for digging records, visiting Akkurat (the important things in life) etc
Whilst we stand to dig in the news section at Sound Pollution-store, she tore up a record from the stand and goes like… “I really like the artwork of this one (which you can see in the video below)”. I thought I liked it too, had a look over at the record, asked Linus, the store-manager, what he thought about it and he was like “-It just got in I do have no clue but it should be Black Metal”. So, I bought it. I mean, you can not leave a record with a song named “Holy Mother of Terror” standing there and hang out with Linus, no-no. Back home, it was a pleasant meeting. This seems to be a band from the land of splendid bloody hoppy beer, Colorado, and splendid they are. Clobbering Black Metal at high speed with no oddities. Some synthesizer breaks here and there, then burst onto the eternal fire again as well as some intro-songs, just what you can expect and damn it is good for it´s sake. Naas Alcameth is the only member with some guest musicians on the record.
10. Green Lung “Woodland Rites”
If I did not have had enough with British bands after Uncle Acid & the deadbeats, do somewhere between 70´s doom, 80´s dom and late 70´s early 80´s NWOBHM here is another one. Apparently they´ve been going on for a few years but when this popped out they were news for me. Such an intense riffity and punding vocals, getting me to the likes of Diamond Head and Danava just to make a short reflection. The flirt with the 80s goes Thin lizzy but not the flirt with the 70´s, not that goes more Iron Bridge or Ice Cross as far as I can hear. Also some old Heavy Load and Uriah Heep to be traced behind some Blue Öyster Cult. I bet they sold well of this record and will reach higher on the festival bills and player larger venues on their tours. God stuff.
11. Esoteric “A Pyrrhic Existence”
This band makes me mad sometimes. A late release of 2019 and a real frantic one. I bet most people already wrote their 2019-lists when this finally was out. I always do wait till after New Years, myself just because of these late ones. Eight years after their previous record and I nearly gave up to believe there was another one coming. And this is an epic majestic piece clocking in over one hour and a half. Only British bands can have this supreme boredom into their sound and still be so joyful to listen to. This is macabre darkness from the first second and slow as hell doom. The opener “Descent” starts so slow, so no, Sabazius is not calling but maybe Ahab is… The beauty comes after ten minutes leaving us daydreaming taking it all in. The aggression comes towards the end and we can finally hear drumbeats over 33BPM. No scapegoat at sight when we sway into the second part after the first half-hour and first song. “Rotting in Dereliction” is like a grasp from something unidentified down under you when you walk in the middle of the darkest forest a silent and horrifying night in August when the first annual true darkness took command over the atmosphere and flickered out your whole imagination and left everything so black. In “Consuming Lies” I can feel that we are back in the doom that Yorkshire had ca 1990, it´s a heritage this orchestra carried nicely over to Birmingham and the fine quarters of extremely heavy British Metal. Dragging us down in the sewers of the soundscapes of “Culmination” and spread inside our bodies like a turbulent disease and you wake up and it is the conclusion of “Sick and Tired” filling our bodies with a slow grow before it is thank you, goodnight, see you in eight years again…
12. Wolfbrigade “The Enemy: Reality”
In 2016 I went to the absolute first Netherlands Deathfest to see Autopsy, Razor & Blasphemy amongst many, many others. I decided to fly down already for the first night and pay a full weekend pass because Wolfbrigade was playing, and I did never regret that. One helluva band from Sweden that does not play in their own home often enough. Well, now we saw them at least three times since 2014. They are a rocket filled with doped fuel and their d-beat core just crushes everything that tries to walk straight up. Like a bloody hammer of energetic punk rock & intensity. Even when they go slower, like in “Human Beast” the intensity is so high so every alarm is ringing. Top tune for me deffo is “Hammer to the Skull”, a very Motörheadish innovation. “Doomsday Dominion” might be there most authentic track and kicks the bazooka out of a soldier’s hands.
13. Crypt Sermon “The Ruins of Fading Light”
Powerful, epic, melodic doom with aggression… Yes, we already had Candlemass on this list but also these deserved their spot in here. For us ever into Trouble, Witchskull, Sorcerer and aswell the Floridan as of the New Zeeland Confessor, we do know what the hell this all about. Doom by the book. Some very clean melodies upon very heavy melodies, dramatic Yngwie Malmsteen-solos, and superb, clean vocals. “Our Reverend´s Grave” be the third song and is for the lovers of great guitar solos. “The Snake Handler” is an another must headbang too. Nine epic minutes including all the elements from this kind of genre´s qualities. “Beneath The Torchfire Glare”, another track that is a great reminder of how good this stuff can be. Almost childish and cheerful melodies but still without losing it´s heaviness. So many bands do not fix that, because of 1. they do not know how the heck they do 2. they are overproduced 3. they are most likely not for real they just slightly heard a cool sound from aband and do think they actually sound like that… Nevermind, the title track leaves us after almost a full hour with the most epic moments of this record. Nice one.
14. Possessed “Revelations of Oblivion”
Coming back from the dead, it ain´t easy. Jeff Becerra, original singer and bass player of Possessed were shot down by two masked gunmen in an armed robbery after stopping to buy some Cigarettes in 1989. He´s been paralyzed ever after. It´s now 32 years since we heard any proper Possessed. Possessed originally vanished in 1987. Were slightly born again in 1990 by guitarist Mike Torraro and Bob Yost (+ others) and recorded a couple of demos. I was at the time in contact with the now late Bob Yost. I asked him about Jeff´s health but did not get a proper answer more than he´s ok but riding a wheelchair. Maybe he did not know or where not supposed to talk about it, I do not know. Anyhow, in 2007, Jeff were back with a re-incarnated version of Possessed starting to tour. Jeff, now dropping the bass, sits on stage in a wheelchair and sings. I do believe, at the time in 2007, he had Sadistic intent as a back-up band. From there he moved with various session members, but when he was starting (as far as I am considered) with this project in 2014, he settled to have more permanent line-up. Now he got so and a new songwriting partner in Daniel Gonzales. So, once again, how do you please your fans with anew record after so long? Impossible. The record starts with the intro “Chant of Oblivion” and the title says it all. “No More Room In Hell” shreds on and so far so good. We are back. This is in all honor Possessed. “Dominion” feels on the other way more like a bad copy. It does not come through all the way. “Damned” plays on old drum tricks used on the first album and it looks a bit like they want to do it a bit too much. “Abandoned” is really there. The technical Possessed circa “Beyond the Gates” that we loved so much. “Omen” is also one of the songs that we waited for claiming “The Eyes of Horror”-era and could´ve been ever after. The problem with this record is the three D-songs that maybe could´ve been held back. Without them, this could definitely be the album of the year.
15. Saint Vitus “S/T”
Another old & great band that seen both better and worse days. With a catalog like theirs, it is hard to release a new best-ever album every year. It must be hard to even keep up with something that fans can dig loose too after their previous one. So this is not a failure, in fact, this is a great album that did beat many others this year. This is just Saint Vitus and their punky, doomy, rock n or metal. Original singer Scott Reagers back on the microphone after Scott “Wino” Weinrich got busted for Amphetamine in Norway 2014. I saw them numerous times over the years with Reagers and to me, as never saw them with his before, it was fantastic. This is yet another record and it probably seeks the roots of the band a bit.
16. Fvneral Fvkk “Carnal Confessions”
As you can hear on the band named this is some funeralish doom, again. Yes, I had too much fun this year, so I end up listening to boring and depressive music… I know nothing about this band besides their E.P. a few years ago and that they are German. It is too epic-sounding to be named Funeral doom according to my own special book of rules. Still, it is brilliant. You would love to sit in front of your fireplace for the rest of your life listening to this. “Chapel of Abuse” is the song of domination for the entire album with the strength of melody that whispers that you can not leave, you must stay until the needle leaves the arm… mean the vinyl.
17. Inter Arma “Sulphur English”
Also, a band that bounds barriers and breaks ices. “A waxen sea” starts this record with a very old school Black Metal-context. Simple with fast drums and the grunting vocals, yes the grunting vocals, finally. I like this a lot. “Citadel” directly takes this record in a different formula, without losing the grip of Black Metal it tells we are traveling somewhere else. “Howling lands” starts off like a typical film soundtrack. “Stillness” is rubbing Sólstafir in taking something from nothing to pure heaviness. The jazz attacks in the longest song of the album “The Atavist´s Meridian” and get me to think of Mick Harris project Scorn with metal sounds. This is very far from the start of the record and I can understand that they confuse many people with this brutal mix of independent and generic musical styles. Somewhere this song climbs back to where the record started and we are into the simple black metal with grunting vocals again, but with the jazziest drums heard outside if New Orleans since 1953, man… After a few minutes, this song tempers down and slides into an acoustic ocean of progressive rock, not far from what I´ve heard my old band do, sometimes. This song in itself beats the competition of this kind of brutal, eclectic record for this year in my ears. Because it is more complex and gets a bit more out of everything. The title song concludes this matter and is a massive mix of what we heard with horror scaled guitars flickering before the end try to evaluate your listening a bit. A difficult, but in my ears, strong record. So difficult and different it will never be for the common people. I will surely remember it.
NOTE: I did mix the years up (that is what is happening when you write without cheating notes). Soone record got replaced, with all rights with another one.