I don’t know what is happening with power metal this year but I hope it never ends. It’s like a bunch of bands were like “you know what’s fucking rad? Full on power metal,” and just fucking ran with it. ShadowStrike is full on in that vein of thought. Less mocking the easily mocked trappings of the genre and more expressing a heartfelt love letter to the over the top nature, ShadowStrike blast through over an hour of full-hog, power metal, hooky laden masterworks full of unrepentant fun and fury. Fuck, I love this part of 2019.
Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Divination
I love Italian metal. It’s always so dramatic and overtly theatrical, with all genre tropes pushed passed the limit, across the board, all genres, but especially Italian Power metal. I mean, Rhapsody (of Fire), hello. Equally as ridiculous, or perhaps more so, is Elvenking, the physical embodiment of what a Renaissance Fair would be if it were ran by the World of War Craft hive-mind. You have to be able to accept a lot of pure cheese with this band, and if you can handle the taste, there’s an incredibly catchy and stupidly fun album there. And yeah, it’s ridiculous, but it’s fucking Italian power metal and if that’s what’s bothering you here perhaps you’re the one to blame, not Elvenking, because I went in expecting a heaping serving of nonsense, ridiculously, fantasy fueled power metal and I came away satisfied.
Cliterati – Ugly Truths / Beautiful Lies
I imagine this band is exactly what all these racists, alt-right, far-right fucks think is wrong with this country when it’s exaclty what’s right. A bunch of pissed off, gay, straight, multi-ethnic, and gender fluid, pissed off punks letting the world know about it, anti-Trump, anti-racist, anti-everything these fucks hold so dear. And it’s rad. It’s fucking powerful. This band and album rule. Fuck shitty people.
Mystagogue – And the Darkness Was Cast Out Into the Wilderness
Fucking exceptional, Dutch black metal that draws a considerable influence from the early Norwegian stuff but uses that as a launching point for captivatingly beautiful and ethereal passages of riff laden metal. Sweet and to the point, this an exciting black metal release in a year that has made me hate most black metal.
Imperium Dekadenz – When We are Forgotten
Another criminally underrated band that dwells in the morose, atmospheric, melodic black metal arena, Imperium Dekadenz keep that all swirling around but they’ve definitely upped the atmospherics and soundscape aspect of it, moving closer to a more tranquil soundscape not unlike some Depressive Black Metal stylings. I think that’s a pretty natural progression for a this band given how emotionally charged and melodic they are and it makes for another killer album in their lineup.
Orm – Ir
Epic black metal is probably the best way to describe this band. Classical instrumentation and composition predominate both 20+ minute tracks. Yeah, like I said, epic. Aside from that it’s a pretty grand black metal presentation, tons of peaks and valleys and nasty riffs. Excellent.
Disillusion – The Liberation
The only proggy metal band releasing a new album after 13 years that I care about is Disillusion. The bands intricate, progressive, and oh-so-crucially melodic and entrancing debut album Back to the Time of Splendor is a masterpiece and one of the best metal albums of the 2000’s, if not ever. Their 2006 album met with less than stellar reviews and since then they’ve been rather dormant but now, thankfully, they’ve come roaring back with an album that is in every way the spiritual successor to Splendor. Insanely beautiful and magnificently heavy and melodic, it captures that same spirit but firmly roots the band in 2019, such is the power of truly progressive and thoughtful musician ship instead of just cashing in on your own, self inflated mystique. One of the best of the year. Don’t doubt me.
Keys of Orthanc – A Battle in the Dark Lands of the Eye…
Lord of the Rings will never not supply endless content for black metal bands to dwell in. Like Lovecraft, the Tolkien bands tend to start to blur together with the prominent bands of each style staying out in front but Keys of Orthanc want to barge straight in there like a that flaming wolf head battering ram from that third movie (I don’t care what it’s name is). It’s hard not to compare this to Summoning… so I’ll get it out of the way now. It’s a lot like Summoning but with less focus on the soundscapes and more focussing on the metal and heaviness of it. Super dark and powerful music with a nice melodic nature to it, it’s by no means original but with just enough of their own spin Keys of Orthanc bring some new light to this micro genre.
Ancient Empire – Wings of the Fallen
Like clockwork, Ancient Empire has put out a new album every year for the last 3 years, and also like the mentioned clockwork, it’s completely solid power metal. Nothing to write home about, but they serviceably nail 45 minutes worth of harder edged, more rock-centric, American style power metal and it’ll get your head banging and fist pumping for sure.
Atlantean Kodex – The Course of Empire
Thank fuck Atlantean Kodex is back with their massive epic doom stylings to lay complete and utter waste to everything that has come before it this year. This album is just that, massive and epic, just like Atlatnean Kodex has always been. It’s perfect. It’s divine. It’s all I was waiting for and now there’s more Atlantean Kodex in this world so it’s better for humanity all around.
Mizmor – Cairn
Holy shit have I been waiting for this one. Mizmor’s previous album was such a monumental crusher out of left field that sort of flew under the radar but has been discovered since which has been lending itself to the subtle hype train that Mizmor is now garnering, but totally well worth it. Cairn is an hour of absolutely devastating metal that interweaves doom, black metal, drone, and death into one sound that is all those things at once. Not the “here’s the black metal part” or “here’s the drone part” it’s just all part of the fabric and sound of Mizmor, which to say the least, it’s fucking gorgeous.
Vitriol – To Bathe From the Throat of Cowardice
There’s a lot of heat on this album and after giving it a go I’m not sure why, exactly. I mean, it’s fucking rad. Super intense, brutal, straight up, furious death metal with no pretense or trend hopping or anything. That, in and of itself is probably worth the celebration alone. It’s not, OSDM, it’s not fuzzy death metal pedal, it’s not murky or cavernous. It is, however, fucking unrelentingly death metal. It reminds me a lot of Vader when they’re going full on death and not mixing the thrash sound (which I love) but with the intensity of a band like Hour of Penance which is all just go go go. Anyway, super fucking solid and fun.