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.
I’d rather hear a million bands take a shot at doing something different than one more old school death metal revival band, even if the band doesn’t stick the landing. Wills Dissolve is a swirling, proggy, resconstrucetion of death metal, black metal, and yes, prog, that lands on the heavier and dramatic side of things. It veers somewhat close to the kind of sound expansion Enslaved and Opeth went through but without sacrificing the “umpfh.” It might not get there all the time but damn it’s good to hear somebody trying.
Critical Defiance – Misconception
It’s rare that a new thrash album piques my interest. Aside from my go-to bands and the standby stalwarts, thrash as a genre doesn’t seem to really change much, which is fine, but it tends to get a bit boring. Whereas OSDM is having its great renaissance, thrash has always kind of reveled in its hayday sound and Critical Defiance are no exception. However, I do have a soft spot for the rougher, straight for the throat, insane riffing and soloing thrash that is all about melody and speed. LIke Hellripper, our more recently Vulture and Inculter. Critical Defiance can play the fuck out of some thrash, and that’s where I like my thrash to be.
Off with Their Heads – Be Good
I saw these guys open for Bad Religion some years ago and missed most of their set but swore to check them out later, which I actually did, and fell completely addicted to their then current album Home and I’ve been jamming that thing into the ground for fucking years until today when out of the blue I discovered that they were releasing a new album and I was just absolutely ecstatic. OWTH plays a more emotional, personal story driven, middle class style of pop punk. I consider them part of the micro niche of bands like this that is also home to Nothington, Red City Radio, and Hot Water Music but Off with Their heads ads a bit of cynical, self deprecating humor and poetic vulgarity into the mix which puts them at the top for me. Not to mention how just insanely catchy every single one of their songs are. Best pop punk album of the year so far.
Dialith – Extinction Six
I have a very low tolerance for the symphonic power metal stuff where Nightwish and Epica dwell and Dialith veer dangerously close to crossing that line. The vocalist could easily be pulling duty in Nightwish and her voice is insanely commanding and beautiful and does come very close to the operatic stuff. Good thing the band is more rooted in the heavier side of power metal and power metal riffing. Don’t be fooled though, it’s very close to the symphonic stuff and the symphonic orchestrations are very prominent but I feel it just gets in under the line of full blown dramatic nonsense. Your mileage may vary and in any other year I may have passed on this but with the stellar year power metal is having I’m looking at all power metal with bigger eyes.
Pijn and Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands
Now this, this right here, is sheer beauty. Combining the hardened, sludge pounding of Conjurer with the post (everything) melancholy of Pijn, these two bands have crafted one of the most uniquely mesmerizing and beautiful metal albums of the year. I love the creative energy of this and the desire to not just do a split release but really collaborate and find a way to make both their sounds work as something new. Simply breathtaking.
Frank Turner – No Man’s Land
Frank has been meandering a bit with his last couple albums and his songwriting was seeming to lose some of it’s enthusiasm and creativity in favor of trying to get more pop friendly but now with his new album’s focus on historical women frees him up to really focus on the storytelling aspect of his song writing which is what I think made him so captivating in the first place. And that it does. All the emotion and clever phrasing back with his hyper emotional production is on full display and I think Frank has found his footing again. Finally.
Concrete Winds – Primitive Force
I guess Vorum broke up or something and from the ashes rose Concrete Winds, which is a brutally violent assault of black and death metal with a nasty crusty layer of filth. Almost goes into war metal territory but for those of us that like the intensity of war metal but still like some fucking structure and melody, Concrete Winds is just for us. Fucking insanely intense and mesmerizing.
Twilight Force – Dawn of the Dragonstar
Peak power metal year may have eclipsed with the new Twilight Force, that is literally, all things power metal. It’s the most power metal-y thing this year, perhaps surpassing Avantasia. It’s 100% grand, epic, full on majesty, triumphant pomposity, and full on glory. And the tip of the power metal cheese ball insanity of brilliance is getting not-even-close-to-metal musician Hanna Turi to do a piano ballad cover of a song off their first album. Pure genius.
Exorcisme – Visceral Lifestyles
Nasty as shit punked up black n’ roll noisy, raucous fun. Nuff said.
Freedom Call – M.E.T.A.L.
I don’t know what Freedom Call thinks M.E.T.A.L stands for, and I don’t care because from what is on display here it sounds like it means super sugary and cheeseball-rific, glorious, theatrical power metal because that’s exactly what Freedom Call is and what they do. If that’s not something you can get behind, better look elsewhere but here’s, again, another awesome power metal album to add to the heaping pile of triumph that is the genre in 2019.
Isole – Dystopia
Damn, it’s about time some Epic Doom showed up and fucking crushed. This is my first encounter with this band and their epic scope mixed with triumphant era Candlemass style doom and modern heavy, speedier moments is fucking brain-bashingly rad. The duel harsh and clean vocals and style remind me a lot of current darling Khemmis but Isole predate them so not sure where that influence is coming from but for a frame of reference that’s what I got. Regardless, Isole is fucking killing it on this album and as much as I’m trying to bring the end of summer, this type of music helps that.
Majestica – Above the Sky
There’s some history here with this band and main dude being in Sabaton and Majestica being the continuation of another band and blah blah blah I don’t care. What I do care is that Above the Sky is over-indulgent, Euro power metal cheese at it’s drippiest. Keyboards, solos, ridiculous vocals, the whole thing. And if you need further proof there’s a keyboard heavy cover of the theme song from the movie Spaceballs. Choke it down and love the cheesy goofiness.
Sacred Reich – Awakening
I’m not a huge follower of Sacred Reich but I’m always down for some classic american thrash. Much to my surprise, the new album is an awesome mix of said classic American thrash and classic American power metal, which adds a fun level and pomposity and sheer metal power that isn’t typically inherent in thrash. Not going to change the world but god damn if it isn’t fun as hell.
Ivory Tower – Stronger
I’m in the throws of a school girl crush on all things 2019 power metal but despite my infatuation power metal unrelentingly keeps producing killer album after album this year. And it’s not like power metal has changed any, it’s just doing its thing, and continuing to do it awesomely almost in complete disregard for anything else. Scene drama, politics, chest thumping, power metal just blindingly passes all that shit by and makes majestic songs with soaring ambitions and transcendent power. Ivory Tower is fully in that bubble and while they tend to veer towards the progressive side of things, these Germans are full on power metal. And if you know anything about anything you know how fucking rad the Germans are at power metal. So put that in your fucking horn and chug it. Power Metal 4 Life.
It’s High on Fire covering Celtic Frost and Bad Brains. If none of those words appeal to you then probably just move along. If they do, this is an awesome 15 minutes of High on Fire.
Lord – Fallen Idols
Australian power metal that is like the best parts of Armored Saint and Iced Earth but wrapped up in fucking crazy catchy riffs and solos and covered with a solid layer of Euro Power Metal excess. Also, the song “Master of Darkness” is a power metal opus about Darth Vader. Be still my beating heart. Fucking super fun. Power metal continues to dominate 2019 like no fucks are given.
Hulder – Embraced by Darkness Mysts
I super, rough around the edges but full on love letter to 90’s styled, second wave, Scandinavian black metal by this one-woman, black metal band. Super satisfying and pounding and with enough modern flair to not just simply be a nostalgia trip.
Grima – Will of the Primordial
This is super fucking hitting the spot right now. Highly melodic and atmospheric Russian black metal with a tinge of folk instrumentation and fucking immaculate song writing. Simply Beautiful.
Strung Out – Songs of Armor and Devotion
Pop punks answer to metal, Strung Out continues to write the most catchy and riff infused punk around, even this late into their career. Still on top of their game if you ask me Strung Out is woefully underrated and overlooked especially when most of the 90s pop punk bands have faded away or just put out nothing but shit.
The Howling Wind – Shadow Tentacles
Steath-ly dropping their new album after 6 years, The Howling Wind blast faces off and blow brains apart with their down and dirty yet occult-ish, soundscape-d black metal madness. Fucking crusher.
Lord Gore – Scalpels for Blind Surgeons
I wasn’t familiar with Lord Gore or they’re long history and prolonged absence but based on the killer cover art and brutally down to earth, no pretense, no genre worshipping, straight to it, fucking ridiculous death/grind they’re playing here, I wish I’d been more familiar with them before now.
I don’t know why super melodic and techy death metal all about sci-fi has been hitting the spot so hard for me this year but it has and this Equipoise is blowing my socks off. You see, the band is made up of a bunch of players from other tech oriented death metal bands like Vale of Pnath, Beyond Creation, and Inferi, but also has a couple members from the recently awesome power metal band Eternity’s End so there’s the combination of over the top tech death melody combined with the theatrics of Euro styled power metal that combines into an oh so sweet mash up of power and riffs and blasting awesomeness.
Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology
I don’t know how to sell you on Falls of Rauros if you aren’t already except to repeat, exceedingly, how they’re one of the best black metal bands going now and that they outdo themselves with each and every album. My love of this band knows no bounds and this newest album is all the beauty and depths and amazement that is Falls of Rauros.
Halshug – Drom
The third album (somehow I missed the second) from the Danish, punk outfit. While still keeping that crusted edge about, there’s a massive influx of more rock n’ roll centered rhythms and structure. Just makes the whole album feel more of a party jam when they aren’t blasting full force in your face. Good times and good fun.
Desecresy – Towards Nebulae
Desecresy just out here quietly making and releasing nasty as fuck and grimy as hell Finnish death metal while all you nerds are screaming about Tomb Mold and the 18 different versions of Batushka.
Stworz – Moj Kraj Nazywa Sie Smierc
I feel kind of bad because Stworz puts out a new album every couple years, and they’re killer, and I totally get way into it, then I completely forget about them until the next album and the process starts all over again. So on to the new album, which is in fact another awesome, folk infused and melodically insane, Polish offering of atmospheric black metal. So fucking catchy and so tasty. The curse of consistently killer bands is to go under the radar.
Vagrant – The Rise of Norn
If you like the idea of “epic” death metal but can’t handle the overly indulgent cheese-fest that is Fleshgod Apocalypse then Vagrant may be the band you’re looking for. Not with out their layer or processed lactose, Vagrant go all in on just catchy as fuck and endlessly melodic riffing while using some symphonic elements to get that “epic” style going. At moments closer to symphonic black metal than anything else it’s main focus is the riffs and that infectious quality of said riffs. Just a magnificently fun ride, well played and executed for all you riff monsters out there.
Hyalithe – As If Sunlight Could Warm the Deceased
This is a new project from the one and only main man of Eneferens. Kind of like Saor is to Fuath, Hyalithe is the winter to Eneferens summer. It’s a colder, bleaker, rawer, more traditional, Burzum-esque kind of atmospheric tinged black metal but still highly and pervasively emotional just like the Eneferens project. Dude is two for two as far as you ask me so whatever else he decided to do I’ll be on board with.
Vicious Irene – Sacrifice
I don’t know what Swedish Grrrl-crust is, seems like a crustier, nastier, offshoot from the Riot Grrrl, which sounds fucking awesome to me. Vicious Irene are playing with straight up punk, crust, black metal, and a healthy dose of grunge tinged bands like L7. A lot of L7 and this album fucking rules all over. More punk like this, please.
Storm of Sedition – Howl of Dynamite
A fucking face pummeling awaits you upon listening to this Canadian anarchistic blackened crust hardcore band. Storm of Sedition share members with similar leaning band Iskra, which makes sense as soon as you fucking hear Storm, but Storm takes it one step further and declares war on literally everybody. Angry as fuck crust punk FTW.
Yellow Eyes fucking delivers on the weird and abstract yet meticulously infectious and dismal black metal. Yellow Eyes sounds like what an ancient tomb might sound like and their archaic yet beautiful sound brings life to the darkness.
Rainer Landfermann – Mein Wort in Deiner Dunkelheit
Rainer Landermann was one of the older Bethlehem vocalists on their second and third album. Now he has a new solo album (conveniently released close to the same time as the new Bethlehem) that is a weird, avant-garde, experimental, metal album. Crazy vocal exercises, bizarre musical compositions, heavy guitars, and super German sounding in its mechanical, crushing approach. Two thumbs up for creativity.
Memoriam – Requiem for Mankind
Memoriam is always going to be the not Bolt Thrower Bolt Thrower and that’s totally fine. They scratch that Bolt Thrower itch perfectly well, but yeah, they aren’t Bolt Thrower. That being said, I feel like this new album is a step up from that crazed production and somewhat lazy songwriting that dominated the previous album The Silent Vigil. To that affect, it’s chunky riff laden, war themed death metal in all the Bolt Thrower-y ways you could want.
Abbath – Outsider
Straight up, I was not at all impressed with Abbath’s previous and first solo self-titled album. In fact I thought it was god awful. The man has shown such metal prowess with Immortal and the criminally underrated I album (which I like even better than Immortal) that it was such a bummer to hear him sort of lazily make his way through an album. It’s especially hard to hear when the new Abbath-less Immortal put out their stunning new album. But I want to like Abbath. I think the dude is hilarious and he was getting the dander up on all the trve kvlt asshole black metal fans with the album pre-order corpse paint makeup kit that it’s hard not to like him so I’m willing to give him another shot and you know what I’m glad I did. The new album is enjoyable. Not great, but enjoyable. I admire his desire to try and infuse some old old old Venom type fun back in to black metal so I’ve got to give him props there, he made a fun black metal album. It’s no Immortal, new or old but it gets the job done. And the cover art is hilariously awesome lol.
Material Support – Specter
A quick, punk blast of righteous political outrage and aggression. Exactly what punk should be.
Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect
A lot of hype swirling around this band and one listen through it’s easy to see why. Incredibly passionate and immediate blackened, sludgy, crust with such mesmerizing vocals and intensely addictive songs. Easily their best outing yet and super fucking crucial.
Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze – Offerings of Flesh and Gold
Some more Denver black metal for you. Bull goes for that atmospheric, cult-ish, kind of cosmic, big open spaces sound that reminds me at parts of something like later Ruins of Beverast (though not in the same league) or more sinister oriented atmospheric black metal band. It’s a good outing and some great moments on this album and another awesome entry into an already bustling scene.
Turilli & Lione Rhapsody – Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution)
The third version of Rhapsody and one of two Rhapsody related projects released this year, Zero Gravity finds original Rhapsody composer and singer Luca Turilli and Fabio Lione collaborating again with all the Italian bombastic, grandiose operatic power that you’d imagine from a Rhapsody project involving these two genre masters. It’s definitely an aural experience of the grandest order and while it is sonically similar to their previous Rhapsody joints, it’s more in the symphonic side of the power metal pool, but ever explorative because Luca is never satisfied with standing still. It’s actually an amazing album and beautifully composed, cheese and all. Hail power metal!
A Pregnant Light – Broken Play
I’m always in to whatever A Pregnant Light and his “purple metal” project is up to because it’s usually always interesting and clever. This is no different but alongside the intense emotional element that is key to his music, he’s really upped the aggression. This album veers damn near thrash and crossover and a couple moments actually remind me of Power Trip. Crazy, I know, but it works with his emotionally huge sound. Always something awesome from this project.
Waste of Space Orchestra – Syntheosis
A lot of hype around this project and it’s not hard to see why. A collaboration between members of the infinitely awesome Oranssi Pazuzu and doom band Dark Buddha Rising so naturally you’d expect a bizarre, psychedelic, heavy as fuck album, and it’s that to be sure. Massive sounding even. Weird, huge, sludgy, doomy, avant-garde even. It’s a behemoth of an album and a lot to take in so it will demand multiple listens but boy howdy is it good.
Dream Troll – Second to None
Dream Troll where making some pretty rad power metal but then on their 2018 EP The Witch’s Curse they just blew the fucking lid off the joint with their energetic, multi-genre and style mash up of power metal and it was so captivating and refreshing to hear a band go so balls to the wall experimental with power metal. My expectations where high for a new full-length from them and seeing as how killer power metal has been this year the odds were even more on their side and fucking hell did it all come through. Maybe veering more into a theatrical heavy metal place, Dream Troll can’t be nailed down and the album is an expressive explosion of genre ingenuity and catchy as hell heavy metal. Not at all disappointed.
False – Portent
It’s a nice feeling and a great surprise when you hear an album that is simply remarkable that you weren’t expecting. That doesn’t mean that when you’re expecting a band to deliver a remarkable album and they do that that power is any less diminished. I was 100% expecting False to deliver something amazing with their newest album and they certainly did but after actually hearing it it’s even more incredible than I’d thought. That’s an amazing feeling and False are an amazingly beautiful, poignant, and un-fuckable with, straight up American black metal band. Fucking dazzling.
Jute Gyte – Birefringence
I don’t even know what to say about Jute Gyte. His chaotic, multi-tonal and bizarre time structured black metal is always interesting to me. He’s like the museum equivalent of black metal. You go to the museum to appreciate the art and while you’re there you can engage with it and look at it and enjoy it in the context but it’s not an everyday thing. You can’t jam Jute Gyte on the way to work. It would drive you mad.
Panopticon – …Scars II (the basics)
So last year Panopticon released the brilliant The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I and II. The double album was split into one side being the well known, Panopticon style metal and the second side a more stripped down and natural, folk/country inspired side of the project. So this release is an even more stripped down version of the folk side of Scars. In fact it’s just main man, a guitar, and those songs recorded live, and to me, this is a more direct and impactful version of those songs. I love Panopticon and everything he does but I kind of felt the second part of Scars would have been better served as it’s own release. This version feels more like that. Like it’s own thing, which is rad. But Panopticon does what Panopticon wants and is only true to himself and that’s a big part of what makes the project so profoundly amazing and this is another awesome addition to that lexicon.
It’s half way through the year and everybody is falling over themselves to tell you what’s been good so far. There’ll be tons of talk about the Batushka schism or which new death metal band sounds the most old school or what the new crappy Tool album will be like (crappy) but nobody is going to tell you how fucking phenomenal power metal has been this year. You know which genre isn’t ripe with racists and fascists people defending those nightmare beliefs? Power Metal. You know which genre delivers exactly what it promises? Power Metal. You know which genre exists in its own self-contained bubble and is completely uncaring about trends or stances or long sleeve t-shirts with logos on the sleeves? Fucking power metal. So get on some power metal and make your life awesome.
Eternity’s End – Unyielding Expectations were fucking high on this one as Eternity’s End delivered a top-notch, progressive power metal face punch with their 2016 album The Fire Within. Happily, this one is every bit as good, if not better. This is exactly the kind of power metal I was craving all of 2018: creative, balls to wall, majestic, and 100% infectious. This came out at the tail end of 2018 so I’m counting it for 2019 and we should all be so fucking lucky.
Thornbridge – Theatrical Masterpiece
Sweet fucking surprise for me! I had no idea Thornbridge even had a new release coming out, finally giving me more sweet German power metal to listen as well as burning their previous debut album What Will Prevail into the fucking ground. That album showed up in 2016 during a fucking glut of power metal and just blasted the genre in the face with exactly what it needed, which was catchy, well written, grand songs and presence. Thornbridge doesn’t rewrite any power metal rules but they wholly embrace the genre and the edgier Euro style that German bands are sort of known for. There’s still a lot of grandiose and large scale moments, the album is called Theatrical Masterpiece and while it’s not a masterpiece, per say, it is rather theatrical. More so than the last. More aggressive as well, which is a welcomed addition. I’d say this one might not hit me as hard as the debut because I was so desperate for some good power metal at the time, but this is just as good as that album and makes me giddy as fuck that on their second album they didn’t stumble or falter and have produced another high quality power metal album because we sure fucking need them.
The Three Tremors – The Three Tremors
The Three Tremors concept (a play on the “Three Tenors” of opera) originally came into being as a project featuring the massive vocal talents of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Geoff Tate in the early 2000’s and fizzled away producing nothing tangible. The concept was resurrected last year this time featuring Tim Ripper Owens of Rob Halford, Judas Priest replacement fame (or infamy) as well as a stint in Iced Earth and his highly underrated Charred Walls of the Damned project, as well as Sean Peck of Cage and more recently the Mercyful Fate guitarists reunion band Denner/Sherman where he’s been crushing the vocals, and the legend that is Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin of the fucking amazing Jag Panzer and Satan’s Host. Phew, let me catch my breath. Of course I was drawn to this project based on the pedigree alone and I fully expected it to be a classic, power metal infused heavy metal cacophony of cheese and brilliant vocal performance, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a stripped down, heavy, American power metal album that musically exists to let the three vocalists bounce off each other and shine in their own ways. Ripper is unmistakeable and continues to impress me when he’s doing his own thing and not being wedged into established bands. Cage has a powerful voice but seems a little out of his element here as both vocalists, good as they are, are pretty much overpowered by Conklin’s amazing and unmistakeable voice. When they’re all bouncing back in forth Conklin dominates, as do the songs where he’s featured. The others have their moments as well and when they’re isolated they hit the mark but when all three come together it’s a bit of a mess. None of the vocals mesh well together as all three are such dynamic singers, but it’s kind of a glorious mess of power metal and indulgent cheese. I fucking love it.
Avantasia – Moonglow
Nobody has, or likely ever will, accuse Tobias Sammet of being subtle. Even when he’s taking up vocal chops in Edguy there’s a distinct level of over indulgence. Avantasia is his solo project and his excuse to just go full on, power metal saccharine. I legit thing the projects first two releases, the Metal Operas one and two are legit power metal classics and on point examples of how even the excess of this genre can produce well crafted music. From there Tobias got even more ambitious, grand, and theatrical. The follow up album The Scarecrow and the double albums The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon found Tobias bringing in his many musical friends and a who’s who from all over power metal and hard rock. These albums are also the most self-indulgent and over the top albums you’re likely to find. Then he just sort of stuck to that template to varying degrees. The following two albums may have been just too much of this sort of thing because I lost interest in them, despite my love for cheese-fueled power metal so I approached this new album, Moonglow, with trepidation. Much to my surprise I was immediately hooked back into Avantasia land with all it’s mighty grandiosity and bombastic nonsense. It also didn’t hurt that the second song, “Book of Shallows” features both Hansi Kürsch (of fucking Blind Guardian, rubes) and Kreator’s very own Mille Petrozza. Only Tobias Sammet’s mad scientist approach to metal could have produced a song with those amazing vocalists in it, and have it be good. And that’s how the rest of the album goes. A ton of guest musicians, insane, cheesy, over indulgent power metal and it’s fucking awesome.
Mortanius – Till Death Do Us Part
It pleases my heart to hear bands trying new stuff with power metal. Dream Troll and Lor come to mind instantly but now Mortanius joins the list. While maybe not as adventurous as either of those bands, they are thinking more progressively and combining the genres of power metal and progressive metal. Now, that’s not new but add in the intense theatrical and dramatic elements, the exceptionally long, winding, story driven songs with various instrumentation, and the more bizarre prog timing tropes and it’s enough to make it stand out from the pack, both prog and power metal. It’s only downfall, and it’s a major fucking one, is their cover of Wham’s absolutely horrendous “Last Christmas.” I couldn’t even make it 30 seconds into it. I don’t even care if they totally reinvent that song, there’s no fucking saving it. I just deleted that song from the album and there you have a complete album that’s experimental and crazy enough to work.
Twisted Tower Dire – Wars in the Unknown
My whole fucking year was made with the announcement of a new Twisted Tower Dire album. It’s been 8 years since their previous album Make it Dark and that album is easily one of my favorite heavy metal/power metal albums. That album will hook itself on to you and become part of your being with it’s diabolically catchy songs. You’ll find that same melodic and infectious song attack on Wars in the Unknown. Twisted’s absolute celebration and honoring of heavy metal is what drives this band and you’ll be hard pressed to find any practicing band that extols such energy and fun and that’s exactly what makes them stand out. You’re going to have a good time with this album, no doubts at all and that’s exactly what heavy metal needs, a Twisted Tour Dire in 2019.
Tanagra – Meridiem
Sent to me as a promo, because I’m living they metal highlife now, I was more than fucking pleased to see this show up in my inbox. As I mentioned (all the fucking time) power metal is blasting this year out of the water and Tanagra’s previous album None of This is Real was a power metal sleeper album of 2015. With the sophmore album Tanagra still revels in power metal glory but has fucking upped the progressive and dramatic story telling components of their song writing. Grand in scope with songs that are individual journeys as well as inform the entire album’s journey, this creative song writing and story telling dynamic is what I fucking love about power metal. The cheese, or the cheese, but the music and songs are un-fucking-deniable. 2019 is the year of power metal and it’s the fucking best thing about metal in this fucked up year.
Paladin – Ascension
Hot fucking hell, this album fucking rules. It’s an extremely energetic, riff show of power metal, thrashed the fuck up and topped with a little melo-death just for good measure and that makes it super fucking fresh and exciting and all the things I want. It’s not even fucking around and if I had to pick a top power metal album for the year, this one would likely be it.
Lunar Shadow – The Smokeless Fire
Lunar Shadow simply fucking dominates at the classic, epic heavy metal style. Their approach is so directly straight up heavy metal but they take it that one step further with simply beautiful melody and structure so they don’t just sound like every other traditional heavy metal worshipping band right now. Epic is right and this album fucking slays.
Skelator – Cyber Metal
Power metal and more traditional forms of heavy metal have been on fucking fire this year and have been completely satisfying when most of the rest of metal-dom is rife with fucking bullshit so when a band like Skelator, that fully embraces the ridiculousness of heavy metal comes along and fucking owns it, I stand up and take notice. Taking the drive of Judas Priest and Manilla Road, and infusing that with a heavy hitting power metal/speed style and jacking the whole fucking thing up with sci-fi nerdery (I mean, there’s a fucking Fist of the North Star song on this), Skelator totally fucking own all the fun and killer riffs. Purely refined heavy metal awesomeness.
I don’t want to get into why Nocturnus is now adding “AD” to their name so let’s just sum it up by saying this Nocturnus is essentially the band that made the fucking masterpiece that is The Key, a balls out creatively wild, symphonic, death metal sci-fi monster from 1990, way the fuck before anybody was doing anything like that at all. So yeah, the promise of new music by that band is enticing. Paradox definitely wants you to know it was made by The Key as the production is very similar and very 90’s. It’s not a bad thing at all it’s just very much in your face with “HEY WE MADE THE KEY” which is fine because as we established, that album fucking rules and Paradox is pretty similar in it’s balls out approach to wild death metal musicianship. To me, that goes a long fucking way because creativity is scarce around these parts and Nocturnus are at least going for something their own and blasting you in the face with it. Even if it was a carbon copy clone of The Key it’s light years ahead of any OSDM band. I dig it and all it’s insanity.
Visigoth – Bells of Awakening
Um, yeah, absolutely unsurprising to me that Visigoth manage to destroy all other metal releases this year with a ten minute, two song, single release because that’s just how fucking monstrous this band is. This band is the very literal and emotional epitome of heavy metal as a whole. Everybody else is just posing.
Goregang – Neon Graves
I’ll admit I was 100% in on this band solely based on the cover art alone by artist Juanjo Castellano, clearly influenced by Dan Seagrave and very reminiscent of his work with Entombed, BUT the album is pretty fucking rad. Sure, it’s a bit of a throwback, as if the cover art didn’t suggest that already but what do you really expect from members of Soilwork, Ribspreader, and Venom Inc. However, the OSDM tendencies don’t take center stage and they aren’t galavanting around trying to prove how old school they are, it’s more informed by old Swedish death metal, Death, but with a fucking filthy layer of crust to give it a nice punk push. Fucking super fun all around.
Vale – Burden of Sight
Fucking blasting, crusty as fuck black metal. I just can’t get enough of this crust infused metal, particularly the bands that have those super sweet melodic tinged riffs. It makes it all the fucking shit.
Neckbeard Deathcamp – So Much for the Tolerant Left
I think Neckbeard’s anti-fascist meme within a meme humor is so fucking sidesplittingly funny that I give this band a huge high five. They’re so fucking good at riling up and pissing off these fucking NS supporters and alt-right metal ass clowns that it’s almost an art. These same fucks that sit around and boast about how “black metal should be offensive” yet Neckbeard offends them more than anything, the irony isn’t lost on me, just this dunderheaded dumb fucks. And their song titles, sheer comedic gold. They’re such a joke within a joke that it surprises me they’re getting so much label attention and festival support but hey, if this flash in the pan keeps pissing of NS idiots I say keep it coming. The music on So Much is hard to review because it’s made as a reflection of all the trappings of typical NS bands, IE war-metal like production, low quality, but also it has to stand on its own as good jams. I’m not sure they get there but I do enjoy it for the novelty and the complete and devastating blow the’ve been serving this basement dwelling fuck nuggets. Keep it up, boys.
Mispyrming – Algleymi
A lot of hype around this band and this album. It’s been four years since their debut, an album that was one of the focal points of the then exploding Icelandic black metal scene, which has since gone on to be extremely fruitful and creatively prolific. I’ll say this, Mispyrming bring all that same creative and unique energy that set that scene apart from all the rest with this new album while expanding their scope. It’s a massive album and something to behold.
Ares Kingdom – By the Light of Their Destruction
Ares Kingdom is so good at being so fucking good so of course I was anticipating their new release to be, well, fucking good, and it fucking sure is. Their determined approach to killer thrash/death is so satisfying I don’t have any idea why this band is just dominating everything. That being said, I think this album is just as good as any of the rest and that they all stand on equal footing. In my mind at least. Just super solid, enjoyable metal from a band that does it solidly every single outing.
Kull – Exile
So this is all the members of Bal-Sagoth minus the lead singer. From what I gather it’s the continuation of the idea of Bal-Sagoth just without Byron Roberts. I don’t know what the story there is but more Bal-Sagoth is a big fucking win for me and this album sounds just like what it promises: Bal-Sagoth with a new singer. All the grand, over-the-top, cheeseball, insanely symphonic black metal fantasy Bal-Sagoth did so well is here in fine form once again. It’s super satisfying for a Bal-Sagoth or cheese fan and I’m glad this exists in my ears because it’s fucking all over rad.
Epectase – Astres
it’s an I, Voidhanger release, my go to label for black and death metal bands that go above and beyond to expand and explore their metal genres and don’t give a fuck. I, Voidhanger has proven by far their bands are worth the listen and more often then not numerous label bands are jockeying for year end positions on my list. Epectase is going to be one of those bands. Completely not satisfied with the conventional black metal trappings, Epectase takes a “progressive” and wildly cosmic approach to black metal that dares (guffah!) to inject some melody and major chord stylings into black metal. It’s a creative powerhouse that makes me wonder why other bands are so stuck to the trappings of their genres.
Gloryhammer – Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex
I mean, if you don’t like overtly cheesy and theatrical, humorous power metal, you ain’t gonna like Gloryhammer. You really have to dig this sort of sensational metal or at least be willing to give yourself over to it completely. This is the bands third album and it’s just as fun and ridiculous as the other two. Gloryhammer fully embraces, unapologetically, the highest order of cheese power metal. You cannot take this stuff seriously or you’ll have a bad time. Just go with it. Embrace it. It’s fucking power metal. it’s supposed to be fun.
Esoctrilihum – The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods
Just leave me alone with I, Voidhanger’s catalog of bands. Seriously, how does a label get so good at releasing amazing albums? Of all the bands on the roster though, Esoctrilihum is the one that excites me the most. They play death metal and black metal but not like you’ve ever heard. Those are just loose constructs that they play with. It’s fucking extremely creative and original and unique and inspired and is still brutally heavy. And this is the bands third release in just over a year. Year end contender, right here.
Nekroi Theoi – Dead Gods
Any metal band that is willing to play with genre limitations and purposefully try and expand them or break them is something that’ll catch my ear, even if it’s a genre of metal I don’t delve into all that much. That genre being Brutal Death Metal, a genre that’s rigidity is what’s kept me from it in the first place. Nekroi Theoi decided to root themselves in brutal but meld in a ton of doom, atmospherics, and prog-ish, technical aspects to view the genre from a different angle. Does it work? For the most part. There’s a lot of “this is the death metal part” or “this is the prog” part and I wish it was more integrated as a whole but yeah, it’s better than most brutal death metal I’ve heard so that’s saying something.
Captain Three Leg / Office – Suggested Listening/Executed Prophecy
Super awesome split between the humorous, sound clip heavy, nasty punk of Captain Three Leg, and the grindtastic face punch of Office. A killer split between to sonically different bands but emotionally similar.
Misanthropic Rage – Towards the Greyscale Aphorysm
This band is completely new to me but it checked a lot of my “must hear” marks. IE avant-garde, black/death from Poland (fingers crossed they aren’t full of fucking fascists). Poland has some killer bands along this line already. Thy Worshiper comes to mind, but Misanthropic Rage keeps the heavy side of things up front and center and lets the experimental and avant-garde nature float around in the back, informing the sound rather than being the sound. I like that approach and keeps things super balanced and engaging at the same time.
Skaphe + Wormlust – Kosmiskur hyrllingur
This is interesting as it’s not a split but a collaboration between two of the weirder Icelandic black metal bands and of course, it’s a weird, dissonant, psychedelic mind fuck. Particular interested in Wormlust’s involvement as that bad was one of the first to usher in the big explosion of the Icelandic black metal scene and has been rather quiet for years. Pretty killer and unique stuff here.
Atlas Entity – Beneath the Cosmic Silence
A one-man death metal band that is not fucking around with genre conventions. Equal parts technical, atmospheric, post, thrash, and melodic, this album is another blast of fresh air in an overcrowded, old school worshipping genre.
Sadistic Ritual – Visionaire of Death
Super fucking satisfying thrash metal that derives influence from a lot of the rougher, classic thrash bands but borrows so much it never ends up sound like just one band or style of thrash. While it’s nothing new to be sure, that non-specific thrash riffing and force is enough to separate it from the rest of the locked-in-place, new thrash bands and deliver a wholly pleasing thrash album.