Top Albums ov 2019 w/ Lord ov Bork, Richter, & SLNC
Lord ov Bork
You wanted the best, Toileteers, and goddamn it you’ve got the best. My top ten favorite albums of 2019, coming in hot. Be careful not to burn yourself.
10. White Ward – Love Exchange Failure
Debemur Morti Records | TovH Review
Taking the leap into full-on post-black metal, Ukraine’s White Ward made the year’s most distinctive album, if not my absolute favorite. Diving further into the post-black metal maelstrom, they somehow managed to not only equal but top 2017’s Futility Report while still maintaining the best sax playing in modern metal.
9. Abyssal – A Beacon in the Husk
Profound Lore | Podcast
Ambient death metal had a good year thanks to the UK’s Abyssal. They’ve really upped the level of dissonance from 2015’s Antikatastaseis, and the result is significantly denser listen. Doom metal plays a greater role this time around as well, making for a dark stew with precious little light or melody creeping in. Add in distant, cavernous production and you’ve got A Beacon in the Husk, the sound of the apocalypse happening just out of sight. Truly a great one here, folks.
Body Void hooked me with 2018’s I Live Inside a Burning House, and they take things to their logical extreme on You Will Know the Fear You Forced Upon Us. Having given up the shorter songs of releases past, this is admittedly a daunting listen. Consisting of just two tracks of excruciating anguish, Body Void punish the listener in a way few others can. They put all their emotion into this one, and holy shit did it pay off.
Side note: “Fascist Cancer” is the anti-fash anthem we shouldn’t have to need.
7. VHS – We’re Gonna Need Some Bigger Riffs
Rotten Roll Rex | TovH Premiere
To quote myself in the comments on Joe’s premiere back in July: “[T]his fuckin rules.” Shockingly, We’re Gonna Need Some Bigger Riffs still rules some five months later. Whether plowing ahead at full steam or pounding away at mid-tempo, VHS never forget to keep things brutal and, above all, fun. You’ve got no excuse to not be listening to these guys.
6. Xoth – Interdimensional Invocations
Independent | TovH Review
In a year when Revocation didn’t release a record, Xoth hit the same sweet spot for me. Although taking far more of a black metal influence than the Revo boys, Xoth use the same stop-on-a-dime instincts, intelligible harsh vocals, and melodic technicality that have driven me back to Chaos of Forms time and again. Interdimensional Invocations is a headlong rush through some of the best tech death to come out in years. Only two albums in, Xoth seem poised for good things in the future.
5. Mizmor – Cairn
Gilead Media | TovH Review
Full disclosure: I’m something of a fanboy for Mizmor releases. Other than last year’s live album, I’ve got everything main man A.L.E. has released under the moniker. Cairn is everything I’ve come to love from him: crushing, existentially minded black/doom. Even several months in, I’m not sure if it surpasses or just equals 2016’s Yodh, but the fact that I’m still thinking about it shows just how great it is. This is not just essential, but mandatory listening.
The more traditional album of Sunn O)))‘s two releases in 2019, Life Metal comes up just short of its twin. That said, it’s still one of the best releases of the year. Sunn O))) mess with their traditional formula just enough – the eerie clean vocals chanting Aztec poetry on “Between Sleipnir’s Breaths” is the kind of touch that wouldn’t have fit on past releases like Black One. Contemplative and crushing in the tectonic way that only Sunn O))) can pull off. It truly goes to show that the band’s motto isn’t just bullshit: “Maximum Volume Yields Maximum Results.”
3. Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts
Southern Lord Records | TovH Review
While at the time of my review I wasn’t clear on how this album compared with Life Metal, after some more time to digest I think that this one comes out on top. Although this album came about as a side effort to Life Metal, after repeated listens to both I found this to be the more interesting of the pair. Both simpler and more meditative than its sister album, Pyroclasts benefits immensely from repeat listens. O’Malley and Anderson’s drone improvisations aren’t for everyone, but if you can grasp what they’re going for the rewards are immense.
2. Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
Dark Descent Records | TovH Review
I’m not going to belabor the point on this one. Any dedicated reader of the Toilet (or anyone who pays the least amount of attention to underground death metal) knows who these guys are, how hard they rip, and why they’re important. On Hidden History, Blood Incantation show that Starspawn wasn’t just a fluke, repeating that album’s highs and moving beyond into dimensions previously unknown. It’s easily one of the best albums released in any genre this year. Hidden History is essential listening for fans of death metal, and I can’t wait to hear where Paul Riedl and company take things from here.
1. Inhuman Nature – Inhuman Nature
Once in a while, a band comes along and shows just how powerful the basics of heavy metal can be. Inhuman Nature did it this year with their debut album.
Blasphemous as it sounds, Blood Incantation didn’t release my favorite album of 2019. No, this year belonged to this group of Brits dedicated to making absolutely barebones thrash. There’s not a single wasted moment on this album: no wanky solos, no intros, no bullshit. Just riff after punishing riff over vocalist Chris Barling’s Baloff-esque shrieks. I’m sure that the band will throw in extra touches as time goes on, because they’ll have a hard time repeating what they’ve accomplished here.
I fucking dare you to listen to “Satan’s Claw” and not enjoy it, cowards.
Weird year. Plenty of good releases. Very few great ones. Here’s a mixed bag of goodness and greatness.
Add this one to the growing heap of extreme metal bands embracing ambient music. Almost half of this thing is comprised of ethereal soundscapery (the final 26 minutes, in fact). It may be lacking in the song-flow department but it makes up for it with adventurous nods to everything from dissonant death metal to early Kayo Dot (love me some clarinet). A thoroughly discombobulated experience.
9. Mystagogue — And the Darkness Was Cast Out into the Wilderness
Vendetta Records | Review
Nothing revolutionary here but it’s been a dog’s age since I felt the invigorating breeze of a quality blackgaze record up my skirt so I’ll take it.
8. Haunter — Sacramental Death Qualia
I, Voidhanger Records | Review
Sonically gritty and structurally enterprising death metal that sounds like it was recorded in a garage that is slightly nicer than the one in which your black metal band rehearses.
If you’d told me on January 1st that one of the most enjoyable records of the year would come from the collapsed vein of the post-metal genre, I would have told you to go fly a kite. And here’s egg on my face, because Glassing bring something ever so slightly fresh to the table: a grass-fed shank of post-metal seasoned with organic post-hardcore hysterics and a non-GMO blackgaze aioli. What really sells Spotted Horse are the anthemic guitar melodies — which are bolstered by the fact that there is only one guitar, so they don’t have to fight to be heard. Makes me really wish more bands would put their faith in the bass and drums to carry the weight while the guitar does something other than HOLY SHIT LOOK HOW HEAVY I AM. (Note: Here’s another band embracing ambient, although to a less indulgent degree.)
6. Botanist — Ecosystem
Aural Music | Review
I really just wanted to talk about the cool time-signatures. 7/8; 9/8; and the oft-neglected 11/8, which is only for Level 13 Green Mages. (In case you somehow don’t already know, this is forward-thinking black metal played with electronic hammered dulcimers and I think a harmonium).
There’s a lot going on here and it’s all very classy, none of that vulgar two-bit lo-fi nonsense with all blastbeats and no riffs. These are professionals. Variation is the key to GastiR‘s success. Especially in the vocal department: Gaahl has the good sense — and I wish to high heaven more black metal vocalists would follow his lead — to foreground his clean singing and leave the rasps for a garnish. His cleans come in many different hues, from a high and nasal lilt to a brooding baritone that calls to mind that time Nick Cave fronted for a viking metal band. (In other words: …Satan.)
4. Deth Crux — Mutant Flesh
Sentient Ruin Laboratories | Review
I’ve deliberately kept the goth on this list to a bare minimum, to Mutant Flesh, which actually came out last year but that was in December, after lists had already been published, plus I didn’t really fall in love with the album until January of this year, an exceptionally frosty January (sans actual frost), I think temperatures bottomed out around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so cold that only the hot and throbbing sleaze of Deth Crux’s back alley deathrock could send blood pumping into my cold and numb extremities, etc.
3. All Your Sisters — Trust Ruins
The Flenser | Review
Okay, one more gothy ’80s throwback record and then I’m done. My attachment to this record grew and grew until I began to crave it; until I would wake up with certain songs blasting in my head. I’m certain I will be coming back to Trust Ruins for years to come, which is doubtless more than I can say for some other records on this list.
2. Crowhurst — III
Prophecy Productions | Review
I was looking forward to some big-time bummer records from my favorite artists this year, and this one beat them all straight into the ground and then poured concrete over their splintered bones. It’s a potluck of different flavors from avant-garde black metal to power electronics to noise rock and whatevergaze. The thread holding it all together is, I suppose, something intangible. Whatever that thread is made of, it’s strong stuff. (Winner: Cover Art ov the Year)
1. Bergraven — Det framlidna minnet
Nordvis Produktion | Review
Ten years of waiting has paid off in spades. Here, Bergraven proves that there is quite a bit of room left for innovation in the realm of black-metal-that-does-not-contain-hammered-dulcimers. All it takes to capitalize on that space is an inherent taste for weirdness and a proficiency in a bunch of instruments (other than the hammered dulcimer) that rarely appear on black metal records. Sure, White Ward and some others flirted furtively with the saxophone later in the year — but the Raven of Berg wiped the floor with them all.
Rankings suck. I love lists, though. They’re useful. They display information in a concise and organized manner, but they’re also used to display hierarchy. I hate hierarchy, especially in music. 2019 was a great year for metal and it’s ever easier to access even the most obscure bedroom black metal project through wonderful sites like Bandcamp. With this obscene amount of music released and listened to each year, I find it harder and harder to create any meaningful Top lists, so I decided to just list a bunch of releases I enjoyed this year and say a little something about them. I wholeheartedly recommend every album on this list, but please don’t try to infer any rankings from the positioning on the list.
Wormwitch – Heaven That Dwells Within
Prosthetic Records | TovH Mini-Review
Wormwitch play quite accessible, yet still extreme and riffy black metal, which is nothing particularly new, but nice nonetheless. It’s the “Ol’ Reliable” on this list. Heaven That Dwells Within is just a well-rounded album, with tight riffs, that even people, who don’t usually listen to extreme metal might appreciate. And even those, who are already familiar with the extremer side of metal can take a liking to. As such, I spun this album more than I expected I would and enjoyed every spin.
Fen – The Dead Light
This one was a late addition to this list, because it was only released in early December, but nevertheless, after a rather weak start to the album, the second half of the album had completely enraptured me. I always liked Fen, but they had a tendency to be tedious and lengthy and while The Dead Light is no short album, it never feels too long. They have not stopped incorporating their wonderful melodies into the tracks, but have also started to write memorable riffs. All in all, The Dead Light is a quite tight package, which is a novelty for Fen, but still provides what Fen fans expect.
Minenfeld – The Great Adventure
Fucking Kill Records
Not the only war-themed album on this list, but the only death metal album. While Panzerfaust unabashedly show the grit, dirt and despair of war, Minenfeld, mockingly calling their debut after the propaganda term The Great Adventure, under which thousands of young people signed up for the First World War in search of patriotic glory only to die, brutally straighten out the mythos of glory in war and instead growl about blood and decay. It is an impressive album with rank riffing and driving blast-beats, perfectly mirroring the chaos and death of war.
Impavida – Antipode
11 years. Eleven. Years. That is how long Impavida were gone after they released Eerie Sceneries in 2008. Antipode conjures an exceptionally dense atmosphere with lamenting guitars akin to Schammasch, but much less refined and raw. Still very spooky though. This is a masterclass in atmospheric black metal. I just hope, that I don’t have to wait this long again.
Véhémence – Par le Sang Versé
Antiq Label | TovH Review
Mixing black metal with medieval themes certainly isn’t a new concept, especially looking at the relative success, that Obsequiae had in the scene, but few do it as playful and satisfying as Véhémence did it on this album. Outrageously catchy and uplifting, this album transcends the usually drab black metal overtones, heavily focusing on acoustic folk instrumentation at times, to the effect of creating a very fun record, that stays fresh remarkably long.
Takafumi Matsubara – Strange, Beautiful and Fast
Gurkha Commando Blast Team | TovH Premiere
I never was much into grind. In fact, this year was the first year I even really tried to get into grind and, luckily, it was also the year this gem of an album came out. And the title describes it perfectly. It is strange, beautiful and fast. I would also include diverse into that, but that would throw off the nice ring.
Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
You hate them or you love them. I personally love them. Especially the 2016 album Kodama, so I eagerly awaited the arrival of the next escapades of Neige and Winterhalter and… I don’t know. It’s a well crafted album and the screams are there (thank God), but I can’t help, but feel like the whole Alcest thing is becoming a tad formulaic. I definitely still enjoy this album, but it’s not different enough from Kodama to truly shine. In my opinion, they tried to lean too hard onto what made Kodama good, instead of trying to create something new. Just look at how often I say Kodama, I absolutely adore that album and can’t help, but feel, that Spiritual Instinct, while still perfectly listenable, is an imperfect replica.
Schammasch – Hearts of No Light
Prosthetic Records | TovH Review
I reviewed this album and you can find the link above. This album is a journey and, again, Schammasch excel at painting an image, an aesthetic through sonic experimentation. Although I don’t think, that Hearts of No Light was ever advertised as a concept album, it certainly feels like one and definitely is better consumed in one sitting, rather than á la carte.
Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition, Chapter 1: War, Horrid War
You might have heard of that Swedish power metal band called Sabaton, granted they are not the only offender, who make “war metal”. Or, at least, they try to give the impression. I have a problem with that. Maybe it is due to the constraints of the power metal genre, but they focus too much on the so-called heroism of some soldiers in history, which leads to a simplification of history and glorification of war. The Canadians of Panzerfaust don’t do that. As the title implies, this album shows, what war really is. Dirty, brutal and, most importantly, horrifying. They don’t shy away from showing the gritty reality. In the 13-minute epic The Men of No Man’s Land, which deals with the Battle of Ypres in Flanders, where the German Army also used poison gas en masse for the first time in history, the singing is akin to the soldiers screaming in the trenches, while the bass drum steadily pounds to the rhythm of the artillery impacts. The included rendition of John McCrae’s popular poem “In Flanders Fields” is just so unbelievably fitting and chilling, that I’d call it one of the best songs, if not the best song, about the First World War ever made.
Sinmara – Hvísl Stjarnanna
Ván Records | TovH Review
Hvísl Stjarnanna is Icelandic and means “the whisper of the stars”. In their second full-length, Sinmara paint an unabashedly dark and desolate picture of neverending night. A worship of chaotic forces tearing apart the fabric of reality. My personal standout track off this album is the title track, which is so delightfully melancholic in its melodies and singing, that it still elicits unbelievably intense emotional response – even after the x-hundreth time of listening to it.
That’s it, that was my list. I certainly have a lot of other albums from this year, that I liked, but I had to stop myself somewhere.