Welcome to the 2019 Musicalypse Award Nominations! It is our second year after having changed our Award system over to the staff vote, and to shake things up, this year we’ve invited A&P Reacts to join us in the nominating and voting for the best of 2019. Check out our choices for the Best New Album of 2019!
Click the links to find our reviews of many of the prospective albums:
Really, the major contribution to metal this year in my world was Everfrost‘s sophomore album, Winterider. Though these guys have an album already, this could be considered their debut on the scene and it has been hugely well received and for good reason. The album is really strong from start to finish, while simultaneously bringing us back to a time when our favorite symphonic power metal bands hadn’t gotten stale.
Leprous has been around for a fair time, but only after Malina did they catch my personal attention. As an album written about someone’s thoughts on depression, Pitfalls packs a ton of atmosphere, emotion, passion, and power. It keeps moving from start to finish, not letting up, in a relentless wave of movement that ultimately feels a bit overwhelming yet wonderful at the same time.
Finally, we have the solo album of Nightwish’s Marko Hietala, Mustan sydämen rovio. I’ve said this several times, but everyone else in the world seemed to be expecting a heavy metal album, whereas I was expecting something more rock-oriented that reflects his vast pool of influences. While I don’t think anyone was necessarily disappointed by this – surprised, certainly, but not disappointed – I was genuinely given pretty much exactly what I wanted when I heard the album. That said, this isn’t about me, it’s about the best of the year, and while it isn’t exactly metal, I think it’s fair to throw a really solid “hard prog” album into the nominees because it’s so very extremely well done. The translation of “Stones” [“Kiviä”] also gives us hope that us non-native Finns will have even deeper insight into its English counterpart, which comes out early next year.
Honorary mention(s): Within Temptation – Resist; Devin Townsend – Empath; Blind Guardian: Twilight Symphony – Legacy of the Dark Lands; ; Soen – Lotus; Hyperomm – Transcendence; Wheel – Moving Backwards
1. Mgła – Age of Excuse
2. Mayhem – Daemon
3. Darkthrone – Old Star
Mgła is by far the most exciting thing in black metal today without going into crazy genre-benders like Zeal and Ardor. This is as good as it gets, folks. As with their earlier work, Age of Excuse is divided into six chapters titled merely by the name of the album and the corresponding roman numeral. It gets into a haunting groove and maintains it masterfully all throughout its runtime. The drums alone are hypnotic enough to get lost in.
I didn’t think I’d see Mayhem on this list but as soon as I actually heard the full thing, I was hooked. Deamon is as aggressive as we’ve come to expect from new guitarists, Teloch, and Ghul; but remembers to stay mysterious and creepy. The genius of vocalist, Attila Csihar cannot be overstated. His performance ranges from eerie ruminations, and throat singing, to blood curdling screeching while also venturing into almost operatic arias.
Though not the most technically impressive album (or band, for that matter), Old Star clearly made me happier than any other album this year. Like its predecessor, Arctic Thunder, Old Star is a return to form after Darkthrone‘s extended delve into crust punk. It’s not so much that it takes itself seriously per se, but it dials back the silliness in favor of a more disciplined, old-school style where they really let their roots show. Darkthrone has never sounded better.
Honorary mention(s): Devin Townsend – Empath; Swallow the Sun – When a Shadow is Forced into the Light; Rotting Christ – The Heretics; Deadspace – The Grand Dissilusionment; This Gift is a Curse – A Throne of Ash; Leprous – Pitfalls; TOOL – Fear Inoculum
Of all the albums that came out this year, nothing really did anything out-of-this-world special for me. But the really solid metal of the newest by Avantasia, with catchiness reminiscent of the golden age of the genre, matched with better modern production… let’s just say that Moonglow made for an awesome and catchy release.
Empath is the most Devin Townsend-est album of all time, the work of an insane genius. It’s crazy, out-of-this-world, bows to nothing and no one. Devy does what Devy wants and you can only hold on for the wild ride to come. It fucks you up but leaves you breathless and wanting more.
An original soundscape, a great story, and you can hear an original wintry style in the songs from Winterider by Everfrost that doesn’t rip off sound from other bands like Frosttide or Wintersun. What they tried to do with this Finnish anime-metal combination actually really works. The sound can be as cold and barren as the Finnish winter that inspires it.
Honorary mention(s): Saor – Forgotten Paths
I really liked Soen’s Tellurian (2014) upon its release, but I felt rather indifferent towards Lykaia (2017) and therefore didn’t have high expectations for its follow-up. However, Lotus managed to surprise me positively, as it’s the group’s strongest effort to date. Soen has at last managed to carve out their own identity and Lotus has the right amount of technicality, melodies, and emotion. In fact, it’s so great that Soen managed to surpass both drummer Martin Lopez’s former band Opeth and Tool this year – the latter of whom the band was constantly compared to in the early days.
Opeth took a risk by recording an album in Swedish, even if the impact was softened by the fact that an English version was also made available. Nevertheless, the gamble paid off and In Cauda Venenum is also the most spirited album in years by Mikael Åkerfeldt and co. on a musical level, perfecting the prog rock sound of the band’s previous albums while mixing it with hints of classic Opeth and a few new tricks. It’s consistent to the point where it’s hard to pick just one favorite song!
Picking the third album for this category wasn’t easy, but in the end I decided to pull off a prog hat-trick and go with Fear Inoculum by Tool. Over the years, the seemingly never-ending wait for the elusive new album from the alt-prog heroes became the source of countless online jokes and memes, but luckily the final result was not an anticlimax. I’ve never been a die-hard Tool fan and have generally preferred the more compact and punchier “hits” from the band’s catalog; however, the over 10-minute epics on Fear Inoculum manage to remain engaging and the band’s sound has gained a certain maturity in the years since 10,000 Days (2006).
It was very difficult to pick a top three, however, Opeth‘s In Cauda Venenum is one of the band’s strongest albums in the recent years. In Cauda Venenum is otherworldly, it takes you to complete new levels and dimensions, on a journey through an emotive soundscape created by Opeth. Including complex and jazzy bass lines, beautiful harmonies, intricate guitar sections, killer riffs, the album is perhaps Opeth‘s most ambitious project.
I came across Wilderun because the band’s cover art for Veil of Imagination intrigued me, and I was certainly not disappointed. I discovered an outstanding progressive metal act that includes elements of melodic death metal and folk metal in their sound with ease.
With Imperium Romanum, Metal De Facto have gone back to the roots of traditional heavy metal while exploring the Roman culture. In their songs, there is a vast selection of topics and themes that will surprise you.
Honorary mention(s): Myrath – Shehili; Brymir – Wings of Fire; Bloodred Hourglass – Godsend; Gyze – Asian Chaos; Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno; Soen – Lotus; TOOL – Fear Inocolum; Wheel – Moving Backwards; Leprous – Pitfalls; Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
1. Swallow the Sun – When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light
2. Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave
3. Belzebubs – Pantheon of the Nightside Gods
In what feels like an ending of a trilogy that started with Trees of Eternity’s Hour of the Nightingale and continued with Hallatar’s No Stars Upon the Bridge, Swallow the Sun has done one of their very best albums in When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, in a way that at least I didn’t quite expect. There’s new, sometimes surprising elements especially in the mood, but in the end, it feels like such a natural continuum – for both Hallatar’s and Trees of Eternity’s albums, as well as Swallow the Sun’s career – that it’d be hard to imagine anything else in it’s stead. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light flows on beautifully, calmly, with broader strokes of hopeful light within grief I’ve ever heard from them, and touches hearts like only Swallow the Sun can. One of the albums in this decade I’m extremely grateful for existing.
Insomnium‘s Heart Like a Grave has been praised left and right by most medias, and not in vain. With their latest effort, they have put together all the elements that make them Insomnium, and again taken them to another level. Guitarist Jani Liimatainen joining their ranks brings even more breadth and depth to their sound, and while the album might not be short on the mannerisms the band is known for; as a bread-and-butter, if you will, it’s more of a crusty artisanal bread made from scratch with starter dough and some locally sourced, organic, herb-seasoned butter, rather than a piece of stale toast with a slab of margarine. Basically, it’s Insomnium doing what they do best, while adding to a particular flavor of Finnish melancholy that Sentenced dominated in their heyday.
Aside the obvious fun it’s been to follow Belzebubs unexpectedly growing from a fun “inktober” comic project into an actual recording (and next year, even touring) band, their first Century Media -released album, Pantheon of the Nightside Gods, is a record of great fun and top-notch musicianship. Guessing who’s who in the band is of course part of the fun, but one of the best things in the whole project is that the album can definitely be enjoyed without that knowledge; it slots delightfully right between some of my favorite genres, and in quality manages to top a few bands I’d usually go for when in the mood for something heavier and darker. The influences – or band members’ backgrounds, if that’s the case – are at times easy to spot, but that doesn’t lessen the goodness of it in the slightest.
1. Magic Sword – Awakening
2. TOOL – Fear Inoculum
3. Belzebubs – Pantheon of the Nightside Gods
… [the album names are carried on the breeze]
1. Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave
Best album of the year hands down, the most complete, the most complex and the most memorable release of 2019. This album is a masterpiece on all fronts.
2. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno
This album pushes the boundaries of death metal. The level to which FA has grown is in full display in Veleno. Their best and strongest album to date.
3. Jinjer – Macro
The evolution of Jinjer has taken a leap forward. The bends in the music with progressive, metalcore, and djent influences has moved Jinjer to a different plateau. Jinjer is not bound by genres – they are their own genre.