Sonntag, 29. Dezember 2019

Top 10 Releases of 2019

The only post for this year, wow...
Anyway, I decided to give you my top 10 again and this time I also came up with my very own
rating system; which maybe will be used more often in the future for reviews and stuff.
There are 10 categories with a diverse evaluation weight, where 1 (or even 0) is the lowest score
and 5 (or 6 in a very special case) is the highest. The results will be given in percentage
and basically everything over 90% is record of the year material. Over 80% is damn fine.
Over 70 is still good, but under that number it's probably generic or mediocre at best.
Feel free to send in your bands release and if I can find the time, I might give you an
honest response!

So, for the undeniable number one (which really took it's time to appear this year):
Cattle Decapitation - Death Atlas LP - with an incredible rating of 105%

So, we have a really nice 2xLP Gatefold (released via Metal Blade Records) with a great artwork. Just a Picture on the Inside and Inlay sheet is a bit simple, but it works. Solid 5 points.
Musically, in my opinion, they just keep getting better. Tbh, I didn’t really had them on my radar
until Monolith Of Inhumanity (2012) and their earlier stuff is a little too much grind for me – I mean, is it anything but grind? Anyways, since then they kept adding melodic death and black metal parts into their individual style of grind-metal. For this new Album, it’s the most diversified and exciting
I have heard all year – it basically tackles all styles of metal there are, while creating something completely new on their own. More than I could've asked for.
Plus, they have probably the best Vocalist there is and ever was (in extreme metal). Seriously, there are lots of great Vocalists around and of course, a lot is just matter of taste, but I can’t think of
anyone who is capable of anything close to what this guy is doing! Definitely 6 points!
Also we have great lyrics here - sometimes a bit cheasy, but very refreshing for grindcore!
And I love it that Travis and (depending on the line-up) most of the guys are vegans, so you can
even take those lyrics serious – the true soundtrack to the end of the world!
Everything else is just top-notch. Technicality it's – as always – over the top. I can’t even get
my head around their easier riffs… makes it really thrilling to listen to though! Production is
simply outstanding – everything sounds perfect and the vocal-mix is a pure eargasm. Also love
the audio-samples at the beginning/end of each side of the record – cool 90s analogy.
Favorite Track: Death Atlas. Simply mesmerizing. Fast and heavy metal riffage with a melodic refrain and an atmospheric ending you just wanna fall into that endless sleep to.

The number two, which actually was my number one for the longest time of the year:
King Apathy – Wounds - their farewell LP with a rating of  97%
So, we got a nice vinyl (fancy colored options), a cool label (Lifeforce Records) and an
awesome Artwork – really love the style and the imagery. Plus points for an inlay with a lot of
thoughtfull extra writings/infos about what the band stands for and what this album is about,
but a minus point, that for the outstanding album it is, it's only a thin standard jacket…
would’ve loved a nice gatefold with an actual booklet or something! Still a solid 5 though.
Musically, we have really atmospheric (post-)black metal that builds itself up slowly,
 just to fully discharge into pure, raw emotions, while still maintaining it's own character.
This record has it all – calm clean guitar parts with beautiful melodies, doomy atmospheric parts
to just dive into and fast black metal shredding with emotionally charged screams…
BUT (complaining on the highest level here) it feels like some song structures are re-occurring, couldn’t really distinguish half the songs at a first listen; and the singer – although I really like his style and what he’s doing – has very little variation in what he is doing (which some folks even
seem to prefer though, so it's not necessarily a minus point for everyone).
Lyrics are superb – best I have read in ages. Of course the vegan/nature thematic is especially appealing to me, but even if you try to leave that aside, they’re still very well written and some phrases like “extinction is not death, it’s the end of birth” are so deep and, when I first heard them, touched me on so many levels, I would even wanna get them tattooed! 6 points out of 5, man!
Also I have a ton of respect for the guys behind the band, especially Matthias, who started this as
a one-man project and is still the main song-writer. He’s so damn talented (also active in a bunch
of other bands – check his discogs), plus someone I can actually relate to.

Now for something completely different and even for me kinda suprising... number three:
Idle Hands - Mana - their debut LP with an astonishing score of 94%

Nice vinyl version, comes with booklet and poster, on a really cool label (Eisenwald Tonschmiede)
Not my favorite artwork, but it fits the aesthetic. 5 points.
Music is really refreshing – something completely new and different for me. Something to
actually dance and sing along to, but also to contemplate about and just feel it… no idea if it's
heavy metal or goth rock, also reminds me a bit on Woods Of Ypres though.
Anyway, my favorite "not extreme metal" record for this year (and probably even longer).
Fast and catchy song, hymns that get stuck in your head, doomy & emotional parts…
this one definitely has it all! Could even be played on the radios I guess?
But, it took me a 2nd listen to appreciate them tbh – it's way different to what I usually listen to –
but fits the atmosphere and everything. Love them now – still think the deep singing could take
parts with some screaming here and there, but that’s probably just the prejudiced me.
Lyrics are a bit weird here and there – hope they’re not 100% serious – but mostly cool
and fitting to the music (depressive goth rock meets fantastic heavy metal).
Length is just Perfect – wanna listen on repeat all day! I still feel like the songs are not not all
equally strong, but tunes like "Give Me To The Night" are damn earworms!
Bandmembers and the whole aesthetic they're using looks like they're timetravellers from the 80's.
I kind of don't get it why they choose to release on a black metal label, but along with the
odd lyrics and the unique sound, this is definitely a plus point for me!
It's nothing too difficult or funky, but well-written and exciting. Everything else is on point I guess.

Number four, hailing from Australia:
Frostveil - Ephemeral Visions - their debut Black-Metal LP with a solid 93%

First off: this is a solo-project and exists in different incarnations. While this one is their debut
  bm album, their already was a full abum in 2017, which was completely ambient/dungeon-synth
though... so don't get this confused when you're checking them out. But it's both great!
So, for the review: unfortunately this one was only released on a CD (with a really good artwork),
and although a tape version is also on it's way, this has to be accounted for as a minus point.
Give me a nice vinyl pressing and I will more than gladly correct your score!
Musically we have really well written melodic black metal with recurring rhythms and patterns
(which in this case, for this kind of music, is a good thing though). Fast tremolo pickings,
heavy riffings plus fantastic melodies accompanied by fierce, but precise drummings and a wall
of atmospheric synths – sth to really dive into. Never gets boring – fast & heavy parts, as well as hooks that get stuck in your head and emotional/heartfelt interludes + piano and lots of different synthie effects - can't believe that this is/was all just one 20 yeart old dude! Fuck me!
Vocals are good, fitting, distorted guttural shrieks – nothing over the top, the typical bm stuff.
No Idea about the lyrics, couldn't yet find them, but Jake is a vegan leftist, so they better be good!
Album maybe is a tad too long - you really need to let yourself in on this and give it the attention
it deserves, so you gotta have time for this journey, otherwise it's pointless; or at least you
won't have the ultimate experience of dreamy and emotional, songs like "Echoes Of Existence"
or "Longing", which are simply beautiful but then directly next to those, there are also tracks
like "Valiance", which make you feel like getting summoned directly onto the battlefield
of a fierce Viking battle! It's all really well-written. Nothing progressive or over the top difficult,
but it just fits. Wouldn’t want it any other way here. Also it's no major-label high-end production,
but especially for black-metal, I couldn’t care less. A true hidden Gem I guess!

And to make the top 5 just as diverse as possible, here we have, next to a death metal, a metalcore,
a goth-rock and a black metal album, a hardcore EP as well - place number five:
Caged – Burning Rage Of A Dying Planet - the phenomenal debut EP with a rating of 91%
Only a 7” EP, but damn I love the Artwork and the layout - also was released on a rather cool label
(Bound By Modern Age Records), so go and check them out!
True 90’s Style Metalcore/metallic Hardcore – if you liked To Ashes, you’re gonna love this one!
Starts off with a nice Maroon style melodic riff until Ivan’s distinctive vocals set in and catapult you back into the Purification era – serious militant vegan edge lyrics right in your face!
The B-Side then sets a contrast and starts with a typical 90's hardcore chugg that invites to dance - music and variety on point - 5/5 bbma crosses. Lyrics are great – heartfelt, authentic and full of emotions. You can still hear that they're from Italy, but that also has it's own charm I think.
All in all, maybe a bit too short, but perfect for a 7” debut. Now I’m hooked for the album!
Don't you dare to disappoint me! Better bring that with you on the next tour!
Super cool and interesting people that keep the scene alive. DIY Hardcore at it’s best.
Nothing over the top fancy, but good old metallic hardcore like it’s supposed to sound + a really
nice production (yeah, maybe it’s good to not pay homage to each and every detail of the 90s)

Started this whole list way too late this year and became tired of writing detailed reviews...
Might add them at a later point, might not. Here you go with my numbers 6 to 10:

6. Misþyrming - Algleymi LP - 90%

Melodic Black Metal from Iceland. Very diverse and exciting. Kind of "black'n'roll" in some parts.
Some songs/riffs are clearly stronger (or at least to my liking) than others, plus vocals could be
a bit more diverse. But other than that, it's a really solid, atmospheric but still catchy album.
Artwork and booklet are somewhat obscure. Production is top-notch. Vinyl is a bit quiet,
but that's probably for the better - you can really dive into the different instruments and synthies.
Didn't even knew the band before this, but I also like it much more than their previous stuff,
so it's alright I guess. Don't know anything else about them, but it fits right in with Mgła,
Cult Of Fire, Svartidauði, etc. - so check them out if you like that I guess.

7. Mgła - Age Of Excuse LP - 90%

Same old Mgła, if you liked their previous albums, you will also like this one.
But I don't really wanna talk much about them because of 2 things:
Their political views (mainly the singer and guitar player, who is but also the lyricist and main
song-writer) are somewhat catchy/shady... I don't believe that they're full-on Nazis,
they don't propagate any rightwing mindset or something, but I also can't justify his support
in some other projects anymore; might be just unpolitical and stupid, but I rather try to seperate
the art from the artist here (still a big minus point though). So, this one, plus that I don't have a vinyl copy yet - they just released it digital and now everything is slowly following up (with vinyl being the slowest) - are the main reasons why this is only place number 7. The music is fantastic and
this could've been ranked so much higher if it weren't for the giant douche behind it.

8. Woe - A Violent Dread EP - 87%

Solid melodic Black Metal from the States. Not sure if this EP can live up to their sublime
full-length from 2017, which is still on constant rotation here, but nevertheless this is one of my favorite recent/current bands around. Also was released on one of the coolest RABM labels
(Vendetta Records). Nice diy style screenprinted fold-cover and a one-sided 12" with a
screenprinted b-side, which is kind of a waste, but also looks really cool!

9. Blut - s/t LP - 85%
Raw atmospheric black metal from germany and one of the best kept secrets in the scene I guess.
Fantastic song-writing by a super cool dude (Chriss Dettmer - just google him),
with maybe just a little too much love for the true 90s sound. Be sure to listen calmly and
undisturbed at full-volume on a high-end stereo or really good headphones, or just don't.
I still feel like Track 1 is the strongest and for me it really could've been a better mix/master, other than that it's a damn solid debut - it's almost like early Burzum, but with a decent guy behind it!

10. Cleansing - The Pleasures That Lead EP - 81%

And another bbma release - finish 90's style edge metal(core) done right.
Unfortunately just a tape (but a cd version is coming soon). And I feel like the second half
of this EP is somewhat stronger than the first half... songwriting, vocals - everything, idk.
Anyway, one of the best demos I've heard in a while, so be sure to not miss out on them!

Quick overview of places 11 - 20 if you wanna do some research yourself now:
Enslave – Spiritual Authority & Temporal Power, Falls Of Rauros – Patterns In Mythology,
Panopticon – The Crescendo Of Dusk, Inclination – When Fear Turns To Confidence,
Renounced – Beauty Is A Destructive Angel, Vital Force - Hard To Be A God,
Divided Life – The Death Of…, Watch Me Die - Demo,
Die Young - Defective Machines, Contention - s/t, ...

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