2019 has been a top-notch year for black metal & metal in general. As always, top lists of the year are heavily discussed among friends, social media and even complete strangers you meet at a festival or concert. These lists tend get very intimate and personal when it concerns underground gigs. That’s why I wanted to give a small explanation as to why I chose these bands and albums.
10. Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark
This United States atmospheric black metal band has got my attention for quite a few years now. A very varying album, which I did not expect to be as good as it is, with the ending track as a personal favorite, titled ‘The Final Failure’. Also, please take a moment to appreciate the album art from Mariusz Lewandowski, known for Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper or this year’s Cairn from Mizmor, which has just dropped out of this year’s AOTY-list. The sacrifices we must make, luxury problems…
9. Hamelin – Hamelin
“Support your local scene” has become a very low threshold and even cheap thing to say these days. Hamelin however, resided in Aarschot/Mechelen, really deserves your support and their first album, self-titled and released in November, is mandatory property for every self-respecting post-black metal fan. Cool guys, including ex-Bloodrocuted guitarist Jason Bond, who deserve your presence at a gig in the near future, especially fans of Alcest, Harakiri For the Sky or bands like Numenorean. Support your local scene!
8. Benthik Zone – Omni Quantum Univers
Benthik Zone need no more introduction, of course, since they underwent my undivided attention some time ago on GRIMM as well. This album is the conclusion to their five-piece anthology released in November this year. Independent atmospheric black metal about exotic live-forms living on the bottom of the ocean, on this planet or another, coming from a duo of students resided In Portugal, which have become good friends of mine since the release of this album. This is for the elite few that find pleasure in Darkspace, Sunn O))), Urfaust and are not disgusted by music created by merely putting thoughts, dreams and theories about dimensional introspection into words and sounds.
7. Ultar – Pantheon MMXIX
Ultar are a black metal band from Russia which I got to know through the Youtube channel called ‘Black Metal Promotion’, of course very known among like-minded black metal fans. They deliver something special. Just like you can tell an Icelandic black metal band apart, you can tell this band is not an ordinary group of musicians. They delivered a pearl that will definitely pop up on some AOTY-lists here and there. Deafheaven is a band that comes to my mind should similar artists be needed to convince you of checking out this band.
6. Akrotheism – The Law of Seven Deaths
A very different band, this time from Athens, Greece, that brings us a very (literally) epic form of Black Metal, for fans of the truly haunting and heavy vocals. First bands that come to my mind are Aosoth (and derivatives such as VI and The Order of Apollyon) but also DsO and Nightbringer, both concerning music and artwork.
5. Mephorash – Shem Ha Mephorash
A band that starts to get name and fame in the underground scene and starts popping up on festivals like Hellfest. I got the honor of witnessing their ritual at Metal Méan this year and it was without doubt the highlight of that day. A heavier form of Batushka that focuses more on the metal part than on the ritualistic part. This is pure black metal misanthropy from Sweden that is one of the more accessible bands on my list, together with Hamelin.
4. Misþyrming – Algleymi
Misþyrming have skyrocketed in the underground scene and that’s very understandable with an album like this. Algleymi is an extremely strong and shocking album that marks Iceland once again on the map as a residence for artist of a truly inspiring and unique kind of black metal. Should I name bands like Svartidaudi and Zhrine to try and ring a bell, then you’ll have definitely heard of Misþyrming as well. For those that just hopped on the black metal train this year: Check this out if you’re a fan of Mgla.
3. Krater – Venenare
There we are. My personal top three albums of 2019. If I may say so, being part of this top three means quite a lot, since I have attended a lot of shows and have had to eliminate a lot of other bands for this year’s list. Krater must be the top discovery for this year as well, together with Benthik Zone, since a friend sent it to me, and I wasn’t convinced from the first listen. Those 45-minute drives to school made this a perfect album to start over again and again, and I fell in love with it after a few days. This is top shelf black metal that also got quite some attention in online communities I’m part of. A very special kind of vocals and extremely aggressive riffs, combined with dissonances that remind me of DsO, epic chants we know from Behemoth and even some Icelandic black metal vibes make this the bronze album for 2019.
2. Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
I have never given Blut Aus Nord the attention they deserved, now that I know what they’re capable of. That riff from Nobos Nebuleam keeps haunting me in both my dreams and my nightmares and during the writing of this album they must’ve realised it was magic they were creating. This album is flooded with bright and uplifting, energetic riffing, supported by choirs, which makes this an extremely harmonic and dreamy album, contrary to what else is in this AOTY-list. Fans of Blut Aus Nord need no introduction, to everyone else: you need this in your life. What’s coming next is not quite as harmonic and positive as this so should you want to check out one album of my list, make it this one.
1. Altarage – The Approaching Roar
This album has made such a big impact on me and probably defines how I have changed music-wise during 2019. This is a very heavy, massive, deep and dark album that is not for the weak and tends to be a blend of black & death metal. Their very special and intimate concert I managed to witness in a chapel in Lokeren a few weeks ago, together with Imperial Triumphant, was the perfect conclusion of this year’s festival summer and makes this my personal best album of the year 2019. For fans of the immensely hard to grasp blend of experimental black death metal, such as Portal, Malthusian, Deathspell Omega and of course Imperial Triumphant.