Welcome back for the last time!
We know the almost uncanny quality of part 1 and part 2 of our discussions of our most anticipated 2019 albums left you agog, and that said agog state made waiting for this third entry an exercise in patience like you’ve never faced before, but we’re here. You made it. Exhale, friends.
These articles have featured plenty of albums we’re hoping please our ears this year, but the beauty of music (and all art) isn’t so much in the expected, but in the unexpected. Countless bands new and old will come out of left field to surprise us this year, and those might be the ones that truly bring us magic.
What I’m really saying is… leave space in your heart to live vicariously not just through the bands you hope won’t disappoint you worse than gazing back at your 2019 exercise calendar, but also those with which you might not have been previously acquainted. Talk to strangers.
CARCASS – TBD
Carcass’s comeback album Surgical Steel was well received enough to keep the band on tour for the better part of five years, but it was not without its detractors. It is true that the album didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but how many wheels does Carcass, a band with so few peers, need to reinvent? Surgical Steel also did little for those die-hards hoping for a return to the band’s grind roots, but that was a faint hope, at best. Instead, the record was a perfectly logical successor to Heartwork, and I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the ever-loving shit out of it. If the group’s forthcoming, yet-to-be-named album is more of the same, I won’t be upset. Carcass has earned the right to be predictable—to just make a good metal album—so relevance be damned. Bill Steer is a genius riff generator, a meticulous song craftsman, and a brilliant player, and if there was any justice in this world he’d be as revered as Glenn Tipton, Dave Mustaine, Chuck Schuldiner, and even Tony Iommi. I will be forever interested in the music he creates. [JEREMY MORSE]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
DARKTHRONE – TBD
Tidings of new Darkthrone material has always given reason to celebrate, but a little more excitement gets attached to these sentiments during the current interpretation of the band because the potential for experimentation is higher, and that risk is pretty invigorating. Of course, there’ll be a few customary ingredients—that unmistakable guitar tone, cold drumming, dirty barking, and some form of deliciously unreasonable trash-talk—but whether the duo of Fenriz and Culto steer the ship into waters that are punky, doomy, speedy, thrashy, traditional, death, black or some combination thereof often remains a mystery. Hints definitely get dropped, though, and recent comments on the band’s Facebook page by way of [- f e n r i z] seem to place ground zero for the presently untitled 2019 release in notably doomy pastures. Two albums have been revealed in reference to the new work: Dream Death’s seminal Journey Into Mystery, and Candlemass’ silver bullet, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. However, the level of authority those two pounders have on this new record remains to be seen. Basically, it’s certainly possible that this album could sound like a mixture of 80s Raw Power and Hellhammer, and that Fenriz eventually drops a statement like, “What?? The fill in this song is directly inspired by Mats Ekström from the 2:49 mark of ‘Demon’s Gate!!’” That’s all part of the Darkthrone thrill, though, and regardless of the ultimate outcome, the prospect of full-length number eighteen (!!!) remains 100% enticing. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
DREAM THEATER – DISTANCE OVER TIME
Yes, I am very much looking forward to the new Dream Theater album. Yes, I know that makes me an idiot. I know it’s going to sound like Dream Theater has always sounded. I know it will be good, not great. Hell, I don’t even have to guess, because there’s the lead single right there. It sounds like Dream Theater has always sounded. It is good, not great. And, yet, because I was so sincerely smitten from those very first days and because this band made good on just about every promise they made right up until they started breaking them, I remain irrationally steadfast in my devotion to the memory of a once great love and the hope of one day rekindling that flame. I hope with all my heart that Dream Theater will show up on February 22, and we’ll all swoon over their unlikely return to glory, a veritable Benjamin Buttoning of progressive metal. That’s what I hope. I know people do this all the time with bands, artists, authors, shows and movies, jobs, family, friends, and would-be soulmates. I do not know whether it has ever actually turned out the way the pining romantic so passionately hoped. Like, ever. And yet… [LONE WATIE]
Quality Confidence Factor: 50%
ARCH / MATHEOS – TBD
Jim Matheos has been on a roll for a bit now. Fates Warning’s last album was their best since Parallels, which you might remember came out almost thirty years ago, and I say that knowing that the fine Fates folks have absolutely released a handful of good discs in that interim. But this one was better.
Still, as great as Theories Of Flight was — and it was very, very great — Matheos’ best work in this decade — and Christ, has it really been seven years now since this came out?! — is on Sympathetic Resonance, the first release for the joint venture Arch / Matheos, Jim’s re-pairing with former FW vocalist John Arch. Filled with absolutely masterful progressive metal, Resonance harked back to the glory days of Matheos’ and Arch’s initial collaborations on indisputable classics like The Spectre Within and Awaken The Guardian, and yet, it wasn’t just a throwback. Resonance was unavoidably tied to what these two have done before, and yet, at the same time, it was a modern affair, very much an album of the now even as it revisited the then. I’ve only heard some interview rumblings about this second A/M collaboration, but that’s enough to get my interest piqued, ready for more of Arch’s singularly twisting melodies and Matheos’ distinctive guitar riffs and textures. Alongside Bobby Jarzombek’s intricate drum work and Joey Vera’s always killer bass, the combination behind Arch / Matheos is a prog-metal dream-team, now (re-)assembled to full-strength greatness. If it’s as good as the last one, this one’s a potential year-end topper, so I can’t get my grubby little mitts on it quickly enough… [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
NILE – TBD
While Nile has indisputably always been the baby of Karl Sanders, bassist/vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade was the other guy that seemed indispensable in their lineup. His determined growl-yowl had become such an ingrained part of their sound for 20 years that his departure in 2017 not just came as a shock, but generated a lot of questions about whether or not the band could weather such a change. That his departure was almost treated as a footnote in a random Facebook post about other things didn’t exactly ingratiate long time fans either.
But as said, Sanders was, is, and will remain the band’s founder and primary creative force, so the ability of the band to move on from Dallas is ultimate his responsibility. Replacement Brad Parris has been getting plenty of seasoning in the live setting, but he won’t truly be judged until he’s put down sounds on an album. 2019 will likely see the release of their follow-up to 2015’s beastly What Should Not Be Unearthed, and hopefully the new album will be closer in quality to that beast than career low At the Gate of Sethu. The band has undoubtedly been past their peak for a while, but even post-peak Nile has been capable of some primo death metal. Can they can keep the legend going even without one of the people most important to building it? We shall see. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 60%
RHAPSODY OF FIRE – THE EIGHTH MOUNTAIN
Admittedly, it can be difficult to keep track of just exactly who in the extended Rhapsody family is in which band and doing what at any given time. As of this writing, Fabio Lione, singer for all of Rhapsody’s (and/or …Of Fire’s) albums from their debut through 2016’s Into the Legend, has recently announced a new project with Luca Turilli, Rhapsody’s former guitar player who split from Rhapsody when they added the …Of Fire and started… Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Lione, now no longer with Rhapsody Of Fire, and Turilli, no longer with Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, will apparently be doing a new album under the totally left-field name of… Turilli/Lione Rhapsody.
So yes, it’s exhausting and ridiculous and hilarious and also pretty awesome trying to keep up with all of this from a bunch of Italian guys who just A) can’t seem to make up their goddamned minds about what they want to call themselves, and B) can’t seem to stop making wonderful music. Keyboard maestro Alex Staropoli is now the only original Rhapsody member remaining in Rhapsody of Fire, but as they prepare to release their twelfth album (entitled the, er, Eighth Mountain) and first with new singer Giocomo Voli, there is little cause for the long-suffering Rhapsody faithful to fear. Relatively speaking (with a H.E.A.V.Y. emphasis on relative), the lead single for the upcoming album is almost restrained. Voli has a high and wiry voice, but he belts out the earworm of a chorus with just as much power as one needs to sell this sort of turbocharged power metal. It’s a compact four and a half-minute number with subtle (again, relatively speaking) orchestration from Staropoli and a fiery yet brief guitar solo from new(ish) axeman Roberto di Micheli. At this point, friends, RhapStaropoli Of Turilli’s Lu/Ca Lione RhapsoDawn of VictorVoli is not a band, it is a sovereign entity unto itself. Rhapsody is dead (I guess?); long live (I guess?) Rhapsody. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
Quality Confidence Factor: Rain Of A Thousand Percent