“Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s going to die.
Come watch TV. Listen to Motörhead.”
Kia ora, I’m Craig, Last Rites’ oldest, chubbiest, and most far-flung contributor. This year I spent a lot more time writing about subterranean punk than I did underground metal, but that’s not because my love of metal has waned. I simply wrote about upcoming metal releases every day for a decade straight and ended up feeling much like that guy on Pissgrave’s latest album cover. So, I took a break, digested albums at a more leisurely pace, and I got a lot more out of the metal that hit home as a result.
Compiling a lengthy list of end-of-year contenders was a breeze. Obviously, editing that list down was a much tougher task. Inevitably, I had to cut a lot of tour de force releases and wave goodbye to bands like Hellripper, Sempiternal Dusk, Yellow Eyes, Crypt Sermon, Waste of Space Orchestra, Esoteric and many others in the process.
Mostly, though, I found myself bidding a sad adieu to impressive death metal releases from the likes of Mortiferum, Witch Vomit, Ossuarium, Infernal Conjuration, Nile, Fetid and plenty more besides. But death metal definitely isn’t in short supply below.
Truth is, 75% of my final end-of-year choices are maggoty death metal releases. No apologies for that—rank and rotten are where it’s at. Usually, I’d have included more raw black metal, but I didn’t have a good strike rate searching for sulfurous and lo-fi second-wave noise this year.
Finally, I have no idea why Last Rites’ jet-setting board of directors allow me to sully this site’s well-earned rep. But, once again, it was a genuine honor to be published alongside some of my favorite writers in the biz this year.
I’ll do my best not to let the team down with my end-of-year choices. But I am an old man from the ass-end of the world, so no promises in that regard.
Thanks for stopping by Last Rites in 2019.
Have a smashing holiday season.
PS: I wrote a couple of epic-length end-of-year posts for the monthly In Crust We Trust feature I write around here. There’s plenty of heavyweight noise to be found over there too.
20. Overkill – The Wings of War / Sacred Reich – Awakening / Flotsam and Jetsam – The End of Chaos
I know this is cheating—and FYI, there’s plenty more of the same shenanigans below—but veteran thrashers Overkill, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Sacred Reich all deserve gold medals for their triumphant 2019 releases. Sacred Reich’s full-throttle Awakening LP was stacked to the gunnels with consummate old-school thrash; Overkill reaffirmed their long run of clobbering creative consistency with their commanding The Wings of War LP; and Flotsam and Jetsam returned with the blistering The End of Chaos, which saw the band firing on all cylinders and sounding on top of their game (although, album art wise…fucking yikes!) [Sacred Reich: Metal Blade Records, Overkill: Nuclear Blast, Flotsam: AFM Records]
19. Antichrist Siege Machine – Schism Perpetration
Antichrist Siege Machine’s malevolent Schism Perpetration LP featured decimating broadsides of blasphemous black and death metal. Blood-red disemboweling riffs collided with concussive percussion, monstrous vocals, and screaming walls of feedback. Expect hateful metal made all the more annihilating by Antichrist Siege Machine’s mercilessly uncompromising attitude. [Stygian Black Hand]
18. Nightfucker – S/T
The self-titled debut from Canadian beast Nightfucker featured ten-ton torturous sludge that called to mind Corrupted, Grief, and Noothgrush. Nightfucker’s churning, filth-caked tracks reeked of suffering and degeneracy as septic-sounding doom crawled through the gutters of addiction, mental illness, and unrelenting hopelessness. A slow-motion, gut-wrenching horror show. Perfect agony and anguish. [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]
17. Full of Hell – Weeping Choir
It was sad to read about Full of Hell’s touring van and all their gear being stolen recently, but the amount of goodwill that subsequently flowed the band’s way is testament to all the hard work they’ve put in over the years. The band’s tinnitus-inducing Weeping Choir exemplified Full of Hell’s penchant for mixing über-abrasive experimentalism with audio extremism. Grindcore, noisecore, and death metal were fed into a screeching woodchipper, and the resulting squalls of blown-out pandemonium were perfect for noiseniks and metalheads alike. [Relapse Records]
16. Downfall of Gaia – Ethic of Radical Finitude
Over the years, jagged-edged German band Downfall of Gaia have morphed from a crust punk troupe into an epic-sounding post-everything horde. The group’s exhilarating Ethic of Radical Finitude album was stacked with dramatic doom, black metal, and melodic post-rock. Massive tracks unfurled over panoramic soundscapes, with tension-ratcheting build-ups bursting into soaring crescendos and serene strolls transforming into full-bore riots. [Metal Blade Records]
15. Vastum – Orificial Purge
The fourth punishing album from Oakland death metal quintet Vastum was as lyrically intriguing and musically enthralling as ever. Orificial Purge showcased a band at the height of their aesthetic powers in compositional, thematic and conceptual terms. Perversion and eroticism were dissected via eviscerating death metal, making for a sinisterly pleasurable release. [20 Buck Spin]
14. Friendship – Undercurrent
Japanese bruisers Friendship threw everything into the pot on their latest full-length, Undercurrent. Hardcore, grindcore, death metal, sludge, and powerviolence all raged and boiled in a vortex where Friendship’s heaviness was matched by their sheer throat-gripping intensity. Sharper, spikier and more vitriolic than Friendship’s previous releases, Undercurrent was as hostile as hostile gets. [Southern Lord, Daymare Recordings]
13. Arnaut Pavle – S/T
Arnaut Pavle’s self-titled debut arrived 6 years after the Finnish band’s well-received demo. Their punked-up black metal is comparable to Darkthrone at their crustiest—or Craft at their rawest—and Arnaut Pavle’s debut was duly ripping, ragged, and 666% old school. Frenzied riffs tore through a black-hearted ambience, with Arnaut Pavle’s diabolic fervor and devilish enthusiasm burning bright. Expertly executed evil. [Mystískaos]
12. Krypts – Cadaver Circulation
Full-length number three from Finnish soothsayers Krypts saw the band perfect their other-worldly fusion of doom, death metal, and mind-warping Lovecraftian terrors. Replete with eerie atmospherics and monstrous torments clawing their way up from below, Cadaver Circulation was a reverb-drenched deluge of morbid scenes and hideous dread with traumatic ramifications. [Dark Descent Records]
11. Cerebral Rot – Odious Descent into Decay
The clue to Cerebral Rot’s filthy sound and filthier aesthetic is right there in their name. The band’s acrid Odious Descent into Decay LP was chock-a-block with festering death metal dredged from a sewage-contaminated swampland. Virulent bursts of OSDM were injected with brain-drilling solos and toxic traces of whatever obnoxious ooze was required to sour the battering mix. Perfectly putrid. [20 Buck Spin]
TOP TEN LPS
10. High Command – Beyond the Wall of Desolation
High Command’s Beyond the Wall of Desolation featured a ripping collection of ultra-adrenalized crossover thrash and chest-pounding hardcore. Forget tales from the streets, High Command told tales of legendary quests, where sword and sorcery reigned. Battle-ax-wielding stories smashed into mythical sagas as blood-soaked tracks were conjured by berserker musicians. A mountain of fun. [Southern Lord]
9. Nightfell – A Sanity Deranged
A Sanity Deranged was the third album from Nightfell, who feature Todd Burdette (Tragedy, His Hero Is Gone, Warcry) and Tim Call (Mournful Congregation, Sempiternal Dusk, Weregoat) in the ranks. A Sanity Deranged was an all-consuming funeral procession with death and doom metal dirges caked in crust and given an extra boost via dense bursts of hardcore. See within for hulking songs exploring humanity’s failings with ice-cold contempt and teeth-grinding tension. [20 Buck Spin Records]
8. Pa Vesh En – Pyrefication / Black Cilice –Transfixion of Spirits
Pa Vesh En and Black Cilice delivered superb examples of blisteringly raw black metal in 2019. Both bands’ bitterly cold and forbidding albums were unrepentantly wicked and packed with sacrilegious venom. Pa Vesh En’s Pyrefication and Black Cilice’s Transfixion of Spirits lo-fi screeds stripped second-wave black metal to the bone while amplifying its hypnotic grandeur. [Iron Bonehead Productions]
7. Mylingar – Döda Själar
Swedish band Mylingar’s third album, Döda Själar, was a downright challenging release—atavistic, sadistic, and terrorizing all work as descriptors, as do insidious, unknowable, and an overwhelming assault on the senses. Withering levels of savagery were unleashed as scorched-earth black and death metal ratcheted up the psychotic / psychic torment / tension. Utterly malignant. Utterly corrosive. Utterly mind-mangling. [Amor Fati, 20 Buck Spin]
6. Blue Hummingbird on the Left – Atl Tlachinolli
No question, Blue Hummingbird on the Left’s Atl Tlachinolli was a divisive release. The album’s ((maximum-reverb))) vokills and battery-acid-raw black and death metal were as unapologetically confrontational as they were wholly uncompromising. Aztec mythology and indigenous tales stoked blazing hymns to war, with red-raw instrumentation and a cyclone of primeval metal enacting bloodthirsty rites. [Crepúsculo Negro, Iron Bonehead, Nuclear War Now!]
5. Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
The third album from death metal crew Tomb Mold delivered another top-tier batch of brain-twisting tracks. More outré and atmospheric than 2018’s Manor of Infinite Forms, Planetary Clairvoyance featured virtuosic compositions that rocketed into the far reaches and punched their way into other dimensions. Rancid and radioactive retching was splattered across unearthly soil, with Tomb Mold’s stew of prehistoric and intergalactic death metal smashing open previously unseen portals. [20 Buck Spin]
4. Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
Blood Incantation’s colossal Hidden History of the Human Race LP was an awe-inspiring exploration of existence, consciousness and strange alien theories. The band proved to be stout-hearted astronavigators exploring atmospheric and astral planes while never forgetting their connection to this foul and rotting earth. Hidden History of the Human Race was a labyrinthine treat, mixing sprawling progressive death metal adventures with much harsher and guttural skirmishes. Pitch-perfect for troglodytes or psychonauts. [Dark Descent Records]
3. Bloodsoaked Necrovoid – The Apocryphal Paths of the Ancient 8th Vitriolic Transcendence / Bloodsoaked Necrovoid & Ratlord – Split Cass
Costa Rican trio Bloodsoaked Necrovoid unleashed two visceral and esoteric assaults this year. The Apocryphal Paths of the Ancient 8th Vitriolic Transcendence collected the band’s first two grisly-sounding demos, while Bloodsoaked Necrovoid’s split cassette with Ratlord added another impossibly heavy track to the group’s armory. Both releases featured suffocatingly grim death and doom metal with Bloodsoaked Necrovoid trawling darkened sewers and traversing vast cosmic horrorscapes. [TAPA8VT – Iron Bonehead Productions, Ratlord split – Testimony Records]
2. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
Teitanblood returned from the netherworld in 2019 with their most blood-curdling album yet. The Baneful Choir was a barbaric soundtrack to slaughter featuring violent instrumentation and incantations constructed from crushing black and death metal and mercilessly blasting war metal. The Baneful Choir was unrelentingly frenzied and ferocious, but like all of Teitanblood’s terrifying releases, it was also chillingly focused. [Norma Evangelium Diaboli]
1. Coffins – Beyond the Circular Demise
Prolific Japanese death metal trio Coffins have always ignored trends in favor of simply pounding their barbaric message home with a sledgehammer. The band’s fifth ominous full-length, Beyond the Circular Demise, was filled with crusty and contagious filth that underscored why Coffins’ abominable creativity remains such a formidable force. Casket-juice-gargling dirges and pustulant strains of doom mixed with bone-crushing riffs, back-breaking drums, and guttural howls echoing from the deepest, darkest pits. Grotesque, gruesome, and heavier than a massacre—Coffins deliver truly daunting death metal. [Relapse Records]
10. Goat Terror – Unholy March / Primitive Warfare – S/T
I’m a sucker for homicidal bands that tip their hat to the bestial work of Black Witchery or Blasphemy. Goat Terror’s Unholy March and Primitive Warfare’s equally murderous self-titled EP spewed pestilence and disease in an avalanche of insane horrors. Unhinged and uncompromising Satanic warfare reigned supreme, with Goat Terror and Primitive Warfare’s frenzied war metal earning bonus points for being as sickening as a skull cleaved in two. [GT – Sentient Ruin Laboratories, PW – Stygian Black Hand]
9. Tristengrav – II – Nychavgé
The second release from Greek band Tristengrav featured raw black metal, bitter deathrock, and primitive crust. Nychavgé‘s macabre production was drenched in an ice-cold gothic aura, but there was a strong echo of Anti Cimex and Rudimentary Peni’s sizzling chaos, too. A superb blast of harsh metal fit for cemetery dwellers and gutter gremlins alike. [Caligari Records]
8. Chthonic Deity – Reassembled in Pain
Colorado trio Chthonic Deity includes members from Scolex, Ascended Dead, and Blood Incantation. The band’s gloomy Reassembled in Pain EP featured “coffin-rattling” tracks that oozed grinding death metal slathered with cranium-cracking crust. Barreling, bludgeoning, and acrid as Hell, Reassembled in Pain had undeniable crossover appeal. [Carbonized Records, Woodsmoke, Lunar Tomb]
7. Primitive Man / Hell – Split MMXIX
Primitive Man and Hell’s abrasive split was a perfect meeting of misanthropic minds. Both bands delivered vile and ultra-heavy tracks where crawling doom and hateful sludge writhed in the filthiest cavities of malevolence and misery. A slow-motion maelstrom of soul-shattering aural violence. Perfectly inhospitable. Perfectly disagreeable. [Translation Loss Records]
6. Black Curse – Endless Wound
Black Curse features members from Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice, and the band’s Endless Wound demo featured rough versions of tracks to be included on their upcoming full-length debut. Primeval strains of bleeding-raw black metal and charnel house death metal set a ruinous scene with Endless Wound being an abhorrent shrine to savagery and negativity. [Sepulchral Voice Records]
5. Undeath – Sentient Autolysis and Demo ’19
Rochester, NY death metal trio Undeath delivered one of the year’s best demos in early 2019, and then they returned a few months later with the even more putrid Sentient Autolysis. Rotten to its core with oppressive atmospherics, gruesome riffs, coiling solos, and gut-retching vocals, Sentient Autolysis expertly blended outright Neanderthal thuggery with extremely adept songwriting. [Caligari Records, Sevared Records]
4. Undergang – Ufrivillig Donation af Vitale Organer
Danish death metallers Undergang’s Ufrivillig Donation af Vitale Organer EP featured two new decomposing tracks, one even more rancid live track, and an aptly deranged cover of Funebre’s “Grip of Insanity.” Noxious enough to give you contact tuberculous, Ufrivillig Donation af Vitale Organer featured stench-ridden guitars, thundering drums, and gurgling vocals slithering from the sewers. Ugly. Gruesome. Flawless. [Dark Descent Records, Me Saco un Ojo Records]
3. Anatomia – Hollowed Cadaver Demo / Wormridden – Festering Grave
Kindred murk-merchants Anatomia and Wormridden both deliver crushingly heavy music. The 12 cavernous minutes of gloom and doom on Anatomia’s single-track Hollowed Cadaver cassette were sickeningly brutal, utterly miserable, and served as a teaser for multiple upcoming releases from the Japanese band. Festering Grave combined Japanese / Danish outfit Wormridden’s 2012 Infesting The Grave Demo with the band’s 2015 EP, Festering Glorification. Stomach-churning death and doom fused with crypt-squirming disgustingness. Obnoxious. Wretched. Mesmerizing. [Anatomia – Self-released, Wormridden – Me Saco un Ojo Records]
2. Triumvir Foul – Urine of Abomination
Triumvir Foul’s Urine of Abomination was a traumatic nightmare exploring corporeal depravity via aural deviance. Horrifying waves of aberrant death metal emerged from a cesspit of corrosive black metal, and harsh shards of nihilistic noise framed a chokingly hostile atmosphere. Triumvir Foul remain defiant, destructive, and as intoxicating as they are harrowing. [Vrasubatlat, Invictus Productions]
1. Volahn – El Tigre del Sur
Perennial provocateur and Black Twilight Circle CEO, Eduardo Ramírez, delivered another breathtaking release under the Volahn banner this year. The band’s dramatic, single-track 12″ El Tigre del Sur paid rousing tribute to Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata. Similar in tone to Volahn’s well-received “Chamalcan” from 2016’s excellent Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons compilation, “El Tigre del Sur” mixed blast-force black metal with a spaghetti western twang and traditional folk elements. A single thrilling song that annihilated entire black metal albums in 2019. Viva Zapata! [Nuclear War Now! Productions, Iron Bonehead Productions]
6. Black To Comm – Seven Horses For Seven Kings
Marc Richter’s sound art / solo project Black To Comm deals in atmospheric and ambient suites, which also happen to be wholly unnerving. Seven Horses For Seven Kings was another fathomless dive into sinister and surreal realms, featuring music that was both hypnotic and terrifying. Slow-motion horrors burrowed deep, but like all of Black To Comm’s releases, Seven Horses For Seven Kings offered ecstatic transcendence via skin-crawling means. [Thrill Jockey]
5. Scorn – Cafe Mor
Cafe Mor was Scorn’s first full-length since 2010’s Refuse; Start Fires, and the album was a welcome reminder of Mick Harris’ genius at crafting leviathan dubs that sound as heavy as collapsing stars. Cafe Mor throbbed with ten-tone bass and twitched with dank, dark, and often industrial-sounding glitches. Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson turned up on the brilliant “Talk Whiff,” while Cafe Mor pulsed with crushing dub and oozed electronic murk throughout. [Ohm Resistance]
4. Sunn O))) – Life Metal / Pyroclasts
Obviously, Sunn O))) are a metal band. But they’re also a non-metal band that’s fond of experimenting with sound art and channeling myriad avant-garde influences. With producer Steve Albini on board, Sunn O))) delivered two albums in 2019 that utilized new artistic methodologies and explored new creative avenues. Life Metal was towering and deafening, as expected, but it was also surprisingly beautiful. Sunn O))) injected a lot more light into their dark and distorted amplifier worship, illuminating a captivating journey. The accompanying Pyroclasts was far more improvised, but no less breathtaking. Sunn O))) displayed meditative grace on instinctual seismic suites, providing a soul-stirring voyage as well as plenty of gigantic riffs. [Southern Lord]
3. Deafkids – Metaprogramação
The clanging and crashing polyrhythmic pursuits of Brazilian *avant-everything* band Deafkids are utterly unique. The band’s mind-melting Metaprogramação LP sizzled with madcap creativity as distorted riffs smashed into crooked electronics and dissonant primitivism collided with frenzied rhythms. Mesmerising, intoxicating, and indescribably bold—Deafkids’ idiosyncratic output was extraordinary. [Neurot Recordings]
2. New Model Army – From Here
Tracked in just over week on the small Norwegian island of Giske, New Model Army’s From Here LP reflected both the isolation and rugged beauty of its recording location. From Here was filled with introspective balladry and deep ruminations about the human condition, revealing lessons and often harsh truths learned over a lifetime. The album’s starkness was captivating, and its evocative darkness was equally enthralling. Yet another bleak and beautiful latter-era gem from New Model Army. [Attack Attack, earMUSIC]
1. Hawkwind – All Aboard the Skylark
Hawkwind’s last album, 2018’s Road to Utopia, was one the long-lived band’s worst releases ever, while this year’s All Aboard the Skylark drew some of the strongest critical praise that Hawkwind had received in decades. And that’s the fun of being a Hawkwind devotee: you never know what’s around the corner.
All Aboard the Skylark was so much better than anyone could have reasonably imagined, and it was easily my favorite non-metal or punk LP of the year. The album fizzed with acid-dunked ideas, thrumming electronics, psychedelic riffage, and all sorts of strange extraterrestrial action. Who knows what’ll turn up next, but Hawkwind marked their 50th anniversary with a magnificent album that harked back to their most-celebrated years as true space rock pioneers. [Cherry Red]