Hello there, attractive and intelligent reader! You are probably here because you tire of all these other knuckleheads with
terrible excellent taste, and you are just chomping at the bit to find out what the new guy thinks. I am a long time reader, from MetalReview.com to whatever Lastrit.es was, to today’s slick, social media savvy version. After passing a rigorous series of mental and physical challenges, baring my soul, confirming my stance on olives (delicious, duh), I was allowed entry into the hallowed Last Rites HQ. My fellow writers are gluttonous consumers of all things metal, and their passion and talent fuels the insightful reviews we have all come to expect. It’s an honor to join them, even when my taste in metal is… ahem… misaligned, and Captain “Michael” Wuensch throws moist, moldy Quiznos subs at my head.
A brief bio: As a consumer of metal music, I got a late start in my mid-teenage years with, well, nu-metal, but I’ve been listening to all things heavy for over 20 years now. I hosted a college radio show that played metal for the late night crowd, and I forced myself to listen to every subgenre possible to equip myself to cover any requests or make any recommendations within the realm of metal. As it turns out, I like at least a little bit of everything. I have a very low tolerance for hair metal, but that’s because it sucks (sorry, Mr. “Andrew” Edmunds, sir). The list below is fairly representative of my tastes. There is always some sort of metal for any mood, and that’s one of many reasons why this genre rules so hard.
With every passing year, the pantheon of metal grows, and it gets harder and harder to keep (or catch) up. Short of joining a crew of seriously well-listened and critically thoughtful folks like the Last (w)Riters here, the best you can do is read along with us, go on Twitter, I guess (not at all recommended), or just follow your heart (aka the algorithms of YouTube / Spotify / etc). Metal should be fun, and writing about our beloved genre should inspire others to look beyond the mainstream and our comfort zones. There are enough subgenres, active touring bands, and dusty archives to explore that no one should ever want for lack of metal. Don’t like the screaming? Power, prog, and trad metal are here for you. Don’t like the government, authority figures, or your parents? Grindcore and crust have you covered. Don’t like fun? (well, you should probably politely fuck off, but…) Black metal has more than a few dark corners for you to hang out in. Don’t like all that happy shit, but still want to have a blast? Death metal beckons. Feel overwhelmed by all the options? Just pick something on our staff’s top 25! It’s a weird list because we are a weird group, but at least a few of us will gladly champion everything on it as a great album to spend some extra time with. Go to a random heavy show: the more diverse the bill, the better. The one uniting factor at Last Rites is an insatiable need to continue exploring music. For a bunch of old folks, the unabashed enthusiasm for albums new and old is a joy to be a part of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped into an unknown band or style because our own Danhammer “Daniel” Obstkrieg gushed some poetry about it. (Hi, Dan, you’re still my hero.) I have also avoided more than a few turds thanks to Chris “Topher” Sessions’ hilarious roasts. (Hi, Chris, please make time for at least a few scathing takedowns next year.)
My list is not the best of metal in 2019. It’s not the best of any particular subgenre, either. It’s just 20 great albums that I could not get enough of, and most critically, was able to spend enough quality time with. There are only so many hours in the day, and work and family are always competing. I joined the gang in August, and I was never much of a list person (shhhhh), so this skews a bit towards the end of the year. I also think that Tomb Mold and Blood Incantation put out fantastic albums (Hidden History being more fantastic, if I had to pick), but I did not spend enough time with either to include them. Like I said above, listen to what you love. Metal is fun, and if it feels like homework to listen to a particular band or style, it’s time to pick something else. Music is emotion, and if you’re not feeling it, then keep moving.
Enough jibber-jabber, on with the list!
Rankings Are Just Numbers, Maaaan
20. Eternity’s End– Unyielding
Lasers, knights, and an absurd amount of shred from the drummer to the keyboardist. What more could you possibly want from a power metal album? For them to be German? Check, check, check, and erledigt! Unyielding is fun as hell, so get in here and join the “Triumphant Ascent!”
19. Turilli / Lione Rhapsody – Zero Gravity
I’m apparently stashing all my power metal at the back of the list, making the genre an afterthought like a good American idiot. We will be better about this; it’s a Last Rites 2020 Resolution to cover more power metal. Zero Gravity is slick, fun, and chock full of powerful moments.
18. Shabti – Trembling and Shorn
I discovered Shabti while writing a review for the upcoming Obsidian Tongue album, where I learned that OT forms the rhythm section of Shabti. Without hesitation, Shabti is the faster and meaner of the two, with gnarlier tones and unrelenting riffs. Who knew Portland, Maine had such a strong scene? This is top-shelf technical blackened death, with strong hooks that go straight for the throat.
17. Equipoise – Demiurgus
Young, dumb, and full of…tasteful wankery? Demiurgus dances delicate circles around their tech death brethren. The Metal Archives membership page (past, present, and live) counts dozens of incredible bands, so the talent is no surprise, but their ability to weave prog, power, flamenco, neoclassical, and tech death as the cynical atheistic forefathers intended is truly impressive. You will be exhausted at the end of this hour plus ride, but hoo-boy can these fellas shred.
16. Xoth – Interdimensional Invocations
If there is a theme to this list, it’s fun. Metal is fun. Technical riffs, precision drumming, and songs about goofy sci-fi shit…that’s fun. Xoth are interplanetary explorers of joyful noise. Even the Mark Richards cover art is a wild ride. Get in loser!
15. Sarke – Gastwerso
I’m new to the Sarke party, but dagnabbit, I too “want to drink wine… In the Mausoleum!” Nocturno Culto and friends bring the heavy black ‘n’ roll but keep it just weird enough with stabbing synths, orchestral arrangements, guest vocalists, and songs about being a “Rebellious Bastard.”
14. Witch Vomit – Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave
This one is all about how it felt in my (rotten) guts. Is Witch Vomit, in the year of our lard, 2019, better than Tomb Mold or Blood Incantation? I know some fellow idiots with strong opinions on the matter, but what’s important is that I had a hell of a good time listening to Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave. Like a dutiful addict, I just could not stop huffing “The Fumes of Dying Bodies.”
13. Car Bomb – Mordial
I think my very coherent and straight-laced review, conveniently linked below, covered everything that needs to be said about Mordial. Get wrecked to Car Bomb!
12. Year of the Cobra – Ash and Dust
Year of the Cobra have immediate hooks, but they’re the sneaky kind with lots of barbs that will not sling loose. Good luck getting “Demons” or “Into the Fray” out of your head once Amy and Jon pour their fuzzy, beautiful doom into your brain. Ash and Dust is gorgeous, heroic, and fun.
11. Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
What a great album! The psychedelic grooves are no boring drug-fest, as Blut Aus Nord’s riffs are precisely crafted and layered to create an incredible seamless patchwork of progressive black metal. Hallucinogen is the kind of album that will imprint on your brain, forever linked to where you heard it first or spun it the most.
The Same List: Continued, But With Smaller Numbers
10. Big Business – The Beast You Are
Riffing is their business, and business is BIG. The Beast You Are takes a minute to step out of their own shadow of well-worn grooves, but hot damn, it smokes once they take flight.
9. No One Knows What The Dead Think – No One Knows What The Dead Think
Grindheads, rejoice! “This album kills”—me, from that link right down there.
8. Cara Neir – III / IV
Cara Neir wrote a damn near perfect album with 2016’s Perpetual Despair is the Human Condition. Its tortured, blackened screamo painted vivid nihilism that conveyed existential angst perfectly. Now comes 2019, as bleak as ever, but Cara Neir put a bright yellow flower on the cover and substituted much the blasting and sharp riffing for electronic interludes and more than a little dabbling in the post-punk and post-hardcore palettes. The band still provides plenty of melancholy and anguish, but III / IV offers playful experimentation that opens up their sound.
7. Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Nile did not owe us an album this damn good in 2019. Karl Sanders and his supremely talented friends decided to give it to us anyway. Thanks, Nile! Now, if you will excuse me, I have a snake pit mating frenzy to get back to.
6. Organectomy – Existential Disconnect
Slamz. The fun-as-hell, disrespect-your-surroundings variety. Disconnect from existence and get slammed.
5. Malevich – Our Hollow
Malevich do their thing with conviction. Ugly, angry riffs scrape against screamo vocals and blasting, churning drums. Dissonant chords pick themselves apart, and then stitch together to form a hideous Frankenstein monster, lurching through the sludge. Our Hollow expertly deploys dynamics that create even more suffocating riffage, and even more beautiful distortion-free breaks.
4. Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect
Immortal Bird’s twisting, grinding, genre-blurring attack gets stronger with every release. Thrive On Neglect has immediate hooks, and more than enough layers to reward your repeat spins. Listen to more Immortal Bird. So say we all!
3. Oozing Wound – High Anxiety
Oozing Wound suffer exactly zero fools. High Anxiety is sharply focused thrash with razorwire taut riffs, and completely ruthless vocals and lyrics. Get in the pit or get the fuck out of the building.
2. White Ward – Love Exchange Failure
The black metal + jazz of debut Futility Report gets leveled up on Love Exchange Failure. The blending of styles goes deeper, and White Ward have written some of their most inspired songs. The guest artists stretch the band’s unique sound on the back half, and there’s a lot of replay value here. Explore modern man’s disconnect with their fellow humans on this beautiful album.
1. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn
Look, of course it’s a silly name. It’s also silly how well these Welsh weirdos have managed to unify ethereal vocals with massive fuzzed-out riffs, adventurous synths, and electronic flourishes. Yn Ol I Annwn is the final installment of a three-album arc and MWWB’s strongest work yet. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon, hop on!
…and that’s it! Less talk, more rock. Go support these fantastic bands, buy their stuff, see them live, and always tip your bartender. Thanks to you, dear reader(s) for reading and commenting!