It’s already the end of the year? It’s been a busy one, no doubt, and full of a lot of great music. I feel like this year had a lot more shorter releases than usual that kicked my ass. And by the looks of it, America/Canada was home to the artists I listened to the most. Seriously, there’s only one band outside of that on this list. Anyway, as usual, I’ve split my lists in two (albums vs shorter releases), and there’s a mix of stuff in there. Cheers!
Ares Kingdom – By the Light of Their Destruction
Nuclear War Now! Productions; Kansas City, MO
If Ares Kingdom releases anything, its bound to be one of my favourites of the year. These Kansas City chaosmongers never disappoint, and their fourth album proves to be as strong as ever. Guitarist and main songwriter Chuck Keller said he decided to dive into the style he was writing with one of his previous projects, Vulpecula, giving AK some new life and inspiration. Make no mistake, this sounds like an AK album through and through, with all its death/thrash glory.
Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
Dark Descent Records; Denver, CO
Blood Incantation have reached levels of hype that they certainly deserve, based off their incredible debut LP from 2016 and a relentless touring schedule that’s taken them to all corners of the world. Their sophomore album has certainly lived up to expectations, further pushing their use of cosmic themes and linear songwriting that manages to create plenty of dynamic despite the fact they keep moving forward throughout each song. BI certainly kicked everything up a notch here – there’s more weird nuances than ever, the B side is just one long song, and they’ve doubled downed on their sci-fi themes. I personally love what they’re doing as it meshes several things I enjoy into one exciting package.
Boy Harsher – Careful
Nude Club; Northampton, MA
From Massachusetts, Boy Harsher has released their second full length. They play darkwave that although sounds minimalist, is masterful in its subtlety. They really straddle the line between dark, gothic soundscapes and pulsing rhythms that drive hard. I loved their previous LP and extended plays, and this just continues what Boy Harsher has been doing well with their other releases. All their releases tend to have a song that stands out as “the hit,” and not surprisingly, the track they did a video for, “LA,” hooks really fucking hard. I absolutely love the vocals here, they’re perfect for this type of music.
Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror
Dais Records; Los Angeles, CA
I was a year late getting into Drab Majesty, but “The Demonstration” struck quite a chord with me and has been getting frequent plays over the last couple years. An album like that is hard to top, and indeed, “Modern Mirror” is amazing, but I’m not sure it’s better, but does it need to be? “Modern Mirror” is strong most of the way through, but in a different way. It’s still got hooks, but there’s almost a trade off between the more dance oriented stuff on the last album in return for more atmospheric parts. Maybe you’ll want to listen to “Modern Mirror” alone in your room, where as you’ll put “The Demonstration” on at a party. Or put both on, because this album is an incredibly lush and gorgeous record that’s a highlight of the 80’s synth revival.
Exhumed – Horror
Relapse Records; Oakland, CA
Exhumed has been carrying the torch of Carcass inspired death metal for quite some time now – long enough to have broken up and reformed. Their initial run of albums are classics as far as I’m concerned, but their comeback recordings have not been as consistent. It took me a while to warm up to “All Guts, No Glory,” where as I liked “Necrocacy” right away. The re-recording of “Gore Metal” was kind of cool despite feeling somewhat unnecessary (getting the original recording alongside it was a great idea though). “Death Revenge” seemed drawn out and downright forgettable, despite having some of their best artwork/design. On the other hand, “Horror” is quite a callback to the early Exhumed days – it’s 15 songs in a mere 26 minutes. All the problems with the previous album have been completely rectified on “Horror,” although maybe some folks won’t enjoy the modern production despite the lean and frenzied songwriting. Also, does the artwork remind you of anything?
Fetid – Steeping Corporeal Mess
20 Buck Spin; Seattle, WA/Portland, OR
The Pacific Northwest death metal scene has been making a lot of noise over the last few years, and Fetid’s debut demo from 2017 was a big highlight for me. Their debut album on 20 Buck Spin keeps up with the Finnish death metal inspired sound of the demo, throwing up big riffs at mid paced tempos that eventually fall into tremolo picking madness. Although the songs get a little lengthy, Fetid kept their album at a nice 32 minutes, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The band recorded at Earhammer, which has been spawning a lot of death metal albums this decade, and it works really well for the low tuned sound they have. I’m also stoked they did another song with a retro-horror film style intro like they did on the demo. I didn’t include Cerebral Rot on this list, but seeing as they share a member, I should mention that album is worth checking out for anyone who enjoyed this.
Krypts – Cadaver Circulation
Dark Descent Records; Helsinki, Finland
Finland’s Krypts returns with their third album. I feel like this band really found their footing on their previous album, 2016’s “Remnants of Expansion,” as they opted to go for more a death/doom sound with some parts that really open up with desolate moods. Their latest offering continues the direction they’ve been going. This album didn’t hit me as hard as the previous one did, but part of that is because it wasn’t a surprise and it took a little bit of time for this one to grow on me. Ultimately, I kept coming back to it because it just nails that atmosphere I want out of death/doom, a tradition that Finns seem so good at.
Mortiferum – Disgorged from Psychotic Depths
Profound Lore; Olympia, WA
Much like the previously mentioned Fetid, Mortiferum are from the PNW region and released their debut LP this year after an exceptionally killer demo in 2017. There’s definitely some similarities between the two bands, but Mortiferum go for more death/doom sounds and therefore have more slow parts with some real brooding atmosphere. There’s a little bit of that Finnish sound in here, but they combine it with some other classic death/doom influences like diSEMBOWELMENT and I can never say no to that.
Nucleus – Entity
Unspeakable Axe; Chicago, IL
Everyone is rightfully hyped up about Blood Incantation, but did you know Chicago has their own twisted death metal band that dives deep into science fiction and space themes? The Windy City’s Nucleus also dropped their sophomore album this year, and although I really enjoyed their debut, “Entity” is a far superior album. Everything from the riffs to the production shows quite a leap in maturity. If you’re into weirdo technical death metal from the early 90s like Demilich and Timeghoul, or you’re a fan of more modern bands like Blood Incantation and Chthe’ilist, Nucleus are worth your time. Also, scope the artwork to this album, it’s so fitting and absolutely gorgeous – likely the best album art of the year.
Pig’s Blood – A Flock Slaughtered
Godz of War Productions/Stygian Black Hand; Milwaukee, WI
I couldn’t get enough of Pig’s Blood self titled which dropped a couple years ago, around the same time I got to share the stage with them. These Milwaukee war mongers have outdone themselves with their second offering. Combining war metal aesthetics with death metal riffing, Pig’s Blood stand out among the flock when it comes to this style of music. The vocals are insane, the lead playing is butter, and everything just clicks hard on this record. They have simple hooks with their riffs but they cut pretty deep and keep me coming back for more.
Vancouver’s Woolworm returns with their third record, and this is the one that’s caught my attention the most out of all their releases. I learned of this band by sharing the stage with them, and was always kind of into their music, which is somewhere in the realm of indie, shoegaze, and post-punk. “Awe” sees some very strong pop/rock songwriting that touch on a variety of moods ranging from sombre to hopeful. It took me a while to dive into this album, so I’m adding it to this list pretty late, but I’ve had these songs stuck in my head since doing so.
Archagathus – Split Tape w/ JM Churchill
Grindfather Productions, Winnipeg, MB
Did time actually go by if Archagathus didn’t release something that year? The most productive band in Canada only dropped a single release in 2019, and I’ve only heard their side of it (sorry, JM Churchill!). No surprise, these tracks are killer and just continue what Archagathus has always been good at – mincing grindcore. These songs are particularly Agathocles sounding, especially with the shouted punk vocals that appear in a couple tracks. Dan’s production and playing are always on point and always improving. I know there’s more Archagathus releases in store for next year, which of course will make my year end list as always.
Blood Spore – Fungal Warfare Upon All Life
Independent; Philadelphia, PA
Here’s a new band I discovered this year while networking for our tour. I came in contact with the Blood Spore guys in hopes of getting a gig in Philadelphia, and indeed we had ourselves a time in the city of brotherly love. There’s no love to be heard on Blood Spore’s debut EP, with 3 tracks of ripping death metal that gets into death/doom territory. The band flexes their songwriting ability by averaging about 7 minutes a song here, and it’s backed by some pretty great sounding production. Hopefully a label picks these guys up for future releases, there is a lot of promise here!
Chthonic Deity – Reassembled in Pain
Carbonized/Woodsmoke/Lunar Tomb; Denver, CO
Here’s a nice slab of riff driven death metal, courtesy of three people who have made their marks known in the American death metal scene this past decade. This project is spearheaded by Erika Osterhout (Scolex/Necrosis/Extremity), and her writing style shines here. Bolt Thrower and Autopsy riffs come together flawlessly, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re familiar with her other work. The band is rounded out by Paul Riedl (Blood Incantation/Spectral Voice) and Charlie Koryn (Ascended Dead, etc). From what I understand, this demo was recorded in pieces over the course of a few years, but damn does it sound fresh. I should also mention they have a 12″ split with Runemagick which also came out this year, and features two songs with more death/doom leanings, but is just as awesome!
Death Knell – s/t
Independent; Calgary, AB
A very bias pick for me (I’ll be doing this a few times), this is the debut recording from Calgary’s newest metal/punk band. They play crossover thrash in the vein of Nuclear Assault with a healthy dose of Sacrilege. There’s even a Poison Idea cover. What’s not to like?
Encoffinate – Cimmerian Corpse Dungeon
Caligari Records; Vancouver, BC
There’s a group of musicians in Vancouver that seem to keep forming new bands with one another, experimenting with different styles of metal and punk. Encoffinate is one of the latest offerings, which plunges them into the depths of death/doom metal, in the vein of Winter and others with a heavy Celtic Frost influence. Members also play in AHNA, Radioactive Vomit, Chapel, etc, so you can be assured this demo is worth it. With 4 tracks averaging about 6 minutes, it’s a lengthier demo but certainly satisfying.
Excarnated Entity – Stillborn in Ash
Independent; Seattle, WA
Featuring members of various Seattle area metal bands, Excarnated Entity has set the bar high for themselves with this crushing slab of death/doom. Fans of early Paradise Lost need to hear this. They don’t exactly go into the gothic sounds that PL was known for innovating, but they totally dialed in the same kind of production and vocal style. There’s even some riffing that is reminiscent of early Bolt Thrower. This band needs a full length ASAP!
Feeding – The Stench of Life Pts. 1 & 2
Independent; Edmonton, AB
I’m massively bias in putting this on here but I fucking love these dudes so much and they are one of the best newer bands to come out of Edmonton. Formed from the ashes of two hardcore bands, they’ve come a long way over the course of a handful of EPs. They released a 4 track EP this year which I mixed/recorded, and then gave me another 5 demo tracks they recorded for me to mix. The results of both combine to make a single tape release, and it’s filled to the brim with razor sharp death metal riffage.
Grave Infestation – Infesticide/Infestation of Rotting Death
Independent; Vancouver, BC
Another entry that I’m combining because they released two killer demos this year. This band is closely related to AHNA (which shares 3 members playing the same instruments), but without the Sacrilege/stenchcore influence (and therefore drummer Anju isn’t doing any vocals). The direction on these demos is a more pure death metal sound compared to their sibling band, and they absolutely nail it. The atmosphere is pure evil, the recordings are great, and the vocals are disgusting. Not to mention the Entombed cover is a nice touch on the latter of the two recordings. Can’t wait for an LP!
Languid – Submission is the Only Freedom
Brain Solvent Propaganda; Edmonton, AB
Again, here’s another record I recorded, but it rules too much not to mention. Languid are not only the best punk band in Edmonton, but are on top of the game in Canada too. Their Discharge worship is painfully obvious but they have enough nuances in their music to give it some identity of its own. Their latest offering is 8 songs and their best work to date.
Massgrave – Split w/ Unholy Grave
Unrest Records; Vancouver, BC
Another year, another Massgrave release that hasn’t come out properly yet. There’s a tape but the LP has been delayed for whatever reason. I haven’t even heard the Unholy Grave side yet, so I’m just listing this as a MG release. Anyway, MG always release the best Disrupt style crust/grind, and here is no exception. They’re always on top of their game.
Oxalate – Infatuating Sickness
Independent; New Jersey
Oxalate are a new band from northern New Jersey, and they play death metal in the vein of NY/NJ/PA gods Incantation. I don’t mean that as in they play cavernous death metal, I mean that in the sense that they’re writing strong riffs and playing in a style that’s not too far removed from “Onward to Golgotha.” Also unlike their cavernous counterparts, the songs on this EP are relatively short, as these 4 songs don’t even crack the 12 minute mark. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this band, and I hear they have some split material in the works.
Sanguisugabogg – Pornographic Seizures
Maggot Stomp; Ohio
Here’s another band who made their debut in 2019 with a hot demo. This Ohio based death metal band is off to a strong start, as their demo sounds both professional and heavy. There’s been a lot of hype around this band, which of course means there are people who won’t like them because they’ve made some waves. If people want to have a stupid viewpoint like that, they’re missing out on some real big riffs. Sanguisugabogg contrasts big, heavy grooves with trem picked death metal and it’s easy to get into, especially if you’re into caveman barbarity. These guys are great, more material will be welcomed!