Welp, it’s that time of year once again. 2019 was a fairly insane year for BOTH kinds of music, metal and hardcore punk. Let’s dive in, shall we?
10. Enforced – At the Walls (War Records)
The crossover continues. Vicious, pounding thrash metal peppered with violent NYHC-inspired tempo shifts. At the Walls compiles Enforced’s demo output and tacks on a few new tracks (one with Dwid of Integrity on guest vox). All of the tracks on the LP are remixed and remastered by Arthur Rizk and sound massive. Even as a very young band, Enforced are giving their contemporaries like Power Trip, Foreseen, and High Command a run for their money.
9. Dreams of the Drowned – I (Cult of Nine Records)
Dreams of the Drowned are an oddly, well, dreamy black metal project from France. Although plenty of somewhat common “atmospheric” black metal elements are represented well here, there is also a strong post-punk influence, especially with the drum patterns and the vocal approach. I’ve honestly never heard Killing Joke-influenced black metal before, and I’m really impressed with the merging of styles showcased here.
8. Ectoplasma – White Eyed Trance (Caligari Records)
Simply put, this is everything that I want in a death metal record. White Eyed Trance combines a true sense of foreboding, horror and dread with sharp, punishing riffs and guttural, panoramic vocals. And boy howdy, are there some riffs on this thing, somewhat thrash-tinged at times, and pure tremolo picked vintage death metal riffage during other moments. White Eyed Trance is not an all-out blastfest, nor is it meandering cave metal. It’s not too technical, nor is it striving for a total ignorant riff, caveman-style. There’s some tasteful soloing and some truly bone-chilling mid-paced-to-slow passages too. Ectoplasma have nailed a classic death metal sound without sounding like a retread or tribute act, which is no easy feat in today’s modern landscape. There were many, many good bands this year shooting for this sort of thing, but this Greek combo pulled it off the most effortlessly, in my humble opinion.
7. Amyl and the Sniffers – S/T (ATO records)
This is nothing less than a full on rock and roll decapitation strike. Slightly garage-y and blown-out in recording quality, this band deals hooks and jabs of uptempo punk rock and roll inspired by their forebears like the Coloured Balls and Rose Tattoo, but often considerably faster. This is pub punk, and it is gnarly as hell. Check out any videos of their live gigs if you don’t believe me.
6. Never Ending Game – Just Another Day (Triple B records)
Another banner year for local HC merchants Triple B, everybody. This Motor City-area band impressed me quite a bit with their demo last year. That tape had a strong influence from some of HC’s darkest and scariest units circa ’89 – ’97 or so…. bands like Neglect, Spit My Last Breath-era Blood for Blood, Bulldoze, Cold as Life etc. etc. On their debut LP, N.E.G. has stepped it up considerably, delivering a concise gut punch of hoarse, commanding vocals, sledgehammering heavy guitar work with the occasional metallic flourish, and drums that lock in the perfect groove to spit (never-ending) game over. I’m often extremely picky with HC of this stripe, but N.E.G. just destroys.
5. Subversive Rite – Songs for the End Times (Bloody Master Records)
This is raw, blown-out, distortion-soaked hardcore punk with a distinct metallic edge, and howling, echo-affected vocals. Another musical approach that I am often ambivalent towards, but (when executed properly) I really enjoy, and I REALLY enjoy this LP. The tight speed-picking over the Discharge-y rhythms mesh well, and Claire’s pissed-as-hell vocal approach cuts through the effects thrown on them perfectly. The deliberately blown-out Japanese production style compliments their metal punk attack rather than hindering it. Great shit, here.
4. Restraining Order – This World is Too Much (Triple B Records)
Damn. I have not heard a pure hardcore band this good and this catchy since Boston Strangler first started up. Restraining Order utilize many classic American hardcore influences and manage to forge a sound of their own, although occasionally I’m reminded of Pre-“Hidden World” era Fucked Up and Dead Stop from Belgium. We’re talking mostly uptempo, catchy, gravelly-throated hardcore goodness, with just enough of a tinge of Oi and punk to make this record all the more infectious.
3. Vomit Forth – Northeastern Deprivation (Maggot Stomp)
This is another comp of “recent demos packaged with a few spankin’ new tracks” kind of deal. Vomit Forth play an extremely mosh-inducing, quick-and-to-the-point style of brutal death metal. There’s plenty of chug and slam spanning this CD, but plenty of other influences from other eras of the genre are represented in equal measure. This Connecticut unit has concocted a very effective and vile style of death metal not to be missed. Their jams should appeal to everyone who enjoys the early records by Suffocation, Internal Bleeding, and Dying Fetus as well as many late ’80s and early ’90s efforts by all the classic Scandinavian bands. No song on the CD is over three minutes and six seconds in length, which is a huge bonus for me. Hell, even some deathcore and metalcore types could probably get into this. Mandatory.
2. Ripper – Sensory Stagnation (Unspeakable Axe)
Chile’s finest deathrash export return with their magnum opus, a six song EP that does not contain a millisecond of filler. Ripper has been at it for over a decade now, churning out neck-snapping, brutal thrash metal with healthy nods to the influence of several locales, be they Teutonic, American, or Brazilian. Sensory Stagnation is the product of honing their chops in both musicianship and songwriting during their decade-plus tenure. Their relentless pace is slightly dialed-back from their previous output, delivering some incredibly heavy mid-paced and slower passages. Their bass player, always a highlight of their sound, shines brightest on this release, displaying echoes of Steve Digiorgio during his finest hours. If you dig on Sadus, Sepultura at their finest, early Kreator or Demolition Hammer, this is for you. There’s just a hint of proggier vibes that bring to mind Atheist and later Death as well.
1.Wolfbrigade – The Enemy: Reality (Southern Lord)
I was not expecting this. I loved Allday Hell, Wolfbrigade’s third LP, and the last one under the moniker of Wolfpack. I liked the first few LPs under the Wolfbrigade banner in the early ’00s, but I ultimately lost touch with what they were doing. It looks like they had a few dry periods in the interim and dropped an LP two years ago on Southern Lord that I never got around to checking out. I most certainly will now, because holiest of molies, The Enemy: Reality is impressive. Taking their already established Motörcharged and melodic crust tendencies with strong roots in Swedish hardcore and and fortifying that sound with a tinge of NWOBHM and the more melodic end of Stockholm-style death metal, Wolfbrigade have really created a serious slab of head-nodding metallic hardcore punk that should please a huge intersection of the unwashed masses from Disrocker types to the high-tops-and-battle-vest crowd. This only came out last month, and I feel like I’ve spun it more than anything else. It’s that good.
The 2019 releases by Sadistic Ritual, Critical Defiance, Dead Heat, Tomb Mold, City of Industry, Gatecreeper, Cerebral Rot, Vultur, Mortiferum, Exhumed, Possessed, Magic Circle, Crypt Sermon, Fluids, Witch Vomit, and doubtlessly several others that I’m forgetting graced my earholes quite a bit this year. 2019 was an utterly ridiculous year for metal (especially death metal), and 20 Buck Spin, Caligari, Maggot Stomp, Dark Descent and Unspeakable Axe churned out some incredible music. As far as HC goes, Triple B continues to rule, along with the awesome reissue label, Radio Raheem and Quality Control HQ from the UK. I did not check out too many demos this year, but the tapes that I grabbed from The Glorious Dead, Concilium, Cemetarian and Undeath were all equally impressive, and I cannot wait to hear more from all of the above.
If you’re so inclined, you can view my 2019 retrospective video here on YouTube.
Also, I haven’t listened to the new Blood Incantation yet. I’m getting it for Christmas and want to wait to spin the physical copy. We don’t really need yet another person singing that record’s praises, do we?