As 2019 comes to an end, Getintothis’ Nedim Hassan counts down the finest 20 metal albums of the year and introduces you to the greatest Christmas song you’ve never heard.
“He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…”
Let’s face it, Santa is a pretty creepy guy.
While many esteemed rockers have recorded Christmas songs that venerate the big jolly man and generally celebrate the festive spirit – from Twisted Sister and The Darkness to Rob Halford’s recent album, Celestial – metal is also one of those rare genres that has the scope to connect Santa to the sinister.
Our favourite Christmas music happens to do just that. Acid Witch’s Black Christmas Evil is a deliriously warped Christmas single.
Released in time for last year’s festive season and re-released on limited edition vinyl to coincide with this year’s celebrations, the songs Black Christmas and Christmas Evil (You Better Watch Out) are inspired by the cult horror films of the same name.
In keeping with the Detroit outfit’s psychedelic death-doom aesthetic, the tracks are both weird and extremely good fun.
Clips from the films and their trailers foreshadow buzz saw guitar riffs drenched in fuzzy distortion, before Slasher Dave’s eerie rasping vocals and playful but maniacal keyboard melodies combine to create songs that match the freaky atmosphere of the original movies.
All in all, Black Christmas Evil is good family fun and an excellent stocking filler for the freaks in your family.
As if our help with your seasonal shopping requirements was not enough, it is of course that time of year when we bring you the pick of the records that we have deemed worthy of your attention this year.
Without further ado, here is our list of the killer albums that have made our 2019 just that bit easier to bear.
20. Lord Divine: Facing Chaos
Argentinian progressive metal combo, Lord Divine, turned everything up to eleven on their fourth opus, Facing Chaos.
Featuring some extraordinary guitar soloing, this record contained scorchers such as Into My World, which displays a combustible combination of prog and power metal.
The standards of musicianship and production were sharp throughout, although the high point had to be The Darkest Light with its dramatic duet between vocalist Diego Valdez and former Yngwie Malmsteen frontman, Mark Boals.
19. Aggressive Perfector: Havoc at the Midnight Hour
Dying Victims Records
The debut album of British speed metal merchants, Aggressive Perfector, Havoc at the Midnight Hour was a belligerent and exuberant journey into a nuclear holocaust.
Tracks like Into the Nightmare boast genuinely evil sounding Slayer-like riffs, prior to a riotous evocation of the apocalypse and the venomous Chains of Black Wrath conjures up the spirit of early Iron Maiden with savage efficiency.
18. Inculter: Fatal Visions
Edged Circle Productions
The second album from Norwegian thrash starlets Inculter saw them capitalise on the huge promise of their acclaimed debut from 2015. Fatal Visions took no prisoners with its turbo-charged riffing and ferocious vocals.
Tracks such as Impending Doom, the epic Endtime Winds and first single Through Relic Gates feature memorably menacing riffs and ferocious tempo changes that simply compel the listener to bang their heads.
Rarely has contemporary thrash sounded so authentically evil.
17.Amulet:The Inevitable War
London-based Amulet continued to demonstrate their huge potential on their sophomore album The Inevitable War.
Tracks such as Shockwave and Siege Machine wore their NWOBHM influences on their sleeves in their general feel and vocal delivery.
Album highlight Burning Hammer combines Dio era Sabbath with Deep Purple to provide a satisfying slab of velvet encrusted heavy rock.
16. Exhorder: Mourn the Southern Skies
A hugely influential thrash act that never quite seemed to get the limelight their music deserved, Exhorder’s Mourn the Southern Skies was arguably the highlight of their career to date.
A magnificent achievement from start to finish, there is a real relish and hunger that emanates throughout tracks such as the brilliantly acerbic Asunder and the absolutely monstrous riff machine that is Hallowed Sound.
15. Savage Master: Myth, Magic & Steel
Savage Master’s occult influenced approach to classic metal is a bewitching brew of the NWOBHM with just the right amount of punk.
Vocalist Stacey Savage’s commanding and sultry performance complements blistering hook-laden tracks such as Crystal Gazer and High Priestess. Highlights were aplenty here but it was Lady of Steel with its celebration of the majestic power that the female voice can bring to metal that had us raising our horns in salute.
14. Haunt: If Icarus Could Fly
Maintaining their prolific form and euphoric approach to trad metal from the 70s and 80s, Trevor Church and company crafted an album that miraculously surpassed their debut. A key reason for this was the quality of the song writing, which continued to captivate.
Stand-out track It’s In My Hands is a bona fide classic anthem that celebrates the power of self-belief and encapsulates everything good about this band.
13. The 69 Eyes: West End
Finland’s finest Goth ‘n’ Roll merchants celebrated their 30th anniversary this year in style with a sumptuous sounding record.
Elegiac but cool tracks like 27 and Done and Change were the ideal anti-anthems for a hopeless generation of Western youth.
Stand-out tracks were too many to mention but included the haunting Cheyenna and the instantly memorable hook-laden Black Orchid.
12. Necronautical: Apotheosis
These rising stars of British black metal returned with a third album that saw them continue to make massive strides on the international black metal scene.
Apotheosis is a richly atmospheric record that evokes old school Dimmu Borgir and Emperor in places. Propulsive blast beat drumming and flowing riffs on tracks such as lead single Nihil Sub Sole Novum and All is Vanity drive this album along at a furious pace.
Although stand-out track is perhaps epic album closer Down the Endless Spiral, which saw a more reflective tone on the album’s central themes gradually unravel in a dramatic climax of bitter fury and melancholic guitar melody.
11. Slipknot: We Are Not Your Kind
Liberally sprinkled with theatrical interludes, choral ensembles and, of course, the pulverizing rhythms and distorted guitar hooks that we associate with them, Slipknot’s We Are Not Your Kind did much more than live up to expectations.
With marauding (yet deliciously catchy) numbers like Unsainted and Birth of the Cruel they actually opened up their sound to new audiences.
10. Darkened: Into the Blackness
Edged Circle Productions
Our EP of the year was from new death metal act, Darkened, a record remarkable for its immediacy and power.
Featuring luminaries such as drummer Andy Whale (ex Bolt Thrower/Memoriam and vocalist Gord Olson (Ye Goat-Herd Gods/Demisery) Into the Blackness is quick to bring the listener under its pulverizing spell.
From magnificent opener Into the Darkness/The Offering to crushing closer, Unredeemed, this is churning, doom-laden death metal with a satisfying melodic edge.
9. Queensrÿche: The Verdict
Century Media Records
The veterans’ third album with frontman Todd La Torre, Queensrÿche’s The Verdict demonstrated their enduring ability to write sleek and thoughtful metal anthems.
Songs like Light-years and Dark Reverie are high points that would not be out of place on some of their classic Geoff Tate era albums.
8. Dawn Ray’d: Behold Sedition Plainsong
Forty five minutes of incandescent rage over issues that include social injustice and climate change; Behold Sedition Plainsong still managed to be reflective, poetic and poignant through its skillful melding of traditional folk interludes alongside abrasive and icy black metal guitar riffing .
There were many highlights on this record, but the combo of the haunting folk track, A Stone’s Throw, followed by Soon Will Be The Age Of Lessons Learnt is absolutely devastating; with the latter track featuring exquisite violin melodies overlaid onto powerfully distorted guitar rhythms.
7. Savage Messiah: Demons
Century Media Records
There was a real majesty to Savage Messiah’s fifth full length album. Demons is the sound of a band reaching the peak of their creative energies.
Equally comfortable on classic sounding, powerful ballad-like numbers like The Lights Are Going Out as they are on thrashtastic face-rippers like Rise Then Fall, these criminally underrated guys should be British metal royalty.
6. Nile: Vile Nilotic Rites
Nuclear Blast Records
The first album without long-time guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade, Vile Nilotic Rites was the sound of a rejuvenated Nile.
New guitarist Brian Kingsland contributes to an absolutely gargantuan sounding modern death metal masterpiece.
Blazing speed is the order of the day on frenetic numbers like opener Long Shadows of Dread.
Yet it is during slower and more atmospheric tracks deeper within the album, such as Where is the Wrathful Sky, We are Cursed and the imperious The Imperishable Stars are Sickened, where this album hit hardest.
5. Deathspell Omega: The Furnaces of Palingenesia
France’s mysterious avant-garde black metal outfit returned with another absorbing offering.
An often brooding affair, The Furnaces of Palingenesia mostly keeps its searing fury at bay to concentrate on its philosophical examination of the state of humankind.
The bleak salvation that Deathspell Omega promise was exemplified in the magnificent Ad Arma! Ad Arma!
Adorned with menacing, stuttering riffs that build towards a dramatic climax that combines Aspa’s venomous sermon with an orchestral flourish, this track encapsulates this album’s compelling appeal.
4. Rammstein: Untitled
If Rammstein’s epic show in Milton Keynes was THE live highlight of 2019, then their untitled seventh album certainly was not too far behind.
Instant gems that are sure to be live staples for years to come included the foot-stomping metallic-electronica delight that was Radio and the imperious Deutschland.
3. Candlemass: The Door to Doom
The return of original vocalist Johan Längqvist into the Candlemass fold was nothing short of triumphant on The Door to Doom, as his satisfyingly weathered deep tones imbued tracks like The Omega Circle with a genuinely sinister quality.
While Astorolus – the Great Octopus boasted THE most monstrously heavy riffs of 2019 and set the standards for doom metal.
2. Venom Prison: Samsara
This complex and unsettling record was compelling for the way it further placed the spotlight on the way Venom Prison are re-imagining death metal’s modus operandi.
Uncompromisingly extreme, Samsara raised the bar on almost every level. Its juxtaposition of savagely aggressive riffing and furious tempos with slower, more groove-laden sections and spectacular soloing was both invigorating and, at times, intimidating.
While Larissa Stupar provided the death metal vocal performance of the year with her deep guttural grunts on excoriating tracks like Megillus & Leaena, giving way to agonized screams that were staggering in intensity.
1. Alcest: Spiritual Instinct
Nuclear Blast Records
Call it blackgaze, call it whatever you want, Alcest’s unique vision arguably reached its apotheosis on Spiritual Instinct.
This sublime record gets better with every listen. From opener Les Jardins De Minuit onwards, this is a captivating and immersive piece of work.
The album conjures a brooding and sometimes trance-like atmosphere on tracks like the stunning Sapphire. Such songs often threaten an all-out black metal aural assault before being restrained and evolving into something altogether more delicate, powerful and ultimately more rewarding.
So, there you have it. We will see you in 2020 and, in the meantime, during these turbulent times keep supporting your scene.