BEST METAL OF 2019 / EPISODE 1: The Top Five Albums released in the first 6 weeks of the year

The first few weeks of the year have passed and we have already enjoyed several interesting metal albums. After careful review of all the records I heard so far, I’m proposing here in this article the five LPs that gave me the strongest emotions. The choice, as always, is subjective. But beyond the individual tastes and preferences, I’m convinced that these five albums are objectively solid and full of qualities. Therefore, in case you missed any one of them, don’t lose time and check them out! And stay tuned for the future updates of the chart.

#5) “666-Pack”, by Insanity Alert

Thrash Metal / Crossover

“666-Pack” is the third LP from Insanity Alert and it follows their self-titled debut album (2014) and the previous record “Moshburger” (2016). The album was released on January 25th, 2019, by Season of Mist

Among the five albums selected for this article, 666-Pack is absolutely the one which surprised me the most, in the sense that before listening to the LP I would have never imagined that this crazy band from Austria could end up within the five best of this period.

In the end, the winning feature of Insanity Alert‘s new record was to embody, in the most genuine way, the irreverent and chaotic spirit of thrash metal while retaining compactness and also a number of good ideas that are out of the ordinary.

The album lasts for 32 minutes and contains 21 songs: a fistful of thrash, grind, punk and crossover…. in short, a coarse mixture of stuff, all seasoned with a teenage spirit and lyrics that deal with deep and complex social themes such as beer and parties. Absolutely refreshing and spontaneous.

You can read here my review of the LP, and you can listen to this playlist if you want to discover all the recent releases in thrash metal.

Insanity Alert is Don Melanzani (Drums), The Dave of Death (Guitars), Heavy Kevy (Vocals) and MC Brownnose (Bass)

#4) “Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men”, by Our Survival Depends on Us

Doom Metal

“Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men” is the fourth LP released by the Austrian doom metal band Our Survival Depends on Us. The LP was released on February 8th, 2019, and it arrived four years after their previous LP “Scouts on the Borderline Between the Physical and Spiritual World” (2015)

It was not the same level of surprise of Insanity Alert’s release, but also the new album from Our Survival Depends on Us (they too coming from Austria) arrived without much fuss but caught quickly all of my attention.

The music played by this band is a special kind of doom metal which is very close to prog rock, with also additional components coming from black metal (especially for what regards the chord progressions) and sludge. Their new LP features four long songs, all of them evocative, absolutely fascinating and also played with meticulous precision. With respect to their previous records, their sound today seems to have lost some of the roughness and abrasiveness in favour of an increased emphasis on the melodic, folkloristic and progressive components. This is going to generate discussion among the fans of the band. I’m among those who appreciated this evolution of their style.

You can read here my review of the LP, and you can listen to the best and latest doom metal songs by opening this playlist on Spotify.

Mucho, guitarist and vocalist of Our Survival Depends on Us, is one of the five members of the band. Other members of the line-up are Barth (Bass, Vocals), Thomas (Drums), Thom (Guitars, Vocals), and Hajot (Keyboards)

#3) “The End of Chaos”, by Flotsam and Jetsam

Thrash Metal

“The End of Chaos” is the thirteenth studio LP by the American thrash metal band Flotsam and Jetsam. The album was released on January 18th, 2019, by AFM Records, and it arrived three years after their previous self-titled record.

Second thrash album in the list of the best five albums, it says a lot about the fact that the beginning of the year was certainly positive for this genre of metal.

If you’re a fan of thrash, you need only 43 seconds to realize that the new album by Flotsam and Jetsam will bring you a lot of satisfaction. At 43 second into the first song, in fact, the brief instrumental introduction ends and you hear a fantastic groovy bass line that signs the start of the thrash ride. Yes, because this is precisely what is The End of Chaos: an uninterrupted and healthy sequence of epic and headbanging riffs, from the first to the final song of the record.

The new album by Flotsam and Jetsam may sound a little vintage because of the inserts from and the singing style of Eric A. K., but it’s much better to have an old-fashioned sound with lots of good ideas, rather than a modern feeling but flat and useless songs. As a matter of fact, many of the new and emerging thrash bands should really buy The End of Chaos and start studying it.

You can read here the review of the LP.

Flotsam and Jetsam today consists of Michael Gilbert (Guitars), Eric A.K. (Vocals), Michael Spencer (Bass), Steve Conley (Guitars), and Ken Mary (Drums)

#2) “Slaves of the Shadow Realm”, by Legion of the Damned

Death Metal

“Slaves of the Shadow Realm” is the seventh full-length album released by Dutch death metal band Legion of the Damned (if we don’t count the material released as Occult, before 2005). It was released on January 4th, 2019, by Napalm Records, and it interrupts a five-year gap after their 2014’s LP “Ravenous Plague”

This is one of the first records I’ve heard this year, and it’s also one of the best.

From a musical point of view, there are clearly two components in the music of Legion of the Damned that chase and compete each other: a blackened death metal vein, which typically provides the brutal, sinister and aggressive baseline of their songs, and a thrash metal sensibility that generates speed and riffs. Thanks to the perfect mixture of these two components, which was further enhanced by an impeccable production, we may enjoy an exciting collection of powerful, obscure and absolutely heavy tracks.

My short review of the LP can be read from here, while you can go to this playlist to listen to all the new releases in death metal.

Legion of the Damned today is a quartet consisting of Erik Fleuren (Drums), Maurice Swinkels (Vocals), Harold Gielen (Bass), Twan van Geel (Guitars)

Best Metal Album of 2019 so far

When the World Becomes Undone”, by A Pale Horse Named Death

Doom Metal / Gothic Metal

“When the World Becomes Undone” is the third LP from American doom & gothic band A Pale Horse Named Death. The record was released on January 18th, 2019, by Long Branch Records, and it follows the debut LP “And Hell Will Follow Me” (2010), and “Lay My Soul to Waste” (2013).

I must admit that this choice can be partially affected by nostalgia, but it’s not easy for one who loved so much the wonderful Type or Negative to remain indifferent in front of a record that’s so full of the atmospheres and the sounds of one of the most influential bands of the recent decades. In any case, I’m convinced that the value of this record is absolutely objective and independently from the position that it may achieve in the various metal rankings, it remains an album that emanates passion and intensity like few other LPs have done so far.

In this respect, the operation that was conducted by former Type O Negative’s drummer Sal Abruscato is absolutely valid, and smart. He has in fact managed to develop a style of music that despite being inspired from that of his former band, it’s still moving towards new directions. In this respect, the insertion of the grunge component into the gothic recipe was an interesting and well-executed move.

For the time being, When the World Becomes Undone is my favourite metal album of the year. It presents a beautiful mix of past and present, and a collection of songs that are at the same time engaging, powerful and extremely melodic.

I published a complete review of the LP, you can read it from here. You can also enjoy in this playlist a collection with the best gothic metal songs of recent times, which is expected to grow with time.

A Pale Horse Named Death consists of Sal Abruscato (Vocals, Guitars), Eric Morgan (Bass), Eddie Heedles (Guitars), Johnny Kelly (Drums), and Joe Taylor (Guitars)

Quick Review: “Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men” by Our Survival Depends on Us

The month of February brought us a wonderful surprise: the new and beautiful album by the Austrian band Our Survival Depends on Us, called Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men. The formation from Salzburg usually chooses very long titles for their LPs, but – something which is definitely more important to us – they always offer to their fans a collection of doom songs that are evocative, exciting and played with meticulous precision. And their last record doesn’t make exceptions.

For those who’re not familiar with the band, something which is quite likely since in effect they’re not among the most famous bands of the European metal scene, we can describe their music as a kind of doom which is very close to progressive rock, whilst presenting interesting stylistic influences coming from both black metal (especially for what regards the chord progressions) and, less frequently, from sludge.

Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men is the fourth album in the band’s discography and we can see some elements of innovation with respect to their previous efforts. First, it’s the first time that we find only four tracks, all over ten minutes. Fewer songs, but each one is really full of details and with a truly interesting internal development. Secondly, their sound seems to have lost some of the roughness and abrasiveness of the past, with an increased emphasis on the melodic, folkloristic and progressive components.

An aspect that I consider very fascinating about this record is the adoption of a compositional mechanism where the key melodic elements are repeated extensively within the same song so that they, in the end, become a sort of hypnotic and suggestive mantras. In this sense, at times the songs of the LP reminded me, made all the evident differences, of some of the best works from the stone & drone masters Om. For some listeners, this extreme repetitiveness of the melodies may seem like a sign of relative lack of ideas, or a mechanism introduced to artificially extend the duration of the pieces. For me, it’s something that I really appreciated, also because we’re talking about melodies that in most of the case are beautiful and extremely evocative.

If I had to point out an aspect that doesn’t convince me completely, I would mention the vocal parts. These are undoubtedly interesting and particularly fitting with the style of music played by the band, but I feel like sometimes they lack enough intensity and passion. I can’t say whether it’s a problem of interpretation or post-production, but I would have expected more powerful and epic voices in order to better emphasize the drama and the evocativeness of the songs of the album.

The new album from Our Survival Depends on Us is destined to generate discussions between the fans of the band: some will criticize the adoption of a style that has brought the band’s music to be more “clean” and somehow more psychedelic with such a persistent repetition of the same riffs; others, like me, will appreciate the desire to experiment with a new approach, which has generated a really interesting result. For those who aren’t familiar with this band, my recommendation is to go and listen to their songs: you will discover a great band with a very particular style of music.

My overall rating is 7/10. Galahad and Gold and Silver are my favourite tracks.

Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.

Songs from Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men are now featured in THE DOOM METAL RADAR, the playlist which collects the best and latest songs in Doom Metal. Check it out and follow it, the playlist is continuously updated with new songs.