The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2019

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

The year of 2019 might be reaching its inevitable end in the blink of an eye for most of us, but if there’s one thing we must admit is that it has been indeed a year of countless events, episodes and changes with a huge impact on how pretty much everything works in our Heavy Metal universe. For instance, 2019 was the year where we unfortunately witnessed the ultimate campaign by Thrash Metal titans Slayer, who at the same time left an undisputed and brilliant legacy to Heavy Metal and a giant hole in our hearts and in the global Thrash Metal scene. Do you think there’s any band that can fill that gap created by the end of Slayer? In my humble opinion, although I love bands like Exodus, Testament and Death Angel, I doubt anyone can claim Slayer’s throne as the meanest, most demonic and most pulverizing band of all time, but that doesn’t mean Thrash Metal is dead and gone. Quite the contrary, it’s still alive and kicking, with many of the underground bands reviewed at The Headbanging Moose contributing to keep the flame of such distinct subgenre of heavy music burning bright.

In addition, 2019 was also the year we lost many of our rock and metal icons, including André Matos (vocalist of Angra, Shaman and Viper), Larry Wallis (former guitarist of Motörhead), and Timi Hansen (former bassist of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond), as well as several talented musicians from non-metal styles like Marie Fredriksson (lead singer and keyboardist of Roxette), Keith Flint (frontman of The Prodigy), and the “King of the Surf Guitar”, Mr. Dick Dale. However, even with all those significant losses, we can say 2019 was a productive year for rock and metal music, with many iconic and underground bands delivering some fantastic albums for our total delectation, and that’s why here we are again with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2019, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums, to prove once and for all that heavy music will never, ever die. Having said that, enjoy our list of top metal albums for this year that’s coming to an end, and keep raising your horns high together with us in 2020!

1. Rammstein – Rammstein (REVIEW)
A magnificent lecture in Neue Deutsche Härte from the bottom of the flaming hearts of the pioneers of the genre.
Best song of the album: Deutschland

2. Necronomicon – UNUS (REVIEW)
Canadian powerhouses of Blackened Death Metal return with the heaviest, most obscure and most infernal opus of their career.
Best song of the album: Infinituum Continuum

3. Rotting Christ – The Heretics (REVIEW)
It’s time to burn in the fires of the dark and occult Black Metal crafted by the greatest Greek institution in the history of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Fire God and Fear

4. Soilwork – Verkligheten (REVIEW)
Swedish Melodic Death Metal masters return in full force with a fresh, groovy and addictive album of first-class heavy music.
Best song of the album: Stålfågel

5. The Agonist – Orphans (REVIEW)
Canadian juggernauts of Melodic Death Metal return with a brand new album that’s more extreme, more melodic and more exciting than ever.
Best song of the album: Blood as My Guide

6. Helevorn – Aamamata (REVIEW)
Embrace darkness and melancholy with the breathtaking new opus by one of the most interesting names from the current Spanish scene.
Best song of the album: Aurora

7. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (REVIEW)
The world’s most famous masked metallers are back with a fantastic album that proves once again why Heavy Metal is our kind of music.
Best song of the album: Unsainted

8. Amon Amarth – Berserker (REVIEW)
Raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you together with Amon Amarth.
Best song of the album: Shield Wall

9. Target – Deep Water Flames (REVIEW)
Let’s all dive into the incendiary deep waters of Technical and Progressive Death Metal ruled by this amazing band from Chile.
Best song of the album: Oceangrave

10. Singularity – Place of Chains (REVIEW)
The emotions of being wrongfully imprisoned turned into an ass-kicking hybrid of Technical Death Metal and Symphonic Black Metal.
Best song of the album: Ritual of Regret

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Grand Magus – Wolf God (REVIEW)
12. Hiss From The Moat – The Harrier (REVIEW)
13. Lucifera – La Caceria De Brujas (REVIEW)
14. Alunah – Violet Hour (REVIEW)
15. Dö – Astral Death Cult (REVIEW)
16. Rifftera – Across the Acheron (REVIEW)
17. Rage Of Light – Imploder (REVIEW)
18. Rexoria – Ice Breaker (REVIEW)
19. HerezA – Death Metal Drunks (REVIEW)
20. Aephanemer – Prokopton (REVIEW)

Also, let’s not forget about some of the best albums which, although might be short in duration, they did bring to our ears an endless amount of heaviness, speed and harmony this year, accrediting them to be part of our Top 10 EP’s of 2019. As you can see, those EP’s were recorded by the most diverse types of bands and artists from all over the world, becoming some sort of “tasting sample” of what we can expect from those metallers in a not-so-distant future.

1. Eleine – All Shall Burn (REVIEW)
2. Quilombo – Itankale (REVIEW)
3. Master’s Call – Morbid Black Trinity (REVIEW)
4. Violent Life Violent Death – Sadness Rains (REVIEW)
5. Angra Demana – Triptych Of Decay (REVIEW)
6. Vorga – Radiant Gloom (REVIEW)
7. Shuulak – Citrinitas (REVIEW)
8. Moanaa – Torches (REVIEW)
9. Exuviated – Déliquescence (REVIEW)
10. Sophist – Betrothal To The Stone: Conception of Mephisto (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2019? And, as usual, don’t forget to tune in every Tuesday at 10pm BRT on Rádio Coringão to enjoy the best of classic and underground metal with Jorge Diaz and his Timão Metal, and every Thursday at 8pm UTC on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of underground metal with The Headbanging Moose Show!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2020!

And before The Headbanging Moose takes a well-deserved break to recover our energies and return in full force in 2020, how about we enjoy what’s probably one of the best and most detailed “Christmas” songs of all time, the fantastic Valhalleluja, recently released by Italian Heavy/Power Metal outfit Nanowar of Steel? This is the perfect soundtrack for your Christmas night with your loved ones, especially if you give someone anything from IKEA as a Christmas gift. Well, simply watch the official video below and follow the lyrics to understand what I’m talking about. Having said that, let’s all pray to Odin, drink beer and sing Valhalleluja together with Nanowar of Steel, my friends!

Album Review – Soilwork / Verkligheten (2019)

One of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene returns in full force with a fresh, groovy and addictive album of first-class heavy music.

Although most people consider Helsingborg-based metal masters Soilwork to play a fusion of Metalcore and Melodic Groove Metal nowadays instead of the Melodic Death Metal we got used to from their early albums, I personally still see them as one of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene, having influenced (and still inspiring) countless bands worldwide, like for example Trivium. And to prove how relevant and ass-kicking the band is after all these years on the road, frontman Björn “Speed” Strid and his henchmen David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret on the guitars, Sven Karlsson on the keyboards and newcomer Bastian Thusgaard on drums are releasing upon humanity the superb Verkligheten, the eleventh studio album in their undisputed career.

Verkligheten, which by the way is the Swedish word for “reality”, is not only the first Soilwork album to feature Bastian on drums as the replacement of longtime member Dirk Verbeuren (who left the band to join Megadeth a couple of years ago), but it also marks the longest gap between their studio albums to date, with their previous installment, The Ride Majestic, having been released nearly three and a half years earlier. Well, at least the wait was absolutely worth it, because if there’s one word that can be used to describe the music found in Verkligheten is “addictive”. You won’t skip any song from the album, and as soon as it’s over you’ll go back to the first track and listen to everything all over again, which in other words means we’re undoubtedly facing a very strong candidate to be elected one of the best albums of 2019.

The title-track Verkligheten, a Western movie-Tarantino-inspired instrumental intro, flows smoothly and serene, inviting us all to join Soilwork in the realm of Melodic Death Metal with the crushing Arrival, presenting some pulverizing elements from Black Metal added to their core musicality, in special the demonic blast beats by Bastian, all enhanced by its classic lyrics beautifully declaimed by Björn (“The sky reflects in my hands / You took my world ’cause you can / Is it just me or is the light / Oh read me, you dust ridden seer / And prepare for the night”). The album couldn’t have started in a more thrilling and vibrant way, I might say. Moving on with the music, speed and violence are replaced with heaviness and an enfolding melody in the headbanging Bleeder Despoiler, where both David and Sylvain are on absolute fire with their scorching riffs, not to mention how the background keys by Sven and Bastian’s rhythmic drums complement each other flawlessly, and the band keeps blowing our speakers with their very melodic and fierce music in Full Moon Shoals, where once again all instruments are thoroughly connected, resulting in a dense and visceral sound complemented by another shot of their pensive and poetic words (“Anyone would cure it with blindness / There were moments where I thought I could be / A man who’s aching for the hour of closure / Darkness clearly kept on covering my needs / But it’s not what it seems / It’s just an inner endless shriek”).

Blending the most slashing elements from Rock N’ Roll, Melodic Death Metal and even Industrial Metal, Soilwork offer us an amazing composition titled The Nurturing Glance, perfect for banging your head, singing along with the band or simply enjoying Björn’s flawless vocal performance accompanied by the precise beats by Bastian, whereas in When the Universe Spoke  a serene intro explodes into top-notch Melodic Death Metal infused with Metalcore and Groove Metal nuances, with both Björn’s clean vocals and harsh growls being potentialized by the strident riffs by the band’s guitar duo (as well as the insane drumming by Bastian). Futuristic waves ignite what feels like a hybrid between contemporary Arch Enemy and Soilwork entitled Stålfågel (or “steel bird” from Swedish), featuring the stunning Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy as a guest vocalist. Björn and Alissa vigorously kick some serious ass together, while David and Sylvain hypnotize us with their riffs and solos in one of the top songs of the album without a shadow of a doubt, and putting the pedal to the metal this Swedish institution fires more of their razor-edged metal music in The Wolves Are Back in Town, showcasing headbanging beats, extremely melodic and sharp guitar lines, and yet another demolishing performance by Björn, spearheading his skillful horde like the true frontman he is.

Verkligheten Digipak CD Cover

Witan also presents a nice balance between harmonious and aggressive sounds, with Björn focusing slightly more on his clean vocals, flowing like a fast arrow until The Ageless Whisper comes ripping our hearts and minds in a solid display of modern-day Melodic Death Metal. Moreover, Bastian pounds his drums like there’s no tomorrow, while the band’s guitar duo continue to grind their axes with a lot of precision and energy. Then featuring guest vocals by Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis), Needles and Kin is classic Melodic Death Metal presenting a vibrant fusion of rage, electricity and harmony with the intricate beats by Bastian dictating its rhythm and pace, all boosted by David’s superb guitar solo, before the closing tune You Aquiver, with guest Dave Sheldon (Exes for Eyes, Annihilator) on the guitar, brings to our ears a good mix of their more ferocious side with the whimsical and ethereal sound of the keys by Sven, with best metal (and even non-metal) albums of 2019. Furthermore, what Mr. Björn “Speed” Strid & Co. did in their new album might not be a revolution in music (as some very demanding fans always expect from their favorite bands), but it’s indeed a solid statement that Melodic Death Metal is still alive and kicking, and that Soilwork will continue to be a reference in the genre no matter what happens to the band. Fortunately for us fans of heavy music, the band is far from calling it quits, which means we’ll certainly have the pleasure of enjoying more of their crisp and vibrant metal with their future releases, and if they’re just half as good as Verkligheten we’ll have a very good reason to celebrate and to keep banging our heads together with those Swedish metal icons.

Best moments of the album: Arrival, The Nurturing Glance, Stålfågel and The Wolves Are Back in Town.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Verkligheten (instrumental) 1:44
2. Arrival 3:47
3. Bleeder Despoiler 3:36
4. Full Moon Shoals 4:46
5. The Nurturing Glance 5:24
6. When the Universe Spoke 5:22
7. Stålfågel (feat. Alissa White-Gluz) 4:25
8. The Wolves Are Back in Town 3:24
9. Witan 3:48
10. The Ageless Whisper 5:01
11. Needles and Kin (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:57
12. You Aquiver (feat. Dave Sheldon) 4:03

Band members
Björn “Speed” Strid – vocals
David Andersson – lead guitar
Sylvain Coudret – rhythm guitar
Sven Karlsson – keyboards
Bastian Thusgaard – drums

Guest musicians
Alissa White-Gluz – guest vocals on “Stålfågel”
Tomi Joutsen – guest vocals on “Needles and Kin”
Dave Sheldon – guitars on “You Aquiver”
Taylor Nordberg – bass (live)