Looking back at my favourite records of 2019 so far, as to avoid that end-of-year list rush, only counting releases dropped between January 1st & June 30th. Let’s go!
Health – ‘Slaves Of Fear’ (Caroline Australia)
It was always going to be a tall-order to best 2015’s masterful ‘Death Magic‘, but Health came pretty damn close with their fourth record, ‘Slaves Of Fear‘. In between making music for GTA V Online and working with everyone from Petrubator and JPEGMAFIA, to Ghostemane and Youth Code for separate singles, the L.A. four-piece somehow also crafted a darker, more methodical experience than their previous much-lauded LP. Here, the typical modern Health shines through what what is one hell of a gloomy, noisy, nihilistic-rave affair. Harsh yet hi-fi synths roar like waking giants, guitars are distorted and messed with into the never-realm, industrial elements cut hard and fast, and ethereal reverberant vocals discussing afterlife and life filter through an atmospheric yet chaotic electronic ether. This album is a miserable, depressive but addicting club banger for those who know that this life is all we get, and the tile track, ‘Strange Days (1999)‘ and ‘Black Static‘ all nail that stride so well. Add surprises like a bigger emphasis on actual real instruments – acoustic ender ‘Decimation‘ and the Eastern guitar motif that begins the bombastic hardcore-synth opener ‘Psychonaut‘ – and Health are as dangerous as ever. ‘Slaves Of Fear‘ was worth the wait.
Spiritbox – ‘Singles Collection’ (Pale Chord)
From the anti-climactic, low-key demise of Iwrestledabearonce came the birth of Spiritbox, featuring former IWABO vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Michael Stringer. In just five new songs, Spiritbox show-off why they’re one of the best, freshest prog-metalcore bands around at the moment with this all-killer, no-filler collection. Melodic and artsy, but so heavy and emotional, this is a proggy, riff-driven release filled with actual spirit box static at the same time. It’s got a bit of everything for everyone: awesome vocal hooks, djenty riffs, tremor-like breakdowns, well-conveyed emotion, and hefty levels of personal honesty about one’s deep flaws too. Huge cuts like best-of-show gem ‘Trust Fall‘ and latest single ‘Bleach Bath‘ tow this incredible songwriting dynamic and intent the best. Despite the early days of this band, the raw talent on display is astounding. It’s already so refined; from, Courtney displaying a mighty vocal range of earth-searing screams to memorable melodic singing lines all provided with expert control, to Michael’s tight guitar playing interlocks between bending chugs and proggy leads. This is only the beginning. (Yes, this EP was officially released in 2019, so it still counts.)
Emarosa – ‘Peach Club’ (Hopeless)
Folks who say “RIP EMAROSA” and “this band died when Jonny left” are good for a laugh. More than that, neither of those two statements are true. For Emarosa are anything but dead, sounding more alive and exciting than ever before with their shining fifth LP. And imagine thinking them finally booting an unreliable, unpredictable, self-destructive addict and no longer wanting to deal with his toxicity after giving him so many chances was ever a bad thing. But I digress. Emarosa forwent most of their rock/post-hardcore norm here, instead tastefully entering into a glorious new pop realm; bright vocal melodies, funky guitars, big synths, and all. The hooks are towering, the production is immense, the lyrics are brutally confessional; all making for a lean, mean, alt-pop fighting machine that shows singer Bradley Walden at what is easily his vocal peak. The list of bangers here is distinguished and unforgettable – ‘Don’t Cry‘, ‘Wait, Stay‘, ‘Cautious‘, and of course, ‘Givin’ Up‘, with the rest being the tasty cherry on top. ‘Peach Club‘ isn’t invite-only, so get down to it and have some goddamn fun. Because you are absolutely not too cool to dance to this one. Just as that cheeky Emarosa’s head-wear merch declared: post-hardcore Emarosa is dead, long live pop Emarosa.
Employed To Serve – ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ (Holy Roar)
Employed To Serve’s third LP is a mission statement of iron-will for their career, and a lament for the personal individual struggles of not just the five members, but our current generation too. It’s a chaotic, dissonant metallic hardcore release to match an equally chaotic and dissonant time; about dealing with the dull ache that exists behind our eyes. ‘Owed Zero’ is bounce city and riff-central; ‘Reality Filter’ is equal-parts haunting and crushing in sound and lyrics; ‘Force Fed’ is a nasty ‘fuck you’ to flawed systems; and ‘Harsh Truth‘ is a dark, ominous commentary on rising suicide rates and drained mental health. Yet just as there’s light and hope to latch onto today, there’s moments of melody that cracks through here, as closer ‘Bare Bones On A Blue Sky‘ presents. It’s an album that wants you to mosh but one that’s also got your back as well; to let you know that you must keep calm and carry on. This album is a anthem of metallic riffs, crunchy breakdowns, and super-charged vocals from frontwoman Justine Jones, who spear-heads honest sentiments of depression, FOMO, social media issues, and rusted but driven personal strength. ‘Eternal Forward Motion‘ is a confident, well-written beast that comes just shy of the top coveted spot held by their previous LP, 2017’s ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun’. Yet it’s a powerful, sound continuation of what that last record so gracefully achieved. And at this rate, Employed To Serve could very well become one of hardcore and metalcore’s modern greats.
Mortality Rate – ‘You Were The Gasoline’ (Independent)
As the name suggests, Mortality Rate’s caustic new EP is about the people and things that fuel one’s burning inner fires, for better or for worse. Whether it’s the loss of close friends, political matters, mental health issues, abuse or any other important topic, this EP is both the band and vocalist Jess Nyx venting so hard. It’s catharsis taken to a whole new heated level. The release’s half-dozen tracks make up a deadly onslaught of pained vocals and furious hardcore instrumentals that add fuel to the vocal fire; this thing could ignite anything and anyone within a 20 mile radius. You’d sure as shit better watch your six when ‘Roses‘, ‘Selfish Thieves‘ and ‘Heathen‘ come on. This isn’t just the angriest hardcore EP of 2019, but also one of the best hardcore EP’s of the whole bloody year. Raw, uncut and startlingly real.
Whitechapel – ‘The Valley’ (Metal Blade)
The only thing heavier than the bruising and groovy death metal/deathcore on Whitechapel’s latest LP is the deeply personal lyricism from vocalist Phil Bozeman about his childhood traumas. As ‘The Valley‘ is a brutal yet dynamic metal therapy-session with a human story to tell; one that sees Whitechapel take new risks but have them pay off beautifully. As the best thing about Whitechapel’s latest is that there is so much to talk about; from the songs to the lyrics, to the whole damn package. Something that hasn’t really been true about their other records, as much as I adore ‘Our Endless War‘ and their 2010 self-titled effort. ‘The Valley‘ is a shoe-in contender for one of the group’s greatest records, seeing them tastefully weave in more singing and cleaner guitar tones to great effect (‘Hickory Creek‘), whilst still having fuck-off heavy tracks (‘Forgiveness is Weakness‘, ‘Black Bear.’) More than that, it’s a brutal character study, dissecting a parade of tragedies experienced by one of its key creators, and I give major props to Phil for his honesty and bravery: for him diving back into the childhood traumas and family dramas of his early years, showing the monsters in his closet as a way to address, expunge and maybe even compartmentalise what happened to him at the hands of his step-father. That risk-versus-pay-off factor here in the scarily personal honesty at play and the new musical and tonal turns has turned out so well, though. As ‘The Valley‘ ain’t just Whitechapel’s most distinctive LP, but one of the boldest and best metal records of 2019.
Port Noir – ‘The New Routine’ (InsideOut)
Full of charm and high-class swagger, Port Noir shed their prog-rock exterior of old for some new-ground on ‘The New Routine‘; focusing on distorted bass, upping the number of earth-moving riffs, dishing out glossy pop hooks, and even including well-produced dark-wave synth action too. ‘The New Routine‘ sits somewhere between the drop D riffage and head-bobbing grooves of Rage Against The Machine, the front-and-centre levelling bass lines of Death From Above 1979, some musical allusions to the likes of Royal Blood, as well as the poppy vibes and electro moods of artists like The Weekend and even Daft Punk. Crammed full of barn-burners like ‘Champagne‘, ‘Young Bloods‘ and ‘Flawless‘, and biting at the heel with real life and gleaming production, Port Noir have honestly never sounded better than this trail-blazing record. Throw in a solid Beastie Boys homage during ‘Old Fashioned‘ and some Rage-esque breakdowns on ‘Flawless‘, as well as frontman Love Anderson’s wonderfully sexy vocals, and this album is a real winner. As they say: out with the old, in with the new.
Brutus – ‘Nest’ (Sargent House)
For Brutus and their striking new album, the authentic ‘Nest‘, less is definitely more. The Belgian alternative-rock trio achieve so much with only bassist Peter Mulders‘ deliriously thick four-string tone, guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden’s multi-layered pedal magic and riffy attitudes, and drummer/singer Stefanie Mannaert’s energised performance in her echoing falsetto vocals and her rolling, percussive punches. It’s a cavernous record that combines shoegaze, indie, post-rock, hardcore, metal, and even adds some synthesizers into what is a dazzling 11-track rock ride. It’s dynamic and dark, like its epic title track; it’s throttling when it’s called for, as per ‘Cemetery‘ and ‘Blind‘; and it’s also catchy when it needs to be, such as the gloomy, expansive jam of ‘Space.’ In fact, ‘Nest‘ knows exactly when to go all out, when to hold back, and it’s scarily consistent song-output is testament to the musical skills of the three human being behind the deceptively simple sounds of Brutus. Get around this band ASAP!
illyria – ‘The Carpathian Summit’
Post-black metal today is often so much more than what Deafheaven helped to widely popularise (but not invent) six years ago with ‘Sunbather‘. And Australia’s own Illyria more than prove that fact with their ambitious and diverse second LP, ‘The Carpathian Summit.’ This monolithic record is like scaling some truly epic mountain; encountering a host of different terrains and weather as you journey through the album; morphing between biting moments of blackened intensity with tremolo riffs and blast beats, and calmer, serene sections of melodic lines and vocal intimacy. Illyria have left it all on the table, they’ve held nothing back. They’re not afraid to lean on post-black metal/blackgaze norms at times, but then they’re also not scared to shift into jazzier sections, utilise horns, religious chants, acoustic guitars, and clean singing or whatever else they may fancy. ‘The Carpathian Summit‘ is a creative, liberating record from a young but immensely talented band, a dynamic listen that shifts like seasons changing before tugging on your heart strings until your entire pulmonary system completely unravels. For real, black metal needs more bands like this Perth sextet.
Totally Unicorn – ‘Sorry’ (Farmer & The Owl)
Totally Unicorn have never sounded better than on ‘Sorry‘, and vocalist Drew Gardner has never been this direct in the words that he barks and roars. There’s no try-hard comedy here, no lame metaphors getting in the way, and there’s nothing lacking in the album’s clean production or it’s mathy songwriting either. This is a harrowing record on all fronts, seeing Drew spilling every drop out of his guts over spazzy rhythms and discordant riffs about his life during the past two or so years, and there’s no getting away from it. As his vocals are mixed the loudest and are centred in the middle, you can’t hide from what he offers. Front to back, this is the Sydney bands’ most consistent release; their most well-produced and well-rounded record. You can tell that they’re a healthy, synchronised band now in terms of line-up and overall vision, and it shows in the songs. Of course, there’s plenty of classic TU-sounding tracks, like ‘Grub‘, ‘The Island,’ and ‘Good Thanks‘, but also some surprises too. Like the bluesy, other-worldly dirge of self-hate and personal lows that is ‘I’ll Be Fine Now‘, a song that is unlike anything else they’ve attempted since, but the stunningly bleak results speak for themselves. Even when songs like ‘Alley (Fucking) Cats‘ teeter on the brink of going right off the damn rails, that chaos is still controlled and harnessed for the betterment of the album. I’ve never understood this band until ‘Sorry‘, but I’m so stoked to be all on-board now. This is Totally Unicorn’s moment. There’s absolutely nothing to apologise for here, lads!
La Dispute – ‘Panorama’ (Epitaph)
‘Panorama‘ is the most challenging and the most “different” record of La Dispute’s entire discography. Yet that’s precisely why it’s so exciting: they’re not trying to recreate what made them popular, instead attempting new things sonically and pushing forward. You can see this with the band growing more atmospheric and utilising more synths, like on ‘Rose Quartz‘/’Fulton Street I‘; throwing in jazzier parts during ‘Rhodonite And Grief‘; showing off more poetic spoken word movements in ‘You Ascendant‘; to also just offering up classic La Dispute rock moments such as ‘Footsteps at the Pond‘ and ‘Anxiety Panorama‘. Hell, there’s even some xylophones at one point. ‘Panorama‘ is La Dispute at their most adventurous and courageous. It’s also frontman Jordan Dreyer at his most personal too, speaking about his relationship with his life and how the pair view the world in a panoramic shot. And it all makes for one of the most interesting releases of their career thus far. Incredibly, all of this comes without the Michigan group ever losing any of their much-loved emotional heart or lyrical passion. Oh, and did I mention the band made an interactive game to coincide with this album called Pilgrimage? Well, I just did. La Dispute can do no wrong.
CHON – ‘CHON’ (Sumerian Records)
If there is one thing that CHON as musicians and as songwriters do superbly well, it’s their bewildering knack for threading the needle between relaxing, chilled-out vibes and these technical, intricate prog-guitar compositions. Until now with their eponymous effort, it’s never been quite this effective. For their new self-titled effort is guitar-driven instrumental progressive music with a sunny, happy disposition, but it still extracts your feels as good as any other release of theirs. It’s got all of the sweet tapping leads, dense melodies and polymorphic drumming that you’d want, but it’s got just the right mood and tonality to summon forth all matter of memories and warm, fuzzy feelings. While the American quartet have mostly towed this same line throughout the years, this colourful, shimmering new release is the best and brightest reflection of that approach. With songs like ‘Peace and ‘Petal‘, CHON are masters at their craft. Shit, this one might just become their best record in due time!
As Cities Burn – ‘Scream Through The Walls’ (Equal Vision Records)
As Cities Burn have always been a little different, a little bit odder than many of their post-hardcore counterparts. Yet that’s always been their ace up their sleeves; their weirdness is their greatest weapon. Their first new record in eight years, ‘Scream Through The Walls‘, shows that time hasn’t withered what made them first standout back in the early and mid 2000’s. It picks up where their previous records left off almost a decade ago, but never once in a vapid or shallow way. It feels authentic, artistic, right down to every note and measure that’s been produced. ‘Maybe‘, ‘Die Contrary‘, ‘Chains,’ and ‘Bright White Light‘ all show-off that the passing of years has only made their songwriting, band chemistry and delivery stronger. ‘Scream Through The Walls‘ is a personal yet political record; it’s a heavy yet dynamic release; it’s youthful but also mature at times too. It’s also just a damn fine release from one of post-hardcore’s best yet strangely underrated bands. An act who are now back-in-action and kicking some serious ass in doing so. Welcome back, ACB. What a return this was!
Danny Worsnop – ‘Shades Of Blue’ (Sumerian Records)
Suldusk – ‘Lunar Falls’ (Northern Silence Productions)
Blackened neo-folk is here to stay with Suldusk’s sublime new record, ‘Lunar Falls‘. Australian vocalist and songwriter, Emily Highfield, has crafted a scarily bleak yet utterly unique and mesmerising LP. Flourishes of eerie folk and dark American rattle against jangly, spindling acoustic guitars, sitting under her moving vocals that shift between soft singing, creepy whispers, and piercing shrieks. Moments of Stygian atmospherics and black metal abound, (‘Solus Ipse‘, ‘Sovran Shrines‘), but so too does expansive post-rock passages as well (‘Drogue‘), with the neo-folk bed-rock holding it all down. It’s an experimental sound, yet a refreshing one, with ‘Lunar Falls‘ placing Australia on the map for essential black metal releases. A spine-chilling experience.
The Japanese House – ‘Good At Falling’ (Dirty Hit)
‘Good At Falling‘ could very well be the most deliriously catchy and most personal indie-pop record of 2019, seeing The Japanese House – AKA English songwriter, Amber Bain – carving herself open across 13 brazen new tracks. From the complicated matters of moving on from former lovers but still being friends, losing past lovers to suicide, to trying to understand yourself; Amber perfectly describes such relatable life events in such a real, confronting fashion that her new album takes on it’s own tone. It becomes it’s own thing. Don’t let the bubbly, dream-pop and electronic exterior of her record or Amber’s soft, dulcet vocals fool you: there’s so much more to learn and discover under the hood of ‘Good At Falling‘ and what this talented young woman is singing about. Dive beneath the chilled surface and you have a brilliant album on your hands, with a vast amount of great songs to soon call your own.
Glassing – ‘Spotted Horse’ (Brutal Panda Records)
‘Spotted Horse‘ is one-third Pelican, one-third Sumac, and one final third ISIS, yet it is all parts superb and dexterous at the same time. Textured deeply with heavy lashings of sludge, doom, shoegaze, and some fucking epic post-metal, Glassing’s latest record is damn well gigantic. This album sounds like you’re being crushed by the waves of some grand oceanic mass. It feels like you’re being completely smothered out by some cruel desert sky. It leaves you desolate, like you’re being dwarfed by some impossibly burning sun. It’s like being overwhelmed by a grand wall of blaring amps riffing and churning away at once. Post-metal is at it’s biggest and finest with Glassing’s latest body of work. Steal yourself for it.
Dronte – ‘Quelque part entre la guerre et la lâcheté’ (Apathia Records)
“Angry acoustic jazz” is definitely an attention-grabbing email subject, and it’s one that caught my eye one day back in February. But I’m so glad that I took a leap of faith on such an out-there PR spin. For Dronte’s new record – ‘Quelque part entre la guerre et la lâcheté‘, French for “Somewhere Between War And Cowardice” – sounds like Napalm Death got tired of grindcore, turned off the distortion, recruited new members to play contrabass, vibraphone and saxophone, and then listened to heaps of Jon Zorn and Naked City instead. To call this wild, jazzy and cinematic record strange would be a huge understatement, but it’s such an interesting oddity that it can’t helped but be enjoyed and appreciated. Fair chances are that you won’t hear another record quite like this new Dronte release in 2019. Do it, take the weird plunge.
Numenorean – ‘Adore’ (Season Of Mist)
Moving on from their 2016 EP, ‘Home‘, and it’s tasteless cover – showing the dead body of a small child upon an autopsy table, for mere shock value – Numenorean pulled out all of the stops with ‘Adore.’ It’s a ritualistic piece, offered in the passing of loved ones, about finding closure, and comes jam-packed with so much musical variety. The records tortured screams, pummelling tremolo riffs, and rapid blast beats are all wrapped around startling moments of death metal and, quite surprisingly, passages that wouldn’t go amiss in one of The Cure’s songs. For these ten compositions see the Alberta band shift from pained, pulverising melodic black metal over to moody, 80’s post-punk and acoustic forays. That out-there but definitely functional dynamic is easily the album’s the strongest charm. It all sounds like the molten riffage of Gojira being spliced with a tribute album to ‘Disintegration‘, all the while a blackgaze band rehearses next door. And that’s not even mentioning how the record follows a superb pace of song-interlude, with most full songs (sans ‘Horizon‘) being bridged together by wonderful interludes that actually feel necessary and earn their keep within the largest album’s context. For instance, there’s something so surreal about going from the dark new-wave and riffy tech-death of ‘Coma‘, and into the haunting acoustic baritone number, ‘Alone‘, then going back to the yearning post-punk intro of the title track before shit erupts into a fiery, emotive black metal take. ‘Adore‘ is not only such a well put-together record in terms of track pacing and stylist changes, but it’s so well-executed and honest that it’s hard not to become infatuated with it. This is art, man.
Trade Wind – ‘Certain Freedoms’ (End Hits Records)
Everyone and their dog loves to compare Trade Wind’s first two releases to that of Deftones and Thrice. Now, that’s not inaccurate, and I’ve done that plenty of times myself, as those two acts are clear inspirations for this particular super-group’s alt-rock sound. Whilst the ‘Suffer Just To Believe‘ EP and debut LP, ‘You Make Everything Disappear‘, are solid releases, ‘Certain Freedoms‘ is decidedly Trade Wind. This is them, not anyone else. This is the group coming into their own. It’s more atmospheric, there’s more acoustic and clean guitars, there’s more reverb and effects, and it’s the most intimate and “soft” Trade Wind have ever sounded. Yet that’s resulted in their finest release so far. ‘Certain Freedoms‘ is one of those great yet rare albums that’s just so beautiful, you could get lost within it if you’re not too careful. Frontman Jesse Barnett has never been this honest in his lyrical content, and the lighter instrumentals and lush arrangements place him and his forthcoming words as the central column that this grand LP is all built around. It’s a gorgeous piece with no filler, one that never loses sight of what it wants to sound like nor a record that ever drifts off into the realm of sleepiness or boredom. Well done, Trade Wind.
Zeal & Ardor – ‘Live In London’
Is it a huge cop-out to place a live album in a 2019 best-of list? Yeah, probably. But that’s just how spell-binding of a live experience Zeal & Ardor create! I found that out first hand back in February this year, and this new live album scratches the itch that the Swedish black-metal/blues group left upon me. That the avant-garde metal band can compile a live set made up of various unreleased tracks and multiple fan-faves from their past releases and make it this compelling is impressive. From the thundering, blackened sermons of ‘Fire Of Motion‘ and ‘Don’t You Dare‘, to the hair-raising qualities of ‘Devil Is Fine‘ and ‘Built On Ashes‘ when heard in the moment, this is one of the best live albums of recent memory. Because it succeeds at the three things a live album should achieve. 1) showcasing how great a band is when they perform on-stage; 2) pulling you right into the show despite you being anywhere else whilst listening; 3) making you desperately want to see them perform when they hit your city/country next time. Manuel Gagneux has taken this project on a real journey since first making this experimental brand of black metal, and ‘Live In London‘ time-stamps just how far he’s come, but also how far Zeal & Ardor is going to go. This band is one in a million, and the live versions of their powerhouse material proves this.
SeeYouSpaceCowboy – ‘Songs For The Firing Squad’ (Pure Noise Records)
2019 is 2009 again with SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s label debut, the killer compilation record of ‘Songs For The Firing Squad‘. Featuring two killer new chugging tunes in the angular shape of ‘911 Call: Help I’ve Overdosed on Philosophy‘ and ‘Self Help Specialist Ends Own Life‘, as well as all their previous material; one single, one EP, and one split. All up, it makes for 15 songs, totalling 20 minutes of pure metalcore/hardcore carnage with mathy sprinkles here and there. Heavy Heavy Low Low, The Number 12 Looks Like You and The Blood Brothers would be so proud of this crazed update on what groups like themselves were doing back in the day. Hell, this record gets full points for the ironic and goofy song names alone. Special mention to titles ‘I’m A Trans Continental Rail Road, Run A Train Over Me‘, ‘An Introduction For People Who Hate Introductions‘, and ‘Self Help Specialist Ends Own Life‘. If SYSC can maintain this level of songwriting and intensity moving forward, than their next record, ‘The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds‘, should be the shit when it lands this September.
Thank You Scientist – ‘Terraformer’
I can bet you all my savings that progressive rock and jazz-fusion in 2019 will not be well-composed nor as goddamn catchy as Thank You Scientist’s epic new double album, ‘Terraformer.’ It’s an absolute feat that this seven-piece group can make such a dense and challenging listen, but still maintain a great output of vocal hooks and riffs, with some of their richest harmonic and melodic work to date. Thank You Scientist have somehow created a record that’s bigger, better and bolder than ‘Maps Of Non-Existent Places‘ (2012) and ‘Stranger Heads Prevail‘ (2016). Strings, horns solos galore, even some Japanese instrumentation at one point with a shamisen, there’s so much going on with this beast of a record. Good fucking luck to anyone who tries to map out this records charts. You’ll only get out of ‘Terraformer‘ what you put into it.
American Football – LP3 (Polyvinyl)
American Football’s third LP is just pure bliss. While the obvious Owen influences from Mike Kinsella’s other work is quite apparent – he’s literally been doing that project longer than that of AF – this new record pushes the band far away from LP2 and makes something fresh and special for the emo/math-rock legends. Just as the awe-inspiring opener ‘Silhouettes‘ first showed, the band have taken on deeper post-rock influences and expanding into more shoegaze-sounding territory/ LP3 is a new opus coming 20 years after their influential 1999 debut LP, and it’s also a damn sight better than their sophomore. Dreamy arpeggios drift and swell like ocean waves, off-beat rhythms and odd-time signatures ground you, and Mike’s lovely voice pulls you in to this album’s emotionally mature world wonderfully so. There’s still time for some twinkling trumpet as well, as per a couple brief passages here. And the guest singer features of Hayley Williams (Paramore), Elizabeth (Land Of Talk) and Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) add so much to their respective compositions as well. LP3 shows that when it comes to certain legacy acts out there right now, their best material is actually what they’re creating right now. American Football fit that bill perfectly with this new gem.
Johnny Booth – ‘Firsthand Accounts’ (1039149 Records)
One of the few hardcore/metalcore records that I’ve actively comeback to over the past six months is Johnny Booth’s returning effort, the head-severing hay-maker that is ‘Firsthand Accounts‘. It’s the instrumentals and energy of Polaris with the incendiary vocals of Luke Harris from She Cries Wolf taken to the max; all pushed up to 11. Merge all of this with the dynamic ghosts of metalcore’s past entwining with the looming spectres of it’s heavier present and you’ve got one hell of a record on your hands. ‘Firsthand Accounts‘ is just go-go-go from the very first note of and it’s writhing, bloody body doesn’t ease off the accelerator until it all culminates with the violent but melodious album summary of ‘Follower‘. Just look to the gnarly all-out attack that is ‘Thief‘, or the vibrato pinch harmonic-laden ‘Choke‘, or even the old-school twists and turns that ‘Asymmetrical‘ makes. Modern metalcore needs way more double kick, that’s for damn sure, and Jonny Booth are going to lead that charge into the blood-pumping future. In so many words, this album is fucking sick. Don’t sleep on it.
Warforged – ‘I: Voice’ (The Artisan Era)
Warforged’s debut album, ‘I: Voice,’ is a monstrous tech-death record with many progressive subtleties and blackened tinges to its temperament. So much so that your first couple listens may leave you confused but also intrigued. This thing is as layered as it is sonically dense and tonally terrifying. Which is to say, a hell of a lot! The musicality is stupidly complex, the instrumental arrangements are fathoms deep, the utter litany of guest features always impress, and the compositions slide between one another gracefully, making a 70-minute trek feel like a single truly awesome piece of music consumed in one mighty go. ‘I: Voice‘ is a monolithic metal record; it talks a big game but it can walk the walk as well. Repeat listens are a must.
A Swarm Of The Sun – ‘The Woods’
Three songs and 33 minutes. That’s all it takes for A Swarm Of The Sun to offer haunted, spectral post-rock and post-metal that could very well be the most perfect OST for the end of the world. ‘The Woods‘ is an apocalypse, a rapture, fully embodied in affecting tension and creepy stillness; it’s a dirge for who and what will come after we’re all gone. Monitor-rattling low-end surges, held strings drone and groan against lengthy measures of gloomy guitar chords, sparse keys and percussion keep you right on edge, and minimal vocals float over a barren sonic world that is soon set to explode. The aching build-up of these songs allows for some fantastic climaxes to be reached; crescendos where this Swedish duo are able to climb onto new dynamic heights with each new passage, but without things ever feeling like they’re going on for too long or getting dull. All three songs do this but each peak they respectively reach is all earned, it’s worth it, and the movements before those eruptions swell together beautifully. While ‘The Woods‘ isn’t a doom record, I’d call it the best “doom” record of 2019 just for how much sheer dread it evokes.
This Gift Is A Curse – ‘A Throne Of Ash’ (Season of Mist)
If I could ever describe a record as “too intense” or as being “too much”, then the newest ritual from Sweden’s This Gift Is A Curse would be it. The cacophony that is ‘A Throne Of Ash‘ shouldn’t work, but it does. Somehow. It’s a downright ugly and unpleasant blackened-noise record that tries it’s hardest to reinvent just how fucked up and malformed an extreme metal band can sound in 2019. Which is why it works; which is why it’s so damn good. It’s a punishing record that sounds like the gates of hell itself have opened up; one that mixes grind, industrial, noise, sludge and black metal into gruesomely captivating entity over nine songs. This Gift Is A Curse have opened their own Pandora’s Box with ‘A Throne Of Ash‘; the kind of quality, demented chaos that I have no idea how they’ll beat next time. This bewildering piece is not for the faint of heart. It’s a wicked monument to desecration. God only stays in heaven out of fear for insane records like this.