4) Red Fang, Only Ghosts (Relapse)
Red Fang ranks as my number 1 band I would love to hang out with, although Only Ghosts is darker than their previous albums which almost felt like party-metal. Only Ghosts is moodier, introspective, and more mature than I expected and was pleasantly surprised. Although no matter how mature the album might sound sonically, their hilarious, self-deprecating videos show they aren’t taking themselves too seriously.
Track Pick: “Flies”
3) Blood Incantation, Starspawn (Dark Descent)
Vicious, unrelenting, and chaotic but highly orchestrated and precise. This is only the first album (aside from their single) by this Colorado outfit and I expect amazing things from them. The 13 minute opening track Vitrification of Blood (Pt. 1) pulses with so much force and anger it is almost exhausting.
Track Pick: “Starspawn”
2) Gojira, Magma (Roadrunner)
I could not really get into Magma when I first heard it but it is one of those albums where you have to keep coming back, listen after listen you find more layers, more depth, more power. Tracks like Magma are so complex & varied, showing Gojira’s constant experimentation; something metal purists can find offputting.
Track Pick: “Silvera”
1) Zeal & Ardor, Devil Is Fine (Radicalis/MVKA)
I was a little weary to list this as my Number 1 because Zeal & Ardor never really considered making a metal band, the whole project emanating from a joke on 4chan. At times the album can come off as more of an experiment than a musical identity. But I cannot ignore how amazing Devil Is Fine is and I listened to it more than any other album this year, metal or not. Upon hindsight, combining powerful slave spirituals and death metal makes complete sense. There are few music genres that could even skirt the pain and anguish that the slave population endured and Devil Is Fine expresses that torment better that most movies have. It exposes the true emotion buried under the soulful hymns all us whites find so charming.
Track Pick: “Children’s Summon”