15) Fleshgod Apocalypse, Veleno (Nuclear Blast)
Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Veleno is the group’s most mature record to date. They’ve expanded their sound since 2009’s Oracles. And while 2011’s Agony will always hold a special place in my Heart, I have embraced Veleno. It took me a few listens to get through, but it was their single “Sugar,” that I couldn’t stop listening to. And as I reviewed the record, I’ve also gravitated towards the song “Monnalisa,” and more. I’m ready to see what these Italian symphonic death metal masters have in store for next year with their fresh orchestral direction.
Key Tracks: “Sugar,” “Monnalisa”
14) Life of Agony, The Sound of Scars (Napalm)
I was thinking about having Death Angel or Destruction at this slot. However, I went back to Life of Agony’s new record, and I connected well with its rawness. You want to know about pain, darkness, and struggles about our waking life? Listen to this record, and you will know you’re not alone. Musically, it moves and connects well with each note. You can tell the production quality is there while maintaining that raw and edgy sound. That’s not something just anyone can accomplish.
Key Track: “Black Heart”
13) Cloak, The Burning Dawn (Season of Mist)
Atlanta’s Cloak are probably one of the bands that have impressed me the most in 2019. I enjoy speaking to artists, getting to know their sound, and seeing their personalities. When I spoke to Cloak back in April after their performance at the pre-show of Decibel Magazine’s Metal and Beer Fest in Philadelphia, I knew there was something special about them. First of all, this took place after I was amazed by their live performance. And they amazed me 10x more than Inter Arma’s live show, which is a different story. What impressed me the most about them was their level of professionalism mixed with a non-diva attitude. We spoke outside in the darkness. And during our conversation, the weather wasn’t on our side as the rain started to pour halfway through. I was paranoid about my gear being destroyed, but neither did I or the band budge. We finished the interview. And their level of professionalism continued to excel long after our conversation. What does this have to do with their new album? Potentially nothing, but the point being is: These guys amazed me live and in-person first. Then, I listened to their new album, The Burning Dawn. And while this slot could have gone to their label-mates 1349, or even Kampfar’s new album, Cloak’s music left such a lasting impression. I was engaged since the first note of the introductory track, “March of the Adversary.” And I couldn’t put the record down.
Key Track: “A Voice in the Night”
12) Wilderun, Veil of Imagination
For a while, I thought this would go to Opeth’s In Cauda Venenum or Soen’s Lotus. It was difficult for me to decide between the three. However, Wilderun’s Veil of Imagination gives you what Opeth could have been but different. And no matter what mood you are in before listening to this album, it makes everything better. There are several musical directions this record moves towards, as each song remains unpredictable and flawless.
Key Track: “The Unimaginable Zero Summer”
11) Alcest, Spiritual Instinct (Nuclear Blast)
I connected with Alcest’s Spiritual Instinct instantly. Their well-deserved Nuclear Blast debut and follow-up to 2016’s Kodama speaks to me on a personal and spiritual level. 2019 has been a year of self-evaluation, finding new ways to connect spiritually, and more. And when I spoke to Neige about facing your own demons, his response made my mouth drop as he expressed the brutal reality on how people should face all sides of themselves in order to grow. And that’s what this album is about.
Key Track: “Sapphire”