David E. Gehlke Best-of 2019

Tuesday, 10th December 2019

Extreme metal went through a phase where most bands seemed inclined to write really long songs instead of going the economical route, something that was a smidge annoying. There’s still some of that today, which, oddly enough, crops up on the below list. The takeaway is that formula and/or template isn’t necessary for a song to get its point across, which is perhaps why there will be so much variety on the respective song lists from each Dead Rhetoric scribe. Rather than exhort about the best songs of the year, here is a first-take thought on each.

10. Hanging Garden – Into That Good Night (from Into that Good Night)
Odd song title, great dynamics.

9. Borknagar – Up North (from True North)
ICS Vortex sounds happy here, doesn’t he?

8. Tool – Pneuma (from Fear Inoculum)
Thirteen years in the making, this one.

7. Cult of Luna – The Silent Man (from A Dawn to Fear)
A post-metal basher part I.

6. Glare of the Sun – II (from Theia)
A post-metal basher part II.

5. Disillusion – Time to Let Go (from The Liberation)
It’s like Gloria never happened.

4. Slough Feg – Being and Nothingness (from New Organon)
Twin guitars go berzerk!

3. Fen – Nebula (from The Dead Light)
Would be the ideal soundtrack to trekking through the woods.

2. Rotting Christ – The Voice of the Universe (from The Heretics)
Those chants…they should be part of a movie soundtrack.

1. Drawn into Descent – Wither (from The Endless Endeavor)
Everything you could ever ask for in an atmospheric black metal song rolled into one monumental composition.

Best newcomer of 2019: Traveler. This Calgary-based metal gang combines zippy speed metal with classic metal sensibilities. Sort of like a modern-day Riot hanging out with any number of NWOBHM bands. Their self-titled debut was equally uproarious as it was catchy.

Best album artwork: Opeth – In Cauda Venenum. Opeth and Canadian visual artist Travis Smith have enjoyed a working relationship going back to 1999’s Still Life. Needless to say, they “get” one another. With In Cauda Venenum, Smith created yet another multi-layered cover that requires would-be viewers to look closer for some well-disguised nuggets of intrigue.

Biggest disappointment: Abbath going to rehab. The former Immortal man is the black metal Lemmy Kilmister, much to the detriment of his health. While it’s fun to laugh at Abbath falling down a hill at a festival as his guitar tech gives chase, his inconsistent performances have been troubling. Here’s hoping that a stint in rehab will return Abbath to his (frost-bitten) b.

Best concert: Iron Maiden – PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA. Wisely playing indoor arenas versus the sheds, Iron Maiden’s “Legacy of the Beast” tour featured cuts from the band’s unbeatable back catalog, which, is what most people want anyway. Between the song selection and stage production, not to mention the fact Maiden still can deliver the goods, and it was more apparent than ever that Maiden is metal’s biggest and best band.

Most anticipated album of 2020: Paradise Lost. Yours truly was fortunate enough to get the first word on the progress of Paradise Lost’s forthcoming 16th full-length during the making of the band’s official autobiography, No Celebration. Straight from the mouth of Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes: PL’s next album will pick up where the mighty Medusa left off, but with some new wrinkles. It should be godly.

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