Kyle McGinn Best-of 2019Thursday, 12th December 2019
Always tough to pick out some individual tracks when bands do try their best to provide a meaningful, front-to-back listen. But it does allow for some spaces to cast some limelight on a few worthy releases that didn’t make the album cut, as well as showcase an emerging trend of single-only releases meant to keep the band in the eyes of the listener without having to go to the lengths of an album or EP. Here are some rather addictive numbers below.
10. Killswitch Engage “I Am Broken Too” (from Atonement)
Atonement is Killswitch Engage’s strongest effort in quite a few years, and “I Am Broken Too” is a poignant reminder of the band’s softer side. One that’s catchy, with just enough heaviness to it, and is full of heart.
9. Forever Still “Is it Gone?” (from Breathe in Colours)
Another song on the gentler side of things, Forever Still are masters at tugging at the heartstrings. “Is it Gone?” is one of the highlights of Breathe in Colours, with some genuinely meaningful lyrics, Maja Shining’s soaring vocals, and an uplifting yet realistic tone.
8. Nina “Automatic Call” (single release)
Outside of heavy metal, synthwave was a style I seemed to gravitate towards in 2019. Nina sits as one of the strongest, with a heavy dose of ‘80s pop melding brilliantly pounding synth beats. “Automatic Call” is her latest track, full of utterly addictive melodies and gorgeous vocals.
7. Cattle Decapitation “Bring Back the Plague” (from Death Atlas)
Cattle Decapitation continues to up the game with each release, and “Bring Back the Plague” furthers their evolution, in both some black metal-y riffing, gloomy elements, and Travis Ryan’s glorious and ever-expanding vocal palette.
6. Battle Beast “Endless Summer” (from No More Hollywood Endings)
A track that is on the lighter side for Battle Beast, they really embraced the ‘80s rock vibes with this one. Perfect for a summer drive (much like the video entails) and cranking it to max volume and shouting along. Hearing an acoustic version this fall was extraordinary.
5. Vulvodynia “Born into Filth” (from Mob Justice)
This is how you do brutal death metal with some hardcore influences. Some absolutely knuckle-dragging riffs, explosions of speed, and massive slams – this is primed to erupt in the live setting. Vulvodynia has taken slam to the next level with this release.
4. Starkill “Fly with Me” (from Gravity)
Starkill continues to diversify their plate and create better albums with each release. “Fly with Me” boasts addictive symphonic elements, melodic death metal energy, and rock bravado in ways that only Starkill can provide.
3. Wilderun “Far From Where Dreams Unfurl” (from Veil of Imagination)
Speaking of expanding, Wilderun have fully embraced some of their more progressive tendencies. This song has some absolutely spine-tingling epic melodies not just in the chorus but in the guitar leads as well. Guaranteed to make you stand up and rise your fists triumphantly.
2. The Night Flight Orchestra “Satellite” (single release)
Ever the prolific bunch, The Night Flight Orchestra are in their absolute top form with this song. The type of song you can listen to on repeat without getting sick of it. An art the band has mastered over the last few years. Long live the ‘80s, and long live The Night Flight Orchestra!
1. Devin Townsend “Why” (from Empath)
This song is just pure delight and whimsy. Some of Devin’s best vocals sit at the forefront of this playful and pensive track. You simply cannot hear it without having a smile appear on your face. Glorious, uplifting, magical – an absolutely brilliant track (maybe one of his best ever) from one of heavy metal’s greatest treasures.
Best Newcomer of 2019: Idle Hands
While they did have an EP last year, Mana marks Idle Hands’ first full-length, and what a debut it is! Old school heavy metal goodness merged with gothic atmosphere, chocked full with some of the catchiest bits of material you’ll hear this year. What’s not to love about this band?
Best Cover Art: Flub – Flub (See larger image HERE)
Equal parts inviting and foreboding, it’s easy to just stare at Flub’s self-titled effort. A bit of a fantastical setting, with an ominous figure standing in the middle – the contrasts are vivid and striking. It’s very colorful for a metal album (tech-death no less), something it would be great to see more of!
Biggest Disappointment: Increased issues in bands attaining visas to tour North America
It’s a headline we are seeing more and more of in the US: “Band X forced to cancel US dates/festival performance due to visa issues.” It’s becoming tougher and tougher to see some high profile foreign acts due to these increased restrictions and it’s super frustrating as a fan – especially when hearing it from the musicians themselves who do the paperwork and cross all their T’s, only to be rejected for a small, silly reason. Something needs to give here.
Best Concert: Kaleido weekend (October 11 & 13 – Clifton, NJ and Harrisburg, PA)
While I’m prone to see multiple shows of a given tour if possible, this marked the first time that my children wanted to do the same. Catching up-and-comers Kaleido on a Friday evening, it was an excellent gig in its own right with the band’s exceptional live presence, but having the kids being just as excited to make a 3.5 hour car trip for a second round on Sunday to do it all again was a first. Getting to see their excited faces watching a band we all enjoy twice in a weekend and indulge on a road trip was a definite ‘proud dad’ moment.
(Photo credit: Steve Sergent Photography)
Best Video: Fit for an Autopsy “Mirrors”
Diving hard into the realm of reality, “Mirrors” tells a story that feels all too commonplace. It’s masterfully shot, with just enough supernatural creepiness to elevate it while sharing a heartbreaking tale. It’s gritty, with no fairytale happy ending, but that’s also what makes it so gripping from start to finish. An excellent example of song/video pairing, and an altogether cinematic experience that will stick with you.
Most Anticipated Album of 2020: Delain
I had picked this one last year, thinking it would come out in 2019 but alas it is now close on the horizon. Given the samples we have received so far, as well as the interesting cover art and title – Delain looks to be shaking things up for their next album (Apocalypse & Chill), and I couldn’t be more excited to see what they’ve come up with.
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