Matthew Bowling Best-of 2019

Thursday, 19th December 2019

2019, or a very solid year for yours truly in most regards. Solid at least with musical interests and personal life, even if it was a hot garbage year for the nation at large. 2019 has also been a remarkably consistent year, strong even during the frequently barren early winter months. Unlike the last few years this year wasn’t dominated by a single release and, in general, the contents of this list were quite fluid up until this writing. That I consider a testament to the strength of the year as a whole and as listeners we all benefit from that strength.

A mirror of that consistency is how much surprise the metal world continues to offer. Whether it’s adding new colour to old ideas or breaching completely new ground, metal is alive and well in 2019. As usual my own interests tend to dip heavily in the black metal side of the house but there have been spectacular releases across the board, more than I could fit in a list of 50, let alone 12!

12. Sana Obruent – End Game (Backmask Records)
Sana Obruent is an ambient artist and End Game is an unapologetic ambient release, covering a lot of territory over its two-hour run time. A regular companion to long days and nights in assorted libraries in the NOVA area, it’s a phenomenal piece of work when focus is required. It should be noted though that if you do not find ambient particularly engaging, this album is not likely to change your mind.

11. Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling (Gilead Media)
Yellow Eyes finally hooked me with this one. A fever dream dressed in rust, Rare Field Ceiling is an experience in anxiety. One of several very strong releases by Gilead Media this year, it’s a testament to the band’s focus here.

10. Mortiferum – Disgorged From Psychotic Depths (Profound Lore)
Take a look at the cover: a barren wasteland as viewed from within an equally barren womb. The listening experience is no different.

9. Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
I was on a couch in Astoria, Oregon when I learned this album was on its way. It floored me upon release and has continued to floor me with subsequent listens. It’s a testament to how strong this year has been across the board that it hasn’t gone higher. The band’s mythology continues to grow.

8. Misþyrming – Algleymi (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
What to say? This album is witnesses growth in real time. It’s also the most fun release of my year apart from Mana. There is usually at least one album a year that I usually feel is best experienced and not talked about. This is that album.

7. Schammasch – Hearts of No Light (Prosthetic Records)
After the enormous experience that was Triangle, I had perhaps unrealistic expectations for Schammasch. Though Hearts of No Light is a very dense release that requires considerable investment to reveal its layers, it both matched and surpassed my expectations.

6. Blood Incantation – The Hidden History Of The Human Race (Dark Descent)
The danger with most albums that release in November (particularly late November) is that there won’t be ample time to digest for inclusions in lists like this one. Fortunately for Blood Incantation The Hidden History of the Human Race is not most albums. Fluid yet sprawling, detailed yet expansive, this album thrives in its contradictions.

5. The Great Old Ones – Cosmicism (Season of Mist)
Behold the shadows of the stars and despair!

4. Ossuarium – Living Tomb (20 Buck Spin)
Lured in by the album art, crushed completely by the murky awfulness that lay behind it. The first of 20 Buck Spin’s many fantastic death metal releases in 2019, Living Tomb is putrid love.

3. Idle Hands – Mana (Eisenwald)
I took way too long to indulge this album after it released. Don’t share in my mistake. While Mana is incredibly tight and fluid it is clear the band cycles through a handful of ideas to see what sticks. With that being said, I cannot count (though Spotify might) the absurd number of times I’ve listened to this over the course of the year, particularly while running. Give me to the night!

2. Sinmara – Hvísl Stjarnanna (Ván Records)
Iceland has given me so much this year. So much. Several of them (two on this list included) I covered over the course of the year while others managed to slip by but still leave a mark. As I remarked after reviewing this album, it’s a grower. The abyss is dense and unforgiving, much like this album and the experience it offers.

1. Acathexis – Acathexis (Fallen Empire)
As noted above Acathexis made it here almost by means of a technicality but that should not downplay its merits as a release. This four track, forty minute experience is a lean, exhausting journey through abyssal places of the human psyche. Suffocating, cathartic, it’s a standout release in a fantastic year.

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