Published Dec 06, 2019This year, metal and hardcore had something for everyone. Legendary acts like Slipknot and Tool ended lengthy studio droughts to give their fans what they've been waiting for, vaunted experimentalists like Baroness and Full of Hell continued their otherworldly explorations, and deathcore thrived thanks to new releases by acts like Whitechapel and Brand of Sacrifice. Exclaim!'s 10 Best Metal and Hardcore Records of 2019 features all of that and more.
The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds
On The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds, SeeYouSpaceCowboy shift away from the infantile screamo and mathcore of previous releases toward contemplative and crushing metalcore. Correlation is the sum of its parts; political ("Put on a Show, Don't Let Them See You Fall"), tempered ("Disdain Coupled with a Wide Smile") and emotional ("Late December"), informed by their experiences as queer people and vocalist Connie Sgarbossa's battle with loss and addiction. Closing a decade where data and algorithms make the rules, SeeYouSpaceCowboy dared to be themselves and offered necessary dialogue on the darkest corners of the human condition.
9. Brand of Sacrifice
Though many denizens of deathcore have deserted the sound, the subgenre has managed to rise again in 2019, thanks to bands bringing its storied melodicism and brutality to new heights by incorporating slam influences. Enter Brand of Sacrifice, whose God Hand LP arrives just over a year after formation, but its unique sound belies the group's youth. It slams but occasionally grooves with a nu metal bounce. Flirtations with melody come in the form of Asian-inspired scales — the band is based on cult manga/anime Berserk — but given vocalist Kyle Anderson's singing in side project Earthshatter, it's just a hint of things to come.
August 30th, 2019 will henceforth be known as Dad Rock Record Store Day. Anyone working in a music shop that Friday will tell you of 40-something males swarming the premises to get their hands on the first Tool LP in 13 years. But while Tool have firmly moved into Gen X legend status, Fear Inoculum is no slacker citadel. In fact, the LA band's fifth LP comes off as 87 minutes of hard fucking work. It's an album filled with introspective, intricate, sophisticated and literate prog metal. Fear Inoculum is Tool's greatest achievement because of the mountain they climb, and now the patient get to revel upon its apex.
We Are Not Your Kind
Six studio albums deep and alt-metal icons Slipknot have pushed themselves to new heights with We Are Not Your Kind. Refusing to let themselves become tools of nostalgia, Slipknot embraces fresh sounds and compositional quirks, giving new depth to their still ultra-potent fury while also refining the core of their molten grime. The band grinds as hard as ever while also making space for dynamic vocalist Corey Taylor to explore his full, increasingly Mike Patton-esque range, rhythmically, melodically and texturally. Even if you've never been enamoured with the band before, We Are Not Your Kind is essential listening and welcome proof that old dogs can, and will, learn new tricks if they're hungry enough.
Scott A. Gray
6. Big Brave
A Gaze Among Them
On their fourth full length, the core of Big Brave remained steady and uncompromisingly epic as ever, but with a bit of personnel shuffling and some guest players they increased their density in a very potent way. Robin Wattie and Mathieu Ball welcomed Wintersleep's Loel Campbell behind the drum kit where he delivered firmament-vibrating impacts like some Viking fracker. Also on hand was producer Seth Manchester, who has worked with fellow metal alchemists the Body and Lightning Bolt, bringing a full black rainbow of frequencies and guesting on synthesizer as needed. It's the sound of seeing the other side of an apocalypse and appreciating the lighter grey just beyond the darkness.
Following the release of 2016's Mark of the Blade, an album Whitechapel themselves have acknowledged as one of their worst, The Valley dissolves any and all doubt surrounding Whitechapel and their position as pillars of deathcore. Lyrically, The Valley is Whitechapel's most chilling and intimate, as vocalist Phil Bozeman outlines his childhood struggles growing up with an abusive step-father and a schizophrenic mother addicted to drugs and alcohol. Bozeman even employs lines from his (now-deceased) mother's journal throughout the lyrics, to disquieting effect. Instrumentally, the riffs on The Valley still run with some of Whitechapel's heaviest and most brutal, while also exploring a decidedly more melodic side to their sound, for their their most mature and intimate effort to date.
4. Full of Hell
This record was downright nasty. Produced by Converge's Kurt Ballou, Full of Hell broke through every barrier on their fourth LP, delivering one of the bleakest, heaviest albums in years. Like 2017's Trumpeting Ecstasy, Weeping Choir doubles up on the grind with sub-two minute blasts of pure noise like "Burning Myrrh", "Downward" and "Cellar of Doors". That's before it goes experimental, with saxophone solos on "Ygramul the Many" like some sort of avant-garde beast. Weeping Choir may not be for the faint of heart. But like an ice-cold shower, the final catharsis is definitely worth the discomfort.
Gold & Grey
Returning four years following the Grammy-nominated Purple, Baroness prove on Gold & Grey that they are a group that ages like fine wine, their sound only becoming more textured with each new project. Much like the colours of its name, Gold & Grey shines bright with radiant prog-rock melodies and vicious rhythm, but also dips down into eerier and more nuanced sounds throughout its hour-long duration. Even as a band that is constantly subject to change, Baroness have established their vigorous alt-metal style on Gold & Grey to a degree that is so impressive it's scary.
2. Knocked Loose
A Different Shade of Blue
Three years removed from their debut, Knocked Loose have fine-tuned their relentless aggression for A Different Shade of Blue. Across the Kentucky outfit's sophomore crusher, riffs stomp away with an emphasis on groove, breakdowns segue between compositional changes, and songs like "By the Grave" and "Road 23" benefit from sensible use of effects and samples. Vocalist Bryan Garris, who hollers opposite guitarist Issac Hale's guttural growl, continues to wring every bit of feeling from the bleak lyricism that his frantic vocals allow. His scraping cries to "make me feel" on opener "Belleville" set the tone for one of this year's most bludgeoning releases.
1. Tomb Mold
(20 Buck Spin)
Planting in Toronto's hardcore punk scene before riding the nascent death-metal revival to widespread acclaim, drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff and guitarist Derrick Vella came together as Tomb Mold in 2015, and they've upped their game with each successive release. Adding bassist Steve Musgrave and guitarist Payson Power, 2018's Manor of Infinite Forms was a major breakthrough for the quartet. Their third album took them even further, all the way to outer space. Adorned with a gorgeously graphic cover painting by Jesse Jacobi, Planetary Clairvoyance didn't pretend to be anything it wasn't. It's the heaviest, most hideous slab of death metal you're gonna find this side of Finland, expanding their mammoth sound with the technical prowess of Human-era Death and a keen ear for production details.
The glitched vocals over a slow-rolling atmospheric guitar line for the outro of "Phosphorene Ultimate" evokes the vast emptiness of space, before the brutal riff and double kick madness of "Infinite Resurrection" drops like an anvil on your head. From the eerie intro to "Beg for Life," with its doom-folk classical guitar breakdown, to the glitchy cavernous outro to "Heat Death," the album's dynamic flow is so crushing it could disintegrate Plymouth Rock from an iPhone speaker.
Check out more of Exclaim!'s Best of 2019 lists here.