Metal Chris’ Favorite Black Metal Albums of 2019

It’s the week after Christmas but before New Year’s and everyone has been posting their year end lists. I figured I’d join in the fun this year with a few of my own. This is my black metal list but I also have a death metal list (here) and a doom/stoner (here). I definitely listened to these genres disproportionately the most in 2019. The albums are not ranked so they’re in order of release date. They’re not meant to be “the best albums of the year” but they are my personal favorites of the year, the ones I kept coming back to listen to again and again.

VeldesFlameless
Self released January 4, 2019
Veldes is from Slovenia and their sound is perfect to put on the headphones for a solo walk through the woods. They blend the epicness of bands like Saor with the attachment to nature akin to the Cascadian black metal bands and somehow make it all really catchy and moving at the same time.

Rotting ChristThe Heretics
Released February 15, 2019 by Season Of Mist
One of the earliest and most famous of the Greek black metal bands, Rotting Christ has changed their sound several times over their 30+ year history. These days they blend elements of that classic Hellenic black metal epic sound with gothic and melo black metal elements. Sometimes their albums are far off the mark but The Heretics hit the bullseye with unique and diverse songs. Their local tie in is their rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven” which you can hear on the player below.

EllendeLebensnehmer
Released March 29, 2019 by Art of Propaganda
Lukas Gosch is the mastermind and sole member of Ellende, everyone else in this Austrian band is a hired hand. There have been a lot of bands playing the post-black metal sound since Alcest started blending shoegaze with black metal over a decade ago, but while some of these bands have veered far into hipster territory Ellende has managed to keep enough brutality and mournful sorrow in with the atmospheric elements to keep the band firmly in the more black metal than gaze side of the spectrum.

MisþyrmingAlgleymi
Released May 24, 2019 by Norma Evangelium Diaboli
The black metal scene in Iceland is very strong right now and 2019 saw a slew of great releases by bands like Sinmara, Andavald and even a Wormlust / Skáphe collab album, however Algleymi by Misþyrming rises above them all as the island nation’s stand out release in 2019. This album is aggressive and melodic and the songs are diverse and creative so that it warrants multiple playthroughs without becoming boring. Misþyrming translates to “mistreatment” but this album is anything but.

Батюшка (Krzysztof Drabikowski)Панихида
Self-released May 26, 2019
A public schism and ensuing legal battle over the name Batushka have resulted in multiple versions of the Polish band after their debut album, Litourgiya, was released in 2015. Both versions of the band released albums this year but Krysztof Drabikowski showed that while the other version may have better marketing and production, you can’t beat or imitate the feel of his songwriting. Continuing the band’s sound of combining Gregorian monk style chanting with black metal, Панихида is the rightful sophomore album from one of the most unique sounding bands in black metal right now.

Yellow EyesRare Field Ceiling
Released June 28, 2019 by Gilead Media
The only fully American band on this list, Yellow Eyes have a very distinct sound drenched in distortion but with a foundation in melody that is somehow both off putting and infectious at once. The band is from New York City and Rare Field Ceiling‘s sound is perfect listening while wandering a bleak urban landscape. I also have some personal attachments to this album that I won’t get into here, but this is a release that I’m sure I will be enjoying for years to come.

VoidsphereTo Exist | To Breathe
Released July 25, 2019 by Amor Fati Productions
Black metal fans have always loved the genre’s underground collectives such as the Norwegian Inner Circle, Les Légions Noires and the Black Twilight Circle. Voidsphere is my favorite of the ПРАВА КОЛЛЕКТИВ (Prava Kollektiv), a group of bands that have been putting out releases that are dissonant and dark, even by black metal standards. Voidsphere is distinct in that their songs are all lo-fi, very long (around 20 minutes plus), and basically sounds like you’re endlessly falling into a black hole over an eternity.

AsagraumDawn of Infinite Fire
Released September 13, 2019 by Edged Circle Productions
Asagraum is an all female black metal band but don’t let stereotypes fool you, this release is the most aggressive on the list. It isn’t all fury akin to Medea though as there are breaks where the band shows their ability to slow down a bit to build up tension. This adds a needed dynamic contrast to the blasting. Solid riffs and raspy vocals are the standard of this Dutch band.

Blut Aus NordHallucinogen
Released September 20, 2019 by Debemur Morti Productions
The French band Blut Aus Nord is almost like the Neurosis of black metal in that they have a long history of changing their sound over the years yet continue to put out top notch material. With a title like Hallucinogen you might expect something closer to Oranssi Pazuzu’s psychedelic black metal but the album is not that spacey and has more progressive and melodic influences. They are definitely experimenting with some new things here too, for example the song “Mahagma” sounds like Blut Aus Nord’s take on the Batushka chanting sound.

VástígrAura Aeternitatis
Released September 27, 2019 by Avantgarde Music
The second Austrian band on this list, Vástígr has a modern take on melodic black metal without the campy cheese the sub genre is sometimes guilty of. This is Vástígr’s first release but it is quite impressive. The album cover art perfectly captures the cold and isolated sound of Aura Aeternitatis, reminiscent of trodding through the snow on the side of a mountain with the grim reaper hot on your heels. The catchyness and beauty of these songs have kept me coming back.

Dawn Ray’dBehold Sedition Plainsong
Released October 25, 2019 by Prosthetic Records
Dawn Ray’d is a UK based anarchist band with a solid anti-fascism and anti-bigotry stance, something that is unfortunately not common enough in black metal. This is the band’s sophomore release and they’ve taken leaps forward with their songwriting. Their sound blends black metal with folk elements and has a certain primitive rawness to it that ties it all together perfectly.

SchammaschHearts Of No Light
Released November 8, 2019 by Prosthetic Records
This was a late comer this year but wow what a release by Swiss band Schammasch. These songs weave pure darkness in a very dramatic and gripping way. It is never about any specific riff or drum beat but the overall feel of these songs. No matter the tempo they are dripping in tension, apprehension and utter darkness. The dark vibe they have captured here is distinctly black metal in nature and one I will be relistening to well into the next decade.

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