2019 was a legendary year for heavy metal. Despite how the genre is half a century old, metal has never felt so fresh and vital. In 2019 alone, Many of the genre’s heavy hitters returned with some of their best material in years, new bands established themselves, and talented musicians experimented and evolved the heavy metal sound. All in all, quality albums were abundant in 2019.

These were the best:

Rammstein – Untitled

Rammstein has never sounded so alive as they do on their untitled record. While the German industrial pioneers hadn’t released an album since 2009’s Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, untitled showcases a band who’ve honed their craft for years, and the result is an album that sounds great from top to bottom. To whit, Rammstein’s untitled record features the industrial mayhem and catchy German lyrical hooks we’ve come to love from the group. Whether its tracks like the opening banger “Deutschland,” the groovy “Radio,” the melodic “Auslander,” or the brutal “Puppe,” Rammstein delivered a terrific album in 2019. Welcome back, guys.

Knocked Loose – A Different Shade Of Blue

Hardcore is among the most innovative heavy metal genres today, and for awhile now, every year end list included a fresh new hardcore group making a name for themselves. Knocked Loose was that band in 2019. The band’s second album A Different Shade Of Blue relentlessly pummels the listener with monster riff after monster riff, breakdown after breakdown. From beginning to end, A Different Shade Of Blue is a ferocious heartrate elevating experience, and honestly, what more could you want from a hardcore album?

The Agonist – Orphans

Generic melodic death metal bands are a dime a dozen. Whether it’s In Flames, Arch Enemy, or Children Of Bodom, once new and exciting death metal with clean lyrical hooks are becoming formulaic. With Orphans, The Agonist had a solution to this problem: be the best version of a female fronted melodic death metal band that they can possibly be. While certain elements of Orphans retread familiar ground, the album perfectly combines heavy guitar riffs and soaring vocals in one stellar package. The Agonists’ Orphans is melodic death metal at its very best.

Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas

Cattle Decapitation struck gold with Death Atlas. In their new album, the vegan metal machine spliced brutal death metal instrumentation with a depressing tone regarding the imminent climate disaster. As a result, this 14 track epic listens like a musical version of a dark narrative. Additionally, Cattle Decapitation engage in more clean singing than usual and the lengthy interludes set the dour tone for an album grieving the death of the planet. F*** the future indeed.

Gatecreeper – Deserted 

Gatecreeper’s Deserted is a methodical death metal record. While Deserted is a slowed down rendition of an extreme record, the album’s instrumentation and vocal delivery feel deliberate and impactful. In Deserted, the listener receives all the head banging riffage they could want, and the harsh but diverse chorus lines ensure that the auditory experience is fresh throughout. Not much else to say, Deserted is really damn good, and you should listen to it.

Edge Of Paradise – Universe

The phrases “astral metal” and “space metal” are thrown around a lot today, but Edge Of Paradise is one of the few bands that live up to those descriptors. The female fronted power metal group’s new album Universe is, forgive the pun, out of this world. The soaring clean vocals and the synth instrumentals make me feel as if I’m exiting the stratosphere. Universe is a one of a kind experience. Don’t miss it.

Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

Dream Theater and I have a complicated relationship. While the progressive metal band is stacked with incredibly talented musicians, the band’s musical escapades are overly long showcases of their skill that overstay their welcome. In other words: Dream Theater songs are often too long for their own good.

Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Distance Over Time. The album features instrumentation that strengthens the music rather than weaken it, and as a result, Distance Over Time listens like a perfect fusion of Rush and Metallica. It’s awesome and easily is among Dream Theater’s best and most thoroughly enjoyable LPs in years.

Korn – The Nothing

Time hasn’t been kind to Korn. After the nu-metal implosion in the mid 2000s, Korn endured a creative decline. Even though the band created some great singles and songs like “Coming Undone” and “Rotting In Vain,” Korn hadn’t released a through and through great album since Untouchables (2002). For awhile, Korn appeared incapable of recapturing the magic present on their earlier records.

Thankfully, Korn flipped the script in 2019. In The Nothing, Korn resurrected their trademark anthemic nu-metal stomp. The riffs, while simplistic, are fun to head bang to and the vocal hooks are catchy. While The Nothing doesn’t revolutionize Korn’s sound, the album exemplifies Korn’s musicality and appeal. The Nothing is a true return to form.

Tool – Fear Inoculum 

Tool’s Fear Inoculum was a long time in the making. The band’s previous LP 10,000 Days released in 2006, and Tool fans waited year after year for even a droplet of news regarding Tool’s fifth album. In fact, people lost faith: the wait was so laborious that many folks (i.e me) feared a fifth album would never coalesce.

Tool, however, shouldn’t have been counted out. In 2019, the critically acclaimed act released their game changing album Fear Inoculum. The 10 track LP is a journey equipped with great instrumentation and vocals that inspire the listener to pay attention. Even more importantly, the music within Fear Inoculum is so atmospheric that it induces a sense of self-reflection that lasts throughout its runtime, and despite its intimidating 90 minute length, Fear Inoculum is riveting from beginning to end. Fear Inoculum really is 2019’s big comeback album.

Overall Album Of The Year

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

What else could my favorite album of 2019 be? While Slipknot have been my favorite band for years, rest assured that the Iowa 9 piece metal act aren’t topping this list due to personal biases. The raw truth of the matter is that We Are Not Your Kind deserves the top spot. Despite how its been 20 years since Slipknot released their debut record, We Are Not Your Kind represents a band still willing to branch out and experiment with their sound. The mix of brutal guitar riffs, blast beats, death metal growls, and catchy melodic clean singing combine into a ferocious album stressing the importance of resilience. In 2019, no album clicked with me more than this album, and as a result, Slipknot’s We Are Not Your Kind is the best metal album of 2019.

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