So, as another one bites the dust along comes one of those annoying bloody lists editors of publications all over the world seem fixated on. Here at Wall Of Sound our legend in chief Browny is no different. “Make a fucking list, your deadline is yesterday!” So with those words of encouragement ringing in my ears here is my take on this year of our Lord 2019.
Reflecting back on the year that was I had plenty of highlights and not many lowlights. I managed to score an interview with Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg, hang out with Alien Weaponry as well as those two brats from Fyre Byrd, Breeze and Samtré. I also interviewed and caught up with Ross The Boss and talked the ear off bass wizard Mike Lepond. But thanks to the hard work of Browny, meeting and interviewing “The Metal God” Rob Halford of Judas Priest was the highlight of all highlights. Those who say you shouldn’t meet your heroes are wrong. When your heroes are as professional and gracious as Rob you should meet them all. Believe me, I have a list for 2020 and there are some big names on it, anything is possible…
Enough with the name dropping, let’s get on with it!
The Top 20 Albums of 2019?
1. Lord – Fallen Idols
Sometimes trying to find a number one album is hard, this year was no exception. But the clear winner for me were these legends from The ‘Gong. Lord proved once again traditional metal is far from dead. Their ode to the mix-tape scored a top 20 spot on the mainstream album charts and finishes top of a very illustrious pile.
2. The Darkness – Easter Is Cancelled
Those naughty boys from Lowestoft upset all and sundry by cancelling Easter – and that was just with the album art. Controversy aside what lies under the cover is an eclectic mix of rock, punk, glam and a little bit of whimsey. All done in the best possible taste!
3. Phil Campbell – Old Lions Still Roar
Phil Campbell assembled some of the best artists in rock and metal and delivered an emotional rollercoaster of beauty and brutality. This album launched itself into my favourites of the year after the first listen
4. Lindemann – F & M
Till Lindeman has been a busy man this year dropping not one but two great albums. This collaboration with Peter Tägtgren nothing short of sensational. Singing this time in German and containing 6 songs the pair wrote for the musical Hansel and Gretel Lindemann and Tägtgren take what they started with their debut Skill and Pills to the next level.
5. The Hu – The Gereg
I was a little late to the party with The Hu but fuck me if I ain’t on board now! Combining traditional Mongolian instruments and throat singing with heavy metal the four-piece’s debut is one of the most original albums of 2019. Haunting, atmospheric and heavy as fuck, The Hu are now on my list of “must see” acts at Download 2020.
6. Tempest Rising – Alter Ego
Perth’s alt-metallers Tempest Rising dropped a surprise hit with Alter Ego. Much like their debut Transmutation the boys do things their own way. Sitting somewhere between metal and core the five maniacs from the west have grown both musically and lyrically with this release. This album is an absolute belter and should be on everyone’s Xmas playlist.
7. Helloween – United Alive In Madrid
The Pumpkins United tour may not have made it to Australian shores, but the live album did. Recorded in front of 14,000 Spanish power metal maniacs United Alive perfectly captures the magic that saw original members Michael Kiske (vocals) and Kai Hansen (guitar) join Andi Deris, Michael Weikath, Sasha Gerstner, Markus Grosskopf and Daniel Loeble for a genuinely unique world tour. With 20 tracks of power metal goodness this has become one of my all-time favourite live albums.
8. Devin Townsend – Empath
Devin Townsend is a genius. Empath proves regardless what guise heavy Devy is in he delivers. My only regret is I didn’t get to review it and had to wait like everyone else for its release. This is an absolutely brilliant follow up to the almost perfection of 2016’s Transcendence.
9. Rammstein – Rammstein
10 years in the making and it was more than worth the wait. The lords of industrial metal proved their brand of rock is far from dead with this self-titled release. Synth, guitar and Till Lindemann’s unmistakable vocals, this album was exactly what Rammstein fans were waiting for.
10. Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
For this one I’m just going to quote fellow WoS writer Kaydan Howison “Ultimately, thirteen albums into their career, Opeth are still making exciting, thought-provoking music and pushing the very boundaries of who they are as musicians. In Cauda Venenum is a masterclass in musical composition and perhaps the best album the band has ever created in their prog era and may even the best thing they have created since the masterpiece that is Ghost Reveries.” Full review here
11. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Those crazy masked kids dropped possibly their most diverse album yet. Once again I find myself agreeing with old mate Kaydan Howison who gave this one a 10/10 and he’s not wrong. We Are Not Your Kind has been on heavy rotation since its release and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
12. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Nick Cave bares his soul on Ghosteen. After the tragic death of his son Cave released possibly his best album ever – yes that’s a big call considering his amazing body of work. Put this album on, close your eyes and get swept up in the passion and emotion.
13. Sabaton – The Great War
Swedish power metal legends dropped an absolute killer album. Paying respect to The Great War WW1 Sabaton are just getting better and better. The album is a masterpiece of storytelling, a journey through the horror and heroics of war.
14. Amon Amarth – Berseker
Someone said to me this album sounds like Amon Amarth doing Amon Amarth. Well thank fuck for that as no one does it better! Songs of savagery and heroics steeped in Norse mythology. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the Scandinavian Gods of Melodic Death Metal
15. Sacred Reich – Awakening
To quote fellow reviewer Jim Birkin “Old school riffs never die”. Twenty-three years in the making and this album is packed with said riffs. Awakening is bursting with heavy as fuck riffs all wrapped around a positive message. It’s a thrash metal pick-me-up, one I won’t be putting down for a long time to come. Full review here
16. Abbath – Outstrider
After 2016’s brilliant self-titled debut the man called Abbath Doom Occulta unleashed another album of corpse-painted goodness. Lashings of Black Metal, a good dose of NWOBHM and a cover of the Bathory classic ‘Pace Till Death’. Seriously what more could you want?
17. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
In a world of lightning fast guitar solos and six string gymnastics sometimes less is more. Masters of drone metal Sunn O))) restore the balance with their slow crushingly heavy soundscapes. Life Metal is a musical distortion filled experience, not to be taken lightly.
18. Death Angel – Humanicide
The Thrash resurgence continues unabated with these legends dropping another balls-to-the-wall metal onslaught. This is thrash for 2019, fast, aggressive, loud and brutal. Humanicide is undeniably Death Angel but with a polished production that takes nothing away from the raw edge.
19. Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion
The God Fathers of Death Metal return after a nearly 30 year hiatus with this absolutely brilliant offering. Ten tracks of uncompromising brutality. The hatred and menace are still there. Best played after midnight very fucking loud!
20. Wednesday 13 – Necrophaze
They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky, wait that’s not Wednesday 13… Although he is all those things, he’s also heavy as fuck and dropped another great horror themed album with lashing of blood and guts and a little bit of Alice Cooper.
The Top 10 Songs of 2019?
1. Phil Campbell (feat Leon Stanford) – ‘Rocking Chair’
2. The Darkness – ‘Heavy Metal Lover’
3. Alien Weaponry – ‘Blinded’
4. The Hu – ‘Wolf Totem’
5. Rammstein – ‘Ausländer’
6. Fierce Deity – ‘The Path’
7. Body Count – ‘Carnivore’
8. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – ‘Anxiety’
9. Ozzy Osbourne – ‘Straight to Hell’
10. Fyre Byrd – ‘Put Me in a Dress’
Top 5 Music Videos?
1. Children of Bodom – Hexed
2. Lindemann – Knebel
3. Devin Townsend – Why?
4. Rammstein – Ausländer
5. Alien Weaponry – Blinded
Top 4 Gigs of 2019?
- Download Festival – 9th March @ Paramatta Park, Sydney
Do festivals count as gigs? Well, it’s my list so fuck yes they do! Download blew my mind on so many levels. I saw Devil Skin, Alien Weaponry and Judas Priest for the first time and Slayer for the last time. I made new friends and met childhood heroes. It was a weekend I won’t ever forget. (Coverage Here)
- Alien Weaponry – 16th March @ Badlands, Perth
After seeing them for the first time at Download there was no way I was going to miss a headlining gig from my three countrymen. Alien Weaponry tore Badlands a new one with their unique brand of Maori trash. The local Kiwi population was out in force treating the boys to a Haka at the end of the gig. It’s not often the crowd delivers the band an encore – kia mihi.
- Ross The Boss 24th November @ The Rosemount, Perth
When heavy metal dreams come true. Manowar founding member Ross The Boss playing the legendary Hail To England top to bottom, throw in a couple of choice solo cuts and more Manowar classics it was a night no one who attended will forget. Gig Review & Photo Gallery here)
- Korpiklaani – 26th May @ Amplifier Bar, Perth
This gig was so good on many levels. I experienced the magic of folk metal masters Korpiklaani, the madness of Troldhaugen and the sheer power (metal) of Silent Knight. It was worth the cost of the ticket for the sheer musical diversity. Gig Review & Photo Gallery here
Fav Band/Act You Discovered in 2019?
Troldhaugen. I have to admit these guys slipped completely under my radar – for the last 10 years. But seeing them as support for Korpiklaani one Sunday night in Perth absolutely blew my mind. Egyptian themed Frank Zappa vaudeville is as close as I can come to describing their stage show. Troldhaugen need to be seen and heard to be believed.
What Are You Looking Forward To The Most in 2020?
There’s so much to look forward to in 2020 it’s hard to narrow it down to one event. As much as I’m looking forward to flying the friendly skies from Perth to Download Festival Melbourne, I must go with the other biggest news on the metal calendar. The greatest metal band in the world will be gracing our shores one more time and this fan will be begging (first preference) borrowing, or stealing a ticket to see Bruce, Steve and the boys… UP THE IRONS!
Words by Gareth Williams (@notgareth)