To put together an objective Death Metal annual highlights list is doomed to failure from the beginning. And that’s a good thing, because how boring would it be to have to read such a list?! In my case, I even make it less objective, by concentrating 80% of this list on a specific subgenre, which is Melodic Death Metal.
Here are my ten mostly melodic Death Metal highlights of 2019 in alphabetical order:
Aephanemer – Prokopton
Right at the beginning of this list is an album of which I am amazed by myself that I like it so much. Because the band from Toulouse actually plays symphonic Power Metal of the cheesy kind, with Death Metal elements. But the French quartet does this in a very creative way and, above all, finds it own niche. Tolerant metalheads should definitely give this album more than one chance.
Ancalagon – Noctopoth
To label the second work of these Americans as a genre mix would be inappropriate. Melodic Death Metal and Melodic Black Metal form a very homogeneous unit here and the transitions from Death to Black are sometimes blurred, sometimes deliberately placed in the foreground, but never sound unwanted or affected. Matching the fire of the eponymous dragon from the Middle Earth universe, this album is one of the hottest releases of the past year for me.
Battlesword – And Death Cometh Upon Us
On their third album in about 20 years of band history, these Germans take us back to the peak of Melodic Death Metal. Lovers of the genre can hear DARK TRANQUILITY at the beginning of the 2000s, IN FLAMES in their best days and AMON AMARTH before they were putting huge Viking helmets on huge stages. But you can also hear a band that has developed its own style from these influences, which is not only thoroughly credible, but also creates a hard workout program for your neck.
Minenfeld – The Great Adventure
Even if the debut of this band from Germany is the least melodic and most brute album on my list, it is the one with the most memorable atmosphere. The subject of the album is the discrepancy between war propaganda and war reality, set to music with the example of American soldiers in the First World War. The songs are usually introduced by original broadcasts, what causes emmidiate discomfort. A muddy guitar sound, nasty gurgling vocals and tank-heavy rhythms vividly represent European battlefields. Quite a darker version of BOLT THROWER, which is reminiscent of MANTAR in its effective simplicity.
Obscure Infinity – Into the Vortex of Obscurity
With this album, these men from Germany prove that old school Death Metal with a high degree of technical complexity and speed can be absolutely headbanging-compatible. In addition, they manage to incorporate elements from genres that are not obvious, without losing track of their clear line. Therefore, the album offers a down to earth variety that cannot be heard every day in OSDM.
Ontborg – Within the Depths of Oblivion
This Swedish-sounding HM2-worshiping from Italy initially sounds as if the band wants to pay homage to their heroes from the nineties (DISMEMBER, ENTOMBED, etc.). But it quickly becomes clear that these South Tyroleans have to offer a lot more. This manifests itself above all in gripping riffs, vicious grooves, Black Metal drums and some great melodies.
Pesterous Mind – Halluci.Nation
When I wrote in my review of this album that the only bad thing about it is that I can’t choose a favorite song, it’s not a joke. As brutal as the modern Melodic Death Metal of these Germans may be, due to influences from Black Metal and Post Rock it always achieves a maximum of catchiness and variety, without pandering to a scene or sounding overly pleasant. A fine line that this violent album never crosses!
Rogga Johansson – Entrance to the Otherwhere
The Swedish jack of all trades hereby releases the second album under his own name. This means that the multi-instrumentalist played everything on his own, except for the drums. The result is Melodic Death Metal with a lot of Thrash and Old School Death Metal. Now and then the experienced musician spices up the whole thing with synthesizers, which is always a bonus to me.
Vinsta – Drei Deita
I think that this band from Austria might be a typical case of “love it or hate it”, because OPETH-worshiping with vocals in Austrian dialect, hammered dulcimer and even yodelling is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But since I can clearly count myself to the supportes here, I do not like to judge this impartially. For me personally, the artist definitely hit an enthusiastic nerve.
Wilderun – Veil of Imagination
This band from the USA, which was completely unknown to me before, released a piece of art with their third album for which I can’t think of enough superlatives. Imagine a version of OPETH, whose progressiveness is less rooted in Prog Rock but in modern Prog Metal, which features an orchestral accompaniment on a movie soundtrack level, which through its technical finesse creates a sci-fi feeling and which takes the listener on a varied roller coaster ride of emotions. All of this put into a Melodic Death Metal album like I’ve never heard before!