What a year it’s been, well not quite a full year for me since Noob Heavy was officially born in March. It’s been an incredibly fast journey and I’ve seen a lot of milestones I honestly never once thought I would end up seeing. Starting primarily as a way to stave off all consuming depression of one person, Noob Heavy has developed into a diverse team of young writers each with a lot of love for underground and independent music. 1k readers blew my mind, the fact it’s reached 17k has been life changing and provided us with an opportunity to support bands in a meaningful way. Here’s to an even bigger 2020.
This year I published about 130 reviews of albums released in 2019.
I interviewed many bands, with the the highlight being my interview with Between The Buried And Me which will be published in Jan. I still can’t believe it myself.
And most importantly I made a lot of friends.
This is just MY list and I might have a personality disorder, I’m always fluctuating between beautiful melancholic thoughtful soundscapes and TEARING THIS FUCKING SHIT UP RIGHT NOW I WANNA SEE A WALL OF DEATH YOU CUNTS.
Top 5 EPs
(click the albums)
If you’re a fan of the post metal classics like Isis then you will quickly find comfort here. The centrepiece for many will be the strong vocals which evoke a lot of emotion and anger simultaneously. “In the greek mythology Hemera is the goddess of daylight, a l’ombre de means in the shadow of, so it literally means in the shadow of daylight. We think it fits well with the music because we try to play with contrasts, hard and heavy, but also fragile and breakable. The EP is the story of a fictive civilisation that is kind of self destructive, and the story of their evolution” – Dieter, Drums
Artwork by Alex CF
So not an EP, but whatever this counts. It’s an incredible split featuring four stoner doom bands from Poland: Spacelug, Dopelord, Weedpecker and Major Kong. Each track is a worthy contribution that is telling of this regions doom abilities, it’s like nothing else. Long but never too long, fuzzy but never too noisy – there’s a profound balance here that makes this one of the most well rounded stoner releases of the year despite being among the first to drop in 2019 (February).
Art by Kuba Sokólski
Hellripper is the solo project of James McBain, a young fella from Scotland who put out one of the best Speed/Black thrash records in a while. It takes the Motorhead formula and speeds it well the fuck up and throws in some commanding blackened shrieks. After the release of this EP, Hellripper gained a lot of attention, so much that they were signed onto Peaceville records and started touring with a live band. I have the shirt with this design and it is dope. James is quite prolific on social media and often does live guitar/bass playthroughs.
Art by Skaðvaldur
This volatile trio should be familiar to my readers by now as I also featured them in my Australian Top 25, as well as interviewing them for the Australian Heavypedia. I’m a fan. They play a high octane brand of grindcore that takes influences from bands like Slayer, bringing a speedy thrash element to the typical grinding assault. It works really bloody well. It’s a surprisingly complex grind album that always stays true to the premise but also delivers an interesting discourse here and there. The vocalist is a machine that goes real fast and real high.
Art by Karl Dahmer
Cyttorak are another early year release that just stuck with me. From the artwork to the strange entrancing music, this album has remained an addiction for me. If I were to do a favorite tapes of the year article this would be the number one spot with a shout out to Tor Johnson records. I don’t know what they sing about exactly, but there’s constantly weird esoteric shit going on with this trio across their releases, whether it’s whisperings of conspiracy theories, Twin Peaks or even Dungeons & Dragons. The actual sound is filthy punk orientated sludge, expect a lot of bass (They don’t have guitars!) and vocal accentuation like random shouting and “oi oi” sounds. It’s so good, I found out about this album when I was really getting into Sunrot and Body Void.
From their bandcamp:” This EP features torturous hymns about primitive ratmen from the 41st millennium, subterranean elves killing for their spider queen and more.”
Art by Unexpected Specter
Top 20 LPs
A criminally underrated solo project from the ground up, including the cover. It’s lofi and it’s scifi, and yep it’s death metal. I personally enjoy this kind of mixing from time to the time, it’s super gainey but the gargled vocals and descending songwriting suit it very well. I find this album passes by in no time when I put it on. When the highs do come out on the guitars it cuts through the mud pretty well. It feels like a distant monstrosity always moving closer in the cosmos.
I enjoy this album a lot as an entry point to Abbath. As a guitarist this one speaks to me on a melody level as well, I love black metal with solos. The song writing is also fantastic, building peaks and hooks out of nothing. When looking back on the year this one was just plain memorable, every replay offered me the exact same thing – the Abbath experience. It never dims for me. I still need to get this one on cassette. Noob Heavy fully supports the recovery of alcoholics. It’s not metal to be a mess, it’s metal to be strong and in control of your own destiny.
Geist are a screaming severed head from the UK, what’s it screaming about? The same shit we’re all thinking in this modern society, this sleep deprivation culture. Everything that shits you to tears. The UK has always been notable for its sludgy hardcore stylings and for being the birthplace of doom in general, Geist continue this perception with a mouthy album comparable to last years Conjurer release. It feels modern and it has a message, it’s a good album through and through with so many moshable moments. Have the neck balm at the ready and make sure you’re wearing shorts.
Art by CVSPE
Quite a late entry into my list as I only recently heard this gorgeous album from melo-death band Eternal Storm who apparently are based between Spain and Scotland. A lot of people suggested this one to me and it’s completely understandable as to why, there’s an undeniable level of musicianship and storytelling on this record. It has the longer form of post metal but the riffs and licks of the highest tier melo death. It’s a wonderful combination and an absolutely staggering feat for a debut LP. Soaring guitars using the saddest notes known to man.
It was a superb year for melodic death metal, considerably more so than 2018 which was full of duds. Rogga brings the trademark Swedish death metal sound into the melo death arena, creating less of an emotional piece and instead sounding more triumphant and unstoppable. This is yet another solo project though if you look at Rogga’s Metallum credits it’s… immense to say the least. To drop a couple, he’s responsible for Paganizer, Necrogod and The Grotesquery.
Art by Mariusz Lewandowski
With an eye-catching cover featuring iconic Australian imagery and the audio trimmings of a stoner band on Riding Easy Records, Holy Serpent have put out one of the best stoner albums in the entire world this year. It’s such a big and dynamic album in genre scope incorporating shoegaze, grunge and alt rock in smooth and surprising ways. There’s juicy transitions and hooks that will stick in your memory long after the record ends. If you like that Here Lies Man occult rock sound then you’ll eat this up like nothing else, I’ll tell you that for free.
I almost left this off the list but it didn’t really make sense, yes it was insanely hyped but it was not undeserved. I was fortunate enough to hear this one a fair bit prior to release and so I’ve had some time to let it fully sink in. It’s just a damn good sci fi death romp, something I’ve always enjoyed in bands like Nocturnus, Vektor and Nucleus, but Blood Incantation is even fresher than that. It has an interesting album structure, with 4 songs (one being a big ass song), which I think is a neat little challenge for the band and the genre. They pulled it off marvelously and unlike the bands I mentioned, it wasn’t overproduced to heck. Solid, reliable album.
Art by Bruce Pennington
I love a good concept album, who doesn’t? Well here’s the third album of a conceptual trilogy from post-metal/post-hardcore experimenters Archivist. It is well worth starting from the first album and embarking on the epic journey which is even told with the art on each cover. Investigate the lyrics and themes deeply with this helpful guide from their Facebook and not so much from my three reviews in which I rave and ramble about possible meanings (it was a lot of fun though). It’s an incredible soundscape that feels very alive and as if surprises lie in every corner or dark nook. It’s an achievement in world building that many writers and game developers can only strive for.
Art by Alex CF
The Callous Daoboys are a laugh and a riot and all the rest, with clear inspirations from psychopathic bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, The Number Twelve, Heavy Heavy Low Low and Horse The Band all of which I’ve listened to a ridiculous amount of in the last decade. This album does not feel derivative, but rather a welcome addition to those ranks in 2019 where many of these bands just aren’t active. The Callous Daoboys are the modern answer to the question, “Where did the maths go?”. Expect massive and sudden changes in tempo and attitude, there’s a lot to unpack and not a lot of time to do it. You will mosh, you will dance and you might even swoon. This is the bleeding edge of new alternative music. The band are almost always up to shenanigans on Twitter, it’s as if idiocy is a brilliant marketing campaign.
It’s technical and it’s melodic, Fit For An Autopsy use every modern tool and technique there is but without all the wank – and thank fuck they didn’t overcommit to the djent aspect. This album is the sweet spot for hyper modern music that has a firm album structure backing it up, I’m always ready to smash replay when the album ends, I can’t get enough of it. Definitely one that I overlooked for the Top 25 Album Art of 2019 article but there is already two Adam Burke pieces on there as it is, he’s a deadset a genius in the visual arts realm. This album is highly palatable across age groups and demographics, further closing the divide between metal and hardcore. It’s quite simply heavy and meaningful.
Art by Adam Burke
I have been a fan of this band for a very long time, going back to when I first discovered Horse The Band and Fear Before The March OF Flames. This was a period of time where I strayed far from the road of metal and became obsessed with the emo laden mathcore stylings that were prominent in the early 00s which were also my early 20s. I love the lyrical emphasis and the dual vocals, presenting both intense growls and emotionally stinging cleans. Again, this is music that you can mosh and cry to at the same time, what else is random group violence for if not catharsis? Wild Gods continues down the path of maturity and musical complexity found on their 2017 release ‘Worse Than Alone’. A very different beast from their earlier more “teen” works.
This is the release that put Russia well and truly on my radar in 2019. There’s an incredible post-black metal scene over there that makes much of the western scene look quaint and boring in comparison. This release combines black metal, post metal and metalcore into a glorious and expressive album that will cap you at the knees and drag you along for the entire ride. Once I press play, I ain’t pressing another fucking thing till the album is done. It’s paralyzing in it’s constant building and releasing. It has the vibes of a solo project but with the backing of a band ensuring that each instrument achieves a certain level of mastery. Albums like this and the upcoming L’Homme Absurde (Jan 17th) are surely going to convince a lot of solo post-black projects to find bands to help carry their vision as far as it can go.
Art by Sergey Parshakov
It’s excessive, but not without soul. The intensely technical Infant Annihilator dazzled me with it its harmonics, finger tapping and whammy barring bullshit, there’s not a lot to say beyond that. It has a bit more character than many of its peers this year and that ensured they persevered through the retroactive lens of time whereas other releases revealed themselves to be more one dimensional. This is also my most searched review and I don’t know why, nor can I seem to replicated. It’s been google searched about 500 times since I published it. IA have always had great music videos and persona’s, it’s all about practicing your instrument and having fun. If you aren’t familiar with this band then just watch the drummer play, it’s a mindfuck to comprehend.
Art by Guang Yang
You have to be a real heartless shithead to hear this album and not melt. Insomnium take melo-death to new heights with Heart Like A Grave, setting ridiculous standards for bands to come. There’s a complimentary doom and gloom vibe reminding me of early 00s gothic metal like Paradise Lost and death doom legends Swallow The Sun. The best part in my opinion, is that they do this without going either symphonic or folk, it uses the dance beat of goth rock like Idle Hands or Sisters Of Mercy. It’s a super realised vision and you can tell a lot of care has been put into each piece of the sound, you just can’t wind this shit any tighter without something snapping off entirely.
Go listen to this album, not too many people have yet and it can’t possibly disappoint. It’s a heady dose of progressive stoner metal with some serious sludge vocals. Made by two kids from Norway, Golden Core started when they were only 9 and 11, well now they’re like what? 15 and 17? And they’re making better music than your whole grown ass band can make. Expect huge things from this project over the next decade as they’re only just beginning. Seriously, how many just ok stoner/southern metal bands have you seen? This duo has reforged the whole genre with trope aversion and intelligent writing, I’m very much curious about their crafting process.
This is a solo melodic black metal project from Greece. It feels unique with it’s lofi mixing that allows for the marching bass lines to pop. The guitars are incredible as well with some very fun riffs on the electric as well as atmosphere driven acoustic segments that ooze fingerpicking talent. The vocals are not as unique as Mizmor’s howling but still deliver a great performance that doesn’t bring the music down in anyway. When everything is combined it just works so well, it’s clear at the heart of this is a person talented with strings, heart strings included.
Art by Trifonas Stathopoulos
I wasn’t really into Laugh Tracks so when this came out I listened dubiously, well that was quickly kicked out of me along with half of my internal organs. I can’t hear this album without imagining pits and throw downs like a damn nam flashback, I can’t even listen to this at my computer anymore or else I risk ruining my semi-expensive computer chair. It’s not even about the breakdowns, even the regular riffing lends itself to mosh violence, expect some low hanging bass and massive vocal moments. They really know how to throw the spotlight on each other when the time is just right. If you need music that fills you with adrenaline here it is, a great protest album.
This album caught me way off guard, I saw some mid to low reviews of this when it first came out and I just can’t see why. This is like the adventure movie of modern metal, it has such a big journey filled with pitfalls, gun battles and romance. It’s a great album for those of us with attention span issues because of its frenetic pacing and show off transitions. It’s got a good dose of melody and moxy that dances between the genres of technical, melodic and even brutal death metal. Due to this modern style many metalheads have shrugged it off without giving it ago but I insist even you will find a reason to smile here. Don’t like the vocals? They released an instrumental version.
Art by Pär Olofsson
This was also my Australian pick of the year, I’ve listened to this album a lot and it’s a reliable choice to fall back on even in the worst of moods (and boy has 2019 cast some fucking moods on me). This album resonates with me on many levels, some of these levels are quite misanthropic while others strike me in an artistic way. This is finely crafted depressive suicidal black metal that feels like it mirrors the daily dread and mental chaos of living in a hyper-modern western society headfuck. The vocals and melodic instrument composition do so much to tell a story, I can’t help but be pulled in by the enchanting narrative. The fact that this work is the result of solo vision is all the more impressive. This isn’t just music, it’s a dynamic experience that travels with you, sometimes offering escapism and other times bolstering your spirits to rise and attack. This is the most invested I’ve been in black metal for a long long time, not since discovering Forgotten Tomb as a teen.
Jon Mess is my favorite aspect of Dance Gavin Dance, yeah the cleans are nice but the unclean vocals were always super impactful to me and carry an absurd thickness. So when Secret Band became a thing I was instantly hooked from the very first EP. Each release has improved on the blueprint in ways that inspire awe to observe. You won’t find a vocalist more willing to challenge himself as well as the very genre they play within. While largely still a part of the post-hardcore and metalcore framework, there’s an intensity and riff mastery that carries as much weight as any conventional metal album. It’s also very entertaining with frequent changes of tempo and fresh execution of ideas. I’m not asking you to like it as much as I do, but I do ask that you respect the chops going on here.
This was one of my earliest reviews as Noob Heavy and it was quite a coincidence that this dropped unexpectedly as I was finishing up and posting my review of their first LP. So Immediately put it on and wrote what was the first very written review of this album. Since then it has not gotten anywhere near what it deserves from the music world, as a side project so fluent it threatens to overtake the main bands accolades. I feel the energy of this album in a big way, I feel the frustration that Mess presents with his vocal techniques.
Artwork by Jon Mess (yep, some people get all the talent).