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Top 20 Metal + Hard Rock Albums of 2019 (So Far)

on June 26, 2019, 2:32pm
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Rammstein – Untitled

Rammstein - Rammstein

Origin: Germany
Release date: May 17th

The Gist: Ten years after their last album, 2009’s Liebe ist für alle da, German industrial metal powerhouses Rammstein are back with their untitled seventh album. As guitarist Richard Kruspe told us, part of his motivation heading into the new album was to “balance the popularity of the band as a live act with the actual music”, explaining, “I thought, ‘I don’t want to be another KISS,’ where people talk about makeup and stuff like that and no one talks about the music.”

Why It Rules: After a 10-year recording absence, it was imperative that Rammstein come out swinging, and they do just that with the album’s first single and leadoff track “Deutschland”, complete with an intoxicating guitar riff and chant-along chorus. Overall, Rammstein’s untitled seventh studio album marks a triumphant return, and lives up to Kruspe’s desire to present the band beyond its reputation as a magnificent live act. There is a key focus on melody amid the grandeur and forcefulness of the music. — Spencer Kaufman

Abnormality – Sociopathic Constructs

Abnormality Sociopathic Constructs

Origin: Boston, Massachusetts
Release date: May 10th

The Gist: Abnormality have risen over the years to become a prominent name in death metal. Their debut 2012 LP, Contaminating the Hive Mind, made for a strong introduction, while 2016’s Mechanisms of Omniscience provided further evidence of the band’s stellar musicianship. But it is with their third studio album, Sociopathic Constructs, that Abnormality present their best material to date and offer an excellent work of technical death metal.

Why It Rules: One way to think of the album is as a work of well-crafted chaos; for all of the hectic-sounding instrumentation, there’s an overall cohesiveness that keeps the record together. Besides the instrumentals, the vocal presentation of Abnormality has always been a central component in the band’s aggressive sound. Throughout Sociopathic Constructs, vocalist Mallika Sundaramurthy uses her voice to elevate each track’s devastating delivery. The band’s blend of technical death metal feels as ruthless as it is calculated, making for a fascinating record. — Michael Pementel

Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion

Possessed - Revelations of Oblivion
Origin: San Francisco, California
Release date: May 10th

The Gist: If you want to get a sense of just how profound a mark Possessed left on metal with their 1985 debut Seven Churches, you’ll have to look elsewhere because the list of musicians who cite the band as an inspiration is just too long to name here. It’s hard to imagine any artist being able to hold a candle to such a towering legacy almost 35 years after its initial impact, particularly with frontman Jeff Becerra being the only holdover from the band’s classic period — but Becerra and his new cohorts certainly give it their all on Revelations of Oblivion.

Why It Rules: Back in the day, Becerra — who says he coined the term “death metal” in 1983 — sought to make music as frightening, abrasive, dark, and ugly as humanly possible. Recently, even one of his own current Possessed bandmates confessed to being scared of the band’s Satanic vibe early on. Of course, Revelations of Oblivion doesn’t come off nearly as grim or creepy as Becerra wanted to be, but it does do a convincing job of recapturing the thrill of that moment just as thrash metal was reflecting the first embryonic stirrings of the more extreme style later brought to fruition by the likes of Morbid Angel and Death. — Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness

Spirit Adrift - Divided by Darkness
Origin: Phoenix, Arizona
Release date: May 10th

The Gist: The songwriting vehicle for Nate Garrett, Arizona’s Spirit Adrift has become one of the most exploratory and ambitious metal projects to come out of the past decade. With themes of self-discovery, reflection, and personal strife, his lyrics combine a sincerity and directness akin to the songs of Ozzy Osbourne, while the music floats in a seamless amalgamation of classic rock, doom, and progressive metal. The band tightropes the ever delicate balance of anachronism and modernity with tasteful grace.

Why It Rules: Compared to past Spirit Adrift albums, Divided By Darkness has a sweeping grandeur and virtuosity that recalls conceptual masterpieces like Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and Manilla Road’s Crystal Logic. The arrangements are intricate and dynamic, from flowing acoustic passages to soaring melodic riffage. It’s an exercise in songcraft from front to back, with Garrett’s emotional voice at the core. His vulnerability and openness — often eschewed in heavy metal — is a welcome trait.  — Jon Hadusek

Amon Amarth – Berserker

Amon Amarth - Berserker
Origin: Sweden
Release date: May 3rd

The Gist: Eleven albums into their career, Amon Amarth continue to be a powerhouse of heavy metal. The veteran Swedish melodic death metal act returns with Berserker, a ferocious collection of brutality and melody. From the adrenaline-fueling drum work to the shredding guitars to singer Johan Hegg’s growling vocals, Berserker is an excellent addition to the band’s extensive discography.

Why It Rules: Fafner’s Gold” makes for a stellar opening to the album, while “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor” is a thrilling track, displaying an incredible balance in the composition that allows the song to be both brutal and catchy. Thanks to unique touches of emotion and exhilarating brutal melodies, Berserker makes for an absolute blast of a time. From the start, the record loops you in, setting you on a path of wild headbanging. — Michael Pementel

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