I love music. I think anyone who even slightly knows what I’m about knows that. As a result of that, I listen to A LOT of music. I especially listened to a lot in 2019. In light of this, I thought I’d give all of you a list of some stuff that came out last year that I’ve really enjoyed! This list is in no particular order, because I’m terrible at ranking things. I also missed out some stuff, because I don’t want things to be too long. I hope you enjoy what I’ve got to say!
Starset – Divisions
Starset are one of my favourite bands. I almost got the chance to see them at Download Festival earlier this year but I managed to miss their set (I was either too hungry and needed food, there was another band I wanted to see that clashed with them or I just plain forgot. The third option is a very likely possibility…). Divisions is their third album and, in my mind, it’s their best to date.
Dustin stepped up to fully produce the album with Dan Lancaster taking on the mixing end of things. As a result, it feels like the most cohesive but also the most diverse expression of Starset’s sound. It’s all the better for it. There’s everything from djenty baritone guitar metal riffs to electronic pop to grandiose symphonic textures and everything sounds so crisp and so polished. Dustin’s vocals are better than ever too, with a lot less noticeable auto-tune than on their previous two albums.
If you like any kind of rocky or heavy music at all and you also love a bit of science-fiction storytelling, you’ll love this album.
Korn – The Nothing
I unashamedly love Korn. They’re one of my favourite bands of all time and a huge influence on me. The Nothing is definitely one of their best albums to date.
I almost doubted at some points whether it would ever even get finished this year considering the horrible trauma Jonathan Davis went through with the loss of his wife Deven, but the whole band managed to pull through and create something amazing out of the tragic circumstances they were in.
Full of big riffs, emotive songwriting and post-punk experimentation (along with a few sneaky extreme metal drum beats from Ray Luzier!), it’s an album that shows that going into the next decade Korn will still be major players in metal. That’s how it should be, honestly.
3TEETH – Metawar
3TEETH are a band I didn’t get into until this year and I first heard about them as many people did (via their brilliantly subversive cover of Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks that appears on this album), but I’m very, very glad I discovered them!
They’re a great showcase of how industrial music is evolving, taking a lot of influence from current-era metal bands in their guitar riffs and super low tunings whilst keeping those old-school industrial vibes alive in the blaring synths and super distorted, super wet vocals of their enigmatic frontman Alexis Mincolla.
I haven’t managed to see them live yet, but I’m told that it’s quite a sight to behold…
Periphery – Periphery IV: HAIL STAN
Periphery are another one of my all-time favourite bands and have been ever since the days of their self-titled debut album. “Periphery IV: HAIL STAN” is (confusingly!) their sixth album and it’s already shoehorned its way in my head as being one of their best.
This was an album by a band who had put it all on the line to go it alone (they released it via their own label 3DOT Recordings) and it’s really paid off. The near 17 minute long opener “Reptile” is the band’s best extended composition to date, whilst the rest of the album carries on the fantastic progressive songwriting the band have made their own.
Getting to see them live for the first time in 4 years during this cycle was a real treat too, especially considering I got to see them at the legendary O2 Forum in Kentish Town, London!
Bring Me The Horizon – Amo
This is a bit of a controversial one, isn’t it? The truth is though that Bring Me The Horizon are on the top of their game right now in terms of the music they’re putting out. Amo is an incredible piece of work that runs the gamut of BMTH’s output all the way from crushing metal riffs to complex electronica.
Whilst Oli’s vocal abilities are… somewhat debatable at best, the rest of the album’s content is absolutely amazing. Not much else to say, really, considering how much hype the album’s had ever since it released.
Pvris – Hallucinations
Pvris have been a solid favourite of mine ever since I heard their debut album White Noise back around the time it came out. I’m a huge fan of their edgier, heavier take on pop music and Hallucinations just reinforces that even more.
It’s their first release on a major label (that label being Warner) so of course there was going to be a fair amount of trepidation about how it would sound – thankfully, it’s 100% a Pvris record and a really fantastic one at that! It’s full of the kind of groove that makes me want to dance (badly…) and the kind of atmosphere that makes me swim comfortably within my own head.
It’s absolutely beautiful and I’m really looking forward to their third full length album, whenever that surfaces.
Hot Milk – Are You Feeling Alive?
It’s fair to say that Hot Milk captivated absolutely everybody when they first popped up out of what seemed like absolutely nowhere with “Awful Ever After”, an emo-pop banger that musically longed for the return of the mid 00s emo sound popularised by bands like You Me At Six and Kids In Glass Houses.
Led by the dual vocal attack of Hannah Mee (who is an absolute sweetheart, in case you needed to be told that) and James Shaw, their debut EP is a fantastic combination of that 00s British rock feel and the more modern stylings of artists like The 1975, Twenty One Pilots and Billie Eilish, with a dash of more metallic and even jazz fusion-ish twists and turns thrown in for good measure.
It’s an absolutely brilliant listen for anyone who likes any kind of guitar-centric music and judging from the newer songs they’ve been releasing and playing live since the EP dropped, the future is very bright for Hot Milk. I absolutely love them and you should too!
Holding Absence – Holding Absence
Holding Absence are really making waves in the rock and metal scene and for very good reason. Their unique brand of atmospheric post-hardcore meets metalcore meets pop-rock is absolutely fantastic. I may be slightly biased considering I’ve actually known Lucas for a very long time, but nevertheless the self-titled Holding Absence record is a beautiful piece of art. It might actually be one of the best debut albums ever released, on a level with albums like Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory.
They’ve already got a fair way into writing their second album and I can’t wait to hear what they’ve come up with!
Issues – Beautiful Oblivion
This is, without a doubt, one of the best albums to have come out this year. I won’t take an arguments. Done. Dusted. Goodbye. Beautiful Oblivion is an absolutely incredible piece of work.
Every song is all killer and no filler. Every song is almost completely different to the next or the one before it. It’s a pretty much flawless piece of beautiful experimentation that seamlessly crosses the divides between rock, metal, pop, hip-hop, R&B and jazz fusion without even breaking a sweat. They’ve almost reached Faith No More and Mr. Bungle levels of multi-genre mastery and all whilst managing to craft everything into succinct and catchy songs.
Issues should be eternally proud of Beautiful Oblivion. It’s, as things stand, the album of their career.
Northlane – Alien
Northlane are one of the best bands coming out of Australia right now. Like Issues, they threw all constraints of genre aside for Alien as well as stripping away the lyrical conventions of the band too. Marcus Bridge stepped up to the plate with the lyrics, telling the true story of his broken family through the band’s incredible multi-faceted combination of pounding metal riffs and drums with synths and breakbeats from the drum and bass, industrial and hardcore end of electronic music. The end result isn’t too far off from what you’d expect if The Prodigy decided to sit down with Meshuggah and have a crack at making the most ridiculous crossover album you could think of.
Alien is a career-defining album and it’s absolutely worth your time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes anywhere within the heavy hitters on the “album of the decade” lists.
I Prevail – Trauma
I Prevail initially came to prominence through a heavy cover of Taylor Swift’s blank space that went massively viral, but by this point their original music has far outshined that one moment in their career. Trauma is an absolutely incredible album of nu-metal inspired metalcore, full of great grooves and brilliant vocal interplay between the band’s two frontmen. You’ll hear singing, screaming and rapping in fairly equal measure across all the album’s tracks, as well as an equal balance of pop choruses and hip-hop and pop inspired electronic production with heavy, baritone guitar-led breakdowns and biting, incisive screams.
I got to see them at Download too and I was mighty impressed as they delivered a super energetic set, despite one of their vocalists being very sick and it taking place in the driving rain early in the morning.
Sleep Token – Sundowning
Sleep Token are a real enigma. Nobody knows who they are. Nobody knows where they came from. What we do know, however, is that their debut album Sundowning is absolutely incredible. It’s a beautiful mix of progressive metal, electronic and industrial ambience and singer-songwriter type vocals and songwriting undertones. Whilst their earlier EPs were somewhat repetitive, Sundowning isn’t in any way.
The 2020s is Sleep Token’s for the taking and I, for one, am very excited to see how big the project is going to get.
Devin Townsend – Empath
Devin Townsend is an absolute mad genius. Nobody is going to dispute that. He’s crossed every single stylistic boundary you could possibly think of in his ridiculously long career that’s included stints with Steve Vai and collaborations with avant-garde composers like Florian Magnus Maier (Noneuclid, Dark Fortress, Alkaloid) and celebrated musicians from all over the worlds of rock, metal, pop and jazz.
Empath was hyped as his most ambitious work to date, something where he would attempt to meld all of his musical directions into a single, cohesive album and would feature an insane list of collaborators and guest musicians including jazz drummer Morgan Ågren, Samus Paulicelli of Decrepit Birth, Frank Zappa luminary Mike Kenally, regular collaboration partners Ché Aimee Dorval and Anneke Van Giesbergen and (surprisingly!) Nickleback’s Chad Kroeger. It definitely paid off. Empath is a masterpiece-level piece of work. It jumps from genre to genre effortlessly both between and within songs, with Townsend unleashing his full creative potential both in his vocal and compositional ability.
This isn’t just an album of the year contender for 2019, it’s more like an album of the decade contender. It’s an absolute must listen for pretty much anybody who’s willing to let themselves be immersed in the weird and whacky world of Devin Townsend, dumb humour and all.
The Contortionist – Our Bones
The Contortionist can always be counted on to deliver some brilliant, tasty prog. They’re also a band who have become very near and dear to my heart ever since they decided to cross fully into prog territory with the landmark album Language in 2014.
Our Bones may only be a very short EP with one of its songs being a cover, but it’s still a great slab of new music from them. “Early Grave” is an absolute tearjerker of a song for me, whilst the cover song of choice (The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979”) is an absolutely brilliant rendition of the original that barely changes anything, despite The Contortionist being in many ways a very different band. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for a new album at some point very soon.
HANA – Hanadriel
This album by the former protege of Ben Moody (yes, THAT Ben Moody from Evanescence) and current protege of Grimes (she frequently performs as part of her live band and was a guest on her song “We Appreciate Power”) and BLOODPOP had a very unusual birth.
HANA streamed the entire creative process of the album live on her Twitch channel, letting both her fans and curious strangers watch her mess around with her pretty cool home studio trying to create a whole album’s worth of great quality songs. Fortunately, she very much succeeded in that! Hanadriel is a fantastic listen full of 90s swagger and great stylistic diversions, all bound together by HANA’s incredible vocal talent.
She has hinted she’ll do another one of these livestream created albums in 2020 – If she does do it, I can’t wait to hear the results!
Fever 333 – Strength In Numb333rs
Fever 333 are another one of my current favourite bands. With their ability to marry hip-hop, trap, punk, soul, rock, metal and hardcore with poignant and topical messages, I’d honestly consider them as the spiritual successors to Rage Against The Machine.
All three members of the band are already celebrated musicians in their own right and rightly so (Jason Aalon Butler is the former frontman of Letlive and current frontman of Pressure Cracks, Stephen Harrison was the guitarist of The Chariot and Aric Improta is the drummer of Night Verses) and Fever 333 is yet another fantastic addition to their collective CVs. They’re not just creating new music, they’re creating a new movement along with it and Strength In Numb333rs is just the start of that. This album is wall to wall with fantastically catchy songs that are equal parts soulful, punky and smart and all the better for it.
They’ve already released a couple of new songs and another release is promised for 2020. Let me tell you that I absolutely can’t wait!
Simple Creatures – Everything Opposite
Simple Creatures is what happens when you put Alex Gaskarth (the frontman of All Time Low) and Mark Hoppus (the only remaining original member of Blink-182) in a room together and tell them to write some music. The result is some brilliant pop music that combines the guitar-centric sounds of both members’ respective main bands with some of the best parts of EDM and The Cure inspired 80s worship.
It isn’t the only EP they’ve released this year, but Everything Opposite was the only one out of the two that I properly enjoyed. It’s got a great sense of fun that you can’t help but notice! Hopefully Everything Opposite is a signpost of the future music that’s to come out of this unlikely yet somewhat expected collaboration.
The Band CAMINO – tryhard
The Band CAMINO are a bit of an oddity to me, in a cool way. They’re a bunch of young guys from Tennessee who seem to have come across a way of translating a sound from a bygone era into an ultra-modern audience and it absolutely works. Their tryhard EP/mini-album is a fantastic piece of pop-rock that you should absolutely, absolutely give your time to. You won’t get quite a few of the songs out of your head for days after you’ve heard them!
Danny Worsnop – Shades of Blue
I really wasn’t expecting to like this. Country or country-styled music isn’t usually my bag. Danny Worsnop seems to make it work though in his own way! His first album The Long Road Home was much more straight up with its country music feel, but Shades of Blue is a much more multi-genre experience with trips into soul and riffy rock territory.
It’s awesome to hear how versatile Danny is as a songwriter, something that we normally don’t really get to hear in Asking Alexandria or We Are Harlot. If we get any more solo releases from the English Redneck (as Fronz of Attila likes to call him), I’ll be very happy!
Junior – Beautiful Life
Most people know Junior best because of professional wrestler Mark Andrews being the bassist and co-lead vocalist of the outfit. I know them as that fun pop-punk band from Cardiff that I always ran into via my mates.
Either way, Beautiful Life is their coming of age record. It saw them cast off the shackles of their very Blink-182 origins and veer into more varied territory, incorporating influences from heavier bands as well as exploring more cinematic rock sounds. There’s also definitely more than a few hints of the 00s emo movement in there too, especially in the more piano-led songs.
It’s a beautiful album full of diverse and brilliant songwriting and if the more pop-punk/pop-rock end of music is your bag, it’s an album you definitely should listen to!
Lindemann – F & M
I love a bit of Till Lindemann. I also love a bit of Peter Tagtgren. Why not combine the talents of both men and get some awesome industrial metal out of it? That seems to be the winning formula for Lindemann and it’s kept going on their second album F & M.
Till sings in German on this album and honestly I think it suits him a lot better than when he tried to sing everything in English on their first album Skills In Pills. There’s a lot more diversity in the music too (thanks to contributions from ex-Scar Symmetry guitarist Jonas Kjellgren and Peter’s son Sebastian) which helps to keep things more interesting.
Lindemann is going on tour later on this year and whilst I won’t be able to make any of the shows unfortunately, I suspect it’ll be brilliant for anyone who does get to see them.