After a weak beginning to 2019, things improved considerably in February with numerous excellent albums released. Here are our choices for the best new metal albums released in February 2019.
1. Soen – Lotus (Silver Lining)
Four albums into their career, Swedish progsters Soen have established themselves as one of the genre’s heavy hitters. 2017’s Lykaia was an honorable mention on our best of 2017 list, making expectations for their latest release Lotus pretty high. It includes a lineup change, with guitarist Marcus Jidell exiting, replaced by Cody Ford.
After recording the last album in analog, Soen used a more modern production style this time around, resulting in a bigger sound. The Tool and Opeth influences remain, with arrangements that give the songs time to develop and breathe, whether it’s a mellow track like “Martyrs” or “Lotus” or a heavier song such as “Covenant” or “Rival.” Joel Ekelof’s vocals are very expressive, the music very dynamic, making for an engaging and engrossing listen. Soen have met or exceeded expectations with Lotus, which could be their strongest album to-date.
2. Candlemass – The Door To Doom (Napalm)
Ten albums have been released since Johan Langqvist helmed Candlemass, with many legends of the genre having filled the role over the years like Messiah Marcolin, Mats Leven and Robert Lowe. Newly minted as an official member for the first time, Langqvist joins a band that’s well established internationally and in one of the most important vocal roles in all of heavy metal.
Candlemass feel revitalized on The Door To Doom, which is easily their best work since 2007’s King of the Grey Islands. Careers don’t typically get another chapter, especially after a 33 year hiatus. Langqvist’s return shows the band adding an additional chapter with a vocalist who for the band has always remained more a memory than an actuality, his vocal performances legend. Now they are on display for the world to partake, returning to the man and the logo that made the band a force to be reckoned with.
3. Downfall Of Gaia – Ethic Of Radical Finitude (Metal Blade)
Over their decade-long career, the German band Downfall Of Gaia have incorporated a variety of styles and genres into their music, resulting in diverse and unique releases. That’s also the case with Ethic Of Radical Finitude, their fifth full-length.
This time around Downfall Of Gaia utilize clean vocals for the first time, though Dominik Goncalves dos Reis’ harsh vocals dominate the proceedings. The songs are very dynamic, with elements of black metal, sludge, post black and crust. Songs like “We Pursue The Serpent Of Time” have passages that are mellow and relaxed alongside urgent and extreme black metal. There are six tracks (one being an opening instrumental) that are lengthy with a lot of ebbs and flows. It’s an extremely compelling and diverse album that will appeal to black and post black metal fans.
4. Rotting Christ – The Heretics (Season Of Mist)
Rotting Christ are considered the fathers of Grecian black metal or at least the first band to break out playing that style. The Greek history/mythology takes a back seat to religious ideas, which one would expect from a band of that name. The Heretics is a very “churchy” album. Just like the vocals at the end of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, choral arrangements sound monastic or priestly.
Finding original bands is hard in the age of information, so an album like Rotting Christ’s The Heretics is exciting because the band adheres to its own vision. It works not just because Rotting Christ aren’t afraid to embrace many sounds, but because it’s composed well. The Heretics goes beyond the average black metal album to make something much more epic.
5. Ossuarium – Living Tomb (20 Buck Spin)
Portland death doom crew Ossuarium’s debut is set to be a bludgeoning trek through some pounding riffs and a wonderfully old school death metal aesthetic. Fans of Autopsy and more recently Hooded Menace will find themselves right at home on tracks like “Writhing in Emptiness” and “Vomiting Black Death.”
There is an underlying melody to some of these songs, if you can find it among the burning bodies. 20 Buck Spin has made it their mission of late to find some of the more vile death metal and Ossuarium certainly fit that mold. They are chock full of cavernous riffs and spooky atmosphere with a doom edge, making them a bit more unique than Tomb Mold and Torture Rack in that regard. Ossuarium certainly start off 2019’s death metal run strong.
6. Herod – Sombre Dessein (Pelagic)
The heaviest album to grace our Progress Reports this year is also one of the best. Sombre Dessein is the second album from these Swiss juggernauts, and the first to feature ex-The Ocean vocalist Mike Pilat. As one might expect from a release on the Pelagic label, Herod’s music is sledgehammer-massive, melding aspects of post metal, doom, sludge, and prog into one amazing amalgam.
Pilat’s vocals are as crushing as the music, which is saying a lot. Songs such as “Fork Tongue,” “Reckoning,” and “There Will be Gods” are stacked with superbly-arranged, thick guitars, tumultuous drums, and a ton of emotion. Fans of Cult of Luna, Downfall of Gaia, and even Gojira will find much to like on this excellent record.