We recently published our Best of 2019 article and a few weeks ago we made a post urging you all to vote for your own favorite album of 2019. Well it’s time to take a look at how you, the reader, voted for the best albums of 2019 and compare!
The Readers’ Choice
Coming in just a hair short of #10 are Finland’s Iron Griffin. This is perhaps my favorite release that didn’t quite make the cut for our author team’s Best of 2019 article. Iron Griffin play a very unique style of metal that just feels ancient, but yet refreshing at the same time. The instrumentation is pretty relaxing and radiates 70s vibes while vocalist Maija Tiljander delivers one of the year’s finest vocal performances. Great stuff that’s well worth the listen!
(10) Iron Curtain – Danger Zone
Kicking off our top 10 is Iron Curtain’s Danger Zone. Originally formed in 2007, Iron Curtain have been active for well over a decade now. They’ve carved a name out for themselves as one of Spain’s premiere traditional metal groups as a result their steady and solid release schedule. Iron Curtain’s latest effort is yet another notch in their belt and a testament to the band’s consistency. Fans of Motörhead and Exciter shouldn’t pass this up.
(9) Angel Sword – Neon City
Angel Sword are the perfect example of a band that couldn’t really have existed in the 1980s. What I mean by that is Angel Sword’s sound is clearly a mixture of diverse and wide-ranging, but distinct influences. A handful of Tank here, a dash of Manilla Road there, a little bit of Accept in the mix, and the list goes on and on. They established themselves as a band to watch out for with the release of their 2016 debut album Rebels Beyond the Pale, which has stood the test of time well. Now with Neon City, Angel Sword are more heavily leaning in on their NWOBHM influences and the result is still awesome.
Ever since the release of their promising debut album Out of the Garden, Crypt Sermon have become one of the most popular epic doom metal bands. Now four years later and The Ruins of Fading Light definitely is a change for the better. The sound and general songwriting on the new album is overall more ambitious than before and the production changes give it a very different feeling. It’s not an immediate album, but the intricacies of The Ruins of Fading Light begin to show after a few listens.
Tanith play a wonderful style that’s rather difficult to find nowadays. Their sound is very rooted in 70s rock with clear and strong influence from bands like Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash, and Jethro Tull. Of course given that Russ Tippins of Satan is a songwriter here, the songs have more of an edge to them than the 70s rock bands that we know. Tanith aren’t just another worship band though – with excellent songwriting and unique use of female-male dual vocals, they put a stamp on their style.
Chevalier are not a band for everyone. Their overall style from the production to the instrumentation is about as inaccessible as it gets. This is a band however, that rewards you for adjusting to their sound and really paying attention. Described as “medieval speed metal”, their dungeon like sound blends epic heavy metal with frantic and aggressive speed metal. The songwriting of their debut album Destiny Calls is incredibly layered and complex with each separate instrument giving 100%. Take your time with this one and really give it a good listen.
Since debuting in early 2019 with Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, Smoulder have become one of the most beloved and active bands in the traditional metal underground. It’s easy to see why people are so drawn to this album: the riffs are huge, the production is sharp and cutting in the best way possible, and the battle-woman lyricism is both badass and severely under-explored in metal. With a nice mix of fast paced bangers and mid-paced epics, Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring is somewhere between the doom of Solitude Aeternus and the epic metal of Eternal Champion.
(4) Riot City – Burn the Night
You get onto the highway and there isn’t a single soul in sight. You’re well acquainted with the route so you know cops aren’t a concern here. You do the only logical thing here and FLOOR IT. That thrill of speed and adrenaline is a lot like Riot City’s Burn the Night. This is an album that goes at 110% from start to finish. Riot City aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel here, so if you’re looking for something unique or to push the envelope, you won’t find it here. This is fast paced metal in the vein of 80s Judas Priest and Riot’s Thundersteel / Privilege of Power era and man, is that a nice sound.
Much like fellow Canadians Riot City, Traveler aren’t here to change our perception of what traditional heavy metal can sound like. There’s more variation in both influence and pacing relative to Riot City, but Traveler are also a generally up-tempo and high-energy band. Their self-titled debut album is the equivalent of heavy metal comfort food – it’s a sound and style we’re all intimately familiar with and enjoy. Sometimes that classic sound done right is really all you want to hear!
The Knightlore was far and away the author team’s favorite album of 2019 and it sits here comfortably at #2 for the reader’s choice. The reason for the acclaim in traditional metal circles is simple – the songwriting is both excellent and unique. Vultures Vengeance take clear influence from the metal legends of yore, but they explore their own sound and in doing so have presented us with some of the best and most memorable riffs in recent years. Like with Chevalier, the production and buried vocals can be a bit off-putting at first, but this is an album that will very greatly reward you for patience and repeated listens.
(1) Atlantean Kodex – The Course of Empire
Predictably topping the fan’s vote for best traditional metal album of the year is Atlantean Kodex’s The Course of Empire and deservedly so! Atlantean Kodex have established themselves as one of the best bands in the genre from the very get-go. The release of their 2007 EP The Pnakotic Demos immediately garnered them acclaim and attention from the metal underground. With several excellent releases under their belt by now, their reputation precedes them. The Course of Empire is no exception to the history of excellence and given that it’s been six full years since Kodex’s last major release, the hype and excitement for this record is palpable. It’s not just the epic, Manowar-like music that is compelling, but the lyrics and motifs are just as thoughtful. If you haven’t heard this one yet, then what are you waiting for?