It’s hard to believe that the year (and decade too!) is over in just one week. As far as traditional heavy metal goes, 2019 has been an exceptional year with one fantastic release after another from the get-go. Now it’s time to look back at some of the Ride into Glory author team’s favorite traditional heavy metal releases from the past year!
The Top Trad Metal Albums of 2019
I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way of kicking this whole thing off than with Traveler’s self-titled debut album! Released in February, this was one of the very first trad metal albums to really land on people’s radars this year. With high energy riffs, emphatic vocals, a driving bass, and a clear sense of old-school, it’s really easy to see why that’s the case. There’s nothing outside the box here, but this is pure heavy metal done right and sometimes that’s all you need!
Crypt Sermon play epic doom metal with a nice modern touch. The Ruins of Fading Light is their second album and it definitely is a change for the better. The songwriting is notably more complicated than its predecessor and the production (especially of the vocals) is different. As a result, The Ruins of Fading Light may need a few more listens before it really sinks in. This one is for fans of Solitude Aeturnus.
Tanith are indeed operating In Another Time. If you heard this album with zero context, you would assume it came straight from 1978! Tanith’s debut album takes a more 70s rock influenced approach than the rest of the releases you’ll find on this list and that’s definitely not a bad thing. You’re bound to hear influences from the likes of Thin Lizzy, Ashbury, and Wishbone Ash, but with a metallic edge. The songwriting is great and the use of dual female-male vocals is very unique and helps to further differentiate Tanith from the pack.
Ravensire describe themselves as “raw and passionate” and that clearly shows in A Stone Engraved in Red. Their third studio albums very much follows the same patterns as the first two – good news if you’re a fan of the band! It’s crushing mid-paced epic heavy metal with absolutely barbaric vocals in the same vein as Ironsword and Manilla Road. A mighty powerful sound!
(13) Legendry – The Wizard and the Tower Keep
Legendry’s The Wizard and the Tower Keep is their third studio full length. Their style has always been rooted in epic heavy metal of the Manilla Road variety, but Legendry is certainly not opposed to evolving and changing their sound. Each and every release has given us something a little different and their latest is no exception. The songs on The Wizard and the Tower Keep are much more spacey and the result sounds like an awesome mix between Uriah Heep and classic-era Manilla Road.
If you’re familiar with Finnish doom metal of the Reverend Bizarre variety, then you know exactly what to expect from the sound; methodical, long, and painfully slow songs. Each track is often centered and built upon a singular riff or idea with the drums acting as the driving force. Lord Vicar have been in the game for over a decade now and The Black Powder is further proof that they’ve established themselves as one of the best active bands in the style.
Do you like early Black Sabbath? Of course you do – you’re on a website dedicated to traditional heavy metal! Magic Circle certainly do. Departed Souls moves away from the hard hitting and epic sound that they explored with Journey Blind and instead takes us all the way back to heavy metal’s earliest days. Stylistically, Magic Circle’s latest album sounds like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath with a dash of Pagan Altar thrown into the mix, which is just fantastic if you ask me.
It’s been four years since we’ve really heard anything from Northern Ireland’s Terminus. Their debut album, The Reaper’s Spiral, stands as one of the absolute best epic heavy metal albums in the modern era. It’s an incredibly tough task to follow something like that up, but A Single Point of Light does just fine in that regard. It’s a doomier album with generally longer, meatier songs and riffs, but the core Terminus sound is very much the same.
Coming in at number 9 is Germany’s Lunar Shadow with their sophomore album The Smokeless Fires. This year’s album follows closely in the footsteps of their debut Far from Light, but still clearly demonstrates a band that is maturing. There’s still everything that we’ve come to expect from Lunar Shadow – the unbelievable leads, beautiful melodies, and black metal influence are all here in full force. There’s a bit more in this year’s effort though. The album is more compact, there’s dashes of post-punk influence, and the tasteful use of piano all add more flair to an already unique sound. If a traditional/epic metal version of Dissection sounds like something you’d enjoy, then give this one a go!
Like lightning, Magnabolt went as fast as they came. They initially released their self titled debut album with absolutely no promotion, no demo material, no label, no commissioned art: nothing but music. Magnabolt were put on hiatus ( an effective disbanding) just a few weeks after the release. Now despite all this, the album is still 100% worth discussing. Magnabolt’s frantic approach to US power metal hearkens to the classic-era of Helstar, a technical sound that’s far too under-explored. There’s been no fan fare around this release for understandable reasons, but the music alone makes Magnabolt deserving of this spot on our list.
Last year in our best of 2018 article, I referenced a short two song, epic heavy/doom metal demo by Smoulder titled The Sword Woman and mentioned the potential that band had. Well, it didn’t take very long for that potential to be realized! Their debut album, Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, released in April this year and it took the heavy metal underground by storm. Smoulder are the rare example of a band that really has the whole package: a compelling sound as well as the passion and aesthetics to match. Their sheer love for the scene shows in everything they do and in the way that they promote their peers.
(6) Atlantean Kodex – The Course of Empire
Atlantean Kodex have carved a reputation for themselves over the last 15 years as one of the world’s premiere bands “true metal” bands. Their style of epic heavy / doom metal represents the next stage evolution of the signature sound that Manowar and Bathory developed. It’s been six long years since Atlantean Kodex’s last major release and the wait has certainly been worth it. Not much has changed in this time as The Course of Empire follows a similar pattern to the rest of Atlantean Kodex’s material, but it’s these motifs and sounds that set them apart in the first place. With that said, there are still some noticeable changes this time around – songs like “Chariots” and “Lion of Chaldea” are unique and materially different from any other Kodex tracks.
Much like Atlantean Kodex, Orodruin are a doom metal staple who have been rather quiet. However, in this case it’s been a full sixteen years since Orodruin’s last full length album. Although talked about shamefully too little, Epicurean Mass is a traditional doom metal classic that deserves to be talked about right alongside the legends of the genre. With such a long gap between albums, it’s healthy to be skeptical about whether Orodruin are capable of matching Epicurean Mass. It’s tough to tell how Ruins of Eternity will stack up in the long run, but it’s easy to see that this is one fine slab of traditional doom metal ala Pentagram and Black Sabbath.
Chevalier are not a band for the faint of heart. Their sound, production, and approach to music is one of the least accessible in the traditional heavy metal sphere and they make it abundantly clear that they don’t give a fuck about making it easier to listen to. Their style has been described as “medieval speed metal” and that’s simply the best way to put it – Chevalier’s music reminds you of a medieval dungeon. Blending the epic songwriting of Manilla Road, the hectic energy of bands like Brocas Helm, and the intensity of ADX, and the end result is a sound with clear influences, but that’s entirely unique to Chevalier. This isn’t an album that will immediately sink in. With incredible complexity from each and every instrument, Destiny Calls takes many listens for its full depth to be properly taken in.
When it comes to accessibility, Mirror are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum than the previously mentioned Chevalier. Mirror’s style is a bit tough to exactly pin down, but there’s a notable amount of influence from late 70s and early 80s metal such as Deep Purple, Scorpions, and the especially Rainbow. Middle-Eastern melodies are sprinkled through out and Mirror manage to take a sound that we’re all intimately familiar with and still make it fresh and enjoyable. This is classic heavy metal in the modern age at its best.
Massive. Just absolutely massive. There’s really no other way to describe The Siege. Capilla Ardiente set out to make their mark with this ambitious excursion in epic doom metal songwriting. There are just four songs that span across a full 45 minute album. It’s very difficult to write an album in that format and keep it interesting, but Capilla Ardiente do exactly that. Each song is notably different from the last and there are plenty of tempo and rhythm changes within each track to grab your attention for the full duration. The relatively up-tempo nature of The Siege and the extensive usage of eastern scales immediately brings to mind epic doom masters Solitude Aeturnus. While it’s practically impossible to reach the same heights, this is certainly a worthy epic doom album in its own right.
Decisively at the top of our list is Vultures Vengeance. Every single member of the Ride into Glory author team that participated in rating albums for this article placed The Knightlore either at the very top of their lists or very close to it and there’s good reason for that. Simply put,The Knightlore is an exercise in songwriting masterclass. Like Chevalier, Vultures Vengeance aren’t an immediately grabbing band. The vocals are a bit distant and the production isn’t particularly clean, but each and every listen of The Knightlore is more rewarding than the last.
The songwriting is incredibly thoughtful with each note building upon the last to tell the full story. The lead guitar melodies are sublime and unbelievably catchy – if these don’t get stuck in your head then none will. Influences are discernible (Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, Dark Quarterer, etc.), but ultimately Vultures Vengeance have a sound that is entirely their own.The Knightlore is the perfect example of how a band can look to the past for influence, but still forge their own path forward.
Album of the year.
Other Releases (Live, EPs, etc)
Cirith Ungol – I’m Alive (Live Album)
American heavy metal legends Cirith Ungol are active again and last year, they released a new single titled “Witch’s Game” a full 46 years after their initial 1972 formation! This year they surprised us with a 90 minute live album from their performance at Up the Hammers titled I’m Alive. As far as live recordings go, this is about as essential as it gets. The set list for this live LP is basically every killer Ungol song and none of the filler: the entirety of King of the Dead and the best tracks from their other three albums. Vocalist Tim Baker has aged like a fine wine and his voice sounds even better live now than it did back in the 70s and 80s when Ungol were first active. Killer stuff!
Alpha Centauri – Return of the Herakleids (Single)
Alpha Centauri’s origins start back in 1998 when brothers Vorskaath Eskarth, known for their work in Hellenic black metal bands such as Agatus and Zemial, decided they wanted to fully embrace their epic heavy metal roots. They recorded these two tracks and they’ve been floating around online since. Fast forward to 2019 and it is finally available through official release via Eat Metal Records. It’s a little weird to think of Alpha Centauri’s Return of the Herakleids as a 2019 release, but regardless it is a fantastic single worth the listen.
Galaxy – Lost from the Start (EP)
The EP is titled Lost from the Start, but it appears that as far as musical direction goes, Australia’s Galaxy are anything but lost. Taking the framework set forth by bands like Judas Priest and mixing it with the dark, high pitched vocal approach of King Diamond, Galaxy’s sound is firmly rooted in the classics. This 20 minute EP released via Dying Productions is their first foray into the scene and it’s certainly a great start. Definitely keep your eye on this one!
Sölicitör – EP 2019
Seattle based traditional metal band Substratum disbanded last year due to unfortunate line-up circumstances and Sölicitör rose from their ashes. Sölicitör came out of the gate at 110 MPH, taking absolutely no prisoners. It’s raw, furious speed metal fronted by Amy Lee Carlson, one of the best female vocalists in the scene right now. Imagine Chastain and Hellion with a dash of punk attitude and influence – that’s Sölicitör’s 2019 EP. They have a full length coming soon in 2020 and if this EP is any indication, it’s guaranteed to kick ass.
Grendel’s Sÿster – Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz (EP)
Grendel’s Sÿster are a band that conform to no norms, and that’s what makes them such a great listen. They blend German folk elements with traditional heavy metal and a very distinct vocal approach with the end result being a fantastic, unique sound that something of a cross between Lordian Guard and The Lord Weird Slough Feg. Myrtle Wreath is this band’s 2nd EP and as they did with their previous release, it’s available in both English and German. Both versions of the songs are great, but there’s a naturally tad bit more character in the German tracks.
Concilium – No Sanctuary (EP)
Boston based Concilium are a brilliantly dark and gritty epic doom metal band. No Sanctuary was released half way through this year and it’s surprised me that this one hasn’t picked up nearly as much attention as it deserves. With vocalist Paris Thibault’s style, it’s impossible not to draw connections to Smoulder, but Concilium’s sound is much more rooted in doom with closer similarities to bands like Solitude Aeturnus. No Sanctuary is a solid release and hopefully there’s more coming !
Transparency: Our Ranking Methodology
Last year when I published the best of 2018 article, it was just me here at Ride into Glory. It had been about 4 months since I launched the website and it was still myself handling everything – including the year end rankings. In the past year, we’ve had a total of 15 (!) additional contributors, several of which have taken an editorial role for the site.
Since the team has grown considerably over the past year, it was only fitting that the best of 2019 list would be determined as a collective. This year, I asked the most active authors and editors of the past year to help me in assigning numeric ratings. We then averaged out the ratings and to keep it honest, only releases that had ratings from at least 3 different individuals were considered for this list.
You can see a table of our ratings below. This only includes the top 50 or so releases that we ranked, in total we did well over 100!
2019 RIG Ratings
|Artist||Release||Release Type||RIG Average||Marco||Panos||Rhandgar||Blondie||Deathofthesun||Dzorr||Brandon||Xeco|
|Vultures Vengeance||The Knightlore||Full Length||91.4||93||90||91||95||87||91||93||91|
|Cirith Ungol||I'm Alive||Live Album||90.4||90||90||90||90||92|
|Capilla Ardiente||The Siege||Full Length||88.17||91||85||94||85||94||80|
|Mirror||Pyramid of Terror||Full Length||88||92||91||93||85||84||91||80|
|Chevalier||Destiny Calls||Full Length||88||90||85||95||94||75||85||92|
|Orodruin||Ruins of Eternity||Full Length||87.5||86||90||91||86||78||94|
|Atlantean Kodex||Course of Empire||Full Length||85.6||93||82||95||78||80||86||85|
|Smoulder||Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring||Full Length||85.5||87||93||91||89||78||78||90||78|
|Lunar Shadow||Smokeless Fires||Full Length||85.2||89||75||93||90||84||80|
|Alpha Centauri||Return of the Heralkids||EP||85||80||80||90||90|
|Terminus||A Single Point of Light||Full Length||84.3||88||80||89||78||83||92||80|
|Galaxy||Lost from the Start||EP||84.3||85||93||79||80|
|Magic Circle||Departed Souls||Full Length||84||85||80||80||77||90||92|
|Lord Vicar||The Black Powder||Full Length||84||84||78||90|
|Legendry||The Wizard and the Tower Keep||Full Length||83.8||85||84||85||81|
|Ravensire||A Stone Engraved in Red||Full Length||83.7||84||78||88||85||76||90||85|
|Tanith||In Another Time||Full Length||83.4||85||80||90||85||82||73||85||87|
|Angel Witch||Angel of Light||Full Length||82.7||85||88||75|
|Ezra Books / Emblem||Visions of Power||Split||82.3||80||80||87|
|Vulture||Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves||Full Length||81.2||86||80||83||80||78||80|
|Ogre||Thrice as Strong||Full Length||81||85||70||85||84|
|Grendel's Syster||Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz||EP||81||85||88||70|
|Iron Griffin||Curse of the Sky||Full Length||80.7||89||75||92||75||82||84||68|
|Monasterium||Church of Bones||Full Length||80.4||85||85||78||79||75|
|Twisted Tower Dire||Wars in the Unknown||Full Length||80.3||86||75||88||72||81||80|
|Midnight Priest||Aggressive Hauntings||Full Length||80||83||80||80||77|
|Ezra Brooks||Gods, Men, and Death||Demo||78.6||83||70||84||72||84|
|Flame, Dear Flame||The Millenial Heartbeat||EP||78.3||84||86||65|