Best Albums of 2019 (So Far)

Why is it the standard to produce bags of coffee in 12 oz sizes? Most of the places I buy from do anyway. The two most recent bags I purchased were 16 oz. bags, and we still haven’t run out. Roasters should take note. *sips coffee in deep thought.

We are over halfway done with the year at the time of me writing this post, which sparks an obligatory “best of” list. In this post, I’m going to list some of the best albums released so far in 2019, in my opinion. Most of it is going to center around heavier music (shocker), with a couple of outliers thrown in. I honestly don’t know how I would rank my top five best albums, so they’re listed in an arbitrary order, but all albums on this list are worth checking out. If you’re looking to read about misconceptions regarding the metal scene or why you should be wearing ear plugs at concerts, you’ll find those in this blog too.

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Okay, here we go:

1. Periphery - IV: Hail Stan

Periphery have made it difficult to discuss their albums in depth, simply because it’s all so good. The genre-defining progressive metal dudes show that they can self-produce AND self-release music with stellar results. With them doing everything themselves, it allowed them to truly create what they wanted to create and stay true to themselves while experimenting at the same time.

In a risky decision, the band opens up this thing with a f!#%$ing 16-minute long track titled Reptile. Who does that? Who even thinks of doing that? The band does it and does it with such balls and confidence that the only response you can have is, “Yup, that’s something Periphery would do.”

The band is heavier than ever, and every band member is able to show off throughout all nine tracks. What is there to say that hasn’t been said about Periphery before? Their three guitarist lineup allows them to create layers upon layers of riffage, leaving bits and pieces hidden throughout the album that you’re not going to scope out until your 10th, maybe 20th listen.

The drums at times sound like they were written by a machine for only a machine to play, but Matt Halpern defies human body capabilities and nails each part written out before him. 

Though Nolly Getgood isn’t a touring member of the band anymore, he still had a large part in the creation of this album, an aspect that the band is sure not to stray from any time soon.

Every time I throw on this album I skip to the addicting breakdown in “Reptile” immediately. That’s one of the grooviest breakdowns I’ve ever heard, surely to be the best of 2019 for me. 

Oh, did I mention the tongue-in-cheek title of the album? Periphery IV: Hail Stan. Yes, Stan, not Satan. The band plays around with the idea that the majority of people look at heavy music as demonic, satanic, or otherwise looked down upon. For more info on this and other misconceptions about metal, make sure to read my blog post on the matter. 

As a follow-up to PIII: Select Difficulty, I think the band have managed to outdo themselves, putting out an album that SLAPS for over an hour. Another risky maneuver the guys pulled was creating their poppiest song ever in It’s Only Smiles. The main riff is beautifully laid out and leads us into some of the catchiest melodies vocalist Spencer Sotelo has ever written/sung, taking me back a few years with some alt rock vibes, reminding me of ... someone, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Because of the personal and tragic story and lyrics behind the song, it’s definitely chalked up to be a favorite on P4.

The band also supplies us with their signature electronic injections on songs like “Crush” and “CHVRCH BVRNER”, making sure to cover all grounds when it comes to their traditional fans. I could sit here typing about this band and this album all day, but for now, get situated and go listen to “It’s Only Smiles” and “CHVRCH BVRNER”.

2. Silversun Pickups - Widow’s Weeds

Sitting as the outlier on my list of best albums released in 2019, Silversun Pickups had me stoked when I found out they would be releasing Widow’s Weeds. I was a huge fan of Neck of the Woods, which they released back in 2012. I knew a couple of their singles before that, like “Lazy Eye” (thanks Guitar Hero), but I really started delving into their discography after Neck of the Woods was released. Unfortunately, Better Nature, released in 2015, did not quite live up to my expectations as a follow up.

The band tried experimenting with some different stylings and songwriting, and it just fell flat for me, so I kind of put the band on the back burner, occasionally throwing on songs like “Make Believe” and “The Pit” to remind me of the band and the things they made me feel throughout the years. 

After four years, the band is back on my hot list with Widow’s Weeds, a return to form as they infect my ears once again with the groovy indie rock tunes that made me fall in love with them in the first place.

I think this band is severely underrated, as this album topped out at number 83 on the U.S. Billboard 200, but that could be because of the backlash from Better Nature. This marks an incredible comeback album for the four-piece outfit from Los Angeles, as they brought on legendary producer Butch Vig to helm the creation of the 2019 release. For those unfamiliar, Butch Vig has worked with huge names like Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, so it was hard to go wrong with that decision. 

So far, this is the only ‘clean’ album worth mentioning for me so far. The melodies that these guys write are so memorable and catchy that you won’t be able to help but sing along and dance in your living room as you blast these tunes. Some would say that they get repetitive at times, which I won’t argue with, but it’s a minor inconvenience if you ask me. These songs are relatable and captivating, as frontman Brian Aubert spews his soul to us throughout Widow’s Weeds.

There are slight comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins around the interwebs in relation to this band and this album, so if you’re new to their work, just keep that in mind as you go in.  

It’s tough to pick a favorite track on Widow’s Weeds, but you can’t really go wrong wherever you start on this thing. The opening track “Neon Wound” is a perfect one to start with, and then I’d suggest checking out “Freakazoid” or “Bag of Bones” right after.

3. Oh, Sleeper - Bloodied/Unbowed

Oh, Sleeper have been through an interesting journey for the past eight years, including a hiatus that left the band’s future up in the air and non-existent for some members. After the release of their Titan EP in 2013, guitarist Shane Blay was recruited by members of As I Lay Dying to birth a new band. That project became Wovenwar. After two albums with his new band, the future of Oh, Sleeper seemed questionable to Blay. Fortunately, the band got back together and began working on what would become Bloodied/Unbowed.

The concept of Bloodied/Unbowed follows The Titan EP, characters transfer over, but the overall theme is talking about the breakup and uses metaphors to talk about their experiences since the release of the EP.

The sound on this thing is refreshing in a genre that’s inundated with dull, repetitive riffs. They deliver catchy choruses on “Fissure”, “Of Bane & Disease” and showcase even more of the well executed cleans on songs like “Two Ships”, “The Island”, and “The Summit”. 

“Mutinous” - my personal favorite from the album - gives us a bridge that I’ve had on repeat since the album was released. Micah’s vocals are intense, Shane Blay kills the riffs, and the drums are powerful throughout. The band merges heavy with soft in perfect harmony, and I believe nothing is going to be released this year that sounds quite like Bloodied/Unbowed.

Check out “Mutinous” and “Of Bane & Disease

4. Motionless in White - Disguise 

Even though Motionless in White stole the bassist from one of my favorite bands (Ice Nine Kills), I can’t help but admire and respect Motionless in White and their 2019 release, Disguise. I was a big fan of their 2017 release, Graveyard Shift, so I was eager to throw on this new album.

Though it will piss off many metalcore fans, the band experiments on this thing. A lot. As one redditor states in the album discussion thread for Disguise, the band draws influences from certain bands for each song, and it’s pretty evident. These bands range from Linkin Park to Breaking Benjamin to Good Charlotte to Slipknot.

And yes, those are accurate statements, that’s how diverse and interesting this album is. “Brand New Numb” and “Catharsis” are tracks that definitely do not match up to the image displayed by the band, but “Brand New Numb” isn’t bad for a radio single, and “Catharsis” is one of my favorites on the album and lands perfectly in my opinion. These experiments do feel like a natural progression following some of the tracks that came out of Graveyard Shift, but in my personal opinion I hope they are the extent of the experimentation phase of the band.

Frontman, Chris Motionless’ singing keeps getting better and better with every release, and it seems he’s found his stride as he cooks up some tasty choruses on songs like “</c0de>” and “Holding On To Smoke” - inspired by Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin, respectively - but make no mistake, his hate-filled screams are as gruesome as ever. His screams plague “Undead Ahead 2: The Tale of the Midnight Ride” with some spooky, devilish vibes with amazing high screams, and he delivers on his signature mid-range screams in songs like “Thoughts and Prayers” (that breakdown though).

For industrial rock fans (think Marilyn Manson), check out track nine, Broadcasting From Beyond The Grave, and alt metal fans can check out track two, Headache, for a Korn-inspired tune. 

Overall, simply the diversity displayed on this album is what makes it a hit for me. The band takes us all over the place with this thing, and it never feels forced or out of place oddly enough. For the heavy bois out there, check out “Thoughts & Prayers” first, and for those wanting something a bit lighter start with “Catharsis”, but fair warning: don’t expect much else like this ending track on the rest of Disguise.

Also, no hard feelings about the Ice Nine Kills bassist thing. I hope these two spooky boi bands tour together soon. That’s a show I’ll definitely attend.

5. Demon Hunter - War and Peace (Double album)

Another underrated band on my list, Demon Hunter, unleashed a double album this year, the first half titled War and the second, Peace. If this band toured regularly, they would probably be at the top of the metal food chain. They are near flawless in their song deliveries, producing gut-wrenching guitar riffs and vocals that sometimes sound like something only hell could birth.

Sure, they’re at a bit of an advantage for making the list of best albums released in 2019 so far because they technically released two, but either one of these would make the list solely on its own. In general, you can expect more soul-crushing metal tracks on War and more accessible, ‘rock’ tunes coming out of Peace. Judge for yourself which one you want to start with but expect to be blown away by both.

The Christian Metal outfit from Seattle follow up their 2017 release, Outlive, with a bang. The simple, yet effective, second track from War, “On My Side”, should be playing on radios everywhere. It’s such a simple idea executed so beautifully; straightforward song structure, super minimalist music video, yet eloquent in its own right. This track will be considered a classic over time, mark my words.

These guys have an endless bag full of riffs and guitar solos that come out of every corner as you’re listening to the albums, and vocalist Ryan Clark gives us both harsh and clean vocals on par with the best in the genre right now, with classic metal and hard rock vibes also sprinkled throughout.

Peace is where the band starts throwing in tinges of rockabilly, piano ballads, and alt rock to complement the crushing heaviness of War. As mentioned, expect more relatable, accessible rock on this second half of the double album. “Recuse Myself” has the band supplying a beautiful rock ballad that sounds like nothing off of War, and “When the Devil Comes” gives off a folk rock vibe, again quite surprising after listening to War.

Demon Hunter proves that they are still capable of producing downright badass tunes even after ten albums, a feat that most bands never reach. The focus on their day jobs and lack of full time touring probably contributes heavily to this. I can’t wait for the day that I get to see these guys live. From War, check out “On My Side” and “Lesser Gods”. If you’re starting with Peace, throw on “Recuse Myself”, and show some love to “Fear Is Not My Guide”, sitting at the end of the track listing. 

Best Album of 2019 Honorable Mentions

Heart of a Coward - The Disconnect 

One of my most anticipated of the year. New vocalist, who dis. Nasty breakdowns, a mosh kid’s playground. Remain on my bucket list of bands to see live. Unique guitar writing and scales they use which makes them distinct and unique to me. Check out “Collapse” and “Isolation”.

Devin Townsend - Empath 

He’s no stranger to music, having released twenty-three studio albums, but he still leaves the listener in awe at the end of this latest release, Empath. Ambitious project. Opening track could be the beginning of a gospel album, and might as well call this a gospel album, because the talent and brilliance that Townsend brings to this project is downright godly. He himself has said that he wanted a place where all of the styles that make up his current interests can be represented and meet in one place. A cocktail party for the ages. As a guitarist, I find myself drooling throughout the album. Some of these musical sections sound like they could be part of a cinematic soundtrack. Brings together a large cast of fellow musicians to help him shape this chaotic masterpiece that is Empath. Check out “Genesis” and “Hear Me”.

Thank You, Scientist - Terraformer

Classified as progressive rock, but that doesn’t even come close to describing the pockets of musicality that these guys hit. Seven members, horns, brass. Unique vocals.  Claudio Sanchez is personally invested in them, with all of their releases coming out on Evil Ink records. I’ll stand behind anything Claudio endorses. Spans a vast range of influences - hints of eastern melodies in New Moon, exotic passages in Life of Vermin. Takes a couple of listens to get into it. Typical of any progressive band, their songs are on the longer side, but worth the investment. Check out “Swarm” and the title track, “Terraformer”.

Soen - Lotus

Radio rock meets Periphery meets Leprous. Basically prog rock for the mainstream music fan. That’s all. Check out “Martyrs” and “Penance”.

All right, enough of me giving you these superb music recommendations for you to tune into this week. I think that’s enough to keep you guys busy for awhile. I’m always looking for new music to check out, so feel free to like the post and leave a comment about what you’ve been listening to this year and what your top 5 albums of the year have been so far. Follow me all around the web, and we can discuss on Twitter, IG, or anywhere else you happen to find me. Let me know what you think of my list, and check out some other posts to keep the discussion going. I’ll be talking about my most anticipated albums still to come very soon, so stay tuned.

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