The Top 20 Astral Noize Albums of the Year 2019

Click here to see numbers 40-21.

20. Gatecreeper – Deserted

The need to feel euphorically knocked in the face with a sonic crowbar can be easily satiated by the likes of Cattle Decapitation, Indian, and the mighty Bolt Thrower. This past year has been positively riddled with crushing albums threatening to knock listeners’ teeth loose, and Gatecreeper have more than assisted in some serious molar mashing. Their 2019 offering, Deserted, is the follow-up to their phenomenal 2017 release, Sonoran Deprivation. The album takes you on a brutally bleak soundscape that is transcendentally amazing, bringing visions of the sun-scorched expanses of their home state Arizona to mind. From the roar of ‘Ruthless’ to the isolating brutality of ‘Absence Of Light’ it’s a journey of epic proportions. ‘In Chains’, the penultimate track of the album, is rage-ridden and perfectly encapsulates the album’s characteristics. Not only when compared to their own body of work is Deserted a masterful studio effort by Gatecreeper, but it is far and away one of the top albums of 2019 when up against the incredible body of output this past year.

 

19. White Ward – Love Exchange Failure

Whilst so many of us like to think of black metal as an intense realisation of mankind’s darkest facets, the truth is it is more frequently an escape from the humdrum of day-to-day life than it is a dissection of internal conflict. Inspiration often comes from an idealised view of nature, fantasy literature or the untapped universe above us. White Ward’s 2017 debut, which impressed in its unique amalgamation of black metal and jazz, was similar in this regard, with its ultra-noir tone used to paint bleak otherworldly portraits. 

On this year’s follow-up, however, the band’s pallette shifted dramatically, the light pollution of Love Exchange Failure’s urban setting clearly stifling their ability to look outward as they instead pondered very real questions about modern life. The album posits sprawling metropolises as epicentres of modern life and thus a home to all of society’s ills, with this theme sitting front and centre from minute one as the album kicks off with the sounds of a city and melancholy piano. The tracks are frequently expansive endeavours, meandering and experimenting but always with intent, so much so that even the four tracks that surpass ten minutes, which are each bookended by comparatively succinct numbers, never feel overlong. Indeed, White Ward are one of few metal bands able to linger on moments of restraint and yet never lose your attention.

Here, the band managed to triumph where countless others have failed by improving upon their debut exponentially, taking an already innovative sound and bolstering its dynamism and scope. (Check out our in-depth interview with White Ward here)

 

18. Fuming Mouth – The Grand Descent

Was the The Grand Descent a hardcore-influenced death metal album or a death metal-influenced hardcore album? Fuming Mouth didn’t seem to care. As well as making one of the most slammingly enjoyable albums of the year, Fuming Mouth also took the prize for the best HM2 guitar sound (sorry Gatecreeper) and the best Mariusz Lewandowski cover art (sorry literally every metal band this year). While to older ears The Grand Descent felt like a welcome return to the Entombed-core of Black Breath and Nails, Fuming Mouth created a welcome update on that early 2010s sound, drawing on classic Swedeath but also bringing in the crushing, discordant riffage of contemporaries like Jesus Piece and Vein. Not that The Grand Descent is merely an exercise in caveman thuggery – lyrically it deals more with spiritual and emotional violence than chainsawing torsos, and the album’s quieter moments (‘The Great Equalizer’ and  ‘The Spirit’s Chain’) helped to separate Fuming Mouth from the meatheads.

 

17. Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue

There’s an unedifying trend that runs through some portions of metal and hardcore which sees those that manage to transcend being onstage in front of 50 people cast aside with disgust. Some bands, of course, do end up diluting their sound in the process of eyeing up both radio plays and bank balances, but this is an accusation that could in no way be levelled at Knocked Loose. On A Different Shade Of Blue, the follow-up to 2016’s much-hyped smash Laugh Tracks, Kentucky’s metallic hardcore bruisers Knocked Loose have attached rocket boosters to their brand of aggro, beatdown and riff-heavy hardcore, aided by having one of the most instantly recognisable vocalists in the scene today. 

This rabid thing launches itself towards the listener, wide-eyed and foaming at the mouth, from any audio source you should dare to put through its paces. Highlights are plenty across the 39-minute runtime. The sheer audacity of the downshift two thirds into ‘Trapped In The Grasp Of A Memory’; the one-two punch of Slayer-heavy ‘By The Grave’ into the squalling, wailing eeriness of ‘In The Walls’; the whole of ‘Forget Your Name’ – a song so strong it even manages to make a Keith Buckley appearance superfluous – and of course a panoply of mosh calls from the sublime to the ridiculous, all guaranteed to cause mayhem at shows around the world (“I followed the rabbit, and I found my fucking ending”, anyone?). And that’s really the point. A Different Shade Of Blue is a boat-load of entertainment. And for a band who can be so monstrously heavy at times, Knocked Loose’s rise should be celebrated by everyone who loves hardcore, for where they go we hope others shall follow.

 

16. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Infest The Rat’s Nest

Fans of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s heavier material have long awaited the band’s inevitable dive into full-on heavy metal, and looking at April’s more playful and boogie-loving Fishing For Fishies they may have thought they’d never live to see it. What we got from the seven-piece in August, though, was a dynamic onslaught of thrashy psych-metal, and the band’s most consistently heavy effort to date by some way.

The influence of early ‘80s metal is clear as day, but Infest The Rat’s Nest is still spearheaded by Gizzard’s nonchalant, psych-rock fuzz and a desire to innovate. There are nods to latter-day thrash’s technical precision as well as the genre’s punkier origins, but there’s also bouts of stoner rock amongst the mayhem (‘Superbug’ is particularly doomy), not to mention nods to other giants from metal’s storied history. ‘Mars For The Rich’ churns like Black Sabbath, whilst the scattershot percussion of ‘Venusian 2’ recalls Motörhead legend Phil Taylor in his heyday and then there’s prog-metal chugging present on the likes of ‘Perihelion’ and ‘Self-Immolate’ will most certainly appeal to fans of early Mastodon.

The band’s non-committal approach to genre may fly in the face of metal fans’ incessant devotion to the “do or die” attitude, but Infest The Rat’s Nests wasn’t just the sound of a band messing about in a new genre for fun, it was a confident and multifaceted love letter to a style from which they clearly take inspiration. As a result, one of the most vibrant and vital metal albums of the year came from a band who months prior were singing about fishies.

 

15. Employed To Serve – Eternal Forward Motion

Employed To Serve have not put a foot wrong since 2012, each record ignoring the hype machine and progressing in ways that only the most fearless and capable of our world can do. 2017’s The Warmth Of A Dying Sun was rapturously received (and for good reason), yet Eternal Forward Motion is genuinely even better, doubling down on the sort of metallic nastiness and dynamic gumption that proved, when it comes to being contenders for the UK’s very best band, they weren’t fucking around.

Indeed, ‘Dull Ache Behind My Eyes’ might be the most furious that Employed To Serve have sounded yet, its bug eyed mutant assault collapsing into a terrifying, almost deathcore breakdown section which hits like a wire-wrapped cudgel. Elsewhere ‘Force Fed’ re-imagines mid-era Slipknot with the vicious atmosphere of razor-mangled powerviolence and ‘Reality Filter’ is a flat-out groove metal monster, albeit it with some hints of ambient scree doing unpleasant things in the background. Given the current state of our country it is easy to feel bleak and despondent, yet the fire-breathing outrage with which Employed To Serve continue to deliver is more invaluable now than it ever has been. Eternal Forward Motion is one of the most bruising and tangibly pissed off records in recent memory.

 

14. Alcest – Spiritual Instinct

Simultaneously soothing and compelling, on Spiritual Instinct Alcest continue to embrace the pairing of light and dark to hit upon that distinctively black metal idea of transcendence. Shrieked vocals and blastbeats are coupled with guitar-lines that Pearl Thompson (The Cure), or even The Edge (U2), could have written (check out, respectively, lead single ‘Sapphire’ and ‘L’Île Des Morts’). Clean singing brings elevation, whilst the screaming brings the pain, with this combination creating a strong sense of push and pull.

Overall, although Spiritual Instinct has a similar sound to preceding album Kodama, it is gentler; even by the standards of blackgaze, Alcest are a pretty–sounding band. Guitarist Neige is the jewel in Alcest’s crown, but drummer Winterhalter is the unsung hero here. When blasting, he’s in the pocket, then sits back on the beat under tremolo picking. Spiritual Instinct also sounds massive, with strong reverb and heavy delay effects throughout. With that said, the mood is not to be mistaken for languidness or calm, as Alcest occupy a far more ethereal, enchanting space. Most of the lyrics are either in French or in Neige’s own language, à la Sigur Rós, so whilst the mood is hinted at with yearning or haunted vocals, it is often left intangible.

 

13. Deafkids – Metaprogramação

Like many nations in recent years, Brazil has been blighted by authoritarianism. For a country with a dark, complex colonial history, defined by the slave trade, racism and centuries long legacies of colonialism – this may seem like defeat, but for Deafkids, it’s been an opportunity to fight back. 

Deafkids have been one of 2019’s buzz bands, releasing their third full-length opus Metaprogramação this year via Neurot. The record first identifies itself as d-beat, but quickly moves into far weirder territories, taking a mystical, multi-rhythmic approach to music of resistance. Having taken influence from Krautrock acts such as Can, as well as from indigenous Brazilian folk-music, the album takes the template of hardcore punk and translates it into an experimental context, with a pulsing psychedelic rhythm keeping things weird throughout. For those who favour d-beat, synths and resistance to authoritarianism, Metaprogramação is the album of 2019. (Check out an insightful chat with Deafkids in Issue 5 of our ‘zine)

 

12. Dawn Ray’d – Behold Sedition Plainsong

It can be tempting to view Dawn Ray’d not as they are, but as we want them to be – to look at them not so much as a band, but simply as one of the most visible faces of anti-fascist black metal, and to laud them as such. Yet Dawn Ray’d wouldn’t be nearly so noteworthy if all they had to them was their politics.

Previous records A Thorn, A Blight and The Unlawful Assembly were bright starts and excellent records, and Behold Sedition Plainsong continues that fine run of form. Angrier than its predecessors, this is an album that captures the same kind of folk-infused fury as Nattens Madrigal did for Ulver, albeit filtered through left-wing politics. A gradual growth rather than a whole-scale revolution, Behold Sedition Plainsong is the album that confirms that Dawn Ray’d are a band with the power to last, carving out a musical niche of their own. (Click here to read a track-by-track breakdown of the album from the band themselves)

 

11. Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

When it comes to Swedish maestros Opeth, the main point of discussion for many years now has been their transition from riotous death metal to intricate prog. Look at their thirty-year career as a whole, though, and it’s easy to see that this change in sound has been a gradual process rather than one seismic shift in style. As such, every time the band release an album, it seems like the culmination of this progression, but on this year’s In Cauda Venenum, we may have finally the endpoint of a trajectory three decades in the making.

On this, their thirteenth record, the band are more dynamic than ever. In Cauda Venenum shows no shame in shedding the comparatively heavier core that ran through preceding effort Sorceress, often sacrificing some heaviness in the name of innovation, and the result is an album that sounds epic, dramatic and downright majestic. The Swedish veterans will always be judged in relation to their more metallic material, but the band they once were is now long gone, and that prevailing need to look back has long distracted us from what is rapidly becoming an undeniable fact – Opeth are one of the greatest names in modern prog, regardless of whether that comes with the “-rock” suffix or not. In Cauda Venenum goes a long way to cement this fact, proving itself perhaps their best since they dropped the death metal and widened their ambition.

 

10. Chelsea Wolfe – Birth Of Violence

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now – Chelsea Wolfe is this generation’s PJ Harvey or Nico, both queens of the unconventional and unusual. Her ethereal mix of doomy, gothic folk is the alternative to the alternative, imbued with lashings of metal-esque occult ambience and mystery. 2017’s Hiss Spun reached new levels of romantic terror, but Birth Of Violence sees her at a quieter, more serene plateau of melancholy that suits her down to the bone.

Made up predominantly of acoustic folk, the album is loaded with haunting melodies and dreamlike lullabies, all bolstered by her undeniable personality and unique presentation. Songs such as ‘American Darkness’, ‘Little Grave’, and ‘When Anger Turns To Honey’ are some of her finest compositions ever and flow with dark, enigmatic energy, but there are definitely strains of heaviness that rear their beastly heads on tracks like ‘Deranged For Rock & Roll’ to keep the danger alive. For fans of her heavier material, this one won’t have ticked too many boxes, but for those looking for a deeper portrait of Chelsea Wolfe as an all-round artist, Birth Of Violence is her most personal, introspective work to date, and will provide hours of blissful listening.

 

9. Moor Mother – Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes

The best music this year, and arguably this decade, has been political. With the USA in political schism, Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes is an answer to this misery – an incredibly artful portrayal of the experiences of black Americans. Moor Mother’s approach lurches from broken, juddering beats to some of the most vicious, fist-pumping techno rhythms of the year; drifting from dancefloor bangers to broken beats and miserable soundscapes, all bolstered by darkly poetic lyricism that perfectly funnels the anger and abjection felt by so many in the world today. This album is not only an important and, at times, uncomfortable listen but through its twisted poetry, it’s also high-concept music of resistance. It’s also worth noting that any kind of journalistic description of the album’s sound doesn’t quite work as the release refuses to sound like anything else, and herein lies its beauty. It’s a discordant, difficult listen, but its portrayal of marginalisation and alienation effortlessly communicates the anguish and uncomfortability of existing as a black person in today’s world. 

Whilst Zonal, the Moor Mother X Justin Broadrick/Kevin Martin collaboration that foreshadowed Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes, seems to have made a bigger impact in the heavy music community, when it comes to comparing the two, Moor Mother is clearly ascendent. Whilst she’s still participating in collabs with the gods of yesteryear, her collaborations with them pale in comparison to her own output. Indeed, the anguish and misery portrayed so brilliantly here shows that a new generation of electronically minded purveyors of audial dissonance are taking the crown. The noise scene has recently seen a huge influx of womxn and people of colour as well as artists from the queer and LGBTQ community (just check the Women Of Experimental playlist on Spotify for evidence) and it is they who will be defining musical progress in the next decade.

 

8. Inter Arma – Sulphur English

Still impossible to categorise, Inter Arma‘s Sulphur English may share much in common with 2016’s Paradise Gallows in that both drag you into the heart of a swirling extremity vortex, but whilst it predecessor carried an air of incense burning psychedelia, Sulphur English taps into a looming, Lovecraftian horror, their sound still aglow with dynamics but reimagined in shades of gothic darkness and the sort of apocalyptic turmoil rarely experienced since Neurosis‘ seminal Through Silver In Blood. Songs such as the almost Portal-esque ‘A Waxen Sea’ surge with a remorseless, nihilistic undertow, and indeed the heaviest cuts here reach such career-high levels of oppression that they approximate the soul-extracting energy of Indian or Dragged Into Sunlight, ‘Citadel’ conjuring vibes of later-day Morbid Angel via some grim doom metal lurching and touches of black metal discordance injected frequently throughout the record.

A dense and somewhat difficult experience perhaps, yet given the time it requests this is a record which reveals a seemingly endless pool of rewards, balancing tectonic heaviness with a fearless array of embellishments and a constantly shifting focus as they steer their steel-plated vessel through extreme metal waters. A daunting sixty five minutes with a black hole-like pull.

 

7. Ithaca – The Language Of Injury

A powerfully evocative and ferocious slab of passionate hardcore, The Language Of Injury has Ithaca playing at breakneck speed and whipping up a maelstrom through some Balou-worshipping guitarwork and singer Djamila Azzouz’s fierce, emotional delivery. Proponents of inclusivity and diversity, the London-based band are politically astute and channel their anger on The Language Of Injury with utter savagery, blended at points with a beauty and a melancholy that is rarely so well realised within hardcore. An achievement made all the more astounding given that this is their full-length debut. 

From the moment the screeching feedback of ‘New Covenant’ opens The Language of Injury’s 32-minute runtime, the buzz-saw riffing, energetic drums and pained screaming are sensational. However, it’s the squealing guitar sirens and stomping beat-down of ‘Impulse Crush’ that provides an early highlight. It’s no wonder this track goes down so well at Ithaca’s live shows. The band’s diverse songwriting continues to manifest towards the end of The Language Of Injury on ‘Youth Vs Wisdom’, ‘Gilt’ and closer ‘Better Abuse’. Arguably the most ambitious songs on the album, they certainly leave a mark; on the final track, the high-pitched phased guitar squeals and piercing snare hits give way briefly for a glorious ‘90s rock feeling, before a chugging reprise abruptly leaves the listener desperate for more. An impressive full-length debut, expanding hugely on the raw metallic hardcore of 2015 EP Trespassers, The Language Of Injury is lean, mean and diverse, marking Ithaca out as a gifted and immensely interesting hardcore band not afraid to enrich their aggression with melody and beauty. (Find out more about the band and their future in Issue 5 of Astral Noize)

 

6. Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance

It’s not difficult to see why, even amidst such a recent tsunami of high-grade death metal, the emergence of Tomb Mold has been hailed as a particularly big deal. Having released numerous demos/splits and three full-length records, all since 2016, the Ontario crew are already firmly established as a benchmark band for the entire scene. one listen to sophomore LP Manor Of Infinite Forms will tell you why, its limb-lopping deformity containing shades of Bolt Thrower, Demilich and Human-era Death whilst underpinned by a unique strain of slime-dripping horror all of their own. Somewhat inevitably, Planetary Clairvoyance is darker, nastier and better.

‘Beg For Life’ is quite the opening statement, sounding both old school to the bone and spilling over with structural nous, and as the record plays out Tomb Mold are able to harness their singular sonic vision whilst hotfooting it down a number of  dynamic detours, be it the title-track’s groove-driven final furlong or the spiralling instrumental colour of ‘Heat Death’. Crucially though, Planetary Clairvoyance remains unsullied by a desire to sound like anything other than Tomb Mold, these tracks more brutish and unapologetic than their predecessors, deformed by laser blasts and Xenomorph blood, yet persistently distinctive throughout. Perhaps due to that exclusive, one-of-a-kind sound, or simply because of the insane number of destructive riffs on display, Tomb Mold continue to strike a diabolical chord with death metal aficionados the world over, and Planetary Clairvoyance is one of the underground events of 2019. (We spoke to Tomb Mold to learn more, click here to read the interview)

 

5. Torpor – Rhetoric Of The Image

Despite being long overdue a prolonged period of dull oversaturation, the UK doom scene continued to excel in 2019, and at the head of the pack were post-sludge titans Torpor. The genre may be known for its aversion to pacier tempos, but Torpor’s strain of extremity is far from lackadaisical in nature. This time around, the band further distanced themselves from the hardcore and groove metal elements found on 2015’s From Nothing Comes Everything, delving deeper into the slow-burning darkness found on their 2016 split with Sonance, whilst retaining the brutish heft and an urgency seldom seen from bands of their type. 

There’s more to their sound than steamrolling grooves and oppressive riffs, though. Passages of restraint are present throughout, building anticipation but also proving captivating in their own right – the malevolent buzzing and bewitching spoken-word passages of ‘Two Heads On Gold’, as well as the bleak but poignant tones of ‘Mouths Full Of Water, Throats Full Of Ice’, are some of the album’s strongest moments. From start to finish, Rhetoric Of The Image comprises the trio’s best work to date, interspersing savage lumbering grooves and bleak growls with swelling synths, poetic spoken-word, melancholic chimes and cinematic soundscapes to birth an album that’s simultaneously both familiar and thrillingly inventive. (Learn more about this astounding album in our interview with Torpor)

 

4. Brutus – Nest

In recent years, Belgium has emerged as one of the world’s most bountiful hotspots for innovative heavy music, but with Nest Leuven trio Brutus stood out even amongst a scene known for its creativity. The band’s lively blend of post-rock and hardcore was introduced to us two years prior with their fantastic debut album Burst, with which they impressed enough to be picked up by Sargent House for the follow-up. The band were suddenly labelmates with the likes of Emma Ruth Rundle, Deafheaven, Russian Circles and Chelsea Wolfe, surely something that added some pressure, but the trio showed why they earned that signing with one of the year’s finest records.

Brutus’ impactful music relies heavily on meticulously-crafted melodies and vast atmospheric flourishes, the sort that post-rock bands thrive on, but their tracks are fuelled by a foot-stomping urgency often lacking from the genre. The trio’s merging of punk and post-rock spawns music that is powerful yet emotive, capable of both cathartic aggression and subtle poignancy, often simultaneously. Nest sees them on top form from start to finish, each track carrying an unstoppable momentum spearheaded by gigantic shout-along choruses and energetic instrumentation. (Check out this feature on the band to learn more!)

 

3. Venom Prison – Samsara

For a style so reliant on raucous savagery, death metal can so often be overly clinical and thus disappointingly mundane. Samsara, the second full-length from Welsh bruisers Venom Prison, quickly dismisses such concerns, surging forward from minute one and maintaining the adrenaline throughout, from lightning-paced opener ‘Matriphagy’ through to the unbridled belligerence of ‘Uterine Industrialisation’ and on to the old-school brutality of ‘Sadistic Rituals’ and the steamroller grooves of expansive closer ‘Naraka’. From start to finish, Samsara is a quality death metal album that delivers on the immense promise shown on the band’s hardcore-laden 2016 debut Animus

Not only is Samsara one of the best death metal albums in a year chock full of quality dm, but it also humanises a genre that has long thrived on shocking and offending, often just for the sake of it. Blood, gore and violence are everywhere in death metal, but turning those themes on their head and using them to shine a light on important issues is an ingenious idea that has brought a much-needed compassion to the genre. Every track goes beyond the usual guts ‘n’ gore – vicious single ‘Uterine Industrialisation’ shines a light on the Third World victims of commercial surrogacy, ‘Asura’s Realm’ talks of political corruption, ‘Implementing The Metaphysics Of Morals’ tackles the injustices rampant in sexual assault cases, ‘Megillus & Leaena’ confronts the homophobic and transphobic murders of two lovers and ‘Self-Inflicted Violence’ and ‘Dukkha’ discuss self-harm and depression. In crafting immense death metal whilst simultaneously finding a valid use for the genre’s bleak subject matter, Venom Prison have innovated in both sound and concept. Samsara is their best effort to date, and we can’t wait for what’s next. (Want more Venom Prison content? Check out this chat with guitarist Ash Gray)

 

2. Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race

Despite the particularly fine year that it has been for death metal, not to mention the countless bands pursuing a similarly technical and otherworldly course, Blood Incantation’s new-school supremacy is still unchallenged. Given their nigh-on flawless discography to date, anticipation for Hidden History Of The Human Race reached near hysteria online, and although something special was pretty much guaranteed, nobody could have predicted this.

A tumultuous prog-death netherworld amounting to something as cosmically, cerebrally compelling as it is disembowelingly brutal, Hidden History….‘s wonky, sci-fi death metal insanity is accelerated to out-of-this-world dimensions, especially on the the techni-colour ‘Giza Power Plant’ and eighteen-minute ripper ‘Awakening From The Dream Of Existence To The Multidimensional Nature Of Our Reality (Mirror Of The Soul)’, which is even more berserk, countless twists and turns and descents into blasting hell that oozes the authentic malevolence of the underground old-guard whilst still deliriously, psychedelically progged out. It’s a dramatic and destructive finale (although given it’s gluttonous length, the song is nearly half the record), and as with the rest of these tunes could hardly have been more meticulously conceived or executed, amounting to 36 of the most exhilarating minutes in not only the band’s history, but rivaling the genre’s archetypal classics. A monument to the enduring might of forwards-pushing extremity, Blood Incantation remain imperious overlords of death metal’s second golden age. (We spoke to Blood Incantation to hear more about the album, click here)

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1. Cult Of Luna – A Dawn To Fear

2019 has been a pretty terrible year in almost every regard, but music-wise, the realm of heavy music has at least continued to excel. It doesn’t matter what genre, subgenre or random conglomeration of noises you listen to, there have been stunning albums across the board. The genre has been pushed forward by a host of amazing new bands emerging to show the world what they’re capable of, but so to have the old guard demonstrated that there is still plenty of life and creativity to be found in their music too. A band that have consistently been at the top of their game from the moment that they started releasing music, Swedish maestros Cult Of Luna have this year once again proven that they are in a category all of their own. Every single album that they have produced has been an exceptional work of art, both in terms of musicianship, songwriting and the level of emotional scope and depth that they offer. Staying true to the experimental roots of the post-metal genre, each of the band’s offerings have been vastly different from one another, despite always being unmistakably them. The sextet have a mastery of dynamics and concept that few, if any, bands come close to and twenty years in they possess an nigh-on untouchable discography. They are true titans of heavy music who are yet to set a foot wrong, and A Dawn To Fear is clearly no exception to this.

As with every Cult Of Luna release, A Dawn To Fear needs to be given the time and attention it deserves. With eight songs and a runtime just shy of an hour and a half, it’s a striking and momentous body of work. Sonically, A Dawn To Fear sits in the gap between the mechanical, Orwellian monolith Vertikal (2013) and the organic, woodland nightmarish soundscapes of 2008’s Eternal Kingdom. From the opening bars of ‘The Silent Man’ the listener is struck by mountainous riffs that create the peaks and valleys of the album’s distinctive sound. A poignant and spiritual journey, with a depth of sound and meaning to drown in, A Dawn To Fear also closes with arguably the greatest song the band have written to date. Indeed, ‘The Fall’ is the perfect way to end a glorious, monumental work of art that stands proud as both Album of the Year and Cult Of Luna’s crowning achievement in a career lined with greatness. (Learn more about our AOTY in this interview)

Thank you for a fantastic year. See you in 2020.

Words: Adam Pegg, George Parr, Richard Lowe, Tony Bliss, Garrett Tanner, Stuart Wain, Brett Tharp, Nick Spooner, Benjamim Gomes, Jay Hampshire, John Higham, John Morrow, Gregory Brooks, Andrew Day, Tim Birkbeck