We’ll keep this (relatively) short and sweet. 2019 was a fantastic year for music, from old favorites putting out solid records (Tool, Slipknot, Norma Jean) to plenty of great tunes from fresh blood in the scene (Spotlights, Pine). Needless to say, there’s a lot of competition for our annual top albums of the year list. And while there’s quite a few releases this year that attempt to emulate the influences of Deftones and other alt-metal bands while still unfortunately coming across as one-dimensional, there’s also a number of bands that were successful at exploring that kind of territory – or even breaking beyond it to create something truly special and even life-affirming.
You might be asking, though – why 106 albums? Why not 20 albums, or even 10, or maybe 50? It’s simple – we just wanted to be different. Why limit yourself to one or two genres of music? There’s beauty to be found all over, so read on and discover something new – or something you might have missed.
Death Is A Warm Blanket (Microwave) 106
Microwave shed their emo skin and create a record that really wouldn’t sound out of place in the mid-90’s. Know who Microwave might well draw comparisons to here? Criminally underrated late 90’s post-hardcore supergroup Handsome. Alt-rock never sounded so good. It’s a bit short, but that’s about the only real complaint here.
Luciferous (Enterprise Earth) 105
Think all deathcore bands are the same (read: bad to mediocre)? Enterprise Earth are carrying the torch for the genre, with plenty of death metal influences as well. Could this be Dan Watson’s finest vocal performance yet?
The Valley (Whitechapel) 104
The Valley might well be Whitechapel’s best album to date. Full of solid songwriting and an intriguing new musical direction, the band’s previous attempts at growth (see: their previous 2 records) experiment with melody and depth that they hadn’t quite shown before. Don’t believe us? Listen to “When A Demon Defiles A Witch”.
EARTHANDSKY (Of Mice & Men) 103
Of Mice & Men improve their songwriting with a more melodic metalcore bent, resulting in their best record since The Flood.
True North (Borknagar) 102
Borknagar have found their True North over 2 decades into their career.
Forever, A Fast Life (Infinity Shred) 101
Nothing Stays (WVNDER) 100
Why is WVNDER so underrated? This alt-rock act has released 3 honestly great records, and Nothing Stays certainly has some of their best material yet. While the band’s early pop-punk influence is still present, tracks like “Stranger” display a sense of emotional depth that is very apparent throughout the album.
Charli (Charli XCX) 99
Charli XCX is bringing pop music into the future. The 3019 future.
amo (Bring Me The Horizon) 98
amo is Bring Me The Horizon’s most experimental album to date, and while the band’s experimental bent dosen’t always work, when it does – on tracks like the EDM-influences “Nihilist Blues” – it REALLY shines.
Peach Club (Emarosa) 97
Emarosa goes pop-rock. And it’s really infectious. Are you surprised? Emarosa’s big leap into pop-rock paid off massively, with Bradley Walden’s soulful tales of love and loss perfectly contrasting with the 80s-inspired grooves. Proof that bands can fully move on from their sonic roots WITHOUT losing what makes them great.
White Bat (He Is Legend) 96
15+ years later, He Is Legend are still putting out slabs of molten, Southern-influenced rock music.
Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Lana Del Rey) 95
This is the record Lana Del Rey was always born to make.
The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds (SeeYouSpaceCowboy) 94
2000’s experimental metalcore is making a comeback! Except this time, it’s channeled through a new breed of bands, SeeYouSpaceCowboy being among the more impressive.
Terraformer (Thank You Scientist) 93
One listen to Terraformer and you might well consider Thank You Scientist one of the most essential progressive rock bands around right now.
Adore (Numenorean) 92
Numenorean is (sort of) like if Gojira had more post-black metal influence. The title track alone will likely put a chill up your spine.
Blushing (Copeland) 91
It’s Copeland. Do you expect anything less than heartfelt indie pop? An album that captures an atmosphere of tranquil bliss like few you’ll ever hear, this is a gorgeous listen from start to finish. If you love Copeland already, this is their best yet. If you don’t… well… time to get on board.
Vaudlow (Vaudlow) 90
While virtually unknown to this point, having just emerged with their debut album this year, cinematic post-rock two piece Vaudlow have burst onto the scene with a record that punches far above their weight in a crowded genre. Vaudlow might draw immediate comparisons to the likes of Explosions In The Sky or Lights & Motion, the kind of music they create manages to convey strong emotion without words. Awfully impressive.
From Voodoo To Zen (Tides From Nebula) 89
Tides From Nebula have always been a solid, consistent band when it comes to the kind of progressive-leaning post-rock they produce – see 2013’s Eternal Movement for proof. However, From Voodoo To Zen shows the veteran act at their finest moments to date, with the addition of synths and electronic soundscapes improving the quality within.
Pang (Caroline Polachek) 88
OK, I’m Sick. (Badflower) 87
Badflower is one of 2019’s biggest rock success stories. With blindingly effective and honest lyricism on tracks like the infectious “Ghost”, it’s no surprise the young band is headlining their own sold-out tours.
We Are Not Your Kind (Slipknot) 86
With all band members (save impressive drummer Jay Weinberg) now in their 40’s, and 20 years removed from their self-titled debut album, you could be forgiven for thinking Slipknot had lost their fire. One listen to tracks like “Nero Forte”, though, and you’ll understand when Corey Taylor’s voice breaks through your speakers. Loudly.
Turn Off The Light (Kim Petras) 85
Kim Petras’s futuristic electro-hyperpop stylings are exactly what you need in your life. Best listened to in short bursts.
Conduit (Gravemind) 84
Gravemind’s long-awaited debut full-length is a hgue step up from the already impressive The Deathgate EP. If this is where tech-leaning deathcore is headed in the future, we want every part of it.
Melancholy (Shadow Of Intent) 83
Shadow Of Intent steps up to the plate and hits a home run. Again.
Pitfalls (Leprous) 82
There are few Pitfalls to be found on Leprous’s 6th (!!!) full-length album, as despite its more synth and vocal-driven nature, the veteran band finds new ways to be compelling anyway.
Paris (Owel) 81
Sweeping, orchestrally-driven alt-rock with lots of post-rock and ambient influences, Owel are too underrated. Album opener “Weather Report”, simply put, is one of the most urgent songs of 2019 – and to no surprise, Gates vocalist Kevin Dye co-produced the album as well.
The Act (The Devil Wears Prada) 80
The Devil Wears Prada continue to grow and evolve.
Sleeptalk (Dayseeker) 79
Going “soft” doesn’t have to also mean “boring” if you’re a post-hardcore act. Of course, when you’re armed with a powerhouse vocalist in Rory Rodriguez, your talent speaks for itself. Keeping all the emotional intensity of their past work while going in a more melodic direction, Dayseeker made one of the standout post-hardcore albums of 2019. Rory’s vocals and lyrics are an absolute knockout, especially on opener “Drunk”.
Gold & Grey (Baroness) 78
Dimly Lit (From Indian Lakes) 77
Love & Decay (Spotlights) 76
Spotlights are one of the music scene’s best-kept secrets. Throwing together elements of alt-metal, post-metal, and shoegaze together into one big melting pot,
Beautiful Oblivion (Issues) 75
Issues throw a bunch of genres into a blender, and interestingly, most of them stick. While not full of relatively heavy (read: nu-metal) songs of their previous two records, Issues are one of the few bands adept at sounding like Meshuggah and Justin Timberlake. At the same time. Vocalist Tyler Carter sells the hooks on songs like “Drink About It”. Issues prove that major lineup changes can in fact be a catalyst for growth, as they come back with their best album to date following the departure of Michael Bohn. Embracing their pop/R&B influences like never before, this is the band’s catchiest and most richly layered body of work.
H.A.Q.Q. (Liturgy) 74
Far and away the most compelling Liturgy album to date.
How We Got By (Air Review) 73
Catchy, yet heartbreaking electronic indie pop with a compelling tale to tell behind the music.
Touch (The Panic Division) 72
Do you like 80’s synthpop but with a modern sheen? Same.
Noctiluca (Helms Alee) 71
If you’ve never quite dove into the
Empath (Devin Townsend) 70
Music Fan: “What genre is the new Devin Townsend album?” Devin Townsend: “Yes.”
Sulphur English (Inter Arma) 69
One of avant-garde metal’s most consistent bands delivers once again.
The Grand Descent (Fuming Mouth) 68
Hey look! Yet another promising new band blending hardcore with explosive Swedish death metal. And Fuming Mouth are as good as their peers at doing it, too.
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Billie Eilish) 67
Did you think we wouldn’t include one of the biggest pop albums of 2019 on our list? Uhhhhhh, duh.
All Mirrors (Angel Olsen) 66
Into the darkness.
Walk Beyond The Dark (Abigail Williams) 65
On Walk Beyond The Dark, Abigail Williams cash in on their obvious talent to create some of the most jaw-dropping moments in extreme metal you’ll hear all year.
Divisions (Starset) 64
Morbid Stuff (PUP) 63
Punk rock has never been more fun.
Forgotten Paths (Saor) 62
Can we get a hell YES to atmospheric Celtic black metal? Seriously, Forgotten Paths will make you feel like you’re in Scotland, even if you’ve never actually been there.
The Carpathian Summit (Illyria) 61
Illyria’s sophomore record sees the young Aussie post-black metal act hitting the big leagues.
Fake Blood (Heart Attack Man) 60
HEART ATTACK MAN FOR LIFE.
Failed Gods (Sparrows) 59
Sparrows are one of the more underrated bands in post-hardcore right now. That’s probably because the Canadian outfit pursues a more nuanced, expansive, and spacey take on the genre that brings to mind Hopesfall or even Cave In. Lofty comparisons, to be sure, but also welcome ones.
replicr, 2019 (65daysofstatic) 58
It’s not quite on the level of, say, The Fall Of Math – but 65daysofstatic’s new record is still a very good effort that sees the veteran
Primrose Path (Dream State) 57
Dream State’s long-awaited debut album does indeed measure up to their previous material. The title track, “Primrose”, is a song on par with their breakout hit “White Lies”, and while vocalist CJ Gilpin is the main draw here, the band’s alt-rock/post-hardcore sound is fleshed out by a band that is just as talented. Think a better, more consistent In This Moment mixed with serious Circa Survive influences, and you have a glimpse of what Dream State have to offer here.
Samsara (Venom Prison) 56
Venom Prison are part of an exciting new wave of death metal bands that deal with current issues in an intelligent, thought-provoking way.
uknowhatimsayin¿ (Danny Brown) 55
I know what you’re saying, Danny Brown.
Finding God Before God Finds Me (Bad Omens) 54
Person: “Hey these new Bad Omens songs are kinda soft. Where’s the metalcore heaviness?! UGH!”
Bad Omens: “Listen to ‘Dethrone'”
Person: “I wasn’t expecting that”
Epicenter (Aviana) 53
Unlike many of their peers, progressive metalcore band Aviana up the ante with their heaviest material to date. Also, double bass.
Hidden History Of The Human Race (Blood Incantation) 52
Blood Incantation just casually dropped one of the best death metal records of the decade at the stroke of midnight.
A Brief Memoriam (Frail Body) 51
Mixing elements of screamo, post-hardcore, and post-rock, Frail Body are an exciting new band that, much like their influences in Loma Prieta, are building towards something special. A Brief Memoriam is just the beginning.
Modern Mirror (Drab Majesty) 50
Retro yet modern at the same time, Drab Majesty are quickly becoming a notable name in electronic/synthpop.
Panorama (La Dispute) 49
On album #4, La Dispute are firing on all cylinders.
Final Transmission (Cave In) 48
RIP Caleb Scofield.
An Oblivion Above (Together To The Stars) 47
Post-black metal bands aren’t supposed to release a fully-formed debut this good. Together To The Stars aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and to make things even more intriguing, it’s only a two-man project!
Crux (Moon Tooth) 46
Ambitious progressive rock that also wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio, considering how accessible Moon Tooth is in general.
Death Atlas (Cattle Decapitation) 45
Bang your head.
The Sleepwalk Transmissions (We Never Learned To Live) 44
If older Underoath, Hopesfall, Thursday, and Modern Error had a baby, We Never Learned To Live would probably be the result. A band that easily merges older and newer styles of post-hardcore and metalcore together, WNLTL are really onto something special here.
Deserted (Gatecreeper) 43
Do you like early-90’s Swedish death metal riffs? If the answer is yes (it should be) then listen to the new Gatecreeper record.
The Fleeting Light Of Impermanence (The Appleseed Cast) 42
This is The Appleseed Cast’s best record, arguably, since 2003’s Two Conversations. You could even make a case for this being the album that the indie/emo/post-rock band have been building towards for quite a while.
All My Heroes Are Cornballs (JPEGMAFIA) 41
One of the best rap records of 2019.
Silencia (Hammock) 40
More quality post-rock/ambient music that soothes the soul.
Misery Never Forgets (wristmeetrazor) 39
Underground metalcore is rising up.
Fear Inoculum (Tool) 38
After 13 years, one of rock’s most deliberately mysterious acts returned… and honestly, they weren’t much changed. Yet as a fan, this album delivered everything you really wanted from Tool, with great compositions, killer riffs, and more clever turns of phrase by Maynard that you’ll be unpacking long after 2019 is over.
The Language Of Injury (Ithaca) 37
English metalcore band Ithaca have burst onto the scene with their debut album, and while it’s hard to pin down a proper genre for the newcomers (post-? Mathcore?), one thing that can’t be denied is their energy and passion.
The Sea Of Tragic Beasts (Fit For An Autopsy) 36
Fit For An Autopsy are one of the most important bands in heavy music right now. Metal? Death metal? Hardcore? Deathcore? It doesn’t matter. Just enjoy the 5 album win streak they’re on right now.
Holding Absence (Holding Absence) 35
This band’s early singles (none of which made the cut here) are some of the most thrilling new post-hardcore music we’ve heard in years… and their debut full-length comes very close to measuring up to them. Soaring, emotive vocals make this mix of haunting melody and occasionally crunchy post-hardcore heaviness one that’s instantly memorable and emotionally rich.
Mother Nature (The Dangerous Summer) 34
One of the most consistent bands in pop punk/emo take a bold leap forward. For the first time, TDS push their sound in thrilling new directions, embracing sweeping electronics and even vocoder(!)… yet none of their emotionally-charged songwriting is lost in the process. If anything, the risks taken here enhance the storytelling, and the album’s themes.
Good At Falling (The Japanese House) 33
Saw you in a dream.
KOSMIK (Violet Cold) 32
One-man post-black metal band that rivals the biggest moments in the genre.
Spiritual Instinct (Alcest) 31
While maybe not quite on the level of Kodama, Alcest issue more compelling post-metalgaze (is this a thing? Yes) on Spiritual Instinct.
Surviving (Jimmy Eat World) 30
25 years into their storied career as one of emo & pop-punk’s vanguards, Jimmy Eat World are doing far more than just Surviving – they’re thriving.
New Hell (Greet Death) 29
Deathwish Inc. only signs the best.
Colours In The Sun (Voyager) 28
Aussie prog-rock stalwarts bring in some honest-to-God synthwave influences here. The experiments work pretty well, and really flesh out the band’s sound, which translate effectively. Plus, prog-metal that’s fun is surprisingly rare.
tryhard (The Band Camino) 27
This young pop-rock band is already exploding, and though this is labeled as an 8-track EP, we’ll count it considering how ridiculously good it sounds. It’s clear that there’s a distinctly accessible and catchy sound, but there’s influences of everyone from Third Eye Blind to All Time Low to The Maine here. Just go listen to “Hush Hush” and get back to us.
All Hail (Norma Jean) 26
Holy riffs, Batman! But also atmosphere.
Periphery IV: Hail Stan (Periphery) 25
As a veteran progressive metal act, Periphery display their biggest set of balls to date by opening this record with “Reptile”, a 16 minute song. Impressive.
Lotus (Soen) 24
With Katatonia on a break of some sort, Soen continue to help fill the void of melodic progressive rock/metal bands with a strong vocal element.
You Deserve Love (White Reaper) 23
A modern power-pop/rock band that turns the guitars way, way up? Fantastic. You deserve this album.
Patterns In Mythology (Falls Of Rauros) 22
Breathtaking atmospheric black metal.
Spotted Horse (Glassing) 21
Distilling elements of black metal, post-hardcore, and even more melodic pop into their music, Glassing have emerged as a distinct entity early on. This is one of the most exciting albums we’ve heard in a while, honestly.
Nothing Left To Love (Counterparts) 20
Counterparts are honestly the Chevelle of metalcore. Every 2(ish) years, they end up releasing a consistently good, often great record that becomes someone’s favorite of their discography. The genres are obviously different, but songs like “Wings Of Nightmares” are destined to become Counterparts setlist staples anyway.
No One Goes To Heaven (Left Behind) 19
Your favorite underground heavy hardcore/metal bands gets even more Southern and sludgy on full-length number 3. Vocalist Zach Hatfield impressively channels the likes of mid-period Corey Taylor, too.
Nest (Brutus) 18
Another one of these ridiculously good post-(insert genre here) bands that are also melodic, Belgium’s Brutus are quickly becoming a fan favorite. Trouble comes in threes. So does Brutus – and their ridiculously talented drummer/vocalist Stefanie.
Eternal Forward Motion (Employed To Serve) 17
The title track alone will have your hardcore or metal heart’s blood pumping.
The Goat (Puppy) 16
Riffs and pop vocals and heavier riffs with pop vocals and back again.
Clairvoyant (State Faults) 15
State Faults continue to release some of the best post-hardcore/screamo around. Welcome back.
Alien (Northlane) 14
Injecting elements of DNB and mote prominent electronics into their fairly standard progressive metalcore sound, vocalist Marcus Bridge – and Northlane as a whole – continue their growth in all the right ways. Moments like the emotional “Bloodline” and “Talking Heads” are fraught with darkness, but for Northlane, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Firsthand Accounts (Johnny Booth) 13
Modern metal’s newest shining lights, Johnny Booth are awfully impressive throughout, with highly effective drumming as well on tracks like “Beyond Repair”. Do you like blast beats but also melody in your metalcore? Look no further.
A Different Shade Of Blue (Knocked Loose) 12
Knocked Loose’s long-awaited sophomore album manages to be even more heavy and over the top than Laugh Tracks was, and there’s even elements of death metal on display (see: “By The Grave” and “In The Walls”).
A Dawn To Fear (Cult Of Luna) 11
There is no dawn to fear on Cult Of Luna’s newest full-length, but rest assured that the Swedish post-metal veterans are just as inspired as ever.
Starve (Blood Youth) 10
The nu-metal revival is on, but Blood Youth’s second full-length still reigns in the more melodic hardcore/metalcore influences of the band’s sound. And boy, is this British outfit going places.
Luz Devora (Joliette) 9
Mexican post-hardcore band Joliette are a special, yet highly underrated band that deserves to be on your radar. The band’s taking of influences from the likes of Glassjaw and early Deftones (see: “Jupiter Jovial”) and Converge certainly make them worthy of a listen, but it’s their quality songwriting that’ll make you a Joliette convert.
Magdalene (FKA Twigs) 8
Another stroke of brilliance from the British avant-garde pop/R&B superstar. This is her great leap forward.
Pine (Pine) 7
It’s a crime that Pine’s long-awaited self-titled album isn’t getting more attention. Every big pop-rock artist should be bringing them on tour, and the band’s indie/shoegaze influences give this very bright young band even more potential. Wow!
Astronoid (Astronoid) 6
Dream-thrash sounds like the most fun genre of music alive, and Astronoid are the true poster children for it.
Beauty Is A Destructive Angel (Renounced) 5
Renounced are carrying the torch for what updated, early-2000’s metalcore should sound like today. While certainly the band’s previous two records were quite good, tracks like the album closer “In A Statue Of Frozen Glass” evoke memories of hearing bands like Misery Signals for the first time. but with an intriguing post-metal influence that would be awfully interesting to hear expanded on.
Reverie Of The Revolving Diamond (Seizures) 4
Avant-garde metalcore that borrows from classic bands of the genre (early Cave In, Botch, Coalesce) and injects spacey, emotive elements into it as well. Calling Seizures possibly groundbreaking might not be too far off, as this is certainly one of the more special records in the genre.
The Dark Pool (Thornhill) 3
Australian progressive metalcore band Thornhill are truly onto something special with their debut record, The Dark Pool. Here’s what makes this record such a triumph, though – it’s the way the young band dives into serious Deftones and Karnivool influences without coming across as pretenders that makes them special. There’s a shocking knowledge of emotional depth and creativity on display here (see the album’s centerpiece, “Lily & The Moon”), but make no mistake, the band knows when to just go in, too. Album closer “Where We Go When We Die” is proof of that, as midway through the song, Thornhill unleashes a massive, head-snapping breakdown that doesn’t just rival the best bands in the genre – it outclasses many of them. What planet did Thornhill come from?
“You speak of paradise
Like it exists forever”
Sundowning (Sleep Token) 2
Sleep Token are probably THE band of 2019, at least in the rock + metal scenes. Plenty of other publications will no doubt offer their own deserved praise for the genre-bending band, who merge pop and electronic influences with interesting progressive/tech-leaning metal. We’ll just offer up one word…
ZUU (Denzel Curry) 1
Denzel Curry’s metaphorical victory lap on ZUU is an achievement in itself, but even more so when you consider that the Carol City rapper freestyled the entire record. No cap, that makes Denzel Curry one of the most essential artists of 2019 – and even moreso when you consider how much of a departure this is even from his breakout record, TA1300. A love letter and a celebration of all that’s great about South Florida hip-hop, tracks like “Ricky” and “Automatic” exude a kind of strength and confidence that’s hard not to get excited about. And if the stereo-rattling beats don’t capture your attention, maybe the brilliant one-liners (“Fuck a Pop-Tart, we carry toasters for real”, from ‘Birdz’) will. The only question is – where will Denzel Curry go from here? It really doesn’t matter, just enjoy the ride.