If 2019 was already good for live shows, the number of albums released that I really liked was so big, that some I did not even get to buying yet. So ranking a favorite 19 of 2019 became almost impossible. Therefore I used some criteria that made highly enjoyable albums fall out as they were good, but not necessarily their best ever releases. Think Queensryche, Dream Theater, Whitesnake, Candlemass or Angel Witch here. Others just had the misfortune of my choice of today. So hereunder a picture of albums I did like (a lot in cases) but did not pass the cut.
Those that did make it to my favorite list start hereunder with the usual start from the bottom at number 19.
19. Zonder/Wehrkamp - If It's Real
This duo made a big name in progressive metal and now take us back to the eighties with AOR at top level. This album reminded me of Night Ranger and Survivor bands that would score hits with movies. Broken hearted lyrics all over, this became a favorite for waking up slowly in weekends.
18. In Mourning - Garden of Storms
I only got this CD when seeing them for the second time in November. As In Mourning needs time to grow on me always this might in time rise further up. Live my favorite Tech Death band, on CD pretty interesting as well.
17. Peavy Perkin - Comdia : Inferno
This Spanish combo does take you on a rollercoaster ride across musical styles, with lots of extreme blended in. All five members perform vocals of several characters of Dante's story. Not for playing on the background, but what a ride it is when you take time and energy for it.
16. Spirit Adrift - Divided by Darkness
Doom Metal at it's finest for me. Being an American band these four remind me more of Scandinavian Heavy Metal Doom. Live they weer a notch rougher, but on CD also a highlight for darker days.
15. Borknagar - True North / Insomnium - Heart Like a Grave
An ex aequo to slip in one extra album at least. Both extreme prog bands had a classic previous album to follow up and managed wonderfully well. True North needed some turns to fully appreciate while Heart like a grave was hidden in the artwork of the year making you feel the nordic cold.
14. Hourswill - Dawn of the Same Flesh
Portugal's finest did return with a concept album. Heavy Metal with progressive edges and what a fine result they arrived at. The songs work based upon both good instrumentals and voice. I Should manage to see them on stage somewhere in 2020.
13. Opeth - In Cauda Venenum
Opeth did surprise once again, but luckily this time positively. I already did start losing interest in them before they left grunts behind , but now in two languages they release by far their best gruntfree album. The spirit of Steven Wilson is around in music and videoclips. This is art.
12. De Lirium's Order - Singularity
Thank you Jonathan for this tip. Although he pointed on the use of harmonica in Technical Death Metal, I was most astonished in the extremely strong power metal parts blended in so fine. Hope they can find a package to tour Europe with, as this should be interesting live.
11. Grand Slam - Hit the Ground
Guitarist Laurence Archer (of Stampede and UFO fame) put Phil Lynott's and his old band back to live. This CD holds some known songs (19, Military Man) originally written for this band and newer work of the last decades. A strong voice helps and Laurence Archer was always a favorite for those liking ther melodic guitars soloing nice.
10. Stuckfish - The Watcher
While my initial prog rock favorites of the Neo Prog era were quiet this year my NWOBHM friend Brian Mear wrote about this band (as wel as The Room thanks) Independent for obscure reasons, this second album shows Stuckfish to be one of the best Neoprog bands around. Seven longish songs give us the guitars, voice and keyboards that made me love that style from the beginning
9. Atlantean Kodex - The Course of Empire
Now that Manowar alienated their last French fans and Warlord remains not very productive Atlantean Kodex claims the throne of Epical Battle Metal. Sword yielding metal at it's best this band is epic and they close the pre-party at Up the Hammers next year.
8. Black Sites - Exile
I missed the debut of this band, but should check it out based upon this gem of an album. The base is heavy metal but some steps towards the progressive or gothic and doom do happen. Even Voivod seems to inspire a song. Very nice discovery.
7. Disillusion - The Liberation
A very welcome return in twofold. First it took them 13 years to release this third album. Second this one sounds much more a logical follow up to their classic debut album Back to Times of Splendor. They still have it in them to write long songs that keep you hooked from start to finish. Welcome back my friends.
6. Howling Sycamore - Seven Pathways to Annihilation.
Last year this band made it to number two with their debut album. This one is as strong, but the total surprise is gone. Again Davide Tiso, Jason McMaster and Hannes Grossmann prove that together they are capable to write the most chellenging and haunting progmetal there is. Not for everyone maybe, these are another beautiful seven songs to dig in time and time again.
5. Swallow the Sun - When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light
Swallow the Sun had to follow up a Triple album release. They took some years and then came up with this beautifull piece of dark metal. Gripping from start to finish it became the first highlight of the year. Then later on showing on stage how good the band is at the moment. It turned out they became the soundtrack for any dark day of 2019.
4. Diamond Head - The Coffin Train
Diamond Head does not do bad or more or less albums (yes I loved Canterbury too) With The Coffin Train they showed for me again being the best NWOBHM era band still releasing new music. The current line up might be their best ever and fast and melodic metal is all around. I was going to see them supporting Saxon in London and headlining in Belgium, but that got cancelled. Next March I will use the new opportunity already scheduled.
3. Ray Alder - What the Water Wants
Ray Alder is probably my favorite vocalist in metal. So when he is releasing his first ever solo album I am more than a bit curious. In the style of Fates Warning's Another Perfect Day this album contains catchy, to the point metal songs. Due to his warm and emotional voice it sounds all so fine and in The Road a certain funeral setlist song is included.
2. Wilderun - Veil of Imagination
Sometimes you oversee bands and a buzz going around starts your interest,. This is Wilderun's third album and if ever a band managed to blend many metal styles into beautifull sounding songs (thanks also to dan Swanö and Jens Bogren) it must be Wilderun. For an indepth review I can recommend Marcel's words at The Progspace. I meanwhile start looking forward very much to PPE in October where they will conquer I am sure.
1. Arch Matheos - Winter Ethereal
Without a new Fates Warning album in 2019 they are still all around my favorite releases. This duo already was impressive on 2011's Sympathetic Resonance. With Winter Ethereal I believe the songwriting was even better this time. From the first time I heard this album through headphones everything fell into place for me. John Arch still has the power and high pitced scream in his voice and Jim Matheos always was the underrated guitar hero. Nine songs all working well made this almost upon release my certain number one for the year. Love them or love them.