Metal as a genre is always pushing boundaries. Which bands did more pushing than their peers in 2019?
1. Öxxö Xööx – Ÿ
This French band seems to like pushing the limits of music while defying categorization. Sometimes their music is overly technical, with cold production, and could be viewed as being weird for the sake of being weird. But that’s not quite the impression I get, even if half their lyrics are written in a made-up language. Bands which try too hard at being weird tend to be obvious about it. For example: iwrestledabearonce, Okilly Dokilly, or “Swamp Slamming Shrekcore” band The Ogre Packet Slammers. Öxxö Xööx, on the other hand, has a method to the madness. There’s no way that Ÿ isn’t #1 for weird albums of 2019.
2. Warforged – I: Voice
Another band which defies categories. Warforged uses elements of death metal, black metal, post-metal, and jazz. Difficult to categorize and refreshingly new while remaining undoubtedly metal. Their record label (The Artisan Era) has high standards for releases and this is no exception.
3. The Number Twelve Looks Like You – Wild Gods
New Jersey’s The Number Twelve Looks Like You return with their first album in a decade. The result is eclectic, fun, and has plenty of heavy moments. Particularly “Ruin The Smile,” where the first 70 seconds sound like Swedish gothic doom veterans Draconian. I think the album is a hard sell for most metal fans though, given the influences from metalcore, screamo, and noise-rock. The Number Twelve Looks Like You isn’t even listed on Metal Archives. But that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to enjoyability. As Simon Handmaker wrote on Heavy Blog is Heavy: “…they encapsulate much of what matters to me with heavy music. Sure, I like riffs for the sake of riffs as much as the next person, but heavy music to me has always been about mood, atmosphere, a vibrant and robust emotional tone…. My favorite metal bands are those that, regardless of their genre(s) of origin, can turn their slab of auditory marble into a cohesive and evocative sculpture without turning away from the sound of heavy music or relegating it to the parts of ‘lesser importance’…”
4. No One Gets Out Alive – Die Like the Rest
This self-professed “Banjo Slam” band does exactly what’s promised on the surface. Simple death metal riffs entwined with acoustic banjo, hillbilly lyrics, and the occasional gunshot.
That’s really all which needs to be said.
5. Inter Arma – Sulphur English
“Sulphur English” isn’t especially weird compared to the other bands on this list. Certainly nowhere near the level of Öxxö Xööx. But it’s still an odd progressive death metal album which dips into other genres and moves music forward. Inter Arma is like a combination of Neurosis and Edge of Sanity, with their own flair.
Honorable mention: ‘Empath’ by Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend is always trying to do something new. And after 17 albums, it seems difficult to make something which stands out on its own. Yet Devin is still doing it even on his 18th. The music video for “Genesis” is all the proof one needs.