2019 has been filled with an array of memories that, at this point in the year, feels discombobulated and honestly a little unreal. The only clear memory that I really have of is all the amazing new music that has filled my record collection and spotify library. But, this post is not about me, at least not me personally, instead it is about the music that has carried me to this finishing point, as well as prepare my leap into the new decade. So let’s just get into shall we?
Disclaimer: The following albums listed are not in a particular order, just more so what pops in my head as I write (and go through my record collection/Spotify).
Ville Valo & Agents – Ville Valo & Agents
The first album that I immediately became obsessed with this year is Ville Valo‘s first “solo” full-length album outside of his longterm band, HIM. I remember vividly, the tragic 2017 announcement of HIM parting ways after a final goodbye tour later that year. HIM had been, and continues to be, one of my all time favourite bands, so that announcement instilled the fear in me that I might not ever hear Ville Valo‘s voice again.
Then in November of 2018, much to my luck, Ville announced on his 42nd birthday that he will be releasing new music in 2019 in a collaborationwith Finnish rock icon Esa Pulliainen and his band the “Agents“. Ville Valo & The Agents is a tribute project to another Finnish rock legend, Rauli Badding.
Alas, the final product of this interesting concoction, that included all these talented Finns, gave us this beautifully sentimental soft-rock album. The VV&A record is an elegant mix of contemporary jazz-inspired rock songs, as well as classic beach rock that transports you back to the golden hippy era. Although it may be a drastic change from what we’re used to hearing from Ville, it’s safe to say that it is a mature glow-up for the now 43-year-old musician.
Many of you may be thinking that this album made the list due to extreme biased love for Ville Valo, and well, yeah…maybe, however, my love for this record is not limited to Valo’s incredibly velvety voice. This album also gave me an experience that I would never have, hadn’t it been for this record’s introduction to Finnish culture and music.
This record opened a whole new door for me, in terms of a new genre, as well as a whole new language. I ended up spending countless of hours researching and listening to an abundance of Finnish music this year, in order to learn more about this project, as well as the general basis of Finland and their music. Furthemore, I think it’s a fair assumption to say that the “Agents” had been fully conscious that this would be the result of choosing Ville Valo, an international superstar, to front such a small and intimate project. Now me, and many other international fans, have learned the lyrics to songs that had once been sung the earlier youth of Finland, despite not knowing what the lyrics mean. What a brilliant way to pay respect to their national music icon
Sometimes a good record is more than just being catchy or well mixed (which I do believe the VV&A is both). It’s also about the intended impact it hopes to make. The VV&A album shows an emeculant amount of confidence, love and pride for Finland and again, I just find that to be so beautiful, as well as valuable. This album is so much more than “a new Ville Valo project”, it is, instead, a prideful display of these talented musicians’ nationality and cultural background.
Wasteland, Baby! – Hozier
Keeping the pace of more soft albums going, the next record on my list is the sophomore album by Irish blues-rock (folk?) artist, Andrew Hozier-Byrne. Hozier is an artist that I have been listening to for at least 6 years now, thus this album had been a highly anticipated release for me.
Since the release of Hozier’s debut album, it has taken around five years of hard work for the Irish artist to feel satisfied with his creation of his sophomore, and therefore took a good chunk of time for him to finally release it into the world… but man, was it worth the wait.
Despite this being a more “soft” record, in comparison to some other records I will be talking about, this is one of my favourite, dare I say, rock albums of 2019. Controversial statement? Well, if you look past the fact that Hozier has become a radio-brand-friendly artist, and actually give this album a listen, you would understand what I’m talking about. To me, rock music is about rebellion, soul and passion… which is everything this album encompasses.
You don’t always need the loud guitars that are mixed with dirty tones to have your music labelled rock and roll. Hozier’s music keeps the soul of rock music alive through his political chants and soulful harmonies.
What also helped for me to really see the soul in this record, is the opportunity that I got to catch the “Wasteland, baby!” tour back in October. More often than not, it is during the live experience an artist is able to properly portray what it is what they want to actually say with their music, due to the special audience to aritst bond that (hopefully) happens at a live show.
Hearing the songs “Dinner & Diatribes”, “As It Was” and the hit-single “Nina Cries Power” come alive on that stage, enlightened a new level of understanding of political anger that Hozier snuck into this album, and therefore introduced a new level of appreciation for his work. I went back home after that show and could not stop playing his entire discography for weeks on end.
Wasteland, Baby! is much more than another Urban Outifitters wall decore, but instead a passionate 21st-century cry for rebellion and change, packaged so discreetly in a folk-rock-record.
III – The Lumineers
The last folk-rock record that stole my heart this year, is the third studio album by the American band The Lumineers. Some of you may know already that I am actually a huge sucker for heart-wrenching blues-Americana music, which is why this album blew me out of the water in the most (unexpected) emotional way.
Now, The Lumineers are no strangers to writing music that will make you mourn a love that you, may or may not, ever had, but I was not expecting them to drop the saddest album of the year. I find this to be a very bold move by the band, because, typically, commercial artists like The Lumineers would play it safe and create something a bit more upbeat so they can get a lot of radio play. But the band said “f*ck it” and stuck to what felt best, by creating a 12 track moving (as shit) concept album, with a music video for every single track to get you crying.
(I highly suggest you experience this album by watching the music videos in the numbered order on their youtube).
This album is not the hipster-coffee-shop breakup album that they give the impression it might be, especially with their earlier work. Instead, this record is a fully developped story about a family and their struggles of being raised in an environment. The main theme of the record is the consequences of family instability due the lack of ignorance of severe mental health problems, like alcoholism. Sadly a not so rare occurence in North America, therefore making it pretty damn relatable for wide scope of individuals.
There were aspects that songs on this record touched that even hit home with me. As someone who, once upon a time, had an intense relationship with an individual that struggled immensely with severe addiction, and this was because he, too, was raised in an environment with untreated addiction, I found this album to be so moving. This ignornace, really does turn into the domino effect that this record highlight, and that so many people don’t want to acknowledge.
It is for this reason that I’m grateful that a more commercial band like The Lumineers are using their platform to talk about these important things.
Overall, III is an incredibly heavy album that I have come to cherish over time. Although I don’t want to always be reminded of some of the topics that are discussed in this record, it is importtant to come back to those feelings every now and then. Also, again, with all the thought and work that was put into the storyline, as well as the music videos…This record deserves a lot more recognition.
Now, we’re at the part of this article that I am most excited about because I will be telling you about more “underground” bands that I think stole the show this year.
Eorpe – Skraeckoedlan
If it hasn’t been evident enough, after my trip to Sweden back in February, I came back with an excruciating thirst to delve more into the music culture of that gorgeous country. Moroever, Skraeckoeldan had actually been one of the first few bands on this musical journey I’ve had in 2019, and thus I feel it only makes sense that I discuss them first (in my list of Swedish bands that I have fallen in love with).
As mentioned in my earlier article, the first thing I appreciated about this band is the fact that they were one of the rare bands that did not feel the need to sing/write in English to capture a vast audience. They seem to be intelligently aware that music fans do not care what language a band is singing in, because what actually brings us together is the sweet riffs and gnarly tones of the music itsself. Although a huge part of me does wish I understood what Skraeckoedlan are singing (men jag försöker lära mig svenska), the band does not fail to capture my attention with their beautiful instrumental and vocal abilitis in their latest album “Eorpe”.
Furthermore, another reason this record in particular stands out to me, from the other Swedish doom/stoner bands that I have come across this year, is the fact that Skraeckoeldan is more “clean” from other bands. No, I am not talking about their hygeine routine, although I am sure they are literally clean. What I mean is that they don’t overuse the fuzz, nor do they rely on that technique to make them more “heavy” and badass. Vocals are not so hazy that you can no longer hear what is happening, and the album incorporates a lot of clean, but badass, guitars. Yet, there are still those sweet moments when the fuzz level is kicked up, and you’re lost in the head-banging world. I just found it to be a really nice balance that made the album addicting to listen to.
I’m excited to see what this band brings out in 2020 because I’ve already played the crap out of their last three albums in 2019. (I also hope to catch them live when I go back to Sweden in the summer).
Paralyzed – Silver Devil
2019 has, without a doubt, been a big year in terms of fuzz-doom music from all around the world, but again Sweden has snubbed another top spot on my list. However, before I get into the discussion of the album itself, I want to say a massive thank you to Mats of Ozium Records for sending me a copy of this LP, because of him, I found a new favourite album as well as a favourite band.
I know I use the hyperbole of “face-melting” quite often when discussing music, however, this album is so doomy that it does truly melt your face off with it’s “in your face” fuzz and gnarly riffs.
Paralyzed is one of the few records that I have stumbled across this year that I can let play on loop for hours, and not even feel the need to change it. The consistent tempo throughout the songs blend very nicely, but there’s still enough change from track to track to keep your interest. Also, spoiler alert, there are some juicy riffs snuck into this album that hit you out of nowhere. I remember the first time I listened to this album, and it got to the sixth track “Octopus”, I stopped what I was doing and pulled the needle back so I could replay it — Just a belter of a tune.
I know it can be hard for people to get into this genre (doom/stoner/sludge/etc) because all the bands can start sounding the same and the songs, in general, tend to be quite lengthy. However, when you find gems like Silver Devil you get excited about the genre because the music is heavy enough for you to feel the music, but it’s not intense to the point you may need breaks from it (Personally, when I listen to black metal, for example, after an hour or two, I need breaks from it).
The album Paralyzed is genuinely just a high-quality album and I recommend you listen to it from start to finish without skipping a track or shuffling it, for you to get that doomy-adventure that I’m talking about.
(PS: check out Ozium Records for more bands — I also recommend Hoodoo Ritual)
No Comfort – Monolord
I don’t want to put any of these albums in hierarchical order because they are all special in their own way; and depending on my mood, they are being played on a crazy level of a repeat at one time or the other. However, No Comfort, is very close to the top of the list of my most favourite albums of the decade.
It’s not often that I find a “new” band that I feel relieved that I somehow crossed paths with their music, but that is exactly how I feel about Monolord. Again, another big statement, but there are two main reasons for why I feel like this. One, Monolord is one of the bands that got me to dive more into the doom/stoner metal category. Two, they are just goddamn amazingly talented. Yup, it really is that simple.
Now, I may be new to the genre and don’t know the technicalities of guitars, but I do have ears, and I have been listening to an ABUNDANCE of stoner/doom metal bands this year… so I feel like I have built a moderately fair foundation for me to be able to say that Monolord is top tier in their genre.
This album No Comfort has been getting a lot of hype and recognition this year, and normally that is due to typical sheep mentality. That is, if a handful of people say its the best, people will just buy into it. However, No Comfort really is one of the best albums of the year. If you listen to their previous album Rust (2017), and then No Comfort, the first thing you will notice is the massive leap in production quality. The record is masterfully mixed by the band’s drummer, Esben Williems. Right away you can tell that he took the time and effort to skillfully balance the signature Monolord fuzz, all the while cleaning some aspects like the vocals of Thomas (I don’t know the technicalities so please bear with me), thus making the listening experience truly fantastic.
Honestly, I think I’ve written over 20 reviews of this record on all my social media platform, and most likely mentioned this band in every article that I’ve written this year, so at this point all I can say without repeating myself is just trust me when I say that this record is worth listening to. There’s also a reason why Monolord has taken the doom/sludge/stoner scene by storm, these men are talented and humble musicians that will take over the world in no time.
Grasping Time- Vokonis
Another Swedish band that has taken over all my playlists, with great reason, of course, is Vokonis. Grasping Time is the third full-length studio album by the three-piece stoner/doom metal band and the second album of theirs that I’ve fallen in love with!
At the start of 2019, as I mentioned earlier, thanks to my trip to Sweden, my interest in stoner/doom metal music had grown immensely.. Especially after visiting the “Sound Pollution” record store in Gamla Stan. Being able to dig through their eclectic collection (well, eclectic in the hard-rock/metal genre) introduced a whole new realm of music from me. This experience had also, and more importantly, introduced me to doom/stoner metal bands that I would have not been able to find before. (hence the vast amount of Swedish bands that I’ve been discovering this year).
Anyways, I was listening to Vokonis’ previous album The Sunken Djinn a lot on this trip. Although at the time, I was not aware of the band themselves, I just remember enjoying their sound and finding it to be quite distinguishable from a lot of other bands that I was rotating through on Spotify. So, although, I at the time, didn’t take note of the band itself, their distinguishable features was how I was able to identify the band in September when they dropped Grasping Time. I then remembered that this album was by the same band that I had previously fallen in love with, and took more effort to get to know the band.
Much like Skraeckoeldan, the band Vokonis has a sweet balance of clean guitars, vocals and overall feel, but then has moments that drop you into the world of fuzz and heavy tones. What I also notably dig about Vokonis is the vocalist Simon Ohlsson, and his ability to have a gorgeous singing voice and then have some intense metal vocals that shine throughout the album.
Again, there’s something quite special about the ability to mix the more sludgy sounds with a classic hard rock feel. Grasping Times hit the nail on the head with this record.
Old Star – Darkthrone
In 2019, the Norwegian Blackened Death Metal band and LEGENDS, Darkthrone, dropped their 18th studio album earlier this year. Their EIGHTEENTH album!! At this rate, you would think it would be excruciatingly painful to make exciting music. However, legends are legendary for a reason, and if anything, both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are only getting better with age.
Despite my obvious excitement for the record, there had been a lot of mixed reactions to the LP Old Star. Much of these reactions were the typical metal-elitist complaints that the band isn’t “hard” anymore, and therefore are unable to produce “quality music”. These complaints also included the notion that since Darkthrone have been gradually moving away from “TRVE BLACK METAL”, they will never be able to top their first three “extreme black metal” albums blah blah blah.
Yeah, god-forbid that after EIGHTEEN albums, the band creates music that they enjoy making. To me, that’s exactly what this record is. It’s good f*cking music, as well as the obvious sensation that both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto put a lot of heart into.. Oh wait, is that not metal to say? I mean, they put uh …hate into the record?
Nonetheless, I am a new fan of the band; I’ve only been listening to them for a year (or two at the most), so I cannot give an extensive rundown based on the history… Despite having been doing some research, and I feel that privately I know enough of. However, some metal fans, especially black-metal fans, are quite gate-keeping so I will keep those comments to myself. Therefore, what I can say, though, is that I enjoyed the hell out of this record and played it extensively since its release.
Songs like “The Key Inside The Wall” and “Alp Man” are heavy as f*ck, but have nice melodic aspects that I would find myself regularly going back to. Also, that riff in the middle of “Alp Man” is well lush; dare I say even a little doomy, which goes with this year’s theme… It is no surprise why I gravitate towards it so much. Ultimately, a great album by a great band, it is not new information
Honourary mention of bands that I found this year and LOVED, but either haven’t dropped a full length LP this year, or decided to cut a full review in order to save time:
- Electric Monolith
- Buffalo Fuzz
- Wanderers (Did drop a full length LP that I do LOVE)
- The Ugly Kings
- Vvla (also dropped a full length LP that is really good)
- ’68 (dropped my favourite album of the decade, last year)
- Tainted Lady
Wow, can you believe it? I am back! and I’m back for good! Your girl has officially finished her bachelor’s degree and is back to writing full time!
Thank you so much for your patience with me and this website this year, it is genuinely greatly apprciated. Please know that if you enjoyed this article, as well as just me in general (weird, I know), that you should sign up for email notifications because I am 100% back to writing full-time. Yes, that means weekly articles, and exciting projects. These projects include, but are not limited to, interviews, collaborations, show reviews, and so much more, that you don’t want to miss!
Until next time Interwebs! 🕸
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