Every month has its challenges in selecting which albums make our list, but May was even more difficult. There were at least a half dozen albums worthy of being in the top 6 that missed the cut due to the volume of excellent releases. Here are our choices for the best metal albums released in May 2019.
1. Possessed – Revelations Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast)
Few bands have had as widespread an influence on an entire genre of metal like Possessed do with death metal. 33 years after their last album, frontman (and only original member) Jeff Becerra and crew have put out Revelations of Oblivion that has been more than eagerly anticipated for what seems like eons. First off, Becerra sounds like his classic self vocally. Fans of Seven Churches will recognize his distinct thrash chants. It also feels apparent that the newest members of the band are not trying to simply emulate past members’ contributions in a soulless attempt to appease others. There is certainly enough individuality that helps set the band apart from the genre and its former self.
For fans of Seven Churches and death metal in general, it is impossible to pass up Revelations of Oblivion, an album that sounds like it was created by the forefathers for a new generation. A band that was clearly influenced by the Paul Baloff era of Exodus along with Venom, Possessed have clearly has not skipped a beat in all this time and the world of extreme music is about to be leveled by this album.
2. Arch/Matheos – Winter Ethereal (Metal Blade)
After nearly eight years since their first record under the Arch/Matheos banner, vocalist John Arch and guitarist Jim Matheos have completed Winter Ethereal. Compared to its predecessor, it packs a bigger punch and delivers an altogether more refined sound.
Winter Ethereal has more than enough fuel to burn furiously (which it does, by the way). The huge riffs and soaring vocals are awesome, but the detail in the drumming is often what elevates the music (like in “Wrath of the Universe” where the drumming is seriously out of hand). Furthermore, the band allowed themselves a long, relaxed writing process for this album and it’s all the better for it. It has more than enough variety and the musicianship is, to say it modestly, superb. Arch/Matheos have once again produced an exceptional album that manages to stay away from being a Fates Warning 2.0. Clocking in at over an hour, Winter Ethereal will have you satisfied by the time it ends.
3. Myrath – Shehili (earMusic)
Shehili kicks more ass than the Sahara on a windy day. This should really come as no surprise, though, because Myrath’s albums routinely contain nothing but quality, emotion, and a tasty Arabic spice. Huge melodies continuously take the stage and are supported by a dangerously tight rhythm section. The strings and orchestrations carry epic and mysterious melodies, combining seamlessly with the coarser metal elements to make each song ring with brilliance. On top of that, the mixing is clean, balanced, and allows each of the many parts to be appreciated.
This Tunisian troupe commands a staggering amount of skill, but perhaps the most impressive is frontman Zaher Zorgati and his ludicrously proficient vocals (which can go from soaring ululatuon to a powerful belt on the drop of a dime). Pump this energy into lively arrangements, and you get a vivid, dance-inducing Eastern brand of power metal.
4. Diamond Head – The Coffin Train (Silver Lining)
For most people, Diamond Head were simply a footnote in the history of the NWOBHM. Lightning to the Nations is widely considered an extremely influential album, most notably by Metallica. Success has eluded the band, but they’ve occasionally popped up with new material, most recently 2016’s good but not great self-titled effort. Virtually the same lineup (aside from bass guitar) is back now with Coffin Train, the band’s eighth album.
Coffin Train is an admirable step forward in all facets. Guitarist (and sole original member) Brian Tatler has amazing chops, with memorable riffs and killer lead breaks, and Rasmus Bom Andersen is an amazing vocalist here, taking these songs to a whole other level. And the songs? They range from good to stellar, with no filler anywhere. Add in the vintage, sweet ’80s production, and you’ve got a banger of a heavy metal album.
5. Gloryhammer – Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex (Napalm)
Cosmic metal paladins Gloryhammer have landed with what could easily be considered the best power metal album of the year. Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex combines the grandeur of the story of Angus McFife with shameless, epic, synth-heavy metal. Over-the-top cheese fuels every melody but there’s no shortage of superb songwriting. While the entire record is gold, the twelve-minute closer, “The Fires of Ancient Cosmic Destiny,” is notably dynamic.
There hasn’t been a true power metal album that has made this much of an impact on me in ages and it’ll likely be ages more until the genre spits out something like this again. Despite their tongues being firmly planted in their cheeks, Gloryhammer have earned a place next to DragonForce, Stratovarius, and the other greats of post-2000 power metal.
6. Paladin – Ascension (Prosthetic)
Okay, here’s one of the more interesting debut albums of the year. Atlanta, Georgia is home to Paladin, a quartet that may be hard to pigeonhole. Thrash? Sure. Power metal? Definitely? Black metal? Yep, it’s in there. Melodeath? Of course. It’s a lot to cram into Ascension, but somehow Paladin manage to pull it off.
Face-shredding riffs power all the material on Ascension, at times razor-sharp and technically stunning, at other times simply primeval and fist-pumping. No less than five vocals styles are employed throughout, all of them on point. And speaking of on point, the songwriting here is top-notch, especially for a debut album. All eleven tracks are strong in their own right. Paladin just might have the most enjoyable power-thrash album of the year here.