As summer turns to fall, the quality of releases tend to increase, and that was definitely the case in September. Many albums that would have easily made the list if released earlier in the year missed the cut because of so many excellent new albums. Here are our choices for the best albums released in September of 2019.
1. Cult Of Luna – A Dawn To Fear (Metal Blade)
It has been six years since their last studio album, but Cult Of Luna have not been resting on their laurels. Since then they have issued two live records, an EP, a split with The Old Wind and a well-received collaboration with Julie Christmas, Mariner. A Dawn To Fear is highly anticipated, and fans will get their money worth as it is a whopping 79 minutes long.
Cult Of Luna inject a lot of ebb and flow into their compositions, as quiet ambient parts amp up into moments of extremity, shift to progressive sections and they top it off with sludge, doom and post metal. They have the ability to write songs that are compelling upon first listen, but reveal even more on subsequent spins. A Dawn To Fear is not a concept album, but is very cohesive nonetheless. From the relatively streamlined 6 minute “Lay Your Head To Rest” to lengthy opuses such as the 15 minute “Lights On The Hill,” Cult Of Luna bring depth, variety and emotion to an album that meets or exceeds all expectations.
2. Exhorder – Mourn The Southern Skies (Nuclear Blast)
Exhorder are finally releasing their majorly anticipated third album Mourn the Southern Skies, their first album in over 27 years. They are often considered the originators of the groove heavy style of thrash metal. There is a constant mood about Mourn the Southern Skies and it is an atmosphere that is almost nonexistent in current day metal. This album is angry and it is a palpable feeling from start to finish.
This is the sound of a band coming back to what it knows best, how to groove and do so with furious emotion. Exhorder have seemingly resurrected themselves along with the groove metal genre in 2019 to release some of the best material the band has ever written. It’s time to dust off the cobwebs from a quarter century ago, because Exhorder have done the same.
3. Atlantean Kodex – The Course Of Empire (Van)
Germany’s Atlantean Kodex made quite a name for themselves with their first two albums, but after 2013’s The White Goddess they took their time delivering the follow-up, The Course of Empire. Similar to Crypt Sermon (reviewed elsewhere in this week’s column), Atlantean Kodex hammer us with pure epic metal, and here on The Course of Empire they give us a nearly perfect album.
The songs are long, and the arrangements are ingenious, with a natural flow to them. Markus Becker has a fantastic voice, and neither he nor the band ever stretch the boundaries of showmanship so far as to drift into power metal cheese-land. Each song is sincere and compelling, and the hour-plus album flies by. Production is decidedly retro, which could be viewed as a slight flaw or an endearing bonus, but regardless, The Course of Empire is the epic metal album of the year.
4. Opeth – In Cauda Venenum (Moderbolaget/Nuclear Blast)
The ten songs on In Cauda Venenum are lengthy compositions, totaling 68 minutes. Aside from the now seemingly mandatory intro track, only one song is less than six and a half minutes long. One might think that this would make the album tough to absorb, but it’s really not. That’s because Opeth have created an album that is both complex and simple at the same time.
Throughout all of In Cauda Venenum, the band displays a tangible improvement in chemistry, especially when looking back to Heritage. In many ways it showcases the band in their least derivative state since abandoning harsh vocals and blastbeats. Akerfeldt and company have their own identity, and fans of prog rock will find In Cauda Venenum an engrossing and entertaining listen.
5. Mortem – Ravnsvart (Peaceville)
30 years after releasing the Slow Death demo, Mortem’s debut full-length finally sees the darkness. Ravnsvart shows the band moving away from the death metal of the demo for something more expected among current and former members of coveted Norwegian black metal acts Thorns, Arcturus, Mayhem, 1349 and Satyricon.
Mortem 2019 sound as if Steinar Johnsen resurrected material written for Arcturus in the early ‘90s. Garm’s mystifying voice is not here, though; Marius Vold’s voice is pure grimness suited for the hell-bound lyrical themes. Although Arcturus’ sound is in the forefront, listeners may hear a tinge of Emperor on “Truly Damned” and a bit of Bathory swagger and guitar solos on “Demon Shadow.” Hellhammer’s drums are brilliant, providing thunder to the billowing storm cloud sound of the keys. 30 years is a long time, but Ravnsvart is every bit worth the wait. It is mandatory listening for any fan of symphonic black metal.
6. Netherbird – Into the Vast Uncharted (Eisenwald)
Sweden’s Netherbird show a strong similarity to Dissection on Into the Vast Uncharted, their fifth full-length album. There is enough melody here to fill up the speakers with bliss. The songs are catchy and powerful and make their presence felt quite nicely. Though fairly short in time, the album is allowed to have its impact felt over the short running time with solid songwriting that takes center stage. This is definitely moody music and it has a nice grasp of dynamics for maximum impact. Also, ex-Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson adds some vibrant moments to the disc with his drumming.
The song “Eventide Evangel” is a standout with its use of acoustics to back up a fun listen. This is one of the best albums from the melodic black metal genre I’ve heard in a while and it continues to remain interesting over the course of the entire album. The amount of melody found on the album is perfect for the genre and shows a band firing on all cylinders. Into the Vast Uncharted has compelling songwriting, puts riffing at the center of the music and succeeds quite nicely.
Other 2019 Monthly Best Heavy Metal Album Lists
January 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums
February 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums
March 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums
April 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums
May 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums
June 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums
July 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums
August 2019 Best Heavy Metal Albums