Top 25 Metal Albums Of 2019

Future generations will look back on 2019 as the Year of Power Metal. With very few exceptions, every major power metal band released new material this year, most of which was nothing short of excellent.

However, power metal wasn’t the only dominating force this year. Most of the big prog, heavy, and folk players also released albums, as well as bands that I don’t give a shit about like Slipknot, TOOL, and pretty well everything on the extreme metal side of things.

Anyway, the following features twenty five of the best “melodic” metal albums of the year! The competition was steep; of the 380+ albums I listened to this year, almost seventy of them were serious contenders for this list.

Also, you might notice that, despite a few placements in my monthly Top Tens and my scoring in general, some albums listed here are higher or lower than they “should” be. The main reason here is that, surprise surprise, opinions can change with time, and so can music.

Regardless, you can be damn certain that the following 25 metal albums are the best to come out of the monster than was 2019!

25. Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Divination

Elvenking’s tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, kicks all sort of ass, pagan-style. Fans will be pleased that Divination still retains the core Elvenking sound: a primarily-pop/punk vocal style, folk melodies, proggy song structure, and a power metal energy. Conversely, though, the album is as much a breath of fresh air as it is an Elvenking album, as it takes the band in two directions that they haven’t really explored in depth before; the road of Divination is generally darker and heavier than their previous material, and it also brings a whole concept that tells of a journey into a mystical world of runes and magic. It’s not the band’s best, but it’s really fucking good.

Full Review

24. HammerFall – Dominion

Since their founding in 1993, heavy metal templars HammerFall have fought to continue the legacy of 80s heavy metal, smithing more than ten full-length records and establishing themselves as Sweden’s and Europe’s premier heavy metal masters. Their latest album, Dominion, is an epic powerhouse that easily contends with their early material in terms of quality and heart.

Full Review

23. Rhodium – Sea of the Dead

Sea of the Dead is the latest offering of Greek power metal (think Firewind, Diviner, stuff like that). Featuring an almost all-new lineup, the album drives forth with exceptional guitarwork and even more impressive vocals, which sit somewhere between the usual, coarse Greek power vocals and higher Euro power norm. This is one hell of a sophomore album and is more than strong enough to earn spot on this list.

Full Review

22. Chaos Magic – Furyborn

Caterina Nix’s second installment of Chaos Magic is, quite simply, amazing. Written alongside Chilean musician Nasson, Furyborn is a far cry from its predecessor and exchanges its typical symphonic metal sound for a more original, albeit poppy, take on melodic metal. It’s full of sick guitars, killer melodies, and boundless attitude. This “pop” metal album blows all other pop metal albums out of the water.

Full Review

21. Frozen Crown – Crowned in Frost

Frozen Crown have solidified their sound in a heavier, grittier, more diverse power metal offering than their debut. This female fronted (or should I say, “female fueled,” due to vocalist Jade Etro as well as eighteen-year-old southpaw shredder Talia Bellazecca) powerhouse has created an exceptionally refined record that blasts forth with elements from harsh death metal, traditional heavy metal, and everything in between. Pair that with elaborate guitarwork and numerous vocal styles and you have yourself one ferocious album!

Full Review

20. Finsterforst – Zerfall

Furious German folkers Finsterforst are back with a fifth backbreaking album, complete with lengthy arrangements, chanted melodies, and intense orchestrations. Zerfall is a very unique take on folk metal, combining keyboards, orchestras, and heavy guitars with elements of death metal and folk melodies (sorta like Wintersun but heavier). The choruses have a slight ring of Orden Ogan to them that amplifies already-huge atmospheres, so it’s safe to say that you’re in for a poundingly heavy ride with this one.

19. Amulet – The Inevitable War

Blasting forth with a fresh lineup, Amulet’s sophomore record is an exceptional work of classic metal. The Inevitable War takes the band to new heights and is the best classic metal album of the year.

There’s really nothing to dislike. The mixing is flawless, the band is exceptionally talented, and the music simply bleeds energy. Each anthemic chorus hits with a similar impact as classic Manowar, and the galloping rhythm section chugs away with the likeness of Iron Maiden. Get your fix of the classics with this very new release.

Full Review

18. Control the Storm – Forevermore

This album is incredible: female-fronted power metal at its finest. The overall atmosphere is bright and energetic, and it’s fueled by symphonic components, folk elements, and rich vocal harmonies. Plus, the arrangements are dynamic and exceptionally written. If you haven’t heard of them before, this album is all you need to get excited about Control the Storm.

Full Review

17. Manegarm – Fornaldarsagor

In their best album in probably a decade, Manegarm have something grand in Fornaldarsagor. While primarily a coarser folk metal work, there’s the usual inclusion of impending black metal elements, as well as some female and clean male vocals. While the formula of Fornaldarsagor is typical of Manegarm, far more care has been taken regarding the songwriting that the past three albums.

16. ShadowStrike – Legends of Human Spirit

Legends of Human Spirit is probably the strongest power metal debut of the entire year. It’s insanely fast, vibrant, true power metal to the core. It’s really as simple as that. ShadowStrike, hailing from New York, have busted out of the gate with a DragonForce-influenced sound that manages to steer clear of being too derivative, delivering a unique, shredtastic album.

Part of the driving force of this individuality is the band’s tasteful use of symphonic elements (I would never consider this album “symphonic metal”, though) as well as sophisticated song arrangements. With nothing short of excellent on the record, ShadowStrike have quickly become one of my favourite power metal bands, ever.

Full Review

15. Noveria – Aequilibrium

Italian proggers Noveria don’t fuck around. As soon as it starts, Aequilibrium explodes into high-intensity with a death metal atmosphere and epic choirs. Through the rest of the album, we encounter sick riff after sick riff (not the least of which can be found in ‘Awakening’ and ‘Broken’) in all their beefy, syncopated glory, as well as beautiful interludes and pulled back sections. Another aspect that makes Aequilibrium stand out is the fact that, while there’s a dark tone to most of the album, it’s never depressing and it’s always energetic.

Full Review

14. Scimitar – Shadows of Man

Canadian pagan metal warriors Scimitar have been around for just over a decade. Early on in their career, they released their debut album, Black Waters, but the band took a bit of a break soon after. Now, nine years later, the band have finally unleashed their sophomore album. Shadows of Man is gritty, furious, and packs way more variety into it than I would have ever expected. With a sound that’s in the realm of Ensiferum and Vanir (although far less refined, production-wise), Scimitar’s combination of death, black, and folk elements will be welcome with any fan of the dark side of folk metal.

(Yeah, I know this is, like, the third melodeath/folk metal album on a “melodic metal” list. Deal with it. This is MY house.)

Full Review

13. Brymir – Wings of Fire

Brymir is extreme metal for the power metal fan and Wings of Fire is no exception. If it weren’t for the rough vocals, it’d be epic symphonic power metal through-and-through.No, I shouldn’t say that. It’s way too epic to be just that. It’s the kind of epic that’ll make you believe that you can crush mountains and fly through the sky as the bringer of life or death, sole judge of the universe, with all of the power of the gods in your hands, under your hands, through your hands, about your hands (but not over your hands). It’s that. Fucking. Epic.

Full Review

12. Sabaton – The Great War

This year saw the release of Sabaton’s ninth record: The Great War. Despite a lengthy career of two decades, the Swedish metal heroes are showing no signs of slowing down, and they prove that they’re here to stay by delivering their biggest, boldest, most bombastic blast of metal in years. Other than slamming the epic pedal down to the fucking floor, The Great War separates itself from Sabaton’s prior works by hanging a darker atmosphere over the music, as well as putting more emphasis on classical scales, especially in its guitar solos.

Full Review

11. Majestica – Above the Sky

After six years of hiatus, power metal cheeseballs Majestica (formerly ReinXeed) are back with their seventh album, Above the Sky. Aside from a drastic name change, Majestica’s sound has grown more mature, despite their lyrical content becoming more juvenile than ever. Of course, these are perfect qualities to have in a power metal album: bullshit, nonsensical lyrics over technically impressive music.

Full Review

10. Galneryus – Into the Purgatory

The finest neoclassical power metal band east of the Silk Road have unleashed yet another album of facemelting ferocity. Into the Purgatory is the twelfth album to come from the mighty Galneryus and, despite such a long career, it lives up to the band’s glory, and then some. A slice of Galneryus’ neoclassical edge has been swapped for a bit more of a progressive influence this time around so, while you can still expect a melodic work of shred insanity, it’s different enough from their other albums to keep things feeling new.

Full Review

09. Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura

Formed by ex-Temperance members Chiara Tricarico and Giulio Capone 2018, Moonlight Haze is a symphonic metal project that combines the talents of musicians from Elvenking, Sound Storm, and Epica to create a melodic, emotionally dynamic, technically-pleasing work of female fronted metal that stands high above your typical Delain or Nightwish ripoff. Complete with countless folk and world music elements, De Rerum Natura is as unique as a symphonic debut could be.

Full Review

08. Wind Rose – Wintersaga

Dwarf metallers Wind Rose are back with a rugged sound in their fourth album, Wintersaga. As usual, the Tolkien themes are strong, as is evident in half of the song titles. Additionally, the album is split into two sections; the first contains the fun, catchy party tunes, and the second, which encompasses the final three songs, features a more power prog approach that hearkens to the band’s earlier works. However, the core sound of Wind Rose has shifted as a whole from their progressive power metal roots to settle upon a more bombastic, anthemic sound.

Full Review

07. Twilight Force – Dawn of the Dragonstar

As you can expect from Twilight Force, Dawn of the Dragonstar is full of unlimited, overblown storybook energy. With the exception of maybe two moments, the album is consistently happy and heroic from the very first seconds of the galloping ‘Dawn of the Dragonstar’ into its final piano notes. This hyper-melodic, smile-demanding work isn’t just sheen and shine, though; there’s an absolutely staggering degree of talent and proficiency to behold in every track.

Full Review

06. NorthTale – Welcome to Paradise

NorthTale was born of vocalist Christian Eriksson (ex-Twilight Force), drummer Patrick Johansson (ex-Yngwie Malmsteem) and guitar maestro Bill Hudson with the dream of bringing back the glory of late 90s/early 00s power metal. Whether you’re in the mood for that golden-age power metal, anthemic stadium metal, or even a vegan happy meal, Welcome to Paradise delivers all that and more, complete with facemelting solos, exciting diversity, and catchy melodies. This is one of the year’s best power metal albums and is as technically impressive as it is fun.

Full Review

05. Eluveitie – Ategnatos

Eluveitie have hit their peak in their eighth record, Ategnatos. It’s fantastically fluid for such a diverse folk metal album, and, while it retains the trademark Eluveitie sound, it’s a distinct experience from their other releases.

The songs range from huge melodeath blast beats with rough vocals to softer, mournful tracks like ‘Eclipse’. There’s even a bouncy tune in ‘Ambiramus’ that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks (but don’t worry, you’ll welcome it). The broad instrumentation of this Swiss septet includes traditional instruments and shamelessly skilled drums, as well as three different vocal styles, my favourite of which are the versatile pipes of Fabienne Erni. The control she displays is insane and honestly, without her, the album wouldn’t have made it as one of my top picks.

Full Review

04. Wilderun – Veil of Imagination

Not many bands can pull off an exceptional atmospheric album so, when one does, I always get excited. One of the few (and latest) this year to accomplish such a feat are Boston’s Wilderun with their third album, Veil of Imagination. The album combines elements of death, symphonic, progressive, and folk metal to make a sound that bands like Wintersun have been trying so desperately to embody. It expertly conjures deep feelings of wonder, determination, aggression, hate, fear, reflection, and everything in between. With rich orchestrations supporting it, Veil of Imagination is almost impossible colourful.

Full Review

03. Gloryhammer – Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex

Epic, cheesy, heroic. These are words I often use when describing my favourite albums, but make no mistake; I only use these words if I mean it. So, if I were to say that Gloryhammer’s third and latest album, Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex, was one of the most ridiculously epic tales of heroism that I’ve ever heard from a power metal album, you can be damn sure it’s true.

Between the powerful cries of Angus McFife and the cosmic colours created by the rest of band, there’s no room to criticize the skill of these galactic warriors. Additionally, while the core sound is true, pure power metal (with a healthy dose of symphonic backing tracks), the songwriting is pleasingly dynamic. So, bust out your most enchanted headphones and get a load of this ultra-melodic cheesefest and see for yourself why this just might be the greatest power metal album of the year (or of all fucking time).

Full Review

02. Dream Theater – Distance over Time

Dream Theater are legendary. There’s no question about it. These guys are some of the best musicians metal has to offer, and they’ve given rise to more than a few prog masterpieces. While it’s true that their material has lost a bit of steam over the last decade, Distance over Time recaptures all of their former velocity as their best album since Black Clouds and Silver Linings. There’s a perfect mix of mathematical intricacies, solid melodies, and headbangable grooves, and, despite having a sound that’s closer to their earlier works, this is the freshest they’ve sounded in years.

Full Review

01. Beast in Black – From Hell with Love

Insane solos? Check. The best vocal performance in modern heavy metal? Check. Synthetic fanfares that demand the construction of a training montage? Check. Pack it up, every other band ever. Beast in Black have achieved the pinnacle of music. It’s all downhill from here. Go home. Show’s over. Nothing else will ever excite you as much as this album will.

Just kidding. Well, kind of. From Hell with Love is what every 80s revival album strives to be: catchy, fun, and technically impressive. Between the limitless voice of Yannis Papadopoulos and the songwriting gold of Anton Kabanen, this album holds nothing back. It’s intense. It’s fucking doused in cheese. It’s the pump up record to end all pump up records.

What a year! January is just around the corner, and that means that PowerThorn’s One Year Anniversary is close, too. It was reassuring to watch the viewership increase from a few tens a day all the way up to a few hundred. Between successful weeks of six reviews and desolate weeks of one, it’s been fun so far! Whether this is your first visit or you’re a regular reader, I deeply thank you for your support.

Look forward to more power metal content in 2020!

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Power Metal: Numenor Announce Album For 2020

Serbia’s Tolkien-oriented black power metal band Numenor have announced that their fourth album, Draconian Age, will be released in 2020. Other than the artwork, which was done by Bob Zivkovic, no further details have yet been revealed.

To get a feel for Numenor’s style, check out ‘Heart of Steel’ below!

Go follow Numenor on Facebook!

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Top Ten Metal Albums Of September

It’s been a crazy month on my side of things, but it’s been even crazier in the metal world. There was almost more to listen to this month than there was for the entire summer, so, needless to say, my Top Ten Metal Albums of September had a few runner ups.

10. Ancient Empire – Wings of the Fallen

While not exceptional by their own standards, Ancient Empires Wings of the Fallen is an excellent traditional metal record. With solid, chugging riffs and strong melodies, it’s everything you’d want in classic heavy metal, plus a bit extra.

09. Excalion – Emotions

Melodic, expressive, keyboard-driven. It doesn’t take many more words that that to get me excited about an album. These characteristics are hardly unique when it comes to power metal, and more often than not I’m left disappointed upon actually hearing an album described by them, but, what can I say? I’m a hopeful guy. So, you can imagine my relief when Excalion laid this piece of work before me. Emotions is the fifth album of the Finnish outfit, and it checks all those boxes with massive checkmarks.

Full Review

08. Ereb Altor – Jartecken

Ereb Altor are no stranger to viking metal. With eight albums since their 2008 debut, they’ve worked steadily to bring the best of true viking metal. Their latest album, Jartecken, is pretty much what you’d expect at this point, but that isn’t to say it isn’t something new, too; it continues down the same path as the past couple albums, delivering a dynamic mix of mournful folk melodies and vicious atmospheres.

Full Review

07. DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal

DragonForce is back with their best album of the decade: Extreme Power Metal. One thing EPM does better than, well, every album up to Reaching into Infinity is variety. It has your typical, fast-paced power metal bangers like ‘Troopers of the Stars’ and ‘Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred’, as well as a surplus of more commercial, poppy songs. There are a few songs that aren’t driven solely by spine-splitting speed, such ‘Remembrance Day’ and the excellent cover of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, but the intense dragon energy is never lost. There are also a lot of instrumental breaks that utilize strings, folk instruments, and the usual videogame SFX that are so characteristic of DragonForce. These video game themes run strong, with most of the songs having retro synth (or outright 8-bit) intros. Unsurprisingly, ‘The Last Dragonborn’ is the most videogame-fueled of them all, albeit more in content and less in sound.

Full Review

06. Borknagar – True North

Norway’s black/folk masters Borknagar pumps out great albums on the worst of days, so it should be no surprise that True North is on this list. In a word, the album is captivating. Between thunderous highs and serene lows, it’s as if Borknagar have invoked the very spirits of the mountains. To add to this dynamism, the album makes use of everything from clean vocals and bouncy grooves to furious blastbeats and skin-tearing growls. Of all the “winter-themed” albums to come out this month (like Everfrost’s Winterider and Sonata Arctica’s fucking mess), this one embodies that theme the best.

05. Cerebellar Rondo – The Realizing

It’s been a little while since I’ve heard a decent new Japanese power metal album, so it caught me off guard when the first one I’d heard in months swept me off my feet the way The Realizing did. The debut of Cerebellar Rondo, it’s fast, pleasantly melodic, and displays all of the flare and technicality that keeps bringing me back to Japanese power metal. Aside from the killer vocal performance, there are some seriously cool riffs that separate Cerebellar Rondo from a lot of the other (albeit still good) Japanese power metal bands.

04. Everfrost – Winterider

From the frozen north of Finland come Everfrost with their sophomore album, Winterider, which is one of the most expressive symphonic power metal albums of the year. The band bleeds musical excellence and, when their power is directed into over-the-top, cheerfully epic arrangements, they produce a truly unique sound, even by power metal standards. Everfrost’s winter-themed metal shows clear influences ranging from Blind Guardian to late-80s glam metal to Queen, which further pushes the boundaries of what you might expect from this genre.

Full Review

03. Centurion – Centurion

Centurion is an insatiable riff-beast, ready to prey on the ears of all who are close enough to listen. Not only that, but we’re also attacked with an onslaught of powerful melodies, facemelting solos (especially in ‘Ruka Sudbine’ and ‘Virtuelno Ognjiste’. Holy fuck.), and drumming that never settles for satisfactory. Seriously. This is one damn impressive group of musicians who are as mighty as the badass warriors on their album cover.

Full Review

02. Kybalion – Black Painted Skies

If you want a bit of a change from the usual 16th-based, djenty, instrumental modern prog that has recently flooded the metal world, give this EP a spin. Black Painted Skies is the first release (they call it an EP but I would consider it a full-out album, but maybe that’s just me) from America’s brand new instrumental proggers, Kybalion. This speed demon of death is super heavy and its ever-changing form will have you happily kissing the comfortability of 4/4 goodbye. With a diverse mix of highs, lows, feels, and time signatures, it’s evident that this trio doesn’t fuck around.

Full Review

01. Wind Rose – Wintersaga

Well, summer’s over. That means the time for beaches, bimbos, and barbecues is at it’s end, being instead replaced by the dark, wind, and cold. However, this is the perfect season for a dwarf! And what better way to explore your potential dwarfhood than cranking out the meanest, mightiest of man-metal? Enter Wind Rose, Italy’s finest dwarf metal army, and their fourth album, Wintersaga. As the band’s most impressive album to date, it’s as if it was smithed in the forges of Khazad-dum itself. If its epic chants and upbeat hymns aren’t enough to get you into the season, they’ll at least get your blood flowing hard enough to keep you warm.

Full Review

Did I miss something worthy of being a Top Ten? Bitch at me in the comments or send me a message!

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Ereb Altor – Järtecken Review

Score8/10
GenreBlack/Viking Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime47:40
Release Date20 September 2019
Record LabelHammerheart

Ereb Altor are no stranger to viking metal. With eight albums since their 2008 debut, they’ve worked steadily to bring the best of true viking metal. Their latest album, Jartecken, is pretty much what you’d expect at this point, but that isn’t to say it isn’t something new, too; it continues down the same path as the past couple albums, delivering a dynamic mix of mournful folk melodies and vicious atmospheres.

Jartecken opens with building chants and cycles through floating clean vocal lines and ferocious growls over blast beats as it continues. While there are very intense sections even in the second track, ‘Queen of All Seas’, the album as a whole gets darker as it goes on. Needless to say, there’s a good mix of tracks, from the blackened-death metal of ‘Alliance in Blood’ to the thrashy ‘Prepare for War’ to the more epic ‘My Demon Inside’. The sense of impending darkness holds everything together, so there’s never a song or section that sounds out of place.

The guitars and synth function much the same in Jartecken, holding the foundation through ominous riffs and chords while the vocals and choirs pull the songs through the fog, so to speak. Well, that is of course with the exception of the guitar solos, which are in the foreground, as you’d expect. Behind it all are the drums, which are ever-changing with the overall mood.

My favourite aspect of Jartecken (and bands like Ereb Altor in general) is the fact that I can throw it on and get dialed into it almost instantly. There’s something about the overall dissonance of the music that just sucks me right in and flows around me like water. Sounds like pretentious bullshit, right? Well, despite being primarily a power metal guy, it’s that very aspect that has me coming back to records like this in the first place. It’s almost as if the album is just one big song, and that’s really cool.

All in all, this is a fantastic album. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it offers enough difference from other albums in the space that it’s got a leg up on the competition. If you like dark, doomy, folky darkness of folk doom, give Jartecken a spin.

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Numenor – Chronicles From The Realms Beyond Review

Score8.5/10
GenreEpic Black/Power Metal
CountrySerbia
Runtime34:35
Release Date5 September 2017
Record LabelStormspell

It’s not often that I’ll review an album that’s older than a couple months. Between the constant flow of material sent to me and my ever-decreasing amount of free time, I’m usually struggling just to keep up with current releases. But, once in a while, I’ll receive something that especially catches my ear, and I’ll check it out happily, regardless of when the album came out. The latest of these special exceptions is the third album from Serbia’s Númenor, Chronicles from the Realms Beyond, which is a unique take on Tolkien-themed metal (which, at this point, isn’t all that unique a topic anymore, is it?).

To get the best idea of what to expect from this album, think something along the lines of “man metal”. It’s rugged and intense, but brings together the musical forces of light and darkness to fight side-by-side against the true evil: boring music. It completes itself with diverse arrangements and an epic overtone that is easily noticeable but not overbearing. The most epic, power-metally songs (and, unsurprisingly, my favourites) are the opener and closer, ‘Heart of Steel’ and ‘The Last of the Dragon Lords’. But, as you venture into the guts of this deceivingly-ominous record, you’ll be suprised at what you find.

The most interesting thing about Chronicles is how skillfully it combines elements of black metal and power metal. While a couple of the songs have a majority lean toward one or the other, most of them have a pretty even balance of the two. The result of such a combination is blood-boiling ferocity surrounded by an ever-present sense of darkness. This is usually achieved by mixing dark atmospheres, harsh growls, stoic melodic sections, and a driving rhythm section into a cauldron of badassery, as is evident in tracks like ‘Moria’, ‘Over the Mountains Cold’, and ‘Witching Hour’. Along with male clean and rough vocals, there are also female vocals, which add yet another interesting layer into an album that already pushes boundaries.

My only real complaint with Chronicles is regarding the production quality. I wouldn’t quite call it “lo-fi”, but it is fairly gritty and a bit muffled. I’m not sure whether it’s like this because of studio limitations or as an artistic choice due to black metal roots, and, mind you, it could be much worse. But, even some extra oomph from the drums and guitars would go a long way. It’s not so much an issue with clarity for me as it is an issue with highlighting certain parts to deliver that kick that can take an epic metal album from awesome to exceptional.

However, the album is good enough that the production quality doesn’t suffer it too badly. Every song offers something completely different from the one before and, despite runtimes that rarely exceed four minutes, they pack a hell of a lot into their mighty bellies. Huge atmospheres? Heavy beats? Sword-raising choruses? Excellent musicians? It’s all here. Chronicles from the Realms Beyond is a killer album, and offers plenty for those who enjoy the darker side of power metal.

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