Κυριακή, 22 Μαρτίου 2020

Metal Nerdism Vol. 4: Top-10 Heavy Metal album openers.

By album opener we want to mention songs (but not instrumental tracks) that have a small intro attached to the main track, or/and a separate music theme or riff, or effects, or starting with a solo, even if all of those elements can continue or included again within the track. Something that works as a way that leads you to the album, but is (in) a completed song. The kind of album opener that is not a separate intro or just a regular song. Not all albums have this kind of an "opener" and we are picking the ones we consider as favorite, greatest and iconic. The TOP ones according to Crystal Logic.

You can't easily beat Judas Priest's "The Hellion" but this is an intro. Iron Maiden's "The Ides of March" is instrumental and "Princess of the Night" a song that could be placed anywhere in Saxon's "Denim and Leather", even if we are used to it as the opening track of the album. These examples are not what we're talking about.

So let's lay down our favorite album openers.

written by Andreas Andreou

1. Running Wild "Riding the Storm"

The band with intros that really matter! Tracks like "Chamber of Lies" and "The Curse" are the best intros someone could ask for, but the German pirate ship has also a legacy of great openers. "Riding the Storm" is one of the most iconic album openers and one of the best Running Wild songs. And when we are talking for "one of the best Running WIld songs", that means it is one of the best metal songs ever. European Heavy Metal, Power Metal, even Speed Metal, everything is here, and depending the period, Running Wild fit in any of those genres, standing on the very top. Read more.

The line: Face in the wind, we're riding the storm, we'll stay our course whatever will come.

Opener to the album Death or Glory (1989)

Check also: Accept "Metal Heart", Gamma Ray "Rebellion in Dreamland", Running Wild "Blazon Stone".

2. Iron Maiden "Caught Somewhere in Time"

This is not just our favorite Iron Maiden opener, but also the greatest opener of our favorite Iron Maiden record. Read more.

The line: Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing you try to hide your deepest sins - Of all the things that you’ve done wrong and I know where you belong.

Opener to the album Somewhere in Time (1986)

Check also: Iron Maiden "Aces High", Iron Maiden "Moonchild", Spitfire "Street Fighter".

3. Black Sabbath "Black Sabbath"

Rainstorm. Church bells. THE riff. A desperate voice. A figure in black that points at you. A sinister aura that guided Tony, Geezer, Bill and Ozzy to write and perform this song. One of the most disturbing tunes someone could hear until 1970. The beginning. The Big Bang of Heavy Metal. It has to be here. It is here. Forever and ever.

The line: Oh no, no, please God help me!

Opener to the album Black Sabbath (1970)

Check also: Black Sabbath "Anno Mundi", Candlemass "Mirror Mirror", Solitude Aeturnus "Seeds of the Desolate", While Heaven Wept "The Drowning Years".

4. Warlord "Deliver Us From Evil"

Destroyer and Thunder Child formed the best alliance. It is amazing how Bill Tsamis and Mark Zonder managed to complete each other and even if Tsamis is the sole composer, I can't imagine Warlord with another drummer. And "Deliver Us From Evil" is the song that will justify this statement.

The line: Deliver us from all the sin and we who believe will eternally sing these words in which we call the battle hymn.

Opener to the mini album Deliver Us (1983)

Check also: Crimson Glory "Valhalla", Lordian Guard "War in Heaven", Yngwie J. Malmsteen "Rising Force", Psychotic Waltz "Ashes".

5. W.A.S.P. "The Heretic (The Lost Child)"

Funny how few bands fall in certain genres or categories only because of a few albums or their image. W.A.S.P. is a heavy metal band and The Headless Children one of the best US metal albums ever. And this album has one of the most impressive openers anyone could ask for.

The line: The seeds of all evil are sown in their minds and harvest the sad fields of woe.

Opener to the album The Headless Children (1989)

Check also: Armored Saint "March of the Saint", Leatherwolf "Rise or Fall", Savatage "Power of the Night".

6. Metal Church "Beyond the Black"

One of the most important US metal bands. Highly influential for the metal scene of Seattle and mid '80s thrash metal bands, since Metal Church balanced between power metal and thrash metal. However, in my record collection, I don't place their albums in the "thrash metal section". "Beyond the Black" is one of those few songs that sum up everything USPM stands for, and even more. You can just ask bands like Sanctuary and the answer is there. By the way, Metal Church! Isn't it one of the coolest band names ever?

The line: We unite as one, no more weapons, no more guns.

Opener to the album Metal Church (1984)

Check also: Iced Earth "Angels Holocaust", Sanctuary "Future Tense".

7. Manowar "Blood of My Enemies"

You can't complete any list related to heavy metal without having Manowar therein. Even if they don't fit, you need to find a way to add them. You're not a false one, are you?

The line: The ride of the wicked, the first sin was trust.

Opener to the album Hail to England (1984)

Check also: Bathory "Shores in Flames", Virgin Steele "Kingdom of the Fearless".

8. Mercyful Fate "A Dangerous Meeting"

The circle is broken but you can't break the Oath. It bounds you forever. At least if you listen to heavy metal. If you don't like Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, you just listen to a few selected heavy metal bands "among many other things". One of the best openers, from one of the best albums, with one of the most iconic covers, from one of the best metal bands ever. Read more.

The line: They should have known not to play with the powers of Hell.

Opener to the album Don't Break the Oath (1984)

Check also: Exorcist "Black Mass", King Diamond "The Candle".

9. Slayer "Hell Awaits"

A strong candidate for the best thrash metal opener ever. Or is it the best thrash metal opener? The drumming, the demons, the riffs, everything smells fire, damnation and rotten flesh.

The line: What you seek for can't be found, in sea or sky or underground.

Opener to the album Hell Awaits (1985)

Check also: Metallica "Blackened", Slayer "South of Heaven", Venom "Prime Evil".

10. Eternal Champion "I Am the Hammer"

Not to be crossed! A modern classic. The ultimate epic metal opener of our times and for the years to come. Only Eternal Champion could come with a better epic metal opener in the future. The drums of doom, the marching tempo, the Oliva-like scream, the riders of Tarsul, the guards of Lourn, the Pyre Forge, the HAMMER.

The line: I warned them once I am the Hammer.

Opener to the album The Armor of Ire (2016)

Check also: Battleroar "The Wrathforge", Dawnbringer "I", Wrathblade "God-Defying Typhoeus".

Bonus: Top-5 metal EP openers:

1. Medieval Steel "Medieval Steel"
2. Ostrogoth "Full Moon's Eyes"
3. Heathen's Rage "Knights of Steel"
4. Black Knight "Warlord's Wrath"
5. Defender "City Ad Mortis"

Bonus: Top-5 metal album - drum intro - openers: 

1. Ozzy Osbourne "Over the Mountain"
2. Iron Maiden "Where Eagles Dare"
3. Judas Priest "Painkiller"
4. Matakopas "Strangers"
5. Megadeth "Trust"

Τετάρτη, 18 Μαρτίου 2020

Metal Nerdism Vol. 3: Five cases of albums that were not meant to be under that BAND name.

"I don't want it" - "You will do it" Vs "I will do it because I can!"

Oh... that name...

written by Andreas Andreou

Part I
Artists: "I don't want it.''
Record label, managers, executives: "You will do it."

BLACK SABBATH - Seventh Star (1986)

To be more specific, the complete "band" name is Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi and that's what you also see on the actual album. That alone is enough to separate it from the rest of the Sabbath catalogue until that point, so let's just see what happened in the mid '80s and the stormy life of Tony Iommi.

After the release of Born Again and the supporting tour for the most disturbing Sabbath album, the band was falling off the edge of the world. Ozzy Osbourne's fame (and sales) were already much higher and in the summer of 1985, the original 4 got back together for a one-off performance at Live Aid Festival in Philadelphia, USA. Black Sabbath performed 3 songs ("Children of the Grave", "Iron Man", "Paranoid") in a day with 100.000 attendants, including also names like Judas Priest, Bryan Adams, Simple Minds, Santana, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Madonna, Led Zeppelin and more... And that's it. Nothing more happened, nothing would happen. After that point, Iommi was left alone without a band and he had the idea to record a solo album with different singers including Rob Halford, David Coverdale, Robert Plant and Glenn Hughes, but there were contractual issues and it couldn't happen, so Iommi started working with singer Jeff Fenholt but after few demo recordings that project also fell apart. However, there were few great ideas and songs written, so Iommi was joined by singer Glenn Hughes, bassist Dave Spitz, drummer Eric Singer, keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, and with producer Jeff Glixman, an album was recorded.

"It was supposed to be a solo album. I certainly didn't want to release it as a Black Sabbath album, because I hadn't written it as a Black Sabbath album", Tony Iommi wrote in his biography, but we already knew it, as mentioned many, many times over the years. Glenn Hughes was also uncomfortable with the idea to sing in a Black Sabbath album. But during an era were record companies were more powerful than you can imagine nowadays, it was said to Tony Iommi, that according to his contract, he owes to the record company another one Black Sabbath album and they wanted this one. And so it happened. Record label executives and managers wanted to name it "Black Sabbath", no matter how it was recorded and who performed. Seventh Star was released in January 1986 under the name Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi, with Tony alone on the cover sleeve; exactly as a solo project.

During the mid '80s, both Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes were on drugs but that wasn't affecting the live presence of Iommi. On the other side, there were times when Glenn was unable to perform, so after just a week of touring as Black Sabbath, supporting the release of Seventh Star, Glenn Hughes was replaced by Ray Gillen and the tour was a commercial failure while many shows were even cancelled. Tony Iommi couldn't do something else, so he continued using the name "Black Sabbath" and the next album (The Eternal Idol, 1987) was the step to something different. Still with great albums, but something different.

Acceptance: The press considered Seventh Star as a Black Sabbath album and Tony Iommi couldn't do something else, so he supported the album that way, since he needed to go on tour. The audience was confused, press details and promotion weren't clear and confusion continued when singer Ray Gillen replaced Glenn Hughes, where many fans were expecting to see on stage (Ian) Gillan and they saw (Ray) Gillen. Many people didn't even know that Hughes performed live with Black Sabbath.

Nowadays, you can see "Seventh Star" in the official discography of Black Sabbath. There are many fans that don't really consider it as a Black Sabbath album.

Highlights: "Seventh Star", "Danger Zone", "Angry Heart".

CANDLEMASS - Dactylis Glomerata (1998)

After the release of the album Chapter VI (1992) Candlemass entered a period of uncertainty and took them a while until the moment where they were really accepted as the Masters of Doom Metal. Candlemass broke up in 1994, so their founder, songwriter and bassist Leif Edling, formed Abstrakt Algebra with an extraordinary line-up including Mats Levén on vocals, Mike Wead and Simon Johansson on guitars, Jejo Perković on drums and Carl Westholm helping with keyboards. The same titled debut album of Abstrakt Algebra was released in 1995 and it is something really different; something you could label as a progressive power doom metal release. Two years later, Leif Edling wrote the second Abstrakt Algebra album and started recordings with Mats Levén, Jejo Perković and Carl Westholm, while guitar duties were handled by Patrik Instedt. That second album took a long time to be completed and the band had problems with the studio and the producer. Lot of money was spent and no album was completed, so at one point, Edling was contacted by a record label and he was told that they will finance the album and help him, only if he will release it under the Candlemass moniker instead of Abstrakt Algebra... So Edling got in the studio again and reworked the songs with Jejo Perković and Carl Westholm, added by Björn Flodkvist on vocals and Mike Amott on guitars, plus few guests. And another Candlemass album is released.

Acceptance: The press considered Dactylis Glomerata as a Candlemass album and so did the audience, but a few years later, when Messiah Marcolin, Lasse Johansson, Mappe Björkman and Jan Linh got together again with the Doomfather, this was presented as a reunion, and the late '90s years was something like a break time, despite the fact that two albums were released under the Candlemass moniker.

Nowadays, you can see Dactylis Glomerata in the official discography of Candlemass. There are many fans that don't really consider it as a Candlemass album. The band doesn't perform live songs from that period.

Highlights: "I Still See the Black", "Dustflow", "Abstrakt Sun".

MANILLA ROAD - The Circus Maximus (1992)

After the release of the album The Courts of Chaos (1990) and the poor reception and distribution at the time, Mark Shelton decided to disband Manilla Road and started working on a new band under the name The Circus Maximus, a new collective effort with Aaron Brown (drums, vocals) and Andrew Coss (bass, vocals, keyboards). When their debut album was completed, The Circus Maximus tried to shop a record deal but in the end, the project ended again with Black Dragon Records, the label of Manilla Road. But Black Dragon Records, pressed and released the album as "Manilla Road" without asking the band and that led to confusion and mess, since the band was performing live as The Circus Maximus at that time...

Acceptance: The press considered The Circus Maximus as a Manilla Road album but the promotion and the reception was very poor, while the band known as "Manilla Road" wasn't even active at that time since Mark Shelton and his new bandmates were performing locally as The Circus Maximus. Many fans at the time, didn't even know about the release of that album.

Nowadays, you can see The Circus Maximus in the official discography of Manilla Road. There are many fans that don't really consider it as a Manilla Road album. Mark Shelton also never considered it as a Manilla Road album and he only allowed to be re-released keeping the Manilla Road moniker in order to avoid further confusion.

Highlights: "Throne of Blood", "Spider", "No Sign from Above"

Part II
Artists: "I will do it because I can!"

QUEENSRYCHE - Frequency Unknown (2013)

The previous Queensrÿche album Dedicated to Chaos (2011) is the strongest candidate for The Worst Album ever released by a major act. Up to that point and over the last few years after the departure of guitarist and songwriter Chris DeGarmo in 1998, Queensrÿche seemed to "evolve" as a Geoff Tate Band until that day in April 2012 before a show in São Paulo, Brazil.

Jason Slater who produced Frequency Unknown, also produced the 'rÿche albums Operation: Mindcrime II (2006), American Soldier (2009), Dedicated to Chaos (2011) and was one of the main songwriters of the band during that period, where many of the ideas of other 'rÿche members were rejected or changed. The other members looked like "session musicians" to Tate, the management (Tate's wife, Susan) and the producer, who were using the Queensrÿche name for years.

In a band meeting during April 2012, while Geoff Tate wasn't there, the other members decided to fire the manager (Susan, Geoff's wife) and the person who was running the Queensrÿche official fan club (Miranda, Geoff's stepdaughter). Tate was angry with them when he learned about it and before a show in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 14 of 2012, he had a strong argument with few of the rest members where Tate assault and spit them, even on stage during that night's show. Geoff Tate was off the band and both parties used the "Queensrÿche" brand. The rest of the members were supposed to start the project Rising West where they could play live shows based on older material of Queensrÿche, so eventually, with the addition of ex-Crimson Glory live singer Todd La Torre, they continued performing as Queensrÿche and in 2013, they even released the Queensrÿche album with new material.

Guitarist and producer Kelly Gray, and producer Jason Slater, who also had writing credits in various 'rÿche songs that period, continued working with Geoff Tate and just two years after the events of April 2012, a settlement was reached on April 2014, where the brand name "Queensrÿche" would belong to Micheal Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson, who along with Todd La Torre and Parker Lundgren will be the touring and recording Queensrÿche band, while Geoff Tate solely has the right to perform both Operation: Mindcrime and Operation: Mindcrime II in their entirety.

Queensrÿche continued releasing more albums and performing tours supporting them, focusing on them and the early material of the band, while Geoff Tate released his second solo album Kings & Thieves (that was recorded around the events of April 2012), the albums The Key (2015), Resurrection (2016), The New Reality (2017) under the band name Operation: Mindcrime, and also performed selected shows with Queensrÿche material and albums like Operation: Mindcrime with success, while the last years he looks in great shape, living a happy life.

Acceptance: The press and fans lightly approached Frequency Unknown as a Queensrÿche album in 2013 since it served as a normal continuation to what the band was releasing back then, but the Queensrÿche album that was released by the rest few months later, was held higher. However, many 'rÿche fans stopped following the band and the latest albums, many of them also pushed the events of 2012 back in their head in order to forget them... Frequency Unknown was a better album than the previous two Queensrÿche albums and Tate gathered a team of great musicians surrounding him during the recordings, including guitarists Brad Gillis, KK Downing, Dave Meniketti, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummers Paul Bostaph and Simon Wright, among others.

Nowadays, you can't see Frequency Unknown in the official discography of Queensrÿche and it is considered as a "side release" or a Geoff Tate solo project, while it is nearly forgotten and the albums that followed by Queensrÿche are considered much better.

Highlights: "Cold", "In the Hands of God"

TANK - War Machine (2010)

War Machine is a great album. I was writing for Rockway zine when I got the promo of that album and couldn't believe that this is actually a Tank album. It was a completely different band but still great. The dirty NWOBHM sound of the previous albums was absent but now you had something different reminding later Saxon, even Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath, including also the great vocals of Doogie White. I remember presenting the album to a few friends that didn't like the older Tank material but loved War Machine. The "original" Tank disbanded in 1989 and there was a reunion in late '90s, followed by the studio album Still at War in 2002. War Machine was the first Tank album not including singer/bassist Algy Ward, where he also return with his "Tank version" in 2013, as a one-man band, performing all instruments in the album Breath of the Pit following the style of older Tank.

Acceptance: Upon its release the press considered War Machine as a Tank album; no question about it. And that band was considered as "Tank" for a few more years until the studio return of Algy Ward using also the Tank name but with a very poor acceptance from media and fans. Fans were confused and you have two "Tank" versions releasing albums.

Nowadays, a few people separate Algy Ward's Tank and Tucker/Evans's Tank from the old "original" Tank, while both parties claim the continuation of the classic NWOBHM act. A few fans accept only one version over the other but Tucker/Evans's Tank have a more reliable presence with more albums since War Machine and live shows, even if none of Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans was "there" in 1982 when Tank released the first studio recordings. Tucker/Evans's Tank include singers ZP Theart (Dragonforce, Skid Row) and David Readman (Pink Cream 69, Adagio) in the latest studio albums, so vocally, the connection to the past keeps the distance.

Highlights: "Judgement Day", "Phoenix Rising"

So what?

So, what's more important or valid? When a label releases an album using a specific band name of a main member despite the will of that member-composer, or when a member of a band is using the brand name despite the will of other members he was working with?

According to "history" and the cases above, most of the times, the choice of the labels is what is taken for granted in the future. If a NAME is printed on the cover, it stays there forever. Sometimes it is wrong, sometimes it is correct, sometimes it is connected to the past with a band member or a continuation of the music, sometimes there isn't any connection, or just a small link.

Music industry has always had its own rules and decisions. Decisions that many times were above the will of the artists. But the music industry is also changing and the "names" are irrelevant nowadays: READ MORE

Κυριακή, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2020

Metal Nerdism Vol. 2: The Metal Alphabet

Do you think it is easy to complete a metal alphabet with your favourite bands? Lay down the alphabet and add one metal band next to each letter? Let's try to do it.

There will be just 3 simple rules:

1. You can add only metal bands (heavy, doom, power, epic, thrash...) and not hard rock, AOR or acts that just influenced metal bands.

2. You can leave a letter without a name but you can't add more than one name to each letter.

3. You can cheat just once. One letter. Write it wrong, cut a word, anything you want, but just in one letter. You can mention it if you wish.

A - Accept
B - Black Sabbath
C - Candlemass
D - Dio
E - Eternal Champion
F - Fates Warning
G - Gargoyle
H - Helloween
I - Iron Maiden
J - Judas Priest
K - King Diamond
L - Lordian Guard
M - Manowar
N - Nevermore
O - Ozzy Osbourne
P - Pentagram
Q - Queensrÿche
R - Running Wild
S - Saxon
T - Twisted Sister
U - U.D.O.
V - Venom
W - Warlord
X - X-Wild
Y - Yngwie J. Malmsteen (that's the cheating, I know it.)
Z - Zed Yago

Πέμπτη, 23 Ιανουαρίου 2020

LORD OF LIGHT interview – Introducing “Morningstar”

In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth
the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness is on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters

and God saith, 'Let light be', and light is.

Sometime in November of 2019, you were invited to listen to a new Heavy Metal album in the name of Lord of Light. That album, entitled Morningstar, was uploaded on digital platforms and not later than few days, it reached record labels and fans, with an enormous positive response.
Songwriter Nicklas Kirkevall will introduce for the first time Lord of Light to the world.

How did you get into music as a fan, and how as a musician?
I listened to a lot of rock music before that point but hearing "Aces High" with Iron Maiden kind of sealed the deal for me. That was around when I was 13 years old and I had just picked up the guitar after wanting to play for many years. I started with classical piano when I was quite young but there was always some measure of rock aspirations in me and with some good teachers, the early versions of Guitar Pro, and the greatness of Steve Harris and his men, I got a very strong start.

Did you play in other bands before Lord of Light?
I played keyboards with a few different bands of a more AOR oriented nature before, and did some gigs long ago, but that role never sat very well with me. I think I had more energy that needed out than playing bell pads and piano hooks made possible. Also, the sound of an electric guitar through a good high gain amplifier is one of the most beautiful sounds there is in this world.

What's the idea or meaning behind the name of the band and what pushed you to create Lord of Light?
The music is what’s been bouncing around my head for the better part of a decade now. There are riffs and melodies that don’t seem to want to leave me so I have to make something of them not to go insane. Light is the perfect theme for it all because it represents all the things that I want to relate. Without light there would be no life, so it makes sense to honour it.

How would you describe Lord of Light to someone who is not familiar with the band?
It’s heavy metal. It’s prog/power. I don’t know, the influences range from Toto to Meshuggah, and we’re equally traditionalist and trying to push the envelope. Only analogue synths were used and we had a tempo track or metronome for only a short few moments. Heavy metal that’s vibrant and organic, and at the same time as hard hitting and powerful as we can possibly make it, is the goal.

How long did it take you to write, perform and record the songs of Morningstar and can you tell us a few words for each track?
We spent about a week in the studio for all the basic stuff, and then I did a few weeks alone for the different vocal and guitar parts. After that the synths took several months to properly finish. It was a pretty arduous thing, to be honest, but I chalk a lot of that up to my inexperience as a producer. I’ve done studio work before but this project is different in many ways, and there were many good lessons learned during the process.
To speak a little on the songs it was "Presage" that kind of cemented this whole thing. I had actually written the music for "Ballad of the Righteous" before that but "Presage" was the first track with all the instrumentation down, so that’s where it started to seem like there was actually something exciting and worthwhile to make of it all. I rewrote it into "Typhoon" and wrote the rest of the material after that. "Morningstar" was the last to be completed and the one where I dared to go off in new directions the most.

When the album was completed, it was uploaded on Spotify and shortly you created a YouTube channel, where you also uploaded the album. Did you search for a record label before or you just let it "happen"?
There were plans to make a proper pitch to some labels but in the end I wanted to get to work on a new release as soon as possible, so we kind of just let it out to clear the slate and focus on the next step. The positive response we got was quite unexpected given how little effort we put in to getting it out there, but a very welcome boon after all the work we put in. It’s fantastic to have this kind of response with No Remorse Records, releasing Morningstar, and going into the next release.

Where would you place Lord of Light in the current music scene and which are your expectations for the future?
I think there is much to be done within the world of metal that hasn’t been done already. Some times it can feel like there aren’t any more uncharted waters to explore, but I sincerely hope we get the opportunity to prove otherwise in the coming years. I know we’re not the only ones, but I think we have the chance to contribute something really meaningful. 

Morningstar will be released on CD format via No Remorse Records on March 13, 2020.
Join Lord of Light on Facebook HERE

Δευτέρα, 20 Ιανουαρίου 2020

The albums we enjoyed most in 2019... And beyond.

The usual prologue would be that no one can say that have listened to almost everything that was released during 2019. Everyone who claims that is wrong, so we will speak just for our favourite releases and the albums we enjoyed most in 2019. The "best" albums of 2019 according to Crystal Logic.

Everything you will read below, are releases that can be found in physical format. "Releases" that were available only online, are not included. LORD OF LIGHT's "Morningstar" is going to be released physically in 2020 and the Spotify or YouTube tracks won't be added as an album in 2019. When this amazing album will be released, it will definitely be among the best of the year, but we're going to talk about it shortly...

There were few more great "releases" that can be found online but cannot considered "equal" to what we are talking about. For example, you can find on YouTube only (not even bandcamp) SMITH & SWANSON "Sanctuaries" that consists of three amazing songs in the vein of SEAMOUNT, HOUR OF 13 and BLACK SABBATH, while there is also the case of HRMÜLJA and MAGNABOLT, but as mentioned, let's just stick to what we're talking about. 
I believe that you need to check the physical format so you will have the complete experience of an album, and not just having a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. We love that. And we love lists. Any kind of lists. We are posting later than most media and websites our list, because there were so many great albums released during December or even November and we needed to have a proper listening. 2019 was not just more interesting than 2018 but it was probably one of the best years of the decade. Especially for fans of Doom Metal.

1. CRYPT SERMON "The Ruins of Fading Light"
(Dark Descent Records)

We have a winner. Along with their previous album ("Out of the Garden", 2015) we have the greatest epic doom metal albums of the decade. That's a bold statement, I know it, but that's already a classic. Nothing more to add. Number 1 is number 1. Pure perfection. Black iron gnosis.
Check also: SMOULDER "Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring". The Canadians fronted by sword woman Sarah Kitteringham, nailed it with an album that is balanced between epic metal, doom metal and pure passion. Sometimes, being a fan yourself, is the greatest element to create and perform passionate music.

2. ATLANTEAN KODEX "The Course of Empire"
(Ván Records)

We've been there for ATLANTEAN KODEX since day one; the very beginning. The first time I saw them live was at Up The Hammers festival 2010 and since then, many more times followed in Greece and Germany.
The first time I did an interview with the band was in 2011, before the second ATLANTEAN KODEX show in Athens, organized by No Remorse Records and Iron on Iron. That interview was done with Manuel Trummer for Cloak & Dagger 'zine (that exists no more, and was operated by Elina Kefala, that became one of the biggest supporters and friends of KODEX, "who reads the pathways of the stars").
Since that old interview can't be found anywhere anymore (online or printed) allow me to bring on surface a short part:
A.A.: Distant echoes from early MANOWAR, the Asatru period of BATHORY and writings of R.E. Howard, bound among others, the ATLANTEAN KODEX ethos. All this concept that steams from the Hidden Folk, is something that is part of your personality and your beliefs? How do you see the modern man?
M.T.: Well, I actually sometimes feel a little lost in this modern world. I often think that this isn‘t really my time and place. There‘s a huge lack of spirituality, of traditional ways of living and of identity in the modern world. Everything has to be as efficient and fast as possible. But this also makes things very superficial. "The Hidden Folk" is actually a very romantic song in a way. The longing for a better and distant past (which probably never existed) and the will to leave this world behind can be a huge emotional and atmospheric force, which can really take you away to a distant place, away from modernity‘s shackles.
A.A.: You believe that the history of Europe, is a history of immigration, right? So, there has to be a cultural diffusion of many different ideas and diversity. An acceptance for all the different people of Europe of today. So how important are the roots and the traditions for the man of 2011? And where do you draw a line of where these roots start?
M.T.: This is an interesting, but also a very difficult question. Where to draw the line? Let me start like this: yes, the history of Europe is of course a history of immigration. Everyone but the Basques, who were the first modern humans to conquer Europe, 35.000 years ago, is an immigrant in these lands. Speaking of Germany, the last 4000 years saw the last Stone Age people, they were driven to the hills and forests by the Indo-European Celtic tribes. The Celts were conquered by Roman troops, who dominated German lands from the Alps to the North Sea coast for almost 300 years. Then again the Romans were driven back by the barbarous Germanic tribes. Of course there were also the Slavs, who played a lead role in medieval times in eastern Germany... Each of these tribes left their marks on us as modern Germans, as well genetically, but most of all culturally. I guess this shows how shallow and how short-sighted concepts like "nation" or "race" really are. I consider myself a European, looking back on 10000 years of European heritage, sharing history, culture, genes and religion with my fellow Europeans from the boiling geysers of Thule to the walls of Hagar Q‘im, from Albion‘s shores to Attica‘s white temples. In a globalizing age, traditions are more important than ever. They provide us with a means of orientation in these fast-moving and confusing times. Family, home region ("Heimat" in German) and our European heritage is what defines us, tradition is what unites us.
Manuel visited more times Athens, not only for live shows. "The White Goddess" was released, more live shows followed, Europe and society changes and eight years later from that interview, I reached one more time Manuel and ATLANTEAN KODEX, this time for an interview for Metal Hammer magazine (Greece). It is always a pleasure to listen and read what bands like ATLANTEAN KODEX have to say about a new album, music, the lack of knowledge in modern society, social media, and tradition.
"The Course of Empire" is a triumph. A classic album. And ATLANTEAN KODEX is a unique band. It is not just about the music, but also the lyrics, the artworks, the aesthetics, the atmosphere, the symbols and metaphors they use to transmute the world.

3. IDLE HANDS "Mana"

From the first moment I listened to IDLE HANDS when they privately released "Don't Waste Your Time" EP, I was sure that this band is going to be huge. It is still early, but after their first full-length album "Mana", it seems that they can DO IT. They played nearly 100 gigs since the release of that EP and that's a huge achievement. Actually it is a miracle, if you will think about it deeper. "Mana" is a diverse album that sounds addictive, fresh and original. A highlight of 2019. A highlight of the decade. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a legend. Gabriel, prove me right!

Check also: LUNAR SHADOW "The Smokeless Fires", ENFORCER "Zenith", TANITH "In Another Time" and MOON CHAMBER "Lore of the Land".
Diversity is the magic word for the latest albums of LUNAR SHADOW and ENFORCER, but both of them combine different elements.
Three years ago, I did an interview with Max, guitarist and main composer of LUNAR SHADOW for Iron Fist (UK) and he said, "We play epic and melancholic heavy metal with tons of twin guitar leads. A strange amalgam of DISSECTION, WISHBONE ASH, old IN FLAMES and JUDAS PRIEST", when he was asked to describe his music to someone that is not familiar with the band. But his music is more than that. JUDAS PRIEST brought him into heavy metal, but his music is something more, something more personal. Loss, struggle, downfall... And then, you have the new album.
"The Smokeless Fires are our passions. The things that drive us one, deep within ourselves. All the love, hate, ambition, sorrow, joy and despair. That’s what all the songs on this album are about, in one way or another. It’s up to you to find out in which ways", said Max at Metal Squadron (an excellent interview you can read HERE). "The Smokeless Fires" is a personal album, created at a period where Max was looking for something else than "traditional heavy metal" and he came up with a diverse, emotional and great album. And even if he doesn't really like IDLE HANDS, "Roses" might be a song that connects these bands.
ENFORCER did something different. They added more melody in their traditional heavy metal and that worked really great. However, it seems that many fans didn't accept that change, but the album has few amazing songs like "Zenith of the Black Sun" (reminding Dio-era BLACK SABBATH), "The End of the Universe" and "Forever We Worship the Dark". You can't write similar songs every day...
MOON CHAMBER's debut album was created by Marta Gabriel of CRYSTAL VIPER on vocals (and bass on recordings) and Rob Bendelow of SARACEN on guitar and songwriting. In addition to Marta and Rob, keyboard duties are handled by Paul Bradder of SARACEN, and the driving percussion comes courtesy of PAGAN ALTAR’s Andy Green. In "Lore of the Land", you can listen 10 songs deeply rooted in the classic rock and heavy metal of the '70s and '80s, whilst drawing inspiration from the wealth of English folklore, history and legend. "Only" is probably the most beautiful song of 2019, while "Knight Errant (My Son)" is an amazing epic track.
As for TANITH, their debut album "In Another Time" is a passionate vintage hard rock that harks back to the glory days of THIN LIZZY and URIAH HEEP. However, while such influences resonate through the band’s music, TANITH never derivative, having a strong musical identity and forging their own sound.

4. ARCH / MATHEOS "Winter Ethereal"
(Metal Blade Records)

Oh that voice! When I saw for the first time John Arch performing live at the stage of Keep It True festival in 2012, I couldn’t believe that this guy hasn’t sung live since ages and yet, he nailed it! What a performance! Eight years since the debut ARCH / MATHEOS album “Sympathetic Resonance”, the guys we love returned with an even better album! Can you imagine that? Songs like "Wanderlust ", "Pitch Black Prism" and "Kindred Spirits" are standing among the highlights of the FATES WARNING legacy & "family". Soul, passion, variety and very well-written lyrics (something that is missing from metal nowadays). As for Jim Matheos, I can’t really add much about his amazing songwriting skills, and while we are waiting for the next FATES WARNING album, I hope there will be also another ARCH / MATHEOS album in the future…
Check also: HORIZON'S END "Skeleton Keys", ZONDER / WEHRKAMP "If It's Real".

5. RIOT CITY "Burn the Night"
(No Remorse Records)

Screaming heavy metal from Canada cannot fail. Album of the month in Deaf Forever magazine from Germany and one of the absolute highlights of 2019. These guys combine all the elements we love and they definitely "play on 10". Just imagine the most important influences a new traditional metal band must have and add the energy of passionate fans and professional musicians. Then you have “Burn the Night”. And the best is yet to come… 

Check also: HAUNT "If Icarus Could Fly", SABÏRE "Gates Ajar", TRAVELER "Traveler".
Singer and guitarist Trevor William Church, does something really amazing with HAUNT. He has worked on 3 albums and few EPs in just 3 years and looks unstoppable! On the other hand, Scarlett Monastyrski of SABÏRE was creating his acid metal slowly over the years, until that day of late December 2018 where he unleashed those songs on bandcamp. It was a matter of time for a proper release and shortly, the sound of true resistance was properly available on CD (via Skol Records) and vinyl (via No Remorse Records). SABÏRE from Australia, were also invited to perform few shows in Europe during 2019 and "Rise to the Top" sounds like the ultimate ‘80s retro metal song! And then, you have TRAVELER, the mates of RIOT CITY from Canada, releasing their debut album, full of anthemic songs, metal passion, blazing riffs and one of the best voices of our times. JUDAS PRIEST must be proud of their legacy.
6. GÉVAUDAN "Iter"
(Private release)

Privately released, this came to my attention by luck, but thank God it did! You need to be patient with music, so while the first 10-minute track was OK, someone who listens to music like visiting a burger house fast food could switch to something else. I didn’t. And then, you have two of the best doom metal tracks of 2019: "Maelstrom" and "The Great Heathen Army". CANDLEMASS might have Astorolus, the Great Octopus, but GÉVAUDAN have the Lords of the ocean, the Great Demons of the sea. So, who do you think will swallow the Earth? This private release is amazing and having Mike Exeter producing, is another highlight since Mike has worked with Tony Iommi and BLACK SABBATH, and that huge sound is present.
Check also: ALUNAH from England released their fifth album, "Violet Hour". Mesmerized performance by singer Siân Greenaway, hypnotized and heavy, this is definitely an album under the spell of the Iommic Magick.
It’s been a while since the mighty "Epicurean Mass" album of 2003 and ORODRUIN from the United States returned with "Ruins of Eternity", a bold statement in the current traditional doom metal scene. Solid, heavy and emotional, I only hope the next album won’t be released around 2035.
DOOMSTRESS hailing also from the United States and the album "Sleep Among the Dead" has "Your God Is Blind", one of the most catchy and addictive songs of 2019; one of the best songs of the year.

7. GOTHIC STONE "Haereticus Empyreum"
(Black Widow Records)

The voice of DOOMSWORD’s debut album, Italy, spooky atmosphere and organs, epic doom metal, and a lyric "You will die in the eve of Candlemass". You had me from "hello". GOTHIC STONE’s debut album passed unnoticed but do yourself a favor and check it as soon as possible. These guys managed to mix things that can sound familiar, with a very inspired way.  
Check also: IRON GRIFFIN "Curse of the Sky", THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG "New Organon"

8. CHEMIKILL "Edge of Wasteland"
(Tonalite Records)

Formed in late ‘80s, it took them "a while" to release an album, but CHEMIKILL did everything on their own and finally, an album titled “Edge of Wasteland” reached us! Somewhere between myth and reality, the album was recorded sometime in the ‘00s but the master tapes were lost and no recordings were saved. So here, you have all those tracks finally recorded and released. Classic US power metal with solid riffs and everything you love from American power metal.
Check also: ASSASSIN'S BLADE "Gather Darkness", QUEENSRŸCHE "The Verdict"

9. FVNERAL FVKK "Carnal Confessions"
(Solitude Productions / Bleeding Heart Nihilist)

You might laugh with the band’s name but you won’t laugh with the music itself. And you will definitely won’t laugh with the concept and imagery of FVNERAL FVKK’s ideas and songs. If you are into doom metal, here you have your next obsession. A dark doomy gospel forged in the crimes and atrocities of the people of the church. A bold and sinister album that cannot have commercial success. But who cares? Just listen to those carnal confessions.
Check also: LORD VICAR returned with "The Black Powder", so doom metal is alive and well, even if it smells rotten at times. Featuring members that performed or performing with bands like REVEREND BIZARRE, COUNT RAVEN and ORNE, this is pure traditional doom metal, dark, magickal and… slow. Just like it should be. And next to that, THRONEHAMMER released "Usurper of the Oaken Throne". These albums are not for the faint of heart. Enter the cave of doom metal with your own will, but be sure that if the demon of doom will possess you, it will be with you forever.

10. TWISTED TOWER DIRE "Wars in the Unknown"
(No Remorse Records)

This is a great comeback! We were expecting a new TWISTED TOWER DIRE album for a long time and they didn't fail us. Actually they never did, but their last studio album "Make It Dark" (2011) was considered as a disappointment by many, that also didn't really like WALYPRGUS' "Walpyrgus Nights", released in 2017 featuring TWISTED TOWER DIRE members. We like all of them, but "Wars in the Unknown" stands above them. This band is a true legend of the '90s and '00s underground metal and stood on their feet despite difficult times.

Check also: RAVENSIRE "A Stone Engraved in Red", TERMINUS "A Single Point of Light", WARRIOR PATH "Warrior Path".
RAVENSIRE hold the banner of underground metal high. And they will do until the end of times. TERMINUS are no longer a live act and their debut album, "The Reaper's Spiral" (2015) was a masterpiece. The latest album, "A Single Point of Light", is a grower and in the times of fast food, fast posts on social media and fast forward "listening" to an album, you really need to LISTEN. 

The Best, the Rest and More - 2019 Unmasked

Heavy, Epic, Power Metal Rites: ANCIENT EMPIRE "Wings of the Fallen", BLAZON STONE "Hymns of Triumph and Death", CHEVALIER "Destiny Calls", DARKLON "Rise from Death", GATEKEEPER "Grey Maiden", GRAND MAGUS "Wolf God", IRONSWORD "In The Coils Of Set", LEGENDRY "The Wizard and the Tower Keep", MANOWAR "The Final Battle I", MIRROR "Pyramid of Terror", MYSTIK "Mystik", RHODIUM "Sea of the Dead", SANHEDRIN "The Poisoner", SANGREAL "Sangreal", SAVAGE MASTER "Myth, Magic and Steel", SKELATOR "Cyber Metal", SOLICITOR "Sölicitör", STARBORN "Savage Peace", STORMBURNER "Shadow Rising", THE NIGHT ETERNAL "The Night Eternal", VULTURE "Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves", VULTURES VENGEANCE "The Knightlore".
Under the Sabbathian Spell and the Iommic Magick: ALTAR OF OBLIVION "The Seven Spirits", CANDLEMASS "The Door to Doom", CAPILLA ARDIENTE "The Siege", CARONTE "Wolves of Thelema", GREEN LUNG "Woodland Rites", IN AEVUM AGERE "Canto III", ISOLE "Dystopia", OGRE "Thrice as Strong", MAGIC CIRCLE "Departed Souls", MONASTERIUM "Church of Bones", SCARECROW "Scarecrow", SPIRIT ADRIFT "Divided By Darkness", THE SABBATHIAN "Latum Alterum", TROLL "Legend Master".
Melodic Lines: ECLIPSE "Paradigm", FOREVER "Forever", FORTUNE "II", GATHERING OF KINGS "First Mission", WHITESNAKE "Flesh & Blood", WORK OF ART "Exhibits".
Thrashing Maniacs and Screams from Hell: ACID DEATH "Primal Energies", AGGRESSIVE PERFECTOR "Havoc at the Midnight Hour", BLOOD INCANTATION "Hidden History of the Human Race", DEATH ANGEL "Humanicide", DIABOLIC NIGHT "Beyond the Realm", EXUMER "Hostile Defiance", FLOTSAM & JETSAM "The Age of Chaos", NILE "Vile Nilotic Rites", POSSESSED "Revelations of Oblivion", SACRED REICH "Awakening", SUICIDAL ANGELS "Years of Aggression", TOMB MOLD "Planetary Clairvoyance", WHITE WARD "Love Exchange Failure", XENTRIX "Bury the Pain".

What do we expect from 2020? 
The studio return of KING DIAMOND with the album "The Institute" is something we're looking forward to! That's a huge thing and King never dissapoints.
2020 will be the year of Epic Metal since DOOMSWORD might be back and ETERNAL CHAMPION will unleash their second, mythical, studio album. And if "mythical" is something that sounds "too much" for a new release, then an official release by the underground Epic Metal legend of BLACK SWORD THUNDER ATTACK, will shake the depths of underground metal.
If you want to go to the "surface", PSYCHOTIC WALTZ are already on the way, ERIC CLAYTON AND THE NINE are currently in the studio recording the album "A Thousand Scars" with Devon Graves of PSYCHOTIC WALTZ producing, SUMERLANDS are working on new songs, and HITTMAN will finally return with a new album.
In few days, we will have in our hands OZZY OSBOURNE's new album, "Ordinary Man", and even if you find it too mainstream or modern, OZZY will always be the Prince of Darkness.