February rolled around and I still hadn't created by top ten best list of Bay Area albums of 2019, nor the survey of local releases that comes with it. I hadn't had the time yet, and there was no clear break in activities coming that would allow me to complete the project. It seemed like I might just have to let it go this time. Then March came around, and not just my job, but my entire industry evaporated overnight, along with my full time hobbies of band practice, playing shows and touring. So if anything good comes from this recent societal upheaval, I will get some backburner projects completed, and the list of 2019 releases will now finally be published!
As for the top ten list, I think it's a pretty good mix of releases, cutting across the spectrum of what the Bay has to offer these days. One black metal LP, two death metal, two punk, two traditional metal, two rock and roll, and one album that I can only describe as "San Francisco Metal," because it's not so easily categorized.
Just like I've said in years past, I make this list because there are NO publications, print, web, or otherwise that solely cover heavy music in the bay. Every once in a while, one of the top bands will garner some national press, but that's it. Decibel included the new releases by Possessed (no. 6) and Vastum (no. 35) in it's top 40 albums of the year. Metal Assault put Death Angel, War Cloud and Exhumed in it's top 20. Maximum Rock 'n' Roll, now a website, is much more interested in international bands than what's going on in it's own backyard. The East Bay Express covers local music, everything BUT punk and metal, it seems: Hip Hop, Disco, Indie Pop, nothing heavy. Someone please tell me I'm wrong.
Not much more to write, I have pretty much the same things to say I did for 2018, 2017 and 2016. Hopefully the bands just speak for themselves.
TOP TEN BAY AREA ALBUMS OF 2019
In alphabetical order
Asada Messiah: Steel Coffin
November 3, self released
A just fantastic and fun thrash / stoner / M-E-T-A-L album. It's not trying to squeeze into a genre hole, and I like that. Pure San Francisco style metal. Full disclosure: Yes, I drew the album cover for this.
October 4, Relapse
Ripping, unceasing gore metal, produced in an airtight, dry as a bone style (that's a compliment) Almost as good as 2017's masterpiece, Death Revenge! The VHS themed artwork is also a big plus. The mood and aesthetic of 80's trash slash horror is well captured.
Glitter Wizard: Opera Villains
April 20, Heavy Psych Sounds
There probably won't be a year when a Glitter Wizard album comes out and it doesn't make the top ten list. Nobody locally is doing anything like this, glam rock with a punk attitude, some heavy metal muscle and some progressive aspirations. Are they taking themselves seriously, or is it a big inside joke? Who cares? Opera Villains is their most pretentious album so far, and that's not a criticism. The whole setup, from the music to the brilliant packaging is fun, engaging, and a step beyond where they've gone before.
Hell Fire: Mania
March 29, Riding Easy
These are our local boys done good, the up and coming bearers of the torch for old school speed metal. They're working hard and they're gonna go far, and this album is an important step on their journey.
Hot Lunch: Seconds
March 15, Tee Pee
In the six years since their last LP, Hot Lunch has remained productive, putting out a steady stream of singles, splits and EPs, but obviously they were saving the most epic jams for this album, the longest clocks in at 13 minutes! Somehow still, they don't stray far from their roots as a skate / garage / retro rock gang. Sandpaper screams, nimble guitar, warm fuzzy bass, and the alternately flailing and precise drums hold everything together. Half of the band has moved out of the Bay Area since the record was released, but I'll still give this to 'em.
Kicker: Pure Drivel
February 8, Tankcrimes
Roadie is like the Larry David of punk, unable to hold back as he rails against the indignities of the modern world, both the small punk world in which we live, as well as the greater world at large. Another solid Kicker album, and with an all star crew of Bay Area veterans driving this boat, a solid Kicker album blows just about every other punk record out of the water.
Los Huaycos: Savage Monstrosities
February 8, Tankcrimes
Manic, quirky hardcore punk created by mostly Peruvians living in exile, which explains the third world flavor. A fun, quick record, excellent artwork and a laborious backstory.
Slough Feg: New Organon
June 14, Cruz Del Sur
This might be the best one since Ape Uprising! Concise, catchy songs, mostly on philosophical explorations. This band is a local treasure that should be valued by everyone.
Vale: The Burden Of Sight
May 24, The Flenser
Relentless, Bay Area style crust punk black metal, more metal than the demo. Like a little nephew in the Ludicra / Ails lineage.
Vastum: Orificial Purge
October 25, 20 Buck Spin
Here is Vastum doing what they do best: Big, heavy, hairy riffs. Lyrics so disturbing I'm afraid to even read them. "Abscess Inside Us" might be the Bay Area death metal track of the YEAR!
OH, HEY! I DID SOMETHING!
April 5, Carbonized
My only release of 2019.
TEN HONORABLE MENTIONS: ROCK AND METAL
In alphabetical order
Death Angel: Humanicide
Razor sharp production doesn't save this from being well… just another new Death Angel album, their fourth in what I will call the "Will Carroll" era. Based in the Bay Area thrash metal tradition, it goes a little of course with some too catchy choruses and groove metal breakdowns. Kind of like the last one.
Leather Glove: Perpetual Animation
A madman cut loose to do a solo project. Greg Wilkinson from Brainoil, and my bandmate in Deathgrave, did the guitars and vocals, with a variating lineup of drummers. Ominous grindo death metal, it provokes feelings of anxiety, confusion, and eventually utter dread.
Old Grandad: s/t
Mission drug rock stalwarts returned with a new release. Less bludgeoning than their past releasing, more subtlety. They have multiple vocalist and one sounds kind of like Kermit the Frog!
Possessed: Revelations In Oblivion
OG Bay Area death-thrash delivering the goods. Straight ahead, competently played, lacks the quirkiness of their 80's releases of course, not breaking any new ground here, but you can only invent this shit for the first time once, and they did pretty much invent it.
Praying: I'm No Healer Indie fuzz stoner noise doom, it's still heavy, but it's kind of a breath of fresh air from all the chewing on broken glass bleeding out in a gutter in hell death doom that The Bay has been known for latley!
Swamp Witch: Dead Rituals
Four songs clocking in at about ten minutes each, very heavy and focused, a big leap forward for this death/doom/sludge band! They are not entirely Bay Area, but I'm gonna let it slide.
Sweet Chariot: Lean Into The Breeze
Byrdsy / Stonesy twangy rock 'n' roll. As comforting and laid back as a tall can of Tecate and a Burrito on a sunny afternoon.
War Cloud: State Of Shock
While I enjoyed their debut album, it was a dose of rock and roll comfort food, this record shows War Cloud going outside of their comfort zone, picking up the pace, going from a merely rocking level to a ripping level, and getting more adventurous with the songwriting.
TEN METAL EPs, SINGLES, SPLITS AND DEMOS
In alphabetical order
Aseptic: Cascading Fluids Fun, energetic death/grind from San Jose
Body Void: You Will Know The Fear... Not getting any nicer or faster on this release!
Captured by Robots: Broken As Fuck The music is played by ROBOTS, OK?
Exhumed / Gatecreeper: Split Exhumed plays three cover songs
High On Fire: Bat Salad Two cool cover tunes, and a reworking of another
High Tone Son Of A Bitch: Death Of A New Day They're back! Years later with two new songs
Larvae: Necroptuary New lineup, new Larvae, three new songs. Death/doom.
Molten: Molten EP Debut vinyl EP from SF's best new metal band. Slayer meets King Diamond
Three Towers: Deity II Rock solid heavy stoner thrash, killin' it
Void Omnia / Insanity Cult: Split Two new Void Omnia tracks
TEN PUNK / HARDCORE THINGS
In alphabetical order
Khiis: Bezoar One of the few new punk bands that made it to the LP phase!
Membrane: s/t 7" One microphone in the hallway outside the practice room punk recording sounds!
Multilated Tongue: Fule The Flame Non stop hardcore brutality from these scene veterans
Provoke: Still Here Fierce, driven hardcore punk EP, with a few beat-down parts
Rank / Xerox: Servants In Heaven This band cut out for AWHILE, now they sound different
Sabertooth Rockers: Conspiracy Theory Fun, jangly rockin' garagey punk
Screaming Fist: Templanza Five tracks of hard punch rock en español
Shit Coffins: Termination Angry old men play fast and yell at you, make you spill your soy latte
Shrinkwrap Killers: Parents + FBI = Cahoots Devo / Spits-ish electro punk
Violation Wound: Dying To Live, Living To Die Hardcore / crossover thrash from Bay Area OGs
AND NOW, HERE'S EVERYTHING, PRETTY MUCH IN THE ORDER IT CAME OUT
Continuum: Release From Flesh and Blood
Dreadfort: Sentinel Of The Old Gods
Membrane: s/t 7" see ten punk hardcore things
Solarnaut: Oceanic Titanic
Jeff Hughell: Sleep Deprivation
The Conjured: Point Nemo
Sepsis: Inter-dimensional Decay
Sleep: Live At Third Man Records
Metallica: Helping Hands… Live
Kicker: Pure Drivel see top ten albums of the year
Los Huaycos: Savage Monstrosities see top ten albums of the year
The Ghost Next Door: A Feast For The Sixth Sense
Black Water Birth: East County Grime
Archer Nation: Beneath The Dream
Molten: s/t EP see ten metal EPs, singles, splits and demos
Blind Illusion: 2018 EP
Cerebral Engoregement: Abstract Defecation
Continuum: Designed Obsolescence
Deafheaven: Black Brick
Ötzi: Part Time Punks Sessions
Arcane Ritual: Witch Heart
Hour Of Thirteen: Feast and Flame
Preening: Gang Laughter Artsy poetic avant garde noise jazz weirdo rock
Larvae: Necroptuary EP see ten metal EPs, singles, splits and demos
Trecelence: I Am For the Eyes
Earth Crawler: Transparent
Hatchets For Hands: Age Of Deceit
Leather Glove: Perpetual Animation see ten honorable mentions, rock and metal
Outlier: Thread Through A Loom
Violent Legacy: Demo '19
Hour of Thirteen: A Knell within The Crypt
Faulluja: Undying Light
Hot Lunch: Seconds See top ten albums of the year
Body Void: You Will Know... see ten metal EPs, singles, splits and demos
Fallujah: Undying Light
Brume: Witch Ripper split Each band contributes a single song over 13 minutes long!
Svetovid: Waiting For The End
Ripped To Shreds: Eight Immortals Feast
Kook: Kook II Like a blues rock Melvins from San Jose
Ghoul: Nazi Smasher Digital onlyy, but I'm way on board with this!
Hellfire: Mania see top ten albums of the year
Sutekh Hexen Noise with a touch of black metal hellscapes straight from the depths
Yups: Man On The Moon Man On The Moon Lo-fi recording that jump from style to style
Dismembered Carnage: Blasphemed Betrayal
Multilated Tongue: Fule The Flame see ten punk hardcore things
High On Fire: Bat Salad EP see ten metal EPs, singles, splits and demos
Sweet Chariot: Lean Into The Breeze see ten honorable mentions rock and metal
Machine Head: Die Young
Cerebral Engorgement: Cerebral Chronicles
Glitter Wizard: Opera Villains see top ten albums of the year
Muldrotha: Where Terror Thrives
Shit Coffins: Termination see ten punk / hardcore things
Exodus: No Love (single)
Keter: The Sign
Shrinkwrap Killers: Parents + FBI + In Cahoots see ten punk / hardcore things
Fight Til Death: Tales Of Torture
Possessed: Shadowcult (EP)
Provoke: Still Here See ten punk / hardcore things
Khiis: Bezoar See ten punk / hardcore things
Agnostic Priest: Final Stand
Korrosive: Observation From The West Finland influenced raging hardcore
Possessed: Revelations Of Oblivion see ten honorable mentions rock and metal
Swamp Witch: Dead Rituals see ten honorable mentions rock and metal
Arno Corps: Welcome To The Gym
Errorgeist: 12 Monkeys
Sutekh Hexen / 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) split Sleepwalker sounds like two different records at once
Potential Threat: Threat To Society
Vale: Burden Of Sight See top ten albums of the year
Death Angel: Humanicide See above
Sludgebucket: Wading In An Ocean Of Filth
Drawing Heaven: Volume 1 & 2
Ripped To Shreds: Demon Scriptures
Slough Feg: New Organon See top ten albums of the year
Spinebreaker: Promo 2019
Wrekking Machine: Shut Your Mouth And Let Us Play!
Praying: I'm No Healer see ten honorable mentions rock and metal
Iron Crown: Before The Void
HTSOB: Death Of A New Day see ten metal EPs, splits, single, and demos
Howling Sycamore: Seven Pathways To Annihilation
Skitzo: Clas-sicks 3
Hell's Black List: Takin' Over
Mudface: Awaken To A Different Sun
Three Towers: Deity II see ten metal EPs, singles, splits and demos
Sabertooth Rockers: Conspiracy Theory see ten punk / hardcore things
Ravaged: Beyond The Grave's
Mournful Cries: Hallowed Tomb
Bastet: Lucid Duality The grim new face of Oakland death rock
Daxma: Ruins Upon Ruins Epic post rock noise landscapes
Hat-Riot: From Days Unto Darkness
Zed: Volume San Jose stoner metal
Mournful Cries: Bad Taste Contemporary style stoner doom from Santa Rosa
Death Switch: Ascend Through Flesh
Incredulous: Planetary Epitaph
Dendra: s/t demo
Sepsis: promo '19
Engendro Malevolo: Noveno Mundo
Void Omnia / Insanity Cult: Split see ten metal EPs, splits, singles and demos
Wrvth: No Rising Sun
Coffin Hunters: The Fire Knight
Hell's Black List: Slaves To Our Nature
Vorlust: Beast Demo Screams from the toilet!!!
Scythe: Fog Of Luxuries Fun, solid crossover-ish thrash from Santa Rosa
Ancient Empire: Wings Of The Fallen Melodic power metal
Houkago Grind Time: Saving The World
Ethnocide: No Escape Fun deathy-thrash from San Jose
Sepsis: Facial Deformities
The Conjured: Speak With The Dead
Black Fucking Cancer / Gloam: Boundless Arcane Incantations Killer South Bay Blackmetal!
Captured By Robots!: Broken As Fuck see ten metal EPs, splits, singles and demosBlood Omen: Wraiths
War Cloud: State Of Shock see ten honorable mentions rock and metal
Exhumed: Horror See top ten albums of the year
Fought On Earth: Grave Miscalculation
Mortuous / Deform (Split): Lamenting Reflections An old school Mortuous track finally released!
Blow: Live In San Francisco The new new psychedelic boogie youth onstage
Houkago Grind Time: Do You Love Anime...
Machine Head: Do Or Die single
Refract: Secular Pudding
Karen Crisis' Gospel Of The Witches: Covenant
Lowcaster: Flames Arise Contemporary style harmony doom outta SF
Sepsis: Interdimensional Decay
Arm The Valkyrie: Pyre
Exhumed / Gatecreeper: Split see ten metal EPs, singles, splits, and demos
Hysteria: Night Closing In see ten honorable mentions, rock and metal
Violation Wound: Dying To Live, Living To Die See above
Asada Messiah: Steel Coffin see top ten albums of the year
Old Grandad: s/t see ten honorable mentions rock and metal
Lacker: Two Faced Gag
Aspetic: Cascading Fluids see ten metal EPs, singles, splits and demos
Hellfire: Victims (single)
Brume: Rabbits Epic post rock-doom jams
Screaming Fist: Templanza See ten punk / hardcore things
Rank / Xerox: Servants In Heaven See ten punk / hardcore things
Houkago Grind Time: Extinction
Blind Illusion: The Likewise Sessions
Vietus Mortuus: Hymns To The Wild Earth
Dungeon Crawl: +1 Demo
Lost To The Void: Necrotic Ideology
The Conured: First Of The Abyss
Varnok: Plutonian Cyborg EP
Muldrothra: Lungs Of The Mother single
Goat Corpse: Profane Exclamations