Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Riffcaster's 2019 Top 11 List

A long time ago…in a galaxy far, far away…another cycle of the Terran Sun has completed and with it comes the rise of Riffcaster’s 2019 Top 11 List.  The battle raged on with many challengers coming forth but in the end a familiar hero stands tall.

1)         ZED - Volume
Rising on the black wings of a great Ebony rooster comes ZED’s Volume.  So powerful and so focused, I was dumbfounded and left speechless by its’ brilliance, yet no other album remained so firmly planted in my crosshairs in 2019.  The only words I was in fact able to conjure were “impossible to review...I mean, how many different ways are there to say "ZED rules!"? Absolutely stunning in both simplicity and complexity, ZED have taken the riff and groove cocktail that is their trademark and improved upon the already perfect recipe. If you love ZED already, you'll love them even more, and if you are new to them get this album and then go get their previous releases, you won't be disappointed.”

2)         Brume - Rabbits
Following closely on the heels of ZED, sees Brume orbiting the planet with Rabbits, the follow-up to Riffcaster’s 2017 Top 11 title holder Rooster. Rabbits sees the San Francisco trio step further beyond their doom metal heritage to create an even more genre breaking collection of heart rending, soulful yet crushingly heavy and beautiful compositions, and they do it to maximum effect.

3)         Haunt  –If Icarus Could Fly
Haunt continues their lightspeed ascent to the top of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal with If Icarus Could Fly.  Fueled by main man Trevor Church’s prolific foundry of twin guitar harmonies forging precious metal at the rate of an assembly line operating at peak efficiency.  It is my belief that if Icarus could fly he’d set his trajectory straight to the local record shop or website to acquire a copy.

4)         Cybernetic Witch Cult – Absurdum Ad Nauseum
Out of the depths of space Cybernetic Witch Cult returns with Absurdum Ad Nauseum, their first full length release of new material since 2016’s Top 11 placeholder Spaceous Cretaceous.  This extraterrestrial visitation though is less about alien creatures and dinosaurs out of time and more about the dangers Earth is facing currently from the environment and from its’ human inhabitants.  A darker, more contemplative collection, Absurdum Ad Nauseum delivers the warning with thunderous aplomb.

5)         Horseburner – The Thief
Coming in hot at number 5 is West Virginia’s Horseburner with The Thief.  Atmospheric and heavy as a star destroyer, fans of Baroness, Khemmis and Elder will find much common ground within.

6)         Beastwars - IV
Returning from hiatus like Han Solo emerging from frozen carbonite, New Zealand’s Beastwars focused all their energies to create their most focused effort yet on the chronologically titled IV.

7)        Lo-Pan –Subtle
Cruising along and flying casually, Lo-Pan sneaks past the defenses with their latest album Subtle, completely loaded with tasty riffs chock full of groove.

8)         KOOK - II
Boy, if you thought I was going heavy on the space references, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!  KOOK drops out of hyperspace to deliver the second chapter in their ongoing spaced out saga of strangeness.

9)         The Ghost Next Door–A Feast For The Sixth Sense 
From the depths of the Outer Rim territories (or San Francisco…) comes The Ghost Next Door with one of the most genre bending albums of the year.  Blending elements of metal, doom and 90’s alt metal, A Feast For The Sixth Sense is truly a feast for the musical senses.

10)       Gygax – High Fantasy
If translated from D&D lexicon into the SW universe, Gygax would likely be the Jedi Council. Indeed their skills are complete and on full display on High Fantasy.

11)       Hellfire – Mania
Hellfire emerge hotter than the sands of Tatooine to bring balance to the metal force on their third album Mania.  Delivered with the ferocity of a Sith lord yet executed with the precision of a Jedi master, Hellfire lay down the metal with a zeal truly deserving of the coveted eleventh spot by going to 11 both figuratively and literally.

Honorable Mentions
As always, there are a lot of great albums that are worthy of recognition, here’s my short list:

Death Angel – Humanicide
Devil To Pay – Forever, Never or Whenever
Duel –Valley Of Shadows
Lowcaster – Flames Arise
Shotgun Sawyer – Bury The Hatchet
Supernaut – Green
War Cloud – State Of Shock

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