Best of 2019: Dan still likes metal, but maybe not writing?

Best of 2019

Oh look, it’s been over a month since my last post.

Related: I don’t really know if I like blog writing anymore?

I got quite a bit done in 2019. I passed my boards and started my first job as an RN. I caught a double-digit number of concerts in a year for the first time since 2016. I read 30 books. I took in quite a bit of music – and actually enjoyed most of it!

And yet, this is the development that’s seemed to stick with me most this year. All these things I experienced – albums I read, shows I saw, places I went, etc. – and in most cases, I couldn’t be any less bothered to turn them into #content opportunities. Even non-metal related posts like my Retrocution column haven’t been coming as easily to me. Even the “easier” stuff like Cursed Imagery – which, nine times out of ten, I can basically fart out – has started to feel like a chore.

I alluded to similar feelings around this time last year, in my 2018 wrap-up post, but that pertained more to metal music, rather than, you know…an activity I’ve been partaking in – and generally enjoying! – since I was in first grade. So, what’s changed?

Well, I think a least some of my distaste comes down to “the process.” Now, in theory, this process should be lengthy. As I picture it in my head, writing should consist of multiple steps: extensive research (or, for our purposes, listening), outlines, drafts, edits, re-drafts, re-edits, and eventually, publication. It should feel like a craft.

In practice, though, writing rarely, if ever, follows that breakdown for me. I think on what I’m gonna write, jump in, edit as I go, hit the publish button, and then move onto the next thing. Sometimes I catch all my errors and weed out all the redundant words, and sometimes I don’t. Whoops. Writing’s not a job for me; it’s just one of many activities I pursue, and unfortunately, it’s not a top…even three-or-four priority among them.

So I know where writing stands in the hierarchy, and know it’s not really a serious pursuit at this point. And yet, in a weird way, it still kinda bums me out that I’m not really able to follow that process! That most times, I’d prefer to simply enjoy an album and have that be enough, and not have to worry about getting deep in thought about it or struggling to find the right words to describe it. (And yeah, I’m aware that it seems… pretty weird to have these two pretty at-odds sentiments going on in my head at once, but hey! I’m a pretty weird guy!)

Basically, I’m actively keeping writing “in its place” in my life, while simultaneously lamenting the fact that said place isn’t bigger or more significant. And as a result, I often… don’t really end up liking the stuff I do write all that much. I end up feeling like, if I haven’t gone through “the process,” how much weight do my thoughts on an album / song / concert really carry? Why should people bother with what I have to say? It’s a weird spot to be in.

So, maybe I just need a break from it for a good while.

Looking ahead to 2020, maybe it’ll be better to try and hop on the podcast a bit more – or to try to come up with new podcast segments. Maybe it’ll be better to do Retrocution as a monthly recap column, with quick-hitter blurbs about a few highlights, rather than a lengthy review of one album in each edition. Maybe Cursed Imagery will be better if it doesn’t publish every week, but rather only when there’s a particularly ridiculous album cover or two to write about. Maybe all of the above! Maybe none of it. We’ll have to see.

While I continue to ponder that, here are some metal albums I enjoyed in 2019. I’m not going to rank them, because as I said earlier, I kind of just want to enjoy them and have that be enough. (Also because this obsession with making music a competition feels dumber and dumber every year.) I’ll try to put my own thoughts down for some of the listed albums, but most will have blurbs linked from other writers here at the site. Because here’s the thing: there are a lot of folks at Nine Circles who still live, eat and breathe this stuff, and who still put the effort in to writing about it. Chances are, you’d be much better suited to reading their thoughts about an album than my own.

So now – after 750+ words from the guy who claims not to like writing that much anymore – let’s jump in…

Alcest – Spiritual Instinct

From Chris’ Best of 2019 Honorable Mentions list:

“More assured in its aggression than Kodama, there’s an urgency to tracks like “Protection” and “Sapphire” that felt missing on the previous two albums, and Neige indeed brings back the screaming in an organic, natural way that doesn’t feel like a betrayal to the direction his music has taken since the shoegaze pop of Shelter.”

Astronoid – Astronoid

From Charles’ Best of 2019 list:

[Astronoid] has an ebb and flow, and gives you room to breath between the epic riffs and unparalleled vocals. It’s a more mature and musical album than Air, and is all the better for it.”

Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race

From Vince’s November 22 edition of Receiving the Evcharist:

“A love letter to death metal, from death metal, while simultaneously showing where the future of the genre lies”

Candlemass – The Door to Doom

From me, literally writing this just now:

Amazing that we managed to go the whole year without a mention of how much ass this thing kicks. With Johan Langqvist back on the mic after a 33-year absence, Candlemass sounds as vital as ever. It’s easy to point to the lumbering, majestic “Astorolus – the Great Octopus” as a highlight, but you know what? This album is full of highlights. You’re doing (doom-ing?) yourself a tremendous disservice if you don’t listen to all of them.

Crypt Sermon – The Ruins of Fading Light

From Josh’s September 9 edition of Initial Descent:

“surpasses and crushes [the band’s debut, Out of the Garden]”

Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear

From me:

You probably thought that, without Julie Christmas in tow, Cult of Luna couldn’t come close to the heights of 2016’s Mariner. Well, you thought wrong.

Darkthrone – Old Star

From Vince’s thoughts on Old Star in our May 2019 Album of the Month podcast:

“Since their beginning, [Darkthrone’s] done nothing but chase their passions musically — wherever that passion may go — and that manifests in the myriad genre changes their music has gone through since the ’90s. But no matter what kind of Darkthrone you like — whether it’s black metal Darkthrone, death metal Darkthrone, trad Darkthrone, doom Darkthrone, punk Darkthrone — it’s always just two guys having a shitload of fun writing songs together. And that’s just great.”

Devin Townsend – Empath

From Chris’ thoughts on Empath in our March 2019 Album of the Month podcast:

“It’s not only a culmination of the past ten years; more than anything it feels like the first time I’m hearing [Devin] unfettered”

Earth – Full Upon her Burning Lips

Exhumed — Horror

From Schuler’s thoughts on Horror in our October 2019 Album of the Month podcast:

“If you took the dudes that wrote and performed Slaughtercult and then put them in a time machine and brought them to 2019, this is the record they would make. And because of that, it feels super natural and it feels like a lot of fun.”

Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology

From Charles’ review of Patterns in Mythology:

“Part of what makes [Patterns in Mythology] so cohesive is that this isn’t yet another black metal album focusing on sounding as dark and evil as possible. It is, instead, an album that sounds uplifting and pensive. Occasionally it is difficult to call this a black metal album at all.”

Gloryhammer – Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex

From Chris’ Best of 2019 Honorable Mentions list:

“Anthemic, soaring and punchy, and filled with laser-powered goblin smashers, unicorns, robot voices and more fun than practically anything else I heard this year. In Hoots We Trust, indeed…”

Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect

From Vince’s July 5 edition of Receiving the Evcharist:

“Beyond the stellar musicianship, there is a real emotional undercurrent to these songs that humanizes them; there really is only so much more Immortal Bird can take, and that brutal honesty spills out from the edges of everything they have done here, and resonates with the listener in a tangible way.”

Infinity Shred – Forever, A Fast Life

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave

From me:

Winter’s Gate was an unbearably tough act to follow. Credit to the Finns for giving their all on the follow-up. Heart Like a Grave ends up being nearly as enjoyable an experience.

Inter Arma – Sulphur English

From Chris’ review of Sulphur English:

“This is deep, dark, heavy music made with passion and fury, echoing the pain and anguish that comes with the truly heavy.”

Misþyrming — Algleymi

Mizmor – Cairn

From Vince’s September 6 edition of Receiving the Evcharist:

“It’s an album full of weight, philosophically and sonically, containing within Mizmor’s most fully realized songwriting to date, and undoubtedly some of the most harrowing music released this year.”

Moon Tooth – Crux

From Chris’ Nine Circles ov…2019: A Mid-Year Report (and also, incidentally, his Best of 2019 post):

“If ‘Trust’ doesn’t make you jump up and move, there is a fundamental difference in the way we are wired.”

Noisem – Cease to Exist

From Chris’ review of Cease to Exist:

“Noisem have finally gone and fulfilled the promise everyone thought they made five years ago. This is some punishing death thrash that isn’t afraid to carve out a niche in the past and revel in it, while at the same time bringing some modern sensibilities to things.”

Obsequiae – The Palms of Sorrowed Kings

From Chris’ review of The Palms of Sorrowed Kings:

“…holds rich rewards for those who take the time and attention to dive deeper.  What Obsequiae have created is something no else is doing right now in metal.”

Russian Circles – Blood Year

From me:

Russian Circles never fails to mesmerize you with their devastatingly pretty heaviness, and Blood Year keeps that streak alive. “Arluck” alone would have earned this thing a spot on my year-end list; that there’s further richness to explore beyond that only cements this thing’s standing. Easily a Top 2- or 3 entry in the band’s discography.

Schammasch – Hearts of No Light

From me:

There aren’t too many other bands out there doing the kind of sonic exploration Schammasch has done for five releases and counting. Hearts of No Light answers any and all questions of what black metal can incorporate — can be — with a wondrous and resounding “YES.” Embrace possibility. Listen to Schammasch.

ShadowStrike – Legends of Human Spirit

Soen – Lotus

From Chris’ review of Lotus:

Lotus lays to rest any notion of the band following in others footsteps; instead they’ve more than proved they march to their own beat, and it’s for others to follow in their wake.”

Swallow the Sun – When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light

From me:

A slightly more digestible serving than last time out [2015’s triple album Songs from the North I, II & III], but with every bit as emotional a punch packed in. Terrific listen from the Finns.

Tanagra – Meridiem

From Chris’ Best of 2019 Honorable Mentions list:

“Hands down, this is the power metal album of the year.”

Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance

From me:

Earlier this year, it felt like Tomb Mold was everyone’s favorite young death metal band until they suddenly…weren’t. Sorry, but fuck that. Maybe it was that Blood Incantation came back along? Okay, fine…but with all due respect, I’m sticking with the boys from up north. On Planetary Clairvoyance, the Toronto quartet served up their third absolutely KILLER album in as many years, and continues to scratch my personal itch for filthy, primal death metal better than anyone out there.

Toxic Holocaust – Primal Future: 2019

From Chris’ Best of 2019 Honorable Mentions list:

“No one can hit that early 80s speed/thrash brutality quite like Joel Grind”

Véhémence – Par le Sang Versé

White Ward – Love Exchange Failure

From Hera’s review of Love Exchange Failure:

“Both intimate and distant in its setup and reminiscent of a film noir aesthetic that makes me want to crawl out of my skin.”

Wilderun – Veil of Imagination

From my review of Veil of Imagination:

“On just about every level, Veil represents a departure from, and an expansion on, the template Wilderun had given us previously. In other words, growth – massive, undeniable growth.”

Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling

From Vince’s June 28 edition of Receiving the Evcharist:

Rare Field Ceiling is the most expressive and dynamic Yellow Eyes have ever been.”

So that’ll do it for me. There’s probably some stuff I missed. Well, here’s the good news: I’m sorry! Be well and listen to some good metal in 2020. Maybe you can tell me about it, and maybe I’ll feature it in this column next year. Hurrah!


3 thoughts on “Best of 2019: Dan still likes metal, but maybe not writing?

  1. dees72 January 8, 2020 / 5:14 pm

    As a fellow RN of 20 something years, congrats and welcome dude. First year can be tough. No shame in taking time to concentrate on learning your profession. Keep grinding away. It gets better and easier. Writing can be tough though since your focus will be cutting everything down to what’s absolutely necessary to communicate your point.

    • Dan January 8, 2020 / 8:42 pm

      Hey, thanks much! Appreciate the kind words from a seasoned RN 🙂 Happy new year, and thanks for reading!

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