10 Underground Albums Of 2019 That Even Mainstream Fans Need To Know About
There’s nothing wrong with being a fan of mainstream rock, punk, and metal. The catchiest songs are often the ones we like the most, and the underground can sometimes feel like a pretentious street-cred fencing match. At the same time, plenty of rock’s big names touch on enough incendiary subject matter that even the most basic of metal fans is still edgier than your average pop listener. But in the shifting age of Internet hype and streaming services, finding interesting new music is more and more the responsibility of the fan, and limiting one’s self to only mainstream rock means you can miss out on some incredible jams.
Case in point, though 2019 is shaping up to be a huge year for much-anticipated mainstream albums — Rammstein, Slipknot, and Tool, to name three — it’s also proving an incredibly fertile year for the underground. Every week of 2019, more and more records are released that are changing their given niches of rock. And rather than recount how no one expected their success years from now, we really ought to celebrate them today.
Here are ten underground albums that even the most mainstream rock fans need to know about…
Glassing - Spotted Horse (Brutal Panda)
It’s hard to lock down the most impressive thing about Glassing’s upcoming new album Spotted Horse. Maybe it’s the way the band moves effortlessly between beautiful, ethereal post-metal and scathing hardcore at the drop of a hat. Or maybe it’s how the record carries the listener along from start to finish, never offering up a dull note. Either way, this album is an enthralling combination of originality, excitement, and genre-bridging progression.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel - Nocebo (The Flenser)
Your friends with their ears to the ground have probably mentioned Elizabeth Colour Wheel to you once or twice, and with good reason. The band’s new album Nocebo is a staccato mixture of black metal, hardcore, and shoegaze with vocals that sound like Amy Winehouse tied to a chair and forced to sing at gunpoint. For fans of music that leave your mouth agape when you’re asked what it sounds like, this one is the album of the year.
Pissgrave - Posthumous Humiliation (Profound Lore)
Just disgusting. The noisy, no-fucks-given death metal on the sophomore album by Philadelphia vomit-inducers Pissgrave is arch and awesome in its extremity. But that’s not why you’ve probably heard of Posthumous Humiliation. Rather, it’s the uncensored cover, featuring a human head smashed to unspeakable pieces, that has the metal world buzzing about this album. If you like freaking your friends out with Cannibal Corpse art, you have a new favorite band.
Enforcer - Zenith (Nuclear Blast)
It’s easy to think albums are important because they’re intellectual — progressive, daring, artsy — but what if they just slap harder than everything else? With 2019’s Zenith, Finnish trad-metal crew Enforcer have written nothing more than the most fun metal album of the year, channeling acts like Dio, Motley Crue, and Manowar. Full of choruses you’ll mouth on the subway and solos you’ll play on a tennis racket in the mirror, Zenith may not be the album you cite over craft beer, but it’ll be the one you listen to the most.
Ithaca - The Language Of Injury (Holy Roar)
The word that defines the third album by London hardcore act Ithaca is urgency. There isn’t a misplaced second on The Language Of Injury; instead, every riff, breakdown, and burst of rage feels like it has to reach your ears right fucking now. This isn’t to say that the whole record is fast or impatient, only that it never wastes your time. In the age of streaming with ease and finding a new band after the first couple of songs, Ithaca have given us an album that you want to devour down to the last second.
Spirit Adrift - Divided By Darkness (20 Buck Spin)
With each release, Arizona power-doom band Spirit Adrift have been building up momentum and refining their style. Now, with 2019’s Divided By Darkness, this band is ready to blow into the mainstream. Full of dynamic song structure that never takes away from the band’s face-stomping riffs and serpentine guitar leads, this band walks a Mastadonian line between progressive and killer that the world feels hungry for. We’re excited just writing about it.
Oozing Wound - High Anxiety (Thrill Jockey)
It’s not just that Oozing Wound’s new full-length record is a catchy dose of scathing, noise-line thrash. It’s that the album’s exhausted misanthropy and edgy paranoia feel incredibly relevant in an era where actual Nazis walk the streets and people spend millions convincing themselves the Earth is flat. A perfect soundtrack to the rabid mental anguish that is being alive in 2019.
Druids - Monument (The Company)
In an era where most stoner metal bands have gone slower and chiller in attempts to chase Sabbathian heaviness, Druids from Iowa have taken the other path, upping their technicality and heaviness. The result is Monument, an album as mind-bending as it is crushing, that rewards repeated listeners with fascinating new moments that emerge upon each spin. Had this band blown up ten years ago, they’d just be one member of a pack; now, they stand alone as defenders of the faith.
Devil Master - Satan Spits On Children Of Light (Relapse Records)
If any band are doing evil right, it’s Philadelphian black thrash act Devil Master. While most of black metal’s old guard blastbeat along grimly, this rollicking sextet charge headfirst into war on Heaven with infectious rhythms, old-school horror lyrics, and a guitar tone that sounds like the glowing red edge of a heated blade. If there is an album that comes out this year that sounds more like a spiked leather gauntlet than this, we should like to hear it.
Violet Cold - k0smik (Self-released)
As huge and breathtaking as the Northern Lights, the new album by Azerbaijan avante garde metal band Violet Cold feels like the soundtrack to beautiful moments at night. The band’s mixture of echoing ambience, soaring riffs, and looming menace make them feel distinctly nocturnal and indescribably human. Imagine Deafheaven put out an album ten years after being banished to Siberia, and you might have an idea of what this is.
Watch Slipknot’s full set from Belgium’s Graspop Metal Meeting last year.
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