Staff picks and playlists – December 2019

Another year ends and a new one begins. Thanks for hanging with us in 2019. Stick around for lots more to come in 2020! This month, in addition to our usual staff playlists, some of us Hellbound folks have nominated our 2019 and all-decade favourites and highlighted what we’re looking forward to in this new year.

Hellbound recommends: thinking back and looking ahead

Bill Adams

Listening to: Steven Bradley – Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears (Porterhouse): From note one, it’s perfectly apparent how much a labor of love Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears was for Steven Bradley. On each cut on Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears, there’s no question at how much time the singer took writing and re-writing the music and lyrics, tightening the elements until they’re diamond perfect and precious. Guest appearances by artists like Jonny Wickersham (Social Distortion), Wayne Kramer (MC5) and Steven McDonald (OFF!, Redd Kross and Melvins) are really just the icing on the cake here – the album radiates a quality of craft that is impossible to deny. Nothing about it is what you’d expect reader, and that’s what makes it great.

New release: Drew Thomson Foundation – s/t – Not exactly BRAND NEW, but released within the last couple of months – and I haven’t finished my review of it yet because I remain so captivated by it that I forget to pick up a pen while listening.

Non-Metal: Because all my picks are non-metal, how about I include a metal album here instead? I choose Bowels of Earth by Entombed A.D. The last time I paid any attention to the members of Entombed was around 1993, when the band released Wolverine Blues. The truth is that I became interested when I saw an ad for it in an X-Men comic book, and Wolverine Blues became my first real introduction to death metal. Ironically, I’ve been pretty picky about anything I’ve heard which has come out of the genre since, but particularly of what I have heard come from Entombed; to say that I have found the band’s output spotty is an understatement and I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding much to like in the band’s catalogue at all. Now over a quarter century after the release of Wolverine Blues, Entombed has broken up and restructured itself under the name Entombed A.D. and, with Bowels of Earth (the group’s third album under its new moniker), the band has found its way back into something I like which incorporates measures of hard rock, metal and hardcore punk similar to those the group tested out back in the day.

Wild card: Jim Carroll Band – Catholic Boy (Fat Possum reissue): I’m not sure how it worked out, but this year has really been all about great reissues for Fat Possum Records. In addition to several titles from EL-P and X, Fat Possum reissued Catholic Boy by Jim Carroll Band, and accidentally reissued a perfect connection between New York punk and new wave in so doing. Of course, fans of Leonardo DiCaprio and The Basketball Diaries will recognize “People Who Died” and “Catholic Boy” (although the version which appears here is not the one which features Pearl Jam behind Carroll) as well as the junkier side of Carroll, much of the B-side of the album is more new wave-flavoured than punk, but doesn’t fall all the way into synths and skinny ties. Rather, it could be argued that the new wave quotient is a little more embryonic, which makes it absolutely compelling to listen to.

Arta Gailuma

Listening to: Insomnium

New release: Kampfar – Ofidians Manifest

Live: Moonsorrow headlining the second day of HRH Vikings

Top Albums of 2019:
Mgla – Age of Axcuse
Humanity’s Last Breath – Abyssal
Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear
Saor – Forgotten Paths
Dawnfall of Gaia – Ethic of Radical Finitude

Top Albums of the Decade:
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit (2018)
Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun (2014)
Batushka – Litourgiya (2015)
Mgla – Excercises in Futility (2015)
Behemoth – The Satanist  (2014)
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (2018)
The Devil Townsend Project – Transcendence (2016)
Septicflesh – The Great Mass (2011)

Best Gigs of 2019:
Concerts – Carach Angren, Behemoth, Polyphia
Festivals – TechFest, Euroblast, Copenhell

Most Anticipated Material of 2020: Gojira, Apocalyptica, Trivium, Lamb of God, TesseracT, Karnivool, also Marko Hietala solo album Pyre of the Black Heart.

Gruesome Greg

New release: Kirk Windstein – Dream in Motion

Live: Kadavar with Ruby the Hatchet @ Lee’s Palace, December 17

Non-Metal: Toto – Hold the Line

Wild card: Watching Die Hard (and maybe Die Hard 2) on Christmas Eve!

Top Album of 2019: Saint Vitus – self-titled. Reagers’ return is a fine return to form, 40 years into their career!

Best Gig of 2019: Maryland Doom Fest, Pagan Altar/Blood Ceremony/Cauchemar/Smoulder @ Lee’s Palace, Church of Misery in Detroit, Acid King in Buffalo

Best Gigs of the Decade: The very first Psycho Las Vegas in 2016. I have not seen another lineup like that in North America since — including subsequent editions of said festival. Honourable mention to Maryland Doom Fest 2019, Days of the Doomed IV (2014), every time Eyehategod played The Bug Jar in Rochester, and that one time I saw Sleep play an outdoor gig in downtown Calgary at Sled Island 2011.

Most Anticipated Material of 2020: Church of Misery finally playing Toronto (and other Canadian dates) in February!!!

Sarah Riley

Listening to: Aorlhac – L’esprit des vents (Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions, 2018)

New release: Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race (Dark Descent Records, November 22nd, 2019)

Live: Goreworm, Becomes Astral, Inanimate Existence @ Doors: Taco Joint & Metal Bar, Hamilton, December 10th.

Non-Metal: Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (RCA Victor, 1967)

Wild card: Any album by Harakiri for the Sky usually feels fitting in the winter.

Top Albums of the Decade:
1. Dying Fetus – Reign Supreme (2012)
2. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction (2015)
3. Be’lakor – Vessels (2016)
4. Sylosis – Edge of the Earth (2011)
5. Revocation – Chaos of Forms (2011)
6. Windhand – Eternal Return (2018)
7. Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (2018)
8. Suffocation – …Of the Dark Light (2017)
9. Inferi – The End of a Era: Rebirth (2019)
10. Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I (2012)
Best Gig of 2019: 

Conjurer, Skeletal Remains, Psycroptic, Voivod, Revocation @ The Opera House, Toronto, September 14th.

Best Gigs of the Decade:

1. Heavy Montreal, 2015

2. Visceral Disgorge, Krisiun, Cattle Decapitation, Suffocation @ Lee’s Palace, Toronto, October 24th, 2018.

Laura Wiebe

Listening to: Jolly – Family

New release: Astaroth Incarnate – Ascendance

Wild card: The Witcher TV series

Top Albums of 2019: Lacrimas Profundere – Bleeding the Stars, Nachtterror – Judgement, Smoulder – Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, Völur / Amber Asylum – Breaker of Rings / Blood Witch

Top Albums of the Decade: Ihsahn – Arktis, Leprous – The Congregation, Grand Magus – Triumph and Power, Subrosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, Zeal & Ardor – Strange Fruit, Woods of Ypres – Woods 5, Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence, Vile Creature, Anciients…

Best Gigs of 2019: Dawn Ray’d, Gowan, Zeal & Ardor, Anneke van Giesbergen…

Best Gigs of the Decade: way too many to list, but I finally got to see My Dying Bride

Adam Wills

Listening to: 40 Watt Sun – Wider Than the Sky

New release: The Lighthouse (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Mark Korven

Non-Metal: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Wild card: What We Do in the Shadows (TV series)

Top Album(s) of 2019:
Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
Amorphis – Queen of Time
Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence
Devin Townsend – Empath
Leprous – Pitfalls
Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
Soen – Lotus
Smoulder – Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring
Wilderun – Veil of Imagination

Top Album(s) of the Decade:
40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room
Alcest – Les Voyages De L’âme
Anathema – Weather Systems
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
Ihsahn – Arktis
Leprous – The Congregation
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Pallbearer – Heartless
Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light
Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit

Best Gig(s) of 2019:
Heavy Montreal 2019
Yob/Voivod – Toronto, ON
Augury – Toronto, ON
Vile Creature/Dawn Ray’d – Hamilton, ON

Best Gig(s) of the Decade:
Clutch/Devin Townsend – New Years Even 2017 – Columbus, OH
ProgPower 2016 – Atlanta, GA
Tuska Open Air 2015 – Finland
Progressive Nation at Sea – 2014
Iron Maiden/Megadeth/Anthrax/Testament – 2013 – San Bernadino, CA
Hellfest 2011 – Clisson, France
Devin Townsend w/ Anneke van Giersbergen 2011 – Groningen, Netherlands

Most Anticipated Material of 2020:
Carcass, King Diamond, Myrkur, Oceans of Slumber