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Top 30 Metal + Hard Rock Songs of 2019

Another strong year of heavy music produced a cornucopia of stellar tracks

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Top Metal and Hard Rock Songs 2019
Babymetal / Slipknot, photo by Raymond Ahner / Rammstein, photo by Jens Koch

    Earlier this year, a new study revealed that heavy metal was the fastest-growing genre in terms of streams and downloads from 2017 to 2018. It would be no surprise if that trend continued in 2019, another banner year for heavy music.

    Metal and hard rock thrived once again this year, with a vast array of artists delivering stellar songs throughout 2019. The past 12 months have seen the return of bands like Tool and Rammstein, who had both been long dormant when it came to new music. Heavy hitters like Slipknot and Korn also came through with a number of strong tracks.

    Black Sabbath legend Tony Iommi teamed up with Swedish doom veterans Candlemass for one of the year’s most memorable tracks, while fellow Sabbath icon Ozzy Osbourne overcame a tough year health-wise to deliver an impressive single from his upcoming solo album.

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    The year wasn’t all about long-established acts, though, as Devil Master, Gatecreeper, Monolord, and more proved that metal’s new crop of up-and-coming acts continue to prosper.

    So, turn the volume to 11, as you scroll through our picks for the Top 30 Metal + Hard Rock Songs of 2019.

    — Spencer Kaufman

    Managing Editor


    30. Monolord – “The Bastard Son”

    Sounds Like: Crushing psychedelic doom metal with riffs for days.

    Key Lyric: “Illusions of a world/ Broken but yet so pure”

    Why It Matters: Monolord have become a staple in the stoner metal scene for consistently delivering melodic riff fests like “The Bastard Son” — the 10-minute lead track from their Relapse Records debut, No Comfort. The catchy chorus melody and a signature riff make this one particularly memorable among the album’s many head-nodding jams. —Jon Hadusek


    29. Spirit Adrift – “Hear Her”

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    Sounds Like: Timeless melodic heavy metal that unabashedly embraces the classic tones of Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne.

    Key Lyric: “Seek the answer in expression/ Transformation will begin”

    Why It Matters: Divided by Darkness is an open love letter to metal’s glorious past, and “Hear Her” is the finest example of Spirit Adrift’s tasteful anachronism, proving that a concise pop song structure can always accommodate chugging riffage and soaring vocals, no matter what decade it is.—Jon Hadusek


    28. Elder – “Illusory Motion”

    Sounds Like: Cruising through a desert expanse as the edible starts to kick in.

    Key Lyric: Instrumental

    Why It Matters: Resting right under the surface of every great stoner rock band is a churning soup of psychedelic and prog influences. Like most, Elder often only reveals that element in small sips. On this stopgap between proper albums, the Boston band takes a big heaving gulp and recorded three extended jams that blissfully wander with no endgame in mind. The opening track on The Gold and Silver Sessions is nearly 10 minutes of third eye polishing that doesn’t resist the urge to get nasty and heavy. —Robert Ham


    27. Hammerfall – “Dominion”

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    Sounds Like: Biblical sagas depicted as brutal power metal.

    Key Lyric: “Serve in heaven or reign in hell/ Find your paradise lost/ Rise, awake or forever be/ Fallen in the abyss”

    Why It Matters: Hammerfall deliver epic power metal with all the right thematic content: swords, castles, Satan, etc. “Dominion” is arguably the heaviest the prolific Swedish metallers have ever sounded, with a boisterous Motörhead-like aggression that’s befitting of the band. —Jon Hadusek


    26. Bad Religion – “Chaos From Within”

    Sounds Like: Aggressively intelligent So Cal punk rock punching you in the face.

    Key Lyric: “Threat is urgent! Existential!/ Omnipresent like a skin/ But the danger’s purely mental/ It’s chaos from within”

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    Why It Matters: Bad Religion are pissed off again and it shows. “Chaos From Within” off of Age of Unreason is quintessentially So Cal punk. It’s fast and in your face, but remarkably memorable. As a noticeable influence on so many younger bands, it’s awesome to hear the innovators themselves show the kids how it’s done on their 17th studio album. — Colette Claire


    25. Death Angel – “Humanicide”

    Sounds Like: Pure thrashing Bay Area speed metal at its finest.

    Key Lyric: “This is who I am/ That’s who I’ll always be/ The dark horse, black plague, anti-god/ That lives in you and me”

    Why It Matters: The riffs. Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar lay down some of their strongest guitar-work in years on 2019’s Humanicide, and the title track highlights the duo’s interplay. Meanwhile, frontman Mark Osegueda barks and shouts about the psychological downfall of man. It all makes for choice thrash metal as Death Angel continue their unrelenting resurgence since reforming in 2004. —Jon Hadusek


    24. Blood Incantation – “Inner Paths (To Outer Space)”

    Sounds Like: The experience of smoking DMT in audio form.

    Key Lyric: Instrumental.

    Why It Matters: Further proof that regular doses of psychedelics doesn’t only result in meandering jam rock (Blood Incantation allegedly constructed this track from improvisations played while they were tripping on consciousness-altering drugs). The death metal quartet from Colorado throws in their arsenal at this track: glittery post-rock, creeping ambient, splashy blast beats fighting against granulated guitar riffs. — Robert Ham


    23. Alter Bridge, “Native Son”

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    Sounds Like: A classic Alter Bridge anthem, with towering guitars and lyrics that make you feel like you can conquer anything.

    Key Lyric: “Marching forward brings a slow and cruel decay/ As I fight/ For the heritage so many died to save/ Now nothing remains”

    Why It Matters: With its combination of instrumental chops and powerhouse vocals, Walk the Sky offers one of the strongest albums in Alter Bridge’s growing catalog, and “Native Son” is a standout track. The song starts with a Middle Eastern-influenced instrumental that explodes into fiery riffing. From there, Alter Bridge suck the listener in with a tight, heavy wall of sound that backs Myles Kennedy’s unmistakable tenor. — Anne Erickson


    22. Devil Master — “Black Flame Candle”

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    Sounds Like: The darkest, fastest, and utterly evilest version of Motörhead.

    Key Lyric: “My ultimate goal is to satisfy my own obsession and love/ And I’m slave to a flame”

    Why It Matters: Devil Master delivered their proper full-length debut this year with Satan Spits on Children of Light, and have proven they’re a demonic force that will be inhabiting this earth for years and years to come. “Black Flame Candle” finds vocalist Disembody channeling his inner Kilmister, while the band crafts a nightmare-inducing blend of black metal and dirty punk rock. There aren’t many heavy acts out there like Devil Master … and that might be because they’ve killed them all with their evil—evil—rock and roll. —Chuck Armstrong


    21. Amon Amarth – “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor”

    Sounds Like: A horde of power metal Vikings heading into battle ready to kill things.

    Key Lyric: “But finest of them all/ The Crusher it is called/ Mjölner! Hammer of Thor”

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    Why It Matters: Swedish melodic death metal veterans Amon Amarth head in a more power thrash direction on their 11th studio album Berserker with songs like “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor.” The band is not shy about their love of Norse mythology and Viking culture and this song is no exception. Johan Hegg’s death metal vocals on top of the epic lead guitar riffs certainly make this track worthy of swilling Mead in Valhalla. — Colette Claire


    20. Fever 333 — “One of Us”

    Sounds Like: A children’s sing-a-long with a big middle finger to society, followed by a ruthless, hardcore sing-a-long with an even bigger middle finger to society.

    Key Lyric: “Another policy, yeah, to keep you on your knees/ Another one in jail, another young black male, he kinda look like me”

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    Why It Matters: The lyrics are powerful in and of themselves, but when they’re screamed with brutal force by Fever 333 frontman Jason Aalon Butler, they take on a life of their own. Butler takes aim at the broken system that runs rampant in this country, and he does so with the utmost fearlessness and boldness as he proclaims for the entire world to hear: “Stand up or die on your knees.” —Chuck Armstrong


    19. Chelsea Wolfe – “Deranged for Rock & Roll”

    Sounds Like: A dreary hungover morning of reflection and self-acceptance.

    Key Lyric: “I’m deranged for rock ‘n roll/ Drink my dreams and sell my soul”

    Why It Matters: Chelsea Wolfe’s Birth of Violence is the songwriter’s sparsest work to date, but the doomed vibe and ominous sentiments of “Deranged for Rock & Roll” are definitely metal. The song is an admission of sorts, with the eponymous phrase sung in a wry confidence that obscures its poetic intent behind tasteful sarcasm. —Jon Hadusek


    18. Korn – “Cold”

    Sounds Like: A late-’90s Korn track on steroids, pumped full of groovy beats and growling vocals that take the band to a new place.

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    Key Lyric: “Inside lying deep, the father of hate/ The endless nightmare I can never escape”

    Why It Matters: A lot of things have changed in the past 20-plus years since Korn have been a band, but one thing that hasn’t is the California group’s penchant for low tuning and hip-hop-fueled rhythms. That’s a good thing, since it’s the sound that made Korn, well, Korn. On “Cold,” which appears on The Nothing, the band adds a catchy, groovy beat, plus barking vocals that are fresh and new for Korn. –Anne Erickson


    17. Life of Agony – “Scars”

    The Sound of Scars

    Sounds Like: A hook-filled return to form for the New York alt-metal band

    Key Lyric: “Look around/ All I see is a soul/ Is a soul not worth saving”

    Why It Matters: Life of Agony returned in 2019 with The Sound of Scars, the sequel to their classic 1994 debut, River Runs Red. The lead single “Scars” conjures the joyous sense of rebellion that made River such a cherished recording, fusing tight riffs with Mina Caputo’s passionate melodic vocals. It finds the perfect middleground between the band’s hardcore punk and groove metal influences.—Jon Hadusek


    16. Ozzy Osbourne – “Under the Graveyard”

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    Sounds Like: A modern-day solo Ozzy Osbourne track, but with a glorious vintage-sounding Sabbath doom boogie riff that rears its head around the last third of the tune.

    Key Lyric: “Under the graveyard/ We’re all rotting bones / Everything you are/ Can’t take it when you go”

    Why It Matters: Despite the Prince of Darkness’ recent health mishaps, he sounds surprisingly in fine voice here. And at 71 years of age, we should be delighted that one of metal’s all-time great voices is still with us, and still sounding so, well, Ozzy-like. –Greg Prato


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