Best of 2019: Rob Jensen

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2019 had a number of great releases. Check out my favorites below and see what you think. Agree with any of my picks? Give a listen to the ones you are unfamiliar with, you never know, maybe you’ll find something new to listen to!

 

1.    Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind.

Slipknot returned with their first album in 5 years this past August and based on reactions from fans and critics alike, WANYK has cemented itself as, arguably, one of their best releases to date. The band continues to demonstrate the musical prowess that earned them the accolades that have been heaped on them throughout the years and Corey’s voice has never sounded better or stronger. Whether you’re a fan of the band at their heaviest or enjoy their foray into new areas there’s something here that fans of heavier music will undoubtedly love and shows that Slipknot is still at the top of their game.

 

2.    Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

The oddball on my list, this album just gripped me from the first time I heard it. As you can clearly tell from everything else on this list, I’m mostly into heavy, aggressive music. This really isn’t that, and is, in my opinion, the only good thing the mainstream pop scene has produced in at least the past 20 years. The music, soulful vocals, catchy melodies, and darker themes just really seemed magnetic and are often on repeat in my head. An incredibly refreshing breath of fresh air in a music scene on life support.

 

3.    Relent – Heart Attack

Relent is a band from San Antonio, TX who’ve been around for a few years, but really exploded on to the scene with their debut ep “Heart Attack” in March of 2019. With scathing, heavy guitars, vocal melodies, screams, and raps that flow seamlessly with the rhythms and grooves that can’t help but move the listener, and lyrics that inspire hope and glorify God, you really can’t lose with this ep. Look for much more from these guys ahead and be sure to see them on the City Rockfest Tour this year with Seventh Day Slumber, Spoken, and Convictions.

 

4.    Of Mice & Men – Earth&Sky

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Of Mice & Men, but over the past year or two, that’s been changing a bit. I’ve only recently really been delving into what I’ll call “The Austin Years”, but am much better versed in everything after. “Defy” was a good album for sure, but over time whether it was that I overplayed it or that the band was mixing the need to learn to continue with a new vocalist in the writing process or that they wanted to specifically write a certain type of song as to not lose any momentum upon the loss of Austin, I don’t know. Lots of question marks. In any case, after a year and change, the band seems to have gotten comfortable with one another and it feels like the true rebuilding of OM&M starts now, with “Earthandsky”. You can pick any single track on the album and expect to get your head knocked off. It is heavy. It is riffy. It is brutal screams. It is beautiful cleans. It’s bone-breaking breakdowns. As one song ends and the next begins, from track to track, you get that excitement of, “Nice! This one again!” This happens every. Track. If you slept on this, man, wake UP.

 

 

5.    GFM – Oh, The Horror

Man, I really don’t know how long ago it was, but it’s been a few years since I first came to know the powerhouse sisters that make up Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. In an age where everyone is worried about offending everyone, take this for how it’s intended; everything about GFM defies the status quo. Three young sisters get up, strap on guitars, sit behind the kit, get behind the mics and bring forth a sound bands of guys in their 20’s only wish they could. I jumped on the GFM train JUST after “Identity Crisis” released back in 2016. To say I was eager for more was an understatement. This past year, that wait ended with the release of the new ep “Oh, The Horror” where the girls double down on their sound, bringing the new songs with a crushing heaviness you simply cannot deny. This ep on this list was a no-brainer for me. Give them a good listen and grab some of their stuff for yourself as well.

 

6.    Skillet – Victorious

I’ll be honest, this one surprised me. Over the years I’ll admit it, I’ve grown wary of new releases from Skillet. Each release has it’s strong points, no question, but they’ve also had something that’s held them back from releasing an album that, from start to finish, was great all the way through. Meet “Victorious”; it’s exactly that. This is the album I’ve been waiting for since “Collide”. Here’s why; it’s raw. The production was done solely by John and Korey and there’s a rawness that’s returned on this album. The riffs are all very well written and the vocals compliment them beautifully. To my ears, it felt as though the synth aspect got dialed back significantly, something I’ve also been eager to see. And lastly, in times past, I’d dread the slower more melodic tracks, call them ballads if you will. I’ve never enjoyed them and never knew why. The ones that appear on “Victorious” however, I loved. Something flipped or changed somehow and inasmuch as I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t like them before, I can’t say what changed to cause me to love them now. If you’re wary of a new Skillet album don’t be. “Victorious” is exactly that; victorious.

 

7.    Death Therapy – Voices

Death Therapy is the project of the most excellent Jason Wisdom (ex Becoming the Archetype). Death Therapy is now two albums deep (if you’re sleeping on either, you deserve a slap…or at least a strong stare and good finger wagging). Death Therapy has breathed new life into the industrial sound so many of us came to know and love back in the 90’s, but with a little more edge to it. The songs are very well constructed and just listening to it, you’d never guess you’re listening to bass, drums, and not much else. “Voices” continued where “The Storm Before the Calm” left off, offering a bit more in terms of depth and dynamics. The growth is undeniable and should leave fans of the band excited for whatever lies ahead. At this rate, we’re in for a real treat.

 

8.    Wolves At The Gate – Eclipse

I’ve loved Wolves at the Gate for years now. They’re heavy style, with faith infused lyrics is exactly what I look for in a band. The vocals frequently remind me of Dustin Kensrue of Thrice, which isn’t a bad thing either. I remember earlier in the year how they were releasing songs every week or two as the album’s release drew nearer and nearer and each time, I was elated; everything sounded great. Sure enough, once out the album certainly met expectations and was exceptionally well written; music, lyrics, you name it. If you’ve missed out on it up to now, go grab it.

 

9.    Wage War – Pressure

Before I even heard the first song off of this one, I’d expected it to show up in my top 3…at least top 5. And well, here we are at number 8. “Blueprints” and “Deadweight” were straight bangers no question (although I know some may think a little less of one of those two, I personally don’t); but “Pressure” really didn’t strike me that way. It had it’s moments, sure, but there was also a lot of deviations from the band’s style as they veered to what is more mainstream these days. Sometimes, honestly, it worked, but I found these instances to be the exception rather than the rule. Nevertheless, the tracks here that hit just right are done very, very well and are listened to frequently. All in all, a good album, and yeah, I still recommend it, but be aware, there’s a fair bit of change going on here.

 

10.  Demon Hunter – War/Peace

I’m combining these two because, while obviously different, it’s not the vastest of differences, it’s the same band, and most importantly, it’s just easier for me. The titles of the albums obviously lend themselves to the musical differences between the two albums; War being heavier and more aggressive and Peace being more laid back and melodic. The albums are great additions to the Demon Hunter library, albeit nothing I’d call groundbreaking, just more or less what you’d expect; but when you do it as well as they do, I’m not complaining.

 

11. 311 – Voyager

I have to wonder if the reason this one appears as far down on the list as it does is because I played it to death. I’ve been a huge fan of these guys since the mid-90’s and love everything they release. I think they fit me so well because they play such a wide range of styles and I like a wide range of styles. This album covers a lot of ground musically and maintains the high level of quality a musicianship fans have come to expect from the band. From hard rock to reggae, to rap-rock, to progressive sounding tracks, there’s a little something for everyone here. Highly recommended.

 

12. GFM – GFM’s Acoustic

I think this is the first time (unless you’re going to count Demon Hunter above) I’ve ever had a band appear twice in one “Best of” list. Nearing the close of the year, GFM released a small acoustic ep that featured 4 tracks; 2 off 2016’s “Identity Crisis” and 2 off “Oh, the Horror”, released earlier this year and also appearing on this list. What I love about this ep is the rawness of it and the song selection. You’ll get to hear some great instrumentation and the vocals sound great.

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Daniel J
Daniel J
January 7, 2020 3:03 am

Hey Rob, thanks for sharing your list of favorite albums from 2019. I enjoyed a number of your top picks throughout the year, however still haven’t listening to the new Slipknot. Might have to give it a change based on your recommendation. Here’s my list of favorite and most listened to albums from the past year: Best Albums of 2019: 1. Wolves at the Gate – Eclipse 2. Imminence – Turn the Light On 3. John Van Deusen – (I Am) Origami Pt. 3 – A Catacomb Hymn 4. Breathe Atlantis – Soulmade 5. Soen – Lotus 6. The Brave… Read more »

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