Although exposure and support for underground bands has been predominantly lacklustre in recent memory, there is still a wealth of rich, vibrant talent across the whole spectrum of the underground Rock scene. The importance of the underground can also never be understated. Today’s underground upstarts may well be tomorrow’s superstars if they are greeted with the right opportunities and adequately supported in their greener years. But, if we keep neglecting the new up and comers of today’s industry then there will be nothing left to enjoy in the future. This is why any and all exposure for underground bands individually and the scene as a whole is so essential for ensuring the survival of Rock music.
In the spirit of said essential exposure, this article will highlight some of the most admirable, impressive and enjoyable underground albums of 2019, with the hope of introducing you to some more great music in the process. After listening to hours worth of excellent music, spanning across dozens of records and a plethora of sub-genres, here are the definitive top 10 underground Rock, Punk and Metal albums of 2019 so far.
10. Pythia – The Solace of Ancient Earth
For fans of Amaranthe and Delain
Symphonic Metal has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years thanks to big names in the Metal scene such as Lacuna Coil unearthing the atmospheric sub-genre. This boost in popularity and exposure has trickled down to the underground scene, inspiring an armada of talent to embrace Symphonic Metal. Pythia are one of these hopeful future stars and confidently made their mark on the 2019 Metal scene with ‘The Solace of Ancient Earth’. Capitalising on the vocal conviction and atmospheric depth of each song, Pythia purposefully prove themselves to be a formidable Metal unit throughout this record. Other influences such as Power Metal are elaborated on by keys tracks such as Ancient Soul expand the appeal and variety of the album, while other songs like Your Dark Reign ensure the core of the album remains consistent.
9. The Well – Death and Consolation
For fans of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and Red Fang
Despite the occasional flair of fame coming to a lucky few such as Red Fang and King Gizzard, Heavy Psych Rock as its own entity is somewhat (and sadly) overlooked. Despite this immediate uphill battle, the latest album from Texan trio, The Well, fired the band up the ranks of Rock relentlessly with its originality and simply fascinating approach. This nine-track treasure is a spectacle of musical experimentation, guiding you through layer upon layer of Psych influenced conventions. The earthy sound and depth to the bass play in the opener, Sabbah, brings a hint of Fuzz Rock into play, while the energetic chorus reels you in for a riveting Rock ride. Further into the album a darker and more intense vibe swiftly descends onto ‘Death Song’, while more low flying bass lines rumble through songs such as Act II. All-in-all, ‘Death and Consolation’ is a fantastic album that should appeal to anyone who’s partial to the more unusual and challenging possibilities of Rock.
8. Zig-Zags – They’ll Never Take Us Alive
For fans of Misfits and Metallica
Constantly releasing rehashed, similar and unoriginal material is a recipe for disaster and stagnation. This is why bands like Zig-Zags are so refreshing as they are endlessly evolving, developing and maturing their technique. Combining conventions from Classic Metal and Punk throughout, while controllably tipping the scales either way for certain songs proves to be a winning formula for Zig-Zags as they make this an album campaign to be proud of. Songs such as Punk F*cking Metal are dominated by the traditional, Classic Metal vibes reminiscent of Judas Priest, while the raw Punk edge of Why I Carry a Knife has some Henry Rollins vibes to it. But the defining positive feature of this album is the identity and originality demonstrated by the band. They use ‘They’ll Never Take Us Alive’ to showcase their distinct influences and talent, creating a great album in the process.
7. Centrilia – In the Name of Nothing
For fans of Pantera and Killswitch Engage
Once in a while, you’ll stumble across an album that truly takes your breath away. If you haven’t had that feeling in a while then the wait is finally over because ‘In the Name of Nothing’ will hit you like a tidal wave of rage ensued Metal excellence. The harrowing Metal energy combines Classic Thrash conventions with infusions of Metalcore to create a raw, fiery atmosphere. Having played live with the likes of Rob Zombie and Arch Enemy, Centrilia are rapidly building up a formidable and unavoidable reputation in the underground Metal scene. The potential, fire and passion of the band is at the forefront of every song throughout this blistering album. From the deafening single Splitting Hairs/ Spitting Teeth to the thunderous Symptoms of Betrayal, this album is a non-stop wildfire of furious Extreme Metalcore.
6. LIFE – A Picture of Good Health
For fans of Slaves and Cabbage
Contrary to popular belief in recent years, Punk is not dead. Sadly however, Punk does struggle to replicate the overnight success of the Punk Rock Revolution in 1977. However, this has allowed Punk to bubble away patiently in the underground and in some cases, drip feed some great bands into the mainstream Rock scene. Bands such as IDLES and Slaves have defied the odds and brought Punk into the spotlight once again and LIFE are going the right way about joining them. The young politically charged Punk upstarts released their second album earlier this year in ‘A Picture of Good Health’. This album takes the traditional conventions of Punk such as short, snappy songs and combines with topical modernised ideas to create a brilliantly distinct style. Flagship tracks such as Grown Up reel you in with their charisma and punchy delivery, while other songs such as Half Pint Fatherhood maintain the messages and purpose of the record.
5. Allusinlove – It’s Okay to Talk
For fans of Dinosaur Pile-Up and Marmozets
Considering their roots and history, the unlikely rise of Allusinlove has been a fascinating spectacle to witness. Formerly known as Allusondrugs, the Yorkshire outfit started out with a distinct, hazy Grunge influenced sound. Over the course of the past five years, they’ve refined their sound, approach and expertise to create the fantastically engrossing Alt-Rock style they boast today. This debut album represents six years of hard work and grafting for the band who are finally getting the exposure they deserve. Original tunes from the groups early days such as Sunset Yellow and All Good People still occupy spots on this record, while fresh, captivating new songs such as All My Love also make noteworthy appearances. The range of the record is also brilliant, swaying from the Alternative motives to more spacey, atmospheric Indie Rock tunes at times.
4. Krysthla – Worldwide Negative
For fans of Napalm Death and Power Trip
Arguably one of 2019’s most brutal underground releases, ‘Worldwide Negative’ is Krysthla’s unapologetically volatile third studio album. Krysthla’s 2017 record, ‘Peace in Our Time’, showcased their potential and put them on the map as a band who could shake the foundations of the underground British Metal scene. ‘Worldwide Negative’ continues and elaborates on this momentum with its rapid Extreme Metal delivery and sickeningly heavy tempo. However, the technical aspects of the album are not drowned out by its sheer aggression, as highlighted in songs such as Reawaken. Phenomenal guitar play and thunderous drumming pummel your senses with Extreme Metal mastery, while the Napalm Death influenced vocals lead the way confidently. Shades of Converge also intermittently appear on the record due to the brute force of every single song. However, the highlight song for this album campaign has to be Zero Sum Game which could be amongst the best underground singles of the year to date.
3. The St Pierre Snake Invasion – Caprice Enchanté
For fans of Jamie Lenman and Gallows
Waving the banner for Modern Hardcore Punk, The St Pierre Snake Invasion are one of the most exciting young bands in the UK today, both in the studio and live on tour. Fans had to wait four years for a sequel to the band’s debut record but, patience proved to be a virtue as they were rewarded with this exceptionally chaotic album, oozing Punk Rock aggression. Key tracks such as the lead single, Braindead, carry the sentiment and identity of The St Pierre Snake Invasion brilliantly. However, other songs that receive less exposure such as Carroll a.Deering are equally important to ensuring the success and consistency of the album. Alternative, unparalleled and almost sinister vibes on certain songs expand the atmosphere of the record amazingly, allowing the young Hardcore Punk rockers to express their range fully. With some of the dirtiest breakdowns of the year as a bonus feature, ‘Caprice Enchante’ is undoubtedly an essential record for any Hardcore Punk fans reading this.
2. Fléche – Do Not Return Fire
For fans of Fangclub and Basement
Offering a unique, uplifting and engaging Indie Rock sound, France’s Fléche have made 2019 a year to remember by releasing a stunning landmark record. ‘Do Not Return Fire’ is a high concentration of atmospheric, cheery and meaningful tracks that make you wonder how this album didn’t receive more attention upon its release. Gold and Black opens the record with its empowering, motivational tone which puts in the right mindset to fully embrace the excellence of this record. Although Indie Rock is the centre focus of this album, Fléche also feed from a plethora of influences to make this record a vibrant spectrum of everything good about Modern Rock. Shades of Arena Rock, Alternative and Pop Rock all casually but noticeably make an impact on this record. The lack of attention for this record is hard to grasp because it’s an album full of upbeat, radio friendly tunes that any Rock related outlet should be proud to cover. But, if Fléche keep up this momentum and positive energy then they are sure to break through sooner rather than later.
1. Queen Zee – Queen Zee
For fans of MC5 and Bikini Kill
Although there are dozens of great underground 2019 albums out there that never get their fair chance to shine, there can only be one ultimate underground album that occupies the number one spot. The UK’s Queen Zee are the definition of an ambitious independent band and proved it with their debut record that was released on their own label earlier this year. The Modern Punk band have enjoyed a colossal rise to fame over the past 18 months thanks to supporting Marmozets on their last UK tour, embarking on their first headline tour around the UK, playing a string of prestigious festivals, having Iggy Pop name them as his favourite new band and releasing this truly excellent album. Fuelling their songs on narratives that attack pressing issues in today’s society, Queen Zee are simply destined for great things if they can keep this up. Songs such as Sissy Fists and Victim Age are key songs that undeniably highlight the passion, determination and frustration of Queen Zee. However, more light hearted songs such as Porno and I Hate Your New Boyfriend bring a slightly less serious edge to the table without taking away from the overall meaning of the record. Remember this name, because Queen Zee are on a self made fast track straight to the top of the British Punk scene and the best is certainly still to come.
With huge, genre-dominating and era defining bands releasing new material in 2019, it puts pressure on everyone else to perform just as confidently. The underground scene, much like Rock and Metal as a whole, has made this a landmark year by unleashing wave upon wave of great, engrossing and captivating music. But the albums mentioned above are merely samples of what the underground can offer music fans. No matter what your preference, affiliation or attitude, the underground Rock, Punk and Metal scenes have something for everyone. So, if anyone tells you that Rock is dead and there are no good bands out there anymore, then just send them this article and help them to find some new bands they can truly invest in. But, if the top 10 on this list leave you wanting more then here are a few honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the final cut.
Body Harvest – Parasitic Slavery (Death Metal)
Celestivl – TenTimesTwo (Symphonic Rock)
Glitter Wizard – Opera Villains (Heavy Psych Rock/ Alt-Punk)
Dorylus – Without Sin (Melodic Thrash Metal)
Countless Goodbyes – Cycles (Modern Metal)
Enchantya – On Light and Wrath (Progressive Gothic Metal)
Crossbones – The Awakening (Metal)
Static Tension – Ashes to Animation (Grunge Rock)
Depraved Murder – Manifestation (Extreme Death Metal)
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