14. Russian Circles - Blood Year
Chicago-based instrumental post-everything powerhouse Russian Circles just keep getting better and better — and on their seventh album, Blood Year, heavier, too. Jaw-clenched psychedelic bombast is seemingly the name of the game here, yet the trio — which notably features ex-Botch/These Arms Are Snakes bassist Brian Cook — never sacrifices subtlety and dynamics, pulling the rapt listener through dramatic swells and cataclysmic crashes. F.P.
13. Chelsea Wolfe - Birth of Violence
Of course an artist with the fearless range of Chelsea Wolfe would follow up her darkest and gnarliest work to date, 2017's Hiss Spun, with an introspective, stripped down and mostly acoustic album. Yet, don't think for a second that Birth of Violence lacks for intensity. To contrary, this seething American-gothic folk opus still bites, even if it lacks obvious bark, confirming in its own, quieter way, that Wolfe is very much "deranged for rock & roll," as the LP's standout single goes. W.N.
8. Brutus - Nest
As one of the most unique and meticulously composed records of 2019, Nest caught the ear of many a music fan when the Belgian post-hardcore trio dropped a live video for "War" earlier this year. Hearing (and seeing) singer-drummer Stefanie Mannaerts soar while beating the hell out of her kit — as her bandmates unleashed total sonic grandeur — was enough to induce goose bumps. But an entire album of this stuff? Unreal. J.B.