Nov 122020


Wow, it’s already that time of year again, and wow, I’m aghast all over again at how early this is starting.

It has become an annual tradition at our putrid site to launch our year-end LISTMANIA orgy with the appearance of DECIBEL mag’s Top 40 list, because they always seem to burst from the starting gate sooner than anyone else — and yes, they’ve done it again. But there’s also the fact that, in my humble opinion, it’s still the best print publication out there for fans of extreme metal, so it would be worth paying attention even if they published their list for the first time on January 1, 2021.

The DECIBEL list actually will officially appear in the magazine’s January 2021 edition, which hasn’t yet hit my own mailbox, but DECIBEL again decided (for the fifth year in a row, or maybe the sixth) to scoop their own list rather than letting leeches like me leak it. They published the list on-line earlier today, and so I can now again re-publish their list without too much guilt, beyond the sheepishness that comes from being one of the factors that forced them to start outing themselves in the first place.

Of course, there will be a lot more content in the January issue (which has Judas Priest on the cover), including commentary about each of these 40 albums and why they were selected, as well as dozens of contributor-conceived year-end Top 5 lists, a Hall of Fame feature on Priest’s Painkiller album, and a brand new Venomous Concept flexi disc. You can order a copy of that issue here HERE.



Before turning to the DECIBEL Top 40 I’ll share again the thoughts that I share every year at this time about the phenomenon of year-end lists in metal. I see no reason to amend the words, especially since that would involve effort.

Such lists continue to serve several useful purposes. One, of course, is to introduce fans to albums they may have overlooked. I also know people who don’t buy much music during the year and actually wait to read year-end rankings before preparing their shopping lists. And, perhaps most obviously, they give us something to discuss and argue about. Because apparently we don’t have enough to argue about already, even with a stalled presidential transition here in the U.S. and the virus raging everywhere and way too many people not seeming to care about either of those things.

Of course it’s easy to argue over year-end lists. No matter who compiles them, they’re going to leave out albums you think should be included, they’re going to include albums you don’t think belong, and they’re going to screw up the rankings. I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? The only list that could possibly satisfy any individual fan from start to finish is the one they make for themselves.


I usually try to hold my own comments to a minimum when I post these year-end lists from print publications and “big platform” sites, mainly because I can’t manage to make a list of my own. One of my co-writers here has already publicly observed that there’s a lot of albums on the list that he doesn’t think belong anywhere near the top 40 as well as some very pleasant surprises (the biggest of those for him was Exgenesis). He also made the point that these surprises are a positive aspect of lists like this, which tend to focus on “safe” choices and bigger-name bands: “Yes it must, by design, cater to its readership and (to an extent) confirm their expectations and listening habits, but in doing so it will ALSO introduce them to other bands they may not have checked out otherwise.”

To be clear, I doubt that any of us at NCS think that any of the albums on this list are terrible, but each of us would have an argument that other bands should have been on the list in place of some (or maybe many) of these. But as I noted above, that’s inevitable. I happen to think that all of the albums on the list that I managed to hear this year in whole or in part (about three-quarters of them), were at least enjoyable, and sometimes stellar. And even if I couldn’t possibly decide for myself what I think is the best album of the year, I’m happy to celebrate Napalm Death‘s appearance in the No. 1 spot. That is a hell of a good album by a great band.

And with that I’ll shut up and let you guys read the list and continue the conversation in the Comments. I’m quite sure you have opinions.


40. Dark Fortress, Spectres from the Old World, Century Media
39. Fawn Limbs, Sleeper Vessels, Roman Numeral
38. Exgenesis, Solve et Coagula, Rain Without End
37. Megaton Sword, Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire, Dying Victims
36. Oranssi Pazazu, Mestarin Kynsi, Nuclear Blast
35. Svalbard, When I Die, Will I Get Better, Translation Loss
34. Enslaved, Utgard, Nuclear Blast
33. In the Company of Serpents, Lux, Self-released
32. Xibalba, Años En Infierno, Southern Lord
31. Wake, Devouring Ruin, Translation Loss
30. Cirith Ungol, Forever Black, Metal Blade
29. Proscription, Conduit, Dark Descent
28. Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings, Burning World
27. Midnight, Rebirth by Blasphemy, Metal Blade
26. Krallice, Mass Cathexis, Self-released
25. ACxDC, Satan is King, Prosthetic
24. Temple of Void, The World That Was, Shadow Kingdom
23. Atramentus, Stygian, 20 Buck Spin
22. Tombs, Under Sullen Skies, Season of Mist
21. Haunt, Flashback, Church
20. Kirk Windstein, Dream in Motion, eOne
19. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days, Nuclear Blast
18. Lamp of Murmuur, Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism, Self-released
17. Godthrymm, Reflections, Profound Lore
16. Dropdead, Dropdead, Armageddon
15. Ripped to Shreds (Luan), Pulverized
14. Vile Creature, Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!, Prosthetic
13. Of Feather & BoneSulfuric Disintegration, Profound Lore
12. Armored Saint, Punching the Sky, Metal Blade
11. Incantation, Sect of Vile Divinities, Relapse
10. Goden, Beyond Darkness, Svart
9. Paradise Lost, Obsidian, Nuclear Blast
8. Uada, Djinn, Eisenwald
7. Sweven, The Eternal Resonance, Van
6. Necrot, Mortal, Tankcrimes
5. Spirit Adrift, Enlightened in Eternity, 20 Buck Spin
4. Paysage d’Hiver, Im Wald, Kunsthall Produktionen
3. Imperial Triumphant, Alphaville, Century Media
2. Eternal Champion, Ravening Iron, No Remorse
1. Napalm Death, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, Century Media

  16 Responses to “LISTMANIA BEGINS: THE DECIBEL TOP 40 FOR 2020”

  1. Can’t believe it’s already that time again….feels like it should still be a few more weeks away.

    That being said, this may be one of the worst lists I’ve seen Decibel come up with in awhile. Outside of Lamp of Murmuur, Xibalba, Proscription, and a few others, this really looks like way too many “flavor of the month” style selections to me.

    (I mean, c’mon…Haunt wore out their welcome like 3 albums ago, and Uada ran out of ideas after their first release)

  2. Before I even read this list, I knew Napalm would be #1.

  3. Goden and Lamp of Murmuur? Nice

  4. I’ve heard at least six of these, these Decibel hipsters you speak of are getting soft.

  5. I swore RtS dropped 亂 (Luan) last year. Great album, but beyond that I’m unimpressed with this list, especially since there is no mention of Havukruunu.

    Then again. 2020 has been a pretty uninspiring year of metal for me. Oh well. Cheers to anyone who’s enjoyin’ it!

    • Seriously dying over no Havukruunu. It’s the best metal record of the 2010s.

      Azath was another Andrew Lee album that really should get more love. Plus its Malazan themed.
      I enjoyed it way more than Ripped To Shreds.

  6. It could be a worse list, but I am surprised, as Decibel feature a lot of less well-known acts than these. 1,3,4,13, 14, 31, 35, 36, 39 would be possibilities (to greater or lesser extent) on my top 40, but only 14 a definite (31 a close definite). Perhaps 23 would be an outside chance. This list does make me think that I should give more thought to 16 and 30, and maybe one or two others. I would love to have included the releases by Goden (given how important Winter’s work was), Xibalba and Incantation, but they aren’t that strong.
    I think ND’s release is exciting, the weave of different styles works in my view, it’s much stronger than their mid-late 90’s experimentation, it makes me eagerly anticipating what’s next (hope it’s not another 5 yr wait)
    I found the CVLT Nation 2019 end-of-year lists generally really strong in featuring releases with much less profile, the blackened death list is particularly wicked. Lists like these don’t get readers devoting whole sentences of commentary to well-known bands (like I’ve just done).

  7. Eternal Champion, Spirit Adrift and Steven in the top10! I cannot complain about those at all.
    Only other things I liked on this list were Svalbard and Wake.

    Can’t believe no Havukruunu or Afterbirth or no ELDER?! I thought they were beloved by the press.
    And that record is incredible.

  8. Can’t believe Gaerea & Panzerfaust not in the list but glad to see Napalm Death on #1 & Of Feather and bone on iconic 13 place!

  9. No Ulcerate? Get out of the city!

  10. I saw the list and told myself that I wasn’t going to pile on. I can be strong. I can resist…but then I just couldn’t.

    I’ve never been overwhelmed with any of Decibel’s year end lists. But this is the worst I have ever seen by them. There are a few good things here. Just going to focus on those and stop now.

  11. I agree with few choices:

    Paradise Lost – Incantation – Atramentus – Temple of Void – Sweven and that’s all!


    No Ulcerate? Unbelievable

  12. How dare they not having exactly the same taste of me! I must leave a comment to express my butthurt!

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