Dec 092020
 

 

(We continue our week-long series of personal year-end lists compiled by Andy Synn (which actually began last Friday), and today we have his list of 2020’s “Great” albums, again crossing a wide range of genres. You might also want to read his round-ups of the year’s “Good“, and most “Disappointing” albums to see what you may have missed.)

On one hand today’s article was much easier to write than yesterday’s, mainly because it’s less than half the length.

However, it’s actually more difficult in other ways, largely due to the fact that greatness comes in many forms – whether it’s a fantastic debut that instantly puts the band on the map, a career-defining milestone from a band finally realising their full potential, or a career re-defining return to form from a legendary artist – and so choosing where to draw the line is infinitely harder.

Some of the artists you’re about to read about were included because their music pushes the boundaries in brave new directions. Others made it onto the list by simply being the best there is at what they do. Some of these bands found a way to put their own unique spin on otherwise familiar sounds, while a handful of them have come to define an entire sub-genre all by themselves.

Ultimately there’s no one rule which dictates who does, and who doesn’t, make the cut, but I’ve tried my best to remain at least a little bit objective and self-aware when making these selections.

 

Now, a word of advice – this list shouldn’t be considered comprehensive (I can’t stress this enough).

No writer (not even me) is actually capable of listening to and assessing every great record released every year, so no list is ever truly “definitive” (anyone who claims otherwise is either lying or delusional).

Instead it’s best just to think of this more as a round-up of various bands and albums that I think all of our listeners need to hear.

Inevitably, of course, its content is coloured and dictated by my own listening habits and inherent biases – there’s simply no escaping that, no matter how much I try to listen outside my usual comfort zone each year – which means that, inevitably, there’s going to be a lot of stuff that I missed out on, including new albums from Sweven, Paysage d’Hiver, Thy Catafalque, Azarath, Undeath, Mora Prokaza, and Hail Spirit Noir, to name but a few.

But I think you’ll find there’s still a lot of great stuff to listen to here, and I’ve split them up into various sub-headings (though they’re more playful than proscriptive) to help you navigate things.

And, remember, if there’s anything that particularly grabs your attention just click on the band name and you’ll be able to give it a listen for yourself!

 

 

THE NEW BLACK

While 2020 may not have given us much, it definitely gave us an array of new Black Metal bands all fit and ready to carry the torch for the genre into the next decade (and beyond), from the razor-sharp riffage and devilishly dynamic songwriting of Antzaat to the atmospheric desolation of Shagor and the gigantic guitars and grim occult grandeur of Sinistral King.

Some of these albums – such as the bombastic blood, fire, and fury of Kvaen – I discovered myself, whereas others, like the majestic extremity and melodic ecstasy of Eos I have Islander to thank for introducing me to them, and in some cases we need to look even further afield to some of our brother and sister sites to give credit where credit is due… as is the case with the rivetingly raw yet artfully refined debut from Liminal Shroud.

Now I’m not saying that these records are flawless, or that the bands themselves don’t still have room to grow and develop in the future, but as debut albums go this corrosive coterie of releases is pretty damn untouchable.

 

 

 

THE RISING DARK

As good as this year was for new Black Metal bands, it was arguably even better for a number of rising stars whose latest releases firmly seized the spotlight and refused to relinquish it no matter what.

The humongous new record from Panzerfaust is an obvious example of this phenomenon, of course, as is the spectacular second album from Afsky, both of which I’ve seen making multiple appearances on many different lists already.

But the more underground connoisseurs amongst our readers should also already be aware of the utterly savage new album from Drouth, the infectiously unorthodox second album from Odraza, and the scathing yet sinister third record by Skáphe too.

The new Beltez is equal parts cerebral chills and visceral thrills, displaying a singular blend of impressive ambition and masterful execution, while those in search of a more atmospherically-intense experience will doubtless already have checked out the new Ars Magna Umbrae (and if not, what are you waiting for?) but may not yet have gotten around to the spellbinding new record from Fluisteraars which, for my money at least, is arguably their most engaging and immersive release yet, and more than equal to the very best of their back-catalogue.

Of course, if you’re after some prime examples of pure blackened riff-craft and bleak, haunting melody, then you’ll probably want to give the primal, punk-inflected strains of Imha Tarikat, the haunting horror and thrashy heaviness of Luctus, or the frantic, yet surprisingly multifaceted, new album from Membaris, a listen ASAP.

And then, obviously, there’s no way I could let this moment go by without mentioning the cathartic, climactic, final release from Deadspace (RIP), which saw the band go out on the highest of possible highs.

 

 

 

THE BLAST ZONE

When it comes to searing, scorched-earth intensity, the unrelenting assault of Aversio Humanitatis and the utterly abrasive new album from Order of Orias provided two of the year’s most unflinching and unforgiving auditory experiences, while both Azziard and Gaerea elected to temper their visceral violence with moments of eerie, ambient minimalism or mournful melodic melancholy, in a way that actively helped increased the overall impact of their blast-propelled fury.

Of course, if you’re looking for something where the drums aren’t just intense but are also capable of surprising intricacy then you’ll want to listen to the new Selbst and Wardaemonic records too, as the scintillating percussive patterns and hypnotic guitars of the former and the propulsive rhythms and dervish-like drumming of the latter saw both bands (finally) ascending into the upper echelons of the Black Metal sphere.

 

 

 

LORDS OF CHAOS

Speaking of the upper echelons of the genre… there’s no denying that some of the fiercest and most famous names in Black Metal delivered some of their best work yet this year, whether it was in the form of what may well be their catchiest, but still utterly caustic, record (Anaal Nathrakh) or another major milestone in an ongoing career renaissance (Necrophobic).

And whether it was a case of looking back towards the genre’s misty past for inspiration (Havukruunu) or casting an eye towards the band’s own evolving future (Blaze of Perdition) – or somehow both at once (Serpent Noir) – 2020 demonstrated how lucky we are that these living legends refuse to lay down and die while there’s still life in their lungs and blood in their veins.

Oh, and let’s not forget about, …And Oceans, who returned from the outer fringes with their first new release in 18 years, one which managed to not only be the most blistering record of their career, but also still kept up their legacy of outlandish excess in practically every other aspect of their sound too.

 

 

 

OFF THE BLACKENED PATH

2020 also saw many bands continuing to take Black Metal to strange new places by intermixing it with other elements and influences, from the sludge-stained beauty and gloomy atmosphere of Vous Autres to the depressive, doom-laden strains of Núll (aka 0)and the piercing Post-Black meets heartfelt Post-Hardcore of L’homme Absurde.

Looking even further outside of the blackened box there was the unorthodox urban malevolence of Imperial Triumphant, the gender-bending, genre-blending, industrial-strength iconoclasm of Biesy, and the shamelessly melodramatic, wilfully erratic, Porta Nigra, each of whom are a Black Metal purists’ worst nightmare in their own distinct, deviant way.

And then there were those bands who didn’t so much break the mould as they did subtly shape it in their own image, whether it was the raging frustration and revolutionary fervour of Yovel, the dusty, windswept vistas of Wayfarer or the epic melodies and archaic grandeur of Abduction.

 

 

 

BLACKENED TO THE CORE

By contrast to the bands above, mixing Black Metal and Hardcore isn’t so much about taking the genre to “strange new places” but more about taking it back to its roots, as both styles clearly share a common ancestor (or two).

That, I suppose, is why the raw emotion and relentless aggression of the new Calligram album – eight tracks of ferocious blackened belligerence and savage Metallic Hardcore stripped down to only their most urgent and essential parts – feel like such a natural fit, and why the polemical fury and pissed-off attitude of the new Uprising pairs so well with its cathartic core of searing tremolo riffs and pulse-pounding blastbeats.

It’s also probably why the new LaCasta is one of the nastiest, gnarliest, and most nihilistc records of the year so far… since it’s channelling the unremitting rage and restless energy of not just one but two of the most vicious and visceral genres there are!

 

 

 

BLACK ‘N’ DEADLY

Similarly, the fusion of Black Metal and Death Metal isn’t exactly new or innovative these days, but every year it still throws up a handful of absolute monsters, and this year was no different, giving us both the asphyxiating audio-terrorism of To Crown All Befoulment by Dearth and the harrowing hellfire of Sulphuric Omnipotence by Fornicus, with the former leaning more towards the grim, gruesome, Death Metal end of the spectrum, while the latter favours a more barbaric, blasphemous, and blackened approach.

The debut album from Voidceremony, by contrast, made its mark with an ugly, unorthodox blend of grimy, Blackened Death Metal and sinuous, slithering technicality, whose impressive quality and striking complexity is no real surprise considering the collective pedigree of the band’s various members, while the fourth (or third, depending on how you count) album from Temple Nightside found the band once again firing on all sinister cylinders, while simultaneously showcasing an even greater sense of overarching mood and dynamic, raising the bar once again for both their peers and their imitators alike.

 

 

 

DEATH OR GLORY

The ever-fertile soil of Death Metal once again brought forth a killer crop of releases this year, from both brand new names and famous faces, underground icons and up-and-coming contenders.

Whether it’s the sulphurous primordial soup of the new Black Curse or the dynamic guitars and dramatic hooks of The Black Dahlia Murder (whose latest record is one of their strongest and most well-rounded to date), the sludge-encrusted Death/Doom hybrid of Ilsa (which I will definitely be writing more about very soon), or the humongous Hardcore meets Death Metal of Xibalba (whose new record found the group channelling more scorching Swe-Death and devastating Doom influences than ever), all these bands brought their A-game this year.

This was also a great year for bands reviving and revitalising the old school sound by giving it their own distinctive, subtly proggy twist (Faceless Burial, Question) as well as those whose version of Death Metal errs more towards the flesh-ripping ferocity of Grind (Of Feather and Bone).

And let’s not forget that sometimes all you want from a killer Death Metal record is a sense of merciless fun… which is where the big, dumb, balls-to-the-wall bombast of Dominion, the debut album by Horror-obsessed riffmongers Video Nasties comes into play!

 

 

 

DISSONANT DEVASTATION

It’s been clear for a while now that Ulcerate have influenced the formation of a distinct new sub-genre with their signature blend of contorted dissonance and abrasive atmosphere, but that doesn’t meant the band themselves have stopped evolving, as Stare Into Death and Be Still proved this year.

Similarly, many of those who followed them down this “Post” Death Metal path have developed their own distinctive take on it over the years, from the expansive, progressive approach of Nero Di Marte to the dense, disharmonic delivery of Karmacipher (which tips its hat a little more towards both Gorguts and Immolation in the process) and the jagged-edged, rhythmic angularity of newcomers Kevel.

But one of the year’s biggest surprises came in the form of Wake and their absolutely devastating new album, Devouring Ruin, which found the band transforming into a corrosive cross-breed of blistering blackened fury and gargantuan, grating atmosphere that effectively redefines the band’s identity for a whole new era.

 

 

 

TECHNICAL BRUTALITY

If you like your Death Metal delivered with a blend of lethal brutality and laser-guided precision then you’ll obviously have checked out the relentless percussive power and hyper-focussed fury of the new Abysmal Dawn, right?

Or maybe the proggy excess and explosive intensity of Aronious or Exocrine will be more your speed (emphasis on “speed”)?

And if you’re looking for something that hits the sweet spot between “Progressive” and “Technical”, while still delivering a rollercoaster of deathly riffs and neck-snapping twists, then you’ll want to pick up the dark horse debut from Prog-Death philosophers Cellar Vessel and the phenomenal first album from “Astro-Death” techies Cryptic Shift as soon as (meta)physically possible.

 

 

 

BRUTAL TECHNICALITY

Of course, if you prefer your technicality delivered purely in the service of gut-wrenching, bone-crushing brutality, then the punishing sci-fi Prog-Slam of Afterbirth and Wormhole should more than satisfy your cravings for ear-splitting extremity (and then some).

But if that’s not enough then I’d also recommend the absolutely crushing comeback from Beneath the Massacre and the sadistic new record from Death/Grind/Core maniacs Benighted as two perfect examples of Death Metal at its most technical, most brutal, and most breath-takingly berserk.

And then there’s the constantly mutating Prog-Tech-Death-Grind hybrid of Vampire Squid for those of you looking for something that little bit stranger…

 

 

 

UNLEASH CHAOS

If frenzied ferocity and barely-controlled chaos is more your thing then you need to listen to the unapologetic, unpredictable, and unrelentingly intense new album from Fawn Limbs, the virulent anti-groove violence of Pyrrhon, and the morbid monolith of death and discordance that is Aseitas although probably not all at once, as I don’t think the human mind is capable of absorbing that much metallic madness in one go!

And no list like this would be complete without mentioning the eardrum-shattering new albums from nascent super-groups END and Umbra Vitae, both of whom offer a stunningly savage blend of frenetic Death Metal and frantic Grind that blurs the lines between these styles while simultaneously bludgeoning the listener into submission.

 

 

 

PROGRESSIVE MOTION

From calculated chaos to progressive creativity, 2020 saw the release of Descend’s complex, captivating, and cathartic new album, The Deviant, which is easily the best record of the band’s career, as well as the massive Blackened Prog Death masterpiece Reflections Upon Darkness by Rannoch.

Of course, Rannoch weren’t the only UK Prog-Death band to massively up their game this year, as the new album from Countless Skies would have been a really good Melodeath record if that’s all the band wanted it to be, but their more extravagantly proggy ambitions ended up elevating it to a whole new level (though I still think there’s room for them to get even better).

It was Luna’s Call who took the award for “most improved” this year however, as their new record is an absolutely spectacular piece of work, from start to finish… although Progressive Death-Groove trio Stoned God weren’t far behind with their stunning second album Incorporeal.

 

 

 

SLOW DEATH

From refined progressive power to unrestrained sludge-stained slaughter, putting on the brakes this hard might be in danger of giving you whiplash… but it’s definitely worth it, as these fine-fettered examples of Death-Doom provide the perfect opportunity to slow things down, from the suffocating funereal crawl of Stygian by Atramentus to the grim, progressive grandeur of Silvered and their long-gestating, soul-stirring second album Six Hours.

You also should make sure not to overlook the haunting, oppressive, immersive new album from Drown – which, spoiler alert, might be making another appearance this week – and the mesmerising mix of deathly doom and gothic gloom which makes up Solve et Coagula by Exgenesis if you know what’s good for you.

 

 

 

LEGION OF DOOM

Moving away from the Death-infused side of things, but keeping things dark and doomy, you’ll definitely want to dedicate some serious time (if you haven’t already) to the earth-shaking amalgam of Blackened Doom and Acid-drenched Drone of Realm of the Feathered Serpent by Hexer, and if you’re looking for only the biggest riffs and most gargantuan grooves then you’ll want to pick up a copy of Breach Us by Hymn ASAP… and maybe pair it up with the shameless Satanic swagger of Black Royal while you’re at it?

But if something moodier, more melodic, and more poignantly progressive is what you’re after then I’d like to direct your attention to the mournfully melodic, multifaceted new album from In The Company of Serpents and the immense emotional weight of Lightless by Loviatar, both of which deserve pride of place on any year-end list.

 

 

 

EPIC EMOTIONS

While we’re on the topic of emotional weight, I’m honestly amazed that the haunting, hypnotic new album from Close the Hatch hasn’t made more waves – it really deserves to – while I’m similarly surprised that the epic vocals and heroic hooks of the new Sorcerer haven’t appeared on more lists too (at least as far as I’ve seen so far).

This year also saw forlorn Funeral Doom collective Clouds strip their sound down to its barest, bleakest elements in order to deliver one of the most emotive and immersive performances of their career, while ascendant Prog-Doom artists Oceans of Slumber produced their most focussed and cathartic album yet in the form of their sublime self-titled record (although a little bit of judicious editing would have made it even better, in my opinion).

 

 

 

BATHED IN SLUDGE

From the dark realms of Doom we move into sludgier territory, beginning with the bone-grinding belligerence of Aussie duo Kvll and the grimy, groove-heavy debut from Hvrt, before sinking even deeper into the hellish depths of the new Primitive Man.

And then there’s the devastatingly harsh second album from Leeched, which melds only the most vile and virulent elements of Sludge, Death Metal, Industrial, and Grind into one absolutely crushing whole, as well as the monolithically heavy debut from Nug, which straddles the line between Post-Metal and Sludge while adding a plethora of proggy embellishments and an utterly massive, Meshuggah-esque guitar tone to sweeten the deal even further.

 

 

 

MORE THAN HARDCORE

It was a good year, a damn good year in fact, for bands with their roots in the Hardcore scene – albeit most of the ones I’m about to mention have evolved and expanded past the boundaries of that simple description – from the heart-on-sleeve anguish and frustration of Svalbard’s blend of Post-Hardcore and Post-Metal, to the d-beat Crust-Thrash attack of Destroyed In Seconds to the Tech-Prog Power-Punk of Protest the Hero.

That being said, if some straight-up, all killer, no filler, Metallic Hardcore is what you’re after then the visceral, versatile new album from Sharptooth – as agile as it is aggressive, as creative as it is cathartic – will surely satisfy all your ‘core-focussed cravings.

 

 

 

STRANGE BUT TRVE

It was also a great year for bands who don’t like to play within the traditional boundaries too.

Remember the crazy concept album about undead anti-Nazi war elephants by Progressive Doom-Thrashers Bull Elephant? That’s still an absolutely killer (and absolutely unique) record, and I can’t wait for the follow-up.

Then there was the new Oranssi Pazuzu, which found the band diving head first even further down the psychedelic/atmospheric rabbit hole with their more than worthy follow-up to Värähtelijä (which is still, probably, the slightly superior album), while their brothers from other mothers, hallucinogenic Doom/Drone disciples Dark Buddha Rising, produced their heaviest, darkest work yet in the form of their new album, Mathreyata.

And it should be impossible to forget about career-redefining records from Thurisaz and Névoa, the former taking bits and pieces of Katatonia, Enslaved, and Agalloch and fusing them into something fresh and new, the latter blending pensive, Post-Metal atmospherics, introspective blackened dynamics, and poignant, simmering passages of moody Jazz, in a way that’s both strikingly intimate and utterly inspired.

 

 

 

LAST, BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST…

Look, I know they’re a divisive band… and sometimes a little hit-or-miss… but the new Deftones album just keeps getting better with every listen, in my opinion, as more layers of rich, sonic texture and deeper levels of metatextual meaning continue to reveal themselves.

So, yeah, you’re damn right it’s going on this list.

 

If you’re still with me at this point, let me say thank you for reading and I hope you’ve discovered or been convinced to give a second chance to at least one artist/album from this list. That’s what we’re all here for, after all, and that’s why we do what we do.

Tune in again tomorrow for the “big” one – my list of the ten albums which I think are the most critical to hear of 2020.

Of course, if you’re into that sort of thing, you might want to start guessing who’s going to be included, as they’ve all been mentioned here somewhere above… or you might just want to wait around 24 hours so you don’t spoil the surprise for yourselves. It’s your call…

  59 Responses to “2020 – A YEAR IN REVIEW(S): THE GREAT”

  1. My entire top ten is pretty much in here. Good shit!

  2. Glad to see the recognition for Stoned God in this list. Feel like people have really slept on that one, and it’s a terrific record. Also big ups for Nug and Aseitas.

    Totally agreed on Deftones. While not as imminently catchy as the best tracks on Diamond Eyes or Koi No Yokan – I kind of dismissed Ohms on first listen for this reason – I find myself getting more and more caught up with the record on each listen. I think in time I might call this their best since White Pony. “This Link Is Dead” is such a jam.

    Was hoping to see the new Protest in either the critical or personal Top 10. Can that still happen, or does mention here mean it didn’t make the cut? I can’t remember.

    • While I’ve been repping that Stoned God to as many people as I can, you’re not wrong about it going a little unheralded/underappreciated generally.

      As for your last point/question… it can definitely still happen. My “Critical” list is always drawn from the “Great” albums, while my “Personal” one pulls from both!

  3. A huge thank you for taking the time to listen to all of these releases, writing honest/positive reviews, and then writing up these year-end lists. It’s a rare thing on the internet these days.

  4. Shout out for Countless Skies. That one might be in top 10 as well. And I’m just now firing up that L’homme Absurde and I’m only mad because it took me this long to discover them.

    • Don’t be too mad at yourself, I only discovered them part way through the year myself. I actually meant to give them a listen when the album first came out, but clearly I got distracted by shiny things and loud noises elsewhere and so they slipped my mind for a while. Kicking myself a bit about that!

  5. Lots of fun homework assignments – starting with that – ha ha, WTF in a good way – Bull Elephant album, which does sound crazy. I am also going to sheepishly admit that I am behind on checking out the new Ars Magna Umbrae. Excited for those – and several other recommendations to do the deep dive on. Thank you!

    And thanks for the love for the Anaal Nathrakh and Necrophobic releases. Both were among my favorites for the year!

    • RE: Nathrakh and Necrophobic – it’s always nice to see big/seminal/legendary bands putting out killer albums this far into their careers (especially in Necrophobic’s case) as I think we’re all used to bands getting lazy and going off the boil as they get older (though that’s not always true, of course).

  6. I am absolutely enamored with that Antzaat album and way too many people are sleeping on it.

    • I can’t remember who first clued me into it – I think it might have been something the Last Rites or TovH crew posted about – but I’m very glad they did, and hopefully more people will discover it/them via this article.

    • Wow! Just listened to this for the first time. Quickly shot into my 10 ten of the year!

  7. Another great list. Listening to End now, loving it! Lots more to check out too.
    I will say that my personal fave of the year was not mentioned, LIK – Misanthropic Breed.
    It’s the record I’ve spent the most time spinning all year.

    • Glad you’re digging that END record. It got a lot of buzz when it was first released, but then seemed to drop off the radar a bit – and it shouldn’t have, because it is seriously good stuff.

      As for LIK, sadly I just didn’t have time to listen to it (yet) but I’ll add it to my list of albums to catch up on soon.

      • Yeah that End rips, buying it for sure.
        Listening to Umbra Vitae now, never gave it a shot earlier, I missed out!
        Looking forward to your Critical and Personal lists.

        For me LIK has taken over the empty spot Black Breath has left behind. Hope you dig.

  8. I didn’t see 3 of my favs on any of your lists so I would like to recommend Firelink, Xenobiotic, and Second to Sun if u have not heard them. I know u still have critical and personal top 10 lists coming but I can’t remember if you pull those from the good & great lists or not.

    • So I didn’t get around to either Firelink or Xenobiotic (though I’m familiar with the names), which is why they aren’t featured here (unfortunately).

      Second to Sun I did check out, but it didn’t grab me on first listen and I don’t think I ever went back to it, so I didn’t feel comfortable/confident commenting on it for either of these lists. But I’m definitely willing to give it another chance!

      With regards to the “Critical” and “Personal” lists, the “Critical Top Ten” is drawn solely from this article, and tries to give a broad, representative sample, of the best of the year. Whereas the “Personal Top Ten” is just the ten albums I’ve listened to and loved the most, some of which are “Great”, some of which are just “Good”, but which have just connected with me the best.

  9. Soooo…you left Beaten to Deaths “Laat maar, ik verhuis naar het bos” for tomorrow, right?

    • Ha, sadly that’s your lot I’m afraid. I did mean to get to it but… just didn’t get the chance.

      C’mon though, 200+ yesterday and another hundred-ish today means I can be forgiven for missing a few things, right?

      • I think I can forgive you, just give me some time. On a serious note though, I really appreciate these lists that you do. For the past couple of years I’ve always enjoyed reading them with my browser up on one screen and Tidal on the other, and every year I discover something new I haven’t heard before. Thanks!

  10. Haven’t seen any love for Pestilength – Eilatik. I’m think it’s the filthiest DM release of the year

  11. Fantastic list as always, Andy. I have to ask if you missed out on this year’s releases from Scalpture (Eisenzeit) and Plague (Portraits of Mind), which this humble reader thought were amongst the best death metal releases of the year.

    This year also stood out, to me, as exceptional for power and trad metal, but this might not be the place for such a discussion.

    • I definitely missed the former, but the latter… well, it didn’t make the lists but it IS going to get a review.

      As for Power/Trad stuff – sadly it rarely connects with me, for some reason. When it does it’s usually because it has a bit of a doomy flavour to it (like the new Sorcerer for example).

      • Eisenzeit definitely flew under the radar. I only found out about through comments over on Angry Metal Guy. Lyrically, it’s the death metal equivalent to the work of 1914. Musically, it truly hit the spot for someone, like myself, who misses Hail of Bullets.

        To be honest, the latest Sorcerer didn’t connect with me, despite my enjoyment of their previous releases. Perhaps you would find the new Sacred Outcry album (Damned for All Time) enjoyable, as it has several slow, doomy (but not doom) tracks. I’d place that album up with Adamantis, Eternal Champion and Spirit Adrift at the top of this year’s power/trad heap.

  12. Fantastic list – thank you so much. One gem from the parlour of death-doom I didn’t see mentioned though was Aphonic Threnody’s stunning ‘The Great Hatred’.

  13. I always look forward to your year end lists and always find a ton of gems I overlooked. Thanks for making these, and hopefully we’ll keep getting them for many years to come. I’ve been distracted from music this year, but your lists should help me catch up.

  14. I’ve maybe asked this question before, but HOW the hell do you listen to so much music?

    Meaning, for those albums you personally consider great (and top 10) how much “spin” time do you give them and do you go back to them? And for the good stuff, are those just several listens and done?

    With life, I find myself overwhelmed with the amount of music out there that I want to listen to, and giving the great albums enough spins…and trying not to move on to quickly to more great stuff in the interim.

    What I’m saying is….DAMN YOU for giving me more music to listen to!!!! Lol

    • Honestly, I’m very lucky that I can listen to music while I work (and working from home this year has made that MUCH easier). Plus I like listening to music while I read, or cook, or work out, and I’m a big fan of running a hot bath and queueing up a bunch of things I want to dive into deeply (although it’s harder to make notes in that situation).

      There’s definitely stuff I’ve left off both/all these lists though that I didn’t feel like I’d invested enough time or attention in to develop a proper opinion on them.

  15. Another ton of awesome shit! Yay!!! Some much stuff on my list.

    Thanks so much for all your effort you put into this. I do all the work without all the writing. Haha. My list is pretty chock full, but actually a LOT less than previous years at 240. I think I had well over 350 the past few years. I even tried to take it slower, but I have a quenchless thirst for loud guitars and meaty vocals since I was a wee pup.

    The one thing I would really want you to make sure to hear is…… UNDEATH.

    The thing is… I am afraid to build it up. I love what it does. And what it does is absolutely nothing new. At all. So why do I love it? Its just… perfect. Thats why. And its so natural feeling and easy, but when it comes to that bar setting quality? These guys jammed the bar up a corpses ass and went to bed with it and out came UNDEATH. Haha. Or whatever.

    In return, I will give this Antzaat a hard leg hump and see where it goes and report back.

    Afterbirth was my favorite thing all year. I simply cannot get enough. That quick harmonic intro and I am IN.

    • Yeah, the Undeath album (I do give it a quick shout out at the start) is one of the things I most regret not having time for this year. But, thankfully, it’s been getting enough hype and attention elsewhere that I think it’s going to be ok… also, I might be able to find time to write about it in one of my “Unsung Heroes” pieces over the next two weeks. No promises but, all signs point to “yes”.

  16. Good stuff Andy, both this list as well as the Good list you posted earlier. In my book some of the ‘good’ albums could’ve also been here; but that’s the beauty of tastes: they’re diverse.

    Thank you for putting such a gargantuan review together – I will try my hardest to spin as many as I can which I didn’t already know (which are a surprising lot, actually – I thought I listened to a fuck ton of music last year, but that impression is completely dwarfed by this review 😉 )

    • Oh yeah, some of the albums on the “Good” list only JUST missed out on a place here, and I may come to regret that decision as the days go by. But that’s just the way things are I guess, tastes and opinions evolve (some of the albums here may even get downgraded over time, although I tried to be extra-picky this year to reduce the chance of that happening).

  17. A lot of great stuff in there indeed. I have many of them on my own list as well, but as usual – a lot of stuff I haven’t even heard of!
    Oh, I made a playlist with every album that I could find on Spotify, if anyone is interested: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4MVG1uld1OHSUtjpdxrrfT?si=6oHSjFfARXmDkRrsz8pNUA

  18. Another great review of releases Andy. I’m listening to the Drown CD as I write this (I will also listen to the Clouds release), and then will give Nug’s Alter Ego a go. Your review reminds me that I should have taken a closer look at both the End and Fawn Limbs CDs (especially the latter) for my top 30. From your good list yesterday so far I’ve enjoyed discovering Kruelty, love how the snare cuts the crushing heaviness… we don’t need Carcass to try to recast their late 80’s era (not that they are going to try, nor should try) when there’s creative new-old sounds like this.
    I’ve been loving Black Line by Respire. Some might not describe it as metal, and yes, it has a post-hardcare blackgazey screamo weave, but the emotional intensity!
    I really vibe with some previous comments of how hard it is to keep up with all the great releases, and to find time to give treasured LPs the multiple spins they deserve. There are so many great releases I get to hear only a song or two of… but allowing a smaller set of treasured releases to really sink in and be part of my life is more important than trying to listen to everything.
    The Down CD is strong, evocative funeral doom!

    • Hey, a shout out for Kruelty. Nice. I know it’s not anything new or unique, but it’s a lot of big, dumb fun, and I bet they’re an absolute BLAST live.

      I have, as it happens, been listening to that Respire album off-and-on this week in between writing these various columns, so you may be seeing more about it from me in the near future (although you’re clearly already fully aware and familiar with it).

  19. Wayfarer and Abduction, definitely!

  20. Unless I missed it, I didn’t see Omnivortex’s “Diagrams of Consciousness” getting any love here. In my opinion, it’s one of the best death metal albums this year!

    • Your eyes do not deceive you, it didn’t quite make it onto any of the lists this year (solely due to time constraints) but I do plan to give it its own feature in one of my “Unsung Heroes of 2020” pieces over the next few weeks.

  21. Stoked to see Afterbirth and Rannoch getting recognition here, and it makes me happy that you chose to feature their cover art as well. Thank you!

  22. Nice list! Lots of stuff i loved in 2020 on it…
    This is my list… Though there’s the new Abigor coming in now.. Ah well it’s that good that itll be on it in 2021

    Albums:
    1) Akhlys – Melinoë
    2) Ulcerate – Stare Into Death and Be Still
    3) Havukruunu – Uinuos Syömein Sota
    4) Vspolokh – Пompe
    5) Martwa Aura – Morbus Animus
    6) Mavorim – Axis Mundi
    7) Paysage d’Hiver – Im Wald
    8) Uprising – Uprising II
    9) The Ocean – Phanerozoic II
    10) Turia – Degen van Licht
    11) Antzaat – For You Men Who Gaze Into…
    12) Malokarpatan – Krupinské Ohne
    13) Czort – Apostol
    14) Kvaen -The Funeral Pyre
    15) Fluisteraars – Bloem
    16) Horn – Mohngang
    17) Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition: Chapter II
    18) Sivyi Yar – Горе
    19) Cult of Fire – Moksha/Nirvana
    20) Shagor – Sotteklugt
    21) Exitium Sui – Ad Personam
    22) Meslamtaea – Geketend in de Schaduw van het Leven
    23) Crépuscule d’Hiver – Par-Delà Noireglaces et….
    24) Bâ’a – Deus Qui Non Mentitur
    25) Path – Vale of Sorrow

    Re-Issue:
    1) Psychonaut – Unfold the God Man
    2) Mare – Spheres Like Death / Throne Of The…
    3) Ofermod – Pentagrammaton
    4) Nokturnal Mortum – Lunar Poetry
    5) Stworz – Nektar Inspiracji
    6) Ceremonial Castings – Salem 1692 (MMXX)
    7) Samael – Blood Ritual
    8) Unanimated – Ancient God of Evil
    9) Amestigon – Origins-the Demo Tapes 94-96
    10) Lunar Aurora/Paysage d’Hiver – A Haudiga Fluag /Schwarza Feus…

    EP:
    1) Deus Mortem – The Fiery Blood
    2) Brzask – Brzask
    3) Iskandr – Gelderse Poort

    Split:
    1) Sivyi Yar/Stworz – Wiecznica / Неизбежность
    2) Mourning Beloveth/Ruins of Beverast – s/t
    3) Spectral Lore/Mare Cognitum – Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine
    4) Ezkaton/Solitude m. – Campfire of None
    5) Almyrkvi/Ruins of Beverast – s/t

    Boxset:
    Falkenbach – Nine Worlds of Falkenbach (Manifestations 1995-2013)

    Keep up the good work!

  23. Finally had the time to go through and listen to everything I hadn’t heard, which was quite a bit. Sinistral King might be the rec I am most thankful for. Vendetta Records had a hell of a year (Vital Spirit, Ninkharsag, Ante-Inferno). Havukruunu, Drown, Silvered, and Kvaen are all also new to me, and fantastic. I appreciate the mention of Abduction’s Jehanne, which I was loving earlier in the year and need to add back to the rotation!

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together for us!

    • Oh, you’re welcome, as always.

      Seeing “Vendetta Records” on anything is usually a way to get me to check it out ASAP (they did the new Naxen, Bestialis, Afsky, and Sunken releases too), and though I don’t love absolutely everything, their hit rate with me is VERY high.

      Cool to see you appreciating Silvered and Sinistral King too. Both GREAT albums, but surprisingly low-key releases when all is said and done.

  24. I am literally shocked that I’ve seen no mention of Slift “Ummon” anywhere save for a single website out there. It’s probably my favorite album of the entire year.

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