(We present a Top 10 year-end list for 2020 by NCS contributor Todd Manning, along with some runners-up and non-metal suggestions.)
Somewhere in a review or two in previous years, I referred to the state of the world as a slow-motion apocalypse, but in 2020, things don’t feel so slow anymore. Nevertheless, we fanatical Metal fans are constantly bombarded with the perfect soundtrack to the world outside our door, even if we don’t get to actually open that door and go outside very much.
My list last year was my weirdest one to date, but I think this year’s is even stranger. And while I said last year that 2019 wasn’t as strong as previous years, 2020’s list is full of absolute rippers. So here is my peculiar taste laid out for the world to see…
- Mamaleek– Come & See
How have I slept on this act for so long? After hearing “Eating Unblessed Meat”, the first single for this album, I immediately started exploring the back catalog of this mysterious entity and realized what I’d been missing. This album and 2018’s Out of Time both became regular staples in my listening rotation this year. So strange, so menacing… Mamaleek seems to capture every bleak emotion and anxiety of our current moment, and for me at least, offers a great deal of catharsis.
- Imperial Triumphant– Alphaville
Imperial Triuphant’s last album, Vile Luxury, topped my 2018 list and their latest, Alphaville, damn near took the crown again. Their marriage of Blackened Death Metal to Jazz, both traditional and Avant Garde, is awe-inspiring. Complex, brutal and cinematic, there seems to be absolutely no predicting what these guys are capable of or how far their ambitions will carry them.
- Faucet– Insane Bitter Melting
More weirdness, this time in the form of a Name Your Price Bandcamp download. This Richmond, Virginia based Punk outfit created a lysergic blend of Punk and Noise Rock that is as catchy as it is abrasive. I probably listened to this release more than anything else this past year.
- Spirit Possession– Self-Titled
A glorious mashup of early Morbid Angel and even earlier Mercyful Fate, along with a dash of Order from Chaos, Venom and any number of early Black Metal bands. Spirit Possession has a sound that no Metalhead can truly deny. Old School, but with some great obtuse and inverted guitar work to keep things interesting.
- Oranssi Pazuzu– Mestarin Kynsi
For occultist who no longer seek scientific validation. This is music to light bonfires to while doing hallucinogens, screaming at the sky, naked and covered with mud. Psychedelic Black Metal, but not really sounding like anything but themselves.
- Krallice– Mass Cathexis
Krallice is a band that everyone knows but somehow still often seems to fly beneath the radar. It doesn’t seem like they make a big deal of things when putting out a new album, but make no mistake, it is a big deal. Mass Cathexis sees them rejoined by Neurosis’ Dave Edwardson, who also appeared on 2017’s Loüm. Once again, mind-boggling complexity meets oppressive heaviness.
- Horsewhip– Laid to Waste
Passionate and vicious Hardcore. They are experts at injecting a sense of atmosphere into their music without compromising the anger that fuels their music. This band is composed of scene veterans who deserve every bit of recognition that comes their way.
- Voidceremony– Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel
Voidceremony produce an oddly progressive take on guttural Death Metal. Their riffing and growling is full of crypt stench but the guitar and bass weave some pretty intricate lines. Bonus points for having Damon Good (Stargazer, Mournful Congregation, Cauldron Black Ram) bring his unmistakable bass work to this album.
- Nite– Darkness Silence Mirror Flame
Old School Metal meets Black Metal in an excellent and moody album. It’s telling that this group contains a former member of Dawnbringer, another group that excelled at this kind of stuff.
- Lychgate– Also Sprach Futura
Perhaps it is arguable that this shouldn’t be on here because it’s an EP as opposed to a full-length, but Lychgate pack more into these twenty-one minutes than most acts do in forty-five. This sounds like Watchtower playing Black Metal with distinct Gothic overtones, thanks to the heavy use of organ. These guys have always been amazing and Also Sprach Futura is no different.
And of course, the runners up…
The Shrinkwrap Killers- Feral Rats Have Become Our Only Pets
Aseitas- False Peace
Internal Rot- Grieving Birth
Psalm Zero- Sparta
Christoph de Babalon- Reoccurring Horrors
Jeff Parker-Suite for Max Brown
Blockhead- Quar and Peace
Jaye Jayle- Prisyn
Human Performance Lab- Impact Situation
My yearly nerd statistics: I listened to 172 albums released this year. This is down from 184 last year but still up from the 153 in 2018.
So that’s it. Last year at the end of my list, I wished everyone luck surviving 2020. I had no idea… I have an idea about 2021, and let’s just say my hopes are with you. I would take worse music for a better world, but I guess we take what we can get. Hope we get to do this again next year.