(We’ve reached the penultimate Part in the 2020 year-end lists by Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood) that we’ve been fortunate to share with you. The focus of this one is Albums (10 of them). The preceding installments can be found behind these links: Part I, Part II, Part III.)
It hasn’t just been because 2020 turned into whatever you want to call it that we’ve seen a massive surge in quality, captivating music, but rather we’re at one of those rare points in time where there’s an overflowing of talented and creative people who’ve all somehow climaxed at once. I’m sure there’s some kind of joke there but I’m sure most of you were sick of my shit two paragraphs in on Part I (if not earlier) so I’ll just get into the meat of this piece.
Probably a joke there, too.
Old Forest “Back Into the Old Forest”
Very rarely does a band have any kind of success when they re-record more than an old song or two. The only instance of an entirely re-recorded album standing side by side (or even improving upon the original) is Svartsyn’s excellent reworking of The True Legend some years back, so I was cautiously optimistic with Old Forest doing the same.
For me Into the Old Forest is a fucking masterpice, the single greatest black metal record to come out of England and one of a few dozen of what I would consider “perfect” albums. Fortunately I had no need to worry as this reworking was handled beautifully, with focus and somehow even more of a forceful performance than the original, especially the vocals. Old Forest have evolved quite a bit in the last two decades but this return to their roots is one of the year’s best moments.
Dai Ichi “Dai Ichi”
Sure this came out in 2019 sometime but I had just heard it this year and it dominated a lot of my listening time. thus it’s inclusion. Harsh, punk-y black metal, reminding me of early Leviathan, Ildjarn, and even Vlad Tepes a bit. This is your early warning to buy the LP while the label still has it before they release a high-profile split next year that you’ll be bitching sold out before you could hit F5.
Seidr “I Galskabens Morke”
Released in 2019 on cassette by Tour De Garde, the excellent Nattetale put this recording to vinyl this year. Caustic and reverberating (reverb-berating?) cavernous black noise, Seidr manages to capture the audial essence of terror while keeping the whole thing interesting and worth listening to. One of the weirder Korpsand projects, true outsider black metal.
Probably should have gone into the demo category but it did see a vinyl release so fuck it, it’s fine here. Somme is WWI-themed black metal from Finland and, much like nearly everything else I’ve written about this year, is firmly entrenched in the late ’90s style of raw Finnish black metal. Raw enough to give it teeth but the riffs come shining through very well. They’ll have a proper full-length next year I think, and I’m sure we’ll be back here in twelve months with me writing about it again. Excellence.
Haxanu “The Snare of All Salvation”
I wrote about this album earlier in the year as being kind of a throwback to the old Swedish scene of the ’90s, and after repeated listens since I still hear stuff like Setherial, Algaion, and Midvinter for sure, but Haxanu is more than just a rehashing of these bands. Rather, they’re adding to the canon of traditional black metal by composing sincere and aggressive music without seeming stagnant.
In the twenty-plus years I have been listening to Svartsyn never once have they released a record that was short of being deadly as fuck. Requiem doesn’t change that trajectory at all. Svartsyn are one of the most consistently great and consistently overlooked bands in black metal. Crushing.
Capel Beulah “Capel Beulah”
This sounds like it was recorded three rooms away in an empty concrete warehouse and is one of the fucking weirdest black metal records I’ve heard in years. There’s just something bent and warped to the atmosphere of this record that makes it special. I could see this easily going the other way into almost a parody of itself but like the early Mutiilation recordings it’s just fucking… strange. I’m sure someone in the comments will tell me about two dozen bands that sound like this but fuck off, you’re being pedantic and missing my point. I’ll be curious to see how this band evolves.
Afsky “Oft Jeg Drommer”
I saw this tagged as “depressive” by somebody who was either deaf or stupid. Afsky have put together an album that could easily be described as anthemic. The second half of the record in particular reminds me a bit of earlier Drudkh but judging by the amount of plays it has on Youtube I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. A deeply satisfying listen.
Cyhyraeth “Unholy Nights Mischief”/ Cyhyraeth “Wrapped in Branches”
Seeing as both of these records came out within a few short months of each other it seemed appropriate to lump them together. Cyhyraeth is yet another child from the man behind Spellbine, Orchard, Witches Moon, Whispers Unhallowed etc etc etc. One would think having that many different projects would stretch someone thin and make each individual one weaker but this is that one-in-a-million case where logic is thrown out the window. Some of the best traditional black metal to come out of the US this year, both records are highly recommended.
The next part will be the records I felt came out on top as the cream of the crop in 2020 for me, and the final piece to this self-centered spectacle. I’m sure you’ll disagree with my choices but fortunately for me I don’t have to live with you, your bad decisions, or your shitty taste.