(Below our Norway-based contributor Karina Noctum presents her own year-end list of 2020 favorites.)
2020 was awful. I retreated for several weeks to the mountains to escape from everything and took with me some of the releases in this list. The music helps me a lot to cope. I also went more thrash and old school this time because that gives me happiness and it works as therapy through these plague-ridden dark times. So this list of the best is actually more like a survival kit:
(In no particular order)
1. Disavowed – Revocation of the Fallen
I have cool memories of all my Disavowed concerts. I got to see them a lot one year when they decided to tour again. I consider them to be one of the best Dutch Death Metal acts. Revocation of the Fallen is so technical and yet slammy and groovy in the right doses so as to not to bog everything down. I listened to the album relentlessly this year.
2. Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus
I enjoy DS a lot. I have the best memories from their live shows, as the energy this band gives is enormous. They released a pretty brutal album this time which is a contrast to half of the previous album, and I can’t complain. “Naraka” is one of my personal hit songs, so the more dense and aggressive the music, the happier I get. Amazing release.
3. Deeds of Flesh – Nucleus
The album fulfills all the technical and brutal expectations associated with DoF. It’s a band that has paved the way and set standards in the subgenre and I’m glad it continues to do so, because back in 2018 I thought the band was not going to continue after Erik Lindmark passed. I’m really looking forward to seeing what new releases Unique Leader Records will put out next year.
4. Syphilic/Nithing Split
I really like Syphilic, especially In the Pen. I have never been a fan of their cover artworks tho. It’s totally disturbing. I guess it’s how it’s supposed to be, but I still have problems with gorish things even after close to two decades listening to this music.
Anyway, it’s all about the music for me so back to that topic. I loved it when Darren Cesca (Deeds of Flesh, Pillory, Goratory) was the drummer. It’s one of the best ideas ever and I hope they get a real drummer again in the future, but one can always make peace with the programmed drums and enjoy other songs anyway. I included this split also because of Nithing. It’s Matt Kilner’s (Gorgasm) musical project, an excellent drummer as well. I’m a huge Gorgasm fan so I was stoked when I saw the split. It’s pretty promising and reminds me a bit of Malignancy. Hopefully an album or an EP will come next year.
5. Havok – V
These guys know how to thrash. Flawless production. Awesome composition, one of the best.
6. Dark Tranquillity – Moment
I have seen DT many times, ranging from a pretty comfy chair in a balcony at a bar in South America without any hassle to a pretty packed tent at Hellfest in France. DT has always been there in my life I feel. In the beginning I thought it was perhaps too melodic, but I have always loved Gothenburg DM style, so DT kinda grew on me through the years without becoming a clear favorite. But now Moment made a difference and I had to include them here. I mean yeah it’s of course DT with all their trademarks, but I can actually hear how seasoned they are as musicians. I mean they have always been excellent, but now it’s getting even better. So how cool to have all these mature musicians who are refining metal as they get older.
7. Enepsigos – Wrath of Wraths
The band’s sound distinguishes them in the scene indeed. Enepsigos has all the sound qualities I look for in a BM band.
8. Akhlys – Melinoë
I have just words of praise for Akhlys. The concepts translate into the music. The music is an extension of the feelings they want to evoke in the listener and that’s hard to find. It’s excellent.
9. Azarath – Saint Desecration
I have always been an Azarath fan. I first discovered the band when I was a teenager looking for side projects of known musicians I liked. Inferno was one of the most awesome Death Metal drummers, and when Behemoth downtuned I wanted more, so I found Azarath. I love side projects, especially when they are a brutal vehicle for the musicians in question. You kinda feel they do everything they can’t do with their main projects when those become too commercial or whatever. So yeah Azarath rules! It was worth the trip to a Swedish forest in the middle of nowhere.
10. Töxik Death – Sepulchral Demons
If I were to describe the Norwegian scene and the best upcoming bands here I would just play Töxik Death and the like. An awesome ongoing revival true to the roots.
11. Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
I have paid less attention to Swedish underground in 2020, I must admit. Something that I regret deeply. But out of what I have listened to it’s Kvaen that still sticks. It gives me the right feeling. It’s Black / Viking, but has lots of old school influences, and that doesn’t make it cheesy but just super cool. So it has the awesome Swedish way of composing songs, the build-ups in the right places. It’s not overdone. All in all thoroughly enjoyable. I think of Allegiance and Nifelheim, for example. It ‘s awesome.
12. Night Crowned – Impius Viam
The first time I saw them live I was impressed. So I wrote to find out more and they told me they were working on a new album. I waited for about a year, I think, and finally Impius Viam came out. I love Swedish tech extreme bands so this one was an excellent add to my list. It’s extreme Blackened DM Gothenburg style. I interviewed the drummer Janne Jaloma who also plays in Dark Funeral and now he is a part of Aeon. Definitely something to look forward to next year. If this band went under the radar and you love fast Death Metal you need to give it a try.
13. Beneath the Massacre – Fearmonger
BtM has always been wow, but Fearmonger was even better in that absurd tech way of doing things. You already got excellent stuff in their catalogue, and yet they still manage to keep impressing you. It was a long hiatus tho, but I’m so glad they kept on.
14. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment
They keep playing their awesome blend of heavy, grind and black and they even have some songs that sound pretty modern now. I usually frown a bit upon hearing some well-established bands going that “modern way”, but not AN. They can do whatever and it still kicks ass.
15. Auðn – Vökudraumsins fangi
After the ton of fast brutal stuff I have listed tp, one needs to rest, right? I have my own soft, meditative list and these Icelandics have always provided a perfect way to tune down and rest.
16. Vampire – Rex
Old school excellency from Sweden.
17. Bütcher – 666 Goats Carry My Chariot
I’m going more for the old school style so this is one of the best bands on my playlist. I intend to keep maintaining this focus on this style in 2021 because it lifts my spirits in rather awful times.
18. Vader – Solitude in Madness
Vader is just one of the best bands when it comes to Metal. They are in that timeless, genreless zone for me. They take influence from the past, bring their own stuff, and do it in the pretty amazing Polish way of making extreme music. They are just what metal is supposed to be.