If there’s one positive about 2020, it was that I had ample time to listen to a lot of music. That being said, I still don’t check out new music like I did when I was younger. Hell, even just back in 2014, my year end list was huge (and thankfully most of it is still stuff I am listening to). These are the releases I enjoyed and listened to the most throughout the year. I narrowed it down to just ten albums and ten miscellaneous releases for simplicity, but there are plenty of honorable mentions. I’ve included links to each releases’ Bandcamp for ease of listening.
Top 10 Albums of 2020
AHNA – Crimson Dawn
The five year wait for AHNA’s death metal masterpiece, “Crimson Dawn” has finally ended, and it delivers the goods. Sinister, evil, and just fucking metal. The stenchcore and punk influences really play nice with the Autopsy and Bolt Thrower riffs. I’ll go as far to call this my favourite record of 2020.
Caustic Wound – Death Posture
Grindcore featuring 3/4 of Mortiferum in the vein of Repulsion but with heavier production. Absolutely relentless and full of riffs, it’ll surely satisfy old school grind fans as well as metal fans who are usually apprehensive about the genre.
Ceremonial Bloodbath – The Tides of Blood
Black/death metal that gets into war metal territory but never sacrifices the riff. Features members of Massgrave, AHNA, Radioactive Vomit, etc so it’s already rooted in tons of experience, no surprise it’s great. It’s the only thing this year that competes with AHNA in terms of how sinister it sounds.
Draghkar – At the Crossroads of Infinity
Full disclosure, the frontman of Draghkar is my bandmate in Azath. But holy shit, this is a great slab of melodic death metal that never loses sight of the fact it’s still death metal. Plenty of Greek black metal influence too, and an insane amount of guitar solos courtesy of Kelly from Drawn and Quartered.
Gorephilia – In the Eye of Nothing
This band has always been on my radar, but now I can definitely say I’m a fan. Combining Morbid Angel riffs with the general heaviness of Finnish death metal, it was a must buy record for me this year.
Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
It’s amazing how Napalm Death still manages to put out records that sound fresh but still like themselves. The increased amount of post-punk and noise-rock influences make for a dynamic album, while still giving us the grind we’d expect.
Necrot – Mortal
Necrot’s sophomore album gives us more meat and potatoes death metal, but does it with all the right elements. With great sounding production and riffs galore, this Oakland power trio has earned every bit of hype they’ve got. The guitar solos really add a classy element on top of everything.
VoidCeremony – Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel
Weirdo death metal from Southern California that includes members that have been in bands like Ascended Dead. Features the Great Righteous Destroyer (StarGazer) on bass, who further adds to the progressive sound of VoidCeremony.
WAKE – Devouring Ruin
Calgary’s WAKE finally went all in on the black/death metal direction they’ve been pushing on the last two records, and actually recorded a full 45 minutes. They hinted at some of their abilities of riding out parts and exercising musicality within, but they fully realize it here, and there’s really none of the previous grindcore elements present. They released an EP in the fall that is highly recommended if you like where they are going on this release!
Warp Chamber – Implements of Excruciation
This was recommended to me on the grounds that it’s similar to Blood Incantation, and with just 4 songs at 30 minutes, it looks like that on the surface. They have a very similar riffing style which also features a lot of variations on a theme, but they don’t pull back into any atmospheric sections or clean guitar parts. In other words, it’s a relentless riff experience.
Special mention to two Canadian post-punk bands, Spectres (Vancouver) and Paradise (Calgary). Both put out excellent albums this year, with Spectres releasing their 4th and most “produced” sounding record to date, where as Paradise’s debut album has a grungier approach. Do not miss Spectres – Nostalgia or Paradise – Pariah if you’re looking for something dreamy.
Runners up include: Black Curse – Endless Wound; Faceless Burial – Speciation; Goden – Beyond Darkness; Incantation – Sect of Vile Divinities; Intellect Devourer – Demons of the Skull; Internal Rot – Grieving Birth; Ofermod – Pentagrammaton; Primitive Man – Immersion; Question – Reflections of the Void; Siege Column – Darkside Legions; Ulthar – Providence; Undeath – Lesions of a Different Kind; Undergang – Aldrig I Livet; Venomous Skeleton – Drowning in Circles; Void Rot – Descending Pillars
Top 10 EPs/Splits/Demos/Comps of 2020
Anhedonist/Spectral Voice split 7″
Two of the best death doom bands in the US, features an unreleased Anhedonist track that was recorded with their only album, and a new Spectral Voice song. The former was intended for an aborted split with Knelt Rote, where as the the latter gives us some really echoed out drums mid-song that sounds awesome.
Archagathus/Meat Spreader split 12″
Some of the most blast oriented Archagathus material to date, it sounds fantastic. Meanwhile, Meat Spreader sound like a combination of members’ former bands (Dead Infection and Squash Bowels) making for one mean slab of grindcore.
Atavisma/Void Rot split 12″
Void Rot’s album was pretty good but I was also enjoying this split quite a lot. The Minneapolis death/doomers teamed up with Atavisma from France who further supplement the style heard here with a little more weirdness (kind of like Swallowed but not quite as unhinged).
Auroch – Stolen Angelic Tongues EP
After the incredible “Mute Books” LP, Auroch returns with 18 minutes of music which was initially intended for a split, but ultimately was released as a stand alone EP. The recording here is a little more cavernous sounding than before but musically they continue their odd path of technical occult death metal. They’re now a fully fledged five piece, and there seems to be a lot more depth here than ever.
Come to Grief – Pray for the End EP
Grief are one of the most important sludge bands of all time, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by how solid Come to Grief is. The name change is for the best, but it’s quite obviously in the same vein, and ultimately is a satisfying 3 songs of heavy sludge metal.
Lykotonen – Only Our Eyes Are Alive demo
A project featuring many familiar faces of the Denver metal scene, this is a strange piece of black/death metal with members of Blood Incantation and Wayfarer. The “interlude” track in the middle is a really well executed piece of atmospheric industrial music, and it stands out to me a lot.
Oxalate/Perpetuated/Blood Spore/Vivisect split
Four bands from the mid-Atlantic US teamed up for this split, each showcasing a track of their brand of death metal. All these bands are relatively new, but all seem to have a solid understanding of death metal. I’m already a big fan of Oxalate and Blood Spore, so this was kind of a no brainer to check out for me.
Scheme – s/t demo
Somewhat of a supergroup of Canadian punk bands, featuring members of Napalm Raid, Massgrave, Decontrol, and Phane. No surprise here, it’s catchy as fuck d-beat, presented with a professional sounding recording.
Spectral Voice – Necrotic Demos comp
Another entry for Spectral Voice this year, this comp is just too killer not to mention. It includes their demo and their contributions to 4 different split 7″ releases, one of which is listed here. They’re the best modern death/doom band, and having all these non-album tracks on a single CD was an instant buy for me.
Thou – Blessings of the Highest Order comp
These Louisiana sludge freaks released two compilations of covers in 2020, with this one consisting entirely of Nirvana songs. I never realized how badly I needed to hear these songs adapted to the sludge style – it’s seriously an awesome interpretation. I enjoyed this so much I ended up listening to a lot of Nirvana throughout the year as a result.