The 2020 Albums Of The Year
The following are my picks for the albums of the year. The list is not in any sort of ranked order, it's not even alphabetical — I just put the list together as it formed in my mind. I stopped at 10, but the list of quality albums released in 2020 is truly massive. I also included a list of honourable mentions at the end.
Lastly, if I left off your favourite band, I offer my condolences and superior taste as consolation. Now here's that sweet, sweet list content you crave.
The Project Hate MCMXCIX
Not even going to feign objectivity with this one, folks; this is the latest release from my favourite band for the last 20 years. Symphonic death metal with elements of doom and industrial, capped off with the elite drumming of Dirk Verburen (Megadeth) and the superb mixing skills of Dan Swanö. The dynamic, uncompressed mix available from the official website is worth every penny.
Run The Jewels
Kiler Mike and El-P drop their biggest-sounding record to date, featuring a stronger emphasis on sampling than previous efforts. As usual, the duo collaborate with a unique list of co-conspirators, including their second jam with Zach De La Rocha. Starting with the infectious lead single "Ooh La La" and ending with the somber and affecting "A Few Words For The Firing Squad," RTJ 4 is nonstop fire.
Origin Of The Alimonies
Experimental black metallers Liturgy follow-up last year's critically acclaimed H.A.Q.Q. with an equally perturbing companion piece. Blending synths, blast beats and frenetic guitars with influences ranging from classical music and opera to trap instrumentals, this mind-melting concept album will take multiple listens to fully appreciate.
Where Only Gods May Tread
An absolutely crushing collection of death metal tracks from the UK's Ingested. My first exposure to them was getting demolished by a live set in 2018 and the band has only gotten better since then. This record is replete with sick grooves and sharp, searing leads. There's still plenty of life in death metal.
Flowers Of Evil
Norway's avante garde duo continue to explore the dark synthwave style debuted on their previous album, The Assassination Of Julius Caesar. The group's most accessible effort to date, but still far from a standard issue pop album, Flowers Of Evil exists somewhere between a soundtrack and audio novella.
God Has Nothing To Do With It So Leave Him Out Of It
Hailing from Montreal's underground, Backxwash took the rap world by storm with this collection of heavy metal-inspired horrorcore tracks. The combination of a uniquely grimy production aesthetic and deeply personal lyrical themes (addiction, gender expression) make for a powerful album that also sounds fantasic. Collaborations with Black Dresses members are just a bonus.
A Romance With Violence
Another band I first encountered in a live setting, Wayfarer drop a unique black metal record: a concept album about the violent founding of the state of Colorado in the style of an old western film. Even without these aesthetic elements, instrumentally this record is impressive. These lengthy, sprawling tracks feature epic builds and plenty of headbanging riffs to hold the listener's focus.
After spending the first month of lockdown listening to this record, it feels like Code Orange are an amalgamation of all the metal and electronic music I've enjoyed throughout my life. The album's mix of abbrassive beatdowns, electronica-tinged grooves and alternative metal feels like I'm listening to the future of heavy music. Except now. So I guess it's the present. Look, causality is hard.
It's difficult to find much to say about ambient music and its related genres, but Sweden's Forndom bears special mention. The unique palette of sounds, a combination of atmospheric synths and Scandinavian folk instruments makes for a collection of 'bangers' relative to the subdued, relaxing nature of the genre. This record was a real boon in such a fraught year.
A prolific, one-man experimental black metal project, Violet Cold continually outdoes itself with each release. This feels like a larger step forward than any prior effort, fusing the disparate electronic styles often relegated to one-off singles with the overarching atmospheric black metal themes. Sonically, this record sounds massive compared to any of its predecessors save for maybe the Dɘfn EP.
The following are some albums that, while I enjoyed quite a bit, I could not quite justify including in my highly coveted and pretigious top 10 list. Still, these are solid releases and still very much worth a look.
Rap, Hip Hop
- Clipping, Visions Of Bodies Being Burned | spotify
- Denzel Curry x Kenny Beats, Unlocked EP | spotify
- Freddie Gibbs, Alfredo | spotify
- Killah Priest, Rocket To Nebula | spotify
- R.A. The Rugged Man, All My Heroes Are Dead | spotify
- Tkay Maidza, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 | spotify
- Alone In The Dark, Insomnia | bandcamp
- An Autumn For Crippled Children, All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet | bandcamp
- Grift, Budet | bandcamp
- Kardashev, The Baring Of Shadows | bandcamp
- Magoth, Invictus | bandcamp
- Mesarthim, The Degenerate Era | bandcamp
- Nechochwen & Panopticon, Split | bandcamp/bandcamp
- Unreqvited, Empathica | bandcamp
- Anneke Van Giersbergen w/Kamerata Zuid, Let The Light In | bandcamp
- Black Dresses, Peaceful As Hell | bandcamp
- En Minor, When The Cold Truth Has Worn Its Miserable Welcome Out | bandcamp
- Forêt Endormie, Une Voile Déchirée | bandcamp
- Kraken Duumvirate, The Stars Above, The Seas Below | bandcamp
- KTL, VII | spotify
Published: December 31st, 2020