And starting off at number fifteen. . .
15. Acid Mammoth – Under Acid Hoof (Greece – Heavy Psych Sounds)
For their second album, Acid Mammoth comes across like an even stonier version of Black Sabbath with some hints of Kyuss. With a healthy mix of psychedelia and metal, Under Acid Hoof jives and weighs heavily. With pounding bass tones and wailing guitars, Acid Mammoth delivers a hefty dose of doom and stoner metal to appease the senses.
Check out Acid Mammoth’s Bandcamp:
14. John Petrucci – Terminal Velocity (United States – Sound Mind Media)
A household name in both heavy and progressive metal, Dream Theater’s lead guitarist’s highly anticipated second solo album is everything you’d want not only as a guitarist, but as a Dream Theater fan as well. Reuiniting with long-time friend and drummer Mike Portnoy, there’s something familiar sounding within Terminal Velocity. I wrote extensively on the album, which you can read about here. Certainly one of the biggest surprises from this year.
13. Al-Namrood – Wala’at (Saudi Arabia – Shaytan Productions)
Something sinister from the Middle East, Al-Namrood’s seventh release, Wala’at was another album I tackled earlier this year. With incredibly jarring vocal arrangements from singer Humbaba, I became an instant fan. While I do not understand the literal lyrics, I understand the meaning behind them – thanks to the incredible emotion poured into this impressive black metal album.
Head to Shaytan Production’s Bandcamp page and check out Wala’at here:
12. Shezmu – À Travers Les Lambeaux (Canada – Krucyator Productions)
Out of Quebec, Canada, comes one of the more extreme albums from this year. Shezmu’s debut, À Travers Les Lambeaux, combines black, death, and doom metal into a conglomerate of sound. With vocal harmonies that feature both guttural and frightened shouts, the uneasiness from Shezmu’s music is chilling to the bone. As debuts go, nothing can be more impactful than this.
Check out Shezmu’s Bandcamp here:
11. Proscription – Conduit (Finland – Dark Descent Records)
A newcomer in the blackened death metal scene is Proscription’s debut, Conduit. With extreme tendencies, the album provides a look into the depths of Hell with its bleak resonance outpouring from the screams and tones from many of the moods in each song. With crunches and reverb in songs like Red Sacrament Black Communion, one can hear and appreciate how Proscription can sink one into the macabre.
Listen to the entire album here:
10. Ulthar – Providence (United States – 20 Buck Spin)
I’ve reviewed a lot of albums this year, and Ultar’s Providence is one of them. While their first album made my Honourable Mentions in 2018, Providence ups the ante in every possible way, creating a sonic cacophony of beautiful, technical chaos. The clean production of the album stands out as a highlight: where most death metal becomes muddled (for good reason), Ulthar shines. With a bright pop in its insanity, Providence is yet another brilliant album in the band’s arsenal.
Listen to the whole album here:
9. Malokarpatan – Krupinské Ohne (Slovakia – Invictus Productions)
Into the band’s fourth album, prepared to be floored. With influences and genres coming from all over, on paper, one would expect a mess. Yet in Krupinské Ohne, cohesive arrangements come about in what I can only compare as Fantômas meets modern Darkthrone. Traditional heavy metal blends with black metal, meets with strange production and song samples, mixing the atmosphere of the album into something. . . strange. With delicious riffs all over, Krupinské Ohne is a real treat.
Listen to Krupinské Ohne in its entirety here:
8. Ulver – Flowers of Evil (Norway – House of Mythology)
With their last album reaching #2 on my favourite albums in 2017, Ulver continues to work on – and arguably perfect – their sound, which comes across like a darker version of Depeche Mode. Unlike the last album, however, Ulver’s song writing tightens up even greater. While it initially took some time to grow, Flowers of Evil is clearly a stronger leap forward to the band’s ever-progressing soundscape.
Listen to Flowers of Evil here:
7. Fellwarden – Wreathed in Mourncloud (England – Eisenwald)
Into their second album, Fellwarden’s Wreathed in Mourncloud is a moody beast of an album. As I mentioned in my review of the album earlier this year, the natural feeling and tones within the album are truly epic and still filled with sorrow. To sum my review: “Passionate, intense, brutal, and with a ton of heart, Fellwarden’s Wreathed in Mourncloud is an outstanding album that delivers on every level.”
Check out the entire album here:
6. Auðn – Vökudraumsins Fangi (Iceland – Season of Mist)
I’ve listened to a lot of incredible Icelandic black metal this year. When I heard Auðn was releasing a follow up to their second album Farvegir Fyrndar (my #9 in 2017), I couldn’t have been more excited. Auðn’s fresh and evolving sound keeps me wanting to go back for more. I don’t think there’s a better example of how what this band is trying to accomplish than the second track of their album, Eldborg – as it brings you something familiar, yet something dark and sinister at the same time.
Check out the entire album here:
5. Núll – Entity (Iceland – Ván Records)
Featuring members from the Icelandic black metal band Misþyrming, 0 or “Núll” released this depressive blackish doom metal album which is filled with absolute agony and sorrow. A bleak and mournful album, Núll’s tones are intense and yet also very atmospheric while still being bitterly cold. A standout album for for reaching deep into your soul and taking your heart and leaving you to freeze.
Listen to Entity in its entirety here:
4. Atramentus – Stygian (Canada – 20 Buck Spin)
The debut album of this funeral doom outfit from Quebec, Stygian slowly creeps its way into your mind with cathartic releases sprawled along its slow, 44-minute burn. The album’s three movements are intense with weight. It’s slow burn also acts as a slow build, with the final climax making the experience worthwhile as it pays in dividends. An absolutely brilliant, gorgeous album that has me excited to see what Atramentus will bring to the table next.
Check out the album here:
3. Nyrst – Orsök (Iceland – Dark Essence Records)
Hands-down my favourite Icelandic black metal album of the year, but what makes it so different? The cold of the atmosphere? The frightening and chilling raspy vocals screaming into my essence? The fact that there’s been a permanent link on my desktop to play the album from my computer since its release? Nyrst keeps pulling me back in to its clutches with its encapsulating sounds and terrifying tones. I’ll be listening to this one for years to come.
Check out Orsök here:
2. Green Carnation – Leaves of Yesteryear (Norway – Season of Mist)
The distance between this album and my favourite album of the year is actually pretty close. After 14 years, Green Carnation returned with something familiar, yet different. These progressive metal titans have always stood out separate from other progressive metal bands as they created substance over flash – structure over solos. The result? Probably their best album and one of the greatest things to grace my ears in 2020. When the title track was released, I shed tears of joy. Green Carnation are back.
Pick up Green Carnation’s latest here:
1. Havukruunu – Uinuos Syömein Sota (Finland – Naturmacht Productions)
What else can I say that I already haven’t? The melodically blazing third album from Finland’s Havukruunu takes Album of the Year because of everything it has to offer in an album and then some.
As one of the greatest pagan black metal albums I’ve heard in recent years, Uinuos Syömein Sota combines elements of guitar virtuoso with thrash and modern production to create a stark experience from traditional pagan albums. While heavyweights like Moonsorrow and Borknagar helped establish the scene by the early 2000s, Uinuos Syömein Sota is a clear and direct evolution from them as they create something different, sharper, and arguably cleaner, than anything else in the genre.
With each song managing to stand out a bit different from the last, each one still manages to have standout moments. From the battery of percussion in Ja Viimein On Yö, to the ripping melodic guitar solos in Vähiin Päivät Käy, the ambient electronic atmosphere in the finale of Tähti-Yö Ja Hevoiset, or the chilling vocal harmonies within the title track, there’s a lot of variety packed within the 46-minute album.
Nothing is overplayed nor is anything overdone. The album is paced brilliantly and it does not overstay its welcome. Uinuos Syömein Sota’s sounds are heavy and harmonious – a perfect concoction for what is, in my opinion, the best album to come out of 2020.
Listen to my Album of the Year here:
Solothus – Realm of Ash and Blood
Fates Warning – Long Day Goodnight
My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion
Ciel Nordique – II EP
Ihsahn – Pharos EP
Triptykon – Requiem
Sinira – The Everlorn
Ulcerate – Stare Into Death And Be Still
Dunwich – Tail-Tied Hearts
UADA – Djinn
Thy Catafalque – Naiv
Testament – Titans of Creation
Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf
Falconer – From a Dying Ember