My Favorite Records of 2020

“2020”.

What a fucking year.

Countless personal hardships encountered by everyone around the globe. I was no exception to this theme, in countless ways. Like all times of struggle, music is something that has always helped me to keep my head above water when all hope seems lost. It’s the one constant in a sea of tumultuous waves and upheavals where we have no control over except our own actions. It helped me through a very tough year, as I’m certain it did for many others.

My bands were banking on 2020 being huge years. Both Uncouth, who have been sitting on our debut 10 song LP waiting to get into our rehearsal space to start tracking it and had several huge shows lined up that were cancelled due to COVID, and Tides Cult, who are in the midst of writing a debut full length and were poised for some truly great performances in 2020. Alas, like always, you have to take life in stride and make the most of what you have. I’m truly thankful to have my health and family and friends to be able to share in the present and hope that 2021 and beyond is a better time for us all.

According to last.fm, I still listened to a lot of music despite the wacky year. There was so much great stuff that came out last year. I have a feeling 2021 will have even more great stuff, as everyone was writing during the lockdowns and getting prepped for whenever shows can happen again. I miss live music so much and ache for that feeling of getting my face melted by overloud tube amps at Empty Bottle or Livewire or Reggie’s again.

I didn’t release any records last year, but I did participate in some collaborations that were really fun, and released a new Once Upon A Grave song, which inspired me to dust that project off for 2021. I’m looking forward to releasing a bunch of stuff in 2021 and beyond.


And now, on to my favorites of the year…

35.) Wayfarer - A Romance With Violence

Youtube Music | Spotify

A worthy follow up to World’s Blood. You get the feeling you’re in the wild west listening to these tales over a campfire jam session instead of a blackened metal opus. So great.

34.) Liturgy - Origin of the Alimonies

Youtube Music | Spotify

This record was so fantastically performed and arranged, I love everything about this. I was describing this as “black metal filtered by an NES” and that is probably the best I can do. This is just outstanding, huge respect to Hunter Hunt-Hendrix.

33.) Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full

Youtube Music | Spotify

The most perfect collaboration. Emma Ruth Rundle is one of the last artists I saw live before the lockdowns (along with Intronaut and Cult of Luna, great show!), I miss live music so much…This record is crushing and beautiful at the exact same time. They should do this more often.

32.) Ancient Thrones - The Veil

Youtube Music | Spotify

Big surprise to me on this one. Blackened death metal at it’s finest. This is great, spin it from start to finish in one sitting really loud.

31.) Wake - Devouring Ruin

Youtube Music | Spotify

Crushing. 46 minute record from a grindcore band?! 10 minute long song!? Hell yes. More, please. So many influences on this record, you can obviously feel the grind but tons of doom and black metal and death metal creep in, too. Love this.

30.) Hashfinger, Butta, MC Synergy - Hash Butta Synergy

Youtube Music | Spotify

In 20 years, I want to be at the anniversary full album performance of this record. Every single song on this is a banger. My friend Mike turned me onto this one, one of my most listened to records of the year.

29.) Toundra - Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

Youtube Music | Spotify

Huge mood. I’d love to see this band live with Russian Circles and Godspeed, You! Black Emperor or something. The keys on this are standout.

28.) Leeched - To Dull the Blades of Your Abuse

Youtube Music | Spotify

Give me my face back, y’all ripped it off.

27.) Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Patchouli Blue

Youtube Music | Spotify

Deep chill and vibes on this one. Love the synths. The sax steals the show, though.

26.) Thy Catafalque - Naiv

Youtube Music | Spotify

Wild! This record goes all over the place. If you like metal and are looking for a good time, call Thy Catafalque.

25.) Deftones - Ohms

Youtube Music | Spotify

It’s a Deftones record. I loved this. Steph’s guitar riffs are really forward throughout this one. The whole band sounds tighter than they did on Gore (which I enjoyed). Ohms, the song, is the most Deftones song since Be Quiet and Drive.

24.) Beneath the Massacre - Fearmonger

Youtube Music | Spotify

Tech death from Canada. I think I watched this video of Anthony Barone’s drum playthrough of the first track, Rise of the Fearmonger, about a billion times last year. Every time I watch it it makes me want to quit music. This whole record is incredible.

23.) Lifetaker - Night Intruder

Bandcamp | Spotify

Filthy, grindy, punked up, blackened “fuck you” metal from Germany. Never heard of them before and then this entire record tore my face off. I’d love to play a show with these dudes. They released another killer record, Pit Viper, at the very end of 2020, as well. Equally killer. Check this band out.

22.) Gaerea - Limbo

Youtube Music | Spotify

Cinematic atmospheric black metal. The first time I ever heard them was this video for Conspiranoia and I was hooked. This record lived up to the hype, in my opinion.

21.) Hallowed Butchery - Deathsongs From The Hymnal Of The Church Of The Final Pilgrimage

Youtube Music | Spotify

One dude from Maine, Ryan Scott Fairfield. Funeral doom but this record is anything except “just” that. This is a wild listen.

20.) Plague Organ - Orphan

Bandcamp | Spotify

This is what I imagine a peyote trip sounds like. 38 minutes of droning black metal without any guitars. I love this record.

19.) Necrot - Mortal

Youtube Music | Spotify

You know what you’re getting here. Death metal. And it fucks. Outstanding riffs throughout this one.

18.) Black Thought - Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able

Youtube Music | Spotify

I love The Roots, but Black Thought’s solo records are taking over for me. This is an incredible hip hop record.

17.) Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin kynsi

Youtube Music | Spotify

This isn’t black metal, but it is black metal. It’s not psych metal, but it’s psych metal. I don’t know how to describe Oranssi Pazuzu. This record is a wild ass ride in a psychedelic motorcade down the black metal highway.

16.) END - Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face

Youtube Music | Spotify

Start to finish, this album is monstrous. Some of the most crushing breakdowns ever put to tape.

15.) Hexecutor - Beyond Any Human Conception of Knowledge…

Youtube Music | Spotify

This is a fun record! Traditional black metal and some great thrashy, deathy guitar heroics.

14.) Ingested - Where Only Gods May Tread

Youtube Music | Spotify

Blast you in the face heavy. Incredible production. Phenomenal drum performance.

13.) Pallbearer - Forgotten Days

Youtube Music | Spotify

I love Pallbearer. When I first heard this, I thought it was their best record, but with their worst production. I’ve come around on the production, and I still think this is their best record yet. The songs on this one are outstanding. Every time I put on Silver Wings I get goosebumps. The vocal harmonies they’re going for nowadays are way more adventurous than they’ve ever tried and I’m here for it.

12.) Crippled Black Phoenix - Ellengæst

Youtube Music | Spotify

I describe this record like Russian Circles if they were fronted by Robert Smith from The Cure and Emma Ruth Rundle. Outstanding.

11.) Demonic Death Judge - The Trail

Youtube Music | Spotify

What a great surprise this was! Doomy, sludgy, stonery metal from Finland. I love this voyage, definitely listen to this one in a single session.

10.) Of Feather and Bone - Sulfuric Disintegration

Youtube Music | Spotify

Punishing death metal. Blasted me in the face right out of the gate and it doesn’t let up.

9.) Fluisteraars - Bloem

Youtube Music | Spotify

Atmospheric black metal from Netherlands. I listened to this one a lot, it’s great. I get a feeling of being outdoors navigating through a forest while listening to this record, which helped a lot in lockdown.

8.) Huntsmen - Mandala of Fear

Youtube Music | Spotify

This should be included going forward as one of the greatest Chicago metal records of all time. Double album that absolutely nails the delivery. The live playthrough of this was incredibly well done, too. Can’t wait to see them live again.

7.) Turia - Degen van Licht

Youtube Music | Spotify

This was my top record of the year for a while. Black metal right up my alley. Lofi production, droning riffs, blast beats until your ears cave in.

6.) Run the Jewels - RTJ4

Youtube Music | Spotify

One of the most important records of the year and one of my most listened to. I think this is the best one they’ve done, but you could make that argument for any of their LPs. Bangers.

5.) Ulver - Flowers of Evil

Youtube Music | Spotify

I love the new Ulver. I really, really like the old, black metal Ulver, too, but if this is the one we get I’m cool with that. The bass melodies on this record are infectious. They’ve got this mastery of writing cool sounding, dark and evil almost “pop” songs that have these forboding undertones running throughout. Phenomenal record. I dare you to listen to this and keep your foot flat on the floor. It’s impossible.

4.) Ulcerate - Stare Into Death And Be Still

Youtube Music | Spotify

This band is incredible. This record made me revisit their discography, and they’re probably one of the tightest bands on record I’ve ever heard. This record is so crushing. The production rivals the song writing. One of my most anticipated records of the year and it paid off big time.

3.) Ulthar - Providence

Youtube Music | Spotify

My favorite death metal record of the year. I want to see this record performed in a tiny, sweaty club with 40 or 50 people head banging their necks off. This got a ton of hype and it delivered. And some next level artwork for the cover, I still find new things in there every time I listen to this.

2.) All Them Witches - Nothing as the Ideal

Youtube Music | Spotify

Best production of the year. They recorded this at Abbey Road and it’s quite apparent the attention to detail paid throughout this album. Some of the best clean guitar tones I’ve heard in a long time. The Children of Coyote Woman gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The slide guitar on that track, and just the reverb drenched piano littered throughout over the acoustic guitar…ahh, great stuff! My most listened to record of the year.

1.) Paysage d’Hiver - Im Wald

Youtube Music | Spotify

2 hours. That’s a long time for a record. That’s a long time to demand of a listener nowadays. I am all about long records, and I love it when artists indulge the listeners who do enjoy the deep dive into the rabbit hole. This record is more like the cinematic experience of a film to me than an album, and that length is a big part in making that a great adventure.

There was a period of almost a month where this was all I listened to. I was enthralled, almost obsessed with experiencing it again and again. Lofi black metal can be an acquired taste, and sometimes there is quite a fine line between artful and overdoing it. Wintherr has found the absolute perfect blend of musicianship and arrangement to bring his vision to life. It’s cold as the tundra. Hypnotic, almost.

There are so many fantastic musical moments throughout this record, but one of my favorite happens at the end of Le rêve lucide, flowing into Eulengesang, and the payoff into Kälteschauer. The ever present wind throughout this passage is haunting every single time. And then, when you least suspect it, the madness continues.

I haven’t connected this viscerally and profoundly with a piece of music since Baroness' Yellow & Green. It’s as if this album was tailor made to evoke the maximum response from my brain. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure, but this is, without question, my favorite record of the year.

Honorable Mentions

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