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METAL RIOT’S TOP 12 ALBUMS OF 2020 ‘BEST OF’ LIST

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 1:35 PM (PST)

2020 has been quite a challenge -to say the least- for so many people. Unless you are a fat cat getting inexplicably bailed out or the Catholic Church getting relief money (even though they were only in debt from pedo lawsuit settlement payouts), chances are 2020 found you broke, lonely, thirsty and miserable, scared or mourning loved ones. Music was no stranger to this. We lost any certainty of what the future holds in an already difficult industry and even lost Neil Peart, fucking EVH and Riley Gale on top of everything else. But people also made great art that will stand the test of time, profound sacrifices and held fast, rallied for racial justice and so much more. It is an important time to be alive and just as beautiful as it can be painful! And there is still December ahead of us as of this writing. Hope against horror.

The following list of Metal Riot’s top albums of 2020 reflects records that capture excellence, performance, drive, willpower and survival in no uncertain terms. As well as killer tunes, of course! Kudos and thanks to all the bands.We usually post our list just after Thanksgiving but I am gonna be recording that week in the studio with Globelamp and Sean Paul from Nightmares For A Week, so…let’s get started ending the year earlier! Hey Decibel published theirs first, okay?!! Rock the fuck on, lovers and dreamers. Please buy all of these releases or whatever you dig. And remember, dear readers…I came up and so could you…And fuck the boys in blue.

1. ALBUM OF THE YEAR: SepulturaQuadra

Sepultura’s highest charting album since 1998 (and their best since 2009’s bruising A-Lex, which it surpasses) is nothing short of a monument to a lifetime in metal, the determined triumph of a legacy name never saying die and following their trusted vision over popular opinion. Quadra works on every level. In a year filled with so much death even the band’s name vibrates on some heavy karmic level, but “Isolation” especially resonates deeply in a time of so much social upheaval for justice reform. Each section of the album masterfully represents different styles the group has been known for from classic thrash to tribal groove to slower and grim anthems to technical workouts, but it all works incredibly well. From saving the environment to tackling depression and self destruction, Derrick commands stronger than ever while Eloy Casagrande stakes his claim as the most driven and insane drummer currently active in metal. Jens Bogren brought out the absolute best in this line-up. A+ all the way.

Throw in how during quarantine the band kept morale high across the metal world with interviews and killer jams during their SepulQuarta series with the likes of Scott Ian, Shavo Odadjian, Rob Cavestany and many more, and the band take the cake for our heroes of 2020.

2. Skeletal RemainsThe Entombment Of Chaos

There has been a lot of top notch death metal this year of different sub-genre varieties from Ingested to Necrot to God Dethroned to Abysmal Dawn and others. That said, Skeletal Remains ABSOLUTELY destroyed most of the competition with their latest near perfect death metal monstrosity The Entombment Of Chaos. From the thrilling horror of the Seagrave art to some of the most intense and odds defying music of the band’s tenure, this record offers relentless replay value. From the imposing violence of “Tombs Of Chaos” to the eerie “Enshrined In Agony” to the standout “Dissectasy”, the group have vaulted much closer to the top of the pack.

“No, we don’t want your cult Kool-Aid”

3. VÖLUR – Death Cult

Arguably the most creative album of 2020 – and with SUCH a timely album title – Death Cult is the intoxicating yet deadly sound of seductive decay and the will to escape empty indoctrination. Gorgeous violin based doom defies expectations at every turn and the band’s singular sense of purpose is thrilling. The Toronto band’s third album is a must hear and will likely cause even the most necessity hardened hearts in 2020 to break into smoldering halves.

Thankfully no one is touring this year anyway cuz this vehicle looks suspect

4. Soft KillDead Kids, R.I.P. City

Bestial Mouths, Nothing, Ulver and other brave sailors on the seas of sorrow all released truly killer records in 2020 that rank among their best ever, but Soft Kill’s newest is my favorite simultaneously spooky yet painfully real and poetic release of this fucked hellhole of a year. A reminder that even at the lowest low people are still out there worth celebrating and fighting for. A testament to loss, love and possibility in art and community. This band has yet to let me down and their catalogue got me through a lot of depression this year when I was both determined to stay sober but also was reeling from narrowly avoiding a diabetic coma and going into serious medical debt. So glad I snagged this on limited tape release already!

5. BlackguardStorm

The Chinese Democracy of extreme epic metal albums was released very early in January of one of the most fucked up years in human history and it would be a damn shame if it didn’t get more accolades in the madcap shuffle, especially since we have all lived through quite a fucking ‘storm’ together this year. In limbo for about seven years, you’d never believe this exciting and possibly the most ferocious album of 2020 was recorded by a band burnt out by relentless touring. Storm finds the Canadian underground warriors delivering frenetic and death defying performances, their best songwriting plus cameos from Lindsay Schoolcraft, Morgan Lander and Per fucking Nilsson ! Unleash The Archers, Germany’s Varg and Ensiferum all delivered some exemplary epic records in 2020, but Blackguard’s potential swan song was above the pack and well worth one of the most frustrating waits in metal history. I am beside myself with joy and hails that it finally saw the light of a bleary day.

6. UprisingII

“A Lesson in basic human Empathy” has my favorite lyrics of 2020 (I mean, besides “High Road” by Kesha) and even more wonderful that it comes from a black metal project, a genre often known for apathy and heartless cruelty.

Judgment based on action not on colour, race or sex no harming of sentient beings but respecting life help where help is needed No condemnation of the innocent take responsibility for your wealth that is built on the backs of others

Talk about something we sorely needed this year! And lest you think I am only swayed by lefty ideology to get on this list, the album features many of the best riffs and arrangements and startlingly emotional playing of the year. This album is a refuge and a reminder that work still needs to be done.

 

7. -(16)- – Dream Squasher

It says something about 2020 that several albums – Bleakheart’s also brilliant and gothy Dream Griever comes to mind – had titles that reflected the thwarting of dreams. “Ride The Waves” is about as perfect a punk metal mash as you’ll ever here. Dropping like a piano from a skyscraper onto our heads during the mid point of 2020 when things couldn’t seem bleaker, veteran sludge band -(16)- delivered the most clobbering album of recent memory. There is also the best anthem to loving your dog since Wisdom In Chains penned “Girls Lie, Cops Lie, Dogs Love”. And we all dealt with some ‘harvesters of fabrication’ this year. Bobby Ferry is a champion on this album, which crushed everything else Relapse (and most other labels) released this year.

8. Spirit Adrift – Enlightened In Eternity

Speaking of dogs, epic metal pitties (we have to stan)! This has to be the best album cover maybe…ever? Nathan Garrett makes us all proud to be metalheads yet again with another brilliant album from the guy in metal who possibly plays with the most heart. “Ride into the Light” is the best Snakes For The Divine song High On Fire never wrote and “if we make it through the night we will ride into the light” is major 2020 vibes. COC influences abound, while “Screaming From Beyond” reveres classic metal through and through and yet feels current and connective to this moment. “Stronger Than Your Pain” is my favorite of the bunch, a pressing reminder to keep heart as hypnotic and melodic riffage brings to the forefont a will to carry on from the murk of doubts.

9. Oceans Of SlumberS/T 

Cammie Gilbert gave the best vocal performance in all of metal throughout the jaw dropping self-titled Oceans Of Slumber release (don’t even get me started on how good the band’s arguably best ever Type O Negative cover of “Wolf Moon” is). Oceans Of Slumber is a self-titled album that lives up to the underscored nature of self-titled albums, which can run the risk of not living up to the hype but in this case leaps galaxies to defy even the loftiest expectations. This is not just ‘prog metal’ that is annoyingly obtuse for the sake of being brainy. This is a soulful and heavy merger of so many genres into a seamless whole that it is a world unto itself yet full of the very best connective tissue to deeper realizations that make the human experience worth living.

10. DrainCalifornia Cursed 

Santa Cruz hardcore band Drain supplied the illest crossover record of 2020 (even stacked up with the also amazing Mr. Bungle frantic freak thrash record). Revelation Records did the world a big favor in backing this band, one of the most high energy groups in hardcore right now. It is almost impossible to turn this off before listening all the way through or at the very least flipping over a table.

11. Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!

Much like Canada’s Wolverine, doom duo Vile Creature keep unwittingly revealing they are the best there is at what they do. Everything about this release is amazing, from the most ambitious and full payoff compositions of the group’s career, to the support they are getting (well deserved) in the scene, to the already basically iconic art. The 3rd pressing is even on trans flag colored vinyl. Adam Tucker’s mix and master sounds better than anything they have released to date and really brings all their brilliance to the forefront without killing the furrowed brow vibes. The doom and gloom also has celestial level vibes on this record that add some very unique listening textures and feel larger than life, a friction of glory and gore.

12.  SkeletonS/T

It is fitting to include a Texas based punk/metal hybrid band on here in closing in a year where the loss of Riley from Power Trip brought huge attention to the impact the Lone Star state has had on the modern scene. By far the nastiest and filthiest riffs of the year (Worm Moon Offerings a close second), this record is in the Bane Give Blood and Slayer Reign In Blood tradition of blink and you’ll miss it, all killer/ no filler, wham bam thank you, etc. over and done leave ’em scorched and wanting more albums. Super stoked to see where this band goes in the future. Then you also have a song like “Catacombs” with some brief atmospheric intro perfection before the proceedings battle to a fiery finale.

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Skeletal Remains have built up a reputation for being a reliable source for some of the best death metal around where old school feel and fury and the ‘raw’ stuff manages to coincide with technical aspects without the scales being tipped. Plenty of stuff your Death or Massacre addict could vibe with and champion while still retaining the attention of people looking for something new, The Entombment Of Chaos is a must hear record for anyone who wants to properly get a grasp on a comprehensive list of the best stuff that came out this year. Despite some upheavals, the current incarnation of the band have released their most essential, confident and potentially career defining release yet! Even if you are not some scholarly metal cleric in a dusty tower, you can casually pick this up and find a killer outlet to both channel rage and have fun.

I spoke to Mike about the new album, coping with Covid, being part of the storied history of death metal, love for the fans and more RIGHT HERE!

‘Each song is teeming with rancor and a profound disgust with the things we see happening every day in the world, in the news, in our cities, in our backyards… the title, Detest is violently appropriate for the mood of this EP. Music is art and art has always been a non-bastardized, unfiltered version of history as told through those who lived it in their own words.’ – Matthew (vox)

Hell’s Teeth have made an explosive statement on their new DETEST EP. This metallic hardcore infused deadly extreme metal band could be huge if they get the right support, but either way they will make powerful and corrosive, heavy art. Fans of everyone from Power Trip to The Black Dahlia Murder to Turmoil to Baptists could hang hard with this release. Honestly though, with a band this legit and driven it is lazy to simply compile easy ‘sounds a little like sometimes’ points. You’d be selling yourself and the band very short if you didn’t hear their original vision for yourself free from bias.

Made up of scene die hards from the Hudson Valley area, Hell’s Teeth are just the shot in the arm the scene could use to keep things enthusiastic, no bullshit and venomous. I spoke to some of the band about this exciting release, tracked by Sean Paul Pillsworth (of Nightmares For A Week, The Inevitables) at Nada Recording Studio in beautiful Montgomery, NY. You wouldn’t believe such a serene setting could produce a recording this hostile!

Read more BELOW.

band photos by Michael Mannhaupt

Ghösh are raising the bar for exciting acts to follow in 2020. “Nu Junglism. Digital Hardcore.”Whatever you wanna call it, this Philly duo have a fierce and kinetic, living punk energy that is a refreshing mutation of numerous styles into an explosive and vital sound. The tracks on their Bandcamp blew me away with a fresh poetic attack and a DIY vibe of anarchic, creative freedom. Party starting and with something subversive to say. Plus an unexpected take on a Limp Bizkit classic.

I really can’t rave about this group enough. Not many acts can pry me out of my current Entombed, Pink Floyd and Sun Ra rabbit holes, but when it happens of late I am probably listening to these freak flag flyers. Please check out the full convo with Symphony and Zach below.

Scott Harris

‘I’m using a black metal format with an intro piece and ending piece (ala Bathory) and how Mortician uses their intro and outros on tracks with movie excerpts, except I tune them down for a more trippy freaky effect’. – Scott Harris

Welcome to Hororhaus. A blend of 80’s synth, horror creep, goth and black metal inspired elements, the Scott Harris helmed project released one of the best EP’s of 2020 with the low key underground banger Entrance EP. Check out a full stream below and an exclusive interview about this sophisticated mercurial marvel of murky and menacing body moving music below. It is one of the best and most haunting escapes you could take during this surreal time.

READ MORE HERE.

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Enchantya are a progressive, gothic metal group from Portugal who have been growing their fan base and making a mark on the world scene. “Mother Hope”, their latest single, is a rallying cry to remember our common humanity and to not abandon our principles or forget the fragility of our shared ecosystems. In other words, this is just the song for 2020 and great to have come out of a genre that people often just associate with death worship. Enchantya is so much more than that.

It was an honor to communicate with their vocalist Rute about her band’s coping skills during Covid-19, her musical background, the metal scene in Portugal and how she is keeping hope alive with the band and fans during this time.

Read more BELOW.

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KILLVEIN is one of those inspiring rare types of artists who seem fueled by a frenzy to create, a high level of passion that palpable in the air like when you know there will be a storm soon. The self-taught producer and multi-instrumentalist charges up everything with purposeful intent and has released a lot of material the last few years, drawing from a diverse pool of sounds ranging from hooky trap to black metal to rock.

Recently Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe fame was impressed enough by the up and coming artist to feature KILLVEIN on two tracks from the forthcoming Tommy Lee solo release ANDRO. I heard a rowdy rock cut. “Knock Me Down” is so ripe with pent up, ready for the mosh pit bravado that it is more closely resembles an explosion than a song (while still, in actuality, being a good song).

Read our chat with KILLVEIN below.

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Bleed From Within have built upon their humble origins with each release, nowadays a powerhouse of kinetic energy and irresistible groove heavy metalcore that draws as much from NWOAHM as deathcore. Fifth album (!) Fracture is their most cohesive release yet and the metalcore standout release thus far in 2020. It is certainly an album that ought to generate a lot of excitement.

A few weeks ago I sent questions to the Scottish band’s own Steven Jones who shares thoughts about recent global events, the new album and more! Be sure also to join the ambitious group on Facebook this Friday from 7pm BST as they go live, discussing all things Fracture listening to the album, and answering your questions!

Read More BELOW.

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Stitched Up Heart are a hard rock/alt metal band who have been absolutely exploding the last few years due to their high energy, melodic power and connection with fans. With numerous top 30 mainstream rock hits, over twenty million worldwide streams and a lot of fresh eyes on them, this band is not only headed places but ALREADY somewhere many acts never reach. New album Darkness explores a dynamic range of emotions while managing to be huge, catchy and electrifying.  It is sure to appeal to those enduring angsty growing pains or older rock fans looking to feel new energy.

Singer Mixi took some time out during this crazy and horrible pandemic to talk about the new album with me, her approach and some philosophy as well as getting through this time as a planet, animal fostering and vegetarianism.

All the best to this band and make sure to check out Darkness. They sound better than ever.

Read MORE BELOW.

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Thrash act BONDED released a pulverizing debut Rest In Violence back in January via Century Media that you will want to make sure you get to hear a little of before it burns your skull to cinders. It is actually now a German stamina test to see how much of the record you can withstand before your ears burst into flame, at least in my quarantined imagination. This album will make you feel passionate about the bonds in your life, keep the fire in your step and help give you the will to fight through the clouds in your mind.

Formed by scene veterans Bernd “Bernemann” Kost (Guitar) and Markus “Makka“ Freiwald (Drums) in 2018 after their exit as longtime members of SODOM, musical partners Marc Hauschild (Bass) and Destroy Them / ex Suicidal Angels member Chris Tsitsis (Guitar) were quickly added to the ranks in order to continue working on new own song-material as well as to develop the concept for a new entity, which was finally completed with the addition of Assassin frontman Ingo Bajonczak (Vocals) and consequently named BONDED.

Get to know this amazing project and read our exclusive new interview with Bernemann BELOW!

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Dark Fortress social distance by staying 666ft. apart and of course dwelling in dark fortresses.

Dark Fortress have sculpted a new masterpiece of black metal drenched with the blood squeezed from a death metal shroud. Spectres From The Old World is a significant piece of work and surely due a lot of attention from the metal community if there is any justice left on this plague-ridden rock.

The band was just forced to cancel release shows due to Covid-19 in March but we are pleased to publish at last a recent conversation with musical genius Morean (also of Alkaloid and Noneuclid renown) about the new record to help lift some of the sting or perhaps steer people towards this great 2020 Century Media release if they were unaware. (Buy merch HERE)!

MYE. Spectres from the Old World is an intense and powerful album, highly anticipated by fans. I loved the album title. Do you think we are always haunted by the past or sometimes we actually forget it too quickly and repeat tragic things? It is also good to know where things come from, like musical styles. Some older bands like
yours and also God Dethroned come to mind as having great new music this year, still fighting for the dark metal legacy!

Morean: As a species, that’s definitely true. Just look around you and what mankind is discussing right now. I remember that at the turn of the century, I felt like the human race might be at the eve of an evolutionary quantum leap. Now, twenty years later, it’s obvious that the monkey part of us that throws feces at the monkeys in the other tree is not actually that far in the past. At the same time, we can transform the Earth into one giant telescope to take pictures of black holes, land probes on comets, genetically engineer organisms and so on. I think our technical evolution is so far ahead of our mental and emotional evolution that it’s still a big question if progress will have the upper hand in the near future, or if we just go to some dystopian Mad Max-like society, only postponing its last degenerate breath. Time will tell, but we’re far from being able to relax about it. The “old world” of this album is something else entirely though; it refers to the universe of the previous album, where the protagonist has transformed into a being of pure light and reincarnates here as the sentient fabric of a newborn cosmos, in great agony. It’s black metal after all.

Read MORE BELOW.

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Drain’s CALIFORNIA CURSED is gonna wreck your world in the best way

It is a depressing time in music right now with all the Coronavirus valid concerns causing great tours from Car Bomb to GosT to Gruesome and Krisiun to be taken out behind the shed and put to bed. I figure everyone is feeling pretty down and it sucks that I can’t stop thinking about Tom Hanks having to self-quarantine back on the island with Wilson. Not far, man. Seriously though, much love to everyone.

Seems like a good time to get people psyched on some tunes they will soon be able to stream in the coming weeks once some of the best albums to listen to in early Spring drop. Here are five selections for records to check out in the coming months as we rock our woes away. We can still bond together via social media about music while we remember to please wipe our phone and tablet screens often so as not to affect elderly and immunocompromised loved ones.

Ok here are my choices for the coolest things coming out in upcoming weeks! Read more HERE.

Live Drain photo by Sam Jameson

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Doom dealers Warhorse reared their handsome heads to make a very special appearance at the legendary Middle East in Cambridge, MA on January 16th. Hell Bent and Ritual Blade were also part of the riff ritual and we are pleased to offer you good folks some photographic evidence courtesy of Petra Dollet. Check out the gallery of this awesome night below.

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Pleased to report that there is still more metal and hardcore content to throw your way as we head towards the end of this insane decade. Our new contributing photographer Petra Dollet shot legends Obituary, the hungry False Prophet, respected ragers Extinction AD and the wild High Command for us at the quite recent Palladium Upstairs night of the run and here is a gallery of hate splattered visual impressions for you die-hards RIGHT HERE. Looks like it was an awesome night of heavy antics!

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Top 5 2019 Critical List : Jessica Rae Fisher

Posted by Metal Riot on Monday, December 16, 2019 at 11:20 AM (PST)

Jessica Rae Fisher

The following is the personal list of year end album top 5 favorites from frequent yearly Metal Riot contributor Jessica Rae Fisher, aka Longhairedpoet. Much appreciation to Jessica for your support of the metal scene. \m/

Motionless in White – Disguise

Motionless in White brought the heat this year with Disguise. Chris Motionless brought some disgusting vocals. The stand out track for me was “Thoughts & Prayers.”

Thy Art Is Murder – Human Target

Thy Art is Murder never fail to disappoint and that is no less true this year with Human Target. The album starts with the brutal title track, but the album hinges, for me, around “Death Squad Anthem” and “Make America Hate Again.”

Ashbringer – Absolution

Ashbringer’s Absolution is probably the most “one of these things is not like the other” of my picks for this year, but the soundscapes that the band creates on the album, especially in both parts of “Eternal Separation,” are undeniably amazing. With tracks ranging from just over 7 minutes to 10 minutes 20 seconds, this 1 hour and 8-minute album is a marathon and not a sprint. Let each track envelope you in itself. It’s well worth it.

Counterparts – Nothing Left to Love
“Wings of Nightmares” really brought me into this album. These Hamilton, Ontario, Canadian hardcore metallers won me over this year with their combination of punishing instrumentation and emotive lyrics. Also check out “Paradise and Plague.”


Upon A Burning Body – Southern Hostility
Upon a Burning Body pushed through to stand out this year with Southern Hostility. This follow-up to their 2016 effort Straight From The Barrio has a strong opener in the track “Southern Hostility,” faithful to UABB’s style. Other standout tracks include “King of Diamonds,” “Burn,” and “Soul Searcher.”

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