BAZ AOTY: 2020

12 min read


This year I waited eagerly for the latest Today Is The Day album, “No Good To Anyone” and was fairly satisfied; a lot of good Metal came out from my distant homeland Australia, most notably the modern Thrash of Shatterbrain’s “Pitchfork Justice”; Primitive Man’s “Immersion” gave me a fresh opportunity to figure out why I enjoy the horrible, trudging “music” they make so much  (I still can’t); and I heard lots of other great Underground Metal (shout out: Uthullun, Benighted and Vile Creature), that didn’t quite make my Top 10. So, let’s see what did…

Band: Deftones
Title: Ohms
Label: Reprise Records
Release date: 25 September 2020
Country: USA

Good heavens! I’ve always had a soft-spot for Deftones, with their marriage of heavy, down-tuned riffing and dreamy, sensual Pop sensibilities, but where did this come from? Two and a half decades into the band’s career I was not expecting them to casually drop an album of this quality. The performances are fresh and energised, the melodies are irresistible and Terry Date has the band sounding as good as they ever have done. Deftones are one of those rare, great things: a Metal band that manage to sound sexual, mysterious and heavy without it sounding ridiculous or forced. This album is so delicious I want to eat it.

Band: Triptykon with the Metropole Orkest
Title: Requiem
Label: Century Media
release date: 15 May 2020
Country: Switzerland

Tom G. Warrior knows how to get the grim, misanthropic party started. Whatever you want to call the Metal he makes, there are few who can tap into such authentically bleak sounding gloom alongside a musical atmosphere as black as the void. Put together as one piece with three chapters, “Requiem” is a slow-building, brooding beast that trudges purposefully like a funeral procession of fallen angels. The opening performance of “Rex Irea (Requiem), originally from Celtic Frost’s “Into The Pandemonium” hits as hard as anything else I’ve heard this year. The 30 minute plus “Grave Eternal” meanwhile, is an epic slow-burner, seamlessly fusinging the band and the orchestra together, with much of the music being led by the orchestra, and featuring haunting vocals and soaring guitar solos.

Band: Napalm Death
Title: Throws of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
Label: Century Media
Release date: 20 September 2020
Country: England

This music is so hot, I think I’ve singed my eyebrows. Napalm Death have been around so long and become such an institution of Extreme Metal, you might think by now they would have run out of ideas. Apparently not. The raging, Grindcore/ Death Metal protest music they’ve honed over the years packs as much of a punch as ever, but it’s how memorable the songs are that really took me by surprise. The bonus track cover of Sonic Youth’s “White Cross”, points at the range of influences that colour this album; meanwhile the band seem to be channeling Killing Joke on “Amoral”, while “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen” takes on the relentless galley ship pounding of mid-80s Swans to awesome effect. Extreme Metal this is of course, but above all else it’s just great Metal. I would never have thought that in 2020 Napalm Death could be this good. I clearly know nothing.

Band: Valdrin
Title: Effigy of Nightmares
Label: Blood Harvest
Release date: 07 June 2020
Country: USA

As raw and jagged as it is dark and cinematic, “Effigy of Nightmares”, is a 30min journey of whirlwind Black Metal, and a bad-dreamlike atmosphere that makes the music sound otherworldly. The music shifts through levels of urgency, up to galloping at fever-pace and the atmosphere throughout is like a seduction in an abattoir, as haunting, skeletal piano/synth melodies share space with thundering, slicing guitar lines and battering drums.

Band: Heads for the Dead
Title: Into The Red
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Release date: 11 December 2020
Country: International

Non-stop, thundering, gory, Death Metal, played with style, Heads for the Dead’s second round of hammer-blows to the temple is a treat. Picking up right where their skull-splitting debut “Serpent’s Curse” left off, “Into the Red” rampages along with battering riffs, bludgeoning drumming, monstrous vocals, all the horror references you could wish for, and a knack for making it all sound simultaneously brutal and fun at the same time.

Band: Ainsoph
Title: Ω – V
Label: Wolves of Hades Records
Release date: 02 February 2020
Country: Holland

As gripping and hard-rocking as it is ethereal and dreamy, “Ω – V”,by mysterious, Progressivc/ Funk/ Rock/ Black Metal tinged, Dutch group Ainsoph, is as beautiful as light refracting through a gemstone, and rocks as hard as Jane’s Addiction. The guitars are soaring, the rhythm section is hard and funky and the vocals are like a siren calling into the void.

Band: Wheelfall
Title: A Spectre is Haunting the World
Label: No Good To Anyone
Release date: 04 December 2020
Country: France

Crushing, depressive and darkly hypnotic, Wheelfall’s latest album combines the raging, apocalyptic fire of Neurosis with the suffocating, pounding weight of Godflesh, while never sounding exactly like either (or anyone else). The album is just as notable for the moments of uneasy, brooding calm, between the intense bursts of aggression. Amongst great performances all round, the drumming is particularly notable, with all kinds of great, rolling rhythms propelling this grim, dystopian juggernaut.

Band: Malokarpatan
Title: Krupinské ohne
Label: Invictus Productions
Release date: 20 March 2020
Country: Slovakia

In the heart of an enchanted forest, goblins pound metal and out of the furnace, forge music that’s part 80’s Heavy Metal, part Black Metal, part Prog Rock, part Baroque Classical music and it doesn’t sound quite like anything from this world. The five tracks of “Krupinské ohne”, each 7 – 13 minutes long, are mini-epics, taking the lister through raw Thrash Metal riffing, proto-Doom Metal and these weird and wonderful keyboard driven passages, that create such a singular, strange atmosphere, that feels completely apart from modern city life.

Band: MSW
Title: Obliviosus
Label: Gilead Media
release date: 01 July 2020
Country: USA

Cinematic Doom Metal, where stretched out Post Metal landscapes, Classical piano, choral vocals and intense bursts of Extreme Metal fire come together for a record about loss and addiction. Most often releasing music as Hell, MSW (Matthew S. Williams), like Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost and Triptykon, is a master creator of emotionally eviscerated compositions, married to music that’s as sonically heavy as the subject matter. “Obliviosus” is a harrowing trip that feeds occasional faint rays of light through the crushing darkness.

Band: Sightless Pit
Title: Grave of a Dog
Label: Thrill Jockey
Release date: 21 February 2020
Country: USA

Howls of an electrified demon; a melancholic, modulated, soaring voice; pulsating electronic beats; passages of quiet beauty and terrifying noise, this isn’t really Metal, but it is intense and it’s mesmerizing. Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota), Dylan Walker (Full of Hell) and Lee Buford (The Body), combine to make music extreme without being “heavy” exactly. The minimal instrumentation, combined with swirling noise and quiet, even beautiful passages allow Hayter’s brilliant vocals to soar over the top of this unsettling soundscape. Lullabies inside a techno furnace on ketamine.

Tom Boatman

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