It has been a trying year for all of us. I certainly have been at a loss for how to move forward many times throughout the year. Fortunately, we have metal, and this year saw a ton of amazing releases happen that took away some of the burdens of the ongoing COVID pandemic and election. In fact – I am hopeful that 2021 will see even more great albums given that so many bands have had a ton of time to write. As is – this was a very solid year for metal. I tried to break down some of my favorites, share some underground masterworks, and all that good stuff. I'd be very curious about your thoughts!
Nuclear Blast Records
I'm not gonna lie—this one really surprised me. I've always liked Scour and their previous two EP's were definitely good. This new EP though is a huge step forward for the band and shows that they can really hang with the best in terms of second-wave black metal. Black EP impresses because of its sheer bombast and the way that it elegantly builds on classic ideas within the genre. Sure, there are no surprises, but by Satan is this some top-notch black metal.
Listen to Black EP in its entirety here.
Cursed Tongue/Ripple Music
In terms of pure rock and roll energy, Valhalla was one of the best releases of the year. With this album, Wolftooth leave stoner rock in the dust and point towards bold new hard-rocking futures. Their music has become anthemic and powerful. All of the band's early potential has started to convert into something much more meaningful. To paraphrase my friend Chris Latta of Ghost Cult Mag and the band Lavaborne: "They are one of the only stoner rock bands I can show my friends and routinely have them love it." This record is simply that good.
Listen to Valhalla in its entirety here.
Sect of Vile Divinities
"UGGH." Sect Of Vile Divinities proved once more that Incantation are among the best to ever do it. This album is brutal, fast, and ugly. It's a great step forward for these Pennsylvania death metal titans. Few bands can really lean into the madness of the genre with this same general level of excellence for so long. I knew the new Incantation would be dope – I did not think it would be this dope. Definitely one of the best death metal albums of the year.
Listen to Sect of Vile Divinities in its entirety here.
Uada have been the source of a lot of attention and controversy over the past few years. They really needed to deliver on this new album and they did so with aplomb. Years of hard touring and black metal slaughter have turned them into a melo-black machine. This is a truly impressive offering that sees the band leveling up their songwriting in a meaningful way. All those who said the band is all hype have been thoroughly stymied. There's a lot more greatness to come from these guys.
Listen to Djinn in its entirety here.
16. OCTOBER FALLS
A Fall Of An Epoch
Purity Through Fire
October Falls actually released TWO amazing records this year. However, I decided their 2nd record, Syys, which is all neo-folk, didn't really meet the requirements of a Metal Injection list. This all being said – A Fall Of An Epoch is the soundtrack of the COVID era. I remember first hearing this record in the spring and thinking 'Wow what a perfect name for a record that drops in 2020!' But it's more than that – this is a record that reflects the sorrow of our age and is a delight to get lost in. In a great year for death-doom A Fall Of An Epoch really stood out.
Listen to A Fall Of An Epoch in its entirety here.
15. GREEN CARNATION
Leaves of Yesteryear
Season of Mist
This is perhaps my favorite comeback album of the year, and also one of the only prog albums to make it onto the list this year. Green Carnation proudly proved that they still have it. This is a deeply emotional and powerful offering that nicely builds on their past legacy. It would have been easy for the band to just phone it in, but instead they created something that was – dare I say it? Worth the wait. The band seriously impressed me with what was arguably the best metal comeback record since Surgical Steel.
Listen to Leaves of Yesteryear in its entirety here.
14. FIGHT THE FIGHT
Fight The Fight are a truly talented melodic hardcore band. When I first heard their debut I thought there was a lot of potential, but I wasn't sure where it was going. Deliverance is the answer. This is a truly impressive act grinding it out at the highest level. They put together a record here that is concise, powerful and impressive. It's a record you can get lost in and which routinely beats the listener's skull in while remaining accessible.
Listen to Deliverance in its entirety here.
13. OF FEATHER AND BONE
Profound Lore Records
In what was an amazing year for death metal, Of Feather And Bone really stood out. Sulfuric Disintegration is really representative of the NWOSDM. It's a perfect example of the gloriously atavistic steps the band has taken recently. After listening just once I knew that this was year-end list material. The band are really building on their early promise and proving that they are among their generation's death metal greats.
Listen to Sulfuric Disintegration in its entirety here.
12. AVERSIO HUMANITATIS
Behold the Silent Dwellers
Debemur Morti Productions
Behold The Silent Dwellers was the release of 2020 on Debemur Morti, the best black metal label in the world. This record is a crusher. It has an incredibly bold vision and sees the Spanish black metallers putting together some of their most jaw-dropping work to date. They seamlessly blend a variety of black metal subgenres on this record and point towards a gloriously dark future for these blasphemers.
Listen to Behold the Silent Dwellers in its entirety here.
11. PRIMITIVE MAN
I've often referred to Primitive Man as the ugliest sounding band in the world. Immersion is a stunning offering, and while I am not as deeply in love with it as I am with their previously release Caustic, this is still a stunning album from a band who are truly disgusting in their execution. Primitive Man build on all the abrasive sludge elements that have made them such a hit in the underground here. It's a delight to immerse yourself in the disgusting and crushing sounds that they bring to the table.
Listen to Immersion in its entirety here.
This is maybe the most technically impressive black metal album of the year. Frontwoman Andromeda Anarchia leaves listeners in awe with her amazing voice capable of seemingly anything. When incorporated with some truly top-notch songwriting you have yourself a record that will last the ages. I actually went back into my list after I finished it and added this band in after because I was so impressed with their record when I went to review it. Die Lederpredigt is simply that good.
Listen to Die Lederpredigt in its entirety here.
Time Without End
Two of my favorite post-black metal acts on a split together? Yes please! This is as good as it gets, seeing two of the genres most impressive musicians coming together on a record that will leave you scraping your jaw off the floor. These artists have both been working hard for years in executing their music at the highest level and Time Without End is a notable addition to both of their discographies, an exciting hint of what more is to come from both.
Listen to Time Without End in its entirety here.
This is hands-down the death metal album of the year. On their newest offering, Necrot prove their place among the death metal greats is well earned. These guys worked incredibly hard on putting together a record that couldn't help but to stun. There are so many incredible layers to what is going on with the band here and the more time you spend sinking your teeth into their strange and potent poetry the more you will be enchanted with their bloodthirst.
Listen to Mortal in its entirety here.
7. INSECT ARK
Profound Lore Records
Insect Ark has been making massive strides in recent years, but the addition of Andy Patterson (Subrosa, Inside Out) to the lineup was a true stroke of genius. I remember when project mastermind Dana Schecter was playing to 15 people in DIY spaces in Brooklyn, now this Insect Ark are no longer just a pebble on a beach, but one of the most talked-about bands in the underground. The Vanishing is a stunner and if it's a hint at what's to come next I can't help but get excited. I can only hope they will never choose a different path.
Listen to The Vanishing in its entirety here.
Wreathed In Mourncloud
This was the most impressive black metal record of the year simply in terms of orchestration and vision. One gets a sense for the epic landscapes of the north of England that the band is painting with their music. In some ways, this group feels like an extension on Winterfylleth or Fen – the band who they kind of emerged out of. Wreathed In Mourncloud is at times utterly jaw-dropping and is a truly epic listen.
Listen to Wreathed in Mourncloud in its entirety here.
It has been such a pleasure watching Elder evolve over the years from the hard partying kids I met on their first European tour to today where they've become prog doom masters. This is a band who found a unique place for themselves in the scene and continue to carve out a novel vision of what stoner metal can be. They are truly impressive and far more DIY than people give them credit for. They are scene titans for a reason and I can't help but to be thrilled that Omens is some of their best work to date.
Listen to Omens in its entirety here.
This is one of the best records that Wino has done in years. Forever Gone is an incredibly sorrowful and powerful record full of emotional depth and pointing towards the genius within. Wino pours his heart out on this one and the struggles of a lifetime on the road all come out. He put something together here that isn't just impressive, it's practically monumental, a real testament to how talented he is and how exciting his acoustic work can be.
Listen to Forever Gone in its entirety here.
I think this might be the first time an independent band has ever scored this high on an album of the year list of mine. Concede wholeheartedly deserve it though. Their work on Indoctrinate is skull-crushing. This is grinding hardcore at its finest. It's abrasive, powerful, and above all, loud. Few records this year have felt as violent. In some ways, hearing Indoctrinate reminded me of hearing Nails for the first time. This is a band that will bash your skull in, plain and simple.
Listen to Indoctrinate in its entirety here.
Under A Godless Veil
Under A Godless Veil is an album that I genuinely believe needs to be on every metal year-end list. No matter what your genre of choice, if you love heavy music it is impossible to deny that this album isn't a masterpiece. Under A Godless Veil sees Draconian finally piecing together some of the disparate elements they had been hinting at for years. This is an incredibly impressive offering that sees an immaculate fusion of clean female vocals interlaced and dueting with death growls. It's a stunner.
Listen to Under A Godless Veil in its entirety here.
1. MORA PROKAZA
Season of Mist
It's not an exaggeration to say that By Chance is possibly the most innovative album of the year. The record sees Mora Prokaza fusing black metal with trap and avant-garde music to create something jaw-dropping. This is an incredibly thoughtful and challenging release that hints at the shape of black metal to come. Mora Prokaza are a metal band designed for a post-genre world. Their music is insightful and powerful, fusing disparate elements in a way that they have never been before. If you're not listening to By Chance then you are missing out.
Listen to By Chance in its entirety here.