10. KILLER BE KILLED
Nuclear Blast Records
One of those rare supergroups that actually deserves the name. You can definitely hear the contributions from Max Cavalera, Troy Sanders, and Greg Puciato on this wild ride. Of all its members’ projects, Reluctant Hero sounds closest to Mastodon’s later work. That is until Greg Puciato decides to remind us why The Dillinger Escape Plan were known as the craziest band of their era. Max Cavalera's characteristic guitar playing never goes out of style and the old master sounds better here than he has in years. The stars align perfectly on “From A Crowded Wound”, which throws in some Gojira influence that builds in a giant crescendo until it breaks like a tsunami. There are enough old and new ideas here to make Reluctant Hero sound less like a one-off and more like the start of a brand new chapter for all those involved.
Listen to Reluctant Hero in its entirety here.
9. LAMB OF GOD
Lamb of God
Epic/Nuclear Blast Records
It’s not a stretch to call Lamb of God the new Slayer at this point. With the thrash titans officially retired, Lamb of God have taken up the mantle of being heavy metal’s most consistent group. Album number ten saw the departure of Chris Alder, who was regularly cited as one of the best drummers in the game. Big shoes to fill, but former Winds of Plague stickman Art Cruz delivered with speed and panache. Featuring everything you’d expect from a Lamb of God album (circular riffs, thunderous breaks and enough menace on “Memento Mori” to make a stone crack), this self-titled effort reaffirms Lamb of God’s status as one of the greatest bands of our time.
Listen to Lamb of God in its entirety here.
Nuclear Blast Records
Sepultura have always had a secret weapon and his name is Andreas Kisser. The guitarist has never been the face of the group, but it’s his unique approach to the thrash metal formula that has kept Sepultura interesting all these years. 2017’s Machine Messiah showed off Andreas’ proggy side. Quadra dives right off the deep end with symphonics, huge production, and a bigger sound than the band have ever attempted before. You read that right. Symphonics. Sepultura have made their name in creativity and Quadra is no exception. They’ve found new purpose and a new sound, while still holding onto what made them great in the past. It’s an incredibly difficult maneuver and it deserves our respect. As if Sepultura ever needed any more of that…
Listen to Quadra in its entirety here.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned
Sub Pop Records
Not metal, but still heavier than most things you’ll find on this site. clipping. turned a lot of (metal)heads with this horror-inspired rap/noise record. Anyone familiar with Daveed Diggs from his work in Hamilton will be shocked when he throws away his natural charisma and emerges as a bloodsoaked and terrifying presence. Daveed’s love for slasher films is shown on “96 Neve Campbell,” a shoutout to all the ‘last girls’ featuring rappers Cam & China. Fans of old school industrial shouldn’t miss “She Bad,” “Check The Lock,” “Looking Like Meat,” and ”Body For The Pile.” Visions’ best track, “Pain Everyday,” could almost be a Godflesh remix as it descends into a nightmarish car-crash of beats, frequencies, and hellish feedback. Visions of Bodies Being Burned is a challenging listen. But it captures the spirit of 2020 like few albums ever could.
Listen to Visions of Bodies Being Burned in its entirety here.
6. BRING ME THE HORIZON
Post Human: Survival Horror
Bring Me The Horizon continued their habit of spitting in the faces of the purists on Post Human, their most genre-breaking and interesting effort to date. A direct successor to last December’s experimental Music To Dance To, Post Human brought in even more widespread influences, including cameos by Yungblood, Nova Twins, Babymetal, and Amy Lee. That didn’t stop “Dear Diary” and “Parasite Eve” from being the heaviest things Bring Me The Horizon have released since their magnum opus, 2013’s Sempiternal. Metal’s aging old guard may still scoff at them, with their face tattoos, pop sheen, Soundcloud image and mainstream appeal. But it doesn't change the fact that Bring Me Horizon are becoming the Linkin Park of Gen Z.
Listen to Post Human: Survival Horror in its entirety here.
Katatonia have flitted around the edges of metal’s mainstream for almost three decades at this point. It’s taken until now for them to truly hone their sound and unlock their potential as the band we all knew they could be. City Burials is Katatonia’s best work yet, a progressive masterpiece that owes as much to Tool as it does to the band’s Scandinavian death/doom roots. It's classy, while still remaining heavy. Whether it’s on the neck-snapping “Behind The Blood” or intricate “City Glaciers”, Katatonia have never sounded this confident before. The album oozes from start to finish, balancing the dynamics that are so hard to get right in this subgenre. It’s almost unthinkable that the band nearly broke up five years ago without delivering us a song like “Neon Epitaph”. Don’t scare us like that again, guys.
Listen to City Burials in its entirety here.
Spirituality and Distortion
Metal Blade Records
Igorrr are weird. Really weird. Think cutting open a gas cylinder with a chainsaw to make a steel pan drum weird. Gautier Serre’s synesthesia (a condition that allows him to see sounds as corresponding colours) helped inspire Spirituality and Distortion, as he discussed in an interview with Metal Injection earlier this year. Helped by a team-up with the “final boss of death metal” George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher on the single “Parparing”, Igorrr have created one of the most bizarre albums of 2020. Whether you like trippy industrial breakcore like “Very Noise”, operatic heavy bombast like “Himalaya Massive Ritual” or all at once on “Camel Dancefloor”, this will leave you exhausted, bamboozled and confused. We named Savage Sinusoid our “Batshit Crazy Album of the Year” in 2017. Spirituality and Distortion shows us just how much further down the rabbit hole we have to go.
Listen to Spirituality and Distortion in its entirety here.
Deftones could release a top ten album of the year in their sleep at this point. For a band with such a distinct sound, it’s worth noting you still have no idea what you’re going to get on a new Deftones record. Ohms brought back some low-end heavy riffs that were missing from Gore, while keeping the band’s signature dream-like vibe. Chino Moreno still sounds like he’s about to pass out on every word, but he’s just too chill to ever do so. The rest of the band give one of the best performances of their career, harkening back to the group’s earliest work on “Urantia” and moving into post-rock territory on “The Spell of Mathematics”. Deftones are still a unique part of the metal world. Few bands at their age are still running on this kind of creative energy.
Listen to Ohms in its entirety here.
Let's face it. 2020 sucked. But if you couldn't enjoy a record with the line “I intend to go, go,go, like Connor MacGregor with a samurai sword on rollerblades”, it might have beaten you. Idles ditched some of the grimness to release their most lunkheaded, dumb fun album to date. As one of the most violently British bands around, Idles pay homage to their roots by name dropping David Attenborough, Tracey Emin, and Delia Smith, mostly on album standout “Mr. Motivator”. Punk could do a lot worse than embrace the giddy abandon on songs like “Model Village,” “War,” and “Anxiety." Whenever things threaten to get too serious, like the #MeToo addressing “Ne Touche Pas Moi,” there’s always a line like “Kathleen Hanna with bear claws grabbing Trump by the pussy.” Idles have lost some of their danger, but in 2020, that really isn't a bad thing.
Listen to Ultra Mono in its entirety here.
1. CODE ORANGE
Sometimes we forget just how different the music we listen to is. For young listeners, it's getting harder and harder to picture what it was like to hear Napalm Death, Slayer, and Bathory when they first came out. You can listen to the records now, but it's not the same. But listening to Code Orange's Underneath must be something like it.
The followup to 2017's Forever came with high anticipation. Code Orange blew us all away again, delivering a feverish all-out assault of electronics, pummeling drums, and hardcore industrial filth. The band's modern approach to recording means they throw in everything but the kitchen sink. There are the stop-start riffs of "Swallowing The Rabbit Whole," which sound like Converge spliced into Trent Reznor. A brutal final section makes "In Fear" an instant highlight. Code Orange retain their love of Slipknot on "Last Ones Left" and "Cold.Metal.Place." But when Reba Meyers takes over vocals on the unnerving "Sulfur Surrounding", that's when you know Underneath is something new.
Heavy metal is critically low on new leaders. Many frontrunners are close to their second decade as a band. Deviation from the standards set in the 20th century is discouraged. A few make it through. Jinjer are making waves, and Knocked Loose just keep rising. As Lamb of God replace Slayer, Code Orange will be a vital part of metal's future. This is the decade they've been waiting for.
Listen to Underneath in its entirety here.
Vote for your favorite album of 2020 here. See more of our Best of 2020 here.