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Best of 2020

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!


Matt Castleman

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!AUTOMB Chaosophy

Automb’s debut Esoterica was one of my favorite albums of 2018, and Chaosophy takes everything the debut did and makes it fiercer, sharper, and better crafted. This is heavy, hard-hitting black metal. Chaotic, evil riffs abound, layered over whirling blast beats. There’s a lot of space in the mix, giving you that wide open, blizzard-in-the-woods feeling your ancient soul craves. The buzzy guitar tone is warm and analog sounding, but not so much that it blunts the band’s aggression. Special commendation to bassist/vocalist Danielle Evans for a raspy roar that’s among the best in the business right now. If you need a while to stalk the dark forest and feel like a living breathing being again, this is your spin.

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Listen to the title track.

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!KONVENT Puritan Masochism

Konvent is a phenomenal name for an all-women metal band. If only Ophelia had gotten herself to a Konvent, adhering to the letter of Hamlet’s advice while telling the spirit of it to fuck off. It’s typical for a band to produce their best stuff around their third album, still riding the energy and spit of their youth but with the craft and wisdom of time in the trenches. Puritan Masochism is a debut that sounds like a third album. I don’t know how these Danes got so good at death-doom so quick, but I cannot wait to see what’s next. Haunting melodies are supported by massive, crushing riffs and drums so relentless it’s hard to imagine the studio kit survived the recording process. The deep roaring vocals convey plaintiveness as ably as fury. Like a lot of great doom, there’s a hypnotic quality that carries you along and rolls you under waves of sorrow, but always with a push of resolve to breach the surface again.

Listen to "The Eye."

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!MIDNIGHT Rebirth by Blasphemy

“That new Midnight album sure shreds, too bad I can’t include it since it came out like two years ago. Wait…” Yep. January 2020 was technically this year even though it feels about as long ago as the month Gangnam Style came out. Rebirth is the latest from sole, faceless songwriter/recording member Athenar, and it’s unquestionably his apex. Prior LP Sweet Death and Ecstasy experimented with longer tracks and melodic dalliances alongside his trademark blackened rippers, and though a great album, those elements kept each other at elbow distance. Rebirth sees them fused into a gorgeous Gotenks of aggressive, melodic, speedy riff onslaught. Above all, Athenar sounds like he’s having a blast, reveling in speed and darkness.

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Listen to "Escape the Grave."

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!NECROSOUND The Nightmare & The Atomic Age

Strictly speaking, not an album, but it’s two EP’s released weeks apart, so it kind of counts. Warbringer* drummer Carlos Cruz announced this solo blackened thrash/crust punk project early in Quarantine. He then proceeded to release a new song about every ten minutes after that. Some people really put being penned up to good use. I had no idea that on top of being a fantastic drummer, Cruz can play guitar and bass and growl. NecroSound nails that two-meter exhaust port between dangerously ragged and skillfully tight. On top of everything, Cruz handled the production, and it sounds phenomenal. Simple angry punk-metal that lands with the punch of a black iron spearhead.

*Eyy, why isn’t Warbringer’s album on this list? It’s badass! Yeah, yeah it is. It’ll probably make my year-end list. But my ‘so far’ lists tend to be about surprises and smaller gems, and Warbringer putting out a great thrash album just isn’t a surprise. It’s what they do. Go listen and see.

Listen to "Until Death."

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!TRAVELER Termination Shock
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It’s important to have recovery time between battles. You can’t be enraged constantly, your brain will crack. Luckily we’ve got metal for that too! This is a fun one. But it’s not just fun, it’s genuinely good. Termination Shock takes you on glorious melodic adventures with sweet guitar licks and soaring clean vocals. The issue that plagues classic revival metal is a lack of real drive behind the glory-basking. Traveler has not caught this plague. They play with energy, vivacity and love. These aren’t just good songs, they're songs you can tell the band cares about. This is also the pick for any non-metal or non-extreme-metal peoples who are scared by all the growling and tremolo picking and blast beats elsewhere on my list. If you don’t enjoy this album… bullshit, yes you do.

Listen to "Shaded Mirror."

Cody Davis
Review Editor and Feature Writer

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!

BLACK CURSE Endless Wound

From Cody's premiere and interview with Black Curse

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"It's primordial darkness that Colorado's Black Curse siphons from. A kind of darkness that compounds the incorporeal matter of humanity and the sonic intensity of the earliest black and death metal. This kind of fusion is the foundation for what this trio has been looking to achieve years. Endless Wound, the band's proper debut, represents over five years of work meticulously crafting and refining that sinister darkness…

Endless Wound is vicious; it does not quit. Moments like "Enraptured by Decay" and "Seared Eyes" showcase some of the more feral tendencies of the band. Guttural noises and spitting vocals over fiery, shifting riffs accentuate those and other tracks on the record. There are also some more metered and nuanced instances like "Lifeless Sanctum" and portions of the title track. They employ tense, building moments of volcanic proportions that erupt."

Listen to Endless Wound in its entirety. 

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!FLUISTERAARS Bloem

From Cody's premiere and interview with Fluisteraars:

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"Through vivid recollection and reimagination of old folklore, Fluisteraars builds a dazzling collection of tracks that showcases a psych/folk-driven black metal. The duo has evolved into one of the staples in a growing surge of non-Scandinavian black metal talent. As they grow, their sound and ideology further bucks the trends the very genre was founded on.

M. Koops and B. Mollema choose to find the positivity in the world around them. One of the biggest wells of hope comes from the Veluwe, an area of forests and fields in their native Gelderland in the Netherlands. The Veluwe has stood for years and with its tenure comes its tales. Stories and legends emanate from windswept wildflowers and whispering woods. Koops and Mollema took those tales and molded their own and wove it into beautiful moments like "Nasleep" and "Eeuwige Ram."

Bloem is a further deviation from the raw sound that Fluisteraars was founded on years ago. It's even a drastic stretch from their previous full-length record, Luwte. No track stretches beyond the eight-minute mark, yet each moment yields such poignant depth and stirring imagery. Arrangements as lush and diverse as the natural world in which Koops and Mollema explore make Bloem one of the finest moments in heavy music this year."

Listen to Bloem in its entirety. 

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!TURIA Degen Van Licht
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From Cody's premiere and interview with Turia

"Officially their third full-length record, Turia's Degen van Licht is a majestic homage to the Alps along the French and Italian borders as well as the wildlife that inhabits those peaks. The trio has always been adept at crafting an ambiance that draws the listener into their creation. However, Degen van Licht strikes a different chord.

Through equal parts of improved production clarity, heightened complexity, and deliberately diverse songwriting; Turia built a high mark for Dutch (and global) black metal this year. Across seven tracks, reverberating riffs and humming analog synths paint a landscape of the renowned mountain range—and the dangers that emerge as the seasons change and people test their luck.

Vocalist, T, drives the stirring dashes of Turia's music with a unique vocal and lyrical delivery that comes, not from a concrete narrative, but from intangible emotion seeping from the subject matter. O covers the blistering tremolo and lurching dirge that echo like the calls of animals across Mont Blanc. J's maddening blasts build a frenzied meter that seemingly carries the songs up the mountains by themselves. Though their talent is present throughout the album's entirety. There are true standout moments, like in "Met Sterven Beboet," "Storm," and the lengthy finale, "Ossifrage," where the three members truly shine."

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Listen to Degen Van Licht in its entirety. 

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!VILE CREATURE Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!

From Cody's interview with Vile Creature

"As years have unfolded for Vile Creature, their music has slowly shifted and transmogrified. Droning, sludge-riddled doom has slowly morphed into an experimental long-form approach to heavy music. Snapshots of their music since 2015's A Steady Descent Into The Soil has shown this progression. On their newest outing, Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!, it is extremity unbound and untethered to standard genre tropes.

Though their music can seem oppressive, their message is anything but. Their deep love seeps into their communities—both Ontario and heavy metal— in many ways. Their music has long championed positivity, whether it is finding it, creating it, or nurturing it. They have also been enduring advocates for equality through all of their music and social presence. On this new full-length, they pull the lens back a bit, casting a wider gaze to the world at large and how apathy pervades society as a whole in addition to many of the things that plague progress.

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To accomplish their mission, KW and Vic scrapped their previous processes and came at these five new tracks differently. Blossoming confidence, new writing approaches, and some help from friends and other musicians turn every second of Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! into some of the most powerful music in the first half of this tumultuous year. It all culminates in an absolutely stunning arrangement of choir music and plodding thunderous extreme metal—it is, quite possibly, the greatest single moment of Vile Creature's discography."

Listen to Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! in its entirety. 

Metal Injection Writers Pick The Best Albums of 2020… So Far!WAKE Devouring Ruin

From Cody's premiere and interview with Wake

"Calgary's Wake has been on a unique path over the last handful of years. The Canadian quintet originally began as a straightforward grind band over ten years ago. In the years since their inception, they've gradually morphed into something, well… amorphous. No longer bound to genre or personal constraints, Rob LaChance (guitar), Kyle Ball (vocals), Ryan Kennedy (bass), Arjun Gill (guitar), and Josh Bueckert (drums) make extreme music that is uniquely theirs. On their newest endeavor—the ruthless Devouring Ruin—they build upon their machinations that have blossomed over their previous couple of records. The result is a masterclass on experimentation and untethered ideation filtered through a prism of extreme metal's most radiant attributes.

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Devouring Ruin takes Wake to unexplored territories. Heavier emphasis on doom and sludge, durational droning sections, and long-form tracks are a few of many nuances and ideas that populate the band's finest effort. Help from producer and engineer, Dave Otero, as well as a guest spot on "Mouth of Abolition" from Khemmis/Glacial Tomb vocalist/guitarist, Ben Hutcherson, only heighten the brilliance within Wake's framework—a framework bolstered by exacting focus and a collective headspace. On an individual level, it marked new avenues in writing and musicianship which led to a greater fleshing out of ideas. These collectively emerge in brilliant moments like "Kana Tevoro [Kania! Kania!]," "This Abyssal Plain," and "Torchbearer" among others.

Lachance and Gill lay down numerous, fiery leads and solos while the reconfigured low-end of Kennedy and Bueckert add overwhelming grit and pacing. Ball's intimate and observational lyrics accentuate breakneck shifts in tempo and style throughout Devouring Ruin's ten tracks. Ultimately, Wake's latest display culminates into a manifesto for evolution, not only personally, but sonically. Stagnation means demise and the Calgary natives have no intention of dying out.

Listen to Devouring Ruin in its entirety. 

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