Congratulations all ye heathens and hellraisers. You've survived 2020. It's been a stressful year, to say the least. But, I maintain, when the times get tough, the riffs get rough. All this adversity has minted a slew of musical diamonds that will glisten long past this time. My list is aggressive and uninhibited, but it's far from definitive. Between my Necrosexual exercise routines, writing a new album to frighten posers, interviewing bands every week and drinking boxed wine to excess, there are more than a few records in 2020 that I've overlooked. Feel free to let me know what you think I missed in the comments or in the Twitter verse @TheNecrosexual.
I also acknowledge these abominable mentions. Undeath and Necrot both brought the brutality with their massive death metal showings in 2020. Long-running thrash institution Sodom delivered another fiery offering in Genesis XIX, their first record with a second guitarist in their nearly forty year history. Atmospheric black metal weirdos Feminazgul uttered a spooky, ritualistic album in No Dawn For Men that inflicted much pain to Nazi black metal elitists and fragile male egos. And despite all the trash talkers and naysayers, Six Feet Under's Nightmares Of The Decomposed proved that a band's supposed irrelevance can only strengthen their relevance, thanks to Chris Barnes' uncanny ability to turn any song into an instant meme.
Now, steel your souls for the Necrosexual's cult classics of 2020:
Soon as the opening "Devour The Child" kicks off at a breakneck pace, it's clear this unholy trio from the greater Philadelphia area is fueled by Pennsylvanian Hunger. The Confessor attacks hot out the gates, and rarely loosens its death grip on your neck for its seven tracks. This album plays out like a witch trial, one that is doomed to end in screams. The compositions unfold in epic fashion, tempering evil melodies with gloomy atmosphere. Blast beat extraordinaire Evan Williams keeps his foot on the gas with aggressive tempos. Fans of the speedy melodic black metal classics from Emperor or Dissection will be pleased by Dumal's fresh perspective into these dusken anthems.
Listen to The Confessor in its entirety here.
Reflections From The Void
This death metal album sounds like the musical equivalent of a philosophical debate. Mexico's Question meditate on these lofty subjects but keep the music rocking, and their riffs razor sharp. No spacy nonsense here. Reflections Of The Void gazes into the abyss and answers with crunchy hooks. Get ready to headbang!
Listen to Reflections From The Void in its entirety here.
Gates Of Hell Records
Amy Lee Carlson is an instantly iconic vocalist, a hardened femme fatale who commands a fierce wail to match her imposing visage. Spectral Devastation packs speed metal attitude with thrashy guitar violence into a double-barrel shotgun, and hits right on the mark. Try to resist, but you can't hide! Bang your head or fall before "The Red Queen."
Listen to Spectral Devastation in its entirety here.
7. HIGH SPIRITS
Hard To Stop
High Roller/Timeworn Records
Imagine if Boston blasted a little too hard in their spaceship that's on all their album covers and ended up in the Bay Area in 1983. You see where this is going, right? Hard To Stop rocks, real hard. There's a certain speed metal edge on this one to give it an extra bit of grit. But at its core, Hard To Stop is sweeter than a golden jar of honey and beams with the same kind of charm encountered on the Hall and Oates Greatest Hits collection. No easy task! Give this one a spin just to see if you're not singing the chorus "Since you've been gone, I have been holding on!" before the first song is over.
Listen to Hard To Stop in its entirety here.
6. NAPALM DEATH
Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism
If a fine wine gets better with age, Napalm Death gets more pissed off. After a five-year break, Napalm Death returns to the business of pulverizing you. And business is good! Barney and friends fire off discordant melodies and earth-rumbling roars across a wide array of musical influences, from the blistering speeds and D-beats of hardcore punk to sullen passages reminiscent of grinding gears soaked in the grease and blood of a mechanized capitalist hellscape, the very machine they've raged against since the eighties.
Listen to Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism in its entirety here.
Fourth Dimensional Flesh
Unique Leader Records
Afterbirth is the death metal version of an M.C. Escher painting. Fourth Dimensional Flesh will batter the listener, perhaps at the subatomic level. Their riffs pummel like an abstract equation that has grown sentient and sprouted some extra jagged incisors. Part technical death, other times grindcore, with slam breakdowns and even some spacy synthesizer parts like Radiohead. Narrated by the gurgling, indecipherable tongue of esteemed growler Will Smith, also of Artificial Brain.
Listen to Four Dimensional Flesh in its entirety here.
4. LAMP OF MURMUUR
Heir Of Ecliptical Romanticism
Death Kvlt Productions
A nightmarish cacophony from the Pacific Northwest. The one-person horde behind Lamp Of Murmuur unleashes a feral whirlwind with this one. It's got the low fidelity atmosphere, but enough sonic clarity for the all tormented nuances to scream through the mix. Reminiscent of other black metal riff fests, like Immortal's Pure Holocaust and Battles In The North, Heir Of Ecliptical Romanticism stands tall as a timeless black metal classic with its own demented personality.
Listen to Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism in its entirety here.
Slaves Of Time
High Roller Records
A speed metal masterpiece from this German powerhouse. Rousing falsettos that pierce the stratosphere and triumphant dueling guitar leads abound! Stallion hit that sweet spot of sounding like they could be straight out of 1985, without seeming like a knock off of anything that came before. These guys go "All In" and deliver a royal flush.
Listen to Slaves of Time in its entirety here.
Uinuos Syomein Sota
One simple criterion of my album of the year list is that first impression. Any album of the year should, in my book, should have that instant "Wow" factor. The kind that makes me grab the first friend I see and say "YOOOOO. Check this out." That's pretty much exactly what happened when I listened to this medieval black metal record from Finland, and it has held up. Havukruunu sounds like the telling of an ancient odyssey from a long lost time. Tales of glory, magic, and battles wages for the highest stakes. And, not the slightest whiff of cheesiness or pretension to be found. The melodies are dense and inventive, clever the same way a blacksmith might grin at the unfurling of his collection of curvy blades and jagged spears hot off the forge.
Listen to Uinuos Syomein Sota in its entirety here.
Ghastly, Graven & Grimoireless
In true KVLT fashion, my number one album for 2020 is a self-released affair. DIY or die, suckers! In battle, there is no law, but Richmond, VA's Battlemaster just wrote the book on war metal. Part of this record sounds like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign on speed, other parts like a particularly gory chapter in the conquests of Tolkien's Middle Earth. Either way, it shreds. An expert showcase that intertwines its black, thrash, and death metal influences into a chimeric assault. Songs like "Black Challenge" will bring a grin to your face, with its zany guitar passages and raspy voice painting the picture of a massive conflict. The spoils of battle ultimately go to us, the listeners.
Listen to Ghastly, Graven & Grimoireless in its entirety here.