Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Hello everyone! So we are finally in the homestretch of 2020. This has been an absolutely insane year, no denying that. Even with all of the struggle and division, we still had new music to get us through it. Let's just hope that next year will be better.
Having said that, it's time for Album of the Year lists, and I'm excited to see many of my reviewing friends lists. But for now, I suppose it's my time. This was a difficult list to order. There were SO many stellar albums, so many in fact that I've had to leave off of the list.
First I will give my honorable mentions list. Then: onward to the Top 10!
*Black Rose Burning - Year of the Scorpion
Though not a metal album, this was a stellar release. Very much in the goth-pop vein, a la Bella Morte, and The Smell of Rain era Mortiis, but with a bit more emphasis on gothic rock and post-punk territories. If you're looking for a chilled-out, romantic, and ethereal vibey album, would highly recommend.
*Sojourner - Premonitions
I have to be honest and say that originally I was disappointed with this album. I found that after 5-6 listens nothing stuck with me, but I was completely wrong. This is Sojourner at their most ambitious, most atmospheric, most melancholy, and most triumphant too. Usually when bands say that an album is their darkest and heaviest I take that with a grain of salt, but Sojourner weren't lying. Listen to "Eulogy for the Lost" and you will hear what I mean. That song is truly heartbreaking and crushes my soul every time I hear it. Plus, I truly think that the song "The Deluge" is the greatest song Sojourner has ever written. I cannot wait to see where they go next, because it's only up from here!
*Trivium - What the Dead Men Say
I truly feel that Trivium are at the peak of their capabilities as a band currently. Now with drummer Alex Bent being fully integrated into the band, the possibilities are endless. Blending their usual elements of metalcore, thrash metal, and heavy metal, but with an added dose of death metal, black metal, and progressive metal, the sky is the limit and I'm excited to see where they go next.
*Enslaved - Utgard
Enslaved are one of my favorite band's of all time. There are very few band's where I actually like their new material moreso than their older material. While I can't say that Utgard is my favorite Enslaved album, it's certainly a remarkable listen. On this album, Enslaved have officially been unchained. There are no more limitations within their sound. Blending in elements of progressive metal, black metal, and viking metal, but that's only the metal side of this album. There are also plenty of shades of progressive rock, krautrock, synthwave, and shoegaze. Don't sleep on this album if you have!
*Of Wolves - Balance
Relative newcomers Of Wolves came out swinging on their second album Balance. This album is an absolutely potent blend of hardcore, post-punk, sludge metal, and even some small hints of grindcore. If you need an album that takes you on a strange but energetic journey, you definitely need to give this a listen, if you haven't already.
*My Silent Wake - Damnum Per Saeculorum
This is the last album in the honorable mentions. What a gorgeous album! This album sees My Silent Wake depart from their gothic/death/doom metal roots and go for a purely acoustic and ambient affair, and it really pays off. From start to finish this album moves you. For this being an almost 70 minute album, the pacing and flow is immaculate. Gorgeous melodies and haunting atmospheres are what guide you through this trying journey into the darkness. Absolutely stellar album.
I have to be honest and say that it was really hard to even put these albums in the honorable mentions because they're so damn good! I'm going to keep this short and just go right into the list, so here goes:
#10. Code Orange - Underneath
So my hometown heroes have made quite a stir in the scene. Underneath is indeed a divisive album. One sect of people claim that Code Orange have "sold out," while others continue to support them for their bravery and willingness to not pigeonhole themselves. I'm loving how major the juxtapositions are on this album. The hardcore are metal songs are even more unhinged. With songs like "Swallowing the Rabbit Whole," "Erasure Scan," "Last Ones Left," and "Back Inside the Glass" you get a feral, glitchy, and world-building deftness to their already impressive sound, while songs like "Who I Am," "Sulfur Surrounding," "Autumn and Carbine," and the album's title-track showcase Code Orange's knack for writing highly melodic and memorable songs that could translate into the mainstream well, all without sacrificing their vision.
#9. Skeletal Remains - The Entombment of Chaos
Skeletal Remains just simply crushed it on this album. This is easily their most savage, technical, and catchy album to date. "Songs like "Illusive Divinity," "Congregation of Flesh," and "Dissectasy" showcase Skeletal Remains' potent songwriting capabilities, something that I know will continue to be honed on future albums.
If you're a death metal fan and somehow haven't listened to this album yet, it's not too late.
#8. Necrot - Mortal
2020 was a stellar year for death metal, and this album was one of the major highlights in said genre.
Necrot have proven why they are one of the biggest bands in the current death metal scene. Mortal is far more confident and technical compared to Blood Offerings, but not without writing catchy and hooky riffs and melodies. If you love groovy, old-school, and punky death metal, Mortal is the perfect album for you--or the death metal fan in your life.
#7. Tallah - Matriphagy
So this was an album that I had high expectations for before it was even announced, and my expectations were far exceeded. Yes, this is a nu-metal album, but this contains none of the genres ridiculous cliches. This is far darker, heavier, and more demented than pretty much any nu-metal band, my opinion of course. Not to mention the ridiculous vocal performance of Justin Bonitz, He screams, sings, growls, and raps his way through this 53 minute runtime.
Just go fucking listen to this album if you haven't already.
#6. Paradise Lost - Obsidian
So after being utterly disappointed with the new My Dying Bride album, Paradise Lost just swooped in and kicked them off of the plank and released one of the best albums of their entire career.
While the new MDB album reveled in being too overtly melodic, Paradise Lost made an album where they took every aspect of their career and threw it into the cauldron. There's gothic metal and rock, there's doom metal, and of course death/doom metal as well. It makes me excited see where Paradise Lost go next.
#5. Incantation - Sect of Vile Divinities
Incantation continue to prove why they are still one of the reigning kings of underground death metal. Even after 32 years as a band, they still find new ways to fuck with your mind. Sure, this isn't breaking any new ground in death metal, but that's alright. Incantation don't need to prove anything anymore, they're pioneers and that's just a fact. That doesn't mean that they don't know how to refine their sound and continue to make devastatingly lethal death metal, the only way Incantation can. Plus "Scribes of the Stygian" is one of the most frightening death metal songs I've heard in a quite a while.
#4. Warbringer - Weapons of Tomorrow
Oof! So with Weapons of Tomorrow, Warbringer continue to prove why they are the true kings of modern thrash metal. This is by far their most diverse and progressive album, but without sacrificing their roots. No no no, the thrash songs on this album are even more feral than before, leaning into a lot more of the death metal and black metal elements that the members enjoy as well. Also, when you end an album with a song like "Glorious End," you automatically cement yourselves as kings. That song is an absolute masterpiece in metal history. Yes, I said it!
#3. Year of the Knife - Internal Incarceration
Holy fucking shit. This is easily the most brutal hardcore album of the year. YOTK are relative "newcomers" and have made a huge impact with their first album. This album is a caustic mix of hardcore, death metal, crust punk, and d-beat. And you can't forget about the lyrics and vocal performance of Tyler Mullen. If you somehow aren't moved by lyrics like "Home is where the heart is, evicted from your soul" then you probably aren't human, Also special shoutout to Kurt Ballou, that man is the best producer/engineer in extreme music currently. I dare you to tell me otherwise.
Editors Note: the #2 album on this list will not appear at the Sleeping Village due to our policy regarding the artist responsible for the cover art. Please visit The Voiceless Apparition over on Instagram for the list in full.
#1. Haunt - Mind Freeze
Yes, it seemed inevitable. This was literally one of the first albums released this year, and it has managed to stay with me ALL year.
This album just digs deep into my soul, and that's such a beautiful thing. There is not a single thing that I don't like about this album. If I'm ever feeling down, I play this album: if I feel happy, I play this album. Trevor William Church is the musician/songwriter that 2020 needed. There is so much positivity flowing through the music of Haunt, and we all need that.
And so that ends my list for 2020. This was my first year reviewing albums, and i've had such a great time so far. I've had my struggles with my mental health and various other aspects of my life, so reviewing albums have been a therapeutic and cathartic release for me. But this is only the beginning. I plan on making 2021 an even bigger year. I plan on doing more interviews, as well as more reviews for smaller bands. Thank you so much to everyone for their support and for making 2020 a less stressful year for me. My gratitude goes beyond words. Let's bring in the new year with a bang.
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!