20 albums which should have filled-up the concert venues in 2020. In the order of their release.
Annihilator, Sepultura, Slift, Acid Mothers Reynols, Body Count, Code Orange, The Black Dahlia Murder, Oranssi Pazuzu, Serj Tankian & Jimmy Urine, Paradise Lost, Motorpsycho, staraya derevnya, Napalm Death, Idles, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, B R I Q U E V I L L E, deathcrash, Puscifer, Mr. Bungle, Hatebreed, VX:
Annihilator – Ballistic Sadistic
The peculiar 2020 wasn’t such a good year for all known reasons but it was a good year for metal. Starting with the thrash metal gemstone that is Ballistic Sadistic, released by Annihilator. This is one of the best album Annihilator released in years and one of the best thrash metal albums released in 2020.
Ballistic Sadistic combines Annihilator’s best features and it has the vibes, the energy and the attitude of the band’s first three albums. Jeff Waters is proud of the album as well. He says, “the record is like this: take the Alice In Hell, Never, Neverland, and Set The World On Fire records, make them angry, combine the old-school production with modern hi-tech studio gear, then add the best guitar work I didn’t know I still had in me, and you’ve got the best we could possibly offer.”
Released on January 24, 2020 via Silver Lining Music
Sepultura – Quadra
What makes Quadra such a magnificent release, beside the quality and its creators, is the philosophy applied to the album. Quadra is a concept album that unfolds in dimensions revolving around the number four. It refers directly to the Quadrivium, or the four arts of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The album’s 12 songs are divided in four sections, each section of three songs. As Andreas Kisser’s describes the album’s structure, it was imagined from the start as a double vinyl with four sides. The first side contains songs in the classic Sepultura’s sound. The second is inspired by the percussion explored from Roots to “Phantom Self”. The third section has more progressive songs focused on instrumental. The forth section was inspired by the song Machine Messiah and it’s more melodic and slow-paced. Quadra also means “playing field” in Portuguese and regarding this Kisser stated that “everyone grows up in a different Quadra, shaped by rules and definitions. We are all determined by these concepts, our relationships, our careers. Our whole lives.” The album incapsulates the finest essence of the band.
Released on February 7, 2020 via Nuclear Blast
Slift – Ummon
Slift are a French trio from Toulouse. The band formed when two brothers, the guitarist (Jean Fossat) and the bass player (Rémi Fossat), met the drummer (Canek Flores) in high-school. They named the band after a character from the French sci-fi novel “The Outer Zone” by Alain Damasio, a book about a pseudo-democratic society on one of Saturn’s moons. Ummon is their latest and most complex full-length album, a fabulous Hyperion-themed space odyssey, a 72 minute trip of fusions, reactions and implosions, drifting through meteors or riding on dark matter at full speed. Slift pays tribute to Pink Floyd, honours Hawkwind and mark their respect for Can, in a space rock simultaneously massive and ethereal, sometimes resurrecting a sonic Black Sabbath experience, other times experimenting like Hendrix would do. The cover is designed by the French artist Caza who supplied work for the science fiction genre since the 70s. A recent performance on KEXP proves that Slift have no problems delivering their spirit live as well. Ummon is most probably the best heavy psych record of 2020.
Released on February 28, 2020 on Vicious Circle and Stolen Body Records
Acid Mothers Reynols – Vol 1
In 2017, the Japanese band Acid Mothers Temple made their first tour in South America. For their show in Buenos Aires they invited the Argentinean band Reynols. The show eventually lead to a studio collaboration and a rock documentary, both released this year under the name Acid Mothers Reynols.
Acid Mothers Temple is a psychedelic rock collective formed in Japan in 1995 and led by guitarist Makoto Kawabata.
Reynols formed in 1993 as an experimental group with a distinctive signature which takes typical sounds of rock and noise and transcend them into avant-garde. This and the fact that the vocalist and drummer Miguel Tomasín has Down syndrome, gained Reynols the reputation of being a cult and inclusive group. (read full review)
Released on February 28, 2020 via Vert Pituite La Belle
Body Count – Carnivore
Body Count and Ice-T are back with the seventh release since their self-titled debut album in 1992.
“Humans are animals, pretty much in denial of just how savage we can be,” declares Body Count’s singer Ice-T.
“The songs on Carnivore play out that theme in different ways. It’s not about a diet; it’s about being bloodthirsty creatures.”
Old school rap metal, articulated and brutal, a respectful tribute to Motorhead with the Ace of Spades cover, alongside with remakes of Ice-T’s older hits “6 ‘N The Mornin’ and ‘Colors’ with additional drums from Dave Lombardo, and a Jello Biafra cameo on “The Hate Is Real”.
Released on March 6, 2020 by Century Media
Code Orange – Underneath
A well-thought-out album, with lots of experimental elements, heavy guitars, and futuristic sounds blending electronics with hardcore. Electronics and heavy music do not necessarily go well together, but Code Orange manages on Underneath to push boundaries and to deliver their raw, brutal soundscapes to illustrate the album thematic: living in a digitalized world, facing judgementalism, developing negative feelings that impact life and emerge sometimes in the ugliest ways possible. There is a multitude of themes revolving around the poison of the online medium: self-doubt, facing bitterness and anger, stalking, deteriorated mental health, school shootings, video games. And then, there is a multitude of styles used to paint all this mindscape: hardcore, thrash, sludge, metalcore, industrial, math rock. Code Orange’s Jami Morgan detailed the LP: “Underneath is about facing the duality in ourselves as individuals and as a society in an overcrowded, overexposed, all-consuming digital nirvana. Everyone has a voice and no one’s seems to matter. Plummet down the rabbit hole of your deepest fears, anxieties and regrets to confront the monster that has been building underneath. Down we go.”
Released on March 13, 2020 on Roadrunner
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
During their almost 20 years of existence, The Black Dahlia Murder kept growing in the death metal soil with a certain level of consistency backed up by a firm appetite for reinvention.
The album displays a variety of new ideas coming from different metal genres, incorporating influences from the new wave of British heavy metal in their death metal foundation, without compromising their recognisable signature. Verminous has been described in the press release as the band’s ‘most dynamic, rousing and emotional release to date, and it achieves this without compromising one iota of heaviness.’ It is most probably what every band thinks about their new albums. Yet, Verminous raises to that statement. It is an outstanding album and sets new standards for the albums to come.
Released on April 17, 2020 via Metal Blade Records
Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi
Among the stunning diversity of metal styles that hail from Finland, Oranssi Pazuzu represent the psychedelic black metal. But coining them is not that easy, as their black metal aesthetic comes in many cosmic shadows. The band name refers to the Pazuzu demon from The Exorcist while Oranssi is the Finnish word for the colour orange. “It’s more interesting than black,” says Oranssi Pazuzu’s vocalist and guitarist Jun-His, ‘and if it had been black it wouldn’t tell the whole story; it would give the wrong idea. It’s more psychedelic and vivid and alive’. Mestarin Kynsi is their first album on Nuclear Blast, the record label chosen instead of their usual Svart Records, in order to reach a bigger fan base. The album title means ‘The Master’s Claw’ and tells the paranoid dream of a dark master in a dystopian society who draws with his claw and controls people’s minds. Hypnotic, with waves of noises and obsessive rhythm exploding in dissonating patterns, Mestarin Kynsi is a sophisticated unconventional release offering a bewildering psychedelic experience.
Released on April 17, 2020 on Nuclear Blast
Serj Tankian & Jimmy Urine – Fuktronic
Fuktronic is a collaboration between Jimmy Urine (Mindless Self Indulgence) and Serj Tankian (System Of A Down) on an electronic record in a British gangster genre with voice overs doing different characters. Each song is a scene, adding up to a script and the whole album could be very well the soundtrack to a film that hasn’t been yet made or a comic book not yet released. It’s brilliant. Jimmy Urine said about the project: “Our dynamic is very chill, which is why we do this kind of stuff, especially because, with Fuktronic, it’s electronic type soundtrack music, which we’ve both been doing a lot of on our own. It contains of 12 tracks; 4 instrumental and 8 tracks that have original scripted dialogue that portrays the trials and tribulations of a fresh out of prison British gangster who hasn’t learned his lesson.” Embark on this adventure, see which is your favourite character, try to find out where and in which era the story takes place. The explicit language is of course included as part of the charm.
Released on May 8 2020 on Serjical Strike Records
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
British gothic doom legends Paradise Lost, release their sixteen studio album this year.
With a title referring to a jet-black natural glass that was originally molten magma, Obsidian is a perfect fit in their 30 plus years back catalogue.
The album feels natural, relaxed although polished and versatile, bringing together elements from previous works into a cohesive sound of dark drama at the band’s best.
Released on May 15, 2020 via Nuclear Blast Records
Motorpsycho – The All Is One
The album belongs to the Gullvåg Trilogy, along with The Tower and The Crucible, connected through the art covers, done by the painter Håkon Gullvåg. It also follows themes inspired by a reality where subjects like Trumpism, devaluation of democracy, religious fundamentalism and climate change coexist. The title “The All is One” refers to how all the ‘big’ men in politics today are of the same type which makes them all the same. “One must imagine Sisyphus happy” is the last line of Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”.
The centre of the album is a 42 minute esoteric allegory in five parts, N.O.X. Originally a suite for the St. Olav Festival in Trondheim, it features guest musicians such as Reine Fiske, Lars Horntveth on saxophones and clarinet and Ola Kvernberg on violin. The entire album is engaging from start to finish, without losing focus, and with the exact excellency expected from Motorpsycho. An epic 84 minute long ride.
Released on August 28, 2020 via Stickman Records and Rune Grammofon
staraya derevnya – Inwards opened the floor.
staraya derevnya belongs to the category ‘something like you’ve never heard before’ for two simple reasons: a fantastic ability to use surrealism for creating narrative, and a sort of symphonic orchestra’s talent and discipline which makes the tremendous amount of work put into composition, rehearsals and performance to be impeccably delivered, in studio or on stage.
The studio album’s title is a sentence: Inwards opened the floor. It suggests an upside-down magic house, or a bewitched basement that is now upstairs. Or both. In any case, the album tell its stories from the title, and continues to do so in seven journey-like compositions, each of them sounding very much like acts of a theatrical dream, delivering a soundtrack for a play, but where the soundtrack is the play. To the multitude of instruments and object used in this creative experience of thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams, staraya derevnya adds one more: the language. (read full review)
Released on September 4, 2020 on Raash Records, Steep Gloss and TQN-aut
Napalm Death – Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism
Napalm Death’s sixteen studio album comes in a broad sonic palette, with great balance between melodic riffs and their mighty grindcoreness. Socially engaged lyrics are part of who the band is, and the album deals with modern themes of horrors and injustices. Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway explains that ‘The theme is basically the other – the treatment of the other, the perception of the other and the reaction to the other. There are many reference points at the moment, not just the Black Lives Matter movement but the general treatment of people who are Afro-Caribbean or South East Asian, the treatment of transgender people, and this fear that they can somehow cause huge trauma merely by their biological differences.’
With “Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism”, Napalm Death delivers one of the best experimental releases in a remarkable variety of styles, without compromising their roots.
Released on September 18, 2020 through Century Media
Idles – Ultra Mono
Bristol’s five-piece Idles released their highly anticipated third album this September. Ultra Mono continue to build upon the elements which successfully defined their style on the previous albums especially on the acclaimed “Joy as an Act of Resistance”. But while their sophomore was a declaration of virtuosity, Ultra Mono is more about maintaining the magnetic mood alive and cultivating the directness and authenticity that makes Idles’ signature. Punching riffs to go with witty catchphrases, anger, boldness to expose controversial and absurd aspects of everyday life.
The albums maintains harsh reflections on recent British politics and culture, preaching through lyrics, mocking clichés soaked in sarcasm, and a honest enthusiasm about being honest. Themes like self-doubt, mental health and consent are approached as well. The record promoted five singles, with Mr. Motivator being the first released.
Released on September 25, 2020 on Partisan
Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog – What I Did On My Long ‘Vacation’
What I Did On My Long ‘Vacation’ is an EP released on bandcamp as preview for the upcoming full album expected in spring next year. And, as the title is simply suggesting, it’s an album recorded and produced entirely in quarantine. The pandemic made the normality of recording impossible, so the band came up with a plan. As described by Marc Ribot, ‘Shahzad would set up all the mics before we arrived, then go into the control room and shut the door. Ches and I would arrive later, he by his own car, me by bicycle, at different times, enter the front room with our masks on, remove shoes, wash hands. Ches would go to the drum kit in the main room, and I would go to the isolation booth and close the door. If we had to go to the bathroom, we wore masks. We never actually literally saw each other— but, given the excellent mics and monitoring system— we heard each other better than ever. And so we forgot about the lack of visuals, and recorded willfully, joyfully blind for four hours a day for a little over two weeks.’ An album with a mixture of themes and textures. The instrumental opening ‘We Crashed in Norway’ with the saxophonist Darius Jones as guest, is a joyful piece. So is ‘Beer’. Other instrumental songs are rawer and more abrasive in sound. The best and most sarcastic track is ‘Hippies Are Not Nice Anymore’, “a concise mytho/history of Silicon Valley told from the perspective of an intellectually challenged amphetamine abuser”.
Released on October 2, 2020 on Northern Spy Records
B R I Q U E V I L L E – Quelle
B R I Q U E V I L L E (all capitals and spaces between letters) is pure dark irresistible attraction. Completely unknown to the mortal souls out there, they hide behind golden masks, black cloaks and carry instruments instead of scythes. They may be after harvesting your soul, or they may bear premonitions and offer redemption. Or maybe both. But without a doubt, their first riffs will break your will and you will feel both powerless and empowered to take the apocalyptic ride they deal in. Quelle is their third album. Their first album dates back to 2014, in full post-rock genre era but it was obvious at that time that this particular band was clearly out of that league. B R I Q U E V I L L E’s tracks are consecutive acts. So if the first eponymous album had fours acts, their second added three more, leaving Quelle to start with ‘Akte VIII’. Quelle means “source” in German, and “which” in French. “We strongly feel that this record keeps all the ingredients of previous records and explores them further than we ever did before. The theme of a ‘source’, and the ‘which’ linking it reflexively to our previous album artwork gave us the feeling that we stayed true to our original concept, music, artwork and clips. Water and sand as a source of life and death. How an isolated soul deals with these elements“, says a nameless band member…
Released on October 2, 2020 via Pelagic Records
deathcrash – People thought my windows were stars
deathcrash are a post-rock band from London. Their most recent work is “People thought my windows were stars”, a three track EP, released in October via two London-based independent labels, Blank Editions and untitled (recs). The songs are lengthy, powerful, and expressive.
The song composition is impeccable, the band knows how to sample vocals to fit the rest of the story line and the gentle guitar repetitive riffs keep a clean flow even when changing tempo dynamics.
Delicate and impressive.
Released on October 7, 2020 via Blank Editions and untitled (recs)
Puscifer – Existential Reckoning
Maynard James Keenan maintains a clear sound separation between his bands, but any new release is always welcomed by his fanbase. For Puscifer, Maynard set aside an experimental style mixing electro-pop with pranks, special characters and a different journey on each album. Existential Reckoning makes no exception. The sound is now mixing robotic effects and the journey seems to be an interstellar travel. As for the characters, a report issued by the band members says that: “In the Summer of 2016, we received a call from Hildy Berger, Billy D’s loving wife. [REDACTED]. Billy D, rumored to have been carrying nothing but a bottle of wine and a mysterious briefcase, had disappeared without a trace somewhere in the high deserts of the Southwestern United States. Rumors of alien abduction were at the forefront throughout the dark web chatter. Therefore traditional methods of tracking a lost and hopeless drunkard in a dirty leisure suit were not an option. [REDACTED]. We hypothesized the only way to locate the subject was to [REDACTED] construct traversable bridges between intuition and technology, requiring us to explore the metaphorical mycelium between Math and Passion, Art and Order, and Hope and Proof. Through these methods redacted we are able to pinpoint the exact location of both Billy D and the mysterious briefcase.”
Released on October 30, 2020 by Alchemy Recordings and BMG
Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny Demo
The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny is the very first demo tape self-produced by Mr. Bungle. The year was 1986. In 2020, the original members Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn and Trey Spruance reunited for a re-recording of the demo, together with two of their long-time influences, Slayer’s drummer Dave Lombardo and Anthrax’ guitarist Scott Ian. “Recording THIS music with THESE guys was an enormous head-rush of virtuosity and surprises every day in the studio,” Patton commented in a press release. “Trey’s video game-esque solos, Scott’s bionic right hand and cyborg-like precision, Dave’s caveman-meets-Bobby Brady-like drum fills, Trevor’s solid foundation and laser-focus to detail. There is nothing sweeter than getting your ass kicked by true comrades…where everyone has a singular drive and mission.” The release feature as well an reimagined cover of the S.O.D. classic “Hypocrites / Habla Español O Muere” and Corrosion of Conformity’s “Loss For Words.”
Released on October 30, 2020 via Ipecac
Hatebreed – Weight Of The False Self
“Weight Of The False Self” is Hatebreed’s eighth full length album and one of their best albums in years.
It bears Hatebreed’s signature, relying on energy, honest confidence, solid song writing, and delivering a clear message for remaining positive and always do the right thing.
This time, the metaphor revolves around the emotional luggage that everyone carries around and which, almost unfailingly, provokes a struggle within.
“Seen or unseen, everyone is carrying a burden. The music we love helps us bear the weight” proclaims vocalist Jamey Jasta.
Released on November 27, 2020 on Nuclear Blast
VX: – Underground Sci-Fi Chemical Space Jazz
VX: (sometimes V:X or simply VX) is an electro-punk noise project from the UK, driven by Neil Whitehead who has been actively exploring wide territories of krautrock, punk, space rock and electronics with his own band vert:x but also as part of different other projects.
VX:’s sound architecture mixes steady pounding beats in abrasive layers, melds industrial with punk and uses music to scrutinise different sociocultural facets.
VX:’s latest release is “Underground Sci-Fi Chemical Space Jazz”
Released on December 31, 2020