Top 10 2020
Most played music this year; considering I only paid attention to 3.59% of everything that came out so it means I probably missed out on the best stuff.
TAULARD Dans la plaine
My personal sountrack to "Été 2020" AKA the Summer that never was. Although we were in-between lockdowns at the time, the feeling of surreal detachment that came with everything matched perfectly the enfant terrible mood on that record. I must be at least one or two decades older than the people behind this band and yet I can relate 100% to their music and lyrics. So it means either I'm suffering from a severe form of Synth Punk Peter Pan syndrome or "Dans la plaine" speaks to the universe at large.
JODIE FASTER Blame Yourself
If The Anarchist Cookbook came with a bonus LP, this would be it. Music for rioting done right. They've played a zillion shows in my area, had a few releases before this one, yet nothing really caught my fancy until I stumbled upon this whirlwind extravaganza called "Blame Yourself". Think YOUTH AVOIDERS on steroids (in the "no distortion yet we'll rip harder than any other band out there" kind of sense) and you'll have a faint idea of what these guys from Northern France are about (they even do a YA cover on this one)! Many people compare them to early DRI which will give sharp-eared readers another clue.
POWER FACE Promo Tape 2020
This Swedish lot popped up unexpectedly in my life early this year although they'd had a few records out before which I'd never heard. I think they even have a new 7'' out now or maybe even an album, I think I may have blinked twice and missed it. Anyway, two seconds in, my mission became clear: I embarked upon the pilgrim's path of converting absolutely everyone in my entourage to the blistering hardrocking hardcoring balls-to-the-walls riffstatic orgy that is POWER FACE. Such is the glory of this band.
PHARMACIST Medical Renditions Of Grinding Decomposition
I don't always listen to Goregrind (in the sense that I never listen to Goregrind) but my 12-year-old self misses old CARCASS so much that whenever a decent clone comes up, I'll listen to it on repeat. Happened with THE COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINERS and now PHARMACIST. I don't even know who's behind this one, I think it's an expat in Japan or something but he/they sure have the early "Reek Of Putrefaction" riffs down pat. I know my more astute Metal friends will fail to see the point in this exercise in copying, but if the technique worked for Renaissance painters then why should it be banned for Grind Artists?
WYTCH HAZEL III: Pentecost
This one was released in October which means my slow motion music-digesting organism (it gets worse with age) hasn't had time to fully digest it yet. Hell! - sorry, I meant heck! you can't say "hell!" in front of a Christian band - I didn't even buy it yet, just bandcamped it to death! but but but I know deep in my white knight soul that "III: Pentecost" is all the Metal I crave. "I Am Redeemed", the single that heralded this release, is now forever embedded in my mind after playing it nine billion times (which is the number of names God has according to Arthur C. Clarke).
2020 was such a great year for viruses and Heavy Metal. MEURTRIERES took the French Metal underground by force in early '20, and they were my first pandemic-related cancelled gig. I was so happy to finally see them, what a cruel disappointment! Let us raise our swords to happier times and hope that they will make up for this forced stop & go at such an early point in their career. And if you haven't heard their awesome brand of feminist traditional Heavy Metal, please head to their bandcamp now. Their debut EP has been released in many, many formats by countless labels, in true punk fashion, so no excuse not to grab yourself a copy!
WARFARING STRANGERS: ACID NIGHTMARES Various Artists
Everything that Numero Group touches turns to gold and this new installment in their wonderful series of compilations called "Warfaring Strangers" is no exception. Featuring my favourite artwork of all year (done by Benjamin Marra, he of O.M.W.O.T. fame - check out his comic books if you don't know him!), this acid-fused, mind-altering psychedelic fusion of uppers and (mostly) downers is awesome. I only knew of a few names featured on this compilation beforehand (GOLIATH and BULBOUS CREATION mainly) and the rest of the bands are truly exceptional. (*edit: as eagle-eyed reader Frederic pointed out, this one initially came out in 2017. But I got the 2020 repress so, fair is fair)
LITIGE En eaux troubles
Second band from Lyons, France, to make it to this list, should I take it as a sign, time to relocate or what? Anyway this dream/punk/wave all-female band has never sounded better than on this one, their second album. I really enjoyed their debut back in '17 but they hit the right spot with this one and every song gets me in the right melancholy mood. Check them out if you've never heard LITIGE before, you won't regret it!
SA-ROC The Sharecropper's Daughter
Dedicated to her father who grew up under the Jim Crow rules on a tobaco plantation in Virginia, the Atlanta Goddess' debut album for Rhymesayers has been my favourite Rap album this year. Further proof that you don't have to resort to butt enlargment surgery or soft porn imagery to be the world's greatest woman rapper. Every song on this 2LP surges with power and sharp acuity. The words spoken and sung are close to perfection and Sol Messiah's production is flawless.
FREEWAYS True Bearings
My true grower of 2020. First few listenings and nothing gelled properly so I just assumed this album was not for me. Promptly shelved it for future referencing, only to dig it a few months later and be blown away by the sheer majesty of this album. It's a glorious ride into the land of early Heavy Metal that had no equal this year. There is not a single trace of cheese or bulletbelt irony on this one. It's just four guys and a van, ready for adventure in the Great North. In the most static year ever, this album was a much-needed whiff of fresh air.
Runner-ups (stuff that either came too late or needs further investigating)
ALUCARD Blood Relations Of Heaven And Earth (demo 2020) | Devil Master/Zorn like blackened punk with keyboards
THE ANNIHILATED Demo | War, pain, destruction, crasher crust
BLACK TAFFY Opal Wand | Insane otherworldly instrumental beats
BOMBARDEMENT EP | New singer and more laser sharp riffs from one of the best HC d-beat bands out there
BÜTCHER 666 Goats Carry My Chariot | Destructive blackened thrash that would have ruled everything had it come out 2 or 3 years ago
CARDINAL MANIAC Demo 2020 | Manic melodic evil thrash
CHAIN WHIP 14 Lashes | Snotty 80s sounding hardcore
EXPLOATÖR Avgrundens Brant | Do you miss Totalitär? All-star d-beat line-up
FLUIDS Ignorance Exalted | Vile, downtuned US Death Metal that is all the rage with kids today and which reminds me A LOT of early MORTICIAN (not bad!)
GHOULI Nothing | Another great unholy spawn of hardcore & black metal
HAUNT Mind Freeze | I skimmed through it too early in the year, need to revisit
HEXECUTOR Beyond Any Human Conception Of Knowledge… | These guys from Rennes, France, come from another dimension
HORRIBLE In The Abyss (demo) | Fans of early AUTOPSY, take note!
L.O.T.I.O.N. MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION Alphabrain | My favourite cyberpunk band has had a few singles out this year
LOUD NIGHT Mindnumbing Pleasure | Reminds me of a more radical HEAVY SENTENCE (RIP)
MANACLES Kol Dar Cia | Some Lithuanian Hardcore Punk that takes no prisoners
MAN-EATERS Gentle Ballads For The Simple Soul | Who said Hardcore couldn't rock?
MOTHER’S CAKE Cyberfunk! | This Austrian band is insanely good. Hyperkinetic fusion rock
NECROT Mortal | DEATH FUCKING METAL
ORANSSI PAZUZU Mestarin Kynsi | The weird Finns from hell keep delivering the ghouls
OSSUARY Supreme Degradation | 2020 was a killer year for Death Metal, here's another mighty fine example in the grand MORBID ANGEL tradition!
偏執症者 (Paranoid) Out Raising Hell | One of the best cover art this year, you simply cannot NOT grab it on a shelf if you see this in a record store
THE PASSING s/t EP | More blackened hardcore punk a la Devil Master
PESTIFER Expanding Oblivion | Classy tech death this side of early CYNIC and mid period PESTILENCE
PISSE s/t | Best comment yet: "Name ist Programm"
POISON RUÏN s/t | Dungeon Synth + Punk: the thing that should not work (and yet it does, admirably well)
PSYCHOTIC WALTZ The God-Shaped Void | My favourite prog/metal band returned this year and no one caredQUESTION Reflections Of The Void | DR. SHRINKER, anyone?
RAT-NIP Comfortable Chair | Savage hardcore punk that makes me miss going to shows so bad
REGIMEN DE TERROR Inherente Del Poder | Ever heard of this unknown UK band called DISCHARGE?
SET-TOP BOX TV Guide Test | For those of us who were still wondering what 'egg punk' meant
SHRINKWRAP KILLERS Feral Rats Have Become Our Only Pets | THE SPITS' spitting image, only every song sounds the same
SKELETHAL Unveiling The Threshold | France's best Death Metal band which would have been in my Top 10 had it come out earlier
SKELETON s/t | Leaving this here mainly for future reference. Riffs sound killer
SMUT First Kiss | Hardcore for the kids, sounds a bit like POISON IDEA
SNIFFANY & THE NITS The Greatest Nits EP | 4 tracks, 8 minutes of female spiders eating your brains out
SPELL Opulent Decay | Everyone loved this but me, so: need to revisit this one soon
SPELLBOOK Magick & Mischielf | Classick NWOBHM influenced dual guitarz extravaganza
STRYX Ossvarium EP | Nightmarish Occult Doom from Italy with killer female vocals
SWEEPING PROMISES Hunger For A Way Out | Post-punk for those who miss THE CURE, with great vocals
UNDEATH Lesions Of A Different Kind | This year's BLOOD INCANTATION
UNDERGANG Aldrig i Livet | Argrroar, braaaah, mgggglllrrr. How low can you go?
VESTAL CLARET s/t | Beautiful, psychedelic, folksy doom by ex-HOUR OF 13 member
ZYFILIS Allah Ska Ha | If it fits, I sits.