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2020 Picks

2019 was meh for me... Almost absent death metal, only borderline decent oldschool heavy.... A few good surprise along the way though, and mainly female fronted doom/noise/rock bands. But overall 2019 wasn't as generous as 2018. What about 2020 now?

(notice this year's color palette is shaded green and red)

Few albums this year. New releases fail to grab my interest. Also I think I wanted to keep it short and be more selective, more to the point. The previous lists had a lot of records, but I didn't return to them often to be frank, and most of them are already forgotten. In fact listen 15 albums a week each week may not be an artistically fulfilling behavior. Although I want know what's new and find new stuff. But I feel I'd rather go back to the late catalog. Next year's list might be whatever I'm discovering and enjoying, regardless of the year.

Here's for my 2020 list. What a stupid year. Anyway I think I have a solid top 16. With a fair load of oldschool HM, Cirith Ungol, Spell... Lord Fist and Molten Chains were also great surprises. Lord Of Light for a cool minimalistic power act. The warmth and softness of Lotus Thief and Havnatt on the top, because it just soothes me with great atmosphere. Most metal releases are fatiguing to listen to in fact.

albums I will probably come back to
albums I gave 1 or 2 full spins
(not on list) albums I couldn't get past a couple of minutes before my interest drop

Created by: Ansercanagicus | 10.01.2020

1. Lotus Thief - Oresteia
experimental rock, with a heavy use of pitch shifted square waves, like in an atmospheric video game soundtrack, which I like a lot. The vocals are female and rather suave midrange, that's also something unusual that I dig. The music is some kind of atmo rock, sometinmes dark stoner or atmospheric black metal but still soft. There are some occasional growls, but the general tone is rock indeed.
2. Havnatt - Ragnhildstreet
folk/acoustic delightful music. Simply female vocals + guitar + bass, and it sounds gorgeous. The harmony used and modal interchange are especially neat and haunting, mysterious sounding
3. Havukruunu - Uinuos Syömein Sota
Bathory-like black metal with resonating choirs and folkish melodies. It's overhelmingly intense. The blastbeats have a lot of groove, the sound production is great, the vocals either clean or growled are also awesome while being somewhat uncommon. The melodies are simple, and songs work in a juxtaposition of those but it flows really well thank to the energic drumming.
4. Lord Of Light - Morningstar
I usualy don't like power metal, and I'm even more reluctant when it pretends to be prog and overuses stupid synth samplers. I can't explain why this one is an exception, but it is. It has managed to create a special atmosphere. The songwriting also caught me offguard with a lot of surprising turns, like intense choirs, or brutal changes in syncopation.
5. Molten Chains - Torment Enshrined
avantgarde mix of heavy, thrash and black. It's full of riffs! crazy chromatic riffs everywhere. I like music that don't follow a recipe, and this is great. It was love at first blast. The raw sound, the efficient thrash groove, the death/black odd complicated riffs. The vocals remind me a lot of Mekong Delta
6. Lord Fist - Wilderness Of Hearts
heavy, raw production, very nice instrumentation with guitar duets. Their part are asymetrical, and compliment each other very well. The guys have got plenty of interesting ideas, and I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. I springs with melody, and the harmony isn't necessary cliche chord progressions. I this my long awaited OSHM album of the year? Edit: Yes it is! I also like how unpretentious the singer sounds. Some people complained about the lack of consistency, but I'll rather take that, it's decent and feels genuine. I also like when he flips to falsetto, we rarely here that in metal. This album is incredibly dense and rich. Like the previous one from this band, but this time it's less overwhelming (in a good way) and is very pleasant to go through.
7. Thy Catafalque - Naiv
avantgarde. This one has very little to do with black metal, right? it's all groovy folk mixed with metal and synthwave to give it punch. High energy music, very bouncy. The different sounds, being electronics, tradionnal instruments samples, or female vocals are all neat.
8. Igorrr - Spirituality And Distortion
This album is a serious one a lacks a bit of fun. However, it is divided in face A / face B (name Distortion / Spirituality). All the teaser tracks were from face A, and it was underwhelming electro/death, like good, but unsurprising by Igorrr's standard. Face B on the other hand is way more interesting, an I understand why we didn't see it yet, for it's not really commercially appealing. It's a symphonic piece, for lack of a better term, putting baroque on the foreground, and tracks unfold and complete a whole 30 minutes of great music. And this is really worth, it's just a shame that the first tracks sound so little organic and fail to blow anyone's mind. So, DIstortion, meh, Spirituality good!
9. Bütcher - 666 Goats Carry My Chariot
speed blackened US power ? The main appeal to this music is obviously the upbeat tempo specifically designed to break thousands of necks. The riffing is reminding of Slayer's Show No Mercy, but with a heavy use of hammer/pulloffs. There's also a bit of Mercyful Fate. The guitar work is solid with great leads. I dig the blackened vocals a lot, the grossly raw and upclose mix, and the artwork too. This is a fun ride, maybe getting exhausting at some point. Not that the songwriting is bad, but songs go by without any moment to take a breath, and is quickly edging the listener's stamina. Some moments stand out as rather black, other rather heavy, or rather thrash, it's an interesting mix of genres.
10. Spell - Opulent Decay
new wave of oldschool heavy, just like Cauldron and Haunt, but Spell's music is much more complex and less gimmicky. It throws a bit of doom and stoner influences here and there, and they keep a psychedelic but serious and almost dark tone. It's not overwhelming but I guess this album is a grower. You can tell these guys had an idea in mind when the wrote this. Look at this cover art, those song titles, and of course the ominous music.
11. Cirith Ungol - Forever Black
heavy/doom. Well, the new Cirith Ungol. The singer's voice has changed a bit but gained power and lows, while still tearing through the metal chunk. I also appreciate the modern-oldschool mix, which is clean but preserves the punch of all instruments. Some of the songs drag a bit, but hey, that's not unusual. Since they throw a couple of riffs and catchy songs here and there it's ok. They recycled some of their first songs, and I like the funny vibe in brings to this album. 'The Fire Divine' and 'Fractus Promissum' are especially great. I'm also glad to come accross numerous youtube posts of people stating they didn't know CU but really enjoy what they hear. So that's cool.
12. Imperial Triumphant - Alphaville
13. Krallice - Mass Cathexis
avantgarde death/black. perfect mix of technical music and atmosphere. Resembles Gorguts
14. Izthmi - The Arrows Of Our Ways
black metal Ne Obliviscaris. Huge melodic and harmonic proficiency
15. Covet - Technicolor
math rock
16. Rebel Wizard - Magickal Mystical Indifference
black, heavy. I'm not fond of the saturated vocals, but these guys are riff masters! the instrumentals are actually great. Second take: The compositions are especially great, but they really need to get decent vocals. I'd rather listen to my vacuum cleaner. But the riffs, wow!
17. Furies - Fortune's Gate
heavy metal. The music is a bit cliché speed/power metal from late 80s but works as a tribute for passed glory days of HM. The instrumentation is neat though, and the singer does a great job, as well as the lead guitarists. The singing is a bit Heavens Gate alike, soaring high, but performed by a woman, so the tone is better and sounds less like a cat. I'm also glad to find out they are French. Overall it's got a fun vibe and cool energy. The album gets weak after the 4 first songs unfortunately.
18. Possessed Steel - Aedris
a solid OSHM release
19. Kvelertak - Splid
punk hardcore but catchy and melodious. Every song is a banger with groovy and beautiful riffs, it's all very diverse, the guitar tone is a bliss, and some harmonic choices are very joyous and surprising
20. Loud Night - Mindnumbing Pleasure
if you feel Bütcher isn't enough, you can chain with this one. Speed/thrash/punk, with a very psychedelic way of playing the kick drum. The guitar tone is perfect imho, great BossHM2 sound. The riffing is really intense, while keeping melodic components.There's also a slight Motorhead influence. Keeping focus on the kick drum is the real challenge here, since it plays in 3:4 with all the thrashing snare on top of it. It's a mindnumbing pleasure. (I've been told it's D-beat and existed for a long time in fact) But the album as a whole feels a bit repetitive, since this trick is used in every song.
21. Chalice (FIN) - Trembling Crown
another solid OSHM release. Is that Christmas already?
22. Blizzen - World In Chains
at last! That's how I expect NWOSHM to sound like. The mix isn't faux-dirty but plainly sounds vintage. The singer isn't over the top or bad, but humble yet able. And the riffs are there, even if they're not unheard of. Cool enjoyable one. The 80s-like cover art is also a better impersonation than all the other 80s-like covers I've seen.
23. Wake - Devouring Ruin
death black, quite atmospheric and focused on dissonance while being melodic
24. Ben Levin Group - FAKE
it's a... huh... hip hop with sped up guitar licks as texture. It's a 10 minute EP in three acts, and sets a new frontier for avantgarde.
25. Iress - Flaw
26. Blood Star - The Fear
[EP] heavy/speed. I can't say these female vocals are too powerful, but they're quite engaging. Another cool oldschool heavy release to join the clique, I'm looking forward to hearing more from this band
27. Witchskull - A Driftwood Cross
female fronted heavy/doom. I like how singers in this genre always have awesomely odd voices... wait a sec it's not female fronted ? oh that's why... It draws on stoner too, and can be pretty repetitive but the songs are cool. Psychedelic you know. It's mostly inspired by Black Sabbath, Master Of Universe era. Almost the same bass tone and drum patterns. The first songs make a good impact. Later on it gets repetitive and less interesting.
28. Cauldron - Undercover Of Moonlight [Compilation]
Now that's real new wave of old schoold heavy metal. Covers of older songs, from various artist, so the album stays fresh and diverse through and through without hitting the wall of incompetent songwriting. I'm not saying this for Cauldron, but for NWOOSHM in general. The unmastered sound is also very pleasant and will teleport you straight to 1980. Cauldron's singer also tries to mimic the original singers, and he can deliver convincing impersonation. So if you don't like the habitual vocals, you can try this record to find out if it clicks. Hmm... this years sounds good for the oldschool.
29. Black Swan - Shake The World
quite a cliché heavy/glam band from the oldschool. The songs drag a bit and could be shorter, but the singer is a great synthesis of 80s glam / hard rock bands, and the guitarwork is great too with a lot of major/minor switches typical from this era. Funny riffs and leads, even if it's not unheard of.
30. ===========================================================
31. Spirit Possession - Spirit Possession
black metal with riffs, sounding energetic and bouncy
32. Botanist - Photosynthesis
experimental black, atmospheric. Interesting take... I'm not fond of the clean vocals. The album shines from part to part.
33. Wytch Hazel - III: Pentecost
heavy/doom. This is some energetic Pagan Altar. With beautiful guitar duet. Their previous release was a great surprise in 2018
34. Inquisition - Black Mass For A Mass Grave
black. You know what, I like Inquisition a bit, they are quite spacy... But also repetitive. Luciferan Rays is my highlight
35. Psychonaut - Unfold The God Man
post hardcore prog, Tool and Night Verses vibes
36. Glacier (USA-PO) - The Passing Of Time
heavy. Unexpectedly great comeback from Glacier, 35 years later
37. Coexistence (ITA) - Collateral Dimension
prog death. Obscura-like, but it has a lot of clean section. The use of fretless bass and clean chorus tone remind me of Cynic. It's neat.
38. Sightless Pit - Grave Of A Dog
noise. I really liked what I heard there, between synths, saturation, Lingua Ignota vocals and stuff, but this album is still experimetal in the true sense. Songs ain't writen well, the album has no structure... I hope I'll get see a more musical second release
39. Uada - Djinn
melodic black
40. Slift - Ummon
psychedlic rock / stoner
41. All Them Witches - Nothing As The Ideal
psychedelic rock
42. Svalbard - When I Die, Will I Get Better?
post hardcore. Rich with melody and colors.
43. VoidCeremony - Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel
prog death/black
44. Gaupa - Feberdröm
pshychedelic rock
45. Skáphe - Skáphe³
atmospheric black/death. Huge spacy lovecraftian sound. And terrific drumming all along.
46. Pyrrhon - Abscess Time
techdeath, avantgarde, noise
47. Kevel - Mutatis Mutandis
prog sludge black, dissonant riffs
48. Dukatalon - Involuntary Action
intense sludge with a clean mix, so the drums are really groovy. The guitars are also spacy enough to make it psychedelic.
49. Grin - Translucent Blades
stoner/sludge. It's heavy, it's spacy, it's psychedelic, I feel I'm being eaten by a wormhole. Lost in a grooving jam of gritty saturation, echoing reverb and immensely low freqs. How? there's no guitars. Just bass, and a freaking massive bass. And also great cover art.
50. Grotesque Ceremonium - Sanctum Of Demoniac Deviance
cavernous death metal, which is kind of a compilation of everything great about OSDM. The drums are especially interesting
51. Purification - Perfect Doctrine
doom/heavy that is really crushing with heavyness, gritty saturated guitars playing slow and nice melodies (but slow)
52. Hexecutor - Beyond Any Human Conception Of Knowledge…
blackened heavy speed thrash with french lyrics. Singer is good, like a black metal version of Vektor's guy, sam soaring highs, with dirtier growls.
53. Possessor - Damn The Light
sludge/thrash. Now that's some heavy shit. Last year King Grizzard proved that gritty thrash could be a nice thing, and I actually love this kind of production. The bass is sooo big, and the drums feel real and punchy
54. Mamaleek - Come & See
experimental rock / post hardcore / math
55. Caustic Wound - Death Posture
classic grindcore, with Carcass and Demelich as audible influences. The sound is great and especially the bass tone which is orgasmic. Musically there's nothing new but it's still very enjoyable.
56. Deranged - Deeds Of Ruthless Violence
funny death grind wth organic sound
57. Assimilation - Tainting The Purity
funny death metal between Morbid Angel, Pestillence and Archspire
58. Wailin Storms - Rattle
59. Esoctrilihum - Eternity Of Shaog
atmospheric black metal
60. Trepalium - From The Ground
short album of the prog band Trepalium, mixing their metal with limbo, walz, shuffle, etc... dancing stuff, and groovy licks. I'm not fan of the modern prod though.
61. Lesser Glow - Nullity

Disclaimer: All top lists are unofficial and do not represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
[ More lists by Ansercanagicus ]


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Comments: 4   Visited by: 52 users
12.01.2020 - 00:12
Disagree on 2019 being meh, but top notch pick for 2020 so far
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
13.01.2020 - 00:49
Where's Poppy??
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
13.01.2020 - 14:05
endangered bird
Lol. I really didn't like it. I can acknowledge that it is unique and breaks new boundaries, but I couldn't stand neither the polished sugar pop moments, nor the alt metal/indus Marylin Manson-like moments. The 4 songs I went through were really obnoxious.

If ever I'll come back to it (which is uncertain), and if I enjoy it (which is even more uncertain) I might add it to the list. For now it's a 1-entry list.
2019 - 2020 - 2021
13.01.2020 - 14:16
JoHn DoE

2019 meh? I disagree, a lot of great album came out, at least for me (my taste that is).

I might have to listen to that Lotus Thief.
I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.

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