The year 2020 hasn’t been great for much of anything except for, well…music! I listen to (and appreciate) just about every genre under the sun and I’m never bored when it comes to finding something to listen to at any given moment. In a single sitting, I can listen to Dark Ambient, grindcore, soft jazz and progressive rock without blinking an eye! Because of that versatile appreciation, I’d like to share with you a list of fifteen albums (in no particular order) that were released in 2020 (that are not Dark Ambient or Dungeon Synth) that I found to be full of grandeur and sheer brilliance. I hope you enjoy these releases and please support these artists/labels.
I am a big fan of Myrkur and after 3 albums of blackened folk metal, she drops the black metal sound and delivers a folk album that is nothing short of stunning beauty. ‘Folkesange’ is like Enya on steroids but is still alluring and undeniably Myrkur. Without a doubt, this is my favorite album by her and I honestly wouldn’t mind if she delivered more albums of this nature.
DIY musician and multi-genre specialist, Daniel Holt, produced one of my favorite albums of 2020 under the Human Figures moniker. ‘Footsteps’ is a deep dive into darkwave, lush production and dreamy vocals and I can’t count how many times this album has been played in my house or on my ride to/from work. Every track is spectacular and I don’t think I have ever skipped over any of them while listening.
Reign and Rulum, two Black Metal bands from the UK, team up in this eclectic split album to deliver nearly forty six minutes of supremely written metal. Although displaying two different styles, the combined alliance of these two bands present one of the most blistering metal albums of the year.
If you’re into Synthwave and B-movie horror soundtracks from the 80’s, then you have to love Zombi. They epitomize that 80’s retro-synth sound, and the duo just gets better and better. On this years ‘2020’ release, they’ve included electric guitars in their instrument arsenal and went for a heavier sound. However, there is no denying this is Zombi and ‘2020’ is the perfect nighttime driving album.
If you didn’t know, I’m also a staff writer over at MaximumMetal.com and when asked to put together our Metal AOTY lists, Enslaved’s ‘Utgard’ was my top choice! Although no longer the cult viking black metal band they use to be, their current sound is absolutely incredible and they do everything with sheer brilliance. ‘Utgard’ is probably one of my Top 3 favorite Enslaved albums and they actually age better than fine wine!
Another beautiful example of perfect genre collision when left in the hands of the right artist. Varkâna main man fronts this amazing new band that fuses post black metal, electronica, shoegaze and just about everything in between. Combine that with harsh screams, dreamy vocals and powerful lyrics and you have ‘Solar Dreams’. Such an amazing album that combines intensity and atmosphere in the best way possible.
Gate Master brings the worlds of Dungeon Synth and Black Metal together on this unyielding self-titled album. Between the Dungeon Synth sections is some of the best trance-inducing black metal that has probably been produced this year. The inhuman vocals are frightening and the overall songwriting is magnificent. The track “Inverse Transcendent Hypostasis” is worth the price of the album alone!
Flawlessly executed dark synth music with a heavy Berlin School influence, Nebulon continues to climb the ladder of excellence. ‘Across The Solar Tides’ contains three epic tracks to get lost in and it demands repeated listens. From the creator of Metatron Omega and Stronghold Guardian, Scorpio V continues his path of electronic music excellence.
How can 3 kids (1 barely a teenager) from Missouri produce some of the most pummeling thrash metal of our generation? I would chalk it up to good parenting! Hammerhedd takes the sound of classic Sepultura and combines it with the technical ferocity of Gojira to make their own sound and it’s down right sick. I can just imagine how threatening (to other metal bands) they will sound in about ten years time.
This album is my introduction to the band The Suns Journey Through The Night. It embodies the early 90’s spirit of LoFi Black Metal and with supreme atmospherics, shrilling vokills, precision drumming and discordant riffs, this has to be the sleeper Black Metal album of the year. It’s as grim as it is menacing and I was hooked from the very beginning and enthralled until the very end.
Our Oceans takes it brand of melancholic progressive rock a few steps further on ‘While Time Disappears’. Adding metal guitar tones, screams and mesmerizing electronics, Our Oceans defies categorization this time around and simply generates the best music possible. “Your Night, My Dawn” is one of my favorite songs (any genre) this year!
I was introduced to this album by Raffaele Pezzella (owner of Unexplained Sound Group) a few months back and it immediately blew me away! Containing nearly one hundred minutes of ambient, noise, industrial and experimental music from some of Mexico’s best underground artists, this album is a whirlwind of chaos and harmony. An absolutely stunning release!
Abhasa takes us on an enthralling journey with their sophomore album. It’s less ritualistic ambience and features more of a doom and post-metal sound. Every song is hypnotizing and plays to the emotional state of the listener. For me, this album combines the best of bands like If These Trees Could Talk and Isis (the band), in the most staggering of ways.
Ozric Tentacles have been around for thirty seven years and have stuck with the same aggressive, psychedelic space rock formula for almost the whole time. Led by the great Ed Wynne, ‘Space For The Earth’ finds The Ozrics laser focused on producing the best music possible. I’m always a first-day-buyer when a new album is released and this one continues their trek of spectacular releases.
My introduction to Witnesses was the 2019 album ‘III’, which was a cinematic ambient album of the tallest order. However, 2020 brings about their latest effort, ‘Doom II’ and it’s an atmospheric doom metal masterpiece. Containing plenty of harsh riffs and grooves, it’s also complemented by spots of blast beat drumming, classical guitar moments, and stunning vocals. Expect nothing but greatness when listening to this gem!