The year that is now in our rear view mirror (2020) may have been absolutely HORRIBLE for touring and live music, but one thing it wasn't short on was quality releases in the metal realm.
In this article I will give my top metal albums and songs of the year. First off - these are my personal opinions and mine alone. This is what I like. If you agree, awesome. If you don't, okay. All good in the hood!
Also - my criteria is as follows: Do I enjoy the song or album yes or no? That's it. Commercial success or lack thereof, whether it's popular, underground, the most technically proficient; none of those by themselves automatically qualifies or disqualifies a song or album. The ONLY criteria is if it's something I cannot resist playing on repeat over and over and over again.
That being said - let's get down to it. If you dig any of what is here please search out the band and their merch and support. This has been a brutal year for them and any financial support would be greatly appreciated!
TOP FOUR ALBUMS OF THE YEAR:
(Why top 4? Cuz that's the number of albums below. Nothing more to it. These albums, top to bottom stood out to me above all others)
This pre-pandemic release from California's SYMBOLIK took my speakers by storm and set the bar for AOTY candidates. Others may have raised their game to equal levels of badassery, but none eclipsed 'Emergence'.
And Oceans: Cosmic World Mother
After being asked by MidwestMetal Show to do an interview with Finntroll's vocalist Vreth, he turned me onto this epic black metal masterpiece that he had just completed vocals for. Their first release in 17 years, it combines the mood and darkness of early 2000s black metal, but with the production and maturity of current day.
Alestorm: Curse of the Crystal Coconut
The silliness of this release is also a large part of its charm. After being full on pirate metal for their discography up to this point, they have decided to take a more comedic approach and it works brilliantly here. Pirate Metal Drinking Crew, Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening), Treasure Chest Part Quest are all amazing. We'll discuss my favorite track later...
Sneaking in just before the curtain closed on the year is Baltimore MD's ISEMNOR with 'Shieldbrother'. This dual violin fronted folk metal outfit will evoke images of Eluveitie, Ne Obliviscaris, and potentially even At The Gates (circa The Red In The Sky Is Ours era). High quality that you'll wish was a part of the VIKINGS soundtrack.
FAVORITE METAL SONGS OF THE YEAR
In our fast paced world we may not be able to sit through a full EP or album, so here are some of my favorite songs that were released in 2020. NOTE: One song per band, even if the whole album slays.
Inferi: The Abhorrent Art
This is the 3rd year in a row that INFERI appears on my list, and I don't expect that to change in the years to come. THE ABHORRENT ART proves once again that The Artisan Era has the best overall roster of technically proficient metal bands, and INFERI is their flagbearer.
Lutharo: Wings Of Agony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh35tJYrEHE
Much thanks to the crew over at HONEST BRUTALITY for bringing this band to my awaiting earholes.
Alestorm: Tortuga (Featuring Captain Yarrface) https://youtu.be/XWLJ5wIXu-U
I love this song more than I can explain, but CAPTAIN YARRFACE puts it over the top as the video's breakout star. He and Tales From Nocturnia's DRAGON LORD need to become the next (and most unlikely) tag team champions of the metal world.
Symbolik: Dirge of All Creation
In the pre-release teaser video for 'Emergence', SYMBOLIK sneaks in a tasty little run from this song. That run alone proved to me this album was something special. The rest of the album proves it. (Go to 3:57 to hear the riff)
Wagakki Band: Sun Wheel
I'll have a lot more to say about this band in a subsequent article, but if early Eluveitie was born in JAPAN instead of Switzerland, it would be called WAGAKKI BAND. I'll leave the rest of my Wagakki thoughts for tomorrow, but I really really love this band.
Carach Angren: Sewn For Solitude https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Drs7HGUofG8
Let me be honest, I'm not a big fan of the most recent CA album. The creepiness and insanity of previous releases just seem to be missing from much of it... that is except for SEWN FOR SOLITUDE. This song slays and tries its hardest to redeem the entire release.
Isenmor: Kings of the Cold Mountain
Dual violins. Or is it dueling violins? Whatever it is, its one of the baddest songs I've heard all year. These guys are poised to be the next big thing.
...And Oceans: Vigilence and Atrophy
If you wanted a single song to display all the epic mood and intensity of this landmark album, this is it.
SOME OTHER SONGS AND BANDS I REALLY ENJOYED IN 2020:
WORM SHEPHERD: Accursed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCV_hys2CGA
Just. Wow. Can someone please find my face that was just ripped to shreds? Please and thank you.
TEREN: Mara https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xC2NBYwadQ
I'd like to hear more from in 2021. I don't know a lick of Ukranian, but that hasn't stopped me from singing humming the chorus to this song over and over. Lots of potential here.
FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE: No https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=088B-ZW33lM
Thank the Lord for a return to LABYRINTH form for these Italian symphonic metal masters. Please let this be a precursor to a full album with same vibe and energy. After the doodoo hand that 2020 dealt us I think its not too much to ask in 2021!
MIDVINTERBLOT: Humlegarden https://youtu.be/gNdZQRG5Glo
This video dropped right before the end of the year but man its already evoking something medieval within me. Just wow.
HINAYANA: Cold Conception https://youtu.be/njiiZFYvyCw
Thanks to the peeps over at FOLKNROCK.COM for turning me onto this. Sitting solidly in the pocket between Amon Amarth and Apocalypse Orchestra.
MY DYING BRIDE: Your Broken Shore https://youtu.be/F1DI7447ia0
A solid contribution for some of the forefathers of doom metal.
Zac Leaser decided to get a leg up on everyone and drop the first album of 2021 with "Ostiarius" (Literally dropped at Midnight EST 1.1.2021). He's thrown the gauntlet down and set the bar HIGH. 'The Emptiness' and 'Dissemble' are straight bangers!
I am fairly certain I will be talking about this one when the 'Best of 2021' article drops in 365ish days. These songs are sure to continue slaying into 2021 and beyond. We (through HEIRS OF ISILDUR) are looking forward to contributing to the new music cause once again in 2021 (more in this in a subsequent article). If you haven't heard the first album, you can check it out in it's entirety on bandcamp (https://heirsofisildur.bandcamp.com/releases). Are there any songs or albums that should've been on this list in your opinion? Comment them below or on social media! We'll continue the series tomorrow with our look at 'UNEXPECTED: The Year of International Media & Music".
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