The Best Metal Albums of 2020

I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen to nearly enough new material this year. What a god awful twelve months, no festivals, multiple lockdowns and an economy brought down to its knees. It’s fair to say that there was more important things happening in the world than new records, with that said, here are our choices for the best metal albums of the year. Onward 2021!

Paradise Lost – Obsidian

I’ll keep my explanation brief with this one. All you need to know is that it’s one of the band’s best records in a very long time. Obsidian took everything from The Plague Within and Medusa, and injected some of their mid era gothic flair. A masterpiece of death/doom.

Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville

If someone was to tell me that this band would exceed their work on 2018’s Abyssal Gods, I would never have believed you, but the New York City trio did that and more. A mind-altering combination of atmospheric death metal combined with freeform jazz, Alphaville is as heavy as it is unique. One of my most spun albums of the year, one I will remember for a long time to come.

Fluids – Ignorance Exalted

Fluids, thy old-Carcass sound lives on through thee! To be more specific, much like with Pissgrave’s 2019 grind album Posthumous Humiliation, I am in love with the old school Earache Records grind sound. Fluids give their own spin on a long dormant genre, and manage to do it justice whilst adding their own creative spin.

Katatonia – City Burials

One of the only good thing to happen in my life post-lockdown, besides returning to University, was discovering Katatonia. I fell in love with The Fall of Hearts, Tonight’s Decision, and Viva Emptiness and other albums of their later work. City Burials carries on the trend of moody, atmospheric post-rock. It’s beautiful, and exactly what I wanted out of a new album from the band, following a four year hiatus.

My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion

Despite my love for death/doom bands, one in particular also from Halifax, my knowledge of My Dying Bride always felt limited. That changed with their last release, Feel the Misery. I was hooked from the first listen, despite some flaws I found in the production. The Ghost of Orion is a return to form, and a much meatier beast overall. Easily a contender with Obsidian for this year’s best doom album.

Solstafir – Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

I’ve been a fan of Solstafir since I first heard Masterpiece of Bitterness. The band changed direction around 15 years ago and have instead shifted towards post-metal, and like Katatonia, a change I think they made for the better. Endless Twilight doesn’t quite have the staying power of 2017’s Berdreyminn, nor the impact of 2014’s Òtta, but it’s another fine example of moody metal from Iceland’s coldest musicians.

Carcass – Despicable (EP)

Again, I’ll keep my notes here brief. What else can I say? I absolutely adore Carcass and have for almost a decade now. It’s been a long time since Surgical Steel, 2013, and whilst this is an incredible EP, my hunger isn’t quite satisfied. Still waiting on that full length follow-up!

Hail Spirit Noir – Eden In Reverse

All hail the 70s? I’m always supportive when a metal band tries something different. I was a big fan of Noir’s previous release, Mayhem in Blue from 2016, but this new album was a big departure from their experimental black metal roots. What remains is a trippy blend of black metal guitar techniques, synths and clean vocals, and it all works very well.

Proscription – Conduit

Like with other entries that I’ve already reviewed this year, I won’t waste much time repeating myself. Conduit is a savage mix of blackened death metal that strikes all the right chords for me. It’s my favourite genre of music, and this band have added to it very well.

Faidra – Six Voices Inside

What a debut! Formed in 2019, this band deliver their take on the black metal genre with a Burzum meets Batushka fusion. The result is very atmosphere, gorgeously produced and utterly unforgettable. Put it this way, this was one of the first albums I heard this year, and one of the first that I shortlisted in consideration. If you’re a fan of black metal, you’re on this site so you should be, spin it at your earliest convenience.

Midnight – Rebirth by Blasphemy

Long live blackened thrash! I’ve been a big fan of bands like Venom since I had my first taste of extreme metal many years ago. Midnight have helped to rekindle my love for proto-black and crossover thrash beautifully. Their single Fucking Speed and Darkness is one that I’ve listened to heavily this year through drinking sessions and parties with friends. It’s gloriously depraved.

Inquisition – Black Mass for a Mass Grave

Say what you will about Dagon and the rumours, I’ve met him after the fact and my mind is made up on that situation, Inquisition return after a four year gap with yet another long form black metal opus. It’s old school to the core, with a frozen edge throughout, and features everything you could ever want from the Columbian duo.

UADA – Djinn

I’ve reviewed this one anyway, so this will be swift. I’m a great lover of everything UADA, and with their third record, the band have finally broken out from the mold of Mgla to deliver something really special. The comparisons may have been warranted when Devoid of Light released, but they haven’t been accurate for a long time. Djinn is brighter and more optimistic, and for the better in my eyes.

Naxen – Towards The Tomb of Times

I think it’s best for an album like this to speak for itself. Words really can’t do it justice. Imagine that you’re immersed in a dark and wet cave with no warmth or light in sight. You keep walking through the dark for solace, but salvation doesn’t arrive. That’s what Naxen have done. It’s utterly miserable, but it’s essential listening as far as I’m concerned. Dark. Cold. Depressing. Everything you want.

Nebula Mori – A Ghost Amongst The Stars

Just with Faidra, another really strong debut album from a very promising band, this time from cosmic black metal duo Nebula Mori. It’s a very underappreciated subgenre of black metal, I can only think of few bands that do it as well, Screaming Savior and Hoth, but Mori are doing something very different. Goes without saying that it’s frostbitten and as bleak and black as the endless void of space. Again, nothing I can say should sway you, give it a listen. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Featured Image made by BigManOrnstein.

Dark Tranquillity – Moment Review

A very long four years has passed since the band released their last record, Atoma, in 2016. After all that time, does Moment live up to their prior work and justify the wait? It’s complicated.

I’ll state this as clearly as I can for those uninitiated. I love Dark Tranquillity and have done for almost a decade now. I got into their music with seminal works such as Fiction and The Gallery, and you can see my extended thoughts on their discography in the ranked feature on this site. However, I find myself torn on their new record. I should absolutely adore it, but I find myself doubting as to why I can’t quite make my mind up.

Let’s start with what I do know. For one, It’s a beautifully produced metal record and performances across the board are second to none. Mikael Stanne is one of the best vocalists in melodeath today and it shows, his profound lyricicsm too, elevates the material passed that of the band’s contemporaries in the genre. This is nothing new. Thus we get to my biggest problem with Moment overall, it is nothing new, and after nearly half a decade of waiting, I was expecting something a little stronger.

Every hallmark that you would expect of Dark Tranquillity is on full display here. Synths, check. A striking mixture of growling verses and cleanly sung choruses? Present. Infectious hooks? In spades. The problem arises to the fact that, even after several rotations, I am still struggling to recount much about the record besides the singles, and that is not a good thing. Phantom Days and The Dark Unbroken are strong tracks that throwback to the band’s grace period of Character and Fiction, with Eyes of the World beautifully reminiscent of the band’s work on experimental albums like Haven, with the latter featuring extensive use of Stanne’s richly warm baritone voice.

With regards to Stanne’s performance overall, I was pleasantly shocked to have to wait until the fourth track on Moment to hear his clean delivery breakout. It was a nice change of pace in the formula. I do wish that the rest of the record carried this same defiance of the established normality, instead of leaning on genre convention, something that the latter half of this album tends to do, with the exception of closing track In Truth Divided. This song brought back a lot of memories to Projector, and I am happy to see the band harkening back to their more diverse category and trying something different.

I won’t go so far as to say formulaic or forgettable, but I will state how songs like A Drawn Out Exit, Ego Deception and Failstate seem very paint by numbers. It’s sad to see musicians, as creative as this, coasting on autopilot, refusing to break the mould when the groundwork is laid to innovate and produce another masterpiece. These are good songs! Hell, these are great songs! Though, for Dark Tranquillity, and given all that time that’s gone by, songs like these were really the best they could do in over four years?! It feels like padding, and it’s a shame.

This approach could partially be explained away by the lineup changes that have happened between records, with long time guitarists Martin Henriksson departing after the release of Atoma in 2016 and Niklas Sundin leaving this year. Newcomers Christopher Amott (Arch Enemy, Armageddon) and Johan Reinholdz (Andromeda, Widow) don’t do a bad job where it counts, though it explains why a lot of Moment is as generic as it is in places. Not a bad record whatsoever, one that I am enjoying, but still a disappointment. Here’s hoping in a few years, when the band’s new line-up is more established and ready to contribute together, that we will get a truly outstanding Dark Tranquillity album that lives up to the legacy.

Carcass – Despicable EP Review


Despicable is the first piece of new music from the band since their 2013 comeback album Surgical Steel. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.

A short but sweet EP that reminds us all exactly why Carcass are one of the best death metal bands on the planet, Despicable features career best death and roll tracks such as Under The Scalpel Blade and Slaughtered in Soho.

This EP is most comparable to the band’s classic efforts Heartwork and Swansong. Everything present on this 18 minute EP is incredibly groovy and melodic, whilst retaining an old school edge on the production, as opposed to the cleaner style of their most recent full length.

Bill Steer’s riffs are expectedly rhythmic and heavy, and Jeff Walker’s bespoke metal bark has aged like fine wine, the two truly are top of their game. Daniel Wilding returns behind the kit and his steady rock beats fit the music well. Joining the trio is Crowning Glory and Pounder lead guitarist Tom Draper, though to specifically say where he fits in on this release, I cannot say. In a full album featuring Steer and Draper together, I feel that would give us a much better impression as to the identity of what Tom can do in the band.

Overall, it’s a great release. I know that the full length is coming sooner rather than later, and I’m waiting with baited breath. It’s rough and bloody, just the way I like it!

UADA – Djinn Review

It has been a very long time since a piece of music has left me completely speechless. On their third record, UADA return to make what is not only likely to be album of the year, but potentially one of the most important records that the genre has ever been graced.

Across six songs, at just over an hour in length, the band have evolved their formula and expanded their musical horizons to include influences from all over the metal spectrum, and Djinn is all the better for it. It’s easy to see the comparisons to bands such as Mgla and Dissection in UADA’s history, and whilst that is an unfair and not entirely accurate depiction of their influences, it is overt to see that the band have far transcended their inspirations and ascended passed their aspirations totally.

UADA – Djinn (Title Track)

Djinn is a much brighter release as opposed to the duology that preceded it. Not only in the production, in which this is hands down the most well recorded and most grandiose sounding music to date, but in the song writing across the board too. Melody is the key phrase that spills out of every pinhole on this release. So many of the guitar riffs on offer here, courtesy of virtuosos Jack Superchi and Jake Sloan, are as haunting as they are gorgeously moving, in a way rarely heard in the genre.

The percussion on display largely takes a back seat with genre-staple blast beats put on the back burner in favour of a more straightforward, and climatic, mix of rock patterns, double kicks and crash/ride sequences. In the same vein, the vocals are less prominent on the record than they were on the previous instalment, though they are no less haunting, just not the main focus to building an oppressive and aggressive nature any longer.

Passionate screaming leads take centre stage across monolithic triumphs of audio, known on the record as the 13-minute epics No Place Here and, the life-affirming closing track, Between Two Worlds. The compositions throughout this hour-long experience simply defy reality and challenge the listener in more ways than one. One minute there are beautiful chorus passages, as found in abundance on The Great Mirage (particularly towards the end), and the next, haunting and pounding fierce six-string black metal brutality as demonstrated in every second of Forestless, passed a stellar dark-ambient intro.

UADA – No Place Here (One of the singles dropped before release)

When comparing Djinn to prior efforts, Devoid of Light and Cult of a Dying Sun, the changes in musical direction are night and day, but in a positive way. If UADA’s first release represents darkness as hopelessness and fear creeps in, and their sophomore effort resembles desperation and desperately clawing into that goodnight, then Djinn embodies a shred of hopefulness and optimism that pierces through the shades of blackened veil.

In other words, instrumentally this album is ever so slightly softer and less intense when compared to what came before, but I believe that this more melodic change was ultimately for the better, as the band were able to completely outshine their contemporaries and carve out a new niche to create something far more impactful, striking and important than I ever believed could come out of black metal in the modern day.

The similarities found between light and dark. A comparison of covers from UADA’s prior two albums.

In some ways the development of UADA parallels that of other American black metal bands such as Ghost Bath. The Dakota-based blackgazers started as straight forward DSBM on Funeral and then went beyond genre conventions with their darker follow up, Moonlover, much like how Cult of a Dying Sun evolved from the grimness of Devoid of Light. Ghost Bath’s third release Starmourner progressed their sound into the ethereal and the melodic in the best move they could have made at the time. So too do UADA realise their full potential on album no. 3 and it is a complete and total masterpiece in every single way. 2020 has been redeemed with the release of Djinn and I feel so fortunate to exist in a time where I can bear witness to incredible music by such talented minds.