Top 20 Studio Albums of 2020
1. Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Mouth of Defeatism
THROES OF JOY IN THE MOUTH OF DEFEATISM is the sound of a band that has outgrown the genre shackles of “grindcore”, but also a band who’s managed to translate that energy into an even more extreme form of noise that’s uniquely Napalm Death. Front to back, the album is filled with some bold musical choices, but the creative freedom that seethes across THROES is every bit as raw and menacing as the early stuff. APEX PREDATOR hinted at where Napalm Death was headed, but THROES OF JOY IN THE MOUTH OF DEFEATISM proved itself to be more than any of us could’ve expected.
2. Armored Saint – Punching the Sky
PUNCHING THE SKY is the classic heavy metal album that we all desperately needed this year. A new Armored Saint album is like your favorite comfort food – you generally know what to expect and you know it’s going to be pretty good. But PUNCHING THE SKY proved that L.A.’s delirious nomads still had some fire in the belly and could deliver their best album in 20 years. Everything about PUNCHING THE SKY is magic – the band sounds phenomenal, John Bush is still an American treasure, and the songs are some of their best in a catalog already filled with plenty of classics.
3. My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion
The best doom metal is always inspired by real pain and tragedy, and MDB vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe has had more than his fair share recently. A painfully personal and musically cathartic effort, THE GHOST OF ORION echoes the dramatic melancholy of TURN LOOSE THE SWANS in spectacular fashion, and without sacrificing the more compact and digestible melody prevalent on more recent material. Easily the band’s strongest and most consistent record of the last 15 years, THE GHOST OF ORION is a doom metal masterpiece.
4. Kirk Windstein – Dream in Motion
5. Sepultura – Quadra
6. Benediction – Scriptures
7. Lucifer – Lucifer III
8. Katatonia – City Burials
9. Faustian Pact – Outojen Tornien Varjoissa
10. Deranged – Deeds of Ruthless Violence
11. Afterbirth – Four Dimensional Flesh
12. Venomous Concept – Politics Versus the Erection
14. Perdition Temple – Sacraments of Decsension
15. Incantation – Vile Sect of Divinities
16. Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man
17. Testament – Titans of Creation
18. Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus
19. Primitive Man – Immersion
20. Goratory – Sour Grapes
Best Metal DVD/Blu-Ray: Metallica – S&M2
Best EP: Soilwork – A Whisp of the Atlantic
Best Live Album: Voivod – Lost Machine – Live
Best Concert/Livestream: Obituary – Livestream Concert Series
Best Covers Album: Inter Arma – Garbers Days Revisited
Best Reissue: GWAR – Scumdogs of the Universe (3oth Anniversary Edition)
Biggest Disappointment of 2020: Danzig – Danzig Sings Elvis
General Thoughts About 2020:
Putting it mildly, this was a tough year for many of us. Beyond the imperceivable loss of life and livelihoods, the live entertainment industry was decimated. And those of us who thought it’d be awesome to work from home in your sweatpants and favorite band t-shirt realized by week 2 that it wasn’t as fun as we imagined it would be. 2020 was shaping up to be one my busiest years yet for live shows, but watching the avalanche of postponement notifications slowly and inevitably turning into cancellations was pretty surreal.
I had plans to see Ozzy one last time, Priest was finally coming back to Central Florida, Maryland Deathfest had its best lineups in ages, and the prospect of seeing both Mercyful Fate and Emperor at Psycho Las Vegas was almost too good to be true. Both of those fests have mostly secured the same lineups for 2021, but odds are pretty solid that one or both of those will get punted again to ’22. Regular touring in the States is realistically still off the table until Summer (probably Fall), which means it’s gonna be another tough year for the metal community. Most of our favorite artists are living with the same kind of daily uncertainty that the rest of us are; buy some merch, watch those live streams, support your local venues – whatever you can afford to do.
Hopes for 2021:
We’re still miles away from returning to the normalcy of “the before times,” but I’m hopeful that we make some collective progress in the right direction. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to pay for an overpriced beer at one of my favorite dive bars and watch some live music in person. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to watch a bad movie in an actual theater again without flinching everytime someone hacks or sneezes. I’m hopeful that after a year in limbo, the result will be a lot of amazing new music from my favorite bands. I’m hopeful that I’ll find my way back to the gym and shed the 20 lbs. I packed on this year (I’m talkin’ to you, Thai food and red wine). Most of all, I hope we can all take a deep breath and chill the hell out.
Cheers to all of you out there – stay heavy and be good to each other.