Personal Top 20
01. Napalm Death – Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism
Napalm Death is turning 40 this year. But time flies when you grind as hard as these guys have, in whatever shape or form the band has taken over the years – and its lineup changes were the stuff of legend back in the day. With longtime guitarist Mitch Harris having largely removed himself from the band since 2015’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat, songwriting duties have fallen almost exclusively on bassist Shane Embury, with frontman Mark “Barney” Greenway contributing lyrics. But the pair are more than up to the task here.
Napalm’s 16th full-length, Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism is its most feral and inspired effort since 2000’s Enemy Of The Music Business, when the band emerged from a period of sonic experimentation and creative strife and got back to making “noise for music’s sake,” to borrow the title of its 2003 compilation. So while Napalm is hitting middle age, so to speak, at a bit of a crossroads, the quartet is as vibrant and vital as ever.
02. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi
It took a long time for me to warm up to Finnish psychedelic black metal weirdos Oranssi Pazuzu – or “orange wind demon,” if you like. I think I’d received promos of their four previous albums since 2009, and none of them really grabbed me for reasons I can no longer recall. But one listen to the mesmerizing squalor and throb of “Uusi teknokratia,” the 10-plus minute first single from the band’s fifth album, and I was hooked – the creepy “Metropolis”-like video that went with it only sealed the deal.
The shape-shifting combination of black metal shrill, industrial clangor and bob-and-weave electronics on Mestarin Kynsi – or The Master’s Claw – is as compelling as it is cacophonous. Yet there are ample hypnotic expanses and trippy tangents that make the metallic moments all the more jarring and provide for some truly dramatic contrasts. Enslaved channeled Pink Floyd-like prog into their black metal and turned it into something magical. These guys achieve much that same effect with psychedelia here. Gotta make sure to go back and check out the older stuff now.
03. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment
After more than 20 years of extreme, well, extremity, you’d think there’d be no way for dastardly duo Anaal Nathrakh to maintain their level of intensity, fury and sonic maximalism. Yet Endarkment, their 11th album, is as bilious, bombastic and outrageous as ever – from the pig with cocks in its eyes on the uncensored cover art, a nod to lyrics in “Libidinous, to the “wafer thin” Mr. Creosote reference from Monty Python’s “The Meaning Of Life” in the anthemic “The Age of Starlight Ends.”
The music remains an all-out assault – a maelstrom of surging riffs and black metal sprints, thunderous rhythms and industrial/electronic noise topped by Dave Hunt’s vitriolic caterwaul. And it forcefully drives home the album’s prevailing and prescient theme of an age of enlightenment in reverse – where rational thought and intellectual pursuit have given way to blind faith and blissful ignorance – making it the ideal soundtrack for the 2020s, at least so far.
04. Myrkur – Folksange
05. Katatonia – City Burials
06. Demonical – World Domination
07. Ulcerate – Stare Into Death and Be Still
08. Paradise Lost – Obsidian
09. Sepultura – Quadra
10. Beneath The Massacre – Fearmonger
11. Killer Be Killed – Reluctant Hero
12. Valkyrie – Fear
13. Blue Öyster Cult – The Symbol Remains
14. Cadaver – Edder & Bile
15. Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
16. The Acacia Strain – Slow Decay
17. Fuck The Facts – Pleine Noirceur
18. Spirit Adrift – Enlightened in Eternity
19. Vredehammer – Viperous
20. Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo