10. Amenra – Mass VI Live
[Bandcamp] // [Spotify]
You’d be hard-pressed to pick Mass VI Live out of a lineup of Amenra’s studio records were you not already well acquainted with their 2017 release of the same name. The live rendition of the Belgian post-metal legends’ most recent opus is sublime, sporting better production values than most bands’ core albums whilst still packing in all the immediacy, wonder and passion you’d expect from an ‘in the moment’ performance, even with the notable absence of a live audience. “Children of the Eye” still hits like a freight train, “Diaken” bristles with all of the same gorgeous little details and “A Solitary Reign” is “A Solitary Reign” which, as you’ll know if you’ve heard the original, is all that it needed to be. It may have only made it onto this list at the whim of two particularly determined users, yet it deserves to be recognised amongst the most impressive releases of 2020, whether live or otherwise, because Mass VI Live is an event. Come and witness it. –Asleep
(tie) 8. DVNE – Omega Severer
(tie) 8. Wake – Confluence
2020 couldn’t have gone better for Wake. The Canadian lads not only released one of the best metal albums of the year, but also found the time to drop in the last quarter an impressive three-song package that testifies to the metamorphosis experienced in Devouring Ruin. The band’s stylistic shift into a more comprehensive blackened signature is now complete. Not only does Confluence mirror a remarkable creative maturity, but it also resonates the many stylistic nuances that comprise Wake’s sound palette. This contemporary hybrid approach, in addition to being a product of its time, materializes an artistic spirit that will surely prevail throughout the decade, both artistically and socially. And it is upon this present and future that Confluence stands, expressing a new beginning for a band that will certainly be among the most relevant extreme metal players of the years to come. –Fernando Alves (Notrap)
7. Khemmis – Doomed Heavy Metal
Campier than a campfire and as overblown as a rather large balloon, Doomed Heavy Metal is a lavish love letter to all of heavy metal’s most dramatic and gloriously extravagant tendencies. Subtle and restrained it is not — raucous and grandiose it most certainly is –and if you’re down with that, then you’ll sure as hell love this. And if you’re not? Well, at least it’s got riffs. Like, a lot of riffs. Like, literally, all of the riffs. \m/ –Asleep
6. Holy Fawn – The Black Moon
If The Black Moon proves anything, it’s that no one crafts atmosphere quite as meticulously as Holy Fawn. Throughout the EP’s three songs, the band further explore the waters of post-rock, shoegaze and black metal by contorting the genres’ edges and drowning every second in excellent production that is equal parts lush and loud. As such, the final minutes of “Candy” are downright terrifying: layers of fuzz obscure and expose ominous whispers, haunting screams and gorgeous melodies into a massive climax. Elsewhere, “Blood Pact” expertly weaves expansive ambient sections into its framework of post-metal, similarly contrasting and subsequently intertwining sheer beauty with devastating desperation. Holy Fawn live and breathe all-encompassing ambience, having no trouble exuding such delicacy on The Black Moon‘s mere fifteen minutes. Here’s to hoping the band find themselves with another LP’s length worth of time to play with sooner rather than later. –Jesper L.
5. Spotlights – We Are All Atomic
We Are All Atomic feels huge. Its four tracks appear interlocked with the wind, the rain, the shifting of the earth’s very nature. Dense, distorted guitars and bass thrust the EP forward at a slow, consistent pace, while the pounding drums ensure the music’s ability to waltz through whatever obstructions it may encounter. Vocals drift in and out, persistently buried, like the final utterings and haunted screams of whatever such obstructions may have entailed. Whether it’s the crushing riff that forms the backbone of “Part II” or the way “Part IV” sends its distortions into absolute oblivion before deconstructing the body of work limb by limb, note by note, Spotlights are consistently, delightfully destructive. Everything flows perfectly, with We Are All Atomic‘s only issue being that it is relatively short. If the band manage to maintain this level of uncompromising quality, an album’s worth of such seismic shifts may end up being breathtaking in the most literal sense. –Jesper L.
4. Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats – Unlocked
Denzel Curry is the best energizer within the whole US rap game. The kind of guy who can perform a two-hour concert without breathing or stopping to jump. Guess what? This collaborative EP only reinforces Denzel Curry’s status as the rapper who can best deliver phrases that have no other purpose than to violently make your head bang. The productions, courtesy of Kenny Beats, range from boom bap à la Wu-Tang to modern production, samples à la Madlib or J Dilla, as well as big bass and claps typical of the post-Timbaland generation, without ever mooring the boat of his beats on a particular port. Yes, it’s dumb at times, but it’s the most energizing 2020 hip hop recording. –Erwann S.
3. SOUL GLO – Songs To Yeet At The Sun
SOUL GLO’s latest barnburner of an EP deserves its place on this list not just for having the single best album title of the year (or maybe ever?), but also for being punk as fucking shit. Picking up where the likes of Plutocracy left off, SOUL GLO’s explosive blend of back-to-basics hardcore, skramz and hip hop is as bewildering as it is skull-shatteringly addictive. Frontman Pierce Jordan tosses out lyrical hand-grenades one after another like a man possessed — as convincing a voice for the oppressed and pissed-the-fuck-off as any — whilst a near indecipherable barrage of eclectic riffage and furious drumwork propels Songs to Yeet at the Sun to towering heights of fury that not even the likes of END and Gulch managed to attain in 2020. It’s near impossible to keep track of everything that’s going on, and harder still to not be impressed by the spirit and passion clearly fueling the hardcore four-piece from Philly. Whilst I’m by no means well placed to comment authoritatively on the current state of the Afro-Punk scene, even I can say with absolute certainty that its future looks brighter than ever with SOUL GLO at the helm. –Asleep
2. PUP – This Place Sucks Ass
The Canadian punks in PUP hardly need an introduction, but This Place Sucks Ass may very well serve as one. The EP functions as a microcosm of the band’s discography, filled to the brim with catchy choruses, gang vocals delivering what can only be described as a pissed off drunk’s ramblings as effective one-liners, and a whole lot of memorable riffs. Oh, yeah, there’s also a Grandaddy cover in there that, somewhat miraculously, does not suck ass either. Besides all the familiar elements, the final one-two punch of “Floodgates” and “Edmonton” finds PUP at their most manic. During the latter, the band explodes into an absolute fury with vocalist Stefan Babcock perfectly summing up both the EP and band’s entire attitude: “I drunkenly leaned on the urinals / Thinking how I’d missed too many birthdays / And a couple of funerals.” Never change, PUP. –Jesper L.
1. Bring Me the Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror
Whilst the main driving factor behind Post Human: Survival Horror‘s success is not entirely self-evident — whether that be its ‘Linkin Park meets Doom OST’ aesthetic, dystopian pandemic-centric thematics, or simply the fact that it doesn’t sound anything like the abysmal Music to Listen to… — its placement on this list should come as no surprise to anyone with even a cursory interest in music in 2020. Winning by a rather sizable margin, BMTH’s latest endeavour is easily the most cohesive, charming and entertaining release that the Sheffield lads have put out since 2013’s Sempiternal… even if it is safe as anything.
Addressing the shitshow that was 2020 with a tactful blend of antipathy and humor, Survival Horror‘s distillation of our collective woe into 30 minutes of singalong hooks and glitchy riffage is a joyous thing to behold: endlessly cathartic and unsurprisingly addictive. I can say with only the slightest sliver of shame that it sits at the top of my most played projects of the year, its replay value surpassing many more ambitious records more worthy of critical commendation, precisely because its dedication to overblown, dumb fun is exactly what was needed to get through this festering turd of a year. I, of course, remain fearful for BMTH’s future given their track record, but the respect for their roots and level of polish demonstrated here makes me unexpectedly hopeful for what’s to come. Whatever direction they choose to take, Survival Horror proves that Bring Me the Horizon are no longer the vapid and creatively-defunct outfit that spat out the worst EP of 2019. Thank fuck for that. –Asleep