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06.21.21 Hospital 🏥 Jams06.11.21 An Al BAM a Day - June 2021
05.12.21 Anal Buma Day - May 202104.01.21 Analbum a Day - April 2021
03.01.21 An Album a Day - March 2021 02.01.21 An Album a Day - February 2021
01.08.21 An Album a Day - January 202101.01.21 Dewinged's AOTY 2020
12.24.20 Decrepit's AOTY 2000: One-liner Edition12.07.20 Defrosted's AOTY 1990
11.27.20 Dewinged's AOTY 1980 11.18.20 Dewinged's AOTY 1970
09.26.20 Officially Papa Dewi 03.22.20 MARCH MADNESS 2020 WINNER: 👑TRIFOLIU
03.19.20 MARCH MADNESS 2020 [💀R5 // THE UNDYI03.18.20 MARCH MADNESS 2020 [💥R4 // THE BRAVE
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Dewinged's AOTY 2020

What a year, my dear Sputters. I'm glad this site exists, I'm glad you all exist, which has somehow helped me keep my sanity. Never change Sputnik, never stop being hilarious, keep the music flowing and never stop sharing the love. I'm thankful and glad to be part of this madness and I wish you all a better 2021. And now, here are my favorite albums of the year, hope you enjoy it!
100Bo Ningen
Sudden Fictions

Release date: June 26th
Label: Alcopop!
Genre: Psychedelic rock / Noise

My favorite Japanese bohemian hippies didn't strike the same chord with their 4th full length as previous releases. Their acid punk and extreme psychedelia has matured somehow. Gone is the savage unpredictability of their live shows, replaced by a a more measured and calculated songwriting which is, by no means, a demeanor of their quality as musicians and composers, but a sign that even the wildest of fires sooner or later finds the water that would extinguish the flames.
Enter the Mirror

Release date: April 3rd
Label: Temporary Residence
Genre: Kraut rock

April was a busy month, and even the weaker releases got a hold of me at some point. An example would be kraut rock cosmonauts Maserati's 8th release. Even if it has been regarded as the worst entry in their catalogue, the fact that they have such a solid discography accounts for the "Enter the Mirror" to be a fun jam. Check "Killing Time" if you, like me, have a soft spot for space rock jams led by a robotic voice.
Flowers of Evil

Release date: August 28th
Label: House of Mythology
Genre: Synthpop

I was dreading this write-up since August. Ulver was gonna get a spot in my AOTY list no matter what they released. Ulver are Ulver. That's about it. "Flowers of Evil" was somehow a disappointment. A collections of b-sides or discarded tracks from the "The Assassination..." period that fails to turn the page on the band's romance with 80s synth pop. The problem is not the album per se, which is always a decent jam from the moment that the needle goes down on the record, the problem is that the band that released it was Ulver.
97Ai Aso
The Faintest Hint

Release date: July 3rd
Label: Ideological Organ
Genre: Singer songwriter

Atsuo from Boris and Stephen O'Malley from Sunn 0))) sitting on a studio with a Japanese singer songwriter. What the hell is going on. I was expecting to hear a wall of distortion with an ethereal voice trying to break through the static, but instead here's Aso Ai, just a singer songwriter whispering tunes in her mother tongue with the sole company of her acoustic. Aso's compositions are minimal, stark, almost to an insulting level. It's like having her in the room, as a ghostly presence, singing her songs next to you. Sometimes this year, it was all I needed.
96Causa sui

Release date: November 13th
Label: El Paraiso
Genre: Psychedelic rock

The only thing I regret going in Causa Sui's latest jam is not having the opium needed for the trip. Can't say that the desert lords have crafted a new album, since the improvisation feeling and flawless flow of their previous albums is also present in "Szabodelico". Tropical soundscapes of sand and palm trees that almost feel like a mirage. Its length is quite unforgiving, going over an hour, which in this time and age can only lead to a soundburn. With age, and my attention spawn suffering blow after blow every Friday of new releases, albums like this are hard to fit, but given the time and the mood, free jams don't get much better than this.
95Violet Cold
Noir Kid

Release date: March 1st
Label: Self
Genre: Black metal... Dance!

I reviewed this back in March, or at least I tried to, because this time, Emin Guliyev decided to make things the hard way and there's no way to classify the content encapsulated in "Noir Kid". There is black metal, the spacious type, and along with that there is... dance music, and chipmunk choruses, and regional chants from his homeland in Azerbaijan, and the whole cocktail is one of strangest and the same time most interesting records of the year without a doubt. I personally love the stuff in "Battle Unicorn" and specially "Euphoria", but still need some time, maybe years to assimilate a song like "Synergy".
94Rubber tea

Release date: June 5th
Label: Self
Genre: Progressive rock

Discovered this myself around summer. A very young group of German musicians (students, I think?) doing crazy good prog, but it was Vanessa Gross' incredible vocals. There's an impressive amount of instruments used on the record, plus the production work is outstanding. The band oozes Pink Floyd and 70s prog and paints it with colorful melodies and long-winded tracks that show the ambition behind the project. I'm convinced Rubber Tea is poised to do great things in the immediate future, so keep them in your radar.

Release date: June 12th
Label: Ahead Of Our Time
Genre: Afrobeat

I'm as familiar with Afrobeat as I'm familiar with Lithuanian politics, but the moment you hear Tony Allen's drum beat in "International Love Affair"... that's instant love my dears. Keleketla! is a beautiful project, schemed by the visible heads of Ninja Tune and a whole array of South African musicians, with the help of the charity organization In Place of War. The first meetings between London and South Africa made possible that Afrojazz legends like Allen, Sibusile Xaba and Yugen Blakrok (which had participated in the Black Panther OST last year) were able to contribute to this amazing album.
92A.A. Williams
Forever Blue

Release date: July 3rd
Label: Bella Union
Genre: Post rock / Singer songwriter

If touring with Cult of Luna wasn't guarantee enough of Williams' capability to produce a spellbinding first full length prior to its release, the album dropping in the mid of summer through Bella Union confirmed what everyone lucky enough to attend that tour experienced first hand: that Williams is one of the most promising singer songwriters of the doomverse, soon to match the heights of established artists like Chelsea Wolf. Check "Fearless" for a glimpse into what a collaboration with the Swedish post metal titans would sound like. One can only hope.
91Mrs. Piss

Release date: May 29th
Label: Sargent House
Genre: Noise rock / Sludge

The confinement due to the pandemic that has shredded the world this year has destroyed the very foundations of many musicians whose main income was touring. It has also prompted albums that only God knows if they would have existed i this pandemic had never happened. Mrs. Piss, the collaboration between Chelsea Wolfe and drummer Jess Gowrie is one of many. Not short of controversy, the project's first release is a welcomed entry for fans of the American queen of gothic doom, with some tracks being played at an unusual speed considering Wolfe's catalogue and others closer to her profanities in her main gig.
90High Priestess
Casting the Circle

Release date: April 10th
Label: Ripple
Genre: Doomthat

A significant improvement over the Californian trio's debut. The Sabbath component is still strong in them, but in their sophomore they have put special attention on vocal harmonies, which gives their music an extra dimension and far more depth. I can feel they still have a better album in them, maybe if they were able to mask the rigid limitations of the genre they are encapsulated in. Faster tempos, extra instrumentation, I don't know... They have such a solid base to construct upon that I can only see them going up from here, so time will tell!
The Affair of the Poisons

Release date: October 9th
Label: Peaceville
Genre: Heavy metal

After 3 long plays and a hot EP last year, riff master James McBain has kept busy during most of the year and the prove is this fourth full length. Once more, McBain delivers a delightful collections of heavy metal anthems that scream Motorhead, Sodom and every 80s NWOBHM act you want to think off but with their engines on turbo mode. There's as much variation here as in my inner clothes shelf: none. No time for ballads, acoustics and all that nonsense. This is heavy metal in 2020 at its best, or speed metal if you wanna get into technicalities, played like there was no tomorrow.
88Alexia Avina

Release date: October 9th
Label: Topshelf
Genre: Singer songwriter

One of the albums I was very excited about after a fantastic LP last year. In said EP, new rising star Avina combined the ambient profile of artists like Grouper with dream folk jewels of the past like Linda Perhacs. Considering she had already flirted with dream pop on her debut, her third release could go anyway, and unsurprisingly, her latest comprises the best of what the Boston singer songwriter has to offer. Dreamy compositions painted with a lot of detail, with Avina's bewitching voice often looping harmonies on top of it all. In this album, she takes a more frontal approach in some of the tracks, showing a more direct approach which is also interesting.
87Jaye Jayle

Release date: August 7th
Label: Sargent House
Genre: Darkwave / Dark blues

Evan Patterson and co. have taken quite a dark turn in this year's release. This distances from the blues rock, Nick Cave worship of previous album and delves into the darkest corners of electronic rockabilly with pummeling beats, asphyxiating atmosphere and unsettling melodies. It's a huge step forward for the band in terms of creativity although I may say I miss some of the more simple, gloomy Americana of previous albums. Nevertheless, don't miss the chance to touch on this. The more collected tracks like "The River Spree" are specially tasty.
Origin of the Alimonies

Release date: November 12th
Label: Self? Unknown?
Genre: Avant-garde / Black metal

In the year of our Lord, Hunter becomes Huntress and Liturgy releases another polarizing, confusing and stunning album. Five albums in and I still don't know what to make of Liturgy. "Aesthetica" was one of my favorite albums of 2011, from there I feel like I lost the IQ necessary to fully grasp what Hendrix is trying to convey. The blend of classical music with ferocious black metal is hard to assimilate but it never ceases to amaze me the effort that goes to create such intricate pieces of work like this fifth release. There is no band capable of doing anything like this at the moment, that I am aware of, and that alone deserves recognition.
85Hayley Williams
Petals for Armor

Release date: May 8th
Label: Atlantic
Genre: Indie pop

Aaah Hayley, you dropped your art drop by drop and by the time spring was in full swing most of us had forgotten you had a whole album coming. The marketing technique behind the Paramore commander was dubious to say the least. In my case, I absolutely felt in love with "Simmer" and with slight less intensity, the two other tracks that were released first at the beginning of the year, "Cinnamon" and the other one that I don't even remember. The final product left me hanging for "Simmer" part 2. No other track came close, which was rather disappointing. As a whole, the album is a decent electro-pop jam but I doubt time will treat it well.
It Is What It Is

Release date: April 3rd
Label: Brainfeeder
Genre: Neo-soul

I'm surprised how little traction this album got here. Bass virtuoso Stephen Bruner a.k.a. Thundercat delivers a wonderful piece of cosmic jazz, soul and funk with "It is what it is", taking on a slightly more serious approach that on his last album. His bass playing is just hypnotic and even his falsettos sound better than ever. Tracks like "I Love Louis Cole" or "How Sway" are pure madness, while "Interestellar Love" is probably my favorite Thundercat tune, ever.
83Serpent Column

Release date: September 30th
Label: Mystiskaos
Genre: Tech death

Thanks to tectactoe that put me in the same rails of this complete madman that goes by the name of Whitewalker. This is a taxing listen, not gonna lie. Chaos chained to a rock about to be demolished from the inside due to the spirit living inside throwing itself against the walls trying to break free. I called this tech death but there is much more going on and repeated listens have only confused me further in regards to how, where or what to classify "Kathodos". In small doses this is a blast to sit through, and I specially love the aesthetic of this and past works of Serpent Column. I also seem to have missed a second album released this year, like I said, you can't really control or predict chaos.
The Baring of Shadows

Release date: May 15th
Label: Self?
Genre: Post metal

I wish Kardashev would just take the next step and craft a proper full length cause this is the second EP they put out in 3 years and I am always left wanting. Once more, my favorite Arizona space nerds have crafted a monstrous collection of four tracks of heavy, atmospheric and sumptuous post metal. In this new EP, they have doubled up on the atmospheric elements and cut-off the djent, while Garrett's vocals sound better than ever, shaving the ground with earth-shattering growls and impervious clean melodies. And I say "impervious" because the sonic storm happening behind them is unrelenting, specially on the second track "Snow-Sleep". So take a note, Kardashev, 2021 is your year, bring on that LP.
Mandala of Fear

Release date: March 13th
Label: Prosthetic
Genre: Sludge / Post metal / Americana

Imagine Roger Waters and David Gilmour fronting a stoner prog band. I know, it sounds awful. Ok, let's forget about that. Imagine a band trying to mesh impossible concepts like... let's say, sludge and americana. Well, here's the fact. Considering the roots of both styles, this shouldn't be too difficult, isn't it? Huntsmen achieve this dense mix of genres with "Mandala of Fear", a cocktail of swampy riffs and thunderous drums. Long instrumental tracks serve as a rite of passage because the real genius of Huntsmen starts on fourth track "God Will Stop Trying", which introduces a new surprise with the incorporation of Aimee Bueno on vocals. Her singing feels a bit underused, and could have fit those long instrumental sections, but... oh well.
80Carpenter Brut
Blood Machines OST

Release date: April 18th
Label: Unknown
Genre: Synthwave / OST

I may be very easy to impress when it comes to synth wave, but good ol' Carpenter Brut always hits the right notes for me. As a soundtrack for Seth Ickerman's cosmic opera "Blood Machines", Franck Hueso's latest creation is another thriling entry in his discography. I haven't watched the film yet, the trailer looks... interesting, but in combination with this soundtrack I believe is gonna be quite a trip. From IMDB: "An artificial intelligence escapes her spaceship to turn into a female ghost and challenges two blade runners to a galactic chase." There, sold.

Release date: May 8th
Label: Napalm
Genre: Atmospheric black metal

To talk about "Premonitions" means to talk about one, and only song: "The Deluge". I don't care what this band has done in the past. If they were trve black metal, if Atari had a huge crush on them, if this last album is not up to standards with... Stop! I don't care! That song, my friends, is everything. It starts with probably the worst drum sample I've heard since the conception of Fruity Loops, and a very predictable intro but then Crespo's growls burst in and things start to look really frosty. When Chloe Bray's chorus kicks in I'm hovering over the fields of New Zealand, naked, like a powerful ancient being, lost in a dream. Then it's riff after riff, chorus once again, solos, more growls, more riffs... ecstasy. The rest of the album doesn't hold up to "The Deluge". Chloe shows improvement, and the band drifts away from black metal but that's about it.
78Sangre de Muerdago

Release date: November 6th
Label: Self
Genre: Celtic music

There are a few things I miss after living 11 years in a country which is fairly different from my homeland, but the one I miss the most is the long mountain hikes. It's not like there are no mountains in Japan, hell, I even climbed Mount Fuji during the longest night of my life in 2010 but what I mean, how accessible was mother nature from my place. At the time I was really heavily into Celtic music, with names like Luar Na Lubre, Carlos Nuñez and Kila on constant rotation in the car. Sangre de Muerdago captures that feeling, a perfectly preserved piece of music that speaks to me of those days, thanks to the fidelity with which Pablo Urssuson and his crew play their wonderful music.
77Tan Cologne
Cave Vaults on the Moon in New Mexico

Release date: February 14th
Label: Labrador
Genre: Dream pop

Let's get into some obscure stuff for a bit. I found this well into the year, almost by chance. Lauren Green and Marissa Macias are a duo of multi-instrumentalists based in Taos (New Mexico) that are somewhat akin to running into alien encounters and recording in caves while at the same time producing some of the best dream pop I heard this year. The record sounds like it should, almost effortless, dreamy, lethargic. Even Green's mum gets a spot playing flute on 3 of the tracks. A fact that I found, for some reason, extremely cute. For fans of Beach House, Cocteau Twins and all things budgie would, at least, give a 4.
76Jaga Jazzist

Release date: August 7th
Label: Feeder
Genre: Prog jazz

It had been quite some time since the jazz cousins of Motorpsycho had released something under the name of Jaga Jazzist, but here they are. Only four tracks, but with a fair length to each of them, the Norwegians continue where they left it with "Starfire" in 2015. Their prog tinged brand of jazz fusion is a complete delight, even if for some is not the case. "Pyramid" takes its time to get started, with "Tomita" opening the album on a very standard jazz manner, until it catches up after five minutes. But the real essence of the project lies in side B, with "The Shrine" being complete madness mid-track and the closer "Apex" taking the album into synth wave territory.
Ultimate Success Today

Release date: July 17th
Label: Domino
Genre: Post punk

The Detroit post punk gang continue to produce some of the best material the genre has to offer, and this new collection of 10 abrasive tracks is the proof. The band's fifth release is as depressive as ever, with a Joe Casey delivering sharp lyrical blades into your ears. The guitar work of Greg Aheenis fairly impressive, loud and caustic where it needs to be and creeping in the back when it's not needed. I love the feature of Half Waif's very own Nandi Rose Plunkett on "June 21" which is probably my favorite track of the album.

Release date: February 14th
Label: Rise
Genre: Previously death'n'roll, now only roll?

Two things are crucial when going into this year's Kvelertak. One, the former dude on vocals is gone, and now we have a new dude. And second this was produced by the dude himself, Kurt Ballou in his lair. Some of the spark of Kevelertak's first album is gone, yes, like that the memory of that first kiss that will never feel the same again. In exchange, this is an album with a lot more musicality (totally made that up), than their previous albums. "Splid" is hella fun, from start to finish, with tracks like Crack of Doom which features Mastodon's Troy Sanders (I swear to God he's everywhere these days, well everywhere but in Mastodon), and my hard favorite "Bratebrann" (sorry Scandinavian friends, don't have that little circle on top of the "a").
73Another Sky
I Slept On The Floor

Release date: August 7th
Label: Fiction
Genre: Indie pop

It only takes a few seconds of exposition to Catrin Vincent's voice to know that you are listening to something special. It took me a little of research to confirm I wasn't listening to some rare form of baritone rocking incredible falsetto notes. It was equally rare to find out, further down the album, Vincent's lower tones. Her range and power of projection are honestly impressive. But this is just the peak of the iceberg, because Another Sky is such an incredible act that I am surprised they are not at the height of other big names like Kings of Leon or Arcade Fire. Go listen to "Fell in Love with the City" and "The Cracks" and hear for yourself.
72Kairon IRSE!

Release date: September 11th
Label: Svart
Genre: Psychedelic rock

I somehow feel bad for being the only one that reviewed this here while underselling it a bit, according to a lot of people's reactions in the following months. I gotta say that from a certain perspective, "Polysomn" is one if not the best psychedelic rock release of the year, but considering the bigger picture, it doesn't achieve or shows anything that hasn't been done before. The only difference being that this is REALLY well done. I thought that Tame Impala or Temples had mastered the vintage sound, but the Finnish have indeed created something special here. The opener "Psionic Static" is a perfect blend of shoegaze and psychedelic, one of my favorite jams of the year, with "An Bat None" not far behind.
71Flying Horseman

Release date: June 12th
Label: Unday
Genre: Indie rock

In 2018, Papa Universe introduced me to this band with an album called "Rooms/Ruins", which quickly became one of my favorites of that year. He also introduced me, or let's say taught me, how to listen and appreciate styles that were alien to me, as for example, post punk. I would have never listed Protomartyr here if it wasn0t for me. Anyway, as you all know, SandwichBubble's list happened with the sad news, I won't repeat it here, and it got me thinking on how much I miss the old man. And I realized how much I missed it because this was released in June and I didn't know until last month. If he was around he would have spammed my shoutbox or wrote a caustic review about it. The album is incredible, a fantastic follow up to their 2018's release, and Uni wants you all to jam it.
70Gustavo Santaolalla
The Last of Us Part II

Release date: June 19th
Label: Sony Classical
Genre: Soundtrack

I am not going to spend much of this blurb's character limits going about the controversy regarding what otherwise is the undisputable game of the year, but focusing on Gustavo Santaolalla's second work for the series after his laureated labor for the first game. Let's just say he did it again. Santaolalla takes everything that made the original soundtrack and amps it with extended versions of the main theme. Rivaling the masters of horror soundtracks like Akira Yamaoka, the Argentinian composer introduces even more sets pieces of fear and despair but also incorporating the melancholy and that enrapturing feeling of loneliness of the first game. And at times, he only needs a few strokes on a string to do it.
The Great Dismal

Release date: October 30th
Label: Relapse
Genre: Shoegaze

What a giant's step from the previous album, it's almost hard to believe it's the same band. How good has Nothing to be when you have a label like Relapse releasing your shoegaze band. "The Great Dismal" is the undisputed example of how graciously Nothing's brand of noisy, heavy shoegaze has aged, and how they may have peaked 5 records in their career. That distortion is so amazing it should be straight up forbidden for being too powerful. Unfair competition. It's also remarkable Will Yip's work behind the controls, who from this can say he has achieved the impossible: A shoegaze album without burying the vocals.

Release date: July 3rd
Label: Blood Sucker / Fangs Anal Satan
Genre: Sludge / Punk

Boris was another band which had extensive plans for touring in 2020, which had to be cancelled/postponed until a new world order exists. In the meantime, they wrote a shit ton of music, collaborated once again with Merzsbow and kept busy themselves in the local scene. "No" is a return to punk Boris, in a way the band haven't done in a good while, channeling their frustration and anger through the 11 tracks that form the album.
67Eternal Champion
Ravening Iron

Release date: November 20th
Label: No Remorse
Genre: Heavy metal
A few bands like Haunt or Hallas have been on some sort of revival wave that brings the best of years past, years when hard rock and heavy metal were at their golden period. Eternal Champion is another one of those bands. Embracing both the stupidity of metal (just look at that cover for the love of the Serpent Queen), and reviving a sound that has been dead for decades with very few exceptions. This is so metal that it's not strange to see vocalist Jason Tarpey wielding a long sword among the crowd during live shows, back when we used to have those, that is.
66Regarde Les Hommes Tomber

Release date: February 18th
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Black metal

France has a black metal problem. The problem being that there are too many good bands so I can't keep track of all of them. Regarde les hommes tomber ("See How They Fall" in the language of Tolkien), take the name from the Jacques Audiard film of the same name, and different from the likes of French stalwart names like Alcest, they practice a brutalized form of black metal with strong emphasis on atmosphere and occasionally on dissonance ala your beloved DSO. "Ascension" is their third album and it's an ambitious one, with track lengths going over the 8 minute mark which slightly swamps the album towards the middle but still manages to close on a high note with "The Event Horizon" (these guys really like movies, don't they?)
65Hilary Woods

Release date: March 13th
Label: Sacred Bones
Genre: Darkwave... ambient... fol... hell I don't know

For her second album, 2oods took a turn from "Colt", her amazing debut of two years ago, and veered towards a darker, more primal version of her music, with the help of Norwegian noise lord Lasse Marhaug. The couple hence created the corrupted version of an Enya record. It's not the direction I thought Woods would take, following the darkwave masked as folk of, and I repeat myself but it's really... Chelsea Wolfe, which undoubtedly suits her voice and songwriting, but I can't help but feel she sacrificed something of her unique sound, represented in all its glory on her debut, so be sure to check that one out too!

Release date: September 4th
Label: Neurot / Rocket
Genre: Noise / Industrial

I reviewed the last album of the Brazilian industrial hardcore sorcerers Deafkids last year. I became aware of them after reading Neurosis' Steve Von Till introduction to the trio somewhere on the vast net. My mind was blown with what I could only describe as a taxing trip of mezcaline to some voodoo chief's worst nightmare. One year later, Deafkids have allied with Petbrick the duo formed by Sepultura's Igor Cavalera and Wayne Adams to produce a mutation of both bands aptly called Deafbrick. The result is pure industrial savagery with tribal drums and unhinged riffs alternating with bleak spoken passages and machinery manipulation. Avoid if you have a migraine (not like I did on release day).

Release date: February 14th
Label: Aqualamb
Genre: Doom

The pool of doom bands fronted by ladies have been in constant rise in the last years, and even Frayle didn't show anything worth dying for with their EP "The White Witch", two years ago. COme 2020 and Frayle has enough material for a proper debut and my surprise was well... immense. Not only the album sounds like leagues better than the EP, the voice of Gwyn Strang in a better way, blending perfectly with the heavy beats the band produce to support her. There's no shift in style, and Frayle still play doom by-the-book, but they sound on top of the game. I strongly recommend listening to "Darker than Black" and try to not to break your neck.
There Is No Year

Release date: January 17th
Label: Matador
Genre: Post... punsouknl

I was hooked to these guys since the moment "Disposition" dropped early in the year. Far from my comfort zone, but the mix of soul and gospel with a dark spawn of indie rock and even post punk got me into their game. The rest of the album hid some surprises too, specially the closer which I saw being recommended by the Roadburn family (and I never doubt the Roadburn family). Unfortunately they haven't seen much love around these parts, aside from myself and contribro Neekafat, whom I managed to talk into making a beautiful write-up of the album, so go read it! (Tx neek!)
61Black Market Brass
Undying Thirst

Release date: February 28th
Label: Colemine
Genre: Jazz / Funk

Official debut from this jazz funk gang from Minneapolis. Gotta thank zakalwe for indirectly making me aware of their existence. Just looking at the band name and checking on that cover knew this was gonna be my cup of very black coffee, and sure it was. There's a lot going on here, voodoo funk taken from a spy movie when the protagonist gets cooked on a human size pot on some dark alley by a group of urban cannibals, but that's not the point. The percussion and drum work on this thing is truly remarkable, courtesy of David Tullis (congas) and Murphy Janssen (drums), while the guitar work of Mitch Sigurdson also does some really wild wah wah stuff. The brass section, as one would expect is the cherry on top. Good find zaka!
60Psychotic Waltz
The God-Shaped Void

Release date: February 14th
Label: InsideOut
Genre: Progressive metal

It was a surprise to see a band like Psychotic Waltz, one of the most important names of progressive metal during the 90s to explode the way they did on this site with this new album. I wasn't very familiar with them until this year, one of those bands I kept hearing about but never really crossed paths with. "The God-Shaped Void" really shows a band that in spite of their age still manage to sound relevant to this time and age. Add one of the best cover artworks of the year and there you have one of the most important metal releases of 2020.

Release date: November 13th
Label: Avalanche
Genre: Shoegaze

The always busy Justin Broadrick didn't want miss the chance of leaving his imprint on this fatal 2020, to which the music of Jesu is a an oddly good fit. I can't say I'm the biggest Jesu fan, only heard one or two albums before this one which were around ok territory for me. This one felt much better for some reason, with some real shoegaze wonders like "Alone" or slowcore manifestations like the 9 minutes of "Terminus". I don't know if this is Jesu at its best, but I would be surprised if it wasn't.
58Black Curse
Endless Wound

Release date: April 24th
Label: Sepulchral death
Genre: Blackened death

It's hard to believe this is a debut, but the four-piece from Denver landed on 2020 like a fucking juggernaut. Bouncing from death metal to sludge, then to grindcore, then a breakdown here and there, then blasting... Vocals are vile, screams and growls drenched in reverb that resonate like they were speaking from the walls of a cavern and an overall sound that doesn't let up. Truly one of the essential releases regarding extreme metal this year and a band that is bound to become a Sputcore classic in the years to come if they keep the pace.
57Anna von Hausswolff
All Thoughts Fly

Release date: September 25th
Label: Southern Lord
Genre: Drone

At the time of writing this blurb I'm revisiting "All Thoughts Fly". Cold rain splashes the window at noon while shy rays of light find their way through the storm clouds into the room. Hausswolff's glorious organ fills my chambers with notes and my 3 month old daughter sleeps like a log next to me (thanks oh great Anna Von Hausswolff!) It's easy to disregard this album as a anecdotal release due to the lack of Hausswolff's emblematic vocals but when heard with the proper attitude (that is treating it as an ambient piece of work where the artist communes with her instrument), you realize how ridiculously talented the Swedish organist is. I said it before when I reviewed "Dead Magic" back in 2018, but we are in the presence of an artist whose work will be the talk of generations to come.
56Julianna Barwick
Healing Is a Miracle

Release date: July 10th
Label: Ninja Tune
Genre: Ambient

No, Julianna, YOU are the miracle, my dear. The American composer delivers once more a stunning collection of celestial choral songs that I do hope they play on my way up to heaven when the time comes for me to meet the maker. Sigur Ros' very own Jonsi is credited as songwriter (and seems to have a made a better job here than on his own record) and he even has a cameo in one of the tracks but Barwick's myriad of vocal harmonies drown our Icelandic hero under layers and layers of musical ambrosia. Music for the gods.
55Unleash The Archers

Release date: August 21st
Label: Napalm
Genre: Power metal

This year I've noticed a crescent interest into power metal... for some unknown reason. The cheesier the better, although it had to be a lady in charge of vocals otherwise I would just automatically discard it. Enter an unknown band (for me) with a name that brings up severe traumas from Anor Londo and holy crap, this thing is amazing from start to finish. Echoes of Helloween, early Queensryche, Nightwish... Brittney Slayes is an absolute powerhouse, while the band churns out one metal anthem after the other. I am in no position to make these kind of claims but fuck me if this is not one of the best power metal albums of the year.
54Of Feather and Bone
Sulfuric Disintegration

Release date: November 13th
Label: Profound Lore
Genre: Death metal

I see death metal as having two variants. It can go the way of Cannibal Corpse with extremely high kick drums and songs that talk about eating your own intestines' after vomiting a whole cow you tried to fuck in advance with a spiked dildo OR it can be the kind that speaks about catacombs, skeletons masturbating in their stone coffins to the beat of some gravelord's farts and whose sound resembles to that of a giant burp on a tunnel. I like the second type but sometimes you come across bands that don't draw the line so easily. The trio from Denver captivated me in 2018 with "Bestial Hymns of Perversion" so I was hyped for this third album. It didn't disappoint.
53Hail Spirit Noir
Eden In Reverse

Release date: June 19th
Label: Agonia
Genre: Prog metal

After the gothic horror of "Mayhem in Blue" I did not expect the Greek to create such an incredible piece of modern space prog, where clean vocals prevail and synths run amok throughout the band's fourth release. The black metal is gone almost completely, like it has never existed in the bands core, and I guess four years and jamming with other bands would have that effect. A lot of people were disappointed with the change. I welcomed it with open arms since I've been digging prog a lot in the last year.
52Sea Oleena
Weaving A Basket

Release date: October 31st
Label: Self?
Genre: Ambient / Singer songwriter

I remember knowing of Sea Oleena a long time ago, around 2016 I believe, when I fell down the rabbit hole of Grouper-like artists and started digging the likes of Julianna Barwick, Many Rooms, Jenny Hval and many more names. The case of Oleena, along with her music, had quite an impact, due to the honestly fragile nature of her craft. The album has been produced by her brother Luke Loseth who has been with her since the beginning but doesn't get enough credit in my opinion. It's her fifth release and probably her most solid work up to date.
51Ars Magna Umbrae

I rarely turn down a release on I Voidhanger, simply because they have been curating incredible music since way before I even had the slightest idea of said incredible music. Here's a name you haven't heard much about and one that you, beasts of all things black metal, will regret not having heard about just yet. We all know what's happening with black metal down in Poland. The country of the Witcher might have seen some real shit because for some reason, there is a continuous flow of amazing black metal bands and it's not showing signs of slowing down. Ars Magna Umbrae is a one man project, of anonymous nature as one would expect, and whose bandcamp site claims it will "serve as an integral initiation into the ancient art and craft of Chthonic worship". Hell, I'm in.

Release date: March 20th
Label: Relapse
Genre: Folk

After a couple of albums struggling to find a proper balance between black metal and folk, Amalie Brunn seem to have decided to scrap the metal while focusing on her roots and Scandinavian folk music. The result is breathtaking, like Johnny Depp would say. Not only has Myrkur reinvented herself, she has also produced a beautiful Viking folk record (if you would allow me some simple thinking here), that suits her voice in a way none of her previous album did. I don't miss the shrieks, I don't miss the blast beats, and I feel this is a path she has been meant to walk for a very long time. Just listen to "Gudernes Vilje" and embrace the mountains with your soul.

Release date: September 18th
Label: Self?
Genre: Doomgaze

Jesper is the one to blame for Iress making their way through to this list. Heavy doom songs with a layer of shoegaze and a lady on vocal duties? You know that's my sauce. In this case, the sauce is thick and dense like petrol oil flooding my brain. I still have to check their debut but this is a band I am gonna have to keep under severe watch. Talking about Jesper, he had the courtesy of writing a hell of a review for the album so be sure to give it a read too!
48Steve Von Till
No Wilderness Deep Enough

Release date: August 7th
Label: Neurot
Genre: Singer songwriter

It's impossible to be into heavy music and ignore the colossal presence that a band like Neurosis has both on stage and on record. Before the pandemic, I was lucky to catch Neurosis live for the first time in my life in Osaka (or was it last year?!). Anyway, it was an experience like no other, as you can imagine. Steve Von Till, as well as Scott Kelly have been producing music on their own for years now, digging deeper into those quiet passages that exist in Neurosis' music. The evolution in their craft has been tangible in recent years. Scott Kelly has branched out with Blood and Time and Von Till the same with Harvestman. The scope of their creations is enormous, hard to keep up with, but when Von Till released this album, for a moment it felt like time had stopped and only the album existed. A soundscape of eternal sunsets, engineered by the expert hand of Randall Dunn.
Thunder In the Mountains

Release date: February 14th
Label: Avantgarde
Genre: Atmospheric black metal

Another homie's project. Sevengill has been producing atmoblack since 2016 under this project (as far as I know) and I've been enjoying to see the constant growth with every output, but this album really, really impressed me. I find no reason to not claim this is one of the best atmoblack metal released I heard this year. The vocals are on point, the riffs aplenty and the rhythm section is as tight as it should be. On top of that, there is a whole array of folk arrangements, acoustic passages and guitar solos that make this album one hell of a ride through the snowy peaks of the genre. Hats off, Seven!
46Yuri Gagarin
The Outskirts of Reality

Release date: January 31st
Label: Kommun 2
Genre: Space rock

Early this year, the astronaut stoner squad from Sweden dropped this four track trip into a black hole with the same gravitational force that Mr. Gagarin felt the first time he was launched into outer space. The ten minute opener "QSO" is easily one of the best space rock jams of the year, a flanger ride aboard an incessant drum beat pummeling over one single note, for ten minutes, while guitar goes wild left and the intensity of it keeps growing more and more with every minute. The mid-tracks are not on the same level, albeit enjoyable, while the closer again shows the best face of the band with a kraut rock epic of eight minutes. One-way ticket folks! Hop on it!
45My Dying Bride
The Ghost of Orion

Release date: March 6th
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Doom

The legends, the MASTERS of doom made an official comeback a few months into the year and it felt like they were never gone in the first place. It's commendable how they have managed to preserve their sound unscathed during all these years, while being able to produce an album that carries that legacy into modern times effortlessly. The Bride still sounds as sad and devastating as ever, violin included. The's ever done. The process of creating this album was specially hard for singer Aaron Aaron Stainthorpe, whose daughter was diagnosed a cancer, making Aaron step back from the writing and recording for a while. After a whole year and with the band, studio and label backing him up, Aaron could finish his parts, and it might be one of the best things he has ever done.
44Faceless Burial

Release date: August 7th
Label: Dark Descent
Genre: Death metal

I've missed a lot of death metal releases this year I wanted to give time to, partly because contribro theNotrap a.k.a. "the rev machine" wouldn't stop churning out reviews for albums I wanted to check while life kept happening and stealing that precious time. No better way to spend an evening after work than with someone regurgitating right into your ears, right? Well, there were a few I was able to sit down and enjoy. Faceless Burial's second album was one of them. The trio's thunderous punch of OSDM melts your face in only a few seconds. It's an spiritual beating from there, as long as you can endure, or if you are one of those, as much as you can enjoy.
Loop of Yesterdays

Release date: April 10th
Label: Solid State
Genre: Avant thrash (lol)

The spawn of the Extol bros, ex-Dillinger Escape Plan bassist Liam Wilson and ex-pop singer Eleni Zafiriadou. Their debut crashed my top 10 two years ago with a mix of thrash, post hardcore and Eleni's demential screams and entrancing clean vocals. The formula didn't change for their second album, and even the production saw some slight improvements in comparison to their debut but I guess the surprise factor was gone and even if I still thoroughly enjoyed this album, I can't say it broke my jaw the way their debut did. That been said, Azusa remains as one of my favorite recent discoveries and I will take in whatever they have to offer, anytime!
42Green druid
At the Maw of Ruin

Release date: December 4th
Label: Earache
Genre: Stoner doom

A late entry since it was just released a few weeks ago bu yeah, way to crash land on an AOTY list, boys. Normally I would disregard a band wearing black robes that is not Sunn 0))), Behemoth or Batushka but guess I'll have to add one more exception to the list. Featuring one of the most interesting vocalists of the genre, in the flesh of guitarist Chris McLaughlin, Denver seems to have an increasingly crazy scene of quality bands (this is the third on the list, as far as I know), so I may have to pack my shit up and move up there for the time being. "At the Maw of Ruin" is the 5-piece's second album. I may have heard the debut, cause the name rings a bell but honestly I don't remember, all I know is that had this been released earlier this year it would have been close to my top 10.
41Mary Lattimore
Silver Ladders

Release date: October 9th
Label: Ghostly
Genre: Ambient

My daughter was only a few weeks old when Mary Lattimore dropped her 12th album. Needless to say, those were one sleepless night after the other. This record made us both company during many of those nights and put the baby to sleep with an effectivity of approximately 70%, and for that I will be eternally grateful to Ms. Lattimore and god bless her art. The album is just amazing. Lattimore's harp is an instrument from another world, another dimension, gifting us mortals with undecipherable holiness in sonic form. If you haven't heard it yet make yourself a favor, get some good headphones, take a good bath, drink a beer and let it drive you.
Under a Godless Veil

Release date: October 30th
Label: Napalm
Genre: Gothic doom

Draconian are peerless at this point in their career. It doesn't matter they stick to the safe version of their formula of traditional gothic doom, if it works why fix it? New singer Heike Langhans has fit in the Draconian puzzle like it was her fate, while Anders Jacobsson provides the gutturals and spoken voice in the same manner he has been doing since Draconian's conception. The album has a generous length, going over an hour, so it's definitely a trial of patience, but given time it unravels beautifully. The rest is just about the mood.
39Ichiko Aoba
Windswept Adan

Release date: December 2nd
Label: Hermine
Genre: Singer songwriter

Having been acquainted with Aoba-san's music only through "Mahoboroshiya" in 2016, I had lost track of the girl until this year you all hyped the crap out of this album (I blame Johnny and Aberf in particular) and I just can't resist a good hype train so I gave it a check. It was during lunch with the wife last week. That day we both had lunch in silence, a rare occurrence, as Aoba-san's howls filled the room and a feeling I can only describe as Icelandic invaded us both. This is very different from the simple acoustic guitar based tone of Mahoboroshiya (CHECK ZER...! yes, I know, I know), very rich in instrumentation and sporting a great production. Glad I hopped on the train this time.

Release date: February 14th
Label: Wharf Cat
Genre: Post Punk, Lynchian Blues

If there was an album to orchestrate that time you got slapped on Valentine's day, went to a bar and drank half of the stock and ended up sleeping on a bench in the subway it would be this one. This is an album to revel in your misery, the sound of misfortune knocking on your heart with news of your ex sleeping with half of your friends as a sweet act of revenge. But is also the album that will teach you to not care about it, to break the crystal and lick the blood, to go back to smoking cause fuck life already. Giving up never felt so good, and "Stray" is the moaning of such pleasures.
37Jonathan Hulten
Chants from Another Place

Release date: March 13th
Label: Kscope
Genre: Singer songwriter

Up to this year, Hultén was known as the phantasmagorical figure usually on the left side of the stage during Tribulation live shows making his guitar wail like a crow in heat. In March he released his first solo album. I knew he was doing solo shows but I wasn't sure what kind of music he was doing. I found out about "Chants..." pretty late in the year, and was utterly surprised to hear, not only Hultén's singing skills but also how unpredictable was the album. Jumping from dark Americana to an acoustic AOR piece like "Next Big Day" and then to a semi-new age passage with "Wasteland". The biggest surprise was finding him on the last Crippled Black Phoenix and months later knowing his decision to quit Tribulation. A new life begins for Hultén and if this album is a sign of things to come, the future looks bright for him.
36Johanna Warren
Chaotic Good

Release date: May 1st
Label: Wax Nine
Genre: Singer songwriter

One of my favorite singer songwriters of the wave of singer songwriters that has only been getting bigger and bigger since the invention of social media and the conception of the internet. I swear there weren't many before, or maybe we just didn't know about them. For what is worth, Warren has a sound of her own, and a voice I can recognize in a few seconds. I also love her lyricism, which revolves around the power of natural healing, energies and all those magic things they teach you in yoga class that make you feel like you are contaminating the earth with your sole existence. After "Gemini I was expecting great things from her. "Chaotic Good" wasn't at the same level but it showed her branching out an trying new things, which is always a welcomed surprise.
New Light

Release date: November 6th
Label: Atomnation
Genre: House / Ambient

It took a while for Gidge to release the continuation of their 2017's "LNLNN", an album that I'm still waiting Sinternet reviews fulfilling his promise. As in their previous album, there is a wide use of vocal samples, which is the main reason I often resolve to Gidge when I need my electronic ambient fix. The duo excels in what they do, whether it is minimal ambient pop or tech house or whatever you need to call it, I am not very knowledgeable of the hidden arts of electronic music like some other folk here. I can't endure a trance session of 2 hours but I do enjoy a good build up with vocals and loads of atmosphere.
34King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard

Release date: November 20th
Label: Flightless
Genre: Psychedelic rock

Of the 34 records that King Gizzard has probably released this year, I was able to catch this one. I am not very familiar with their discography. I do know they did a thrash punk album not long ago? then a boogie one? then something else too? All I know is that this album sounds like what I always imagined this band would sound but with a twist. What's up with the eastern music influence? Is this normal, cause if it is a standard of the band I am gonna have to ask God for a couple of more lives so I can go over their extensive discography. Seriously, one of the best psychedelic rock albums I heard this year.
33Robert Haigh
Black Sarabande

Release date: January 24th
Label: Unseen Records
Genre: Piano / Modern Classical

Haigh might not be a name you are a familiar with, but maybe you should. "Black Sarabande" is a very simple albums, just some piano notes and reverb. Think about the save room music of a Resident Evil. That's the mood. Melancholy and despair with a ray of light in the distance, expressed by piano notes, telling you that everything is going to be alright.
May You Be Held

Release date: October 2nd
Label: Thrill Jockey
Genre: Sludge / Drone

Not a cool move to put the album on streaming and take it down the next week. I understand where the moves come from, and I admire the gesture, but it was and still is slightly inconvenient. We had heated discussions about this album this year, trying to draw the line between what constitutes SUMAC's vision and the fact that they might just be taking the piss. In spite of the chaos and the improvisation factor that reigns their music I do think that some if not all things that happen on "May You Be Held" are carefully calculated and executed. And in any case, one only has to hear Nick Yacyshyn's drumming to become enlightened.
31Neptunian Maximalism

Release date: June 26th
Label: I, Voidhanger
Genre: Drone / Jazz / Avant-Garde

Another rec by tecbro, took me a LOT of time to find the time and space to sit down and take this all in, we are talking about 2 hours of free jazz, drone and doom, and not in that order. Tec wrote a review about it so you better check that out, I can only say this is demonic, colossal, and honestly a bit overwhelming at times. Tribal evil beats with twisted static and enraptured chanting. There is psychedelia, kraut rock, doomjazz, sounds so low and fat that they lift your ass from the floor like a tiny tremor. Sometimes I have to check that I don't have anything else playing on the background cause most of the time they sound like 3 bands playing at the same time.
30Triangulo de Amor Bizarro

Release date: March 20th
Label: Mushroom Pillow
Genre: Indie rock / Noise / Psychedelic / Punk

I haven't heard these guys since I fell in love with "La barca", of their last album, the nationally acclaimed "Salve Discordia". Thanks to Johnny, who reviewed it like a hawk hunts down a young chicken, I knew of the release. It was good to see Isa having a spot again some of the tracks, the dub-infused "No eres tú" or the synth parade of "Fukushima", which quickly have become my favorites of the album. The poor Rodrigo (not our resident Argentinian, but the male vocalist of TDAB) still gets a lot of heat, even if on this album his performance has improved significantly. Isa's vocals on the more shoegaze oriented tracks are hard to beat but the noise rock of the tracks led by Rodrigo is what balances out this band. That been said, I wouldn't mind an album with only Isa.
Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin

Release date: October 2nd
Label: PAN
Genre: Post... folk!

Easily the first award to the most misleading cover art of the year and a good example of why you should never judge a record by its cover. I went in expecting trance, heavy kicks and unforgiving bass lines. Instead, the album opens with an acoustic arpeggio and Alexandra Drewchin's sweet vocals floating amidst a sea of orchestral arrangements. What. Is This. It's a slight change of pace for Eartheater's first recordings, drifting almost by accident to Bjorkian territory, creating a well-balanced blend of folk and electronic elements, and leaving room for some histrionics ("Below the Clavicle"), and plenty of unsettling interludes. Might be a bit too artsy for some of you, but fans of Jenny Hval for example should really give this a listen.
New Dreams

Release date: March 13th
Label: White Sun
Genre: Ambient pop

The Icelandic singer and composer has improved in great measure in comparison with her precious albums. Her collaborations with Lapalux might have opened a vein she then decided to explore, as this album bounces from acoustic ambient tracks to electronic, sort of trip hop tunes in the blink of an eye. Her capacity to adapt to these is stunning. She has also decided to keep a very low, almost whispered register for "New Dreams" which suits the tone she was going for and frees her from the Bjork comparisons that arose with the release of her debut "Brazil". An extremely delicate album that hasn't lost any of the spark since its release in March.
City Burials

Release date: April 24th
Label: Peaceville
Genre: Hmmm...

At this point, I wasn't happy that Katatonia had released a good album, I was happy that they released an album at all. With the news of their hiatus after "The Fall of Hearts" in 2016 I was afraid the decision was permanent, and for 4 long years it felt like it was. "City Burials" might not reinvent the wheel, it's a Katatonia album through and through, with abundant quiet passages (age doesn't forgive, folks), but also with plenty of "Katatonia" moments. Jonas sounds as good as ever and Moilanen shows how he has fully adapted to the band's sound. "Behind the Blood" is a fun track, and 80s metal tune in the words of the creators, while "The Winter of Our Passing" brings back good ol' goth Katatonia. A complete delight for Katatonia fans, who thought we would never hear of the band again. No more hiatus please!

Release date: October 2nd
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Prog black metal

I am slowly getting on Enslaved's extensive discography. I took on to review this a few months ago after seeing it on the trending section asking for some kind soul to write it up. I wish someone else would have done it cause the album deserves a more thorough look into what it means or how it sits on the band's catalogue. I personally loved it, viking metal with a bit of kraut rock and plenty of progressive elements, I mean, what's not to like!?
On Circles

Release date: January 24th
Label: Triple Crown
Genre: Post rock

Among the first albums I reviewed this year, and the first "big" release that screamed AOTY. Of course, the year has been long and fruitful and Caspian has battled through a great number of releases to maintain that position. I still think is one of the best post rock albums of the year. "Nostalgist" has been on rotation on my 2020 playlist since the beginning, I can't get enough of it, truly Caspian and Kyle Durfey from Pianos Becomes the Teeth has created something special on that track.
Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

Release date: November 6th
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Prog'd post metal(ish)

Lads, Aðalbjörn Tryggvason hasn't got singing lessons on this album either and you know what, that's fine. Not many vocalists has the same expressivity that this man has, not to mention how good he sounds on the more aggressive tracks like "Dionysus". I felt I had to touch on the vocals cause it has been the main criticism towards "Endless Twilight..." and it's a shame because the album is amazing in every other aspect. Sólstafir has become a very hard band to classify, waving between black metal, prog, post rock, post metal without staying too long in any of these terrains. The quiet parts are specially well crafted, creating a space that feels warm and intriguing. Can't wait to hear where they go from here in the future.
Don't Shy Away

Release date: October 23rd
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Atmo indie pop

I haven't got as much time as I wanted to review during the second half of the year due to work and life, so a few albums escaped my grasp and I could only see how they would vanish in the distance without no one noticing them. It hurts, believe me. Well, let me use this space to tell you that most of you missed a hell of an album. A collection of songs that impressed even the likes of Mr. Brian Eno, who actually ended up contributing to one of the tracks (the closer "Homing", I believe). The project of Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski from Cross Record and Jonathan Meiburg from Shearwater is way more focused than their debut. I feel it has weaker tracks individually, nothing like "Joy" or "Black Willow" here, but instead they have gained a consistency that works as a whole and helps defining their sound more accurately. As far as ambient pop releases go this year, this is one amazing record you shouldn't miss.
22Post animal
Forward Motion Godyssey

Release date: February 14th
Label: Polyvinyl
Genre: Psychedelic rock

I find somehow funny that the band where the dude that played Steve on Stranger Things used to play ended up being one of my favorite records of this year. Seriously, this thing is incredible. Massive improvement over their debut which I felt it was a decent indie rock record. This thing here though, blends psychedelia with progressive rock, indie rock, fuzz and even dub to create something completely new. Three vocalist that help define each track, stellar production and a dexterous hand for arrangements make this one of my most treasured discoveries this year.
21Paradise Lost

Release date: May 15th
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Doom

I started following Paradise Lost with the release of "Draconian Times". I was there when they mutated into a gothic pop rock with "One Second", an album which I loved from the moment I heard it in spite of the critics and then lost track of them for 20 years. It's something I can't really explain, my music consumption wasn't the madness that is today and life had taken turns that kept me busy in other things (mainly surviving my 20s I guess). From the moment that "Obsidian" drops the first bomb with "Darker Thoughts" I realized how much I have missed this band. Now I have the task to dig into the albums I missed but I doubt any of them will top this one, cause this is Paradise Lost at its best since, well, since "Draconian Times".
20Midwife (USA)

Release date: April 10th
Label: The Flenser
Genre: Slowcore

Another album I wouldn't have checked for the cover alone, even if it featured... wings. The second full length of Madeline Johnston is a beautiful ode to a lost friend in 2018. It's an album that illustrates loss in a painful but beautiful way. Johnston's guitar arpeggios and delays sometimes evolve in copious amounts of distortion and ecstatic burying her voice while she recites mementos for her friend. I reviewed this myself so take a moment to read it if you are interested but moreover, give this album a listen because it's really worth it.
19Paysage d'Hiver
Im Wald

Release date: June 26th
Label: Kuntshall
Genre: Black metal

Words have flooded this site talking about this album so I won't be very long. "Im Wald" is the embodiment of modern black metal, from its gritty production to its melodies and inhuman shrieks from the heart of a blizzard. It might cut like a razor during the first minutes but at some point the brain switches and the razor becomes feathers. Things are so buried into the mix that traversing "Im Wald" really feels like a trek up some mountain peak, starting from the woods, and battling the frozen wind on your way up to the top.
18Agnes Obel

Release date: February 21st
Label: Blue Note
Genre: Singer songwriter

There was a magic moment this year when I was watching the German show "Dark" in Netflix, which I strongly recommend and "Broken Sleep" started playing at the end of one of the chapters, I think, of season 3. The audiovisual connection was simply perfect. Agnes Obel is one of the most interesting artists of the last 20 years, recycling her classical upbringing to create magic worlds through the masterful use of her voice. Not only she is an accomplished singer, she's also an extremely talented composer, and this album, her fourth official release, confirms it.
The Fallen Crimson

Release date: February 5th
Label: Temporary Residence / Pelagic
Genre: Post hardcore / Post rock

There is a history of redemption behind Envy's ninth album, a story that starts with a phone call that shouldn't have happened, this alum wouldn't exist. What the Japanese post hardcore legens have done in "The Fallen Crimson" was enough to leave us all speechless around February. Tasteful collaborations with Achiko from the band Ropes and the inclusion of two new guitarists have gave the band a much needed boost in order to craft what is a high peak in their long and fruitful career. As many other plans, my chances of seeing the album performed live went dim as the pandemic ravaged the world, so I'm looking forward to catch them live hopefully in 2021 (and I hope they bring Achiko with them too!)

Release date: September 25th
Label: Reprise
Genre: Its own thing, really

And here they are! Back like nothing happened, like time hasn't passed for them. "Ohms" is the culmination of everything that the band from Sacramento has done in the past. Terry Date is back behind the controls which sets the album on a very different direction from the beginning in comparison with "Gore". Nobody understands the Deftones sound like Date. I'd even say he understands their sound even better than the band itself. Carpenter's guitar tone is on the right spot this time, Chino shows he's in top shape and Cunningham's drums, which have always been a huge influence on my own playstyle, carry the album with the usual determination and strength. Tremendous return to form.
15Dua Lipa
Future Nostalgia

Release date: March 27th
Label: Warner
Genre: Pop

Aaaaah guilty pleasures. I will admit, with no shame, that this might be my most played album of the year, thanks partly to my wife also vibing to it and becoming the soundtrack of many dinner preparations. "Future Nostalgia" is the funniest pop album since... I don't even remember when. The first 9 tracks flow seamlessly, banger after banger, technically speaking, and it hits a low on the last two tracks, which I usually skip and go back to the beginning. The list of producers working on this album is frankly impressive, but the songs in "Future Nostalgia" wouldn't work outside Lipa's raspy tone and somewhat unhinged, confident attitude behind the mic. Best pop album of the year for me and a high standard for whatever this new decade has in store.
Stare Into Death and Be Still

Release date: April 24th
Label: Debemur Morti
Genre: Tech death

Talking about Ulcerate on this site has become as touchy as screaming that Maradona was just a dust sniffer in the middle of Buenos Aires (rest in peace, you champion, we all know that's not true). "Stare Into Death..." is the sixth release of the New Zealand squad, a consecrated entity of death metal at this point in and out of this site's micro-universe. Once more, the technicality of the band is indeed impressive, and Paul Kelland's unflinching vocals are among the best growls I've heard this year. The same can be said about Jamie Saint Merat's frenzy drumming and the creative burst of guitarists Michael Hoggard and William Cleverdon. It's hard to describe the sound of "Stare Into Death...", something that I can only express as a song within a song, Inception style, to the point that end and beginning blur away and only the mind-bending death metal of Ulcerate prevails.
13The Ocean
Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic

Release date: September 25th
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Post metal

September wouldn't give us a rest, with Ulcerate releasing "Stare Into Death..." and The Ocean releasing the second part of the acclaimed "Phanerozoic", which first part was released just a year and a half ago and quickly became one of the most impactful post metal albums of 2018. That the band had all this material ready in just over a year it's nothing short of amazing, as "Phanerozoic II" continues in the same line that its predecessor with the same quality and strengths found on the first part. In fact, several people account that the two albums work together when listened back to back, an experience I still have to subject myself to... maybe when my kid's a teenager and moves out of the house.
12Old man gloom
Seminar VIII: Light Of Meaning

Release date: March 23rd
Label: Profound Lore
Genre: Sludge

Both Seminars are a heartfelt tribute to the memory of Caleb Scofield, whose presence is felt throughout the material contained in both albums. And I say "contained" because the storm of sludge and post metal packed on both records is among the best material that the band has ever recorded. Aaron Turner sounds like a caveman screaming to a mountain to get it out of his way. The crushing drum beats of Santos meet Cave In and Mutoid Man's brother Stephen Brodsky's shattering bass lines while Nate Newton and Turner contribute to the mound with seldom doses of riffs and general guitar mayhem. It's hard to pick a track out of the two albums but if I had to choose, "Love is Bravery" is probably the best representation of OMG in 2020. Long live the ape!
11Old Man Gloom
Seminar IX: Darkness of Being

Release date: March 23rd
Label: Profound Lore
Genre: Sludge

Both Seminars are a heartfelt tribute to the memory of Caleb Scofield, whose presence is felt throughout the material contained in both albums. And I say "contained" because the storm of sludge and post metal packed on both records is among the best material that the band has ever recorded. Aaron Turner sounds like a caveman screaming to a mountain to get it out of his way. The crushing drum beats of Santos meet Cave In and Mutoid Man's brother Stephen Brodsky's shattering bass lines while Nate Newton and Turner contribute to the mound with seldom doses of riffs and general guitar mayhem. It's hard to pick a track out of the two albums but if I had to choose, "Love is Bravery" is probably the best representation of OMG in 2020. Long live the ape!
10Imperial Triumphant

Release date: July 31st
Label: Century Media
Genre: Avant-Garde... blackened... death metal (phew)

The sound of a dying city, consumed by decadence and fear. "Alphaville", the fourth release of the masked tech death trio Imperial Triumphant, continue the line of work set in "Vile Luxury", combining intricated death metal passages with sax outbursts and otherworldly sounds to illustrate a dystopian soundscape like no other. Kenny Grohowski's drum performance is out of this world, while Steve Blanco's bass is such a strong presence that Imperial Triumphant's rhythm section functions as one of the most powerful and entrancing beat machineries of the business. Add on top of that Zachary Ilya Ezrin's guitar acrobatics and raging growls and the result is one of the most interesting albums of the year.

Release date: January 31st
Label: RMV / Napalm
Genre: Hard rock / Prog

Well into the year I went back to check if I had missed anything interesting around the first quarter. Something I use to do maybe in excess on slow weeks around summer. Finding about Hallas was like striking gold. Gotta thank the Star Rider crew of garas, dedex and Triple D for hyping their previous album with seldom soundoffs, which made me eventually check this new record and throw in a review way out of schedule. As far as revival space rock bands go, Hällas are definitely one of the most interesting ones. Channeling Hawkwind with a voice of their own, the Sweds quickly climbed my own charts, featuring also probably my favorite cover artwork of the year, made by Adam Burke from Nightjar Illustration.
8Bohren und der Club of Gore
Patchouli Blue

Release date: January 24th
Label: PIAS / Ipecac
Genre: Jazz

I admit I took it a bit too far reviewing this as a piece of noir novel, which Gyro kindly reminded me on the album thread, but I sincerely found no other way to express how enticing this album is. It's an extremely slow jazz record, not an easy one to tackle to be honest, but it also features one of the best productions I've heard this year, the kind that makes you want to invest on a sound system you can't possibly pay in a lifetime, unless you sell your wife and your cat, which I also admit I considered at some point this year. Bohren hasn't changed a bit all these years, they still reign in the doomjazz universe and I'll take whatever they release at this point.
The All Is One

Release date: August 28th
Label: Stickman
Genre: Progressive rock

Finally, 2020 has been the year where Motorpsycho has seen a significant increase of listeners on this site. Can't say the band has just started doing what they do. Their career spans several decades at this point and they have one of the most consistent discographies in the history of rock music. This is not an overstatement, or at least I don't think it is. Considering just the amount of material they have put out in the last ten years only would suffice to show you are in front of one of the greatest psychedelic rock acts of all time. "The All is One" is an absolute monster of an album, with "The Magpie" being probably my favorite cut, but the N.O.X. suite deserves a special mention. That stuff is from out of this world.
6Oranssi Pazuzu
Mestarin Kynsi

Release date: April 17th
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Black kraut

I've never payed attention to Oranssi Pazuzu until this year, and I think the reason is that I was somewhere different some years ago in regards to this kind of music. Producing something that I could only describe as the bastard son of Soft Machine and Darkthrone, a.k.a. as "black kraut", the band from Finland has quickly become one of my favorite acts this year. "Mestarin Kynsi" is an insane flex of complex rhythm structures with a filthy atmosphere. I still owe their discography a listen, cause I heard this is not even their best, so I'll depart soon on a quest to find out the truth about such statements.

Release date: February 28th
Label: Vicious Circle
Genre: Psychedelic stoner rock

One summer night (I think), Triple D shoutboxed me a random rec, three guys from France doing psychedelic stoner and space rock whose fate seem to be entangled with mine at that very specific moment. I was fairly drunk that night but I was at that sweet spot when I decided to jam it right away. The first minutes were so fucking good that I just crawled to my PC and wrote what probably is the worst review I've ever written, but I did it on a record time and hitting random keys on the keyboard so all in all, not too shabby! "Ummon" is the most impressive debut of the year, of a band that surely can only go up from here. Be sure to check their live performance for KEXP too!
4Two People
Second Body

Release date: August 28th
Label: Terrible Records
Genre: Ambient pop

I still don't know if I have gathered enough tributes for the cornucopia or if I have killed anyone in the Sput thirst games overexposing them to this band, what's up with that Potsy!? The Australian duo's second album didn't take too long to be produced, considering their debut came out just last year. In "Second Body", Two People exchanges the nocturnal, dreamy aesthetic of their debut for a more direct approach, closer to electronic pop sacrificing a bit of the ambience that made their debut something truly special. In exchange, this second album features better individual songs, highest highs, but also lower lows. "A Taste" is, without a doubt, my SOTY.
3Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou
May Our Chambers Be Full

Release date: October 30th
Label: Sacred Bones
Genre: Sludge

One collaboration that since the moment that was announced, got me and a lot of folk with our asses tight waiting for it to drop. Those in Roadburn festival last year had a peek of what was coming but I had no idea what to expect. Unmistakably, the shoegaze doomfolk of Rundle and Thou's blend of sludge and grunge has resulted in one of the best albums of the year. A record where Rundle's vocals lead the corrupted sound of Thou through thick and thin, with Bryan's harrowing screams in pursue. "The Valley", as you all know, is also one if not the best song of the year, objectively speaking, that is.
2Pure Reason Revolution

Release date: April 3rd
Label: InsideOut
Genre: Progressive rock

News of a Pure Reason Revolution reunion first hit the comments secion of their lastfm page and I remember my heart stopped for a couple of seconds as my whole life passed in front of my eyes. "The Dark Third" and "Amor Vincit Omnia" are among my favorite albums ever, specially the latter, which became the soundtrack of my first year in Japan. The reunion only featured half of the original team, but having Chloe Alper harmonizing vocals again with Jon Courtney was a dream come true. In addition, Courtney had been working on these songs for quite some time in his studio in Berlin and online work allowed for Chloe, currently in London I believe, to contribute to the album as if the band were still working like the good old times. "Eupnea" captures the old essence, and takes it to a new level, thanks to a great production work and a wise choice of session musicians. And this is only the beginning...
1Crippled Black Phoenix

Release date: October 9th
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Gothic Post Rock

I wanted Crippled Black Phoenix to craft and album worth of being called an AOTY for years. They've always come close but never hit the spot. It took losing Daniel Anghede and Belinda Kordic stepping out of the shadows for Justin Greaves and co. to craft what is the best album of their entire career. The decision of featuring guest singers to give life to "Ellengæst" proved to be the right element for the album, and so CPR's masterpiece features the likes of Anathema's Vincent Cavanagh, Gaahl and ex-Tribulation's Jonathan Hultén, whose performance is one of the most stellar moments of the album. Crippled Black Phoenix has crafted something truly special with "Ellengæst", and album that had the seemingly impossible task of reuniting talents all over the world to fulfill the band's ultimate vision of their music, and the results couldn't have been better.
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