Following on from Part 1 of our celebration of the very best albums of the year, we continue to uncover those albums that made the biggest impression over the course 2020.
40. Ulver Flowers of Evil (House of Mythology)
While the Ulver methodology had, for twenty years, seen a pattern of opposite reactions – with each album being a counter to the previous – for the first time Kristoffer Rygg worked to respond directly to the successes of a predecessor, with Flowers… building, and improving, on the slinky eighties electronic pop of Assassination… to stunning effect. The style was streamlined and perfected.
39. Anaal Nathrakh Endarkenment (Metal Blade)
“A caustic assault on the senses, Endarkenment is as necro and nihilistic as ever while remaining consistently interesting. The riffs are savage and the drums relentless, but it’s Hunt who dominates the record, singing, roaring, growling, and spitting out lyrics”. GC Review
38. Armored Saint Punching The Sky (Metal Blade)
“Showing no visible signs of wear and tear, classic Los Angeles metallers Armored Saint return with eighth studio album… although it might not be the band’s most accomplished work – make no mistake – there is still more than enough quality metal to keep many a fan nursing a sore neck for some time to come”. GC Review
37. Black Crown Initiate Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape (Century Media)
“After a four-year absence (a handful of single releases aside), Pennsylvania-based Black Crown Initiate return with their third full-length release, Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape (Century Media). From black metal to progressive rock via blasts of technical death metal, BCI effortlessly combines a whole range of differing styles resulting in their most captivating and assured record to date”. GC Review
36. Xibalba Años en Infierno (Southern Lord)
“The roots of the band’s genealogy are never far away. The glorious tribal rhythms of ‘Saka’ are huge yet infectious: and while the lightning blow of the title track ebbs and flows, all the while maintaining a bludgeoning manner, there remains an undeniably Latin American flavour to the merest slivers of melody and coruscating displays of vocal passion.” GC Review
35. Lamb of God Lamb of God (Epic)
“Every now and again, a record captures the mood of an era with such frightening accuracy… Every track on Lamb of God sounds like it was written as recently as yesterday, and although vocalist Randy Blythe denies the songs were written about you-know-who, they are demonstrably aimed at this specific period of history.” GC Review
34. Oceans of Slumber Oceans of Slumber (Century Media)
“Befitting a self-titled effort, Oceans of Slumber’s fourth album is easily the band’s most realized achievement thus far. While the lengthy runtime and dense songwriting still may take some extra listens to feel out, the songs are masterfully executed with skill and pathos throughout. This is a decidedly more mature execution, which goes along well with the decision to release this album as a self-titled affair.” GC Review
33. Kvelertak Splid (Rise Records)
Changing a singer 10 albums into a career, and coming out clean with your fans is hard enough, but Kvelertak made wholesale changes in their career and every move paid out like a jackpot. On Splid (Rise Records) the band kept their intrinsic style of heavy rock majesty intact while allowing new frontman Ivar Nikolaisen to fully build his own mystic and aura.
32. Svalbard When I Die Will I Get Better? (Church Road)
Like the amazing old commercial: “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! No! You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” – Bristol band Svalbard are peeking at the right time with their intoxicating mash of flipping middle fingers to conventional heavy music, their arching atmospheric-black metal modernism, with a raw vulnerability rarely seen. The sky is the limit for this band.
31. Elephant Tree Habit (Sheep Tooth)
Like their namesake, Elephant Tree just puts it out on front street what type of band is coming out of the tin, as they say. However, on Habit, they really funnel down their range of influences better than ever with their doom-laden riffs and more spacey flirtations. They nearly pulled off the trick of matching their prowess as a live band on record, but chances are they will nail it in the next go around.
30. Midnight Rebirth by Blasphemy (Metal Blade)
“I get particular enjoyment out of the song titles and lyrics. ‘Devil’s Excrement,’ ‘Fucking Speed and Darkness,’ and ‘You Can Drag Me Through Fire’ are either the most metal monikers I’ve ever heard, or the rantings scribbled in the back of a particularly deranged thirteen-year old’s notepad. Fortunately for the heathen listeners, Midnight knows how to back up the bravado with slabs of sweet licks and brisk tempos.” GC Review
29. Imperial Triumphant Alphaville (Century Media)
“Alphaville is an uncomfortable and occasionally distressing record likely to draw comparisons to the likes of Oranssi Pazuzu and Portal, the often inaccessible, nebulous, and seemingly free-form nature of the music not giving an ounce of comfort to the listener, even right at the very end. A breathtaking vision of inescapable claustrophobia”. GC Review
28. Unleash The Archers Abyss (Napalm)
“From the twin guitar work and solos of Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley to Slayes’ sensational vocals, Unleash the Archers demand a far wider audience than they currently receive. A bold and assertive statement for a band ready to take the next step. Not into an abyss, but into bright new arenas”. GC Review
27. Testament Titans of Creation (Nuclear Blast)
“Whenever the time-honoured, if ultimately pointless, “if it had been a Big Five…” question raises its ugly head, Bay Area bruisers Testament always find themselves at the forefront of the conversation. Even alongside names such as Exodus, Overkill, and Kreator, such is their… ahem, legacy (sorry), it’s not uncommon to find them as one of the top two preferred choices”. GC Review
26. Necrot Mortal (Tankcrimes)
“What’s the best strategy when it comes time to record a follow-up to a critically acclaimed album like 2017’s Blood Offerings? Well, for Necrot it seems as simple as following the course… [and] while Necrot may not be re-imagining the genre on Mortal they are serving up some of the most satisfying Death Metal today”. GC Review
25. Spanish Love Songs Brave Faces Everyone (Pure Noise)
There were quite a few great Punk and punk-adjacent albums released this year and any of them would have made this countdown. That Spanish Love Songs landed this high is a tribute to great songs and even great lyrics, spilling the tea on these times of existential dread like a sherpa. Another band that is going to do even greater things in the future.
24. Vile Creature Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! (Prosthetic)
It’s no surprise that Vile Creature landed on this list with the crushing Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! (Prosthetic) – easily one of the years’ most uncompromising releases. Even on their best days, many modern bands are still mimicking their heroes. However, Vile Creature ruptures the boundaries of genres like Doom and other extreme music with their riffs, vocals, and lyrics until only remnants remain
23. Sepultura Quadra (Nuclear Blast)
“It’s been twenty-three years since Derrick Green joined Brazilian thrash legends Sepultura. With the latest release Quadra (Nuclear Blast), they might very well have written an album that welcomes more wayward sheep back into the fold. Why? Because it’s an absolute fucking barnstormer. That’s why.” GC Review
22. Run The Jewels RTJ4 (Jewel Runners / BMG)
Surprise! Ghost Cult writers came out en masse to support Run The Jewels and RTJ4 in our poll, just as we have been one of the earliest heavy music websites to rep these guys. They have more in common with old-school punk, and rebellious metal subgenres, than any pop-rap could ever do. Especially in these times to bloated and corrupt, we need modern Hip-Hop’s shot callers to call out hypocrisy with fresh beats and lyrical genius wizardry.
21. Palm Reader Sleepless (Church Road)
With Sleepless, Palm Reader yoked back the exploratory moments of Hardcore and Metalcore of 2018’s excellent Braille album, and honed their already knife-edge music into a tighter, deadlier weapon by far! Nine songs of pulse-quickening fury, nowhere to hide, and no fucking filler whatsoever!