The world staggers broken and beaten towards the oasis that is the end of the year 2020 and reviewer or not, I find myself in the annual period of reflection looking back over the years releases. To many, 2020 was a year of tragedy, with everything being turned on it’s head and the loss of countless icons in the world of music. That being said, there was no shortage of amazing releases, especially within the realm of metal. Albums I’ve ranked on this list have been measured against my personal production preferences, quality of both songwriting and album structure and whatever impact the album/songs have had on me personally.
5 – Sinister: ‘Deformation of the Holy Realm’
An honest, old-school beating. After their previous release ‘Syncretism’ (2017) this was one of my more highly anticipated releases of this year. 8 new tracks composed of only some of the most crushing riffs beat you over the head for around 44 minutes – which, let’s be honest, is exactly what you wanted. Whilst a far cry from another ‘Cross the Styx’ or ‘Diabolical Summoning’, it’s nice to hear quality death metal from one of my all time favourite death metal bands.
4 – Harlott: ‘Detritus of the Final Age’
Easily my most highly anticipated release of the year. There’s something about this band that just makes them sound so much more aggressive than so many of the other thrash bands. I have no idea what it is, but I’m not complaining. This one stands out above all the other pure thrash releases this year for that reason alone: there are bands that have more technical riffs and others that are better at writing epic songs, but Harlott just write riffs and vocal lines so well it just amounts to an inhuman level of violence.
3 – Schizophrenia: ‘Voices’
For the debut EP of an unsigned band to make my top 5 albums of the year list is a rarity, but after taking a break from metal for a month it was this release that had me back. It seems to be rare nowadays to have a band that is labelled death-thrash metal that actually lives up to the standard of the classics, where not only has this release been a constant spin but an inspiration for my own musical endeavours and a beacon of hope for metal releases in the coming years.
2 – Cryptic Shift ‘Visitations from Enceladus’
Described as ‘a cosmic opera’, the debut full length release from one of my all time favourite bands has truly blown me away. Hearing some of the tracks at live shows before the release was nice, but to then be blown away after hearing the same tracks on the first spin shows how special this record really is to me. To put it bluntly, it is this album (and the number one spot) that has made me miss going to shows, and I can only imagine what the first time seeing Cryptic Shift will be like when the world goes back to normal.
1 – Iron Maiden ‘Nights of the Dead, Legacy of the Beast: Live in Mexico City’
There are few things I would not give for more material from one of the most legendary musical acts of all time. Despite getting reruns of staples in the Iron Maiden live set (what would their show be without them?) there are some rarer tracks that make an appearance. I have seen complaints that the same songs keep cropping up and that this is not Bruce’s best performance (which are both very valid points), this album takes the number one spot on my list because it shows the band’s unwavering confidence in their material, which only makes me more excited for their next studio release