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The top 30 albums of 2020

Presenting a collection of gems found within the momentous year.

Illustration by Noah C. Meihoff

It's been a week from the release of our top 30 album covers of 2020 list and we're thrilled to have seen our yearly collection of visual endeavors introduce many to a kaleidoscope of offerings. However, said endeavors wouldn't be complete without the compositions they represent and today, we bring you our selections for this year's best on the musical front.

In a historic year of uncertainty and continuous struggle, music proved itself otherwise and presented countless amounts of treasure to dive into. From frenzied riffs to transcendental atmospheres, musicians brought their best and the below list stands as a brief taste of the quality we received from across the musical spectrum. Compiling the 30 selections was no easy task and we'd be remiss not to mention the vast amount of picks we had to choose from, but sacrifices had to be made. After much deliberation, our writing team has come to a united front to present our choices for this year's elite.

Here are the top 30 albums of 2020:


30. Freeways - True Bearings (Temple of Mystery Records) | Listen

Cover art by Wayne DeAdder

29. Mare Cognitum/Spectral Lore - Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine (I, Voidhanger Records) | Listen

Cover art by Elijah Tamu

28. Nekrovault - Totenzug: Festering Peregrination (Van Records) | Listen

Cover art by Misanthropic Art

27. City of Industry - False Flowers (Amerikan Aesthetics) | Listen

Cover art by Ossa Humiliata

26. Cryptodira - The Angel of History (Good Fight Music) | Listen

Cover art by Adam Burke

25. Wake - Devouring Ruin (Translation Loss Records) | Listen

Cover art by Alexandre Goulet

24. Soft Kill - Dead Kids, R.I.P. City (Cercle Social Records) | Listen

Cover photo by Megan Tvedt

23. Midnight - Rebirth by Blasphemy (Metal Blade Records) | Listen

Cover art by William Lacey

22. Calligram - The Eye is the First Circle (Prosthetic Records) | Listen

Cover art by Jaime Silveira

21. Xibalba - Años en Infierno (Southern Lord Records) | Listen

Cover art by Dan Seagrave

20. Regarde Les Hommes Tomber - Ascension (Season of Mist) | Listen

Cover art by Førtifem

19. Sumac - May You Be Held (Thrill Jockey Records) | Listen

Cover art by Aaron Turner

18. Faceless Burial - Speciation (Dark Descent Records) | Listen

Cover art by Xavier Irvine

17. Caustic Wound - Death Posture (Profound Lore Records) | Listen

Cover art by Jonathan Bauerle

16. Currents - The Way It Ends (Sharptone Records) | Listen

Cover art by Adam Burke

15. Black Curse - Endless Wound (Sepulchral Voice Records) | Listen

"One of 2020's most gloriously unhinged, relentless and demanding releases that continues to push the boundary lines further in what is possible within the concept of black metal. Driving blasts and intense riffing manage to merge death metal and war metal influences into a pounding, psychotic episode that span the course of this entire album. Gripping you at times with a deadly mid-tempo groove, only to then to take a trippy, psych-out left turn the next, 'Endless Wound' is a dizzying display of dark art." - Rohan (@manvsplaylist)

Cover art by Denis Forkas

14. Draconian - Under A Godless Veil (Napalm Records) | Listen

"Seven full-lengths in and it's ever evident that DRACONIAN have truly mastered the art of melancholy. 'Under A Godless Veil' is the blueprint for said mastery, enveloping listeners in from the gloomy elegance of opener 'Sorrow of Phobia' to the thunderous growls of closer 'Ascend into Darkness'. Put simply, this is gothic doom the way it was meant to be played." - Luis Flores (@heaviestofart)

Cover art by Natalia Drepina

13. Katatonia - City Burials (Peaceville Records) | Listen

"This is one for the end-of-year list that refuses to compromise on both form and grace. It's a peacock in a line-up of crows that comes at a time when there's fear and fury around every corner, but not a glimpse of beauty or somber solitude in sight. KATATONIA has risen from the depths with a record of repose in this ocean of chaos and they demand your attention." - Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar)

Cover art by Beech

12. Paysage d’Hiver - Im Wald (Kunsthall Produktionen) | Listen

"This two hour long beast of a record is one of the iciest things I’ve ever heard. After numerous listens, I still don’t think I like it quite as much as Das Tor, but two hours of music from one of my favorite projects ever is an easy sell." - Ryan McCarthy (@ryanxvx_)

Cover art by Joanna Maeyens

11. Paradise Lost - Obsidian (Nuclear Blast Records) | Listen

"With 'Obsidian', the kings of gothic doom returned to meld all eras of their vast catalog into a defining statement that complements an already immortal discography. The band have gone through many different styles and it is on Obsidian where even the parts of albums you don’t like ('Host' fans rise up) are able to be put on display as worthy matches to the timeless works of a band who have remained timeless throughout their tenure." - Tyson Tillotson (@tytilly)

Cover art by Adrian Baxter

10. Perdition Temple - Sacraments of Descension (Hells Headbangers Records) | Listen

"Stemming from the mind of Angelcorpse's Gene Palubicki, PERDITION TEMPLE is a force that knows no bounds in terms of extremity. Like the Daniel Corcuera cover it sports, 'Sacraments of Descension' is as violent and sadistic as you'd expect, bursting forth with a display of malicious riffs and solos to die for. For as great as death metal has been, it's records like 'Sacraments of Descension' that put the subgenre on a pedestal." - Luis Flores (@heaviestofart)

Cover art by Daniel Corcuera

9. Myrkur - Folkesange (Relapse Records) | Listen

"Surprisingly, my most listened-to record this year isn’t even black metal. It’s genre-adjacent, at least. MYRKUR’s collection of brooding, sometimes depressing Nordic folk songs is a perfect soundtrack for pretty much anything I’m doing." - Ryan McCarthy (@ryanxvx_)

Cover art by Hans Dahl

8. Necrot - Mortal (Tankcrimes) | Listen

"2017's 'Blood Offerings' did more than take the death metal underground by storm, it took NECROT across the pond and into the Billboard charts, speaking to the talents lying within the band's ranks. It was only a matter of time that the band would follow that with something proper, that being 'Mortal'. Complete with visuals by Marald Van Haasteren, 'Mortal' fires on all fronts, kicking things off from the opening turbulence of 'Your Hell' and battering listeners through the 8-minute bruising of the closing title track'. There's no games here, just Bay Area death metal at its best with no loose screws to tarnish the effort." - Luis Flores (@heaviestofart)

Cover art by Marald Van Haasteren

7. M.S.W. - Obliviosus (Gilead Media) | Listen

"Stepping away from his moniker of HELL, multi-instrumentalist M.S.W. harnessed from inner turmoil to craft 'Obliviosus', an effort drenched in a doom-laden despair of gloomy elegance. Weaving a serene violin performance by Gina Eygenhuysen into its structure, 'Obliviosus' is equal parts serene as it is painful, giving one a sense of ease amidst M.S.W.'s torturous cries. It may be brief in track quantity, but the depth present within extends beyond the medium in which it's experienced, providing one with a relatable soundtrack for the tribulations we're all sure to face at some point." - Luis Flores (@heaviestofart)

Cover art by Blial Cabal

6. Atramentus - Stygian (20 Buck Spin) | Listen

"Funeral doom of the highest order, this time at the hand of the inimitable Phil Tougas. Having been in formation for years prior, this tome of winter wasteland desolation is given a breadth of sound that few in this genre can achieve. Stretching, lurching and finally blasting its way across a perfectly balanced 45 minutes of plodding torture, 'Stygian' contains a veritable chasm of rich, dark, swelling atmospheres and painful reflections." - Rohan (@manvsplaylist)

Cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski

5. Wayfarer - A Romance with Violence (Profound Lore Records) | Listen

"With a standard set high by 2018's 'World's Blood', one had to wonder if WAYFARER could ever exceed or even match that. Enter 'A Romance with Violence', the full-length that could. Like its predecessor, 'A Romance' transports listeners to the wild west in such an articulate black metal fashion, upping the ante on depth and atmosphere as if guiding you through the high plains under blood red skies. It's records as grandiose as this one that cement Denver's significance in metal's new age and quite frankly, put WAYFARER in a league completely of their own. Grab your saddle and enjoy the ride." - Luis Flores (@heaviestofart)

“Temporary and Permanent Bridges and Citadel rock, Green River, Wyoming” (1868) by Andrew Joseph Russell

4. Ulcerate - Stare Into Death and Be Still (Debemur Morti Productions) | Listen

"Continuing their trademark decimation of song structure & tempo, Saint Merat and Co. unleashed another masterclass in extreme music. Finding balance between mind blowing drumming technicality, and loose, airy, non-conformist riffage, ULCERATE set a further lofty benchmark in death metal creativity. A mind-bending achievement in full force aggression that somehow still contains an overall feel of looseness and breathability." - Rohan (@manvsplaylist)

Cover art by Jamie Saint Merat

3. Emma Ruth Rundle/Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full (Sacred Bones Records) | Listen

"Haunting, textured melodies and wells of intertwining guitars provide the foundation for one of the years most enthralling releases. Emma Ruth Rundle and Bryan Funck's contrasting vocal styles blend uniquely across these restrained, stomping, sludgey, monstrous cuts. This record reaches both emotional and sonic depths that few could match over the course of this year." - Rohan (@manvsplaylist)

Cover photograph by Craig Mulcahy

2. Loathe - I Let It In and It Took Everything (Sharptone Records) | Listen

"With lush guitars, seamless vocal shifts, and eclectic song variety, LOATHE have set the standard high with this masterclass of a full-length. Though many compare their sound to that of 'Diamond Eyes'-era DEFTONES (and rightfully so), it does no justice to the songcraft present here, the likes of which integrates blast beats and other elements to what can be loosely defined as metallic hardcore. It's at times soothing and at times explosive, making for one richly layered listen that gives us all a reason to be excited for the future of the genre." - Luis Flores (@heaviestofart)

Cover art by Loathe

1. Pallbearer - Forgotten Days (Nuclear Blast Records) | Listen

"'Forgotten Days' is a perfect album. Though it fails to chart the breadth of its domain — I will make the claim first that PALLBEARER have outdone themselves in a way that opens doors that few other metal groups of the past have even discovered...This is an album for the ages — a cathartic beacon — one that will remind weary and weathered listeners everywhere of why they fell in love with the music in the first place." - Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar)

Cover art by Michael Lierly

And there you have it, our yearly selection of musical greats. Congratulations to all for the exquisite works, the likes of which kept us sane during a year that will forever remain a dreadful mark on history. May 2021 be just as a grand (in terms of music).

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Nov 30, 2020

I. Ovtrenoir: Fields of Fire

II. Isolert: World in Ruins

III. Bell Witch/Aerial Ruin: Stygian Bough Vol. I

IV. Iress: Flaw

V. Ulcerate: Stare into Death and be Still

VI. JK Flesh: Depersonalization

VII. Seeds of Iblis: Morbid Muhammad

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