Unless you’re Odell Beckham, you’re probably upset that 2020 took a shit on the world’s collective chest.  No disrespect if you’re into that kind of thing, but for the rest of us, it is less than desirable. A worldwide pandemic, while it is definitely inspirational for metal musicians the world over, only inspired depression and despair amongst most of us. For us here at Teeth of the Divine, , this is where metal comes in.

Nothing beats headbanging the doom and gloom out of oneself with some, well, doom and gloom. Every year is a banner year for metal. If you’re one who opines that there’s no good metal released anymore, you’re not looking hard enough. You should stop squinting and put on your glasses, four eyes.

Lucky for you, we’ve done a lot of the dirty work for you. Gaze upon the glorious superiority and unmatched wisdom of our clearly definitive lists and remember that no one loves you in this world… except us… and metal.

by Staff

Article Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Jordan Itkowitz

Yeah, it’s been a weird year, but another excellent one for metal. I certainly had more than enough time to sample hundreds of bands/albums, but even with so much good stuff, I found myself returning often to specific tracks, but not necessarily taking in the full album each time.

So given that this year was, you know, special, I’m gonna do my list a little differently and focus on the top 20 songs that kept me moving forward. It makes for a hell of a playlist, and if you like what you hear, check out the full albums too.

Top 20 Tracks

1. Exocrine “Abyssal Flesh” from Maelstrom (Unique Leader). Symphonic/Technical Death Metal. Epic orchestration, pummelling groove, streamlined songwriting, and an unpredictable creativity that reminds me of my favorite tracks from Nile, Gorod, and Benighted. This track is just pure fun if you like your tech death fast, groovy, and focused.

2. Valdrin “Red Burning Candles of Hatred” from Effigy of Nightmares (Blood Harvest). Black Metal. Blazes with the fury of classic Emperor or Gehenna, yet these guys are from the wastes of Ohio and not dark and frozen Norway. Love the Nightside wall-of-sound production and the seething vocals, and most of all the two main melodies – a spidery, scrabbling attack in the verses, and then a descent-into-madness downward spiral in the chorus. By far the best black metal song I’ve heard all year.

3. King Buffalo “Eta Carinae” from Dead Star (King Buffalo). Psychedelic/Stoner Metal. KB’s new EP is a spacey leap forward from their warm and earthy sound, but this track, and not the 20-minute epic that opens the album, is the real star here. Just wait ’til you get to the back half, with its long, hypnotic groove – super addictive and you’ll crank that volume knob every time.

4. Keiser “Scourge of the Wicked” from Our Wretched Demise (Non Serviam Records). Black Metal. Spotify tried to tell me that I listened to a lot of “voidgaze” this year, which is apparently a fancy new catch-all term for expansive, atmospheric, or post-black metal. First off, I’m never using that term again, and second, I didn’t really, as that style has started to wear thin. Instead, I’ve been craving black metal that is more direct, aggressive, and satisfying, but without sacrificing any of the melody.

Enter Keiser, a Norwegian band I had not heard until recently, but who, in this one song, has accomplished everything that Satyricon has tried to do over the last two decades but with more focus and venom. The rest of the album kills too – check it out.

5. Nite “Night Terrors” from Darkness Silence Mirror Flame (Creator-Destructor Records). Black/Heavy Metal. This whole album is a blackened, occult love letter to 80s heavy metal – think Bathory covering Ozzy – but this track is the soaring, swaggering centerpiece.

6. Wytch Hazel “I Am Redeemed” from III: Pentecost (Bad Omen Records). Heavy Metal/Hard Rock. Speaking of heavy metal, this track is the year’s hookiest, catchiest rocker. And it’s well, Christian. Fans of Thin Lizzy, Hawkwind, and classic NWOBHM do not want to miss this.

7. Havukruunu “Kunnes Varjot Saa” from Uinuos Syomein Sota (Naturmacht Productions). Pagan Black Metal. These guys should get tapped to write the theme music for every Viking show, movie, and documentary from now on. (Sorry Moonsorrow.) Triumphant and epic.

8. Katavasia “The Tyrant” from Magnus Venator (Dry Clean Records). Black Metal. What is it about Greek black metal that gives it such a uniquely raw and evil energy? Love the exaggerated vocals on this, the folk elements, and the theatrical presentation. Just a badass track from a very cool band.

9. Giobia “Parhelion” from Plasmatic Idol (Heavy Psych Sounds). Psychedelic Doom. This Italian album is an odd mix of laidback stoner metal and dark, synth-driven doom/prog odysseys. This falls into the latter camp and I wish the whole album was as mesmerizing or cinematic. If you love Goblin, Italian giallo soundtracks, etc, you will love this.

10. (O) “Tyndere End Hud” from SkamHan (Napalm Records). Progressive Black Metal/Sludge. These Danes mix burly, crushing, sludgy tones with scrabbling black metal and it works really well. The whole album is terrific but this is still my favorite of the set. Awesome debut!

11. Unleash the Archers “Through Stars” from Abyss (Napalm Records). Power Metal. I had never listened to this band before, and while I appreciate the energy and ambition of their “Dragonforce with female vocals” concept, this more straightforward track is the one I kept coming back to. It’s just a great pop metal song with killer melodies and a gorgeous chorus.

12. Anaal Nathrakh “Endarkenment” from Endarkenment (Metal Blade Records). Black Metal. It’s funny to think that a band this corrosive and insane could ever turn out a hooky earworm – more likely they’d just shove a coil of barbed wire into your head. But they keep doing it, and this is one of their catchiest yet.

13. Descend “The Deviant” from The Deviant (Aftermath Music). Progressive Death Metal. This Swedish band comes from Stockholm, and like their scenemates in Opeth, they combine progressive song structures and rippling death metal to craft long and engaging creations.

14. White Stones “Drowned in Time” from Kuarahy (Nuclear Blast). Progressive Death Metal. This side project from Martin Mendez is a lurching, groovy, death metal monster with a unique and grimy tone. As a massive Opeth fan, of course I was going to be drawn to the one track that switches things up with a strange and off-kilter intro.

15. …And Oceans “Five of Swords” from Cosmic World Mother (Season of Mist). Black Metal. Never thought we’d hear another album like this from these maniacal melodic black metallers (they switched to industrial metal in the early 00s) but this is a fantastic comeback and I love the Emperor-like sweep and menace on this track.

16. Wayfarer “Masquerade of the Gunslingers” from A Romance with Violence (Profound Lore). Progressive Death Metal. This is what it would sound like if Opeth had binged a bunch of old Westerns before writing My Arms Your Hearse.

17. Esoctrihilum “Exh-Eni Soph – 1st Passage” from Eternity of Shaog (Voidhanger Records). Black Metal. One of the most eccentric and creative one-man acts in the black metal underground. The rest of the album sometimes strays too far afield for my ears, but I love the journey this track takes.

18.Barishi “Blood Aurora” from Old Smoke (Season of Mist). Sludge/Black Metal. This song sounds like Cult of Luna covering Thantifaxath and if that doesn’t sound cool to you, then you need to go listen to both of those bands after you hear this.

19. Haken “Prosthetic” from Virus (Inside Out Records). Progressive. This sounds like Porcupine Tree jamming with Meshuggah or Devin Townsend. The rest of the album is less direct than this but wow, what an opener.

20. Binary Code “Memento Mori” from Filaments Dissolve (Memory Facility). Progressive Sludge/Deathcore. If you’re like me and found the new Katatonia to be mostly dull and aimless, give this a shot. It’s got the same mournful beauty but contrasts it with some crushing, Fallujah-like passages.

Honorable Mentions
Soilwork “Death Diviner” from A Whisp of the Atlantic (Nuclear Blast).
envy “Swaying Leaves and Scattering Breath” from The Fallen Crimson (Pelagic Records).
Vampire “Pandemoni” from Rex (Century Media).
Benighted “Obscene Repressed” from Obscene Repressed (Season of Mist).

Fires in the Distance “The Climb” from Echoes from Deep November (Prosthetic Records).

Favorite Non-2020 Album
ElderThe Gold and Silver Sessions (2019). I lose patience with most of Elder’s standard prog-doom tracks (I should love them, but I don’t), but this gorgeous, instrumental 3-track EP was a non-stop play for me this year. It fit right in with the other psychedelic albums I jammed all year (from Agusa, Hadal Sherpa, old 70’s Swedish prog like Kebnekasje, Bo Hansson, etc) and I’d love to hear a full-length just like it.

Best Covers Album
Plenty of bands kept busy during quarantine via remote collaboration, but the best by far were the members of At the Movies (Speed Strid from Soilwork, plus members of Pretty Maids and King Diamond), who banged out hilarious and fist-pumping renditions of classic 80s movie theme songs, week after week. They covered “Far From Over” from Rocky III, “No Easy Way Out” from Rocky IV, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” from Mad Max III, “Maniac” from Flashdance, and others. Hope they continue to play together because I really want a heavy cover of “Thunder in Your Heart” from Rad.

There aren’t a lot of big veterans on my list this year, even though long-time faves like Katatonia, Enslaved, and Carcass all put out new releases. But they all just left me cold and failed to make an impact even after a few dedicated listens.

The Mare Cognitum/Spectral Lore split Wanderers was probably the biggest disappointment though. I just found it impenetrable and without any of the sweeping melodies and intricate structure that led me to choose Phobos Monolith as my #1 pick in 2014.

Oh yeah and not getting to see Insomnium play (or anyone else, for that matter) sucked too.

Anticipating in 2021
New releases coming from Cult of Luna, At the Gates, Dream Theater, Ghost, Mastodon, Orden Ogan, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. Also really curious to hear the new Megadeth, which could at long last be a worthy follow-up to Rust in Peace (we’ll see). 


Article Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9



Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.