BEST OF 2020: 30-21

30. PAYSAGE D’HIVER, “Im Wald” (Kunsthall Produktionen): Swiss black metal project Paysage D’Hiver has been in existence since 1997, but 2020 finally brought us the band’s first full-length “Im Wald,” a 13-track, TWO-HOUR display of wintry, noise-scuffed black metal that really is quite the handful. Yes, taking on this entire record at once isn’t a wise choice based on the sheer girth of this thing, but however you take it on, you’ll find wondrous, nightmarish, freezing black metal that sole creator Wintherr has been dreaming about for years. (Jan. 25)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/PaysagedHiver.Official/

To buy the album, go here: https://en.kunsthall.spkr.media/

For more on the label, go here: https://kunsthall.ch/

29. DRAINBOW, “The Tower of Flints” (self-released): Nicholas Sarcophagus, why are you trying to destroy us? “The Tower of Flints,” his debut record under the Drainbow moniker, isn’t just one of the most batshit insane metal records of 2020, it’s one of craziest things I ever heard. And it’s a wonder to behold and experience, which you’ll likely do with cocked head the whole time, as tracks including “Funeral for an Imaginary Rabbit,” “The Death Owl in the Tower of Flints,” and “Callipygian Hunger” callously poke you in the eyes and insult your panic attack. (July 7)

For more on the band or to buy the album, go here: https://drainbow1.bandcamp.com/

28. ORANSSI PAZUZU, “Mestarin Kynsi” (Nuclear Blast): Finnish wonders Oranssi Pazuzu brought some maniacal psychedelic trauma into our world with their fifth album “Mestarin Kynsi,” their first for giant Nuclear Blast. Yet, the new, larger label didn’t impact their creativity or Krautrock-fueled weirdness as they continue to push into alien terrain on this six-track, 50-minute record that further solidifies this band as one of the most imaginative and entrancing in all of metal. Oh, and when you can again, see them live and be blow away. (April 17)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/oranssipazuzuband/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

For more on the label, go here: https://www.nuclearblast.com/en/label/

27. ULTHAR, “Providence” (20 Buck Spin): These Bay Area brawlers upped the ante on their second album “Providence,” an eight-track, 37-minute piledriver of a display that never relents. The band piles layers of vicious, pointed destruction that digs inside your nerves and chews them up so you can feel the same horrors that punish every corner of the world in which this record inhabits on tracks such as “Undying Spear,” the tumultuous title track, and “Narcissus Drowning.” Just a killer record.  (June 12)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Ulthar-386850314846106/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/ulthar

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

26. FORMER WORLDS, “Iterations of Time” (Init): Former Worlds make music that you can get inside of psychologically and take the emotional journey along with the band, as their great debut “Iterations of Time” will make clear right away. Combining vocals from Erin Severson and a session vocalist brought in for the vocal tradeoff, the band creates music that can align with your blood cells and grow in light and dark such “Spectre,” “Variations on a Cave,” and epic closer “Widow Moon” that’s treated with their brand of sludgy doom.  (Jan. 31)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/formerworldsband/

To buy the album, go here: http://initrecords.corecommerce.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.initrecords.net/

25. CANIS DIRUS, “Independence to the Beast” (Bindrune Recordings): Minnesota black metal duo Canis Dirus hadn’t released a new album in eight long years, but “Independence to the Beast” ended that string, and the world is better for it. This six-track crusher feels explosive and raw at the same time, a new blast of fury from two guys (vocalist Rob Hames, multi-instrumentalist Todd Paulson) who take their time and craft their work to their own specifications. This is forestal black metal designed to bring out the wolf that lives within you. (March 6)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CanisDirusOfficial/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.bindrunerecordings.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://bindrunerecordings.com/

24. WAR ON WOMEN, “Wonderful Hell” (Bridge 9): Punk/metal firebreathers War on Women have been battling against injustice, sexism, and abuse for years, and they keep bringing that fight on “Wonderful Hell,” their best record so far. As much as this album revels in the hell the Trump admin created, it also infuses the music with hope and a stuff kick in the ass to keep working and never forget what dragged us here so we can ensure it never happens again, with a blistering vocal performance delivered by the great Shawna Potter. Highlights are opener “Aqua Tofana” “This Stolen Land,” justified punch back “Her?” and dark closer “Demon.” (Oct. 30)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/WarOnWomen/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.b9store.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.bridge9.com/

23. EYE OF NIX, “Ligeia” (Prophecy Productions): “Ligeia,” the third full-length from mind-warping progressive metal machine Eye of Nix, is almost like standing in the eye of the storm, trying to figure out which way you’ll be forced. Named after one of the sirens in Greek mythology that lured sailors to their demise, the record has its moments of dark seduction that pull you into devastating waves. Joy Von Spain is spellbinding as always going from beastly to angelic, and the stirring progressive doom the band creates just keeps getting more immersive and wondrous. This is ideal music to take on when you’re in the midst of heavy storming. (June 19)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/EYEOFNIX/

To buy the album, go here: https://prophecy.lnk.to/eye-of-nix-ligeia

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

22. AARA, “En Ergô Einia” (Debemur Morti): The first thing that really struck me about Swiss black metal duo Aara’s second record is the total wave of melodies that lap up and practically pull you under. “En Ergô Einia” delivers five tracks in about 33 minutes and adds a sense of effusive power into what’s otherwise a sub-genre that revels in utter negativity. Vocalist Fluss and multi-instrumentalist Berg soar on imaginative, crushing tracks such as “Arkanum,” “Stein Auf Stein,” and bursting closer “Telôs,” which brings to an end a record that won’t let you drown in the shadows. (April 3)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Aara-941630312665011/

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/

21. FEMINAZGUL, “No Dawn for Men” (self-released): The incel babies have had a real fit with this record, which we absolutely fucking love, because anything that upsets those weaklings pleases us. But “No Dawn for Men” also packs passionate, destructive moments as trio of lead vocalist Laura Beach, multi-instrumentalist Margaret Killjoy, and violinist/theremin player/vocalist Meredith Yayanos packs savagery, sorrow, and ridiculous amounts of melody into their ashy black metal that refused to let a virus prevent its entry into the world. We just love “Illa, Mother of Death,” “Bury the Antler With the Stag” and “Forgiver, I Am Not Yours,” though every track kills. (March 17)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/FeminazgulBand/

To buy the album, go here: https://feminazgul.bandcamp.com/album/no-dawn-for-men

Or here (vinyl): https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/tridroidrecords