The Top 20 Albums of June | 2020

THE TOP 20 ALBUMS OF THE MONTH is self-explanatory in concept, a grip of twenty albums that’d resonated most powerfully throughout the month. If you’re new to the site, it’ll be about 85-100% metal albums. Choices are selected based on temporal immersion, personal connection, impressive style, and with great consideration for the lasting value of each album. There are several albums that I will have to leave out of this list, but they’ll all still be considered for end of the year lists. Links to full reviews are provided. Do not think I’ve overlooked any promotional material, I am but one man and writing about music is a passion I afford as much time as is manageable. I am eternally grateful to have so much to choose from. Thank you.

In January, optimistic exhaustion. In February, early thaw and floods. In March, a cross-species global pandemic cripples and kills our vulnerable. In April, cultural flux mounted in preparation for a new depression. In May, racial injustice pushed angered and home-bound citizens far enough to protest at risk to public health. Here at the end of June I begin to see the cracks forming within even the most resilient minds, where the benevolent are overworked and the privileged are losing their grip upon their meal tickets. Death’s grip, this fearful paralysis of it, is maddening and I cannot even feign to glorify its horror in an effort to cope — I relent in awe at the powerful suffering I have witnessed in 2020. Maior e longinquo reverentia. At least the heavy music industry hasn’t hardly slowed its releases (eh, the shipping…) and this June was nothing short of spectacular. NOTE: I’ve stopped using Twitter and RateYourMusic. Please follow me on Instagram and Facebook. All RYM feature lists from 2011-2019 will be “remastered” and posted on, watch for the “Lists” tab.

June releases still in consideration (or process) for reviewStygian Crown, Vestal Claret, Fordomth, Voodus, Dearth, Clairvoyance, Elm, Fellwarden, Deconsecration, Exocrine, Nobody, Arabs in Aspic, Enshadowed, Neptunian Maximalism & a few more. I intend to review most all of these releases, some are included on this list and are still in the draft stages of review where noted.

Each day I meditate with all-consuming gratitude aimed toward the bands, labels and PR firms who choose to work with me — As well as the kind few readers who donate to the site intermittently. The goals and ethos of the site have not changed in 2020 but this year I will continue to focus on more reviews, less features, and keeping up to date with new releases. Thank you.

TITLE:Consequence of Time
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music

Pennsylvania heavy psych’d traditional doom metal band Pale Divine have always stung like nothing else yet twenty five years in and they’ve only become more potent. Whereas so many bands possess the mind by force they’d commune in holy congress, aiming their gravel-smacking guitar roar at the heart and landing hard by way of a voice that just ‘speaks’ to the… Oh, two voices! Already a favorite of mine for years, Pale Divine‘s inclusion of Dana Ortt (Beelzefuzz) is pure fuckin’ magic as the heavy rock spirit of the band is reinforced and empowered. I’d needed to feel this, what emotional connection ‘Consequence of Time’ expresses, and will cherish it for years to come. I don’t think I’d mentioned it in the review but the cover art is just stunning.

TITLE:Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel
RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

Californian death metal duo VoidCeremony had surely been working up to a shift unto ‘new old school’ progressive death metal sounds but they really hadn’t given -that- much of a hint that their debut full-length would be this refined. Wandering, storm-like surges of frantic riffing and swaying grooves are emphasized by the world class, jaw-dropping fretless bass performance from Damon Good (StarGazer, Mournful Congregation) and because of this I couldn’t stop thinking about the first StarGazer album, a personal favorite, while taking a closer look at ‘Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel’. This is of course a good thing, there are few bands capable of this sound that manage anything substantive or memorable and VoidCeremony surely do.

TITLE:Psychic Death “The Shattering of Perceptions”
RECORD LABEL(S):Agonia Records

Though I had enjoyed the previous several records from Greek black metal mainstay Acherontas this last decade ‘Psychic Death’ intends to be a new beginning, a shattering of constructs and perhaps more of an unshackling, a freeing moment for the listener. This line-up, or more specifically the last three albums with drummer Dothar (ex-Lychgate), have sought to find meaningful connections between modern black metal phrasing (and techniques) with the elaborate structures from classic heavy rock, and I’m not at all suggesting there is a bluesy swing to any of it but rather that Acherontas constructs with elaborate vision and dynamic that improves in impact with each release. Also, perhaps on a more superficial level this is an ‘epic’ feeling record throughout, the experience is stoic and enlightened in feeling with some classic Greek black metal thrusts with a bit of the atmospheric jolts of Icelandic black metal guitar sewn into certain pieces. I often lean towards this ‘size’ of grand black metal ambition but only when there is some serious artistic intent behind it and in the case of Acherontas, the result is both menacing and spiritual music.

TITLE:Dream Squasher
RECORD LABEL(S):Relapse Records

Reaching adulthood in the late 90’s meant I’d gotten there as sludge metal broke loose of the underground and you just couldn’t miss a band like -(16)- at the time, at least if you were prone to dig through magazines like I was. They’d long been a mix of punkish early Helmet-isms and their own brand of sludge was a fair mix of AmRep filth and infuriated aggro-doom metal but folks seemed to disconnect from the band around ‘Zoloft Smile’, which was a shame because it is a solid record. Anyhow, this album is one in a string of ’em beyond returning to the fold several years ago and it is the best of their post-2009 output thus far. The shift towards Bobby Ferry‘s vocals on this one is just killer, emotive stuff with a lot of fucked up reality to push out. Soul-crushing stuff, just as sludge metal should be. Production is ace, too, just dirty enough for -(16)- yet their most refined, popping render to date.

TITLE:Vestal Claret
RECORD LABEL(S):Self-Released

Vestal Claret‘s third album was created with severe independence in mind, a bucking of retro-doom/heavy metal trends and cliches that looks to the odd corners of olden psychedelic folk and occult rock that’d influenced Solstice and Pagan Altar over the years. Simon Tuozzoli absolutely understands that it is songwriting, not tone or textural ideologues that lives beyond the artist’s insistence in corporeal form — The result is essentially a soul-crushing psychedelic rock record that toys with folk and traditional (read: early 70’s) doom metal influences. The glue and the absolute soul of my own doom metal experience since discovering Hour of 13 back in 2007 is the voice and lyrics of our beloved wayfaring Phil Swanson, who’d never debride the crown he’s long worn as a favored vocalist for this sort of music. A moving, honest, and brilliantly varied set of songs makes whole this vision of divergent throwback and I am still in the process mooning over it so, the full review needs a few more days. Drums from Justin DeTorre (Magic Circle) and production from Arthur Rizk mean this is probably the most earthly yet precise render of Vestal Claret to date, though I still have some major love for ‘The Cult of Vestal Claret’. Exceptional and essential listening for the month.

RECORD LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin

Ulthar is exactly the sort of cosmically sourced and bombastic death metal that 20 Buck Spin has become known for these last several years and no doubt they’d garner some impressive hype for their second album, ‘Providence’, surrounding its release. This time around they’re a bit more methodical, much more accessibly presented, and surely not lacking in the realm of complex riff-riding streams of consciousness. The black metal angle of ‘Providence’ is slightly more pronounced here compared to ‘Cosmovore’ and I felt like it’d been a smart move to push their blackened emphasis back ’til the second song “Undying Spear”. Solid album with some unique takes on black/death metal mutation, works beautifully when left on repeat.

TITLE:Open the Otherness
RECORD LABEL(S):Shadow Records/Regain

Though they were underappreciated back in 2018 for their second album (their first was ‘Visions of the Past, Which Has Not Yet Come to Be…’ as Jormungand) Swedish melodic black metal quartet Voodus see some inspired reprisal here in 2020 with ‘Open the Otherness’, a two song ~25 minute narrative opus that distorts and expands the Kungälv-based band’s oeuvre threefold. Stunning melodic black metal riffs, soaring atmospheric dread, and some very successful incorporation of melodic death/doom metal influences means these two pieces feel vast, ‘epic’ and aligned with some rueful, torturous cosmic deity. If you loved that Balmog EP from a few months back, or just melodic black metal in general, make sure you give this a whirl too.

TITLE:Abscess Time
RECORD LABEL(S):Willowtip Records

More of everything. More corruption, more corporation justified governmental bloodshed, more dehumanization of constantly polarized populace and now more Pyrrhon. A more miserable, apocalyptic and dirt-dragging bloodied psyche to scream, roar and frantically scratch out mathcore n’ noise rock influenced technical death metal. ‘Abscess Time’ is not the most violent and unhinged Pyrrhon release to date but it is that small step above self-determined standards that it feels like an achievement. The mortal dread of watching helpless as injustice, societal decay and your own scrambling to survive renders you hapless is perfectly expressed in this experimental death climate and man, did it throw me for a loop after probably listening to it ten too many times in the span of a few weeks. There are yet some potential damaging effects coming from Pyrrhon over-exposure and I found that notion damned impressive after several full-lengths.

TITLE:Eden in Reverse
RECORD LABEL(S):Agonia Records

You won’t find me digging many modern progressive rock/metal hybrids these days, not because I don’t care for the sub-genre niche but because it rarely produces groups that aren’t just plain followers. Nobody could rightfully accuse Hail Spirit Noir of anything but self-driven, independent thought when considering the entirety of their impressive discography which has melded black metal, progressive metal, and psychedelic rock in different amounts. The ratio for this strikingly beautiful LP is about 5% extreme metal and the style leans towards synth-heavy 80’s progressive metal with some 70’s prog rock soul and a bit of Borknagar-esque histrionics thrown in for good measure. Didn’t expect to love this record but it grew on me like weeds, giant hooks and sci-fi synths help illustrate a compelling vision of Genesis (as in the biblical sense) through the eyes of atheism and science. Right up my alley, as much as I missed the black metal side of the band it’d been made up for twofold.

TITLE:The Inhabitable Dark
RECORD LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records

‘The Inhabitable Dark’ offers a refreshingly different take on ‘old school’ minded death metal, something screaming loud and riff-heavy to remedy the merch-obsessed caveman dorks who’ve got more t-shirts and baller shorts in their shop than they do fucking songs. On their debut full-length Midwest death metal band Obscene boldly state their case for notability on a worldwide death metal scale, taking the ferality of the first At the Gates album and the shambling corpse-amble of a band like Viogression, making a satisfyingly tight and expressive pure death metal record out of it which I’ve greatly appreciated. In the review I’d described the band as a ‘vital weirdo’ for the US death metal sphere and that still stands, I’d just emphasize the riffs being good a bit more.

RECORD LABEL(S):Chaos Records, Caligari Records

North Seattle area death metal band Deconsecration have managed a fantastic first foot forward with this four song ~16 minute self-titled demo tape and if Chaos Records and Caligari are on board for it, so am I. Finn-death thick basement level guitar chunking with frequent death/doom nods all sound pretty appropriate for our region, none of it overtly complex. Think somewhere in between Infester‘s album and the second Morpheus Descends LP, the riffs don’t reach exactly that hard across the span of the whole thing but there are some serious ’93 death/doom metal grooves achieved nonetheless. Pretty straight forward release but damned effective for it.

RECORD LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records

Though they’d kicked things off as a bass-driven war metallic black/death metal machine, after spending a few years honing their chops and tightening the attack of their pure rhythm section modus, Thecodontion‘s debut full-length, ‘Supercontinent’, offers a triumphant expansion beyond their core musical concept. The Italian experimental death metal duo are still writing songs about the epochs wherein thunder lizards and gigantic beasts thrived upon Earth and I’d personally appreciated the deeper scientific approach to their lyrical themes, it is a worthy talking point when considering ‘Supercontinent’ as a primal free-flowing joint. It took about 3-4 spins to figure the weight and feeling of the record on its own terms, a bit easier to lean into than their ‘Jurassic’ EP from a few years back thanks to the wandering spirit of their instrumental tracks, showcasing bass guitar skills aplenty and achieving an air of psychedelia amidst the primal wallop of it all. Plenty to divine and absorb from this record still, it seems to have legs on my end.

RECORD LABEL(S):Transylvanian Tapes

Don’t miss this fantastic EP from Toldeo, Ohio based quartet Wasteland Coven, who play a stoner/doom thickened form of epic doom metal. Think of it as Candlemass influenced songs with Monolord‘s guitar sound (so… Mourn?). Somber vocals from bassist S. Mitchell haunt each side of the tape, showcasing some mastery of the art of aligning the heaviest hit of each riff with vocal cadence. Simple but effective epic doom movements that I found completely addictive. If you loved the debut from Stygian Crown this month definitely grab this one too.

TITLE:The Forbidden Arts
RECORD LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records

How many bumbling reviews have I written this year that amount to just “Riffs man, riffs.“? Not hardly enough! in fact I didn’t realize I’d been starving for a true skull-fracturing, blood-gulping, bout of blasphemic guitar gymnastics until ‘The Forbidden Arts’ landed on me like a ton of bricks. Shed the Skin‘s third album perfectly emphasizes the diversity of the Ohio death metal sphere throughout the years, punching out brutality and melody in equal measure and amount to good ol’ riff-intense US death metal. It doesn’t need to be any more complex than that. Throw on “Archons of the Final Creation” and crank it all the way up, you’ll get it.

TITLE:Take a Chance on Rock n’ Roll
RECORD LABEL(S):Kincsem Records/Gilead Media

Released digitally in May but arriving on physical media this month, the third album from New York’s violently heavy noise rock band Couch Slut is undoubtedly their finest and most exemplar work to date. Truly a beast of noisome guitar wrenching, soul-blighting lyrical realism, and kick your leg along with the beat catchiness I’d found ‘Take a Chance on Rock n’ Roll’ disturbing and addictive all the same — Exactly what noise rock should aim for. I dunno, I can listen to a hundred Satanic, head-chopping, ultra brutal metal records but it really takes a bit of gutter-livin’ honesty on a psycho rock record to beat me down hardest. Fantastic, painful record.

TITLE:Stygian Crown
RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music

Members of Gravehill and Morbid Eclipse back this epic doom metal album, which has been reasonably touted as ‘death metal heavy’. The self-titled debut from Stygian Crown was an instant hit to my ears thanks to its classic ‘epic’ doom metal style. Vocalist/keyboardist Melissa Pinon is certainly the centerpiece, a most commanding presence working from the greater archetype of early Candlemass and the many generations beyond. Once the expressive spectacle of her vocals have sunk into the mind the riffs, solos and generally dark heaviness of ‘Stygian Crown’ reveals. “Up From the Depths” is perhaps the reason those comparisons you’ve seen to Bolt Thrower should make sense, the ‘…For Victory’-esque lead guitars might be firing off in the background but they do eventually bleed into the subconscious, helping to distinguish between each piece and provide some severity to the heaviness of their doom. I’ll have more to say about the record soon, for now I’d suggest it is essential for classic doom metal fandom among the glut of June releases.

RECORD LABEL(S):Earth Analog Records

Why are folks falling to pieces praising this latest Hum record after a ~22 year hiatus? Sympathetic tones, a mind-releasing gush of stoner/sludge-sized rock guitar tone, and well I guess because it is heavier than expected. Do I care about other Hum records anymore? Not since I was in middle school. Might spin ‘Fillet Show’ once in a while. ‘Inlet’ is an indulgence, a listen that comes with ease and redeems itself by the time it finishes. It is self-indulgent, far too long, and that much more immersive for it. Take “Desert Rambler” as a fine example of a too-long song that surprises with a big payoff, it puts to shame every stoner rock record I’ve heard since, I dunno… Snail‘s last one? Lowrider‘s comeback? Doubt most readers will be interested in this but I’ve gotten more than a few kicks out of it.

TITLE:Sanctifying Ritual
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

Sanctifying Ritual hail from Germany and present their long in-process self-titled debut, the core of their sound is a blackened 80’s death metal lean that will share appeal between black/thrashers and old school death/thrashers. Their line-up comes from from members of Alchemyst, Division Speed and Nocturnal Witch though their style feels like a cross between classic European death/thrash metal and bands like Shakma and Inculter. Excellent album, though it isn’t entirely memorable. More detail in the full review.

TITLE:Is, Qui Mortem Audit
RECORD LABEL(S):Auric Records [CD], Brucia Records [Cassette]

Compared to their 2018 debut ‘I.N.D.N.S.L.E.’ Sicilian blackened funeral death/doom metal band Fordomth have grown in concept, artistic direction and surely the quality of recording for this second album ‘Is, Qui Mortem Audit’. Each of these roughly 7-8 minute songs run the gamut of their oeuvre, bursting into blackened death reap a la Epitaphe and then floating toward quieted atmospheric doom metal moments. By the third song it becomes clear they’re not as intent on plain blackened funeral doom anymore, now leaning towards a brutal form of black/death metal with funeral doom metal influenced pauses of respite within most pieces. This is a satisfyingly aggressive and violent black metal album at its core and though I miss some of their funeral doom atmosphere this is a solid trade-off. I particularly enjoyed the hollow-clanging bass guitar sound, as if it were encased in a metal room and loud enough to shake the walls. I’ll have a full review for this one soon.

TITLE:Moonlit Navigation
RECORD LABEL(S):Gilead Media

Although I had considered several other records for this last spot in June Inexorum‘s second album ‘Moonlit Navigation’ took it because it is an album I’ve continued to listen to and enjoy beyond the full review. I’ll likely bump up my score of it before the end of the year, not because it has illuminated me to any new revelation but because it sits well with me, and is mostly enjoyable when left on repeat. Some of the drums hit a bit dry and there are moments where the vocals drag a bit but overall it is all for the sake of a real, organic and impressively realized melodic black metal record. Modern but sophisticated and delivered with personal conviction. I think they’ve got an even bigger album in ’em down the line but this one comes at a high standard nonetheless.


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