The Top 20 Albums of October | 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, protest and outrage. In June, sanity’s grip begins to falter en masse. In July total self-preservation, sloth and escapism. In Augusteuthymia restored and the mind realigned with natural disorder. In September the world was burning its hottest ah via record breaking stupidity. Here at the end of October [insert thing] can go fuck itself for a few months, I will be tucking into the stuff I love most for the next month and a half as lists are written, favorites are chosen, video games are played, and many stellar vinyl records are thrown to the archives. Which are you looking forward to? Upcoming killers from Bloodsoaked Necrovoid, Molten Chains, Dark Buddha Rising, Darkenhold, Mongrel’s Cross, Of Feather and Bone, Eternal Champion and Demonic are very high on my list (to get, and AOTY lists). There is much more to look forward to and I am grateful to get to witness much of it a month or two ahead of market date.

October releases still in consideration (or process) for reviewUncle Woe, Wyrmwoods, Disrupted, Malicious, Sarcator, Noxis, Wytch Hazel, Svartsyn, Hoaries, October Falls & a few more. I intend to review each 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. Plans for 2021 include two ongoing biweekly features and revisions of some old works dating back to 2011-2017. Thank you.

TITLE:In the Eye of Nothing
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Me Saco Un Ojo

The third full-length album from still-standing Finnish death metal band Gorephilia finds them a quartet under the worst circumstances. ‘In the Eye of Nothing’ is not a defeated or stumbling response to tragedy but rather a strongest triumph for a band who’ve always represented the highest standards of modern Finnish death metal still in view of the classics. Much of what makes this record special comes in response to the technical ferocity of ‘Severed Monolith’ (2017), an overwhelming and altogether stunning work that rarely lowered it shoulders. This time around the Vantaa-based fellows slide into the Rutan-era Morbid Angel side of things (as we heard on Skeletal Remains‘ latest, also) just enough to bring distinctive grooves into each piece, the result is harrowing and muscular with all of the classic death metal mystique of past releases in tact. As it turns out founding guitarist Jukka Aho (ex-Krypts) is a killer vocalist who dominates this record with one of my favorite performances of the year. Brilliant and unforgettable work for my own taste.

TITLE:Sidereal Evolution
RECORD LABEL(S):Edged Circle Productions

Star-sighted in creation of cosmic horror-laced death metal, Slovenian quintet Siderean stands in true evolution beyond their decade as Teleport, setting aside the technical thrash metal spectrum somewhat. This finds the band achieving something spiritually similar to recent Execration or Obliteration, a rare feat that includes their own unique personality alongside a small nod to Morbus Chron as well. The two songs here amount to nearly a full twenty minutes of ‘progressive’ death metal that will no doubt thrill the shit out of folks who’re prone to astral death noise. I found myself listening to this demo tape over and over again after buying it so, it’d earned its high place on this list quickly.


Easily the most underrated progressive sludge/post-metal record of the year thus far, Empress‘ debut full-length arrives later than expected as the band experienced lowest lows and highest highs beyond completion of the work. The complex personal message of the album provides some unintentional catharsis for the passing of their late great bassist Brenden Gunn as it deals with alienation, mental health, survival, and guitarist/vocalist Pete Sacco‘s (Seer) lain bare psyche. The album itself is sublimely melodramatic, cinematic, and often quite heavy and for my own taste this stands out well beyond the leagues of dispassionate, bland, and derivative post-metal I receive quite regularly. There is a purpose and passion to this music that felt real, and I couldn’t deny the ecstatic pain of it. The highest highs? They were able to find a solid record label just before the self-released CDs had even been sent out, I still got one from a pre-order but now I have to save up for the vinyl issue. Exceptional tuneful stuff.

TITLE:Atlas Vending
RECORD LABEL(S):Sub Pop Records

Despite having followed a bit of the hype train surrounding Toronto, Ontario’s alt-punk noise rock trio Metz this last decade this is the first album that immediately hit me via its dissonant concrete-colored dystopian mood. This feels perfectly in line with a lot of the noise rock I’ve been digging the last couple of years between USA Nails and Buildings but, of course Metz have this Albini-esque clang to their gig that isn’t afraid to lean into a catchy later Quicksand-esque piece (“Draw Us In”). It ain’t exactly power-pop but my youth spent soaking up every second of the louder tracks on ‘In Utero’ knows exactly how to feel most of this record’s slinging dread. The restless, anxietous, jumping out of my skin, get out the door and go feeling steaming off of ‘Atlas Vending’ is vital intoxicant whenever I need my brain cleansed. But sure, if you don’t like noise rock by all means skip to the next album.

TITLE:Decomposed Sacramentum
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records

A ruthless discharge that has zoned itself far beyond the Destruction influenced evil thrash metal of their early days in Chile’s underground pits, ‘Decomposed Sacramentum’ is a fiery stab at the crystalline corpses of classic Floridian death/thrash metal progenitors and their vital South American counterparts. From ‘Blessed are the Sick’ and ‘Deicide’ to the Mortem and Atomic Aggressor side of things south of Hell, the riff-obssessed will find a veritable bloodbath to stew in as this record slashes through its ~30 minute reap. Merciless, indomitable death metal attack.

TITLE:Lesions of a Different Kind
RECORD LABEL(S):Prosthetic Records

Yeah, I mean, man I’d been asking for riffs all year and death metal had barely scuffed my ass ’til late summer. Now here in late October we’re finally getting some real fuckin’ work via this groovy debut from (trio, now quintet) Undeath who are out to provide substance over style via these wrangled, mangled, stripped and slippery riff threads that somehow manage to curve into memorable songs. ‘Lesions of a Different Kind’ has a strong sense of its own gravitas, everything is plowing towards a core, a centrally focused beam of hefty traditional death metal given slinking brutal death groove without any tasteless inanity attached. You might leave that first sitting thinking “Man, that was sure death metal” but I’d found my ear twitching for it afterwards, digging some specific pieces in reflection, and appreciating the unique vibe of the record. I’ll be honest, I thought the band were going to meme out and go caveboi dum-dum baller shorts on us beyond the demo era but they’ve proven themselves serious and notable with this first big ‘un.

TITLE:Character Stop

Another top-tier noise rock/post-punk band with a unique point of view, USA Nails offer an acquired taste via their avant-garde etched songwriting and poetic delivery. Now more than ever they’re bringing more variation to their delivery, not just modulated pacing but expanding vocal expression and smaller touches, such as their use of guitar effects, for bigger results. If that HEADS. album was a stretch for you back in May this’ll be at least as much of a trip but I’d found it enlightening and enjoyable. Not as dense n’ direct as ‘Life Cinema’ was last year but surely just as strong a feat.

TITLE:Deranged Hexes
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions

Another short sharp blast of death/thrashing mania from these Finnish folks who’ve been at it since the late 2000’s. ‘Deranged Hexes’ is so mercilessly dense with slapping 80’s death metal riffing that it barely kicks beyond the ~26 minute mark but you’ll no doubt be satisfied at that point. They’ve kept the pace so insistent and blurring fast that they can hardly manage a groove on this record and well, I’d found it refreshing as Hell. I love this kind of death metal; Think along the lines of ‘Altars of Madness’ mania with a blackened reap a la Vorum, Beyond, Verminous and Obscure Burial. Note that each of those bands are split up! The void must be filled and Malicious do a fuckin’ fantastic job here. How do you review something like this, electrocute yourself ’til you have a seizure? I’d recommend it. Pure psychotic evil energy.

TITLE:Macabre Melodies
RECORD LABEL(S):Memento Mori

Wombripper are a Russian death metal band who’ve been thus far defined by their extreme take on Dismember styled death metal, an over the top and loud abrasion that managed to shake out some serious grooves and change-ups along the way. Their debut album dragged on for my own taste, it’d been missing something extra to make it their own. As it turns out they’ve taken a remarkably sharp turn towards classic melodic death metal on the follow up, ‘Macabre Melodies’ and I don’t necessarily mean the soft In Flames styled stuff. That isn’t the full picture, as this record is about half melodic death (see: Intestine Baalism, (later) Dismember, late 90’s Fleshcrawl) and another half in a style closer to Vanhelgd with some dramatic ‘Mental Funreal’-esque crawls the band were already partially known for. In this sense ‘Macabre Melodies’ is a natural follow-up to the previous album having taken a serious leap in quality and style and leaving behind just enough of their loud and raw side to keep things solid and ‘old school’ feeling. Folks who are inclined towards this kind of thing will hone in on what I’m getting at, just give it a spin.

RECORD LABEL(S):Ripping Storm Records

Man, where do I start with French metalpunk death/thrashers Zoldier Noiz? Think of ‘Beat the Bastards’ if they’d been listening to Voivod‘s second album and plenty of late 80’s death metal tapes. ‘Merci’ is entirely related to the band’s discography in terms of sound and style yet it feels heavier, insistent, like some kind of atomic beast lunging at you before the radiation poisoning fries its brain. I can’t count how many times I’ve picked up my ‘Regression Process’ CD and thought “Whatever happened to this band?” and I guess I just wasn’t paying attention in the years since. Don’t skip this one if you love thrash, metalpunk, death/thrash. It looks like Headsplit will be doing the tape version pretty soon so jump on ’em in case they import a few CDs as well.

TITLE:A Romance With Violence
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

If I had to be reductive as possible and get straight to the point, Wayfarer have essentially taken the narrative scope of later Agalloch, applied their own taste in atmospheric black metal and then slowly infused the Denver Sound (gothic country/folk) into their oeuvre and… To great results. However you feel about post-music and a lot of the easy musical shortcuts those associated styles often take, next to none of those criticism apply to ‘A Romance With Violence’. Even if it is cliché of me to suggest a cinematic narrative experience when describing a vaguely post-black metal release it is undoubtedly the overall effect and yet the greater dynamic of the record isn’t so cut-and-dry. The trouble is that if you’ve approached this album wanting ‘World’s Blood’ part two understand that this is even deeper astray from any normative heavy metal structure previous. Beyond notions of style and narrative it must be emphasized how much good the duo of Colin Marston‘s mix and V. Santura‘s mastering has done to help breach above the “underground” feeling of the record. A professional render isn’t everything but it was a pleasure to sit with this record and roll it’s dynamism across my ears like wine. Even if you might dismiss a record of this type as pretentious, the depth is entirely there and the narrative is fantastic… just waiting to be ripped into. I’d found it redeeming.

TITLE:Obsidian Daggers and Cinnabar Skulls
RECORD LABEL(S):Regain/Helter Skelter

Scummy, folkish, crawling, doomed, blackened, yet somehow managing to be straight mid-paced death metal in the long run the rhythmic intensity of this odd Finnish trio is exceptional for its hard to pin down perspective. Alchemical, mysterious, twisted, and always menacing much of what Cynabare Urne conjure here is not brutal in the traditional death metal sense as it recalls later Necros Christos, Alchemyst, and clever doomed fanatics otherwise as it spreads forward like a black curse. Unpure ritualistic death metal from the experimental doom artist perspective, uniquely achieved yet heavy enough to keep me engaged for countless listens.

TITLE:Burning Eerie Lore
Temple of Mystery,
Stygian Black Hand,
Electric Assault

Everything Occult Burial have managed here is better than ever. Their sound is more witching, their speed is blitzed to Hell, and the riffs are slaughterous to the point of hands-on-head screaming insanity but none of it’d have stuck quite as hard if they didn’t go full-on 80’s German/Canadian Satanic speed metal this time around. The vocalist is just insane on this record, over the top in the best way possible in a move that’ll ensure ‘Burning Eerie Lore’ lodges itself in traditional heavy metal skulls for decades to come. Just, don’t necessarily compare this sensation with modern black/thrash energy this is older, colder rage. As soon as I’d seen Iron Angel and the second Exciter album mentioned nearby it kinda clicked for me beyond the early Bathory-isms and those early Slayer (ah via Infernäl Mäjesty) riffs. You’ll still like this stuff if you’re keen on Nocturnal Witch and Deathhammer but for sure this one has 1985 by the balls.

TITLE:Dead End
RECORD LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records

I had way too much fun with reviews this month and although I’m sure it was annoying to some, a lot of these records were a really goddamn good time to discover. Portland, Oregon’s street-doomin’ all stars R.I.P. were probably the most fun with this career-defining third album, ‘Dead End’. Street doom? Think of it like early 80’s doom metal from a street punk perspective, catchy buzzing songs that are more about the hook and the feeling rather than plain 70’s rock driven doom. Not sure what I’m getting at? If you liked their last album, this one has a few more catchy rockers and less meandering doom pieces. I’m still partial to ‘Street Reaper’ for the most part but I couldn’t help falling into this one and I really enjoyed how much the album art repulses folks (as a knee-jerk reaction) when I whip it out. Sorry, I promise to not have an iota of fun as soon as November hits.

TITLE:Realm of the Feathered Serpent
RECORD LABEL(S):The Crawling Chaos

Atmospheric doom/sludge trio Hexer appear to have found themselves beyond their somewhat ephemeral debut album, arriving upon incredibly lucid high production values and the right line-up to sustain their lofty ideas. ‘Cosmic Doom Ritual’ was quite obviously a formative work but I don’t think I’d expected the band to entirely rework their approach, heading in a direction closer to Mantar, Yob and the more aggressive side of early 2000’s Neurosis. I didn’t think much of this record when it released, just a random sludge record to pick up on release date, but as I spent more time with ‘Realm of the Feathered Serpent’ it’d hooked into me something fierce. Waiting to see if a vinyl edition hits before buying a physical copy but definitely felt like it was an essential listen for atmospheric doom/sludge tastes this month.

TITLE:The Stars Below, The Seas Above
RECORD LABEL(S):Silent Future Recordings

This Finnish funeral doom metal band will undoubtedly get a rise from fans of Shape of Despair and won’t attract the death metal leaning crowds at the edges of funeral death/doom conglomeration. When a precision lens is applied, some Worship-esque pacing and lead guitar work is noted but Kraken Duumvirate manage their own idiosyncratic forms void of pronounced keyboard/synth focus and with some strong use of delay on lead guitar, seemingly written for the looping motion created by the guitar effect. The effect is likely to be polarizing for some, either it’ll be entrancing and hypnotic or just a bit repetitive and annoying. I tend on the side of great resolve and enjoyed the greater picture expressed within these pieces, their sonar leading into the depths represents one of the more singular, “out there” funeral doom records of the year.

TITLE:Collateral Dimension
RECORD LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records

Not since Inanimate Existence‘s freakishly good ‘Underneath a Melting Sky’ have I been so entranced by the shake of a record in this style. Italian progressive death metal band Coexistence reach and largely achieve the high standards of Beyond Existence and Obscura, via a similar Cynic-forward approach to the sub-genre. Differentiation comes when they move away from the more machined spectrum of modern progressive and technical death metal, elevating it towards the spark of a band like Sutrah and resisting the urge to settle into respite for too long. The album is a bit long but perhaps even more immersive for it.

TITLE:May You Be Held
RECORD LABEL(S):Thrill Jockey Records

I’ve not been the most loyal fan of Sumac beyond the first two albums, which were avant-atmospheric sludge that didn’t wander too far from the elder Old Man Gloom side of things: Atmospheric but always frightfully menacing. Beyond that point (‘What One Becomes’, 2016) the project became increasingly experimental via inspiration found with their Keiji Haino collaborations. I wouldn’t say that ‘May You Be Held’ reigns any of that in too much more than ‘Love in Shadow’ had back in 2018 but it just lands a bit easier with me by virtue of the songs themselves. Maybe it is the RNG hitting me in the right way but I loved sitting with this album and I honestly haven’t been able to key back into most any sludge all year ’til this month.

TITLE:Resonant Echoes From Cosmos of Old
RECORD LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records

Prometheus will inspire further listening from those who stalk the veil between black and death metal but they do not mutilate the mythos that guides them, that is to say that this is their heightened exploration of grand visions, a painterly mechanism of the epic witness. If you’ve found yourself knowing these pieces and losing the thread along the way then some of the core madness of the experience has probably sunken in, intended or not. If we are considering ancient thought, personal introspective dwelling, and imaginative strokes of Lovecraft horrors then this is an appropriate result. To be lost in ‘Resonant Echoes From Cosmos of Old’ is an exceptional feeling and that cosmic enthrallment is the main reason why I’d give moderately high recommendation of the experience.

RECORD LABEL(S):Packard Black Productions

Bancroft, Ontario stoner/doom metal duo Uncle Woe stick to their epic-sized chunks of expressive doom for their second album and achieve a bit more of a sensible balance in the process. Two pairs of songs, where one ~7 minute piece precedes a 13 minute opus, define the experience by demanding a fair amount of patient focus for one sitting. The way I’d describe this style is about equal parts Uncle Acid and earlier Pallbearer where fuzz-doom rock meets sizable emotionally distraught pieces. I’ll get into it a bit more in review but this one is certainly worth a spin in the meantime if you’re doom inclined.


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