The Top 20 Albums of November | 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. In October the denial of autumnal grief lead to intense heavy metal escapism. Here at the end of November we embrace sorrow, the green-hued cold, blurring sanity and our inevitable fall into despair.

November releases still in consideration (or process) for reviewOndskapt, PAGA, Void Moon, Sainte Marie des Loups, Contrarian & a few more will end up on lists. 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. Thank you.

TITLE:Expelled into the Unknown Depths of the Unfathomable
RECORD LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

Although I would unquestionably consider ‘Expelled into the Unknown Depths of the Unfathomable’ to be one of the best death/doom metal records in recent memory we can zoom out to the bigger picture of 2020 and find a whole host of incredible records releasing on a regular basis within the very healthy sub-genre. It just so happens that Costa Rican duo Bloodsoaked Necrovoid not only land the hardest seismic punch on their debut full-length but that the album lands within my favorite aural spectrum of deeply underground tonality, lunging death blasts and cryptic doom’s inverted guts… That is to say, more practically speaking, the style of this album resembles the modern influence of gods Rippikoulu and Disembowelment to start. #1 and #2 this month are basically even, I am possessed by both. Make sure you read the interview I did with the band for the premiere stream of the record.

TITLE:Arcana, Scrying and Revelation
RECORD LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records

This Australian ‘epic’ thrashing black/death metal band have delivered yet another columnar blast of superior sentience, an arcane heavy metal record that absorbs me and wrangles the thought from every neuron. I suppose what sticks with me here in terms of observations is not only that Proscriptor fits so naturally into these works as a vocalist but that this undertaking isn’t an experiment, it is a bold and memorable black/heavy metal record. Expect hints of Varathron‘s austerity and the precision mind of Grand Belial’s Key; Certainly something Absu fans will love.

TITLE:Ex Rosa Ceremonia
RECORD LABEL(S):Transcending Records

New line-up changes, bigger ideas, plenty of insightful changes and modulation of the production/engineering process doesn’t mean you won’t recognize this second record from dark death/doom metal band Pulchra Morte but, ‘Ex Rosa Ceremonia’ is of its own fresh mold. The biggest picture I can manage here suggests this band aim for an emotional conveyance and connection with the listener, that they’re not aiming to be plainly captivating like so many other melodically inclined death/doom bands but catchy enough that they might stick. At least this has been my experience. The debut had a really strong handful of unforgettable, instantly gratifying hooks which sustained the full listen this second album brings those hooks but also crafts a better rounded listening experience with some unexpected twists and slightly more complex revelations.

TITLE:Black Abomination Spawn
RECORD LABEL(S):Invictus Productions

On a bestial level ‘Black Abomination Spawn’ activates the part of my brain that has been consistently thrilled by the speed, blasphemy and guitar acrobatics of heavy metal since first hearing Slayer in 1990. The attack of Omegavortex‘ debut is not effortless in fact it is hard fought and challenging as a myriad storm of brutally directional death/thrash metal that has been blackened to invoke the Hell of chaos and well… Actually that is my biggest note for this long anticipated release, they’ve fucking nailed the black metal aspects of their compositions beyond the demos prior. Yes, I am always going to be that guy who heard ‘Altars of Madness’ on his brothers stereo in the early 90’s and never looked back, this only perpetuates the illness! Look up the interview we did for the premiere of this album, it will illuminate.

TITLE:Unveiling the Threshold
RECORD LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records

Although Skelethal are French their material to date has taken a healthy stab at classic Swedish death metal since forming in 2012. Although their early do it yourself ethos on EPs and their first album were commendably gritty, ripping with undeniable riffs, of course some professional polish would send the band into another league. ‘Unveiling the Threshold’ is not overproduced, though, and remains sharply honed towards the works that’d appear just after Nihilist split into several pieces. In my review I harp on about how bands that understand late 80’s thrash and punk music make for the best ‘old school’ death metal musicians and well, because Skelethal prove this. It wouldn’t be this high on the list if it didn’t have riffs throughout.

TITLE:Floating in Timeless Streams
RECORD LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records

Just as I’d suggested in the review, this album from long standing Finnish death metal band Lie in Ruins will undoubtedly grow on me more over time. Though I am being careful with vinyl spending ’til mid-January ‘Floating in Timeless Streams’ is one of my more anticipated grabs in the near future; It has this undeniable allure that comes from both the resonant imagery of the art and the depth of the music itself, which finds the band capable of going wherever they please in terms of style. Some pieces are blackened, doomed, thrashing and certainly work within their own niche of new ‘old school’ Finnish death metal. I am still enamored with this one and the wealth of Finndeath we’ve gotten this year between old favorites like Solothus, Gorephilia, and such. Slightly more coherent thoughts in the full review.

TITLE:The Autumn Throne
RECORD LABEL(S):Sun & Moon Records

Swedish epic heavy/doom metal duo Void Moon certainly fit the description but they’re not some stock standard Candlemass imitation, instead they’ve found their own way leading up to the high point of distinction that this third full-length. You’ll understand the moment opener “Feels Like Hell” lands — We’ve got our mood for the month right there generally speaking but the build of the song, the introduction of the album, and the lyrical payoff reveal a band working quite hard to express forms in their own meaningful and evocative way. A bit of early Grand Magus and a huge hit of epic heavy metal guitar work ensure we’re not just getting a sleepy collapse into the frozen pile of dead leaves but a true heavy metal riff album emergent. The full review is coming soon, needless to say: Essential epic doom metal listening for the year.

TITLE:Funérailles de feu
RECORD LABEL(S):Amor Fati Productions,
Extraconscious Records

I’d considered including the new Inquisition album here as it is a fine work but it’d be dishonest in my mind, since I’m only a few listens into it. Instead here is an album that has demanded countless listens already, the second full-length from raw French black metal act Sainte Marie des Loups. Perhaps “raw” is subjective to some but melodicism is… less, and in this case these folks have improved their craft tenfold in a matter of two years. ‘Funérailles de feu‘ was initially baffling to me because I’d been treating it as a starting point rather than a leap in every direction. Once I’d gotten around to their debut and figured my way through some regional European melodic influences beyond, this album became an addiction for its guitar work and surrealistic production values. More when the full review is ready.

TITLE:Ravening Iron
Sword Worship

Despite not finding their debut remarkable back in 2016 I’ve bought into this anthemic and fairly memorable second album from Eternal Champion a fair deal. Having picked up the vocalist’s book and bought this CD I definitely prefer the music to the lore in terms of craft but, only because the charisma with which ‘Ravening Iron’ is presented is undeniably strong. 80’s Priest influenced power metal and speed metal ridge this album with just enough movement to keep it going but the ultimate strength of ‘Ravening Iron’ is its stomping, nigh galloping pace which allows this second album to writhe a bit more. The major improvement here from my point of view comes via the vocal performances, their arrangements, and the unreal tone achieved as Tarpey provides a character unique to Eternal Champion. Lots of gushing hyperbole in the full review.

TITLE:The Evil Year
RECORD LABEL(S):Svart Records

‘The Evil Year’ lands somewhere out of time, sparking this early-to-mid 70’s Uppsala-brained psychedelic art rock and loosely post-punk body music from Gottfrid and Pelle Åhman (In Solitude, Reveal!, et al.) between funk-heavy jams and sentimental freak rockers. Even on a cursory, non-committal first listen you’d have a hard time missing the intense retro vibe that smolders from each songs darkly approach. Cinema worthy LSD freakout rock can actually work itself into memorable pieces but it’d all be vibes and soundscapes without songs that anchor the experience, such as the creep-walking funk of “Enter”. More thoughts if/when the full review is finished.

RECORD LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music

The most refined full-length from this legendary Italian epic heavy metal band to date comes with a dramatic concept driving its progressive/epic heavy metal narrative, essentially the last three days of the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that’d buried the city of Pompei in stone circa 79 AD. Learning a bit more of the actual mechanics of the brutal, deadly event and the people it affected is interesting enough but the keyboard driven works that highlight the album become a spectacle of their own in service to the narrative. Each song being told from a different characterization or perspective means the thread of instrumentation can stay consistent throughout but each piece remains its own vignette. A fantastic album which I’m almost keen to prefer over ‘Ithaca’ (2015).

RECORD LABEL(S):Svart Records

Finnish psychedelic droning doom/sludge metal band Dark Buddha Rising are forever additive, always bigger and wiser than the last stage in their development. Their seventh album ‘Mathreyata‘ represents the utmost plateau of preparation and sacrificial wait, a set of pieces performed live and absorbed unto their cloud of blackest psychedelia long before they were put to tape. As such, the calm and collective maturity of this “intimately atmospheric” record is singular and their most weighted stabbing at tradition’s throat. Meditative, memorable, balls heavy sludge/doom metal with its own strong point of view.

TITLE:Saint Desecration
RECORD LABEL(S):Agonia Records

Historically speaking we’ve only seen the total war of Satanic death metal supremacy advance most seriously as it passed from late 90’s perfection towards early-to-mid 2000’s megaton hammer-nuked forms of blackened extremity via the serious unholy firestorm of bands like Polish quartet Azarath, a Tczew-based group of fellows who’d seen the continuum of irreligious blackened death metal circa 1998 and have since sought to deliver something even more brutally oppressive and blasphemic beyond the realm of possibilities. This seventh full-length album, ‘Saint Desecration‘, finds the band maintaining their ruthless, raw-edged pedigree of subversive tongues and blasting blackened death metal while still retaining the performers’ intensely high professional standards. A new frontman brings some slight refresh to this Polish blackened death metal band’s sound but they’re still evolutionarily stable, perfecting the style first hit upon back in 2009 and (for my taste) perfected on the classic ‘Blasphemers Malediction’ (2011). Brutal death metal heaviness, precision work with some heavy groove focused death metal riffing, and a style I’d place near the best of Krisiun and Centurian.

TITLE:Funeral Planet
RECORD LABEL(S):Ozium Records

When you first fire up ‘Funeral Planet’ you’re gonna “get it” right away but not all of “it” until you’ve chilled out for at least fifteen minutes of Temple‘s potent, ultra-stoned gloom. They’re not rocking out, jigging around, heavy blues-breaking all over the place nah this is a hanging head-sized plow through the piles of bodies we leave behind as we live on, stalking their remains. Though the guitar tone and movements do indicate a nuclear stoner/doom metal style (see: second Monolord album) most of these pieces are closer to early Warning or Holy Serpent than they are Sleep ’til the real big riffs chunk in (see: “Magma”) but this is more of a traditional doom metal album. ‘Funeral Planet’ snuck up on me this month and I’ve not been able to get it out of my head.

TITLE:Seven Bowls of Wrath
RECORD LABEL(S):Xtreem Music

Now in their twentieth year and flying their banners highest, Athens, Greece-based death metal quintet Soulskinner continue to not only sustain their craft but to trumpet resoundingly within the realm of thoughtful mid-paced ‘old school’ ideals. Their fifth full-length ‘Seven Bowls of Wrath’ arrives on its own terms, once again grasping the spirit of death metal via a slow-weaving electrical storm preceded by flashes of thunderous, lofty melodicism. I’m not sure I’d call this album a melodic death metal record but at least 75% of the material centers around very sound melodic ventures. I emphasize this point because it is something fresh and new from a band that has focused on pure rotten basement heavy death metal for their last 2-3 records. This is a strong refinement and a class record that will undoubtedly go on underrated.

TITLE:Sulfuric Disintegration
RECORD LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records

The third album from “sludge/crust gone pure bestial death metal” crew Of Feather and Bone finds the band at their most brutal and succinct. Hammering out a most potent second LP to focus on their new-ish death metal sound. Brutal? Yeah, to the point that I’d end up comparing them to Pissgrave and Ruin Lust depending on the piece. The best way I could probably sum up the feeling of this record is probably Embrace of Thorns transitional records, moving from bestial black/death metal towards their own form of blackened death metal. Anyhow, the review gives a slightly more coherent and much more detailed rundown of what this album is all about. I like it, these guys are headed in a fine direction and I am happy whenever I decide to pick it up but… it hasn’t held up as memorable just yet.

RECORD LABEL(S):Temple of Mystery

Toronto epic heavy metal enthusiasts Possessed Steel have delivered one of the more entertaining epic heavy metal albums of the year with ‘Aedris’, an enthusiastic dive into its own world of high fantasy fiction. Their vocalist/guitarist effortlessly swings from Simon Matravers sensitivity to a blackened rasp depending on what the narrative calls for and this is the core mastery of the record. Otherwise we’re essentially served a heavy/power metal record heavily influenced by classic epic heavy metal, emphasizing the vocal arrangements and not quite stealing the show with the rhythm guitar work just yet. Plenty of room to grow but this debut is yet remarkably achieved.


New four piece line-up, old analog production methods, and a kick of speed all make for the best Sodom record in about a decade. The sixteenth full-length from these ancient ones simply reinforces their classic sound and legacy, dipping back to the ‘Persecution Mania’ days via the return of one of their best remembered guitarists Frank Blackfire who brings the riffs alongside a new second guitarist this time around. Sodom have never run out of steam or made any truly horrible choices throughout their main discography but they’ve certainly hit some weird spots along the way changing the guitarist situation after nearly 25 years is a huge deal and well, it lead to a pretty sharp new record. Can’t help but wax nostalgic about such an important band in the review but, this one has held up pretty well despite being about 10-15 minutes too long.

TITLE:Primeval Devilish Wisdom
RECORD LABEL(S):Nuclear War Now! Productions

After paying homage to Greek black metal heroics with their first album this Lexington, Kentucky-based band slither back to their bestial black/death roots and the results are enlightened to say the least. To be sure this band is in the exact right place next to labelmates Cemetery Lights and Moenen of Xezbeth via similar pacing and the shared glorious amber resonance that comes from listening to Varathron, Mystifier, Master’s Hammer and Necromantia records ’til they’ve warped. I would go one step further and suggest that folks who’re tied up in the bliss of Departure Chandelier will find some of these pieces to thier liking too but, of course from a bit more bestial scourge-mouth. I know folks are into like, less than 50 copies lathe cut vampire goth dogshit this year or whatever but this is the sort of record I’d like to hear a lot more of en masse.


The vague collective of pulse-observant Colorado, United States based musicians contributing to Stormkeep continue to open doors in all directions, starting new ventures aimed at unattended or vitally hot sub-genre niche. This project has been massively hyped despite representing a pretty well sated tradition of black metal’s synth heavy melodic side. Yes, the EP is a tasteful enough with its admixture of melodic ideas from early folk, viking, and symphonic black metal to be considered a “relevant” stylistic endeavor but I’d found ‘Galdrum’ was more an effective study of a certain sect of early second wave black metal ideals rather than a fresh classic in that style. Even if I don’t fully understand the hype among vampire vinyl kiddies, this is a fine record and a very promising start for the project. More substantial thoughts in the full review.


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