So, 2020 has been... a year. Pandemics, wildfires, rising authoritarianism, nascent fascism becoming less nascent.... Yaaaaay.
But what better way to drown out this shitty fuck of a year and what better balm to bask in than the soothing discordancy of metal. So, to the four-and-a-half metalheads who still post here, let's talk about what we're listening to, because if there's one thing I really need at this time, is more music to spend my money on.
So, some of the various metal-related things I'm listening to this hellish shit of a year.
Protest The Hero - Palimpsest (Mathcore/Progressive Metal)
You know, in the past, I was never a big fan of Protest The Hero, but something really clicked with Palimpsest. The album is just filled with fantastic songs and is just eminently relistenable. "All Hands" and "From The Sky" are catchy as fuck but with just the right amount of technicality. This is easily my favorite album of the year so far. The themes it deals with are front-and-fucking center in 2020, but it's not misery porn and it has a degree of hopefulness that helps me escape to a better place for a brief, brief period. Heartily recommended if you can get over the divisive vocals.
Havok - V (Thrash Metal)
Havok do absolutely nothing new here other than make even more 80's worshipping thrash. Thankfully, they seem to have stepped away from the Ant-SJW chud-topia lyrics that plagued their last album and refined the songwriting to the point where you can just sit back, turn your brain off, and let the riffs pummel you into sweet, sweet oblivion. Again, don't expect anything genre-defying or even defining here, they play thrash and they play it well. It's a good album. I don't know how long it will stay in my rotation, but I enjoy it for what it is.
4/5 (maaaaaybe 3.5/5, depending on how long it stays in my rotation)
Judicator - Let There Be Nothing (Power Metal/Thrash Metal)
Imagine if Blind Guardian made an album about the Crusades. That's it. That's all this album is. Blind Guardian worship + THRASH + Crusades = Judicator. The vocals are great, the riffing is good, and the songs are pretty good and it's some nice, enjoyable Power Metal that's light on the cheese.
Neck Of The Woods - The Annex Of Ire (Progressive Metal)
Neck Of The Woods mixes Progressive Metal, Death Metal, and Metalcore into one sweet, sweet mix. It's got a lot of variety for its seven tracks yet still somehow manages to sound pretty cohesive. Also, the album is a good, concise almost 40 minutes long, which is fucking perfect for this. Too often, bands overstuff their albums with filler and shit songs but not here. This is a wonderful album that I only bought because the cover looked cool and I'm glad I did. Also, their hot sauce is pretty good too.
Testament - Titans Of Creation (Thrash Metal)
It's not bad, but it's not really all that great either. I'm not the biggest Testament fan, but this seemed to get some pretty decent reviews earlier in the year so I figured I'd give it a shot. Again... it's fine. Where Havok papered over their unoriginality with songwriting and ferocity, Testament just kind of plods along here just doing their thing. There're some good songs here, but honestly most of the album just runs together for me and I usually start to zone out about halfway through... except for "Curse of Osiris" which is pretty killer. That's like the one, real standout track here.
Code Orange - Underneath (Hardcore)
Not metal but metal-adjacent IMO. I got into Code Orange with their last album, but this one, Underneath just blows it out of the fucking water. Fast, frenetic, atonal insanity. There's a couple of more melodic-ish moments on this but prepare yourself for an onslaught of atonality. I'm not always in the mood for it but, when I am, it fucking rips.
Out of all the music from this year that I've been listening to, these are the only ones that I feel like I've listened to enough to properly rate. There's a bunch more that I still need to give some more time to but here're some brief rundowns:
- Katatonia - City Burials (Sadboy Progressive/Alternative Metal) - Honestly pretty boring the few times I've listened to it. I feel like each Katatonia album has about a 50% chance of being fucking amazing (Last Fair Deal Gone Done, Dead End Kings) or just incredibly boring (Fall of Hearts, Night Is The New Day) and this one feels like it's verging on being boring. Hopefully that changes when I give it more time.
- Pyrrhon - Abscess Time (Technical Death Metal?) - One of the filthiest albums of the year, Pyrrhon have made yet another slab of bludgeoning, atonal metal. Like with Code Orange, I'm not always in the mood to listen to this, but I find it incredibly satisfying when I do. I feel like the more time I give this, the more I'm going to like it.
- Haken - Virus (Progressive Metal) - Not really feeling this one yet. It kind of feels like a step down from their last album and more of an extension of that sound rather than a real evolution. That's my quick, shitty take after only a few listens. Could quickly change.
- Caligula's Horse - Rise Radiant (Progressive Metal) - I'm really digging this one. It feels like they've trimmed off any and all fat that could've existed and just delivered a solid set of songs. Only problem is I'd be hard pressed to pick out a favorite song so far. Every song is just "good" with nothing that stands out much above the rest.
- Green Carnation - Leaves of Yesteryear (Progressive Metal) - Good, but immediately fades from my brain after listening. Feels much denser and less immediate than both Haken and Caligula's Horse which means I just need to give it more time I guess.
- Pain of Salvation - Panther (Progressive Metal) - I fucking hate the mix on this. Everything sounds buried and mushed together which makes it unpleasant to listen which is too bad because I do enjoy the music. I just wish it didn't sound like shit. Meh, I'm sure I'll get over it eventually.
- Nightwish - Human || Nature (Symphonic Metal) - Listened to this once, was pretty bored. I'll return to it eventually but literally everything else looks and sounds more enjoyable.
- The Ocean - Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic (Post-Metal/Progressive Metal) - The first two songs are fucking amazing, but after that it's kind of a slow, downhill slide. The other songs certainly aren't bad but are just not nearly as good as the first two. That said, this will likely end up being a fav.
- Intronaut - Fluid Existential Inversions (Progressive Metal) - The first couple of times I listened to this, I was left kind of cold, but it's been growing on me quite a bit. There're some good riffs on this and the songs are all interesting and creative but it can sound cold and mechanical at first listen. I may not always like everything they do, but Intronaut are one of the more interesting progressive metal bands out there right now.
- Imperial Triumphant - Alphaville (Avant-Garde Black Metal Aural Brain-Fuck) - Holy fuck and I thought Pyrrhon was difficult to get into. Imperial Triumphant is like a fucking block of granite compared to Pyrrhon's watery brie. I have no idea if I like this, but it's going to take me a while to figure it out.
- Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters (Decidedly NOT Metal) - Just an absolutely wonderful album and a nice break from the neck-thrashing intensity of the above. This will likely end up as one of my favs of the year.
So yeah, you made it this far. Congratulations. You win nothing but the opportunity to tell me and everyone else what filthy fucking music you've been listening to this godawful year. At the very least, there's been some good music, so yay?