The best metal albums of 2020 so far – it’s a tough pick given how many brilliant releases there have been across the world and across metal genres in the first half of the year. But there are some standouts that deserve kudos for their musicianship, uniqueness and power.
So let’s take a look at the debuts, LPs, EPs, independents, and big label releases that have started an earthquake in our ears.
R U N – For You Will Never Find Peace Within Your Quiet
Australian heavy act R U N released their surprise debut EP, For You Will Never Find Peace Within Your Quiet, on May 29. A duo composed of vocalist Lochlan Watt (host of triple j’s The Racket) and guitarist Mike Deslandes (YLVA/High Tension), it’s a blend of extreme metal fury, hardcore accessibility and the heady contemplation of post-rock. The music ruminates on themes of suicide, heartache, fear, mental health, struggles with queerness and identity and, on top of it all, coming to terms with the life-threatening illness that is cancer.
The pace, the angst, the seamless blending of styles – it’s a brilliant debut.
Make Them Suffer – How To Survive A Funeral
Fans of Make Them Suffer will know the band tread the line between frenetic, circle pit-encouraging metal and gorgeous melodic choruses, but How To Survive A Funeral takes it to another level.
This album is brilliant. Each song brings something to it and nothing is out of place or unnecessary. There is something for everyone that likes heavy music – brutal metal, djenty grooves and gorgeous melodies. Get around this album; it’ll be your next most played.
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
Brisbane prog luminaries Caligula’s Horse released their fifth studio album, ‘Rise Radiant’, on May 22. The album itself is about rather than overcoming adversity, you are succeeding in spite of it. There’s no, ‘I think I can and I’m pretty sure I can’. It’s, ‘I’m going to no matter what comes at me’. Even though you’re a fragile little being trying to achieve and push through that adversity, you still do it. The deer and the mountain in the artwork really represent that. The deer can look at that mountain going, ‘Okay. We’re just going to do a thing. It’s not insurmountable. It’s a challenge, and it is gonna be difficult but you just do it’.
Positivity in metal is not a new thing, but these guys make you remember what a positive metal record should sound like.
Polaris – The Death Of Me
There are some pretty heavy hitters in Australian heavy music and not one to be left in the shadows is Sydney metalcore outfit Polaris. The band’s debut EP put them on the map, enjoyed a top 10 debut and was ARIA nominated, so it was safe to say the pressure was on for their follow up The Death Of Me.
This album is an absolute thrasher from the very first ambient refrains and desperate screams of opening track “Pray For Rain”. And even though the album spans a few different sounds and influences, each song holds its own and the entire album is a collection of damn good songs.
This was a highly anticipated album and it delivers. These songs will be incredible to see live and you’d be crazy not to get along. Polaris is making their mark on the Australian heavy music scene and making sure it is a unique one. This isn’t just another heavy band and they definitely should not be slept on.
Loathe – I Let It In And It Took Everything
Liverpool heavy band Loathe smashed it out of the park with their 2020 release, I Let It In And It Took Everything. The record brings sadness, anger and confusion and wraps it up in brilliantly-executed shoegaze metalcore.
Nobody else has been close to sounding as good as Deftones without copying them.
Konvent – Pure Masochism
Copenhagen death doom outfit Konvent released debut album, Puritan Masochism, on January 24. The Danish collective, founded in 2015, trudges through the blackest mires – following in the footsteps of Mythic, Paradise Lost, Skepticism and Winter. The guttural vocals and riffing from Rikke Emilie Lists combined with the heavy production make the debut by these four Danish women a must listen.
Lamb of God – Lamb of God
Of all the previous Lamb of God albums, this one brings to mind the gutsy, ‘we’ve got something to prove’, stripped-down and taking no prisoners Ashes Of The Wake from 2004, a game-changer for the band at a critical time that won over even their staunchest detractors.
Self-titled records usually denote a change in direction or mission statement for a long-time band, and Lamb Of God falls firmly in the latter department. It is a brave, confident, beautiful slap to the face of their critics and also fans that gave up when the chips were down, and it will no doubt become one of their most classic albums overall. In an all-too brief 45 minutes of face-melting music, they have thrown that rusty old gauntlet down and proclaimed that they are still the kings of the modern American metal heap, and no amount of adversity or bullshit will stop their mission to remain as such.
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
As godfathers of this genre, Paradise Lost make their mark and give everything they’ve got on Obsidian, and it’s easily one of the best in their wonderful discography. For long-time fans, it’s like a greatest hits made up of all new songs, and whatever your preferred era or sound from the band, it’s all in here and more. Here’s hoping that they will continue with great success because, if nothing else, ‘Obsidian’ proves once again that Paradise Lost still have a hell of a lot more to say, and we’re the lucky buggers that get to savour it all.
Sylosis – Cycle Of Suffering
Sylosis’ 2020 offering, Cycle Of Suffering, delivered the first look at the band since their three-year hiatus. The dark ambience, the plausible melodies and hard riffs make this album an exceptional listen. Producer Scott Atkins emphasised the importance of a natural sound on this album and that shines through.