If you’re familiar with our coverage here at From Corners Unknown, you likely know that in our near five-year existence we have never published a year-end list. Granted, the first couple years of FCU mostly consisted of me and only me clacking away at reviews; however, once the podcast began in late 2017 by way of interviewing artists, the site’s scope began to expand. Connor signed his life away to ramble with me into the void about some obscure releases in December of that year, and we’ve been sputtering along ever since. Then in March of 2019 boarded Ryan Woody and Tim Harbour, both of who have been consistently penning reviews for records well-, and not so well-known.
Other contributors, namely Duncan Park and Derek Paul, merged into the fold in late 2019 and early 2020, respectively. Where Duncan and I tend to make infrequent sojourns via a retrospective lens through older and outlandish pieces such as Comus’ First Utterance and The Shaggs’ Philosophy of the World, Derek has become a staple in our track review podcast ramblings. Both have corrugated the site’s fabric, the former introducing me to venerable gems from days of yore, and the latter rendering our approach to reviews more conversational and carefree.
Anyway, let’s cut the reminiscent rambling there and proceed into the lists curated by each contributor. The “rules” are loose. I posed to each individual the following: select either your “top five” or “top ten” records for 2020 and provide an approximate 100-word description for each selection. And that’s it. Each contributor’s list is detailed in the order I received them. Thank you all so much for your support throughout this year!
Top 5 Records
5. Clown Core – Van
The shortest and weirdest thing I heard this year, I should have hated everything about it but I really enjoyed the chaotic jazz-grind Clown Core put out this year. It’s like a panic attack but sort of almost friendly.
4. Pallbearer – Forgotten Days
Pallbearer tightens their songwriting more with each release and this year’s Forgotten Days is their leanest yet. They grow a little with each album in ways that frequently surprise me without entirely jumping out of the doom mold.
3. ZOMBIESHARK! – I Will Destroy You, Myself, and Everything I’ve Ever Loved
Despite all the shifts and whiplash-inducing changes, this album has hooks and flows as one journey across all the tracks. Absolutely did not expect that out of a cybergrind project in 2020 and I’m glad it happened.
2. Soft Kill – Dead Kids, R.I.P. City
This isn’t a metal record. It’s dancey and sad and gothy. The closing trap wants you ugly crying until you need treatment for dehydration. As with past Soft Kill albums, it’s gorgeous and you’re missing out if you skip it.
1. Fuck the Facts – Pleine Noirceur
Why have I never checked this band out before this year? What genre even is this? Why are parts of it so fucking pretty? This is either the most melodic emo grind record I’ve ever heard or the most caveman take on blackgaze. I don’t know how to describe or classify it and I don’t think that matters, it’s just real fucking good.
There is no order to this list. Considering how different all these acts are I think it would be unfair to rank them. The way I decided on my list was pretty simple. I went through every act I reviewed this year and made a list of my favourites which end up at around 10 bands. From that, I whittled it down to 5 with a few honourable mentions that I didn’t think made it into the Top 5 but deserved some recognition still.
Don’t Walk on the Mass Graves would have made my Top 5 but I felt it unfair to compare a two-track EP to full-length albums so I decided to keep this release separate. Of the two Ruins of Beverast splits that came out this year, this was by far my favourite. Mourning Beloveth’s track, although not as heavy as the Ruins of Beverast track, was morbidly sombre and emotive. The Ruins of Beverast track was a maelstrom of psychosis, beautiful yet terrible.
Drouth’s Excerpts From a Dread Liturgy and Fluisteraars’ Bloem made up my journey through modern black metal this year that, although unique and enjoyable in their own way, were just slightly behind the ones I listed in my top 5. I do think they deserve a mention here as they were both fantastic albums that deserve some recognition.
Top 5 Records
Esoctrilihum – Eternity of Shaog
An insane trip of a black metal release. The production quality is both odd but surprisingly engaging. The record is an aural rite of destruction, dripping with mysticism and ritual. Yet as with the nature of chaos, so exists order and this album balances those two factors masterfully.
Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi
I have listened to a hell of a lot of black metal this year (pun intended) and this record has to be the most original and innovative of them. The equivalent of finding yourself in some future dystopian city peaking on some really strong acid while simultaneously being chased by an orange Mesopotamian devil.
Rezn – Chaotic Divine
Although doom metal is very close to my heart, I did not find too many releases this year that excited me enough to make it into my top 5… except one. Now this record is not the heaviest or the most intense but it is by far the most unique. The use of interesting instrumentation, most notably saxophone, blending with some 70s psychedelia gives this release the edge over a plethora of doom releases that blend into one these days.
Vonlaus – Röð slæmra ákvarðana
Out of all the albums I reviewed this year this one probably spoke to me most directly. Although mostly in a language I do not immediately understand something about the mood and emotion of this album really connected with me. This album gives me a sense of great sadness yet of hope. Ironically the band’s name translates in ‘Hopeless’ but please don’t let that get in the way of my analysis.
Firelink – Firelink
There was almost no way this release would not make it onto my list considering how much of an illogical fanboy I am for the Dark Souls series. This record has it all, it’s progressive and technical with mind-blowingly awesome composition, blistering instrumental work, and bone-crushing vocals. This album can be enjoyed by anyone, not only Souls fans but being a fan of the series sure does help. These guys have another album in the pipeline and I am seriously looking forward to it.
Ryan W.’s Picks
This year’s release roster has been lengthy and loaded with amazing acts, but in truth, I probably listened to less new music in 2020 than any previous year. I try to keep an ear to the ground about new records coming out, but my primary source for discovering new music has always been live shows, all of which 2020 saw fit to swallow whole. My choice to avoid the toxic tar pits of social media this year probably didn’t make it any better either.
But for all its mountains of shit, 2020 still gifted us a bevy of amazing albums. Below is a list of the ones that I found the most interesting, the most poignant. Though shows are unlikely to return in the near future, my local scene continues to wring the piss out of this pandemic and turn it into gold, so don’t be surprised to see some local and regional acts in this list. Also, count yourselves fortunate I did not decide to write an essay on why Goldfinger’s new album is their best in 15 years.
Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress is a pugilistic cacophony of noisecore rage: overdriven guitars slinging repulsive riffs, a bounty of blast beats, and raw, vile vocals. Gulch beats their instruments to pulp on this record, proving they are everything that everyone’s been saying this whole time. I hadn’t taken the time to investigate them until this release, but you can bet your ass I’m listening now.
CYR is the Smashing Pumpkins’ most interesting album in almost a decade, and surprisingly, that stems from how simple and accessible it is. The Pumpkins dive back into their goth-rock roots, exploring textures and tones they haven’t fucked with since before Gish, and using a whole Guitar Center’s worth of synthesizers. There’s a little too much pop for my tastes, but this is easily their best release since 2012, and maybe since 1998. Leave your hate in the comments.
My first foray into the chaotic creations of the Respire family, Black Line paints gentle melodics atop a battered background of black metal speedpicking, guttural vocals, and vivid lyrical images. The seamless integration of classical instruments and palettes into their atmospheric skramz lends a timeless sort of beauty to the compositions. It’s folky and fucking heavy all at the same time, and I am here for it.
Top 5 Records
5. Communal Misery – Communal Misery
In the last few years, Communal Misery has gained a reputation as CT’s heaviest, filthiest, fuck-you-up-est death metal band, and their eponymous EP earns them the title belt. This two-piece welds crunchy anti-melodic riffs to wicked blasts and coats them in unmitigated hardcore fury.
Their dual-vocal style amplifies the furious and fed-up sentiment of the politically-charged lyrics, but Communal’s decision to continually donate proceeds from this record to local bail funds and BLM groups shows that this band has always had their money where their mouth is. 2020 may have vomited in all of our mouths, but Communal Misery spits that shit right back in its face, then coldcocks the sucker. 2021 better watch its back bruh.
4. Sightless Pit – Grave of a Dog
Grave of a Dog uses club banger beats and classical piano chords as a foundation for harsh noise experiments. Unnamable textures and tones crash like lightning amid the constant thundering boom of the kick drums. The vocal performances alone make this record breathtaking—Kristin Hayter’s cathartic and commanding voice rings like a clarion call against Dylan Walker’s wretched dry-heaving screams. Sightless Pit embraces the idea of the audial experiment, then bends and twists those experiments into unique and jarring shapes. This is one record I knew I had to own the second I started spinning it, and I’m still sore I missed out on the hot pink vinyl.
3. Ghostemane – ANTI-ICON
Ghostemane has found the exact intersection between metal and trap with ANTI-ICON. He smashes brutalizing hardcore chugs against sharp trap percussion, and pits washes of harsh noise against sickly-sweet whispered vocals or high-intensity rhymes. Ghoste’s blend of hardcore and hip-hop is as effective as it is reverent. It’s modern rap production meets Nine Inch Nails with a dash of Full of Hell, all capped with Ghostemane’s virulent vocals. I am already starving for his next release.
2. Intercourse – One Day Your Hate Will Follow You Home
Anyone’s who reads my reviews knows how much I love this band. They are live legends in New England, and there has never been a better year to drop a live record than this one. One Day Your Hate Will Follow You Home captures the audial assault from which Intercourse has crafted their live show—the walls of feedback, bouts of blast beats, and wild wet vocals. The set list includes some of the band’s most brutal numbers, and all the proceeds from this record were donated to Protest 5 GSO. So the next time you’re really jonesing for the days of yore when bands could perform live, put One Day Your Hate Will Follow You Home and crank the volume all the way up. Your speakers won’t survive, but neither will you be disappointed.
1. IDES – Hikikomori
Of the countless music recommendations I get from folks, maybe half end up being records I appreciate, and only maybe 1 out of 100 will make me shut the fuck up and listen. For 2020, that record is Hikikomori by New Jersey punks IDES. This record beats against every boundary with absolute abandon: the biting and poignant lyrics expertly capture the too-fed-up-to-be-fearful ire that this year has stoked in so many of us. Hikikomori yanks the guts out of punk, metal, post-hardcore, even a touch of grind, then uses those innards to create a collection of brash but beautiful songs that demand multiple listens. And that punchy bass tone still has me salivating like Pavlov’s dog.
Top 5 Records
5. Robbie Basho – Selections from Song of the Avatars: The Lost Master Tapes
Not technically a reissue, since none of these songs were ever previously released, but this is a treasure trove of stunning songs recorded by acoustic guitar and warbly voiced maestro, Robbie Basho. There’s also a five-disc full collection of all his unreleased tracks that I’m desperate to get my hands on, but for now, this single LP edition featuring a few choice cuts from his extensive archive will do just fine. A man who played guitar like no other, transforming it into an instrument for the performance of expansive, sprawling ragas which levitated to beautiful heights, conjuring vistas that no one else before or since has managed to craft on a guitar. Magnificent, and a testament to a man who’s talent has for too long been neglected and ignored.
4. Gwenifer Raymond – Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain
3. Six Organs of Admittance – Companion Rises
Well, this is probably my favourite band (although it is actually just one guy). And this album makes for some interesting and wonderful listening. A beautiful blend of pastoral folk and electronic bubbling, shuffling bleeps and beats. Strangely, the electronic bleepery sounds eerily “organic”, conjuring the sounds of bubbling streams and birdsong. It’s an odd combination, but one which works brilliantly. Also, the title track is probably my favourite song of this year. Also also, there are again some fantastic references to aliens and stars and space, which is always a recipe for success in my books.
2. All Them Witches – Nothing as the Ideal
One of my favourite bands, and they put out a mighty fine album this year. Stepping into proggier, kind of alt-metal territory (which is actually about a billion times better than that sounds) they have managed to veer their bluesy, psychedelic trail into an unexpected new direction; jam-packed with a seemingly unlimited array of riffs and chugs, this album grooves along at a midtempo, but powerful pace. But beyond the musicianship, killer riffs, and fantastic tones, what truly shines on this album for me are the lyrics and vocal performance from Parks (who also plays bass). Just go and read his lyrics. The best place to start would be on the album outlier, “Children of Coyote Woman”.
1. Afterbirth – Four Dimensional Flesh
Podcast Review Honorable Mentions
I have shown time and time again how much I adore this project. They are easily my favorite pagan folk band. This little album delivered a gorgeous flow of acoustic guitars and that signature cello sound. It connected with me on the one thing I had control over this year… experiencing the greatness of nature. I hiked my ass off in the mountains (Santa Cruz) I’ve lived next to my whole life. This being a tribute to their own local mountain range only future my deep relation to this passion-filled music. I once reached a peak overlooking the redwoods below and lost myself within The Binding Will of Mountains. Check out the podcast episode on it. I dork out about trees.
Top 5 Podcast Reviewed Records (In No Specific Order)
Chief Tail – Chief Tail
Lyrics that defined the early days of this trashtastic year would “no cerveza, no trabajo.” No beer, no work. Funny enough this album came out in January but those words hit hard a couple of months later! The drunkenly slurred vocals that appear to be pretty random at times is what drew me to this release. Distortion and feedback washed rockin riffs plaster you on adventures with happy little ducks (don’t forget the shit pipes). The whole album is full of simple yet fun as fuck instrumentals that pair like a banquet piss lager and some cigarette butts picked from the nearest gutter. Each track gives you a new variety of gritty sloppy vocals and outlandish lyrics that you will grow to cherish. Do yourself a favor and push open the corroded unhinged door of the noise rock band Chief Tail. Plus there’s a fucking Tasmanian tiger with extra limbs on the album cover. (Podcast review listenable here).
Return to Worm Mountain – Acoustic Tracks 2020
Oh man, this release quickly became my go-to happy album. Duncan and Cam always create a wonderful yet weird soundscape to get lost in. This time around the acoustic folky jams brought sunshine and magical whimsical pleasure to my ears. I’d spin this album while cruising country roads or hiking the golden hills and hidden oak valleys of California. Something about the electronic twizzles and whirls placed upon tasty melodies just does it for me! The track Bad Witch makes my legs want to prance around like a cracked out kangaroo. If that’s something you don’t strive for in life…well, that sucks. In the podcast, Ryan and I had plenty of fun adding our own screwed-up lore inspired by the music. Listen to the malformed wormy tales of Nacnud and Macrand! (Podcast review listenable here).
Rattleback – Weeding the Garden State
Rattleback was the best damn random Bandcamp find I’ve ever made. This album goes bonkers with noisy bass, splattering drums, and hilarious lyrics. The grooves make you want to snap neck yourself right into the nearest chiropractor. Some of the vocals sound like a more crazed Lemmy Kilmister which I found to be pretty badass. The song Juxtaposition quickly became one of my favorites this year. When I was in a good mood I’d blast that shit and move with the rhythm. When I was frustrated and pissed off as fuck I’d crank that sucker up and occasionally yell my ass off in unison with the ending vocal barrage. These punk Aussies deliver a golden plate of entertainment served with a side of meaty aggression. (Podcast review listenable here).
ZILF – The Album
Well, The Album is a FUN album. Lots of outstanding insane injected right into your ear veins. A vast variety of awesome back and forth vocals guide you on a quest that covers a range of topics. The UK-based duo now trio talk of world destruction, aliens, cats, politics, and more! You know I always get down with wacky tasty riffs! I would go for days with catchy bits lodged in my cortex. (Podcast review listenable here).
END – Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face
Now, this is one that will pan fry you into a quality piece of blistered meat. Shit, it will even turn up the burner and char you a bit. Pepto Bismol isn’t helping with nausea, heartburn, and indigestion on this one. Back in July, I blared down the golden grapevine-filled hills of Napa Valley blasting this beauty. I cranked this sucker up and embraced its utmost decimating aggression. The blackened hardcore instrumentals hit you like a high-speed collision all while the vocals incinerate you from the inside out. Although the lyrical content did not make a connection with me the overall frustration let out a catharsis within. I listened to this back to back to back! When you’re pissed off and mad about it, turn on some END. (Podcast review listenable here).
Top 5 Non-Podcast Records (Again, In No Specific Order)
DRAIN – California Cursed
So we covered Gulch on the podcast but I also delved into another Santa Cruz hardcore outfit simultaneously. I believe they share some of the same members? In recent years I’ve gotten more into classic New England hardcore bands, but this year I tried my hand in some modern stuff (check out STOPLOSS). This is some filthy music with thrashy hardcore meat-to-the-sharks brutality. Grotesque guitar riffs will pick you up like a riptide and knock you down in the bloody undercurrent. There also lurks plenty of vocal blehs and girthy bass/drum smashing. If you just want a straight-forward beatdown, well this is a good one. The album artwork is fucking awesome too. Well, I’m going to the beach where I belong… CALIFORNIA CURSED! *insert chunky chum-breakdown here*
Killer Be Killed – Reluctant Hero
I was pretty surprised how this supergroup delivered such a fucking awesome album. I recall the first album to be good yet nothing outstanding. This time around they took all of their unique elements from their other projects (Mastodon, TDEP, Soulfly, Converge) and morphed it into something that I like more than any of those bands’ recent efforts. The singles piqued my interest quite a bit when I heard them. For example, in the track “Dream Gone Bad”, they utilize both Greg Puciato’s and Troy Sanders’ voice so fucking well that I end up playing that catchy ass song often. I just love those stoner yarl’s mixed with whatever the fuck Greg does. The first time I heard the emotional title track I was in awe and actually had some heartstrings plucked. I haven’t been this jazzed on something this mainstream in awhile. You can tell each respective member put in full effort that led to memorable instrumentals and something to be proud of.
Convulsif – Extinct
Out of all the experimental instrumental strange shit we listen to on the podcast. This is for sure one of those weird-ass albums I love. Shrill strange ass balloon choking strings over splattering drum beats and mathcore like skronk. You even get some trippy trance clarinet portions that would make that pink elephant scene in Dumbo so much better. The bass tones in this, my god, brings the fuckin BOW NOW NOW! If you ever want to see me lose my shit, inject me with several cold brews from a quality coffee shop, lock me in a car, and blast Convulsif. I’ll be convulsing in a happy rage-fueled solace. I know Ryan and Derek dug Clown Core quite a bit, but this is the weird similar wonk that I can fully back. THAT FUCKING CHUNKY BASS. It’s an unhinged, yet calculated oddity worth checking out!
The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
I’ve been into these dudes for quite some time now (back when I went through my big prog phase). To be honest, I forgot this album was even coming out this year. I was pretty happy when I stumbled across it. As we all know this year has been a complete vomit-inducing crap-shoot. The result has had me realize that I’ve been more attracted to less aggressive metal (not fully haha) or upbeat hardcore/punk. The neoclassical prog filled primal metal these guys craft is always intriguing. They create complex layers of awesome tripped-out textures that put Tool to shame. For real, some of the percussion is each track is truly a journey through the immense time frame they makeup in their titles. You can envision times when humans did not walk the earth. A familiar yet foreign world of ancient flora and fauna. The vocals coagulate primal yells and celestial singing. I could see people finding this a bit slow, but it’s a great one to chill and relax to into the late hours of the night.
Gaytheist – How Long Have I Been On Fire?
I hadn’t discovered this band until we covered their split with Intercourse earlier this year. I thought the high pitched punky Rush like vocals were pretty awesome for a band in the noise rock realm. It’s chock-full of upbeat fun and track variety. The memorable boisterous guitar riffs warrant high volume on repeat plays. The feel-good opening track “The Dark Deep” is easily one of my most played tracks this year. The hooks are absolutely delicious while caffeinated out of your mind. I’m sure mountain-dwelling locals loved hearing me blast this as I careened around corners.
I decided to create two top-five lists, one for podcast reviewed records, and one for non-podcast records. They are segmented as such below. I’ve never been one to select a discrete list of my “favorite” records for a given year as my mind is in constant flux, and my sentiments on a record can seemingly change on a whim (chemotherapy also sapped about five months of sanity from me this year). Furthermore, I’m only one beef husk; thus, my ability to be comprehensive in listening to every single album released in 2020 is nigh impossible. With that in mind, my top-five non-podcast picks are records I’ve loved spinning dozens of times over, but are not reflective of all albums released this year as I don’t possess the mental bandwidth to digest them all. That’s my round-about way of saying don’t be too irked by me not choosing a record you think should be on my list (though please drop me links to records we have passed up this year as I’m always keen to experience new and eccentric sounds).
Podcast Review Honorable Mentions
ZILF’s The Album is a basket case record replete with djent-laden grooves, batshit vocal hooks, and unkempt mathcore rumblings; I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for maniacal zaniness.
Obsidian Kingdom’s MEAT MACHINE took me at least five spins to sync up with and appreciate, but once it clicked, it CLICKED. The quintet’s ability to effectively redefine their sound with each record, whilst maintaining their essence, is impressive, to say the least. This one throbs with sludgy undercurrents, tranquil electronic rhythms, and an uncanny convergence of progressive timbres that, while decipherable, congeal into a mosaic unique and bedazzling.
Return to Worm Mountain’s Acoustic Tracks 2020 deserves a nod solely for its ability to grace a nerve of raw jubilance I haven’t experienced in any other record this year.
Top 5 Podcast Reviewed Records
5. Lesa Listvy – Unheard Of
I’ve listened to Unheard Of so many times, both whilst sleeping and awake, that I think it has fused with my DNA. The way its enigmatic drones unfurl like a graceful breeze, gliding atop rounded crests of maroon-tinged dunes, ensnare me in a stasis of bewildering isolation. It’s cozy on the ears yet hued with the majesty and forlornness of exploring a vacant, long-forgotten civilization. The analog-propelled sub rhythms that ripple across the album’s tides of sand stir sublime vistas too. (Podcast review listenable here).
4. Cryptic Shift – Visitations from Enceladus
Ah, space enchiladas. That was my first (childish) thought when I glanced at the title of Cryptic Shift’s debut LP. It’s near 26-minute opener shot a pang of intimidation through my chest; however, I tucked my pandemic paunch into my spacesuit, and off I went on a mission to become an interstellar freezer pop. This album is rife with cerebrum-immolating riffs ensconced in a Sci-Fi aura. Psychedelic may not be the sharpest descriptor to use, but the quartet’s adroit architecture of sonic tapestries abhorrent and progressively blissful suspended me in a verdant astral haze that continues to permeate my subconscious. (Podcast review listenable here).
3. ZOMBIESHARK! – I Will Destroy You, Myself, and Everything I’ve Ever Loved
The last thing I expected from the year of the dumpster fire is my new-found love for cybergrind. I wrote the genre off years ago, but ZOMBIESHARK’s I Will Destroy You revealed to me the unbridled experimentation that can transpire in the genre. Virulent electronic beats dissolve into excoriating deathcore chug-a-chugs as vocals squall then croon then lament. It’s wonderfully paced with ambient pocks that effuse like violet vapor from corroded sewer grates in a not-too-distant future. Plus, it lays bare a poignant sentiment of feeling obsolete in one’s own generation. This one continues to stun me with each revisit. (Podcast review listenable here).
2. Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville
I’m still trying to wrap my gourd around this one. After spinning Vile Luxury innumerable times, I was quite curious to hear what depths the gold-mask adorned trio would plunge into next. Would they continue to propel further into blaring brass arrangements, or seek novel dystopian rubble to unearth? While they most certainly treaded the latter path with Alphaville, I did not expect to be blind-sided by several emotionally perplexing flashpoints that are as euphoric as they are biting. This one will take me years to comprehend and every repeat visit has been a cerebral delight. (Podcast review listenable here).
1. Afterbirth – Four Dimensional Flesh
A merging of brutal death metal and progressive leanings, Afterbirth’s Four Dimensional Flesh soars through exospheres of sidereal ecstasy. Though it took a few spins for my feeble smooth brain to sync up with its complexity, technical prowess, and otherworldliness, this record permeates the fibers of my being. Often thinking back on it, its regal atmosphere ports me to ethereal vistas only vaguely graspable when surging across its effervescent expanse; it is the root of this quality that continues to burrow into my gray matter. Four Dimensional Flesh is my favorite record of 2020. (Podcast review listenable here).
Non-Podcast Honorable Mentions
Though my knowledge of Lorn’s discography is still fledgling, his 2020 split with Dolor, titled ZERO BOUNCE, is an enigmatic blend of brooding beats flush with fumes of charcoal atmosphere. This is one I revisit regularly as it sweeps me into a pensive, albeit tranquil, headspace.
It still boggles my mind that Bruce Moallem, the drummer of Dripping, crafts some of the most poignant and introspective dark ambient compositions I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing under his God Body Disconnect moniker. His latest work, The Depths of Finality, is no exception as it manages to pierce ebony depths and peel back layers of my subconscious, unveiling raw sentiments I would seldom contemplate outside of actively listening to this piece.
I’ve been an avid listener of Cloudkicker’s work dating back to Beacons in 2010. Though his most recent few records didn’t grab or inspire me in the way his older material did, Solitude is a trudging yet sometimes gentle behemoth that whisks me into an undulating tide of ataraxia. Also, for whatever reason, this record dredges up a multitude of fond memories I have of experiencing the first three Halo titles back when they released.
Top 5 Non-Podcast Records
I struggled for weeks to try to determine a numerical ordering for my picks here. As a result, I decided to remove them. Consider my top picks here as records that have enamored me and continue to linger in my mind well after they’ve ended.
Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies
H.A.Q.Q. was a late-2019 gem that wholly enraptured me. I had heard whispers of Liturgy’s existence prior, but never had I flung myself into the project’s experimental depths. Then came Origin of the Alimonies almost exactly one year later. Though I cannot opine on, or aptly articulate, the record’s concept as my brain is smooth, its operatic structure makes for a most exquisite—and at times, fierce and bemusing—momentum. Flutes, harp, ecstasy-laden black metal tempests, glitch tears, and a sundry of other chamber music arrangements further exhibit Liturgy’s boundless forging through uncharted expanses and I find it utterly awe-inspiring.
Autechre – SIGN
Though I don’t think I’ll ever understand the ecosystems of electronic textures permeating every molecule of Autechre’s construction in my lifetime, SIGN provides me a vague glint of hope. It’s arguably more melodic than their eight-hour NTS Sessions from 2018, yet it still harbors a plethora of their mind-bending corrugations and amorphous (non-)structures. This is one I’ve quickly become attached to as the confluence of stimulating ambience and befuddling beats makes for an uncanny trip.
Lamp of Murmuur – Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism
I’m always content to admit when I know very little about a genre and raw black metal is one of them. I don’t recall the exact moment I stumbled upon the one-man Olympia-based project, Lamp of Murmuur, but their debut LP, Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism, has been in abundant rotation since it dropped back in October. Its production is murky and malefic; the riffs, excoriating and arcane. It also oozes with warped synths, giving the record a cabalistic, timeworn aura. This one has kept me utterly transfixed as we continue our annual descent into the frosty months.
Voidsphere – To Sense | To Perceive
In mid-November, the Prava Kollektiv dropped their 2020 batch of records in one fell swoop. Among them were a couple of favorites (HWWAUOCH and Voidsphere), plus a handful I had yet to experience. Although I felt inclined to include the sanity-deteriorating pandemonium that is HWWAUOCH, I’m going with Voidsphere here as their expansive and engulfing compositions suspend me in an intangibly bleak yet ethereal cryo-stasis. The haunting melodic twinges paired with hallucinatory howls and droning riffs jettison my mind through the indifferent, fathomless impenetrability of space. And somehow, at the end of it all, I emerge on the other side feeling reinvigorated. Sincerely, a wonder to behold.
Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus
Defeated Sanity’s The Sanguinary Impetus may be the most saprogenic and cerebrum-liquefying death metal release I’ve heard all year. This record packs in so many riffs per several seconds that when I broach its blood-curdling end, I immediately yearn for those opening snare cracks to heave me back into its seeping innards. The marrow-gorging slams make for some twisted reprieves amidst the ceaseless bludgeoning, but I’m most enthralled by its scalpel-sharp technicality. More often than not, I’m utterly dumbfounded as to what is unfurling as I endure it, and admittedly, this makes each re-delving feel like I’m experiencing the record for the first time again. I cannot say that for many other albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year.
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Thank you all again for your support throughout this year. We’re already working to cover the upcoming slew of records to drop in early 2021. That being said, what are some of your top record picks from 2020? Feel free to let us know down below. And, as always, please feel free to send along your suggestions for albums to review (podcast or written) either via our social media accounts or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.