Phil Boozeman’s Top Five Metal Albums of 2020
Fuck 2020. I heavily considered leaving my intro at just that seeing as we all know what a colossal shit shack this year has been. But rather than dwell on the negativity, I’d like to make three honorable mentions because Axl didn’t specifically forbid it in the email this year like he usually does.
The first is to The Acacia Strain for 2019’s It Comes In Waves because this incredible record is the best piece of music they’ve ever written, bar none. It came out after my list ran but deserves a mention because I was uh… harsh on Gravebloom.
The second is the Wolf King dudes for carrying my bitch ass up to Gold/Nightmare in Ghost of Tsushima: Legends.
The third is to my boys in Summoning the Lich for getting signed to Prosthetic and dropping their first single, and also so I can harass them about new music.
Again. Anyway, here’s your medically recommended dose of Phil Boozeman’s opinions.
5. Reflections – Willow (self-released)
The last time Reflections released an album was in 2013. That album, The Color Clear, ended up becoming one of my all-time favorites over the years so it was crushing when they announced an indefinite hiatus in 2015. Fortunately, however, it ended up not being a Necrophagist-style hiatus and five years later, Reflections came back swinging with Willow. Willow switches things up a bit, preferring a much bleaker and heavier approach to its auditory message than The Color Clear, but it’s packed with the same emotional intensity. Think of it this way: if The Color Clear were someone talking to you about their pain and asking for help, then Willow is cracking your skull open with a Louisville Slugger about it instead. With massive breakdowns and earth-shattering guitar tones, Willow is the perfect album to listen to when you find yourself stuck being angry or when you’re feeling cooped up inside your own head. One spin is guaranteed to knock some of those thoughts free, and in case you forgot, it’s 2020. We have a dire need for that right now.
4. The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (Metal Blade)
I’m actually angry at Verminous and The Black Dahlia Murder right now. About a month back from the time of this running, I got back on a kick with Verminous and started to hear something moving in my walls. About a week later, I found a bunch of (literal) shit under my refrigerator and in my closet, confirming that a few mice had moved in. I had an actual vermin problem and I 100% blame this record for it. But I digress. At a certain point in my esteemed MetalSucks career, I realized that if it’s a TBDM year, I’d better just pencil in a spot for them on my year-end list because as we all know, they’re are allergic to writing shitty music. This time around they’ve done a bit of tinkering with pace and tone, and the result is that even without seeing the album art, you could listen and the music would still sound putrid, green and gross. And no, LSD didn’t write that sentence. Verminous is just good enough that the all the rats, roaches and things that crawl came out from the depths of my apartment to listen to death metal. If I had to guess, it was probably that long scream in the chorus of title track that did it. Eight months later it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it so I can’t imagine the kind of message it sends to a mouse. If you get a cross-species audience on a metal record, you’ve released one of the best albums of the year. I don’t really think that’s up for debate. Oh, and the mice didn’t even offer to pay rent because they were dicks. Now they’re dead. Dicks.
3. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment (Metal Blade)
If System of a Down’s cocaine makes them feel like they’re on their songs, then comparatively, Anaal Nathrakh’s music is written by the actual cocaine itself. There’s no better description for the British extreme outfit’s unique brand of auditory chaos. With their 11th full-length record, Anaal Nathrakh are full of just as much political rage as ever and there’s been no shortage of reasons for that in 2020. Endarkenment takes its name by running opposite to the Enlightenment period of human history, the point being that we are regressing collectively as a species rather than advancing. I am of the personal belief that so long as the world sucks, Anaal Nathrakh will keep making good music by throwing blackened grindcore, soaring blast beat opera vocals, literal incoherent shrieking and basically anything else they can think of into a blender and serving up the results. When you want conventional metal thrown so far out the window that it isn’t even on your property anymore, no band does the job better than Anaal Nathrakh
2. Inferi – Of Sunless Realms (The Artisan Era)
Before I start, I am convinced that this album was released to match the Cthulhu chest tattoo I got back in May. Look at the tattoo and look at the album artwork. Tell me it’s not true. I have zero proof that it is, but it’s my list so I’ll believe whatever the fuck I want. ANYWAY, boy do I love Inferi. Of Sunless Realms marks the first original release since the band lineup was rebuilt in 2018 and Cthulhu himself would most certainly be pleased with it. Plenty of tech death bands think that the only thing you need to do to be good is play fast. Plenty of technical bands also suck! Like, a lot. But you don’t need me to tell you that. You need me to tell you that Inferi have the perfect balance of brain-melting blast beats with symphonics and hooks balanced on top like a Jenga tower standing on it’s middle piece. You need me to tell you that Inferi are one of the most electric live acts I have ever seen. You need me to tell you that Of Sunless Realms is an EP and that you have time to listen to its 5 tracks. Still have an excuse? Then you need me to tell you to go fuck yourself. I am obviously weak for anything H.P. Lovecraft but even if I weren’t, this EP would still be on here. If it gets us more music like this, the Great Old Ones may consider my soul sacrificially open for business.
1. Ahtme – Mephitic (Unique Leader)
I want you to take moment and picture the messiest, most delicious sandwich you’ve ever had. Now double the meat, make the bread garlic bread and change the meat to riffs. Why? Because Kansas City’s finest death metal act have released the juiciest riff sub of 2020 and I’ve eaten so much of it by now that I’m about to throw up. But that’s a good thing, especially if your taste is anything in the vein of Decapitated or Suffocation. It’s hard to even pick one starting point with Mephitic because it’s just… perfect. Mephitic dropped in July and I’ve listened to it over and over and over again to find some sort of fault with it, but I can’t. In fact, I’ve resorted to making shit up like “I don’t know, I’d name it album of the year but I sent them 9 packs of hot dogs while they were recording and no one ate them,” or “Brent shaved his fucking beard.” There’s a decent chance this is your first exposure to Ahtme, and if it is, it won’t be your last. Take “Valley of the Gourds” for example. It dizzies you with triplets up until the 1:47 mark, then sticks tremolo fish hooks in your face to rip it off before you get your balance back. If that isn’t the kind of metal you want, then go get a COVID test because you clearly have no taste. According the food metaphor, Ahtme have cooked a meal that I will eat myself to death with a million times over and I’ll do so with a smile on my face. So say it with me: Mephitic is the best record of 2020.