Sifting Through Bandcamp Best-of 2020

Monday, 21st December 2020

With more time than normal this year, it was great to get back into the habit of making sure Sifting Through Bandcamp had a normal monthly release. Even greater was seeing Bandcamp itself offering up one Friday a month where they didn’t take their cut of the profits, giving bands greater incentive to get their music on the platform. All of this meant that there was even more music to sift through in 2020. May 2021 provide just as many excellent opportunities for bands to get their name out there like these killer releases below.

16. Firelink – Firelink
Firelink’s Dark Souls inspirations bring them up to the next level on their second release. Lengthy tracks that capture feelings that range from melancholic to ominous, while hitting a sometimes aggressive black metal mark. Lots of adventure to be had in listening to a single track, with effective melodies and thrilling riffs leading the way.

15. Omni Express – Florida Man
A hybrid fusion of synthwave electronics with brutal, slamming death metal. But it oddly fits together in ways that feel innovative and exciting. The two contrasting elements bounce nicely off of eachother and fill gaps that the other could leave on their own. Omni Express is onto something that’s hopefully bound to take root within the scene.

14. Alustrium – Insurmountable
Personally, much of the tech death scene didn’t leave as strong of an impression as previous years, but Alustrium’s brand of technically proficient progressive death metal still takes an impressive hold. Weaving together intricate melodies and some furious speeds and aggression, this EP also holds onto that important memorability that brings you back for repeated listens.

13. The Lust – Honest
There’s always room for some well-done gothic metal, and to that end, the always productive Russian act The Lust fill a void as there seems to be less straight-up gothic acts popping up. They manage to incorporate those more melancholic and dreary aspects into something that also maintains a hook-driven edge. An all too effective blend of beauty and gloom, with just enough uplift to it.

12. Angel Grinder – Confessions of the Damned
Old school death metal goodness that doesn’t keep itself tethered entirely to the past (nor simply imitate those before them). Instead, song-centered writing is emphasized, with brutality merging with melody in a way that keeps the tracks interesting yet still frantically heavy. Aggressive, groovy, and surprisingly catchy, all while maintaining a dyed-in-the-wool death metal vibe.

11. Lutharo – Wings of Agony
Modern metal that shows its appreciation for both melodic death metal and power metal with a glorious and thundering sound, Wings of Agony is sure to get fists pumping and heads banging quickly. Loads of energy propel each track forwards, with anthemic guitar melodies and an excellent combination of growled/clean vocals sure to keep your interest high. Fast-moving and absolutely fun from start to finish.

10. BleedSkin – Blood Reign
An absolute death metal rager, Blood Reign holds nothing back. One of those brutal and unrelenting albums that just wants to pound the listener into dust, yet the riffs are memorable enough that it doesn’t become an exercise in monotony. Instead, the energy sticks with you while the rage swells within. Those seeking something furious need to invest some time into this one.

9. Buried Realm – Embodiment of the Divine
Epic melodic death metal with an all-star guest line-up, Buried Realm’s second full-length is just as lovingly put together as the debut. Heaps of heroic guitar melodies and aggressive riffs make each listen fun and satisfying (something that further stands out on the instrumental version). An absolute no-brainer if you like melodeath, as it doesn’t come much more solidly written that what you get here.

8. Walk in Darkness – On the Road to Babylon
The third release from Walk in Darkness augments their sweeping gothic qualities with a stronger sense of heaviness. From the riffs themselves to some occasional growled vocals, the sound is more bleak in tone (certainly fitting for the year) but still captures that same sense of beauty they have generated with previous releases. An excellent step forward for this mysterious act.

7. Dead City Crown – Our Blood Apocalyptic
Seems like Dead City Crown has an annual spot on this list, but that’s because they consistently step up their melodic death metal game. They provide exactly the type of experience that melodeath fans are looking for – spirited melodies and visceral aggression in equal amounts in a sound that is as fun as it is heavy. Plus the extra emphasis on keys this time makes it an even stronger force to be reckoned with. This is my type of melodeath!

6. Stoned God – Incorporeal
Merging Gojira-esque grooves and pummeling riffs with a progressive death metal base, Stoned God hits hard but captures a certain atmosphere at the same time. A death thrash undercurrent provides an excess of energy at times, but the grooves give it hooks and some dabbling with melodies (a la Black Crown Initiate) gives them a more well-rounded sound that explores a wider range of territory. Just as impressive as the striking cover would lead you to believe.

5. Decadence Dust – Eight of Swords
Despite the frequent releases of The Lust, vocalist Anna Vashchilo also fronts Decadence Dust, who also perform some gothic metal that hits a slightly different vein. Delightfully ethereal melodies combine with a very hook-driven structure and atmosphere that has some slight ’80s new wave vibes come together with gothic metal riffs to create something that oozes dark elegance. One listen is about all it takes to get completely absorbed by the sound of Decadence Dust, let yourself drown in the sorrow.

4. Lethian Dreams – A Shadow of Memories
Sometimes you just need a release that swallows you up in its darkness. Lethian Dreams is entirely bleak, with nary a moment of hope to be found, but wow is it beautiful. Doom that is meditative and reflective as opposed to being soul-crushingly heavy, A Shadow of Memories is a dreamy trip into melancholy that tugs at the heartstrings. Thoroughly haunting and gloomy to the core, it’s a perfect autumn/winter album for self-reflection and just getting lost in the moment.

3. I, Legion – Overcome the Tides
While this just came out and there’s no proper review yet, there’s no denying that the third full-length from I, Legion is one of the strongest independent releases of 2020. Modern metal/melodeath that fires on all cylinders, with equal parts furious riffing and emotive melodies coming to the surface with Fred Riverin’s knack for hooky songwriting only getting stronger with each release. Plus, you’ve got the original vocal trio back from album one in Bjorn Strid, Jon Howard, and Chris Clancy back and delivering shining performances. What’s not to love here?

2. Medicated – Descension
Melodic death/thrash that consistently produces some of the most earworming grooves and guitar riffs you’ll come across in 2020. An album seemingly meant to be played at maximum volume with a massive wall of sound that it manages to conjure up. Whether it’s a punchy groove, insidiously catchy solo, or soaring chorus, each track provides ample evidence that Medicated are a force to be reckoned with. Descension provides constant ear-candy to thrash along with, particularly if you enjoy acts like Darkane.

1. Swarmageddon – Inhuman
Bringing together a ton of varied influences to build a unique-sounding extreme metal bulldozer, Swarmageddon provide one of the most thrilling experiences of the year. A delicate balancing act of melody, atmosphere, and explosive aggression, Inhuman throttles you with the way it turns corners and fuses things together to provide a larger-than-life listening experience. Sometimes frantic, sometimes graceful, and sometimes both at once, there are few acts in recent memory that have left me completely blown away from the onset. Someone get this band into the ears of the larger extreme metal community and they will be the next big thing.