Kyle McGinn Best-of 2020

Thursday, 10th December 2020

More songs than ever to process in 2020, with many bands releasing one-offs and EPs to keep relevant and noticed during a time without live shows. Couple that with some incredibly strong albums that just missed the top 12, and it’s a swirl of incredible tracks that work well on their own, as well as being part of some larger releases. Whatever way you chose to enjoy them, each one below certainly holds their own.

10. Spiritbox “Blessed Be” (single release)
Spiritbox had a big 2020, and this one song is one reason why. Modern and groovy, with beautiful vocals and atmosphere that eventually turns heavy and dark in all the right ways.

9. Ad Infinitum “See You in Hell” (from Chapter 1: Monarchy)
An elegantly dark track that effectively flips the tables on the traditional ballad. Macabre and sinister, but covered by just the right amount of melancholic beauty.

8. Anaal Nathrakh “Endarkenment” (from Endarkenment)
The musical embodiment of the whirlwind that was 2020, this bit of cathartic release came in at just the right time and knocked everyone’s heads clean off. Timely and entirely brutal.

7. Eleine “Ava of Death” (from Dancing in Hell”)
A rousing and heavy number from one of gothic metal’s finest. A brilliant combination of churning riffs, cinematic darkness, and one hell of an addictive chorus.

6. Katatonia “Lacquer” (from City Burials)
A very quiet and sullen track from Katatonia, it’s also quite beautiful in tone. A far cry from much of their previous output, but still tugs just as hard on the heartstrings. Much like the rest of City Burials.

5. Kaleido “Dead to Me” (single release)
Continuing their foray into heavy riffs with an important emotional message below the surface, Kaleido shines with addictive hooks that packs as much of a punch as any of the tracks on last year’s excellent EP.

4. Black Crown Initiate “Sun of War” (from Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape)
Melancholic and still full of vitriol, this is a slow burn that showcases all of Black Crown Initiate’s best qualities. Groovy, heavy, and mechanized riffing but still with time for some self-reflection.

3. Synthetic “Slipwalk” (from Clepsydra: Time Against Infinity)
A modern metal treat. Fluffy bouncing synths and a driving, stick-in-your-head instantly riff lead this one into glory. The best example of Synthetic stepping things up for their second full-length, a gem in and of itself.

2. Soilwork “A Whisp of the Atlantic” (from A Whisp of the Atlantic)
16-minutes of Soilwork at their most epic. Infusions of progressive and jazzy elements, while still maintaining the core sound of the band. A really wondrous and unexpected piece of work that will leave fans spellbound.

1. Shores of Null “Beyond the Shores” (from Beyond the Shores)
Is it cheating to put an album-length track at number one? Either way, Shores of Null continues to impress and expand upon their doomy sound. An epic-length track worthy to sit amongst the best of these ventures (Edge of Sanity, Insomnium). Emotionally fulfilling and musically satisfying all at once.

Best newcomer of 2020: Illumishade
Fabienne Erni’s new vehicle, which also features fellow Eluveitie member Jonas Wolf, is like a trip to another world. Cinematic storytelling that is second to none, and a sound that can only described as magical, Illumishade is glimmering with potential, and Eclyptic is only the beginning.

Biggest Surprise – Swarmageddon’s Inhuman
It’s rare for me to come across something completely randomly on Bandcamp anymore without any prior knowledge or indication of what it would be like. But Swarmageddon is the rare find that completely blew me away from a random click on the mouse. Just squeaked out of my overall top list, but an all-too impressive release that will equally surprise many who discover it.

Best cover art: Countless Skies – Glow (see larger version HERE)
I thought Imperial Triumphant had this one in the bag with Alphaville, but wow, Glow is gorgeous! The continued relationship between artist Carl Ellis and Countless Skies leads to some of the best images out there. The colors are striking and it continues the theme the band has had from previous releases. It looks like a painting you’d find in a museum.

Biggest Disappointment: No live shows.
Going to imagine much of the DR staff is going to go with this one. From the bands to the venues to the fans themselves, everyone is being hit hard by this one. Some bands are trying creative things, but it’s frightening to think about the number of jobs and venues that are being lost due to the pandemic. May people heed warnings so that we can start to see some opening up for live music, at least in some form.

Best video: Spiritbox “Blessed Be”
Cinematic and elegant, it begins to show its true colors as the video progresses. Much like the track itself, with swirling heaviness. Creepy and jaw dropping before you get to the end, It’ll stick with you long after viewing.

Most Anticipated Album of 2021: Fear Factory
Ugly controversies sprouted up around this one with Burton and Dino splitting off once again in the fall, but Bell’s voice will appear on the album. Arguably this could be the swansong for the long-time act (or at least in the iteration that it is most memorable for), so for that alone, it’s worth checking out.

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