2020 Best of Metal: #1 Pallbearer-Forgotten Days

Release date: October 23, 2020

Origin: Little Rock, Arkansas

Personnel: Brett Campbell-vox/guitar, Devin Holt-guitar, Joseph D. Rowland-bass/vox, Mark Lierly-drums

Well, here we are again. 2020’s Golden Flip Flop award for the best metal album goes to Arkansas’ Pallbearer. The competition really came down to Pallbearer and All Them Witches this year. While All Them Witches’ album provided instantaneous gratification, Pallbearer’s is a little more nuanced. This may not be an album you necessarily “get” on a first pass. However, I’ve found that each listen bring out something new to discover and enjoy. I think that ultimately that’s what pushed this album to the top spot. At first glance, you are belted by the grandiosity of the fuzzed out doom riffs. But the magic of this album lies within it’s little subtleties. Brett Campbell is just a master at providing a beautiful melodic counterpoint to the massive riffs with his downright angelic voice. The combination of the two contrasting sounds just brings this album to a magical level. The band has also managed to cut away some of the fat found in some of their earlier releases and the result is more compact and forceful songs. This is a special one and I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I have. It’s a nice album for a particularly shitty year.

Have a lovely New Year’s this evening. Here’s to hoping that 2021 will end up being a little nicer than 2020. It probably won’t be, but here’s to hoping.

5 flip flops out of 5

If you’re into this sort of thing, here’s a link to a Spotify playlist featuring the highlights from this year’s list. Enjoy!

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/4hmHUk2pz5qIkzMOSZoAUG

The final list:
1. Pallbearer-Forgotten Days
2. All Them Witches-Nothing As the Ideal
3. Intronaut-Fluid Existential Inversions
4. Elder-Omens
5. Paradise Lost-Obsidian
6. Blues Pills-Holy Moly!
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #2 All Them Witches-Nothing As the Ideal

Release date: September 4, 2020

Origin: Nashville, Tennessee

Personnel: Charles Michael Parks, Jr.-vox/bass, Ben McLeod-guitar, Robby Staebler-drums

These guys should be fucking huge. Seriously. How is it possible that this album is not being played constantly on hard rock/classic rock radio? This is just a damn near perfect slab of modern classic and/or southern rock. Every song on here oozes groove and verve. You can just feel the cool creeping out of your speakers and infecting you through osmosis. If an album could be a person, this album is definitely 1970s Burt Reynolds. Seriously, I found myself with a nice set of sideburns and a moustache and my chest hair thickened up after listening to this album for the first time.

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
2. All Them Witches-Nothing As the Ideal
3. Intronaut-Fluid Existential Inversions
4. Elder-Omens
5. Paradise Lost-Obsidian
6. Blues Pills-Holy Moly!
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #3 Intronaut-Fluid Existential Inversions

Release date: February 28, 2020

Origin: Los Angeles, California

Personnel: Sacha Dunable-guitar/vox, Dave Timnick-guitar/vox, Joe Lester-bass, Alex Rudinger-drums

At #3, we have another band whose very existence felt in jeopardy over the past few years. Their last album was released in 2015 and after extensive touring, the band took a much needed break. In the interim, original drummer Danny Walker was let go due to sexual harassment allegations. This loss seemed to put the band on what felt like a permanent hiatus. Luckily for all of us, the band regrouped and have released one of their strongest albums to date. They enlisted journeyman drummer extraordinaire, Alex Rudinger, to handle the drum duties. This album contains all of the pot influenced post-metal, jazz-tinged, progressive metal that you’ve come to expect from these guys. Just as tight of a band as there is in the world of metal. Fun fact: the was the only 2020 release that I got to see performed live prior to covid shutting everything down when they opened for Cult of Luna in February.

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
3. Intronaut-Fluid Existential Inversions
4. Elder-Omens
5. Paradise Lost-Obsidian
6. Blues Pills-Holy Moly!
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #4 Elder-Omens

Release date: April 23, 2020

Origin: Boston, Massachusetts

Personnel: Nick DiSalvo-vox/guitar, Mike Risberg-guitar/keyboards, Jack Donovan-bass, Georg Edert-drums

This is just a dreamy soundscape of an album. It meanders and takes its time and is one of those albums where the journey is more important than the destination. These guys are masters of that stonerish sort of jam band with a krautrock influence sound. Five songs. All of them long. Just put this one on and sit back for a spell and let this one just wash over you.

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
4. Elder-Omens
5. Paradise Lost-Obsidian
6. Blues Pills-Holy Moly!
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #5 Paradise Lost-Obsidian

Release date: May 15, 2020

Origin: Halifax, England

Personnel: Nick Holmes-vox, Greg Mackintosh-guitar, Aaron Aedy-guitar, Steve Edmondson-bass, Waltteri Vayrynen-drums

16 goddamn albums! Seriously. It feels like Paradise Lost is one of those bands that every metalhead knows, but for some reason, they don’t seem to be held in the same status as some other bands with their longevity. I’m not really sure why that is, but I find myself kind of forgetting about them myself sometimes. And that’s a damn shame because these guys are still consistently churning out quality album after quality album. Obsidian is right up their with the best albums they have produced. There isn’t a weak song on this thing. Just straight up chugging doom. Just a perfect album for the 2020 vibe,

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
5. Paradise Lost-Obsidian
6. Blues Pills-Holy Moly!
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #7 Armored Saint-Punching the Sky

Release date: October 23, 2020

Origin: Los Angeles, California

Personnel: John Bush-vox, Phil Sandoval-guitar, Jeff Duncan-guitar, Joey Vera-bass, Gonzo Sandoval-drums

This was a special one. It’s always great to see one of the classic bands from metal’s heyday come out of nowhere with an absolute barnburner of an album. For a band damn near 40 years into their career to put out an album this solid is something to applaud. There’s not a stinker on this album. This is classic metal. Turn your system up to 11 and crank the hell out of it this fine Christmas morning.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #8 Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear

Release date: March 13, 2020

Origin: Chicago, Illinois

Personnel: Chris Kang-vox/guitar, Aimee Bueno-vox, Kirill Orlov-guitar, Marc Stranger-Najjar-bass, Ray Knipe-drums

These guys are a past winner of the Golden Flip Flop in 2018 with their debut album, American Scrap. I was really interested to see where they would go with their next album and whether they would suffer any sort of sophomore slump. Not only did they knock it out of the park with album number two, they went overly ambitious with a double-album concept record. This album also saw the addition of Aimee Bueno as a permanent second vocalist in the band. It feels as though this release moves a bit away from the Americana Metal style of the first release and have moved into a more progressive bent. The style of songs are very diverse on here from Yes-influenced prog to death metal to soulful dirges. In full disclosure, I truly love this band and feel like they are one of the more promising young groups to come down the pike in quite some time. They are really forging their own sound and a unique identity.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #6 Blues Pills-Holy Moly!

Release date: August 21, 2020

Origin: Orebro, Sweden

Personnel: Elin Larsson-vox, Zack Anderson-guitar, Kristoffer Schander-bass, Andre Kvarnstrom-drums

I think when I originally reviewed this one I characterized Blues Pills as one of those niche bands that I was really rooting for to break through. Their first couple of albums really showed a lot of promise, but there was that little extra something missing from the mix that would have pushed those albums into the great category. Well, on album number three, they figured it out. This is a retro-rocker that just oozes soul and sophistication for miles. Reminds me a lot of Graveyard with a female vocalist. This was one of those albums that I had a hard time keep out of the player.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
6. Blues Pills-Holy Moly!
7. Armored Saint-Punching the Sky
8. Huntsmen-Mandala of Fear
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #9 Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape

Release date: August 7, 2020

Origin: Reading, Pennsylvania

Personnel: James Dorton-vox, Andy Thomas-guitar/clean vox, Ethan McKenna-guitar, Nick Shaw-bass, Gabe Seeber-drums (session)

These guys have been at the forefront of setting the standard for technical death metal. They have also been one of the bands that has helped establish Reading, PA as a metal hotspot. The great thing about these guys is that they don’t let the technical aspects of their playing overshadow the songs themselves. It feels as though everything they do is in service of creating an outstanding song instead of just using the song as a vehicle to showcase the technicality of their playing. It’s a fine line and one in which a lot of bands in this genre fail to grasp. This latest album came out of a dark time personally for the band members and was made during a period when the future of the band was actually in doubt. I think we’re lucky to even have this album. All the more reason to cherish this one.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
9. Black Crown Initiate-Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #10 Haken-Virus

Release date: July 24, 2020

Origin: London, England

Personnel: Ross Jennings-vox, Richard Henshall-guitar, Charlie Griffiths-guitar, Conner Green-bass, Diego Tejeida-keyboards, Raymond Hearne-drums

Most prophetic album title for 2020 opens up the Top 10 of this year’s list. Not only did they nail the theme of this year, but they also saw their album delayed three times due to the pandemic. Since Dream Theater has kind of fallen off the map quality-wise in the past few years, there is definitely a void at the top of the metal-centric prog world. With the release of Virus, it feels like Haken is poised to step into that void. This album really straddles the prog world while still remaining a very crunchy metal album. This was a very ambitious album that swings for the fences and makes full contact.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
10. Haken-Virus
11. Fake Names-Fake Names
12. Kvelertak-Splid
13. King Buffalo-Dead Star
14. Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering
15. Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion
16. Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi
17. Forming the Void-Reverie
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero