2020 Best of Metal: #11 Fake Names-Fake Names

Release date: March 24, 2020

Origin: United States/Sweden

Personnel: Dennis Lyxzen-vox, Brian Baker-guitar, Michael Hampon-guitar, Johnny Temple-bass, Matt Schulze-drums

Ok, I know. Not metal so much. I mean, it’s guitar driven rock, but this is kind of a pop punk album made by some punk veterans. But, as I like to say (mainly to get a rise out of my punk rock wife), punk is really best seen as a sub-genre of metal. So, it’s getting included here. Go suck eggs if you don’t like it. I’m including this album on the countdown because I just kept coming back to this album over and over throughout the year. It’s just so damn infectious. This is yet another supergroup to make the list this year and is the brain child of Brian Baker (Bad Religion/Minor Threat) and Dennis Lyxzen (Refused). This is just good jamming guitar rock.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
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: #13 King Buffalo-Dead Star

Release date: April 7, 2020

Origin: Rochester, New York

Personnel: Sean McVay-vox/guitar/synth, Dan Reynolds-bass/synth, Scott Donaldson-drums

It feels like lots of bands have tried to jump on the whole renaissance into psychedelic metal of late. To me, King Buffalo is one of the go-to bands in this resurgence. These guys just know how to construct a atmosphere of spaced-out jams. And, whoever they got to produce this album just did a bang-up job on making this thing sound so good. Every little texture just shines.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
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: #12 Kvelertak-Splid

Release date: February 14, 2020

Origin: Stavanger, Norway

Personnel: Ivar Nikolaisen-vox, Vidar Landa-guitar, Maciek Ofstad-guitar, Bjarte Lund Rolland-guitar/piano/sax, Marvin Nygaard-bass/percussion, Havard Takle Ohr-drums

First album out with new vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen. There’s really no discernable difference in his delivery compared with prior singer Erlend Hjelvik. You’ve got that weird blend of punk and black ‘n’ roll that Kvelertak has perfected. It’s just crazy infectious Norwegian shenanigans. Just catchy as hell and puts a little spring in my step every time I listen to this album. See if you don’t catch yourself doing all sorts of moshing around your room while spinning this one.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

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: #14 Sylosis-Cycle of Suffering

Release date: February 7, 2020

Origin: Reading, England

Personnel: Josh Middleton-vox/guitar, Alex Bailey-guitar, Conor Marshall-bass, Ali Richardson-drums

I was a little worried when word came down that Josh Middleton had joined Architects after the death of Tom Searle. I was concerned that this would lead to the end of Sylosis as an active entity. So, my spirits were lifted when this one came out earlier this year. Sylosis is one of those bands who I feel has fully grabbed the mantle of the the modern thrash movement. This is controlled aggression at its finest. Just blistering riffs from the word “go” and it is just a relentless attack all the way through. Josh Middleton is one of the true stewards of metal riffs.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

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: #15 Kirk Windstein-Dream in Motion

Release date: January 24, 2020

Origin: New Orleans, Louisiana

Personnel: Kirk Windstein-vox/guitar/bass, Duane Simoneaux-drums

I’ll admit that I was one of the dudes who was kind of upset when Kirk decided to leave Down and go back fulltime to Crowbar. But, looking back, he’s really kicked ass on the Crowbar albums he’s released since then. When I first heard that he was releasing a solo album, I kind of wondered what the point would be. Crowbar is his baby, after all. Does he get all of his creative energy out through that entity? I guess not. Because this solo album has a distinctive sound all it’s own. Sure, it’s still the same voice and guitar sound. But, this is more introspective and gentler Kirk than what gets presented in Crowbar. This is just a wonderfully melancholy release. Cheer to Kirk for continually pushing himself into these new areas.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
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: #16 Oranssi Pazuzu-Mestarin Kynsi

Release Date: February 7, 2020

Origin: Tampere, Finland

Personnel: Jun-His-vox/guitar, Ikon-guitar, Ontto-bass, Evil-percussion/keyboards, Korjak-drums

This one is nightmare fuel. I think my original review said that this one should be the soundtrack to 2020 because it is just so dark and messed up. The fact that this opaque slab of noise makes the Best-of list really speaks more to the ambition pulled off by these Finns rather than the actual listenability of this album. I’m serious. I’m not entirely sure how often I’m actually going to pull this thing out to listen to on a regular basis. But, man, what a fucking artistic statement. I really don’t know how one goes about creating something this abstract and creepy and still manage to somehow make it a little bit accessible. I just think this is a brilliant piece of art, even though it’s one that is hard to digest. In some respects, this feels like something Trent Reznor would create if he tried his hand at black metal.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

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: #17 Forming the Void-Reverie

Release Date: 5/8/2020

Origin: Lafayette, Louisiana

Personnel: James Marshall-vox/guitar, Shadi Omar Al Khansa-guitar, Luke Baker-bass, Thomas Colley-drums

Fuzzy sludge metal from the swamps of Louisiana comes in at #17 this year. These guys also win best album cover artwork for 2020. Just a glorious album cover. These guys have been around for a few years now and, sadly, this latest album is my first exposure to them. They remind me in many respects of Monolord. Extreme fuzzed out sound that is buffered by some delicate Middle-Eastern flavored textures. Just a blissfully stoned out album. Let the fuzz and distortion just wash over you.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

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: #18 Lamb of God-Lamb of God

Release Date: June 19, 2020

Origin: Richmond-Motherfucking-Virginia

Personnel: D. Randall Blythe-Vox, Mark Morton-guitar, Willie Adler-guitar, John Campbell-bass, Art Cruz-drums

So, this one makes the best-of list even though it commits the mortal sin of being a self-titled album that isn’t the band’s debut. I don’t know why that always bugs me so much, but it just does. Anyway, I love these guys so much that they get a pass on that breach of etiquette. First album minus Chris Adler. Big shoes to fill for Art Cruz and he pulls off the feat quite nicely. This album feels more like a standard straight-ahead Lamb of God release. Mark Morton and Willie Adler just kind of pound you into submission with the massive riffs on here. The band goes for a more angry political stance lyrically and hit on quite a few hot-button issues. Biggest weak point is that there isn’t a whole lot of diversity amongst the song types. It’s just a massive musical pummeling.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
18. Lamb of God-Lamb of God
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #19 Demons and Wizards-III

Release Date: February 21, 2020

Origin: United States/Germany

Personnel: Hansi Kursch-vox, Jon Schaffer-guitar, Jake Dreyer-guitar, Ruben Drake-bass, Brent Smedley-drums

Album number two in the year-end countdown is yet another supergroup. This is the third collaboration album from the masterminds of Iced Earth (Schaffer) and Blind Guardian (Kursch) and it continues the trend of outstanding traditional/power metal these guys have laid down in the past. This side project’s output is starting to outpace both guys’ main gigs in terms of quality of late, in my opinion. Both Iced Earth and Blind Guardian seem to be stuck in creative ruts. Maybe they are just saving their best ideas for Demons and Wizards. Maybe these guys just click creatively. I don’t know the answer, but I really hope to see more output in the future from this entity.

4 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:
19. Demons and Wizards-III
20. Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

2020 Best of Metal: #20 Killer Be Killed-Reluctant Hero

Release date: November 20, 2020

Origin: United States/Brazil

Personnel: Greg Puciato-vox/guitars, Max Cavalera-vox/guitars, Troy Sanders-vox/bass, Ben Koller-drums

This is one of those supergroups in which you can really feel each individual’s parent band’s influence in the construction of each song. There are Dillinger moments, Sepultura/Soulfly moments, Mastodon moments and Converge moments. And, strangely, even though the individual parts are easy to pick out, the thing still coalesces into a unique whole. Their whole approach to switching vocalists mid-song really has kind of a hip-hop feel in a way where one vocalist starts a verse and another finishes it. That style happens a lot on here. I’ll admit it was kind of a surprise to see that Killer Be Killed (still hate the name) survived past their debut and led to this sophomore release. I really enjoyed the debut quite a lot and if you did as well, you will probably like this one. I don’t feel it is quite as strong as a whole as the debut, but there is still enough quality on here for it to earn the #20 spot for 2020.

4 flip flops out of 5