Well, what a year it’s been. It started so promisingly, and then swiftly descended in to a complete shit show, which has seen months upon months of lockdown time, gigs and tours cancelled, postponed for many, and for some, indefinitely. Thinking about all of this, the one thing that has truly salvaged the year is the release of some incredible albums, by some resilient bands, intent on not being defeated by anything, and especially not by some damned virus. In a time when streaming gigs is the new normal, some bands are so much more than normal for me. In my forty-six years on this earth, no year has thrown more curve balls at me then twenty twenty.
With that in mind, as the year is ending, I would like to share with you all, the top ten albums I have had the honour of reviewing, and hope that if you don’t already have them in your collection, that you will promptly go out and invest some time in getting to know them. It’s a mixed bag, that’s for sure, and trying to rank them has been extremely testing, but I got there eventually.
So, without further ado, here goes, in true ‘top ten’ style, from ten to one…
10. Ancient River ‘After The Dawn’
I described Ancient River’s After The Dawn in my review as a ‘real slice of pure desert rock indulgence, its wonderfully rich, the vibe is chilled, and it’s definitely a treasure to behold’, and since acquiring a copy of this little beauty on vinyl, it’s been on regular rotation in the house, it’s a real treat of an album.
9. Aleah ‘Aleah’
Aleah (review) left me stunned by its beauty and its charm, it’s a true testament to the wonderful Aleah Starbridge, who passed in 2016. It’s pure, unfiltered quality, on the acoustic tracks especially, left me quite emotional. Stand out track Sacrifice, even now, haunts me in its simplicity, and its warmth.
Label: Svart Records
8. The Ocean ‘Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic’
In at eight, and new to the table for me, even though they have two decades of heritage, The Ocean’s newest release Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic (review) blew me away. So clever, so rich, so full, this prog masterpiece is simply incredible. So unique, it’s a complete revelation to experience.
7. Realize ‘Machine Violence’
Realize hit me right in the feels, not gonna lie. The industrial juggernaut of Nailbomb influenced soundscapes, reignited my passion for American industrial music, and when I play it now, it has to be on at a fitting volume level, quiet doesn’t work here!! It harks to nineties noise bands, and that pushes Machine Violence (review) above everything else industrial that I’ve heard this year.
Label: Relapse Records
6. Svalbard ‘When I Die, Will I Get Better?’
Svalbard took me out of my comfort zone, shook me about, and slammed me back down, a quivering wreck. The parallels of light and airy meets uncompromising and aggressive outbursts, was a revelation. I had heard snippets before I got to review it, but I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing When I Die, Will I Get Better? (review) is. A real testament to the living breathing animal that is heavy music in the twenty first century, as alive and pulsating as it ever was.
5. Melt ‘The Secret Teaching Of Sorrow’
French, dark alternative quartet Melt, truly surprised me with something I thought was long gone in the music world, crazy bonkers indie art rock, that’s as uncompromising as it is ground-breaking. To quote directly from my review, ‘to come across this little gem has truly been an experience I will cherish…’
4. Embr ‘1823’
The debut by the Alabama quartet Embr is as beautiful as it is crushing, it’s emotive and mysterious, and it hits like a freight train. When I was given 1823 to review, I was as excited as I was apprehensive, knowing that it was in a sub-genre I’m passionate about, and that it would leave me one of two ways, loving or loathing. Well, I’m happy to say that I was blown away by this incredible opus, it hits all the right spots.
Label: New Heavy Sounds
3. Old Blood ‘Acid Doom’
Two words, absolutely astounding. Old Blood‘s Acid Doom (review) is a complete revelation of an album, spooky, doomy, thunderous, and completely unique. It’s a mind melding experience, from start to finish, and singer Lynx is mesmerising vocally, and with an incredible backdrop of musicians, this one has to be heard to be believed.
And then, I have a joint number one. I couldn’t choose one over the other, these are both my album of the year. So, my top spot goes to…
=1. OHHMS ‘Close’
For me, on a personal level, OHHMS have been my band of twenty twenty. After catching them live, and becoming acquainted with their back catalogue, I fell in love with Close (review) when it came out. The mix of chaos and calm, raw emotion and anthemic interludes caught me at a point when it was absolutely everything I was looking for in the music world. Enthralling live, and interesting on record, this album is a must have for me.
Label: Holy Roar Records
=1. Crystal Spiders ‘Molt’
Well, well, well….what can I say, Molt (review) is a phenomenal debut. It’s a real kick to the temples, which left me amazed at how a two-piece outfit could make such a wall of noise. Mesmerisingly good, the breakneck drumming is spell binding, while Brenna’s full bodied vocal and bass truly take this to the next level. This album is everything that heavy music should be, full of life, volatile, and uncompromising. A real gem, released in a year that needed something to take us away from all the complete nonsense that we are still enduring, Crystal Spiders are the perfect antidote to the virus blues.
Label: Ripple Music
So, there you go, my personal top ten. This year has been a year of surprises, new ventures, and adopting a new view of the world. I’m so glad I’ve had such a rich soundtrack to accompany me on the ride.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish