10. Wayfarer – A Romance With Violence (Profound Lore)
Now on their fourth record, A Romance With Violence and Wayfarer are perfecting their vision. The raw days of Children of Iron gave way to intricate compositions in Old Souls like the majestic “Old Souls’ New Dawn” gathering the lifeblood for what would be their finest moment in World’s Blood. Now, this is surpassed once more, as Wayfarer bring a record with a much more graphic essence. Opener “The Curtain Pulls Back” effortlessly transfers you back in time, the scenery is of course the American frontier in all its majestically beautiful and at the same time brutal manifestation.
This is exactly where Wayfarer stands as “The Crimson Rider” unfolds, bouncing between the traditional extreme sense of black metal and its melodic side. Violent outbreaks intertwine with epic soundscapes, building this intriguing narrative. Here, the Americana touch arrives with its distinct twang transforming the black metal notions with its defiant structure, as with the main theme of “The Iron Horse”, or offering respite from the polemics of “Masquerade of Gunslingers” with a retreat to an acoustic shelter. Then it can dictate the entire of a track, as is the case with the excellent closer “Vaudeville”, lending a romantic touch to its black metal edge. It’s Wayfarer’s ability to combine the black metal tradition and the Americana spirit that has made their sound so exceptional, and it has now produced their finest work to date. – Spyros Stasis
9. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin kynsi (Nuclear Blast)
While in 2020 heralded a string of bands like Aara, Valdrin, and Helfró adept in commanding black metal idioms into musically gorgeous directions, Finnish shamans Oranssi Pazuzu remained the absolute masters at exploding them into rituals of galactic vastness.Mestarin kynsi is another step towards a field of metal just their own, at times so strange that it appears to lose all substance and turns into a nebula of sound. In this bizarre and perverted microcosm, the spaced-out space rock of Acid Mothers Temple meets the roughness of extreme metal to create more expansive and hypnotic textural landscapes. And with each note, break, and progression that pushes Oranssi Pazuzu away from traditional genre identifiers, Mestarin kynsi approaches a near-masterpiece of existential metal. – Antonio Poscic
8. Expander – Neuropunk Boostergang (Profound Lore)
Metal-punk? Neuropunk? Re-thrash? Some other strained neologism. But who the hell cares. Whatever wacky moniker you want to name their style, the Texan quartet Expander have quite simply delivered a glimpse into the future of thrash and metal for a world that has no future. And in that bright tomorrow that might never come for the human race, this ungodly concoction of dissonant guitar stunts, huge beats driven at the speed of light, and mind-bashing vocal assaults underlined by retro-futuristic electronic effects will perhaps be worshipped by a race of robots instead. As a reminder of the silly meatbags that created them but didn’t deserve to live. Listen to Neuropunk Boostergang before your face is melted away. – Antonio Poscic
7. Old Man Gloom – Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning/Seminar IX: Darkness of Being (Profound Lore)
The dual records of Seminar VIII and Seminar IX, arrive to solidify the polymorphic nature of Old Man Gloom further. Usually, so-called supergroups take a safe path, relying on works of the past and attributes of the individual members’ style instead of breaking new ground. Nothing could be further from the truth for Old Man Gloom. Seminars VIII and IX are ambitious to the core, featuring the whole array of influences and sounds that made Christmas, Ape of God and NO such excellent works.
Noise soundscapes, oscillators rising from the deep, and the ambient leanings collide with the intrinsic doom nature, as heavy, monolithic riffs extend through extreme distortion to unfathomable heights. Ambient tendencies morphing into aggressive and energetic onslaughts, a primal essence rising through a doom and sludge lineage. Eerie tones and psychedelia merge, and clean vocals and distortion beautifully combined to deliver epic and emotives crescendos, through scenery reminiscent of an industrialized hell.
Throughout their existence Old Man Gloom have done everything they could think of to come off as tricksters, playing pranks and relying on unconventional tricks, making fools out of all of us. But, the biggest trick they have managed to play is making everyone pay more attention to their quirks and non-conventional behavior instead of looking into the actual quality of their records. Both Light of Meaning and Darkness of Being are stellar works that encompass the best elements of modern extreme music. Despite all of Old Man Gloom’s efforts to shy away from that, that much is obvious. – Spyros Stasis
6. Neptunian Maximalism – Éons (I, Voidhanger Records)
Where does one even begin in describing the genre and eon spanning work of Neptunian Maximalism? The project, or “community of cultural engineers”, launched by multi-instrumentalist Guillaume Cazalet took only two years from their inception to reach what is a defining work in their career and one of 2020’s most impressive releases in both breadth and scale. Throughout its two hours,Éons is epic in the truest sense of the word. It first eclipses the boundaries of metal. Then it creates and bridges the divide between Sunn O))) inspired drones, free jazz freakouts infused with the raw ferocity of Peter Brötzmann, and psychedelic, folk-laden krautrock akin to what German progressive legends Embryo used to release in the mid-’90s.
The music is as sprawling and ambitious as the album’s thematic framework—one dealing with the end of Anthropocene and the onset of the Earthly domination of elephants—yet feels incredibly light, emerging from spaces and rituals of spiritual balance. A true masterpiece. – Antonio Poscic