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The 50 best metal albums of 2020

20. Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos

Marilyn Manson’s 11th studio album is a strong contender for his best release in two decades: a bluesy, introspective and, at times, surprisingly emotional listen. It would come in the wake of growing uncertainty about the nature of his past relationship with actor Evan Rachel Wood. With Manson thus far choosing to not engage, his place in a post-#MeToo world dominated by the debate around ‘cancel culture’ remains strangely uncertain.

19. Ulver – Flowers Of Evil

After years of experimentation and evolution, Flowers Of Evil confirmed the former black metallers’ complete metamorphosis to a classy, dark synth pop band. Continuing to eschew harsher sounds for luscious, chrome electronica, this is a record that you’d believe could have been excavated from some long lost 80s electro music vault, but the feel was so wonderfully evocative and crafted by such a deep love of this genre that it could only be considered a compliment. A gorgeous sonic feast.

18. Ulcerate – Stare Into Death And Be Still

On Stare Into Death And Be Still, New Zealand’s Ulcerate increased the dynamism of their discordant tech-death by pairing back some arrangement density to highlight increasingly elaborate atmospherics. So, when the trio did swarm mercilessly, the impact of their multi-dimensional attack was absolutely seismic. This record was Ulcerate’s definitive statement – a DM apex predator, fully laying bare the band’s studious compositional acumen.

17. Lamb Of God – Lamb Of God

Twenty years on from New American Gospel, Lamb of God’s self-titled 10th record reaffirmed their status as kings of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. Memento Mori and Checkmate were as strong as anything else in the band’s back catalogue – itself a veritable arsenal of certifiable metal anthems – but the entire release spoke to the consistent fire and fury that’s made LOG an unassailable force.

16. Bury Tomorrow – Cannibal

If there was  any band poised to take a seat at UK metal’s top table, it was Bury Tomorrow. Their sixth album, Cannibal, upped the ante on their dynamic metalcore once again, rammed with glorious hooks and huge choruses while digging deeper lyrically than they ever had before, exploring vocalist Dani Winter-Bates’ struggles with depression and mental health. Honest and anthemic, it showed a band on the form of their lives.

15. Testament – Titans Of Creation

The spirit of Bay Area thrash was alive and well on Testament’s 13th album. Titans Of Creation started like a bomb going off and just kept going, crushing everything in its wake. It was the sound of some of metal’s greatest musicians enjoying rare and magical chemistry, with the always-mighty Chuck Billy delivering some of his finest-ever vocals. In a great year for thrash, this was a monumental highlight.

14. Pallbearer – Forgotten Days

Pallbearer’s fourth full-length was their heaviest release since their debut, Sorrow And Extinction, continuing themes of loss and grief inspired by the death of bassist Joseph Rowland’s mother. Forgotten Daysglacially paced crushing riffs and mournfully tender lamentations forged a deeply moving experience that advanced the Arkansas quartet’s rise to the top of the doom metal mountain.

13. Cryptic Shift – Visitations From Enceladus

Self-proclaimed purveyors of “phenomenal technicological astrodeath”, Cryptic Shift fired thrash and death metal deep into the cosmos on their full-length debut. Wildly psychedelic and dense with tonal weirdness, everything from 25-minute opener Moonbelt Immolator to the much snappier sci-fi fury of Planetary Hypnosis brimmed with insane ideas brought vividly to life. The perfect soundtrack to an audacious escape from this accursed planet.

12. Loathe – I Let It In And It Took Everything

Loathe’s debut caused excitement in the tech metal scene in 2017, but with their follow-up, the Liverpudlian innovators confirmed they were able to transcend genre. Surging between shoegazy textures, pitch-black technicality and adroit nihilism, I Let It In And It Took Everything was the perfect balance of terror and beauty. If they continue to develop at this pace, by album number three they’ll be peerless.

11. Paradise Lost – Obsidian

Their third classic in a row, Paradise Lost’s 16th album proclaimed the band’s enduring brilliance via some of their heaviest, catchiest material ever. Reunited with their goth roots for pulsing anthems like Ghosts but still dishing out some visceral doom vibes on Ravenghast and The Devil Embraced, Halifax’s finest had never sounded sharper or heavier. Weirdly, this was one strong reason to be cheerful in 2020.