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The best metal albums of 2020 so far

Loathe - I Let It In And It Took Everything

Liverpool’s Loathe have made an explosive impression on hearts and minds across the UK with a multitude of multimedia live dates and festival sets. Their amalgam of hefty, downtuned riffs, experimental electronics and lacerating screams have already endeared them to a growing, loyal crowd. Confirmation that they’re one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the British underground in a long time

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Lovebites – Electric Pentagram

The new wave of Japanese talent continues to crash ashore. Forged from bassist Miho’s deep-seated reverence for 80s NWOBHM (opens in new tab) and accompanied by an exuberant flair for neo-classical technicality, Lovebites (opens in new tab)’ third album finds the band pushing the envelope even further, with the emphasis on songwriting whilst fearlessly dipping their toes into more symphonic waters. In their pursuit for power metal supremacy, these young heroines are showing no signs of slowing down.

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Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos

We Are Chaos (opens in new tab) isn’t picking up the baton from 2017’s Heaven Upside Down; this is a jumping off point into territory that has been hinted at but has never come to such compelling fruition. If you thought the lead single and title track was a bit of a sonic outlier, its slightly mawkish, acoustic strum and lighters-aloft combination of reflection and playing to a gallery in need of consolation, it proves to hold the DNA of where the album is headed from here on in. More wounded and emotionally raw than he’s ever been, We Are Chaos finds Marilyn Manson (opens in new tab) at a crossroad. For a former folk devil, you could call that a homecoming.

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Metallica – S&M2

Metal’s big daddies return with what could the most grandiose statement of their entire career. S&M2 (opens in new tab) may be the belated sequel to 1999’s original orchestral-metal (opens in new tab) mash-up, but this is no lazy re-run: everything about it is bigger, better and more lavish than anything they or anyone else has done before. At a point where the whole metal/symphony thing seemed played out, Metallica (opens in new tab) have taken it to the next level.

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My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion

The Bradford linchpins long ago carved out a reputation as metal’s foremost miserabilists (opens in new tab), and The Ghost Of Orion proudly upholds that. Frontman Aaron Stainthrope (opens in new tab) slips effortless between wounded vulnerability and monstrous aggression, and there’s a solemn profundity to MDB’s music that benefits from the onset of middle age. This is the sound of a band that have lived, loved and suffered.

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Myrkur – Folkesange

Since 2014, Myrkur (opens in new tab) – aka Amalie Bruun – has aggressively rejected outdated notions of how metal should sound and who should play it. With Folkesange she takes an even more unexpected left turn – this is a captivating collection of  folk songs written in the old Nordic tradition. The complete lack of metal might alienate some listeners, but those open to exploring this exotic primeval realm will find a unique and satisfying voyage that all but eliminates the distance between our present and our past.

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Napalm Death – Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism

After more than 30 years and numerous line-up changes, Birmingham grind (opens in new tab) pioneers Napalm Death still sound like the musical equivalent of electro-convulsive therapy. This therapeutic aspect is reflected in the title of their 16th studio album. Not for them the icy nihilism of black metal, the Lovecraftian vistas of death metal, nor the dismal solipsism of doom. ‘Wokeness’ might be in fashion but ND have been sticking up for the disenfranchised since 1981. Long may they rage.

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The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic

The Swedes’ fifth album bursts at the seams with brilliantly memorable and meticulously crafted radio rock anthems. All it takes is five minutes in the NFO’s company. Listen to Divinyls, This Boy’s Last Summer or indeed any of these songs and if you don’t fall  in love with them, you must be dead inside and wholly unworthy of Strid’s effortlessly classy croon. The rest of us can just marvel at how these stylish bastards keep serving up gem after sparkling gem.

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Nightwish – Human. :II: Nature.

Nightwish (opens in new tab)’s ninth album is a formidable double-headed hydra: literally one part half symphonic metal opus, one half balls-to-the-wall orchestra-standard instrumentals. Exploring themes relating to humanity and nature, Human. :II: Nature. expands the richly produced sound of 2015’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful (opens in new tab) into new, spellbinding territories with a few scattered homages to their illustrious  career. It puts their talents to every test going, and they emerge utterly victorious. A triumph for Nightwish on every level.

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Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber

No one could have predicted that Oceans Of Slumber (opens in new tab)’s fourth album would be released into such a fucked-up world, but that’s showbusiness. The thrilling truth is that the self-titled record is almost excruciatingly perfect for these troubled times, as Cammie Gilbert (opens in new tab) delves into the darkest of emotions, deftly blurring the lines between society’s enduring and persistent ills and the raw intimacies of the deeply personal. Oceans Of Slumber (opens in new tab) is a unique and eerily timely creative triumph from one of the few bands in our world that really, really matter right now

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