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The best metal albums of 2020 so far

Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi

The Finnish shamans fifth album (opens in new tab) sees them pulling back the dizzying scale of their sonic assault for a feverish, 51-minute headtrip which unleashes a blinding psychedelic maelstrom that lacks neither the ambition nor the intensity of its predecessors. Not for the faint-hearted, Mestarin Kynsi is an intense and captivating departure from this earthly realm. You might need a walk and a bit of sunshine when it’s over, if only to clear your head for your inevitable return.

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Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

The best Ozzy (opens in new tab) album  in years, Ordinary Man hits the target hard and often, brims with energy throughout and has plenty of that irresistible sense of mischief that typified the Double-O’s early records. Most importantly, Ozzy is in fine voice and sounds like he’s having a blast, even as he repeatedly ponders his mortality – unsurprising given recent health issues (opens in new tab). If age is finally catching up with the Prince Of Darkness, the memo has definitely not arrived on his desk. An admirably strong way to take a (possibly) final bow.

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Paradise Lost – Obsidian

Paradise Lost have never confined themselves to one mode of expression, and Obsidian is another a reinvention, setting a sumptuously dark melodicism and against their heavier side. Hope Dies Young and the elegant Ghosts, with their glistening, sinister keys, bold yet moribund stomp and Nick Holmes’ mournful baritone croon, are bona fide goth bangers, convincingly melancholy but still robust and energetic enough to knock the dust off Fields Of The Nephilim’s hats. In combining the gruesome heft of their early work with the soaring, melodic songwriting of recent years, they may just have achieved the impossible and created a record that will appeal equally to fans of every different era of their storied discography.

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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Viscerals

The Newcastle psych-doom quintet look set to continue their march towards the top of the UK rock tree with their third full-length. An unhinged examination of the human body, health and “the essence that forgoes intellect”, Viscerals is their most consistently enjoyable – and head-cracking – album to date. Frontman Matt Baty leads the charge with some viscous performances reminiscent of Jesus Lizard’s David Yow, while Hell’s Teeth is the catchiest effort Pigs x 7 have ever created.

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Secrets Of The Moon – Black House

After 20 years of occultic black metal (opens in new tab) illumination, Secrets Of The Moon have fully spread leathery wings to ascend, by completely immersing themselves in 1980s goth and death-rock scenes. Opener Sanctum rivals The Cult (opens in new tab)’s anthemic sway, yet sounds contemporary by retaining a dark metallic sheen with a biting charge towards its end. It might send some curmudgeonly fans weeping atop of their spiked gauntlets, but SOTM have opened their sound to appeal to a vast number of music fans – and have done so without compromising their arcane ethos.

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Sylosis – Cycle Of Suffering

The decade-plus since the release of their stellar debut album, Conclusion Of An Age, has been a bit of a mixed bag for Sylosis (opens in new tab), but their fans’ patience has been rewarded with Cycle Of Suffering. Pushing themselves to the forefront of what modern metal can do without losing their identity, tracks such as Disintegrate and Apex Of Disdain demonstrate that the art of the riff goes further than offering a blunt writing tool to get heads banging. Sylosis are back. Hope you’re prepared.

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Testament - Titans Of Creation

O (opens in new tab)n Titans Of Creation (opens in new tab), Bay Area veterans Testament sound like a lean, hungry and acutely focused band of brothers, on a mission to pulverise the world. They have long bridged the divide between old-school attitude and state-of-the-art sonic brutality, but they’ve never sounded more ferocious than they do here. These are meticulously crafted modern metal anthems, delivered with levels of muscle and virtuosity that few younger bands can match and fronted by one of metal’s most iconic vocalists in Chuck Billy (opens in new tab). Sign up or get flattened.

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Triptykon – Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019)

More than 30 years in the making and performed for one night only at Roadburn 2019, ex-Celtic Frost mastermind Thomas Gabriel Fischer (opens in new tab)’s Requiem sounds every bit as powerful and emotionally overwhelming as it should. The spellbinding interjections of The Metropole Orkest render everything in a thousand shades of glittering black, nodding to skewed 20th-century classical and the scabrous spontaneity of art rock iconoclasts Art Zoyd and Univers Zero. Vibrant, vivid and very much alive, Requiem is everything the morbid maestro promised and more. It may even be his crowning achievement.

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Trivium – What The Dead Men Say

Once again, Trivium (opens in new tab) have some fire in their bellies following a period of dubious decision-making and divisive musical output. Where 2017’s The Sin And The Sentence (opens in new tab) set things right by taking us back to basics, What The Dead Men Say simply rips. The title track sets the tone: riffs, riffs and more riffs; tight, muscular drum work; and enough hooks to snare Cthulhu. Despite the slight shift in Trivium’s song-writing process – bassist Paolo Gregoletto contributed the lion’s share of the lyrics – there is absolutely no upending of balance or identity here. Quite the opposite: despite the album’s many layers, this is as taut and focused as Trivium have ever sounded. One of metal’s most beloved bands are on the form of their lives right now.

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Ulver – Flowers Of Evil

Norwegian shapeshifters Ulver (opens in new tab) long ago completed black metal, then moved on, eventually and unexpectedly landing on sleek, 80s-indebted gothic synth-pop. The fact that old fans stayed on the journey is testament to this band’s singular vision. So suspend your disbelief and allow frontman Kristoffer Rygg to wail about vampires on Night Of The Wolf; and lose yourself in Little Boy’s undeniable rhythms and 19th-century French Dandyist references. Flowers Of Evil (opens in new tab) is danceable decadence defined.

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