In the brand new issue of Metal Hammer, we run down the Top 50 metal albums of 2020 as voted for by the magazine’s staff and writers. But away from the mainstream, exciting things were happening - not least in the ever more adventurous black metal scene. We counted up all the votes to find the Top 10 best black metal albums of 2020. From astral psychedelic trippiness to blackened brutality, here are the albums that prove BM is more head-spinningly brilliant than ever before.
1. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi
Oranssi Pazuzu have been operating in their own strange sonic and psychic space since day one, with each successive release being beamed back from further out in the cosmic void. Album number five saw the Finnish outliers take their unique brand of psychedelic black metal to ever greater heights, mixing iridescent synths, space-age melodies, baroque flourishes and caustic waves of vision-altering noise. Effortlessly different and extraordinarily ambitious the album was by turns terrifying, exhilarating and obliterative, tearing the listener in multiple directions with its bewildering vortex of sounds, styles and ideas. That a record so challenging and difficult to unpick should be so easy to enjoy and so immediately immersive was perhaps its greatest strength, but also the source of its greatest mystery – evidence, perhaps, of some deep alien intelligence that’s trying desperately to make contact by means of masterfully hypnotic psychedelia.
2. Paysage D'Hiver – Im Wald
After releasing a steady stream of excellent, evocative demos over the past 20 years, Swiss solo outfit Paysage d’Hiver’s humongous two-hour-long debut album could well have buckled under the weight of expectation. Thankfully, visionary Wintherr crafted an absolute masterclass in hypnotic, atmospheric and enveloping black metal: a genuinely epic voyage that never lost focus during its gargantuan run time. An ideal soundtrack for self-isolation.
3. Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Winterfylleth notched soaring new heights with this masterful showcase of blackened brutality that critics hailed among the band’s all-time best. Clocking in at nearly an hour, the Mancunians eviscerated any concerns that they might be mellowing with age, balancing stunning acoustic melodies with blistering waves of speed-picking, blastbeats and taut, icy riffage. A dazzling showcase of beauty and force, The Reckoning… unveiled their most ambitious statement yet.
4. Uada – Djinn
With spiteful disregard to the thinning herds of black metal elitism, the enigmatic Portland-based metal crew fused a venomous black metal undercarriage with elements of doom, psychedelia and even good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll. The results were spectacular. Bolstered by expansive production, Djinn easily claimed its seat among the year’s best, establishing Uada as one of the most important voices in US black metal.
5. Gaerea – Limbo
Masked and anonymous to the point where the musicians involved don't even offer dramatic aliases, Portugal’s Gaerea don’t fuck around. Their second album leaned heavily on waves of gritty, viscerally arresting black metal, to which they added corrosive death metal tempos and stunning melodic interludes. Proof that black metal was as healthy as it’s ever been in 2020.
To read the full rundown of the 50 Best Albums Of 2020, pick up the new issue of Metal Hammer, which is on sale now.
The new issue features our review of 2020, including new interviews with Metallica, Deftones, Trivium, Puscifer, Evanescence, Bury Tomorrow, Code Orange and many more of the bands who defined your year.
Plus, we reveal our 50 best albums of 2020. And because it’s Christmas, this issue also comes with a ton of gifts – a 2021 calendar, a brand new heavy metal activity book and a CD featuring the best songs of 2020.
The brand new issue out Metal Hammer, complete with the world’s greatest heavy metal activity book, is out now. Buy it in the shops or pick it up online and make Santa work for his mince pies.