Best (Heavy) Music of 2020 So Far

Most metal journalists will split the year in half and give their Top 10 of said year so far.  I am not a paid metal journalist, and as you may have noticed, we are past the halfway point of 2020.  However!  It's close enough.  I have opinions, and while I'm only enumerating five records, I thought you needed to know them.  Let's burn through this shit before the NBA season starts again!?*

5. Kvaen - The Funeral Pyre

A one-man black metal battalion charring the earth all the way from Sweden.  Because of course this stuff is Swedish.  Kvaen deals in speedy, antagonistic BM a la Panzer-era Marduk.  The riffs are charged up and ready to quarrel.  That's not why Pyre is currently a Top 5 release (we'll see how it fares in January when I compile my Top 10); no, I love it for its divaricate approach.  The music is pissed, but it's also nuanced.  Infernal blasting is forked with thrash-inspired guitar solos.  The leads, man...the leads!  Closing instrumental "Hymn to Kvaenland" mirrors Opeth in its dour delivery.  So fuck yeah, this is a Top 5 release.

4. Esoctrilihum - The Eternity of Shaog

I've featured Esoctrilihum on this here website before.  I was magnifying the cover art, but I can't remember what I said about the music itself.  This is yet another one-man black metal project.  Ringleader Asthaghul hails from France, and I can't believe he plays every damn instrument.  By the way, that includes piano, violin, maybe a harpsichord...I'm hearing a harpsichord.  The production is full-bodied.  Dude has upped his songwriting game to the point where each track has its own flavor.  Shaog is the fifth Esoctrilihum LP in three (!) years, so granted, some of my interest is colored by disbelief.  You're going to want to keep your eye sockets fixed on this prepossessing racket.

3. Caligula's Horse - Rise Radiant

I don't know when exactly, but a little over a decade ago, Australia decided to weaponize prog rock and nuke the rest of the world (in the best way possible).  In my estimation, Caligula's Horse is the best of the bunch in the absence of Karnivool.  Not to divert my own attention, but where did Karnivool go?  Are they fucking hibernating?  Anyway, Radiant is salaciously technical (my pants just tightened), orgiastically melodic (my breath just quickened) and those tits!  I mean, what?  Caligula's Horse is simply a band whose configuration exhibits a master at each post.  Guitarist Sam Vallen, in particular, has quietly become unequaled in his field.  More like Rise Radikal, am I right???

2. Psychotic Waltz ~ The God-Shaped Void

Reunion albums are a dicey jumble.  I had zero expectations for Void, as it was the first Psychotic Waltz recording in 24 years.  I would have forgiven them for sounding a tad rusty and out of practice, but they put any fatalistic forecasts to bed with these proggy pyrotechnics.  Sorry, my cheap alliteration is dishonorable.  The guys are swinging on all cylinders.  Buddy Lackey's vocals are as smooth and catchy as ever.  Brian McAlpin's goddamn geetars are astrophysical.  I'm sensing a theme as it relates to the twiddle-fiddle.  If you cherish crystalline leads, guitar harmonies, and finger-lickin' licks, you're tapping the right vein.

1. Inexorum - Moonlit Navigation

Speaking of guitars that sparkle, this melodic black metal gem is the mother to end all fuckers.  Layers of rainwater chords (there are only so many adjectives to buoy this kind of music) converge to craft tunes that enter one ear and stay there.  Somehow, Moonlit feels simultaneously morose and uplifting.  The hooks hit you like a cool, vernal breeze.  I've replayed this album more than the other four selections, if that informs you of its nobility.  There are even a couple of instances of lucid clean vocals.  It's still brutal, but it coats your stomach before the acids take effect.  Also, take acid.

* Go Raptors!

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