August was a deep month when it came to quality new metal albums. At least half a dozen releases that missed the cut probably would have been on the list in most other months. Here are our choices for August 2020’s best new metal albums.
1. Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of A Doomed Escape (Century Media)
American progressive death metal outfit Black Crown Initiate are back with their third release, Violent Portraits of a Doomed Escape. Four years between albums is a lot, but the band has been hard at work honing their skills, and boy does it pay off in spades here. As long as you prefer your prog-death to lean more towards the progressive side, Violent Portraits… will scratch your itch perfectly.
While the clean passages may outweigh the harsh, these guys are not afraid to bring the brutality, which they do on numerous occasions. The material presented here is dynamic and brilliantly paced, with devastating riffs countering melodic moments perfectly. The short interlude “Bellow” may seem odd, but even that adds atmosphere to an already superb record. Violent Portraits… is one of the year’s best.
2. Necrot – Mortal (Tankcrimes)
Necrot’s debut album Blood Offerings was an under-the-radar death metal highlight of 2017, and their second album Mortal could follow suit this year. It’s a small improvement on an already stellar sound, expanding their melodic reach with longer guitar solos and tempo variety that suits songs that go as long as eight minutes. That’s the case with the ambitious closing title track, which depicts the cycle a dying person goes through as their last breaths fade into nothing.
That’s a more peaceful end compared to the visual horror dished out on “Dying Life,” with the first line growled out being, “Skinned alive, show me your entrails. Remove the flesh.” That’s an outlier compared to the other songs, which approaches the wicked elements death metal is known for with cerebral tension, without overtly gory mannerisms. Mortal is a refinement of the unforgiving music Necrot already had a grasp of on Blood Offerings.
3. Primitive Man – Immersion (Relapse)
Denver sludge/doom unit Primitive Man return with their third album Immersion, the follow up to the chaotic Caustic, a painful and frightening listen. Starting with “The Lifer” you are met with violent and glacially slow-moving passages and Ethan McCarthy channeling his inner demons to continue to envelop the listener in this group’s collective madness.
The band has been able to deliver their kind of chaos in a bit more of a bite sized manner much like their debut Scorn as Caustic’s latter half tended to drag on with extra-long noise tracks. “Menacing” is another powerful song steeped with depressive atmosphere and demands to be experienced in a cold and dark basement for maximum effect. If you want an album that is both frightening and accessible, you will want to check out Immersion, the best combination of their previous work that Primitive Man could deliver.
4. Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live (ViciSolum)
Two years ago Danish power metal outfit Manticora dropped a surprisingly strong album in our laps. To Kill To Live To Kill was the highly-regarded first part of a two-part concept album based upon a novel written by singer Lars Larsen. Now here’s the conclusion, To Live To Kill To Live, which picks up right where the last one ended, both in story and quality.
If part one was up your alley, you will love this installment, which is definitely Manticora’s strongest album to date and one of the best power metal records of 2020. The band have upped their game in every regard here – songwriting, performances, production, and even Larsen’s vocals have had their edges slightly honed. Touches of thrash and progressive metal round out what is an excellent album.
5. Unleash The Archers – Abyss (Napalm)
When done right, power metal can be the most invigorating and uplifting subgenre in the metal movement. Canada’s Unleash The Archers, thirteen years and five albums into their career, know how to do it right, and showcased their mighty talents on 2017’s excellent Apex album. Here they return with another concept album, Abyss, and once again they manage to press all the right buttons.
Led by the awesome Brittney Slayes behind the mic, Abyss is nearly an hour of all-out power metal glory, with high-paced anthems, brooding ballads, and a handful of extreme metal moments. Unleash the Archers manage to sound fresh and vital in a genre that can often be rife with cliché, and Abyss only narrowly misses Apex’s high point. Another outstanding release.
6. Orbit Culture – Nija (Seek and Strike)
Behind all the animosity, the belligerence and vehemence, metal often has the capacity to move people; to evoke feeling beyond the pumping of adrenaline. While it remains one of the most exhilarating and barbaric listens of 2020, Orbit Culture’s Nija sparks resonance with its listener that ranges from terror to sheer awe.
Masters of concocting atmosphere, Orbit Culture operate in a soundscape seemingly designed to scare just as much as it is to invigorate. Niklas Karlsson has grown to be one of the most intense vocalists in modern metal, his harsh vocals occupying such phenomenal heft while his clean delivery harkens to the indelible tones of Hetfield-esque thrash. Backed by some sheer animalistic warriors of sound, Karlsson and company charge through a tracklist of momentous proportion – a succinct 45 minutes of unbridled mayhem that finds pleasure in hurling curveballs into its volatile approach to songwriting. The show stopping 1-2 punch of “Behold” and “Open Eye,” the riff-laden neck splitter of “Nensha” or the rapturous chills of “The Shadowing,” the list of highlights is simply interminable. What Orbit Culture have crafted with Nija is simply magnificent, a fine showing of what modern metal can and should be.
Other 2020 Monthly Best Metal Albums Lists
January 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums
February 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums
March 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums
April 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums
May 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums
June 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums
July 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums