As the year comes to a close, many albums originally set to be released earlier this year have been shifted to the latter part of 2020 due to the pandemic. That makes for an even busier final quarter than usual. October was packed with new releases, and a lot of quality. That made it tough to narrow down the list and even to rank the ones that were selected. Here are our choices for October 2020’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full (Sacred Bones)
A collaboration between singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle and sludge behemoths Thou may seem unlikely in theory, but the execution is top-notch on May Our Chambers Be Full. This is a product of like-minded individuals banding together to produce an album that will engross both of their respective fan bases. Thou get to maintain a laborious weight over the music, while Rundle’s haunting grace cuts through the murky atmosphere.
Though it’s easy to pick out a few striking moments on May Our Chambers Be Full — the Kim Thayil-mannered guitar solo on “Into Being,” the quick veer off into black metal on “Magickal Cost” — the cohesion of the entire album is noteworthy. From the clashing vocal harmonies on “Killing Floor” to the soul-ripping closer “The Valley,” it’s apparent that Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou were destined to join to create one of the best albums of 2020.
2. Spirit Adrift – Enlightened In Eternity (20 Buck Spin)
Spirit Adrift’s fourth album Enlightened In Eternity is the first album without any connections to Gatecreeper, as frontman Nate Garrett stepped aside from those band duties so as to focus on this, his main band. Already one of the stronger traditional heavy metal bands in the genre, Garrett has set himself up some high expectations. Opening with the powerful “Ride Into Light,” Spirit Adrift start things off on a mid-tempo gallop with Garrett’s guitar playing coming through melodically to balance out his gruff vocal delivery.
Album closer “Reunited In The Void” brings to close a story that is alluded to on the album’s cover, namely of two dogs, one of which belonged to Garrett and the other to Bryant. The song features some Sabbath and Type O Negative riffs throughout but, towards the middle of the track you get the sense of galloping and the clicking of a dog’s tags while running. This nearly 11 minute salute is a powerful sendoff for the band to some of their closest friends and a fitting close to a strong album. Spirit Adrift haven’t been around that long but they certainly do heavy metal right.
3. Armored Saint – Punching The Sky (Metal Blade)
It seems age is no obstacle for many of the heavier bands of yore. Armored Saint’s last album, Win Hands Down, was released in June 2015. It’s been a while. Amazingly, the band’s lineup has been unchanged for over thirty years, and the comfort level they have with each other, the songwriting maturity, the knack for earworm arrangements, it’s all in play here on Punching The Sky. Throughout the album, bassist Joey Vera (also the main songwriter here, and the bassist for Fates Warning, who have an album of their own dropping in two weeks – busy guy!) shows he is equally comfortable in the producer’s chair as he is in front of a bass stack. This album kicks and punches with an organic aggression that hits the sweet spot.
Musically, Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan deliver killer riffs and searing leads much as we have come to expect over the years. Vera and drummer Gonzo Sandoval are as tight and punchy a rhythm section as there is, and John Bush might be the only human being on the planet whose voice has not changed over the last forty years. While Armored Saint’s last two albums, La Raza and Win Hands Down, were both enjoyable, Punching The Sky is a step up, and one of the band’s finest efforts – certainly their best since Symbol of Salvation. This is traditional heavy metal at its finest, and you owe it to yourself to give it a spin.
4. Insidious Disease – After Death (Nuclear Blast)
A decade has passed since the last Insidious Disease album. Now the super group returns with their sophomore album, After Death. The group consists of current and former members of Dimmu Borgir, Morgoth, Nile, Napalm Death, Susperia and too many others to name. Their sound is a mix of modern and classic death metal that hints at the European DM sound.
Much of the album relies on mid-paced romps, although ex-Nile drummer Tony Laureano busts out the occasional blast and keeps the tempo fluid. That, combined with ex-Morgoth vocalist Marc Grewe’s tormented screams and dry delivery brings to mind early Morgoth. The guitar section of Dimmu Borgir’s Silenoz and Susperia’s Cyrus create immense, infectious chords and mind-bending solos. Grewe’s unmistakable voice is constant, but there are moments of deeper lead and backing growls. Insidious Disease deliver a tremendous effort on After Death, one that will surely put them in the running for death metal album of 2020.
5. Scardust – Strangers (M-Theory)
The Israeli symphonic progressive band Scardust released their debut album in 2017 and return with Strangers. It’s a concept album that deals with estrangement. Each song on the first half of the album has a parallel track on the second half, with each pair telling the story of two strangers.
Opener “Overture For The Estranged” showcases the instrumental prowess of the band with a very progressive arrangement. Noa Gruman is a vocal powerhouse, able to use a rock delivery on tracks like “Break The Ice” along with a more dramatic and emotional style elsewhere while periodically showcasing an operatic soprano and utilizing harsh vocals on tracks like “Over” and “Gone.” The arrangements are equally diverse, with the use of things like a children’s choir and folk musician Patty Gurdy adding even more diversity. The songs have the complexity of prog with the cinematic flavor and melody of symphonic metal making for a memorable album.
6. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment (Metal Blade)
No year seems more relevant for a new Anaal Nathrakh album like Endarkenment than 2020, as their heightened industrialized black metal fits in with the outright social discord that surrounds our every waking minute. Since 2012’s Vanitas, the group has released an album every two years, a commendable feat not only in consistency, but the quality of the material produced.
Endarkenment is no different, as vocalist Dave Hunt and multi-instrumentalist Mick Kenney keep finding ways to mature melodically while maintaining the frenzied noise that began two decades ago. The title track is a heck of an exclamation point to start the album, and there’s not much downtime from there. Kenney has some wild guitar solos on several songs, but it’s the stunning outro to “Requiem” that has some of the finest work of his career. Eleven albums in, Anaal Nathrakh have lost none of their contempt for humanity, which fits 2020 perfectly.
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
August 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums
September 2020 Best Heavy Metal Albums