2020 Wrap Up

As you can see, we're having a bit of a recharge at the moment and zapping various parts of the site back in to life bit by bit. There are a host of album reviews to come for new and upcoming releases but until then here's a recap of some records we checked out and like across 2020. It was a tough year for everyone but it was still bursting at the seams with great music - here are some mini reviews of some of our favourites.

Ozzy Osbourne - Ordinary Man

As legendary figures go there are very few who can be considered on the same page as Ozzy. The heightened focus on Black Sabbath in recent years as they bowed out of things left the gap at TEN years since we'd had any solo material and what transpired despite potentially low expectations is a very competent release indeed. Ozzy's solo stuff has always had a uniquely different approach to his time in Sabbath with most of the better stuff amplifying a level of fun emanating from the studio. This at times feels a lot more melancholic, and quite a lot like Ozzy knows this might be his final ride at the rodeo as far as full length releases are concerned. 10/13.

Body Count - Carnivore

Body Count's resurgence in recent years really felt like it might have hit a new high on the release of Carnivore. Almost across the board, this record charted higher than all previous releases barring the explosive debut record back in 1992. Much like other previous releases, Ice T recruited an army of special guests for this record including Power Trip's Riley Gale (RIP), the legendary Dave Lombardo and Amy Lee of Evanescence fame. The result is a record, which, whilst remaining serious in its content, exudes a huge amount of fun. Never afraid of the odd cover here and there, the band also rattle through a performance of Ace Of Spades which they've been blasting out on stage for a while now. It adds to the fun, and feels like a good "extra" so it's placing as the fourth track on the record feels a little misguided. All in all though, this is yet another powerful, smash-mouth offering from Ice-T and his closest pals. 11/13.

Code Orange - Underneath

Easily one of the most anticipated heavy records in recent times, Code Orange had an enormous task on their hands following the absolutely impenetrable force-field that was 2017's Forever. If there's one thing this band have proven over the years though, it's that they've got a level of, justified, confidence which emphasises their ability to turn anything to gold, and Underneath continues that trail of destruction. Beyond erratic, uncomfortable at times, and containing a level of focussed aggression most bands in the scene could barely comprehend, this easily sits amongst the album of the year contenders for 2020. Real high points on the record include Cold.Metal.Place and Autumn and Carbine as well as the leading singles Swallowing The Rabbit Whole and Sulfur Surrounding. Press around the record included plenty of output from the band themselves to note that this record became a 24/7 project with tour dates even being cancelled so the group could maintain their focus. That certainly comes through in this - perhaps to the point where some of it might feel a bit "over"-thought in comparison to Forever which still does reign supreme in the back catalogue. 12/13.

Haggard Cat - Common Sense Holiday

Quite a frequent accusation thrown Haggard Cat's way is that they lack the brilliance of Heck, the band left in the ashes at their formation, and that on record they fail to deliver the same level of electricity as they do in a live environment. Both, in all honesty, are absolutely fair observations. With Common Sense Holiday however, the duo of Matt Reynolds and Tom Marsh have taken quite a significant step up with a series of tracks which whilst containing their signature brand of eccentricity feel far more focussed and measured. The duo also explore some varied avenues including a psychedelic feel on The Natives, which adds an interesting potential for them in the future. This is probably Haggard Cat's best offering to date; whilst largely formulaic it definitely invites re-listens. 10/13.

Myrkur - Folkesange

Danish vocalist Amalie Bruun's Post Black Metal project Myrkur has consistently maintained a raised level of hype ever since that first self-titled EP landed in 2014. The blend of different styles across Myrkur's relatively busy back catalogue (despite such a short existence) has continually brought Folk elements to the foreground but never more so than on latest release Folkesange which primarily roots itself in atmospheric Folk. The result is a record you can truly lose yourself in - rich with delicate and powerful emphasis the full throw in to the Folk game may put some off who cracked this on hoping for some of the more Black Metal side of things. 10/13.

Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts V & Ghosts VI

As the world descended in to more widespread lockdowns and general sadness due to Covid-19 what more does one need than a set of melancholic presentations from Trent Reznor? In fairness to Trent, these sequels within the instrumental Ghosts series were released in solidarity to their fans during the pandemic so that little dig might in part be unnecessary but given the circumstance of events surrounding it's release, it made them quite a difficult listen. The two together are actually fairly different in some aspects, Ghosts V contains this far more melodic, calming feel whereas Ghosts VI takes you down a far more ominous, industrial trail - which on the whole makes for a more interesting listening experience if doing them both from beginning to end. 11/13.

Lamb Of God - Lamb Of God

Not counting the covers album released under their original guise of Burn The Priest released in 2018, the self-titled tenth studio record by Lamb Of God marked the first set of new original content from the band in five years. Five years which had been signposted by some big time events for the group, none bigger than the departure of drummer Chris Adler. With Art Cruz already standing in for many years behind the kit he naturally moved in to being a full time member and whilst being a powerhouse in his own right, the swaying groove Adler curated for so many years did feel missing at points. With that said, the band deliver a confident accumulation of heavy as fuck Lamb Of God tracks, and what else do you want really? Particular highlight comes with the record's opener Memento Mori. 10/13.

Napalm Death - Throes of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism

To put it simply, in the realm of extreme music, no one comes close to Napalm Death. This 2020 release marked the band's sixteenth studio album and it is right up there amongst their very best - how many bands can say that after so many records? Not only is it up their amidst their own discography, when Throes Of Joy In The Laws Of Defeatism landed in September it catapulted itself in to the album of the year conversations that had already begun to brew. With this record the band have been able to deliver a crunched up level of ferociousness which just grabs you in to a warm embrace of carnage to leave you utterly wrapped up with each listen. From the first note right to the very last it all flies by with haste in your ears, promoting an immediate need for repeat listens. You'll be left breathless at points, it's heaviness encouraging subconscious body spasms left and right and barely a single moment to recover. This is exactly how extreme music should sound - engaging, frighteningly savage, groove-laden and a gigantic middle finger in the direction of everything and anything. Just masterful. 12/13.

Deftones - Ohms

Post the release of Gore in 2016, Deftones' popularity had reached yet another peak in their long and storied career. Once again upgrading from the medium to large sized venues to arenas, Deftones have been on an unbelievable roll - even despite the fact that Gore itself was largely hit and miss amongst their core following. Ohms feels like the culmination of this entire period. Melding together the sound carried through Koi No Yokan with the more ethereal atmosphere of Gore, Ohms is well and truly a brilliant Deftones record. The band feel refreshed and just free to dive in to whatever they feel is right for the moment, and with the re-introduction of Producer Terry Date to the fold (first time he's produced a Deftones record since the self-titled release in 2003), it has perhaps allowed them to re-engage with a thought-process and working arrangement which possibly felt like being reunited with an old friend. Interestingly, Terry had also worked with the band during the Eros sessions before the sad passing of Chi Cheng, which again may have stoked some untouched creative juices deep within. As ever with Deftones, each record leaves its own mark within their discography, no two albums from them ever feel or sound exactly alike and with Ohms it is exactly the same. The entire piece is majestically put together but particular highlights include Pompeji and the title track which closes out proceedings. Pure brilliance which just grows with every listen. 13/13.

Greg Puciato - Child Soldier: Creator Of God

Since the curtain came down on Dillinger Escape Plan in 2017, there has been a fairly consistent level of anticipation over what Greg was going to do next - a level of excitement which went up a few gears as soon as he announced a solo record was on its way. Before a rogue reviewer leaked tracks early, forcing Puciato to release three weeks ahead of schedule, a lot of the speculation triggered by some of the earlier single tracks stemmed around what direction exactly he was going to take musically. Would it contain the fury of Dillinger Escape Plan? Would we get some curveballs? Would Puciato decide to scale it all back? Well, in a way, we've actually got all of this. The twists and turns across this sprawling record should possibly have been predicted with someone like Puciato at the helm but the level of power each gear change brings is in itself brilliant. You'll be less than halfway through this album and be hard-pressed at squeezing it in to a "genre" - the erratic nature might not be for everyone but you've got to admire the sheer breadth of musicality, especially considering the only instrument Puciato didn't record himself was the drums. We really hope we can get to see some of this material live as soon as humanly possible. 12/13.

There we have it for now then! As we've noted, there will be some reviews incoming for new and forthcoming records up on the site very shortly. But for now, if you've been sleeping on any of the above up to this point then change that.