Best Metal of May 2020

While April provided us with a number of exceptional releases in exchange for a dearth of releases in general, May has provided us with both quantity and quantity in the world of metal. This month has provided everything from black to prog to thrash, and is already poised to stand out as the best month of metal for the entire year. Let’s dig in. 

Album Review: Havok - V

Havok - V

V is everything that is great about thrash. Its constant, driving forcefulness pushes every track forward at a breakneck pace, and the guitar tones are light enough on their feet that they never become dour. But Havok brings an extra layer of intensity with clearly understandable, hyper-political lyrics. It’s the whole package, and by far the best thrash release of the year.

Cryptic Shift - Visitations from Enceladus

This ultra-strange, deeply sci-fi album is already beginning to insert itself into year end lists across the globe. The whole record, and particularly the centerpiece “Moonbelt Immolator” is one of the most ambitious metal tracks released all year. Weaving its way through prog and death, Visitations from Enceladus makes an undeniable impact with its ambition and technical brilliance.

Resent - Crosshairs

Crosshairs is not interested in making you feel better, or in cutting you loose. This six-track blitzkreig from Resent makes for one of the most harrowing listening experiences of the entire year. Unlike recent sludge metal, which is more focused on the textures of the instruments, Crosshairs digs back down into the muck, filth and drug addled sound of ‘90s sludge. The result is a furious record that forces introspection as much as it does headbanging. 

Fire-Toolz - Rainbow Bridge

Fire-Toolz isn’t here to fit into your categories. This insane mash up of metal and vaporwave exploded two years ago with the release of Field Whispers (Into the Crystal Palace), and are keeping their momentum moving forward with the vastly more impressive Rainbow Bridge. It’s weird, and it may not be for everyone but the mastery with which searing guitar solos, lush synths and anguished screams is undeniably impressive.

Forgotten Tomb - Nihilistic Estrangement

Nihilistic Estrangement delivers one of the most potent and unrelenting experiences offered in 2020. Though the urgency of topics like “Active Shooter” may feel further away given the intensity of the current crisis, these thoughts are never far away from our minds. Even outside of the lyrical content, the melody, riffs, and musical elements of this record all meld together to make this one of the most necessary listening experiences of the year. 

Couch Slut - Take a Chance on Rock 'n' Roll

Grindcore is a very contentious genre by its very nature. Couch Slut has found a way to circumnavigate the troubled waters of this genre by simply being exceptional at it. Much like their 2017 record, Contempt, Take a Chance on Rock ‘n’ Roll delivers an urgent, panicked musical diatribe against sexism and other social ills. The result is a furious record that never relents and always thrills. 

An Autumn for Crippled Children - All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet

This is a bit of an odd duck for this list. Much of this record seems to exist outside the confines of metal, tending further towards the post metal of Pelican or even the post rock sections from groups like Alcest or Deafheaven. Regardless of the assigned classification, An Autumn for Crippled Children puts together a compelling, cinematic, poignant and emotional journey that is well worth buying a ticket to attend. 

Blacklab - Abyss

My love of stoner metal is no secret, so my love of Blacklab should come as no surprise. This record is an absolute thrill ride that asks itself “what if we only played the heavier sections of Electric Wizard albums.” The time it spends answering this question is crushing, lengthy, thrilling and one of the most enjoyable listening experiences of any stoner album this year. 

OLD MAN GLOOM - Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning

Much like their other release earlier this year, Seminar IX: Darkness of Being, OLD MAN GLOOM concocts a swirling cacophony of noise, power electronics and huge chugging riffs. The final product somehow manages to be both endlessly enjoyable and deeply challenging in the same breath, making it one of the premier metal releases of the year.

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