2019 was one hell of a year for death metal, with new talent emerging and veteran acts flexing their sinewy muscles.
But 2020 may just have topped it.
Seldom a month went by without another salvo of high grade death metal albums being launched into our ear canals.
From old school lessons to interstellar away trips, we present Rushonrock’s top 10 death metal albums of 2020.
10. LIK – Misanthropic Breed (Metal Blade)
LIK have been one of the most reliable old school Swedish DM bands in recent years, and the Stockholm act’s third record was a formidable addition to their searing canon.
Boasting that trademark Entombed/Dismember crunch and sparkling with Maiden-esque leads, Misanthropic Breed was everything you could want from a Swedish death metal record.
And thanks to Wolves and Corrosive Survival, this album featured some of the quartet’s strongest songs to date.
9. Carnation – Where Death Lies (Season Of Mist)
Building on the blueprint laid down on 2018’s Chapel Of Abhorrence, Carnation spat out this venomous little beasty in September, and would have clearly levelled cities with it, had Covid-19 not quashed every band’s touring plans.
The Belgians’ second album raged with death metal’s unhinged spirit and pounded anyone in the way into submission.
Songs like Napalm Ascension and Serpent’s Breath were its knuckledusters, and charismatic vocalist Simon Duson put the boot in even further.
Carnation are on the rise, thanks to Where Death Lies.
8. Cryptic Shift – Visitations From Enceladus (Blood Harvest Records)
Leeds’ answer to Blood Incantation voyaged to beyond time and space with this ambitious – and thrilling – debut.
Its 25-minute opener, the titanic Moonbelt Immolator, set the tone, with its nods to Floridian prog death legends Atheist and Cynic.
And across the record’s four tracks, Visitations From Enceladus crossed dimensional boundaries and explored just how far you could take extreme metal (it was pretty damn far).
Hurtling through the cosmos like a warp speed Hawkwind, Cryptic Shift certainly set the bar high with this opus…
7. Live Burial – Unending Futility (Transcending Obscurity)
Yes, Death and Asphyx were intertwined in its DNA, and Live Burial’s second full-length displayed a firm grasp of OSDM dynamics.
But rather than simply go for the jugular, the North Easterners embraced their prog leanings to create an intriguing, multi-textured record which demanded close attention.
And it was all the better for it.
Check out the review of Unending Futility here.
6. Soulburn – Noa’s D’Ark (Century Media)
With the blood of Bathory coursing through its veins and drenched in that immense Dutch guitar tone, Noa’s D’Ark felt like an unstoppable primal force, where blackened fury intertwined with the kind of spine-tingling moments that Quorthon would have been proud of.
Despite the absence of founder Bob Babchus, Soulburn still managed to forge one of the best albums of their career with Noa’s D’Ark.
And there was even an appearance from Asphyx’s Martin van Drunen to savour on the incredible Anointed – Blessed – and Born for Burning.
Read the full review here.
5. Ulthar – Providence (20 Buck Spin)
Maintaining the standards set on 2018’s spectacular Cosmivore was no easy feat, but Ulthar somehow managed it with the ingenious Providence.
The Californians once again unleashed an opus of mind-bending Lovecraftian soundscapes, with every nightmarish journey propelled by extraterrestrial fretwork and contorted percussion.
Yet at the heart of Providence was an iron core of pure death metal, imbued with the might of Chuck Schuldiner, Trey Azagthoth et al.
And the old masters would surely be proud of the hellish mutations they’ve spawned…
4. Necrot – Mortal (Tankcrimes)
2017’s Blood Offerings showed that when it came to straight to the point, laser-guided OSDM, Necrot have few equals in the contemporary scene.
And Mortal reinforced the band’s status as masters of their craft.
The Oakland-based act’s third opus bristled with razor blade riffs and supreme songwriting – with Sinister Will and Dying Life being especially addictive examples.
A classic – and timeless – death metal release, Mortal was the vicious, seven-track hit we all needed back in August.
3. Black Curse – Endless Wound (Sepulchral Voice Records)
Featuring members of Blood Incantation, Khemmis, Primitive Man and Spectral Voice, this über-talented underground supergroup set a course for Armageddon on Endless Wound.
The Denver outfit’s debut was a terrifying dive into the netherworld, an unrelentingly heavy work of pure darkness that harnessed the chaotic energy of bands like Revenge and Teitanblood, and unleashed it in wave after wave of total, white hot annihilation.
Endless Wound simply did what it said on the tin…
2. Ulcerate – Stare Into Death And Be Still (Debemur Morti Productions)
New Zealanders Ulcerate have been defying the laws of physics since their inception, but Stare Into Death And Be Still is a majestic offering, even for their illustrious standards.
The band’s astonishing musicianship always has tech-heads drooling, but it was the cold, dark hues and contorted textures of tracks like The Lifeless Advance and Exhale The Ash which pulled jaws through the floor here.
No one creates extreme music quite like Ulcerate.
And no one is quite sure how they keep doing it…
1. Undeath – Lesions Of A Different Kind (Prosthetic Records)
After two demos of grisly old school death metal, there was plenty of hype around this Rochester, NY crew (pictured top).
And this monstrous debut more than justified it.
Bursting like a ball of virulent pus across the DM underground, Lesions Of A Different Kind blended crisp songcraft, devastating riffs and churning grooves with the kind of fetid atmospherics pioneered by the likes of Obituary, Incantation and Autopsy.
And it announced Undeath’s arrival was one of the most exciting acts in US death metal’s new wave.
Check out the full review here.
Enjoyed our top 10 death metal albums of 2020? Check out our top 10 black metal albums of 2020 here.