Welcome back to our long journey through the best metal that 2020 has to offer. Today we dig into the riffy hors d’oeuvres, machine-gunning tapas, and double-kicking dim sum of the heavy metal world. The quick bites (remember Quibi?) of hefty goodness, of which there was a rich bounty this year.
Never before have the members of the Last Rites crew been so enthusiastic about a collection of EPs and demos (although the fact that two bands below have “Rites” in their name is strictly coincidental). Perhaps in a year when our lives and emotions have been bombarded with negativity and struggle from all sides we enjoyed taking in quicker bursts of escapism, or perhaps bands made more of such releases for similar reasons (Old Nick made approximately 3,057 such releases alone). Likely a a lot of both, but with 41 different EPs and demos receiving votes, it’s clear that we as a group dug a whole bunch of the short stuff. So much so that one of these releases – um, the top one – would likely have landed really high on the main album list had the band defined it as a full length.
This of course brings up the necessary questions: What exactly is an EP vs. a full length when many EPs are longer than the average grind album? What exactly is a demo in this day and age when every band can build a Bandcamp page and make a super professional sounding recording at home on their iPad? We merely went with how each band defined the releases, and if that often seems a little arbitrary (it is), the main thing is that it gives us an excuse to cover more great music, and isn’t that why we’re here? Of course it is.
We hope you too add to the bounty by adding your favorites below. It’s the right thing to do. [ZACH DUVALL]
10. BLAZON RITE – DULCE BELLUM INEXPERTIS
For fans of Legionnaire, Brocas Helm, that one Lunar Shadow album (Far From Light) and Isen Torr, the debut EP from Philadelphia’s Blazon Rite seems tailor-made to fit their armor wearing endeavors. From cooking omelets in the morning to vacuuming up those hard-to-get at hairs in the corner at night, every activity will be enhanced by the heroic riffs and vocals on Dulce Bellum Inexpertis. The point is, your life might be as boring as the rest but it doesn’t have to feel that way. While vacuuming throw a fist up against those dust balls! Reach into your sheath and unleash the power of the spatula while flipping that Boca burger. There is no reason that your Geo Metro (do they still make those?) shouldn’t feel like a glorious steed clad in boiled leather and strapped with a quiver of arrows tipped with poison and meant for the heart of the evil empress. Your life is your life. You choose how to live it. Don’t be lame and not try to at least make it fun. Put on Blazon Rite and ENJOY YOUR LIFE. [MANNY-O-LITO]
9. WAMPYRIC RITES –
REFLECTIONS OF A FROSTBITTEN MOON
“Stylistically, we’re still on pretty standard Norwegian second-wave terrain with the rawness pushed to 11 – imagine, as an imperfect comparison, the songwriting of In the Nightside Eclipse with the hellacious racket of Wrath of the Tyrant. But even that might undersell Wampyric Rites – in the short 27 minutes of this EP, they cover a frankly astonishing range of intra-genre style moves, even kicking into a half-time and organ-backed dirge at the midway point of ‘IV (Orlok)’ that points a little toward Darkthrone’s outro on ‘Crossing the Triangle of Flames.'” [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
8. LAMENTARI – MISSA PRO DEFUNCTIS
“Missa Pro Defunctis hits the listener with approximately 349,307 blazing tremolo riffs, brutal blasts, soaring string passages, heralding horns, venomous vocal deliveries, and thunderous tympani rolls. In ‘Lacrimosa,’ choirs accent the biggest of the big hits, violins provide a drifting contrast to the metal pummelling, and piano almost seems to tumble down over all the ascending parts, only to briefly emerge as the feature.” [ZACH DUVALL]
7. MORBIFIC – PESTILENT HORDES
Careening through five fat-lip grins in just shy of 14 minutes, Pestilent Hordes is a downright sassy little death metal demo from a trio of Finnish whippersnappers that wastes no time getting down to the damn business with the seriously grimy, snaky main riff in the opener “Cauldron of Execution.” Morbific’s death metal is a proudly ugly gem of the greasy, doom-caked school of the early 90s, so expect to hear some Obituary and Asphyx, but a lovingly heaping portion of Autopy and Rippikoulu. “Sawmill in the Mist” sports a dirtbag Sabbath midsection, “Slithering Decay” scoots to life with a hellish d-beat and cat-squeal solo, and the closing title track winks at the Slayer vibes even further with a deliciously Lombardo-esque flair on the ride during its half-time riffing. The kids (at least in Finland) are alright. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
6. MOLDE VOLHAL – INTO THE CAVE OF ORDEALS…
“Fans of Havukruunu looking for a somewhat more stripped-down approach will find a lot to love in the fast-paced call to glory that Moldé Volhal are channeling here. The lightning tremolos light up the sky of sweeping melodies, rushing like winds betwixt mountains and fjords of a mythical, super-terrestrial landscape, flirting enthusiastically across the clouds in a subtle blanketing of the ethereal.” [RYAN TYSINGER]
5. WAKE – CONFLUENCE
“This EP does represent a continuation of what Wake has learned in the sense of building songs with more atmosphere and dynamics, but what it offers is distinctly different than the approach taken on Devouring Ruin. For every hefty slab of death metal meat crammed into the maw of their full length, Confluence replaces them with black metal influences conjured under a modern funeral moon.” [SPENCER HOTZ]
4. SEPTAGE – SEPTIC DECADENCE
“The most prominent vocal approach on this album can only be described as… unbelievably phlegmy. You know that Halloween party trick where kids are blindfolded and put their hands into a bowl of cold spaghetti and told that it’s innards? Think of that, only as insanely deep and muffled gutturals. But the muffling is part of the charm, as if the vocals were recorded while the vocalist was in a vat of some putrid, unknowable sludge.” [ZACH DUVALL]
3. OLD NICK – HAUNTED LOOM!!
“On the surface, Haunted Loom!! seems to be parodical nonsense. In actuality, it’s a full-on celebration of the absurdity of black metal, and – what’s more – it’s damn good. Purists may take one look at the cover or the band name or the description and dismiss it outright. Well, joke’s on you Mr. Kvlter-Than-Thou, you’ve just been gatekept from one of the most rewarding and bizzare excursions on this list.” [RYAN TYSINGER]
2. MIDNIGHT DICE – HYPNOTIZED
“So, a little more Fifth Angel in lieu of, say, Omen. Or, to put it another way: “tuff” in defiance of tough, but still managing to conjure all the steely thrill of records such as Shok Paris’ Steel and Starlight, Hellion’s Screams in the Night, Wild Dogs’ Reign of Terror and Savatage’s Hall of the Mountain King—four records hand-picked because they could very well represent production influence as much as they do musical persuasion.” [CAPTAIN]
1. LÖR – EDGE OF ETERNITY
“The lead guitar work is some of the best I’ve heard this year, the gang vocals add a nice sense of throw-back without feeling unduly dusty, and the overall attention to detail regarding production and songwriting absolutely tramples the notion that an unsigned act is incapable of producing something as polished and veteran-sounding as a band that’s been signed to Metal Blade for decades. Simply put, Edge of Eternity is a triumph that follows an earlier triumph, and there’s no way in Hell I’m missing what they throw at us next.” [CAPTAIN]