Christ, I cannot even imagine how many trillions of words have been written / are being written / will be written about how utterly, unbelievably, unfathomably awful 2020 has been…
And yet, I feel like every year-end list I’ve written for the past half decade has started with some variance upon “Well, this was a tough year, but…” Is this what adulthood is, just an endless spiral of increasingly terrible years? If so, then imagine how unfathomably unfathomable the awfulness of 2021 will be…
Let’s not even go there.
Things are looking up, though, right? Here in the US, we at least elected a president that isn’t a total moron, although it remains to be seen if the current president (who is not only a complete and total moron, but is the defining complete and total moron) will somehow manage to wreck that, since he keeps trying. So maybe…
Let’s not even go there.
One thing that’s been here for me forever — or for as long as I can remember, at least — is music, which is why I’m here, doing what I’m doing, babbling incessantly about music. For all its myriad failures, 2020 at least brought me plenty of great music, so since we’re not going to those dark places, let’s cut to the damn chase and go here:
THE SECOND TEN, IN ORDER
20. Worm – Gloomlord
Apparently, Worm’s earlier efforts are more in the black metal camp, but however they got to it, Gloomlord is swampy death / doom goodness that borders upon the funereal, all echoed vocal and crushing slow riff beneath some sweet melodic leads. Think early Paradise Lost slowly drowning in a swamp and you kinda got the picture… Gloomy gloom, my good glum chums, and great.
19. Pharmacist – Medical Renditions Of Grinding Decomposition
You know what rules? Carcass’ second record, Symphonies Of Sickness. (Also, every other Carcass record, pretty much…) You know what else rules? This Symphonies Of Sickness second-coming from these Japanese sickos, all fuzzy riff and gurgle-guttural goodness from the Earache school of hurting ears. Don’t let the pretty picture on the cover fool you — this is some gross stuff, kids.
18. ACxDC – Satan Is King
Southern California’s favorite Satan-loving powerviolence / grindcore band returns with this subtly titled full-length. (The title is a pisstake on Kanye’s Jesus Is King, if you’re interested.) Sonically, it’s a fine and fun slab of the band’s trademark hardcore-leaning pummeling, hitting hard with the catchy “singalong” of the title track, the relentless barrage of “Copsucker,” and the raging on-a-dime turns of “Turncoat,” and all of it wrapped in the stoutest production ACxDC has yet seen. ACxDC will knock your ears about with powerful violence and warped sense of humor, and you’ll damn well like it.
17. Necrot – Mortal
Frills? Bells? Whistles? Who needs ’em… Necrot certainly doesn’t. Mortal is old-school death metal done right, which is to say that it’s straightforward, brutal, crushing, carving, deadly… Nary a wasted note or a misplaced beat, no other adjectives necessary — no “tech,” no “prog,” no “atmospheric,” no bullshit. Just death freakin’ metal, like the good Lord intended… Turn it up; throw the horns in the air; and scream along.
• Don’t believe me? Second opinion.
• Throw ’em a frickin’ spiky-logo old-school rifftastic bone here.
16. Incantation – Sect Of Vile Divinities
The production of this one has been a bit of a sticking point for some of the fellas, but to these ears, these newfound cleaner and less murky tones don’t detract much from Incantation’s best quality, which, of course, is their ability to create great and ugly death metal. Sure, now it’s less mucky, and that muckiness has long been a hallmark of the band, but when you can still knock out songs like “Entrails Of The Hag Queen” and “Fury’s Manifesto,” there’s more than enough beautiful ugliness to go around.
15. Meth Leppard – Woke
This Aussie grind duo returns with a stellar full-length, filled with their usual blast-happy riff-o-rama and smart-ass humor. Sure, the one-note singular-grunt vocals can get a little monotonous, but still, tracks like “Dead Kardashians,” “Sick Bern,” and the killer (if titularly incorrect) “Thrash Sucks” are bringing on the headache in the best possible way. Are you geddon it? Yeah, you should gedd it.
• Don’t believe me? Don’t worry — I missed it, too, the first time around…
• Throw ’em a frickin’ bone here, mate.
14. Testament – Titans Of Creation
In the pantheon of classic thrashers who still got the fire, Testament is right behind Overkill to me, a classic-era band who fell just outside The Big Four and yet who has never fallen to the same lows that those four have. Coming off the lackluster Brotherhood Of The Snake, Testament’s back with a ferocious thrasher in Titans Of Creation, one of their heaviest to date, and further proof that these old titans haven’t lost a step. Does it reach the heights of The New Order or Practice What You Preach? Nah, of course not — we’re past that now. There’s no real surprises here: Just lyrics about the usual suspects like war and murder, and plenty of guitar-slinging riffs from the Peterson-Skolnick team. Still, all of that adds up to Testament doing what Testament does best.
• Don’t believe me? Ask-o-lito.
• Practice what you preach and throw ’em a frickin’ bone here.
13. Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus
I don’t always like noodly technicality in my death metal, but when I do, I want all of it. Thankfully, Defeated Sanity can scratch that itch, and here, they scratch it with all the brutal subtlety of a chainsaw. There’s as many twists in these riffs as Chubby Checker and Dee Snider playing Twister in a tornado, as guitars and bass skitter and skedaddle around Lille Gruber’s rolling drumwork, and all topped with a beautifully toilet-level guttural from Josh Welshman. Sanity is overrated anyway; let it be beaten.
12. Ripped To Shreds – 亂 (Luan)
Oh, what’s that you say? Classic-styled death metal with old-school grind influences? Well, sign me up, dammit. One-man project Ripped To Shreds is the brainchild of Andrew Lee, now expanded into a full line-up, and you can think of it as the unholy spawn of Terrorizer grinding and classic death like Asphyx. Themed around Chinese folk tales of war and battle, Luan is one hell of a rager, and another feather in the cap of a relatively young band. More like Riffed To Shreds, amirite? (I’m right. I’m always right.)
11. Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
First off, if you haven’t already, take a few minutes and read this primer. Therein lies a far better summary of the importance of Psychotic Waltz than I could ever give, here or elsewhere, and then, when you’re done there, you can get on with the business of The God-Shaped Void, which is an excellent album from an underrated band, and certainly one that I wasn’t expecting to land an album on my 2020 year-end list. But damned if they didn’t, and as you listen to the moody and melodic prog-metal mastery that The God-Shaped Void contains, you’ll understand why.
THE FIRST TEN, IN ORDER
10. PYRRHON – ABSCESS TIME
In any given year, there are probably dozens of extreme metal records — if not more than dozens — that are described by overly enthusiastic critics such as myself as “mind-melting” or “punishing” or “ear-destroying” or some other such appellation. And probably most of them don’t truly qualify as such because they aren’t Pyrrhon records. (Note: It’s “Pyrrhon,” pronounced “Pyrrhon.”) Brooklyn’s noisiest bunch of free-jazz-inspired prog-tech-whatever death metal nerds returned in 2020 with Abscess Time, their fourth full-length and their best one, another collection of skronky ugly mind-melting punishing ear-destroying hyperbole-resistant kickassery. Dylan DiLeila’s riffs twist and move in ways that no riff ever should, and yet these do move those ways, whichever ways they may be (and sometimes in many ways at once), and they’re all the better for it; the rhythm section of Erik Malave and Steve Schwegler skitters and slams and stomps and stutters through whatever strange dystopian nightmares vocalist and lyricist extraordinaire Doug Moore conjures up.
Pyrrhon’s world is a harsh one, and we’re lucky to live in it.
• Don’t believe me? Ask a ghost.
• Throw ’em a frickin’ bone here, or Doug Moore will kick your ass.
9. FUCK THE FACTS – PLEINE NOIRCEUR
After a five-year hiatus, Canada’s funnest fact-fucking grinders return with another slab of brilliant “bastardized grindcore,” which really just means that it twists and turns and zips and zags and lights and darks and fasts and slows and reds and blues and most of the other adjectives, all in one, balancing blasting aggression against post-metal melodies and outside-the-box arrangements into one long slab of half-French / half-English fury. They’ve been trending ever upward for nearly twenty years now, with each record more interesting than the last, and Pleine Noirceur continues their streak of excellence, from the brilliant “Doubt, Fear, Neglect” and the blistering “Ailleurs” through the sludgy and emotive “Everything I Love Is Ending” to the drifty dreamy “An Ending.” Total darkness never seemed so vibrant, and this band never fails. Each listen unfurls a new twist, a new turn, a previously unheard riff, or more likely, a new context, a new color, a new angle and a riff previously unheard in exactly that proper context or color or angle.
In today’s world, facts seem to matter increasingly less, so I guess it’s safe to say fuck ’em, at this point, right? So get on with it while the world burns, and let’s get to grinding.
8. WAKE – DEVOURING RUIN
And hey, speaking of Canadian grindcore bands that operate outside the genre’s norms, here’s a new one from Calgary’s finest, and it picks up where the absolutely brilliant Misery Rites left off, pushing even further afield of traditional grindcore into the post-metal atmospherics that closed that album. Wake has long borrowed from various offshoots of extreme metal, but Devouring Ruin sees them exploring the more atmospheric side of their spectrum. It’s an expansive take on extremity, heavily reliant upon the NeurIsis palette, but it’s also a devastatingly visceral listen, as discordant riffing collides with chiming arpeggios and all of it ebbs and flows with a nearly cinematic scope. Fear not dedicated grinders: Some blastbeats do find their way in — underneath some skronking chunky riffs in “Mouth Of Abolition,” for example, or the blistering first half of “In The Lair Of The Rat Kings” — but mostly, Devouring Ruin keeps its pummeling to a more controlled attack, like the sludgy trudge of the ten-minute “Torchbearer” or the melodic haziness that colors the end of … also, the ten-minute “Torchbearer.” (It’s a long song, dammit; there’s a lot going on there.) At this point, Wake is likely only truly a grindcore band about 35% of the time, and nominally a grind band because they traditionally have been one, but whatever genre description you choose to bestow upon them, they’re a Very Damned Good band and one of the more interesting outfits to break forth from grindcore’s admittedly limiting confines in recent times. Like the Fuck The Facts, there’s much to unpack in this atmospheric grinding, and repeated listens only peel back the layers further and further, revealing the greatness within.
Change is good; embrace the changes.
7. NAPALM DEATH – THROES OF JOY IN THE JAWS OF DEFEATISM
Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism was quite awhile in the making – it’s been five years since Apex Predator, a gap only partially stopped with the collection of odds and ends in Coded Smears and the pre-Throes teaser Logic Ravaged By Brute Force. Still, not much has changed in the Napalm world, sonically, at least. Even without the creative input of guitarist Mitch Harris, who played on the record but did not contribute any material to the writing, the remaining core of Barney and Shane and Danny are still blending that signature ferocious death / grind with their other well-established influences, like the post-punk of “Amoral” or the industrialized “A Belly Full Of Salt And Spleen” or the blackened industrial grating of “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre.” All of those are among Throes Of Joy‘s least traditionally Napalm Death moments, and yet they’re among its best, and in that, and in their experimental bent, they somehow become among Throes Of Joy‘s most perfectly Napalm Death moments. Are you following me? No? Well, piss off, then, and just listen to the damned record — it’s a rager, from start to end, just like you’d expect from these Brummie bastards.
Napalm Death has been a personal favorite and an extreme metal standard-bearer for over a generation. Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism is exactly the kind of album that shows why we always come running back for more. Long the kings of grinding, and forever may they reign.
6. DROPDEAD – DROPDEAD (2020)
Troubled times make for good political punk rock, at least. I’ll admit that that perspective is a huge case of bright-siding, and coming from a place of privilege in that these troubled times haven’t been as directly troubled for me as they have for many. But regardless of the impact of that trouble, in these days of strife unlike any most living generations have seen, it’s right and justified to be completely pissed off. And Dropdead is nothing if not completely pissed off. Back with their first full-length in 22 years, Rhode Island’s favorite fast-and-furious hardcore punks may be a little older and wiser now, and maybe just a hair or two less fast than before, but nothing much else has changed. Bob Otis still barks and screams out screeds against oppression (be it of humans or animals), against injustice and against the broken system that fosters it, and against the racist wannabe-totalitarian regime approximately half of us Americans installed in the White House in 2016. Arriving approximately halfway through the ten-month-and-counting COVID plague, and just a few months before the US election, Dropdead 2020 reminded us of the importance of paying attention, of being actively tuned into the world around you, of the need to “fight and emancipate, conspire and communicate, arise and retaliate.”
Listen to Dropdead. They speak truths. Listen often. And listen loudly.
5. KATATONIA – CITY BURIALS
Everyone’s favorite sadsack Swedish sonsabitches return with another maudlin set of songs that balance the band’s proclivity toward the progressive with the moody metal that made them one of the twin towers of extreme mopeyness. (And who’s the other tower, you ask? We’ll get there in a second… Be patient. Don’t rush me.) If you’ve been keeping up with the Katatonias, you know what City Burials sounds like: prog-rock-cum-metal arrangements, with the latter of those two styles in shorter supply than it was ages ago, in line with the previous however many Katatonia releases. Scattered Nyström riffs serve as punctuation, but mostly, Burials is about the downtrodden atmosphere built on Renkse’s minor-key melodies and a collection of stunningly killer Kata-tunes. When a band writes songs that are good enough to overlook the 8th-grade-notebook emo-ness of lines like “I can feel you pierce my heart,” you know they’re truly onto something. When those songs are as good as “The Winter Of Our Passing,” or “Behind The Blood,” or the killer “Untrodden,” then what they’re onto is greatness, so take your anti-depressants and join in the fun.
Unless you’re in baseball, there’s nothing wrong with crying sometimes.
4. PARADISE LOST – OBSIDIAN
Oh, you listened to the Katatonia and you’re still feeling sad, are you? But not quite sad enough? Well, fine, then; let’s get sadder. Come on over and join us in the throes of clinical depression, as brought to you by the wonderfully morose death/doom/goth hybrid that is modern Paradise Lost. Now several albums into their second wind, our Haligonian heroes are coming off their sidestep backwards into the more traditional death/doom of Medusa — that one being by far the heaviest album they’ve made in thirty years. Obsidian is that sidestep in reverse, back from the heavier metallic edge, again towards the balance achieved on the greatness of The Plague Within and Tragic Idol. Holmes’ despondent croon is offset by his recently rediscovered goblin growl, and Mackintosh has never lost that ability to bring those beautiful guitar melodies. So in that regard, Obsidian is vintage Paradise Lost, just updated for the new age, like all of their various vintages condensed, from the goth metal majesty of Draconian Times to the death/doom of Gothic to the perfect blend of Tragic Idol. Running at a kingly level from the Sisters Of Mercy-tinted “Ghosts” to the new-classic closer “Ravenghast,” Obsidian is a study in radiant darkness.
Thirty years in and still sadder than everyone: Let’s hope these poor bastards never cheer up.
3. ARMORED SAINT – PUNCHING THE SKY
Noticing a trend yet? Yeah, that’s right: As usual, a large part of my top ten is dedicated to my longtime loves. But hey, it’s been a good year for the old guard, and high among those high-level entries is this latest from California’s finest, the East LA titans of traditional metal, Armored Saint. This band has never made a bad record, though obviously some are better than others, so I was expecting a damned solid slab of riffy straight-up heavy-damned-metal, with John Bush’s gravelly wail leading the charge, as always. What I was not expecting (but was not-so-secretly hoping for) was the band’s strongest record in three decades, the best they’ve released since the early 90s, when Symbol Of Salvation dropped and their classic era was subsequently truncated by Bush’s defection to Anthrax. (In his defense, he did help that band make their best record, Sound Of White Noise. Feel free to fight me on that opinion. You’ll lose.) Punching The Sky is classic Armored Saint, but it doesn’t feel old at all — in fact, it’s very much the opposite. This album crackles with life, with energy, with killer melodic metal like the title track, like the grin-inducing first single “The End Of The Attention Span,” like the blistering “Missile To Gun,” or the rollicking “Never You Fret.”
This, kids, is how heavy metal is done. Pay attention.
2. CIRITH UNGOL – FOREVER BLACK
And speaking of old California metal bands… I have to admit that, if you’d told me last year that a new Cirith Ungol album would sit near the top of my 2020 year-end list, I’d have told you, “Of course it will!” But I wouldn’t actually have believed you. I suppose that means I should listen to you more often, but why start now, right? Anyway, I certainly would’ve hoped you were right, and thankfully, you were. Let’s not make a thing of it. Forever Black is exactly the kind of new Cirith Ungol album that any Cirith Ungol fan has been hoping for for, what, three decades now? Which, of course, is to say that it’s a Cirith Ungol album that sounds like it could’ve easily been made back in the Golden Days, with some epic trad-doom mastery like “Stormbringer” sitting comfortably side-by-side with the sing-me-a-song-you’re-a-singer from “Heaven And Hell” bounce of “The Frost Monstreme” and the hard rock of “Fractus Promissum.” Tim Baker still has that crazy yelp, and Cirith Ungol still rocks like hell. All is right with the world… well, at least, with Cirith Ungol’s world.
Welcome back, fellas. We really missed you.
1. FATES WARNING – LONG DAY GOOD NIGHT
Long Day Good Night didn’t drop until November, and still, no album dominated my 2020 listening more than this one. But really, Fates Warning’s control of my year began even earlier, back in the Spring. You see, locked down in quarantine and bored and desperate for something new, I finally cracked and did that which I swore I wouldn’t ever do. I, dedicated purchaser of several (several, several) thousand compact discs, finally broke down and purchased new vinyl. But it wasn’t new vinyl, of course, because that’s a dicey prospect, so what I really did was start buying albums I love on vinyl. And one of those was Fates Warning’s early-90s masterpiece Parallels, which is by far the LP I’ve spun the most in 2020, without question. So that’s really where my 2020 Fates Warning re-obsession began, and it’s carried through into a complete re-immersion into every album they’ve released. (Except maybe FWX.)
And then, by some miraculous twist of fate, just when I’d re-listened to them all to death, they released a new album. And what’s even better than that is that it’s a killer, an absolute masterwork from a band that has about six masterworks and plenty that come close. Coming off one of those finest hours in Theories Of Flight, Matheos, Alder, and company have crafted another one of their finest works, with so much more moody prog-metal brilliance in tracks like “The Destination Onward,” the radio-ready-and-yet-still-strong “Now Comes The Rain,” and the utterly completely 100% astoundingly great “The Longest Shadow Of The Day” followed by the ominous “The Last Song.” Alder sounds great; Vera’s bass is both understated and perfectly prominent, particularly in the jazz fusion licks of “Shadow”; Jarzombek is rock-solid and inventive, as always… and yet, it’s still Matheos’ show here, because it’s his songwriting that always defines how incredible this band has been for decades now. Fates Warning is a damned national treasure, and they should never stop doing this.
So, yeah, seriously, guys — please don’t let that be the last song. Please. We need you.
• Don’t believe me? Check with the boss, then.
• Throw ’em the frickin’ #1 Bone Of The Year right here.
THE SHORT ONES, IN NO ORDER
Beaten To Death – Laat maar, deel een: ik verhuis naar Mastbos
This one’s sort of a cheater to include down here, because this EP is really part of an LP that the band released only to vinyl, and then broke apart and released as four digital entries. but with different mixes. Two of those EPs are out so far, of which this is the first. I don’t care how you get it, in short digital form or the longer physical one, just know that it’s Beaten To Death, which means it’s fun as hell grindcore with some really cool melodic moments and clever song titles like “Flatulence Of Emotion” or “The Old Man And The Internet.” Sure, the vinyl is probably cooler, but this works, too.
• Don’t believe me? You’ll have to. We didn’t cover this.
• Throw ’em one frickin’ bone in a four-part series here. Or buy the vinyl from the link off to the right on that page.
Septage – Septic Decadence
Another Carcass-loving batch of goons with another short burst of pus-dripping excellence, this one. It saw fewer spins than the Pharmacist full-length, but nevertheless, Septage’s brand of severed-tongue-in-rotten-cheek grossness (*) is worth that many spins and more. There’s a plague going on, as you likely know, so let Septage give you a safer way to get sick. (*I’m pretty sure I used this exact turn-of-phrase in my Machetazo review. Deal with it. It’s a good one. I may use it again someday. That’s how I roll.)
Sulaco – The Privilege
There’s a band that’s been on my mind… all the time… Su-Sulaco… Okay, that might be overstating it a bit, but I got to make a Phil Collins joke, so sue-sue me, yo. Still, my amazing sense of humor notwithstanding, Sulaco is an underrated beast, a tech-grind collective that throws out killer riffs with a seemingly natural ease. Two years after their last full-length in The Prize, Erik Burke and company are back with The Privilege, and in the process, they’ve upgraded the weakest link in their savagery, adding new vocalist Jason Leone’s formidable array of screams in place of Burke’s more hardcore-barking style. In the process, they’ve reached a new level, and The Privilege is ours to listen.
Escuela Grind – GGRRIINNDDCCOORREE
It will take me longer to come up with a description of GGRRIINNDDCCOORREE than it will for you to listen to it, so why don’t you just click on that link down there, yeah? Oh, you’re going to make me do my job? Fine. How about this: Up-and-coming old-school grinders toss off a tribute to the classics; throw it all back to the days of early Earache Recods, when the grind was short and fast and raw as hell. Slap-A-Ham more your style? Then surf over to the partner release, PPOOWWEERRVVIIOOLLEENNCCEE. Let’s just hope they stop these EPs before they get to MMUUMMBBLLEERRAAPP.
• Don’t believe? Take 90 seconds to read this.
• Take 90 seconds and throw ’em a frickin’ bone here.
Wake – Confluence
Grindcore bands aren’t really known for eleven-minute songs — more like eleven-minute albums, usually— but then again, they also aren’t known for more drifty, dreamy post-metal stylings, either. But also then again, as I may have mentioned elsewhere, Wake isn’t your typical grindcore band anymore. Working well outside its chosen style’s confines, Confluence works… well.. well, especially as a companion piece to Devouring Ruin. From the eleven-minute “Disparity And Chaos” outward and updward, this EP lives up to its title, expertly merging the various facets of Wake’s influences into one cohesive whole, the atmospheric and/or aggressive in perfect harmony, and all of it churned together and killing.
THE NOT-METAL ONES, IN NO ORDER
Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You
The Boss proves he’s still in charge with this Letter To You, his first record with the E Street Band in 6 years. A reflection on mortality and aging from a guy who turned 71 this year, Letter is a powerful listening experience, both in terms of its thematic depth and also in terms of its sheer rock ‘n’ roll power, the latter of which is an E Street specialty. With three songs resurrected from nearly 40 years ago, it’s a celebration of where Bruce and the boys are now and also where they came from. More importantly, it’s one of the strongest records Springsteen has released in ages, with the blue-collar poet and the bombastic arena rocker in equal measure, that special balance that only the Boss can truly manage. Check it out.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions
Of the past four Isbell releases, with or without longtime backers the 400 Unit, I think I like Reunions the least, but it’s testament to Isbell’s high-quality output that even the album I like the least is unquestionably a year-end-lister. From the opening self-examination and call to action of “What Have I Done To Help?” through the plaintive beauty of “Only Children” and the sparseness of “St. Peter’s Autograph” and the recovery rocker “It Gets Easier,” Isbell proves yet again that he’s one of the greatest songwriters in contemporary music, fearlessly painting vivid and beautiful pictures of himself and the world around him, the strengths and the shortcomings of both. Like Springsteen and the E Street Band, Isbell and the 400 Unit make American rock ‘n’ roll fused with the poetry of folk, muscular and cerebral in equal measure, and both of them continue to make stunning records.
AC/DC – Power Up
At this point in their career, I doubt that anyone was truly expecting AC/DC to return with their best album in decades, but damned if they didn’t do just that. Sure, that accolade isn’t exactly of the highest order — it’s been nearly thirty years since their last indisputable classic, The Razor’s Edge. But even the worst AC/DC is still better than most rock bands’ best work. Add to that the loss of bandleader and World’s Greatest Rhythm Guitarist Malcolm Young, and the fact that Power Up shows a reunited band (as much as possible, anyway) still firing on most all cylinders is very little short of amazing. You know what it sounds like; it’s AC/DC. And it’s damned good. Check it out.
Black Swan – Shake The World
Frontiers Records has the market cornered on these collaborative efforts from the hard rock giants of yore, and most of those run the qualitative gamut from disposable to decent. Black Swan is the exception. Starting with ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and Winger / ex-Dokken guitarist Reb Beach, Black Swan also benefits heartily from the still-powerful pipes of McAuley-Schenker Group vocalist and half-namesake Robin McAuley and from Ace Frehley drummer Matt Starr. Not surprisingly, this is a melodic rock platter in the vein of all those bands, with Beach’s tasteful shredding and some fine performances from McAuley, whose voice hasn’t lost a step. Classic hard rock from some classic hard rockers, and one of my go-to albums throughout 2020. Check it out.
Wobbler – Dwellers Of The Deep
Intricate arrangements that showcase instrumental flair in the manner of a certain classic prog band? Yes. Songwriting that never gets overshadowed by said flair, also in the manner of like a certain classic prog band? Yes. Ethereal harmonies that float atop that flair in melodies that lilt and soar majestically, again like a certain classic prog band? Yes. Vintage-styled prog rock that arrived forty-five years too late, this Wobbler album checks all the boxes for my inner prog-nerd, and do I dig it? Oh, absolutely: Yes. You should, too. Check it out.
RIP 2020, IN NO ORDER
Even the famous amongst us were not spared the unfathomable awfulness of 2020. We lost quite a few titans this year, so a hearty farewell to the following, in no particular order whatsoever, except — let’s be honest here — the top two did by far the most important work:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Billy Joe Shaver
Jerry Jeff Walker
Edward Van Halen
Lou A. Kouvaris
Max von Sydow
Justin Townes Earle
…and anyone else I may have forgotten.
And th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks. Let’s put all 94 months of this year behind us and get on with living. Stay safe; stay healthy; keep your head up; keep listening to all the music that you possibly can. Thanks for reading, and we love you all.