Dark Juan’s Top Ten Releases Of 2020
By ‘Dark Juan’
Yes, my dear children of the night. It is that time again. It’s near Yule and the Krampus is rampant. At least that was what I said to Mrs Dark Juan during a night-time meeting in the hall leading to the bathroom. The Smellhounds are currently quiescent, Mrs Dark Juan is currently creating felt art and I have a bit of time off from wrangling young gentlemen, and also the Mighty Gothikpanzer flew through its MOT, so in a rare moment of sober good humour I present to you all this list of what I consider to be the records of the year. There’s going to be a few honourable mentions at the end, because this year has been a fucking BANGER for new metal, even though we have all been confined for the good of our various realms… Shall we dance?
10. Häxan – White Noise (July 2020)
An astonishingly assured debut album from a young British three piece, variously from Cheltenham and Wales. “White Noise” is based on the sound of classic hard rockers and these three young ladies kick serious amounts of arse. If I were to rank this list on the amount of songs by a single band reverberating around my poor damaged head, Häxan would have fucking aced it, folks. Harking back to an age when hard rock was king, yet somehow managing to convey a modern edge, HUGE fucking stadium rock choruses and killer riffs abound and the songs just drip snotty attitude and the kind of swagger you’d normally associate with veteran bands who have been massive for decades. This, unsurprisingly, is a Very Good Thing indeed and this album is still on fairly constant rotation in the Mighty Gothikpanzer after several months because of its sheer quality and the obvious enjoyment the band have in playing their music. Plus, I love Sam Bolderston’s voice, and this slab of good time, party rock and roll is an excellent addition to any metal fan’s record collection for when you want to dial back the heaviness and listen to something groovy.
9. Basement Torture Killings – Lessons In Murder (May 2020)
Primal, British old school death metal. Uncompromising and a listening experience not unlike having your face marched over by a thousand hobnailed boots for the rest of time, this record reminds us just how good death metal can be when played with passion and excitement. Vocalist Beryl is at her most effective when employing a Jeff Walker-esque high pitched snarl and the music is the soundtrack to all the worst horrors you can perpetrate on the human body with a bit of imagination and a room full of power tools. Speedy, bloody and shockingly violent, Basement Torture Killings took my face off with their sheer intensity and ferocious commitment to death metal. A top-notch addition to any collection of extreme metal.
8. The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (April 2020)
I have had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Black Dahlia frontman and all-round good egg Trevor Strnad for Ever-Metal.com. It was the first ever interview I had conducted with a metal superstar, which has scared me half to fucking death to the point I haven’t done another, and I am ashamed to admit that there was quite a lot of abject and pathetic fangirling from your favourite pseudo-Satanist metal hack. Kudos to Trevor, who was most gracious during the times I was waffling in a panicked fashion. Thankfully, “Verminous” is quite simply a jaw-droppingly fine record from a band who have discovered the secret of expanding their sound into new dimensions without losing the core of what they are. This album is going to be impossible to top – Strnad has never sounded better vocally from subterranean grunt to head splitting howl, the songwriting and experimentation on display is astounding, and the band have lost none of their snaggletoothed bite and awesome power. Yet more proof that heaviness does not preclude melody, The Black Dahlia Murder are absolutely, ahem, MURDEROUS in their intensity and wild eyed, flailing power and this is the watershed moment in an already stellar career for these American extreme metal stalwarts. A most worthy purchase, should you choose to indulge yourself.
7. Master Charger – Origin Of The Lugubrious (August 2020)
Fellows in the British doom/stoner scene with Red Spektor, Master Charger are an order of magnitude heavier. Taking their cues from classic Sabbath, Master Charger dial down the psychedelia and turn up the heaviness quotient to something akin to a sonic avalanche. Yes, these guys are heavier than a planet with your mum and sister standing on it wearing underwear fashioned from neutronium. Sonically dense and Mogadon slow, Master Charger play artfully crafted doom metal with a stoner edge and are blessed with the voice of the pleasingly alliterative John James, whose whiskey and Marlboro Red soaked vocal is a joy to hear. Master Charger are fucking magnificent bastards and this is a record of such colossal heaviness that there were earthquake warnings in New Zealand when I played it.
6. Red Spektor – Heart Of The Renewed Sun (October 2020)
A SLIGHT change of pace and style to the previous entrant, Red Spektor served us up an absolute PEACH of an album in “Heart Of The Renewed Sun”. Effortlessly melding 60s psychedelia, the bluesiest of blues rock, metal and stoner, RS carried me off into internal mescaline fuelled musical visions of infinity, without all the tiresome bad tripping that normally comes whenever I take vast quantities of acid. Yes, for all I like to have my face melted by the speediest and rawest of heavy fucking metal, there are times when I want to trip balls and have my mind expanded. Red Spektor are the PERFECT band to take you on a tour of your own psyche. This isn’t to say that they ain’t heavy though. They are a gaily painted, super heavy battle truck bristling with acid gas projectors. If you dig melody and experimentation, grab this album.
5. Olivia Neutered John – Gorewhore (May 2020)
Holy fuck, not since the early days of Carcass or The Berzerker have I heard such demented savagery. Olivia Neutered John play old school grindcore in such a visceral way. It’s raw and bloody and ONJ are taking names and not taking any fucking prisoners. If you’re looking for melody, forget it. This is just sheer bastard powerviolence with a strong anti-paedophilia message. Considering my career in putting back together the recipients of abuse, this is a message Dark Juan not only gets behind, but will be joining Olivia Neutered John on the front line armed to the teeth and screaming for vengeance. The songs are short, sharp, devastatingly speedy shocks, not unlike stabs to the heart with cruelly serrated blades, yet the warped sense of humour necessary for grindcore lurks just behind the utter sonic destruction of the music, and ONJ make this list because there are painfully few bands making grindcore record these days, and I fucking love it. And they have the BEST band name EVER!!!
4. Quinn The Brain – Open Wide EP (May 2020)
Red raw and visceral nu-grunge with a serrated punk edge. No, stick with me here. Texans Quinn The Brain are ANGRY. They are fucking furious and they want the world to know it. Painfully emotional, but dripping with wry humour and a not inconsiderable amount of bile, this four track represents a surprisingly complete body of work from a band who easily evoke the memories of the classic riot girl bands of the 2000’s. Arta Salehi’s vocal especially reminds the verbose idiot writing this of the great Kat Bjelland of Babes In Toyland and the equally great (and very tall) Brody Dalle, of The Distillers. Plus, they are named after an episode of Daria (remember that show?) which is also a massive plus. Proof that heaviness doesn’t come just from metal, Quinn The Brain’s music is as flayed skin emotional as you can get.
3. White Crone – The Poisoner (February 2020)
Friend of Ever-Metal.com, general lovely person and top-notch blues musician Lisa Mann visits the results of a lifetime’s love of classic metal upon us and by Satan it’s a fucking banger of an album. Traditional metal all the way, it remains spectacularly vibrant and is more exciting than being caught in a ladies’ finishing college somewhere near Cheltenham wearing nothing but a bow tie and a wry grin, whilst carrying a bottle of champers. Lisa’s voice brings back echoes of the great metal vocalists, her barrel lunged delivery both powerful and excellent, along with top notch songwriting, guitar playing and some of the finest bass work you’ll ever hear irrespective of genre. The woman is a musical goddess and I will forever champion White Crone.
2. Protosequence – A Blunt Description of Something Obscene (May 2020)
My face still hasn’t recovered from the beating it has taken from this supertechnical death metal band’s record. If you love Necrophagist, you’ll fucking love this band. There are only four songs, but then the guys have thoughtfully included instrumental versions of each track and they are explosively brilliant. Stunning guitar work and drumming proves that death metal is not just a bunch of hairy arses battering their instruments and regurgitating their own giblets in a vague approximation of music. Fucking hell, boys, girls, and all other genders, this album is almost classical in musicianship such is its depth and complexity. I have played it a million times already and I show no signs of stopping.
01 The Machinist – I Am Void (November 2020)
Holy fucking fuck. Jesus Christ in a chariot driven sidecar. It is conceivable that The Machinist are my new favourite band. You are all no doubt aware that I regard The Berzerker’s self-titled debut album as the most violent and psychopathic record ever, and the benchmark for sheer brutality. Well, my faithful followers of all known genders, those worthy Australian nutjobs have finally been toppled from their throne by The Machinist’s extraordinary fusion of black metal, death metal, power electronics and industrial. For a debut album,” I Am Void” is simply staggering and utterly breathtaking in both scope and execution. My people, honest to both the false God and our Lord and Master Shaitan, this release is a landmark in extreme metal. It simply can’t possibly get any heavier or faster than this without shredding causality and destroying the universe. Best of all, they are fellow Mancs!
So, there you have it. Dark Juan’s top ten records of the year. 2020 might have sucked humungous hairy balls because of the worldwide pestilence and plague, but by God the world of metal didn’t. A vintage year for the music we love, my family of weirdos. If I may, I wish to share a few honourable mentions because there were several bands who missed the cut by a gnat’s chuff…
Bofo Kwo – Space/Time Carnivorium (June 2020) – Demented Finns tell the tale of three intergalactic cannibals and their adventures to a death metal soundtrack. As insane as it sounds.
Sertraline – Clouded Minds And Silver Lines (May 2020) – Young, British prog metal band gifted with exceptional vocalist in Lizzie show that prog metal can kick arse in a big way.
Lucifer – III (March 2020) – Absolutely gorgeous international doomsters with classic rock sensibilities and image keep up the exceptional quality of their releases with their third record.
Bull Elephant – Created From Death (August 2020) – “Created From Death” is the story of a slain African elephant that occultist Ahnenerbe SS attempted to bring back from the dead as a new form of battle asset. However, before re-animation could be completed it was intercepted by a mysterious witch-shaman, pursuing her own agenda and redirecting the undead creature’s purpose. With Nazi attack wolves.”
Says it all, really.
And last of all, we remembered the sadly missed Wayne Static with Static-X’s “Project Regeneration Vol. 1” (July 2020) which was simply magnificent nu-metal and a more than fitting tribute to one of our Lost Boys.
I’m done. I’m utterly spent. May you all make merry and receive all the love in the world from your families and significant others. A joyous Yuletide to you all. Remember to spell Santa correctly, kids, otherwise you’ll be getting a surprise you won’t forget in a hurry.
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