The end of 2020 is almost upon us (thank fuck) and Worship Metal’s annual countdown of some of the best music of 2020 continues unabated! While the title may say doom metal, we’re throwing a little sludge and aspects of post metal into the mix too.
Here’s Worship Metal’s pick of the 10 Greatest Doom Metal Albums Of 2020:
10. Sorcerer – Lamenting of the Innocent
So indebted to the work of doom metal pioneers Candlemass that they could be accused of cold-hearted plagiarism (Candlemass vocalist Johan Länguist even makes a guest appearance), it’s to Sorcerer‘s credit that they manage to overcome such accusations merely by being so damn good at delivering the most epic of doom metal in all its forms!
An expertly blended mix of traditional heavy metal and epic doom metal, Lamenting of the Innocent may not have been quite as awe-inspiring as 2017’s awe-inspiring The Crowning of the Fire King but with it’s Inquisition based concept – and Candlemass meets Headless Cross era Black Sabbath sound – another hefty slab of classy doom metal was a forgone conclusion.
9. Cardinal’s Folly – Defying The Righteous Way
A Finnish doom metal cult with dark desires and heavy metal incantations (their words, not ours), Cardinal’s Folly continued down their virtuous path of doom-laden traditional heavy metal with their 5th album, the suitably effective Defying The Righteous Way.
With their sound of classic doom (ripped from the 80’s) mixed with twisted melodic solos, occasional high pitched screams and black metal-esque shrieks ever present, there was no experimentation to be found but fans with a hunger for past triumphs such as 2017’s Deranged Pagan Sons were suitably sated with this confident and consistent release.
Home to classic sounds and as heavy as as fuck, Cardinal’s Folly continued to honour the masters of doom and anyone enamoured with the likes of Cathedral, Electric Wizard and Reverend Bizarre will have found much to love about Defying The Righteous Way.
8. Celestial Season – The Secret Teachings
Formed in the early nineties, Dutch doomers Celestial Season attained international acclaim and god-like status with the release their first two full-length albums, Forever Scarlet Passion (1993) and particularly Solar Lovers (1995); albums that are befittingly regarded as seminal death/doom releases equal to the might of Anathema’s Serenades, Paradise Lost’s Gothic and My Dying Bride’s Turn Loose the Swans.
After a ten year absence, Celestial Season returned in 2020 with a mix of both the Forever Scarlet Passion and Solar Lovers line-ups – labelled the “Doom Era” line up – and together they created and recorded an hour-long death/doom masterclass that not only recaptured the magic and splendour of their early years (and the sound of the genres early years in general) but also demonstrated what can be achieved when seven talented and experienced musicians successfully recapture the glories of their past.
Exquisite sounds for those who still vividly remember and yearn for the overriding quality of 90’s death/doom!
7. Garganjua – Toward The Sun
With stoner comparisons failing to even remotely do them justice, Garganjua’s paradoxical sound combined an ethereal air with the heaviest of death / doom, an experience that was both suffocatingly oppressive and eerily beautiful.
Stunning artistry and a 100% grasp of craft is the kind of statement us reviewers wish we could use to describe every album that lands in our lap but, unsurprisingly, that is seldom the case. Originality is just as hard to come by but Garganjua are such an act and one who can live up to such hyperbole.
Sounding massive, even at their quietest moments, this band are rich in inspiration and with Toward The Sun they took doom, death/doom, post-metal and prog metal and fashioned something distinctly sorrowful, surprisingly melodic and unnervingly brutal out of them.
6. Konvent – Puritan Masochism
It’s surprising that Denmark doesn’t have more bands on the global metal scene making an impact (aside from the inimitable King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and Volbeat of course). However, this dearth of bands may change with the arrival of death / doom foursome Konvent who, with their first full-length album Puritan Masochism, received well-deserved accolades for their unique take on the death / doom sound.
There was an alluring quality to the simple and hypnotic metal that Konvent unleashed from the depths of Denmark and, with Puritan Masochism, these Danish women created nine crushing songs with an immediacy that’s relatively rare in the realm of doom metal. Each song was distinctive and filled with a thunderous and sinister beauty balanced by catchy grooves (think a simpler Hooded Menace meets the brevity of Celtic Frost).
Sometimes it’s hard to buy into the hype that a company like Napalm Records create around a new band but the excitement generated around Konvent was bang on the money. With a simplicity and directness that few doom bands can achieve, this Danish quartet released one hell of a killer debut.
5. Draconian – Under A Godless Veil
Draped under a godless veil of melancholic doom and despair, Draconian returned in 2020 with their 7th album of gothic tinged doom/death delights.
Ethereal one moment, gutturally aggressive the next, Draconian are no novices when it comes to this particular craft and while they clearly owe the likes of My Dying Bride and Trees Into Eternity a considerable debt, there’s no knocking their own ambition and ability on Under A Godless Veil, an album that was barren, cold and haunting.
Morose throughout – there’s no real light at the end of Draconian’s tunnel – Under A Godless Veil remains a masterful exercise in mood and melancholia backed by moments of crushing hopelessness.
4. Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Three years on from the monolithic slab of filth-encrusted doom that was Medusa and Paradise Lost returned with their 16th(!) album, the simply irresistible Obsidian.
Gone were the earthy, sludgy sounds found on The Plague Within and Medusa and, in their place, was a crisp, clear album, with everything sounding suitably huge. Still resolutely death doom but that gothic grandeur – an attribute that has always marked PL out as champions – had returned in earnest. And with it, Paradise Lost were back to operating at the absolute peak of their collective powers.
Anyone who was remotely concerned about where Paradise Lost were going with this album could rest easy, there were nods to the past (their entire career in fact) but Obsidian amalgamated all of Paradise Lost’s many facets into a satisfying, coherent whole…..and we can offer no greater compliment than that!
3. Drown – Subaqueous
Funeral doom, slow, ain’t it! A sub-genre that’s usually home to mournful dirges played out at a snail’s pace and beholden to depression, isolation, regret and remorse is, understandably, not everyone’s cup of tea!
However, Drown’s Subaqueous, a water–based escape into the oceanic depths of human emotion, could be considered somewhat of a funeral doom anomaly. For one, Subaqueous was not as painfully slow as the work of Skepticism or Thergothen (for example) and was surprisingly melodic. The work of Markov Soroka (Tchornobog, Aureole), this deep-dive into often ambient altruism was suffocatingly dense yet blessed with the lightest of touches; somehow reflecting the choppy, tumultuous nature of stormy seas while also channelling the calm tranquillity of an ocean seemingly at rest.
Never an easy experience, this funeral doom epic managed to settle somewhere between the very depths of despair and the welcoming relief of blinding light and, at just two (all be it long) tracks, Subaqueous was fairly easy to assimilate and shouldn’t deter non-fans of the sub-genre from diving head-first into its multi-faceted waters.
2. Godthrymm – Reflections
Godthrymm is the brainchild of ex-My Dying Bride/ Vallenfyre / Solstice axesmith Hamish Glencross and also features the drumming skills of ex-Anathema / Solstice alumni Shaun Taylor-Steels. So, let’s be honest, given the undisputed pedigree of its core members, it should come as no real surprise that Godthrymm’s debut album, Reflections, was a triumphant blast of doom metal from masters of the craft!
Tinged with a gothic melancholy but heavy as all hell, a lot of attention naturally focuses on Hamish Glencross, with his gruff but melodic vocal style and his exemplary playing bringing to mind the meisterwerks of Paradise Lost and, unsurprisingly, My Dying Bride.
Taking the best bits of the fabled Peaceville Three but adding their own identity to a recognisable template, Godthrymm have fashioned a superb album of exactly the type of doom that us Brits have always delivered better than anyone else!
1. Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full
Stemming from an offer from Roadburn Festival organizer Walter Hoeijmakers, a nudge from mutual acquaintances, alongside a shared love of each other’s output, May Our Chambers Be Full was the first recorded document between Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou, a collaboration which, on paper, sounded disparate but in actuality, resulted in one of the finest albums of 2020….regardless of genre!
Taking doom, sludge, post-rock, post metal and grunge and fashioning the most evocative transcendent noise imaginable, Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou purposefully avoided the predictable beauty and the beast approach and instead embraced their individuality and took time (and considerable care) to merge their distinct personalities seamlessly.
An album so good that it was always destined to feature on an endless parade of year end ‘best of lists’, we need to say no more than this; go listen to one of the most unique, most powerful, most alluringly abrasive albums of 2020.