It’s almost Thanksgiving, the year is coming to a close, and Best of 2020 lists are already starting to come in, but there is still plenty of more music coming out this year. In fact, it feels like there are more high-profile November and December releases than ever, probably because of delays caused by Covid.
I highlight nine new albums below, and here are some honorable mentions: the surprise DaBaby EP, the surprise Meek Mill EP, Jeezy, French Montana, Badge Époque Ensemble (ft. U.S. Girls, Jennifer Castle & more), Kali Uchis, Ilsa, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Cribs, Killer Be Killed (mem Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, ex-Sepultura), Chamberlain (first album in ~20 years), Cabaret Voltaire (first album in 26 years), Merzbow, Mizmor & Andrew Black, Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas, The Bug, Billy Danze (of M.O.P.), Stormkeep (mem Blood Incantation, Wayfarer), Pg.lost (mem Cult of Luna), Faith Holt, ManDancing, Lisa/Liza, Partner, Rexx Life Raj, Something To Do, Maxband (mem Parquet Courts), The High Water Marks (ex-Apples In Stereo), Kelley Stoltz, Landshapes, Soft Kill, Jack Name, Rob Mazurek, Lie In Ruins, Dark Tranquillity, Lords of the Drift (drone supergroup w/ members of Strand of Oaks, Black Mountain, Barfbag), 5 Billion in Diamonds (Butch Vig + mem of The Soundtrack of Our Lives & more), Goodbye My Love – Lost Songs of The Beatles Covered and Rediscovered, the Kharma EP, the My Dying Bride EP, the Routine (Jay Som, Chastity Belt) EP, the Agent Sasco EP, The War On Drugs‘ live album, the fifth of five Dirty Projectors EPs of 2020, Grandaddy’s Sophtware Slump 20th anniversary reissue, the Phoebe Bridgers EP with orchestral reworkings of Punisher songs, and the Neil Young box set.
Whatever you’re doing for Thanksgiving, stay safe. Covid seems to be worse than ever, and the CDC is projecting that deaths will increase over the next four weeks. Also, if you haven’t already, I encourage donations to Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight initiative, which is raising money to help the Democrats win the two runoff Senate elections in Georgia and, as a result, gain control of the Senate. You can read more about what Fair Fight is doing here.
Read on for my nine picks. What’s your favorite release of the week?
Shygirl – ALIAS EP
UK rapper Shygirl’s new EP ALIAS has production from SOPHIE and she’s also worked with Arca, and those collaborators should give you a good idea of what to expect from Shygirl’s atypical approach to rap music. If you removed her voice from ALIAS, you’d still be left with loud, abrasive, left-of-center electronic music, and when you add in her unique mix of rapping, singing, talking, and shouting, it only gets more in-your-face. (She takes on four different characters throughout the EP: Baddie, Bovine, Bonk, and Bae.) She’s a rapper, but she cites artists like Björk and Róisín Murphy as influences. That very comes through on ALIAS. Like Róisín, Shygirl’s songs are as experimental as they are catchy; like Bjork, Shygirl reminds you that music can be over the top and intricately crafted at the same time. Her music is provocative, but never just for the sake of provoking. All the alter-egos and buzzing synths and extravagant music videos are necessary parts of the Shygirl package, but at the core of it all is a catalog of increasingly good songs.
Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
1051 Certified/300 Entertainment
2020 was the year Megan Thee Stallion went from a promising newcomer to a superstar. This all happened before Good News came out. Now it’s here, and it only raises the bar for her even further. Read our first-impressions review.
Fuck The Facts – Pleine Noirceur
Fuck The Facts have historically been considered a grindcore band, though as drummer Mathieu “Vil” Vilandré said in a recent interview with Invisible Oranges, “the grindcore tag alone can be misleading” and “for us, it’s more of a state of mind than purely a style of music.” That makes sense, because “grindcore” alone doesn’t even begin to explain the wide range of music that Fuck The Facts incorporate into their sound. Their excellent new album Pleine Noirceur — the long-running band’s first in five years — is no exception. It’s grindy at times, but it’s also screamo, punk, post-rock, sludge metal, and much more. It’s just a great, ambitious offering of heavy music that’s close in spirit to bands like Converge or Neurosis, bands who maybe started out as one genre of music, but at this point can’t be pinned down into any one sound in particular. Instrumentally, Pleine Noirceur is crushingly heavy but full of melody and atmosphere and unexpected twists and turns, and vocally, Melanie Mongeon is at her most emotive. These are soaring, impassioned songs that really make you feel something.
Blunt Razors – Early Aught
Planes Mistaken For Stars haven’t released an album since 2016’s great Prey (which was their first in a decade), but during quarantine, vocalist/guitarist Gared O’Donnell and bassist Neil Keener wrote a bunch of new songs, and some of those songs were so different than PMFS’ usual style that they started a new project, Blunt Razors. Their debut album Early Aught has some things in common with PMFS (soaring melodies, Gared’s unmistakable rasp), but this is a much more somber album compared to that band’s anthemic post-hardcore. It’s a slowcore/post-rock-leaning record that reminds me at various times of Low, Pedro the Lion, Clarity-era Jimmy Eat World, and even a little early U2, and Gared and Neil do this sound just as well as they do the louder stuff. It’s full of genuinely gripping moments that can stop you in your tracks no matter what you’re doing, and the cherry on top of the five great originals is a stunning cover of Kate Bush’s classic “Under Ice.” If you’re gonna cover Kate Bush, you gotta make it your own, and Blunt Razors very much do.
Roc Marciano – Mt. Marci
The highly prolific, always-great New York rapper/producer Roc Marciano produced all of Stove God Cooks’ new album Reasonable Drought this year, but he hadn’t released his own new album since December 2019’s Marcielago, which is a pretty long break between albums for his standards. New album Mt. Marci is available as a $40 download on Marci’s website, and it finds him doing what he does best. The production is hazy and psychedelic and sounds sourced from crackling jazz records, and Marci’s delivery is quiet but deadly. While guest verses from Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson, Stove God Cooks and Kool Keith sound like they’re popping out of your speakers, Roc Marciano’s verses are more subtle and tucked-away. But the more you dig into them, the more you open yourself up to his masterful delivery and detailed lyricism.
Purchase Mt. Marci here.
Update (11/30): The album is now also streaming.
Tombs – Under Sullen Skies
Season of Mist
Earlier this year, genre-defying Brooklyn metal band Tombs released Monarchy of Shadows, a 35-minute, constantly-shapeshifting record that they called an EP but that was longer and more epic than plenty of other bands’ full-length albums. Now Tombs follow it up with their definition of a full-length album: the hour-long Under Sullen Skies, which picks up right where Monarchy of Shadows left off and goes in even more new directions. Like Monarchy of Shadows, frontman Mike Hill wrote the music more collaboratively with the rest of the band than on past releases, and this time they also brought in tons of awesome guests: Dwid Hellion (Integrity), Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Math Horseman, Black Mare), Paul Delaney (Black Anvil, None More Black), Todd Stern (Psycroptic), Andy Thomas (Black Crown Initiate), Ray Suhy (Six Feet Under), and spoken word by Cat Cabral. The towering collection of songs incorporates elements of black metal, sludge, doom, goth, prog, psych, and more, and Tombs swirl it all together, creating one colossal sound that they can truly call their own.
Hjelvik – Welcome To Hel
Earlier this year, Kvelertak released their first new album without longtime vocalist Erlend Hjelvik, and now Hjelvik has released his own new album, Welcome To Hel, the first album by his new solo band Hjelvik. As great of a vocalist as Hjelvik is, one of the main appeals of Kvelertak is their uniquely fresh approach to classic metal riffage, so you may be wondering if he could still pull off his usual blackened arena rock without them, and the answer is actually: yes he can. He assembled a pretty great band — guitarists Rob Steinway (Skelator) and André Nygård (Inculter), bassist Alexis Lieu (ex-Benighted) and drummer Kevin Foley (ex-Benighted, Abbath) — and while they don’t sound exactly like Kvelertak, they do scratch a very similar itch. Like the Kvelertak record, there’s a big-name guest involved (Kvelertak got Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, Hjelvik gets High On Fire/Sleep’s Matt Pike), and like the Kvelertak record, there’s plenty of great material on Welcome To Hel, but it also leaves you wondering what might’ve happened if Kvelertak’s classic lineup didn’t part ways. Both current projects are good, but neither captures the magic that happens when those guys are all together.
I Am The Avalanche – DIVE
Vinnie Caruana has had one of the busiest years of his nearly-25-year music career, with new records by his bands Constant Elevation (members of Youth of Today, Caspian, and more) and Peace’d Out (members of RX Bandits, The Velvet Teen, and more), and now he has a third new release, the first I Am The Avalanche album in six years. That might sound like it’s hard to balance, but Vinnie says he has “very clear intentions” when approaching each of his different projects, and that the songs on this album are distinctly IATA songs. “What makes IATA’s songwriting distinctly IATA, is when myself and Mike Ireland write together,” he recently told us. “The sound of this record is the sound of us drinking beers and playing guitar together in his apartment.” DIVE does indeed have that classic IATA sound: a punk/indie/grunge blend that doesn’t overthink it and just goes for the most anthemic singalong hooks possible. It’s a fun record, but it also reflects the shittiness of 2020, even though the band finished recording it just as lockdown began. “Pre-pandemic, things were still shitty,” Vinnie said. “Our country has been turned upside-down by the current administration. So the songs that sound like they were written yesterday… I don’t think that’s going to change.” Read more about the album in our recent Q&A with the band.
Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies
Last year, Liturgy released the great new album H.A.Q.Q and also said they’d be releasing a soundtrack album to their metal opera Origin of the Alimonies that they performed live a few times. That soundtrack album is now here, and as you might expect from the phrase “metal opera” and the fact that it features an eight-piece string and horn ensemble, it’s an orchestral take on Liturgy’s distinct style of black metal, but it’s also more than that. The music also includes everything from trap beats to ambient interludes to avant-garde freakouts to sludgy breakdowns and more. It may seem on paper like this is a side thing, separate from Liturgy’s “main” albums, but that’s not the case at all. It’s as much a Liturgy album as any of their previous four, and it marks a clear progression in Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s songwriting. She recently referred to it as “the music that I myself would most want to hear,” and added, “For me it represents the end of a like nearly 10-year long crucible and obsession, learning the skills necessary to compose and arrange it, finding performers able to play it and an engineer able to do the arrangement justice, and finally taking a new kind of ownership with the vocals.” You do get the sense, when you look back on all the music that led up to it, that this is the album Liturgy always wanted to make.
Fuming Mouth – Beyond The Tomb EP
Triple B/Nuclear Blast
Fuming Mouth left a huge impression with their Triple B-released 2019 debut album The Grand Descent, which blurred the lines between hardcore and death metal and absolutely ripped. Now they’ve inked a deal with Nuclear Blast, and their first release for the label is this new three-song EP. Once again, it was made with Converge’s Kurt Ballou (who co-mixed with Zach Weeks) and it features the unmistakable artwork of Mariusz Lewandowski. It basically picks up where The Grand Descent left off, but it covers some new ground too. It sounds a little bigger, and it feels like Fuming Mouth are leaning more into their metal side than their hardcore side on this one. That doesn’t just mean it’s more aggressive though; they’ve expanded their melodic side too. It’s just three songs, but it feels like a transitional release by a band who continues to move up in the world, and it’s making us excited to see where they go next.
Liquid Death – Greatest Hates, Vol. 2
To quote a lyric on this album: this is definitely not a joke. Canned mountain water brand Liquid Death has released its second album of 2020, created by a genuinely amazing cast of punk musicians, and featuring lyrics made up entirely of actual hate comments about Liquid Death from social media and online reviews. The first volume of Greatest Hates was death metal (made by members of Arsis, Malevolent Creation, Divine Empire, and Upon Infliction), and Greatest Hates, Vol. 2 was made by Brendan Kelly (The Lawrence Arms), Chris #2 (Anti-Flag), Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Joe Principe (Rise Against), Ashrita Kumar (Pinkshift), Jeremy Hunter (JER, We Are the Union, Skatune Network), Jen Razavi (The Bombpops), Josh Lewis (The Bombpops), and Paul Miner (ex-Death by Stereo), and it features such song titles as “Rather Murder Myself,” “I Thought This Was Alcohol,” “Your Product is Dumb,” “Unnecessary and Unimpressive,” and “Another Contribution to a Very Sick Culture,” and such lyrics as “water for heavy metal hipsters,” “canned water for dumbasses,” and “what cokehead greenlit this idea?”.
And the thing is: it’s really good! The lyrical concept might be funny, but the songs legit rip, and if you’re fans of these bands, you’ll instantly recognize their styles and voices.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or keep scrolling down for previous weeks.
For even more metal, browse the ‘Upcoming Releases’ each week on Invisible Oranges.