SBR Top 7 Death Metal Albums of 2020

Along with black metal, death metal continues to expand into other branches and leaves its seed on many different styles of extreme music. The focus on speed and brutality remain two of the genre’s most notable features, although the emphasis on technicality is also a spur for some bands to go back to Hellhammer and the early Carcass discography to rediscover the essence of death metal in its nastiest and darkest form. New England’s Sorrow Enthroned are perhaps the best exponent of this, although Australia’s Cauldron Black Ram perfected the Autopsy-meets-Venom concoction that is now so appealing to a new generation of bands.

There may be more brutal death metal bands cloning Suffocation than there are stars in the galaxy, but Ingested, Oncology and Chancroid released strong albums among the millions of one-dimensional slam bands doing the rounds. It was a quiet year for the modern innovators in Decapitated, Cattle Decapitation and Gorguts, but veterans like Benediction, Vader and Kataklysm maintained a high standard of output. The Black Dahlia Murder were perhaps the biggest name to release an album but underwhelmed with their latest record. Carcass promised a full length effort yet gave us a four-track EP instead.

With so many sonic similarities in common with grindcore, the death-grind hybrid continues to bubble along like an enchanted bog waiting to suck you into its death grip. Benighted offered up a brutal serving earlier in the year, but the debut release from Canada’s Bleeding Out may be the highlight of this style in 2020.

Gore-grind is still around and underground, and its evil spirit thrives on French label, XenoKorp, which gave us two excellent releases from Putrid Offal and Mercyless. This music is nastier and more misanthropic than the other genres, not to mention malevolent in the extreme. By contrast the tech death virtuosity of Cytotoxin is the complete opposite – technical, precise, utterly brutal and rapid in its delivery.

So many releases came out this year and so many hybrid bands anchored their sound in death metal but explored other genres, most notable in the blackened tech death of newbies like Embodiment, Ysgaroth and Ancient Thrones, all of whom do not make this list because of their more progressive style.

With such a wide range of artists, we give you the top seven death metal albums of 2020.

7. Voodoo Gods – The Divinity of Blood

What we said at the time: “Worry not if this is getting too technical for you. Know this: Voodoo Gods can write songs as well as shred. ‘Menace to God’ could grace a stadium of Metallica acolytes while ‘Isa’ is the true borderland between thrash and death metal.”

Country: International

Released: 15/05/2020

Label: Reaper Music

Read the original SBR review here.

6. Ingested – Where Only Gods May Tread

What we said at the time: “Yes, the drums are more technical than a stock trading algorithm and the guitars use plenty of palm-muted chugs, but Where Only Gods May Tread avoids the slam metal blackhole that sets up most bands to become tedious.”

Country: UK

Released: 14/08/2020

Label: Unique Leader Records

Read the original SBR review here.

5. Kataklysm – Unconquered

What we said at the time: “Kataklysm have never been an underrated band, but they ought to get the respect they deserve as one of the best metal artists of the twenty-first century. So be it if this record alienates a few of the die hards. You can’t continue with business as usual when you get to your fourteenth record.”

Country: Canada

Released: 25/09/2020

Label: Nuclear Blast

Read the original SBR review here.

4. Entorx – Faceless Insanity

What we said at the time: “A death-thrash band like Entorx illustrate what is possible when you take your favourite records and merge them into an imaginative soundscape that knows no boundaries between metal’s extreme sub-genres.”

Country: Germany

Released: 29/05/2020

Label: Self-released

Read the original SBR review here.

3. Macabre – Carnival of Killers

What we said at the time: “On a musical level, Macabre, take the death metal of Obituary and Necrophagia and mix the primal brutality with nursery rhymes and folk ditties. It shouldn’t work, but, like Mr Bungle, it often succeeds.”

Country: USA

Released: 13/11/2020

Label: Nuclear Blast

Read the original SBR review here.

2. Putrid Offal – Sicknesses Obsessions

What we said at the time: “When they blast, it’s like fighting against the current of a wind tunnel with the gale-force power biting into the nerves of your face. ‘Necrotic Mutilation’ and ‘Barber Butcher’ are two such songs that will toss you into the abyss like the instruments of an uncaring God.”

Country: France

Released: 11/09/2020

Label: XenoKorp Records

Read the original SBR review here.

1. Cauldron Black Ram – Slaver

What we said at the time: “If you thought nothing could surpass the evil of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or the sinister darkness of My Dying Bride’s As The Flower Withers, then, think again. Cauldron Black Ram are the nastiest and most bastardised creation from Satan’s spunk you will hear all year.” 

Country: Australia

Released: 22/05/2020

Label: 20 Buck Spin

Read the original SBR review here.