My albums of 2020

All the albums I bought or acquired in 2020

My annual review of what I’ve most enjoyed listening to during the last 12 months, and my albums of the year.

  1. Fish—Weltschmertz
  2. Triptykon—Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019)
  3. Mr Bungle—The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo
  4. Metallica—S&M2
  5. Lamb of God—Lamb of God
  6. Deified—Anthrobscene
  7. Mastodon—Medium Rarities
  8. Liquid Death—Greatest Hates
  9. Nine Inch Nails—Ghosts V: Together
  10. Nine Inch Nails—Ghosts VI: Locusts

2020 was a bad year on so many levels including my enjoyment of music. This year I added only 11 new releases to my collection, compared with 25 in 2019 and 2018 in 2018 (my lowest year since my records began in 1986).

Albums I own per year of release

Top 15 artists (Last.fm)

Before launching into my top 10 albums though, I’ve just taken a look at my Last.fm top 15 artists over the last 12 months. This reflects what I’ve actually been listening to over the last year: at home, at work, and on my Android phone. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, most of this was on my PC at home.

My Last.fm 2020 report shows :

  • 297 artists (compared with 213 in 2019)
  • 594 albums (compared with 527 in 2019)
  • 4,692 tracks (compared with 4,289 in 2019)

I guess that working from home during most of 2020 did wonders for my music listening.

These were my top 15 artists listened to throughout the year.

Top 15 artists over the last 12 months

Mozart at number one doesn’t surprise me as I’ve been actively trying to play through the Mozart 225 box set I bought when I got divorced in 2018.

10 and 9. Nine Inch Nails—Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts

Both albums were released in March 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as a show of solidarity with their fans. While Nine Inch Nails have been most famous for their industrial rock sound these albums are more ambient and spacious, at times creepy and dark. The perfect soundtrack for 2020, then!

8. Liquid Death—Greatest Hates

Liquid Death is a drinkable water company: 100% mountain water from the Alps, the website claims. It was a surprise to me to learn that they get hate mail. Why do people have enough time on their hands to write emails and letters of hatred for a water company?! Anyway, Liquid Death did what any water company would do, they turned these words of hatred into a kick-ass metal album!

7. Mastodon—Medium Rarities

Medium Rarities from Mastodon felt like a gift to the fans during the pandemic, a collection of covers, instrumental versions of previous songs, and live recordings because they were unable to get into the studio or out into the concert halls.

As much as I love Mastodon in their own right, obviously, I bought the album for their cover of “Orion” by Metallica.

6. Deified—Anthrobscene

Deified reminds me of Lamb of God, yes, but also God Forbid, Pantera, Lou Reed and a host of other influences—black metal, groove metal, thrash metal, speed metal, rock, classical even. But Deified are not mimics, they take these influences and make them their own. This is an intimate record from a band that clearly wants to prove themselves and they do. Oh, they do!

This EP has everything I love in a metal album. It has breadth, depth, layers, pace. There is an almost progressive approach to songwriting that takes the song where it needs to go rather than following a simple formula. I can’t fault it, to be honest and where I can, my criticisms seem trite and overly picky. Deified deserves to be recognised and go onto great things for this release. I will be playing this for a long time to come.

I gave this album 100% on my 195 metal CDs blog.

5. Lamb of God—Lamb of God

I love Lamb of God. I’ve seen them live more than most other bands but when this album from Lamb of God launched I really wasn’t in a great place emotionally. I dunno, maybe I’d had enough of the whole pandemic thing and needed a bit of soothing. Step up Wolfgang Amadeus. It took me a few months to get into this their first album with Art Cruz on drums but when I did… I really began to appreciate it.

4. Metallica—S&M2

When S&M2 (Metallica‘s second outing with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra) was released at the cinema I was there, down in the third row staring up at the huge screen, singing along and quietly weeping at how amazing it all was, and how small I felt and how alone I felt. So many times in my life, during the really dark periods, Metallica have been there for me, putting into words, expressing in sounds the pain in my heart. I went for a second time when I was able.

Sadly, Michael Kamen is no longer with us but wow! this was just amazing. I can only imagine what it was like to be there in person. The double bass version of the late, great Cliff Burton’s signature solo “Anasthesia (Pulling Teeth)” has me in tears every time.

3. Mr Bungle—The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo is the greatest thrash album that 1986 never had. The year that gave us Master of Puppets by Metallica, Reign in Blood by Slayer, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying by Megadeth, Among the Living by Anthrax, Doomsday for the Deceiver by Flotsam and Jetsam… also gave us, very quietly, and unreleased a demo by Mike Patton’s pre-Faith No More band Mr Bungle.

This album is a re-recording of the demo with Mr Bungle regulars, Mike Patton on lead vocals, Trey Spruance on lead guitar and Trevor Dunn on bass, and joined by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Grip Inc, Philm, Fantômas, Suicidal Tendencies) on drums.

2. Triptykon—Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019)

It took more than 30 years to make and was performed and recorded on just one night at Roadburn 2019. I have only been to one Celtic Frost concert but it was mesmerising. I have never felt like that about a concert before or since.

This work bookends Celtic Frost’s “Rex Irae (Requiem)” from Into the Pandemonium (1987) with “Winter” from their last album Monotheist (2006), with a new piece, a 32-minute funerial march “Grave Eternal”. The Metropole Orkest gives this piece depth and gravitas. An astonishing piece of music. There is a reason that I spent so many hours scouring record stores for anything by Celtic Frost.

1. Fish—Weltschmertz

The album all Fish fans have been both looking forward to and dreading for the last five years or more: Fish’s last studio album, Weltschmertz.

He doesn’t disappoint. This is a magnificent album. There is a depth and maturity to the lyrics and subject material—”Garden of Remembrance”, about dementia, makes me cry every time. There is also more than a little scepticism and dismay about the current state of the music industry—it is hardly disguised in the song “This Party’s Over”.

What I have particularly enjoyed is his almost return to his roots with more Scottish-influenced songs that remind me of his first two solo releases. Plus three 10-minute plus songs. What a way to go out. So long and thanks for all the Fish.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 49 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Vision Ltd, Dundee. Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and former warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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