Riley’s Top 15 Metal Has No Borders Albums of 2020

Here we are back with the annual list of favorite albums from the past year on Metal Has No Borders. As always, the choices listed reside in regions of the world under-represented by mainstream Western media, so you’ll get a taste of bands from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Middle East, South America, etc. on this site. The albums chosen are my personal favorites from my subjective musical taste and if you have others that weren’t included that you personally enjoyed, we’d be excited for you to share such in the comment section. Nonetheless, there’s a range of metal including black, death, prog, alternative, doom, thrash, metalcore, post-metal, deathcore, symphonic, avant-garde, post-hardcore, djent, and folk metal, so there should be something for everyone.

I hope 2021 will be bring further amazing heavy music from all around the globe and aim to cover as much as I can. Metal Has No Borders is a one-man show, yet I strive to constantly grow and expand both our audience and ability to bring the best of global metal to the readers.

For now, I hope you enjoy and discover new music from the picks below!

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Ninthshaft15. Ninthshaft – The Thing

Although it can difficult to latch on to the direction of their gorgeous compositions when considering elements of prog, nu, black, doom, and post-metal are all thoroughly presented, that hodge-podge of styles seamlessly cohabiting together is part of Ninthshaft’s charm and appeal. I’d love to see the group evolve to fit more memorable melodies, dynamics, and a consistent identity, but I definitely am nonetheless intrigued by the equally dense and ominous atmospheres conjured. If you’re attracted to the ethereal side of metal in the vein of Leprous or The Atlas Moth, absolutely give this LP a shot.

Based in Russia / Self-Released / Listen to “Ghost City” below:


Hail Spirit Noir14. Hail Spirit Noir – Eden in Reverse

By far, one of my favorite things about discovering more metal artists is the multitude of styles you inevitably encounter. Hail Spirit Noir have been piecing together their own sound of progressive rock/psychedelic black metal for a decade, however Eden in Reverse is my first exposure to the Greek act. Naysayers may discredit this project as a mere 70’s experimental hard rock revival attempt, but I see this material as a brazen venture in today’s heavy music climate. While I can acknowledge that there is plenty of inspiration being pulled from the likes of ELP or Tangerine Dream, their efforts to bring retro, yet punchy krautrock/prog to a heavier level is commendable. I also sense slight similarities to Ghost, Enslaved, or modern Opeth, which should be enough to have any open-minded metalhead ready to spin this record a few times.

Based in Greece / Released via Agonia Records / Listen to “Crossroads” below:


Sepultura13. Sepultura – Quadra

It is undeniable that Sepultura is amongst the greatest metal entities on a global scale. And although other legendary metal bands may have become complacent in their continued releases, these Brazilians are constantly expanding their musical palette. Evolving from thrash and black metal roots to groovy death metal, we now see the group dabbling with a more progressive path. There is both crushing, raw vigor and intricate songwriting showcased in Quadra, a duality that deserves your undivided attention. While this may be a bold claim, I’d argue that this new LP is on par with their early records like Arise and Chaos AD.

Based in Brazil / Released via Nuclear Blast / Listen to “Isolation” below:


Puta Volcano12. Puta Volcano – Amma

Some songs just get stuck in your brain forever and Puta Volcano packed this new album overflowing with earworm tracks. Their amalgamation of alternative metal, prog, and post-grunge creates for a riveting listen balancing catchy hooks and rhythmical wizardry. Amma oozes in Chevelle nostalgia as pieces like “Black Box,” “Sugar Cube,” or “Venus Lullaby” could easily be blasted full volume on any early 2000’s alt-rock radio station. Additionally, the band’s use of eerie atmospheres really hits home that there’s more than what meets the eye here.

Based in Greece / Released via iota5 Records / Listen to “Black Box” below:


Boris11. Boris – No

It’s mind-blowing to come to terms with the fact that this is Boris‘ twenty-sixth LP. I admittedly haven’t delved fully into their discography considering how lengthy and intimidating the catalog is, however from what I have consumed, they have quite a wide range of styles at their disposal. Most of their output has revolved around variations of doom, so to see the trio trek into a more hardcore/thrash fusion approach on this release is super rewarding. The mix between the slow-paced doom and cocaine-fueled hardcore speeds forges a perfect dynamic where your ears encounter phases of relaxation followed by assault and repeat. This may not be the Japanese act’s most beloved material, but their daring exploration down a new trail proves that the band are unstoppable.

Based in Japan / Released va Fangs Anal Satan / Listen to “Zerkalo” below:


Killkount10. Killkount – Konflict & Terror

Each year, the Indian metal scene grows exponentially, bringing life to impressive amounts of prog and death metal. In 2020, Killkount took the gold as they caught my ear for their death metal mastery. Every single moment was filled to the brim with creativity and jaw-dropping intensity. I feel obliged to give props to each member for crafting pure chaos into a truly enjoyable listen. With the death metal genre branching off into many different directions nowadays, Konflict & Terror exhibits an in-depth understanding of all routes, ensuring you’ll be satisfied whether you’re into technical, brutal, progressive, or old school death metal.

Based in India / Self-Released / Listen to “Memento Mori” below:


Within Destruction9. Within Destruction – Yokai

Originally grabbing the metal community’s attention with their stellar slam qualities, Within Destruction decided to take the path less travelled and dive headfirst into a complete makeover, both musically and aesthetically. Potentially too extreme for the metalcore crowd, this Slovenian quartet now invites the core-kids in by harnessing the intriguing similarities of early Born of Osiris, Emmure, or Bring Me the Horizon. Although the bludgeoning brutality of their past material may possibly be missed by diehard fans, this transition shows growth for the band regarding their ability to adapt to new styles and succeed in such as well. Furthermore, their creation of Japanese trap metal/deathcore is abundantly distinct and unique.

Based in Slovenia / Released via Ultra Heavy Records / Listen to “Hate Me” below:


Nug8. Nug – Alter Ego

There’s very few post-metal acts that pull off the same dynamic that Neurosis and Isis were able to conjure in their heyday. When I initially gave this Ukrainian group a spin, I knew I was in for the same immersive soundscapes and colossal riffs that I held dear to my heart when discovering the aforementioned bands. As these tracks work their way into the deepest creases of your brain and implode with mighty crescendos, Nug emerges as instantly iconic and up to the challenge of defending such an overlooked subgenre. I’m quite giddy at what the future holds for this obliteratingly heavy project as I’m certain their further material will be increasingly enticing and demanding.

Based in Ukraine / Released via Willowtip Records / Listen to “Beast” below:


Scardust7. Scardust – Strangers

You can always count on progressive metal artists to push the envelope. A prime example would be Scardust taking full advantage of their knack for virtuosic musicianship, majestic vocal hooks, and symphonic grandiosity to new soaring heights in their sophomore LP. As a choir and orchestration swells around the metallic thunderstorm, a rather humbling message is unearthed. The lyrical theme of isolation, social struggles, and overcoming any fears of relationships was undoubtedly fitting to be matched with equally empowering musicalities.

Based in Israel / Released via M-Theory Audio / Listen to “Tantibus II” below:


Neurotic Machinery6. Neurotic Machinery – Nocturnal Misery

Too often can technical death metal become mundane and a pain on the ears, however there are the occasional groups that break through the insipid threshold and bring forth something far more compelling. Neurotic Machinery hit the nail on the head with their unquestionably tight execution of proggy tech-death along the lines of Fallujah or Gojira. Alike the previously mentioned comparable acts, the balance between an exceptional rhythm section, captivating guitar licks, and an overall splendid mix of sheer heaviness and alluring growled melodies allow for Nocturnal Misery to stand out in the death metal crowd.

Based in Czech Republic / Self-Released / Listen to “Nocturnal” below:


City of Souls5. City of Souls – Synaesthesia

Drifting away from the headbang qualities within the other choices on this list, City of Souls caught my attention and reeled me in with their mish-mash of catchy alt-rock, ambient post-hardcore, and djenty prog. Immediately, you’ll notice the range and lush timbre of the vocalist, however with further listens, the intricacies of synth lines and layered guitars allow for the most thrilling, immersive experience. If you’re a fan of the likes of Karnivool or Tesseract, this definitely will be up your alley. I applaud this up-and-coming act for a very solid debut record.

Based in New Zealand / Self-Released / ReviewListen to “Water” below:


Mora Prokaza4. Mora Prokaza – By Chance

While there’s an abundance of talent showcased in all the artists listed in this article, Mora Prokaza is by far the most innovative. Black metal isn’t usually my cup of tea, nonetheless this Belarusian project has presented the abrasive subgenre in an incredibly attractive way. With symphonic movements, experimental folk passages, unclean rapping, and an all in all forward-thinking perspective on songwriting, By Chance expanded the parameters of musical exploration. Alike other groups defined by innovation, it may take a few tries to fully embrace and enjoy the eccentricity, but is still 100% worth it.

Based in Belarus / Released via Season of Mist / Listen to “WIMG” below:


Envy3. Envy – The Fallen Crimson

I’m kicking myself for never checking out this band previously because this album absolutely knocks me out from so many angles. Opening track “Statement of Freedom” cleverly presents every appealing factor that Envy is able to produce. A raw post-hardcore ferocity melds together with post-rock spoken word sentiments in pure excellence. As you travel deeper into the tracklisting, this relationship blooms to showcase their prowess for both subgenres. The atmospheres evoke an uplifting and nearly tranquil mood while the hardcore moments probe at justified frustration alike Deafheaven. After a complete listen, The Fallen Crimson is guaranteed to bring some form of catharsis through a seemingly oxymoronic bludgeoning, yet nurturing journey.

Based in Japan / Released via Pelagic Records, Temporary Residence Ltd. / Listen to “A Faint New World” below:


Takatak2. Takatak – Acrophase

Easily the largest and most recent evolution of metal to branch out to the masses would be the progressive metalcore/djent subgenre. Need evidence? The scene’s giants Periphery, Animals as Leaders, After the Burial, and Born of Osiris continue to grow with packed tours, huge album releases, and not only a household name in the overall metal community, but an emerging legendary status. The subgenre has also reached the country of Pakistan with Takatak’s sensational debut. I’d still consider them an emerging band, yet they still possess the soaring vocal melodies and thumping rhythmic virtuosity held by the aforementioned acts. Fans ranging from modern progcore to more classic progressive metal in the key of Dream Theater will undoubtedly feel appreciation and admiration for this project.

Based in Pakistan / Released via A for Aleph Records / Listen to “Volition” below:


Ignea1. Ignea – The Realms of Fire and Death

It truly feels that Ukraine is exploding with metallic talent lately and Ignea is the next in line to boast their aptitude and diversity towards heavy music. Rooted in prog and folk metal, the band holds an impressively immense sense of range with additional elements of melodic death metal, electronic and industrial music, black metal, symphonic metal, and various ethnic influences present. Such a variety guarantees never a dull moment, however there are more crucial factors that allow for The Realms of Fire and Death to be so captivating. The dynamic songwriting paired together with breathtaking vocals pave the way for absolute excellence. Ignea won my heart over with this album and I give them full praise for a spectacular record.

Based in Ukraine / Self-Released / Review / Listen to “Disenchantment” below:


EPs:

5. Space of Variations – XXXXX (breaking through the armies of other modern metalcore bands, these five tracks stand out for industrial beats, hard-hitting riffs, and effortlessly huge choruses)

Based in Ukraine / Released via Napalm Records / Listen to “Room 57”

4. Reptilium – Adrenochromacy (I’ve never been disappointed by this group and this latest release is greater evidence that their technical and blackened brutality is in need of serious praise)

Based in Ecuador / Self-Released / Listen to “Massive Abduction”

3. Demigod – Whiplash Motif (firmly grasping the intricacies of classic prog metal and early metalcore, this group conveys a promising future)

Based in India / Self-Released / Listen to “Whiplash Motif”

2. Goat Necropsy – Bloody and Fresh (a savory appetizer with flavors of equal Cattle Decapitation and Whitechapel by this Brazilian duo)

Based in Brazil / Self-Released / Listen to “Anal Vomit”

1. Within Ceres – Skyless (balancing out just the right amount of growl to clean vocal ratio, this metal project is exactly what I needed when in search for new progressive metalcore)

Based in India / Self-Released / Listen to “Terminal”


Honorable Mentions:

Deathknell – Can’t Stop, Can’t Kill (harnessing thrash, prog, and melodic death metal together into a cohesively enjoyable package)

Based in India / Self-Released / Listen to “Feel”

Medico Peste – The Black Bile (bringing some shocking, yet interesting experimentation to black metal)

Based in Poland / Released via Season of Mist / Listen to “God Knows Why”

Medium – Medium (blackened crusty death metal to accelerate your rampant pace in the mosh pit)

Based in Argentina / Released via Transcending Obscurity Records / Listen to “El Gigante”

Bloody Tyrant – Myths of the Islands (a touching and matured collection of folk/melodic death metal bangers)

Based in Taiwan / Self-Released / Listen to “Whale”

Vitam Et Mortem – El Río De La Muerte (blackened death metal spewed with fist-clenching righteousness)

Based in Colombia / Released via Navaja Music, Satanath Records / Listen to “La Danza de los Gallinazos”

 


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