Hearkened Heap: Favorite 2020 Releases

Article By: Leanne Ridgeway

This random roundup of bands is the Hearkened Heap. This is my final 2020 heap…

With the year 2020 now complete, it felt like a decade, didn’t it? Instead of rehashing the low points, I’ll veer off towards how much I appreciated the incredible amount of ruthless determination the musicians, artists, and loving supporters of both have shown the rest of the citizens of Earth this year. It’s a surreal time, but imagination and creativity are purely unfuckwithable and once again music persisted, grew in new directions, and has prevailed.

In any standard year, it’s nearly torturous for me to attempt compiling an annual musical ‘favorites list’ and 2020 proved overwhelming by the sheer volume of releases that invited our ears to listen. In the end, how could I resist sharing a small swath of the gigantic bucket of music that kept me alive and moving forward every day? I can’t even contemplate what 2021 will bring.

There were so many releases, so many listened to so many times, but so many more were missed. Albums, EPs, Studio, Live, Acoustic, all styles, all heavy. Some you may be familiar with, surprised to see, or utterly unknown but maybe you’ll give them all a whirl…

Hearkened Heap

Favorites of 2020

These releases are incredible to my ears in so many ways and were listened to repeatedly, more than any others. Suffice to say – they helped me survive the year, period. I’ve managed to narrow what I hearkened to most often down to a heap of 50, with a run of honorable mentions that didn’t get enough spin time but are still solidly stuck in my craw. It’s a straight list with no genre or type categorization. HOWEVER, everything after #25 is on even ground, take the numbers with a grain of salt… they’re all tied for #26.

 

Key: BAND (page link) – ‘Title’ (buy link)

 

01 .  GODZILLIONAIRE – ‘Negative Balance

Book a seat for this exceptionally breathtaking musical flight of heavy and listen to this tale from start to finish. These tracks encompass nearly every composition style I’ve ever wanted to hear in one album, except maybe a tornado watch. Oh, wait…  [review]

LP, April 3rd, Independent | Alt-rock, stoner rock/metal

 

 

02.  THE DITCH AND THE DELTA – ‘The Ditch And The Delta‘ 

The adamantly pummeling beauty of momentum by a perpetual sledgehammer cushioned in melody. It’ll crush your entire existence but first wraps you in luxuriously weighted contentment until a final breath is yanked from your ruin.

LP, April 17th, Black Lung Industries / Prosthetic Records | Metal, technical, sludge, doom

 

 

03.  -(16)- – ‘Dream Squasher

For nearly half my life, this band has consistently succeeded in creating music of such massively harsh weight that it simultaneously destroys my rusted soul and replaces it with a chromed-out new one. Their eighth album is no exception. [review]

LP, June 5th, Relapse Records | Sludgecore, stoner metal

 

 

04.  SHINER – ‘Schadenfreude

An unexpected release that heaved a curveball of spacey post-rock joy at a world hell-bent on wearing blinders. What a purifying hazy light this album brings to rinse all the muck off your field of vision.

LP, May 8th, Independent | Post-rock, alt-rock, space rock

 

 

05.  LOWRIDER – ‘Refractions

This album is almost unreasonably luscious and resonates with substantial elegance. An epic return. What else could I possibly say about it that hasn’t been said elsewhere with more eloquence?

LP, February 21st, Blues Funeral Recordings | Desert rock, heavy psych rock, stoner rock

 

 

06.  SERGEANT THUNDERHOOF – ‘Delicate Sound Of Thunderhoof

The title’s play on a beautiful live Floyd album notwithstanding, this album is absolutely stunning in graceful simplicity. Stripped-down variations of some past favorites to reveal their exquisite core talents. Chills-inducing at every listen.

LP, September 4th, Pale Wizard Records | Acoustic, heavy rock, stoner rock

 

 

07.  KIND – ‘Mental Nudge‘ 

Stoner glazing with a dazzled smile in a plush backseat of the most malevolent muscle car as it glides you on the smoothest ride on the bluesiest block of the coolest town, rumbling right past a narrowly avoided panic attack. [review]

LP, September 11th, Ripple Music | Heavy psych rock, stoner rock, doom

 

 

08.  1000MODS – ‘Youth Of Dissent

Churning heavy rock stacked full of fuzz and deftly thumping rhythms, radiantly balanced on the scales of doom by the significantly dark lyrical tales and abundant thickness of tone.

LP, April 24th, Ouga Booga And The Mighty Oug Recordings | Stoner rock, doom

 

 

09.  RICKSHAW BILLIE’S BURGER PATROL – ‘Burger Babes… From Outer Space!

A jump on this trek across the aural universe of unimaginably addictive style diversity is a must. For some reason, a vision of a drunk-out-of-his-mind Jack White having the time of his life playing stoner rock kept appearing to me. No idea, but this album brought me a step closer to happiness with each spin. A sonic soiree and I’m powerless to its pull for repeat visits on this bliss trip.

LP, October 9th, Independent release | Doom-wop, groove metal, heavy rock

 

 

10.  THE OCEAN – ‘Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic

A beautiful post-metal continuation of concept in exploring atmospheric metal orchestral arrangements with a surging strength that brilliantly ebbs and flows. Ultimately, it left me feeling like I earned a doctorate in geology even though I only audited the course.

LP, May 8th, Pelagic Records/ Metal Blade | Progressive metal, post-metal

 

 

11.  OHHMS – ‘Close

They nonchalantly walk into the room and proceed to wreak complete carnage with unnerving melody, progressive textures, and sludgy post-metal slathered in glitter. At least four out of seven song titles are KISS album titles, although I’m not really a fan so I’m unsure why I noticed this or if it was even intentional.

LP, June 26th, Independent release | Post-metal, progressive, stoner doom

 

 

12.  CORTEZ – ‘Sell The Future‘  

A powerfully sinister barn burner of stoner rage partnered with doom outlined in melancholy, all encased in a smoking hot sexy suit of battle armor. “Let’s burn these fuckers to the ground.” …Indeed. [review]

LP, October 23rd, Ripple Music | Metal, doom, stoner rock

 

 

13.  BIG SCENIC NOWHERE – ‘Vision Beyond Horizon

The continued experiment by card-carrying stoner fuzz, heavy rock, prog, and desert jam legends that may have been born out of mutual respect with a large curious dose of “let’s see what happens.” Inviting guests of similar stock along the way, the core group seems to be finding collaborative direction with a united goal to simply do whatever the hell they want. They do it extremely well.

LP, January 31st, Heavy Psych Sounds | Stoner rock, desert rock, progressive

 

 

14.  MOTORPSYCHO – ‘The All Is One

The final (double) album of a trilogy, it’s filled top to bottom with vivacious light and spirit. Warm and tranquil songs that seamlessly transform from intricate progressive rock to sweeping expanses of psychedelic adventure.

LP, August 28th, Rune Grammofon | Prog Rock, psych rock, post-rock

 

 

15.  YAWNING MAN – ‘Live At Giant Rock

Conceivably what equates to a complete journey of peacefulness set to music. The most stunning embodiment of organic desert rock magnificence. One of the transcendent experiences of my 2020, both the music and the visual concert that stemmed it. [details]

LP, October 30th, Heavy Psych Sounds Records | Desert rock, instrumental heavy psych, post-rock

 

 

16.  OCEANS OF SLUMBER – ‘Oceans Of Slumber

Mindblowingly powerful. Diving headfirst into progressive metal with smooth as silk gear-shifting into high-aggression death, hard rock, or melodic metal. The frequent style changes and vocal diversity avoids disjointed shifts and makes for compelling listening.

LP, April 9th, Century Media Records | Metal, progressive, death metal, doom

 

 

17.  HYMN – ‘Breach Us‘  

Perilously monstrous sludge with a ten ton truckload of primal rythyms and sonic guitar work. Goddamn. [details]

LP, August 28th, FysiskFormat | Metal, post-metal, doom

 

 

18.  KILLER BE KILLED – ‘Reluctant Hero

The bona fide supergroup shows each member individually doing their best and at what they best love doing. Catchy without being cliche, what a thoroughly lovely brain bashing. Riffs for days, drums to dismantle all logic, vocal switch offs… amazing.

LP, November 20th, Nuclear Blast | Metal, thrash, melodic

 

 

19.  SARCATOR – ‘Sarcator

Clicked play and within 19 seconds was completely annihilated. Never heard of the band before, but by the time I finished the first listen, reality had detached and I had to share the album link with three people just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating how fantastic it was, then listened four more times. Ravaging thrashy death metal with an inhuman drummer. Paradise.

LP, October 30th, Redefining Darkness Records | Thrash metal, melodic, death metal

 

 

20.  HUM – ‘Inlet

It’s like a hardcore pit was slowed down by a roving gang of emo stoners and when the haze dissipates, everyone is group hugging and charming the pants off security staff. Close the curtains, turn off the lights, spin the album, contemplate existence, then redefine your next life experience.

LP, June 23rd, Independent release | Alt-rock, space rock, shoegaze

 

 

21.  TONY REED – ‘Funeral Suit‘  

The only thing predictable about Tony Reed’s music is the unpredictability in what results from an imaginative tactical approach to creating it. An acoustic solo album devoid of vanity, just voracious talent exposing a reflective soul with full sincerity. [review]

LP, November 6th, Ripple Music | Rock, experimental rock, indie acoustic

 

 

22.  KING BUFFALO – ‘Dead Star

Every time I listen to this band, my eyes close and my mind flies off into the aether and I forget where I am. If astral projection is a real thing, this is the album that could trigger the atmospheric engine that sails you into an alternate dimension. [details]

LP, March 20th, Independent release | Desert rock, heavy psych, space rock

 

 

23.  BLACK ELEPHANT – ‘Seven Swords

Expansive fuzz jams of heavy psychedelic stoner rock occasionally accompanied by subtly encouraging vocals. More righteously honest ass-kicking fun than should objectively be allowed on one album. [details]

LP, August 21st, Small Stone Records | Heavy stoner blues, space rock, psych rock

 

 

24.  HENRY DEREK ELIS – ‘All The Pretty Little Horses

Dark Americana interpretive variations on some classic songs done in electric/acoustic. His distinctively alluring vocal tones paired with guest musicians make for menacingly powerful covers that are both exquisite and bewitching.

LP, July 3rd, Independent release | Doom folk, southern gothic, dark country

 

 

25.  RUFFLEFEATHER – ‘This Waking Dream

A veritably dazzling heavy surge of neo-psych to lift you to a higher altitude. A strikingly impressive debut that has me looking forward to more from these four gents, but I’ll continue enjoying this repeatedly until then.

LP, June 1st, Independent release | Stoner rock, progressive, desert-psych

 

 

26.  ELEPHANT TREE – ‘Habits

27.  DEATHCAVE – ‘Smoking Mountain‘  [review]

28.  TELEPATHY – ‘Burn Embrace‘ [details]

29.  MORNE – ‘Live At Roadburn 2019

30.  BOB MOULD – ‘Blue Hearts

31.  INTER ARMA – ‘Garbers Days Revisited‘  [details]

32.  MR. BUNGLE – ‘The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny Demo[details]

33.  INTRONAUT – ‘Fluid Existential Inversions‘ [details]

34.  WITCHING – ‘Vernal

35.  INSECT ARK – ‘The Vanishing‘  [details]

36.  STONEBIRDS – ‘Collapse And Fail

37.  MASTODON – ‘Medium Rarities

38.  VÁLVERA – ‘Cycle Of Disaster‘  [details]

39.  SWITCHBLADE JESUS – ‘Death Hymns

40.  TESTAMENT – ‘Titans Of Creation

41.  FATES WARNING – ‘Long Day Good Night‘  [details]

42.  NECROT – ‘Mortal

43.  WAKE – ‘Devouring Ruin

44.  JUNIOR BRUCE – ‘Pray For Death

45.  PARADISE LOST – ‘Obsidian

46.  CASPIAN – ‘On Circles

47.  REZN – ‘Chaotic Divine

48.  TRIPTYKON (WITH METROPOLE ORKEST)  – ‘Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)

49.  MR. BISON – ‘Seaward‘  [details]

50.  LORD BUFFALO – ‘Tohu Wa Bohu

 

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical order):

BA’AL – ‘Ellipsism‘  [details]

BIG SCENIC NOWHERE – ‘Lavender Blues‘  [details]

BISMARCK – ‘Oneiromancer

CURSE THE SON – ‘Excruciation

ELDER – ‘Omens

EMMA RUTH RUNDLE & THOU – ‘May Our Chambers Be Full

GEEZERGroovy‘  [details]

LORD FOWL – ‘Glorious Babylon  [details]

POSTNATURAThe Great Silence

SERPENTS OF SECRECYAve Vindicta‘  [details]

SETTLEMENTWhat Once Was

SONS OF OTISIsolation‘  [details]

SORCIASorcia‘  [details]

THE RE-STONEDThunders Of The Deep

THUNDERBIRD DIVINEThe Hand Of Man‘  [details]

VALKYRIEFear‘  [details]

 


Open in Spotify

If you’re a heavy band and have some news, send us your information [HERE].
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,