One of our favorite AOTY segments is back! As we did in 2018, our significant others deliver some quick thoughts on a sample of our staff’s top albums of the year. There are some predictable reactions (“thing bad”), along with some pleasant surprises (“thing good?”), and of course, more creative genre tags for 2020’s heavy highlights. Without further ado, let’s see what they had to say:

Spirit Adrift – “Ride Into the Light”

Sarah: Not knowing much about metal, all this finger picking reminds me of ’80s metal with crimped hair.  That is to say, I’m not not here for it.  You can even decipher the lyrics without google!  – Retro Lite Metal

Lauren: This felt like a song my brother would have chosen to play on Guitar Hero. Definitely a family friendly sound, something where your dad would say, “Hey, turn this up, I kind of like it!” – Family Game Night Metal

Meggie: I can imagine myself playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) to this song in an arcade growing up. Completely unoffensive to the ears and understanding the lyrics is a big win. – Rock Metal

Darcee: Sounds like something my awesome Uncle Henry would listen to, and he listens to a lot of Iron Maiden, Guns N Roses and Lamb of God. If you like rocking out with a rye whiskey, this band might be for you! – Dad Metal Rock

Caligula’s Horse – “Valkyrie”

Sarah: White supremacist appropriation of old “grand histories” that are usually Norse and Greco-Roman make me immediately wary of this title.  Reading the lyrics, though, I’m on board! This feels like a poppy, mature band who has done some successful talk therapy!   – Pop Therapy Core

Lauren: I’m honestly having a hard time coming up with anything for this one. Pretty tame, dare I say… vanilla? Maybe I’m finally getting used to some metal?! – Nothing New Metal

Meggie: I’m pretty sure I have cleaned the house to this? Which means it has been played and I have not demanded it gets turned off immediately. The lead singer can actually sing and I like the variety between the chorus’, verses, etc. – “Intro to get your girlfriend to not hate metal” Metal 

Darcee: Don’t have much to add. I’d consider a classic prog rock sound. Easy on the ears, generally quite pleasant and enjoyable – I can see this getting decent airplay on the hard rock radio stations. – Prog Rock

Feminazgul – “I Pity the Immortal”

Sarah: I’m very here for angry feminist metal.  I started browsing the lyrics for the other tracks on the album.  DRIVE HER WEAPON INTO ITS HEART, indeed!  The music is decidedly not my thing.  But their twitter feed is awesome!  I vote for an Emma Goldman themed album, I would be so into that. – Anarchofeminism Core

Lauren: PLEASE someone get the lead singer a cough drop!! There are very few metal songs I can’t tolerate, but I’m so sorry, this one makes the list. – Strep Throat Metal (seriously, is she ok?)

Meggie: A mixture between the radio not being on the right frequency and someone coughing up mucus from their lungs. Absolutely not. Just no. – Vampire Sickness Metal

Darcee: Interesting sound. Fun up-tempo beats contrasting with very harsh, passionate vocals. A lot going on to process, maybe an acquired taste. – Black Metal?

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – “Ancestral Recall”

Sarah: More ladiez! Always upvote.  Honestly, this was my thing until the throat screaming.  So honestly, I skipped around for the ethereal singing parts, but I’m cool with that.  Her voice also sort of reminded me of the Cranberries!  – Ethereal Screams Metal

Lauren: Singing? 10/10. Screaming? 0/10. It was definitely nice to see some gender diversity, but I still can’t get behind the hardcore vocals. However, when they juxtaposed the singing over the screams, that was kind of cool. – Yay for Female Representation in a Male Dominated Industry Metal

Meggie: My only question, why? I was fine until I wasn’t fine. Was the screaming necessary? Such a pretty voice shrouded with a cloud of demonic vomiting of a lung. – Patriarchy Punishment Metal

Darcee: A very unexpected duet! Unique, juxtaposing sounds that find a way to blend cohesively against all odds. It’s two moods at once, for those who can’t make up their minds. – Post-Metal Duets 

Dawnwalker – “The Wheel”

Sarah: This was a little sleepy, but satisfying.  Like sinking into an overstuffed couch and not being able to get up, but being cool with that.  – NapGaze

Lauren: Look, I don’t know why, but I kept getting a Christian Rock vibe from this song. Add in that it’s also 10 minutes long… #nothx. – Ministry Metal

Meggie: I feel like the song could have been cut in half and released as two songs. It could have been the trauma from the previous song, but I didn’t mind the screaming as much in this one. Some parts of the song I did enjoy so overall, not bad at all – War and Peace Metal (as opposed to Readers Digest Metals, obvs)

Darcee: Wow, this is refreshing – love the vocals and simplicity to start. There is a building intensity, it’s a fun 11’ minute journey. – Alternative Sometimes Black Metal 

Igorrr – “Camel Dancefloor”

Sarah: Vaguely MENA-influenced music sets me on edge for appropriation off the bat.  I get that he’s French and likely has friends and neighbors from North Africa, but man unless that’s his people’s music it sets my teeth on edge to hear it like this.  This definitely reminded me of something Nick would like for its musical complexity and amalgamation of styles.  – Appropriation Math Mash

Lauren: I can’t say I ever expected to hear such a musical mash-up, but I’m here for it. This was by far the most interesting, captivating, and unexpected song on the list. I don’t even know how much I actually like it, but it broke up the monotony and for that I am grateful. – “I’m Not Like Other Metal” Metal

Meggie: HOW FUN! I feel like they have grabbed all of the instruments kids make in their first year of school for a project, but I am loving it! Polar opposite to what I was expecting to hear in this list, but what a fabulous breath of fresh air – Build-your-own-instrument Metal

Darcee: This is exactly what I thought a song called “Camel Dancefloor” might sound like. It’s like this song is on shuffle. – Avant-tech-core 

Cirith Ungol – “Legions Arise”

Sarah: Oh, is this the fantasy nerd band you were telling me about, Nick?  LOTR isn’t my world of choice, but I support everyone’s fandom.  – OrcCore

Lauren: Another metal song about riding into battle. I wonder who was the first person to say, “Oh, you’re into fantasy? Man, have I got a music genre for you!” A match made in Mordor. – D&D Metal

Meggie: I have a feeling I am meant to know the context of this but I have no idea. All I am picturing is big, bushy beards and some cosplay possibly? – “I am a bit nerdy, but a cool nerd” Metal

Darcee: See song 1 above. 

Napalm Death – “Amoral”

Sarah: Ah, back to the screaming and more modern deathy themes.  I’m impressed by the incisive lyrics, I just can’t hear what they’re saying through the throaty distortion.  But I’ve come to accept by this point that that isn’t the goal!  – Death Grind

Lauren: Their delivery of the chorus makes it seem like they think I’m stupid, but at least they have good diction and annunciation. – No Subtitles Needed Metal

Meggie: Can we go back to number 6? PLEASE? I don’t actually know if they are changing the words each verse or just repeating the same thing multiple times. It feels like a stock standard metal song to me that all fans would enjoy – Generic Metal

Darcee:  I find this song simpler in structure than everything on the list so far. Not too many twists and turns, and for that reason:- Regular Heavy Metal

Ulcerate – “Stare Into Death and Be Still”

Sarah: For me, the attention to detail in the guitar lines is really ruined by the throatscreaming.  Otherwise, I find this a little boring I’m sorry!  Pretty repetitive.  – Extreme Math

Lauren: Sounds like it’s being sung by someone who is making fun of metal vocals. – Mockery Metal

Meggie: I looked up the lyrics for this one and wow, what a sad song. I can’t understand any of it but the instrumentals seem quite nice. Can I have the version, minus the screaming? – Doom and Gloom Metal

Darcee: Surprisingly approachable metal. Amazing drumming, interesting, dissonant sounds and jarring time signature changes. – Death (Math?) Metal 

Katatonia – “Behind the Blood”

Sarah: Loved the switch to something upbeat after Ulcerate!  To be clear, I spend most of my time listening to folky stuff, throwbacks to the 90’s and early 00’s top 40, and musical theatre, so this is not my element.  This song doesn’t even feel like metal!  – Nickelback Core

Lauren: Coming from someone who didn’t know Skillet was a Christian band (whoops), I really couldn’t tell if this song was religious or romantic. I know he says “my love”, but have you HEARD some Christian songs? – Ambiguous Metal

Meggie: I am getting strong 90’s vibes. I actually really like this. No screaming. Understandable. And more of a rock vibe than metal. Would listen again. – Progressive Rock/Metal

Darcee: Oh, fun! Light, airy, 80s-esque music with 00s vocals. I feel like they could tour with a lot of different kinds of bands. – Festival Metal

Pallbearer – “Forgotten Days”

Sarah: This sounded a lot like a clear example of doom when Nick played songs for me when he was trying to explain the different genres of metal.  I like the relative lack of growling!  – Doom Lite 

Lauren: I feel like this song is 100% about depression and mental illness. If so, 10/10 relatable for the trying times we’re in. – 2020 Metal

Meggie: Can someone send this guy Track 6 to give him a little pick me up? This song HAS to be about mental illness is some shape or form. Very heavy and a feeling of “the end is here”. I did really love the guitar solo section. – Break-up Metal

Darcee: Double digits and first band I’ve heard of! I don’t have the word right now to describe their sound though. I’ll just say, very balanced, polished, and classic sounding. – Doom 

Cryptic Shift – “The Arctic Chasm”

Sarah: Back to cough drop land!  All that throat tearing during these Covid times makes me anxious.  At this point, I feel like someone who has been in a scented candle store for too long and I can’t hear the different genres anymore.  I’ve been inoculated.  Bring on the vaccine, be safe, kids.  – Covid Core

Lauren: “Oh thank GOD it’s over… Whoops, there are still two and half minutes left.” – Deceit Metal

Meggie: The growling is really resonating with my feelings after listening to these 12 songs. I feel seen. Probably a lovely song for some, just not for me. I feel like possibly they just went hard on their own instruments but didnt think about how it would all sound when they played together? – All the Metal Things Metal

Darcee: Very layered and complex song. A lot going on, but not quite my speed or taste. A chaotic, instrument battle. – Extra technical death metal

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