In all the years I’ve been a part of this site and helping out with our end of year coverage, I have wanted to conduct a readers’ poll. Alas, we never had the bandwidth to do so given the timing and timeframe that we used to impose upon ourselves. With our new model giving us a perfect excuse to change up how we approach our year in review content though, we took it upon ourselves to make the readers’ poll happen!
I didn’t want to just get your opinion in one area though, so our poll asked you to pick your favorite albums across a wide range of genres. We’ve got a lot of results to cover here, so without further ado, here are your collective favorite albums from 2020!
Top Overall Albums
1. Ulcerate – Stare Into Death and Be Still
2. The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
3. Orannsi Passusu – Mestarin Kynsi
4. Wake – Devouring Ruins
5. Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville
6. Deftones – Ohms
7. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full
8. Svalbard – When I Die Will It Get Better
9. Wayfarer – A Romance With Violence
10. Countless Skies – Glow
11. Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
12. Haken – Virus
13. Protest the Hero – Palimpsest
14. Havukruunu – Uinuos Syomein Sota
15. Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions
16. Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
17. Code Orange – Underneath
18. Hum – Inlet
19. Katatonia – City Burials
20. Clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned
21. Afterbirth – Four Dimensional Flesh
22. Elder – Omens
23. Loathe – I Let It In and It Took Everything
24. Unleash the Archers – Abyss
25. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
26. Paradise Lost – Obsidian
27. Pyrrhon – Abscess Time
28. End – Splinters From an Ever Changing Face
29. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
30. Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
31. Cryptic Shift – Visitations from the Enceladus
32. Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition – Chapter II: Render Unto Eden
33. Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
34. Kvelertak – Splid
35. Sweven – The Eternal Resonance
36. Spectral Lore & Mare Cognitum – Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine
37. Psychonaut – Unfold the God Man
38. Envy – The Crimson Fallen
39. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
40. Fawn Limbs – Sleeper Vessels
With by far the most #1 votes, Ulcerate easily landed the top spot here, which isn’t a huge surprise given that we also liked it quite a bit. Outside of that, most of the albums present are ones that landed on our own top 25 lists pretty frequently, though probably the biggest divergence of note was The Ocean‘s synth-heavy Phanerozoic II, which sadly underwhelmed many of us here. By the way, you all owe Noyan a debt of gratitude for having to wade through and correct the seemingly infinite ways you all decided to spell and enter that album.
Like many of us here, there are some notable non-metal entries that made appearances on this list, including albums from Heavy Blog faves Clipping., Phoebe Bridgers, Run the Jewels, and Fiona Apple. All-in-all, good job, everyone!
Top Death Metal Albums
1. Ulcerate – Stare Into Death and Be Still
2. Necrot – Mortal
3. Cryptic Shift – Visitations from the Enceladus
4. Black Curse – Endless Wound
5. Sweven – The Eternal Resonance
6. Afterbirth – Four Dimensional Flesh
7. Wake – Devouring Ruins
8. Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville
9. Faceless Burial – Speciation
10. Pyrrhon – Abscess Time
11. Undeath – Lesions of a Different Kind
12. Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus
13. Bedsore – Hypnagogic Hallucinations
14. Umbra Vitae – Shadow of Life
15. Beneath the Massacre – Fearmonger
16. Ulthar – Providence
17. Cytotoxin – Nuklearth
18. Of Feather and Bone – Sulfuric Disintegration
19. Countless Skies – Glow
20. Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
No surprise that Ulcerate landed the top spot here as well. Though there was a fair amount of crossover with the big list (Ulcerate, Cryptic Shift, Sweven, Afterbirth, Wake, Imperial Triumphant, Pyrrhon, Countless Skies, and Black Crown Initiate), just over half did not appear there, including top 5 entries Necrot and Black Curse. One can probably assume that those two albums were particularly loved by folks who live and breathe death metal and not nearly as much by everyone else.
Top Black Metal Albums
1. Wayfarer – A Romance With Violence
2. Orannsi Passusu – Mestarin Kynsi
3. Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville
4. Spectral Lore & Mare Cognitum – Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine
5. Havukruunu – Uinuos Syomein Sota
6. Paysage d’Hiver – Im Wald
7. Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies
8. Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition – Chapter II: Render Unto Eden
9. Respire – Black Line
10. Gaerea – Limbo
11. Wake – Devouring Ruins
12. Enslaved – Utgard
13. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment
14. Esoctrilihum – Eternity of Shaog
15. Beltez – A Grey Chill and a Whisper
16. Skyforest – A New Horizon
17. Vengeful Spectre – Vengeful Spectre
18. Dark Fortress – Spectress from the Old World
19. Uada – Djinn
20. Krallice – Mass Cathexis
Not too many shockers here either at the top, though it’s interesting to see how many people selected either Imperial Triumphant or Wake for both the death and black categories, which makes sense given how those bands exist well within those two sonic realms. Also happy to see some love given to the post-black catharsis of Respire.
Top Doom Metal Albums
1. Atramentus – Stygian
2. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full
3. Primitive Man – Immersion
4. Draconian – Under a Godless Veil
5. Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin – Stygian Bough: Volume 1
6. My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion
7. Paradise Lost – Obsidian
8. Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
9. Pallbearer – Forgotten Days
10. Elder – Omens
11. Katatonia – City Burials
12. Garganjua – Towards the Light
13. Elephant Tree – Habits
14. Spirit Adrift – Enlightened in Eternity
15. Drown – Subaqueous
16. Konvent – Puritan Masochism
17. MSW – Obliviosus
18. Pale Divine – Consequence of Time
19. Green Druid – At the Maw of Ruin
20. Atavist – III: Absolution
A challenger appears! When it comes to all things low and slow, readers picked Atramentus‘s Stygian, which did not crack the overall list. Elder and Katatonia seem personally like stretches to me for this category based solely on those albums, but at least with Elder the history is certainly there.
Top Metalcore Albums
1. End – Splinters From an Ever Changing Face
2. Code Orange – Underneath
3. Loathe – I Let It In and It Took Everything
4. Trivium – What the Dead Man Say
5. Misery Signals – Ultraviolet
6. Protest the Hero – Palimpsest
7. The Acacia Strain – Slow Decay
8. 156/Silence – Irrational Pull
9. Sylosis Cycle of Suffering
10. Invent, Animate – Greyview
11. Bring Me the Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror
12. Gulch – Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress
13. Polaris – The Death of Me
14. Terminal Nation – Holocene Extinction
15. Palm Reader – Sleepless
16. Svalbard – When I Die Will It Get Better
17. Under the Pier – Puff Pieces
18. Tallah – Matriphragy
19. The God Awful Truth – Memory Palace
20. Fawn Limbs – Sleeper Vessels
A little surprised Code Orange didn’t run away with the top spot for this one! Svalbard and Protest the Hero also landed lower than I would expect based on their high placement on the overall list. Perhaps some disagreement over what actually qualifies as “metalcore” now versus other genres those two bands also exist heavily in.
Top Prog Rock/Metal Albums
1. The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
2. Haken – Virus
3. Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
4. Protest the Hero – Palimpsest
5. Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions
6. The Reticent – The Oubliette
7. Katatonia – City Burials
8. Elder – Omens
9. Oceans of Slumber – Oceans of Slumber
10. Countless Skies – Glow
11. Wobbler – Dwellers of the Deep
12. Plini – Impulse Voices
13. Psychonaut – Unfold the God Man
14. Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
15. Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
16. Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville
17. Ulcerate – Stare Into Death and Be Still
18. Pain of Salvation – Panther
19. Green Carnation – Leaves of Yesteryear
20. Cryptic Shift – Visitations from Enceladus
This one fell pretty much exactly as I’d expect based on looking at the overall list. Lots of familiar faces here, and an excellent reminder that I need to listen to that Wobbler record again because I completely forgot about it.
Top Post-Rock/Metal Albums
1. The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
2. Psychonaut – Unfold the God Man
3. Caspian – On Circles
4. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full
5. Respire – Black Line
6. Nothing – The Great Dismal
7. Dawnwalker – Ages
8. Solstafir – Endless Twilight of Codependent Love
9. Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions
10. Envy – The Crimson Fallen
11. Aesthesys – Alignments
12. Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
13. sleepmakeswaves – these are not your dreams
14. Coastlands – Death
15. Crippled Black Phoenix – Ellengaest
16. Gloe – Dead Wait
17. Yashira – Fail to Be
18. Postvorta – Siderael pt One
19. Spook the Horses – Empty Body
20. Hum – Inlet
Listen, we here are about as sympathetic as any to the idea of “post-” being an open category and definition that is constantly changing by its very nature. However…y’all. You all made some pretty wild picks here! Psychonaut? Nothing? Vile Creature?? I definitely sense a strong bent towards bands who pull influence from post- or post-adjacent music into what they’re doing as opposed to some more traditional picks. That said, more conventionally post-rock/metal bands like pg.lost, Telepathy, Barrens, Nug, Jesu, VASA, and Holy Fawn didn’t miss making the top 20 by a lot, so I am happy to throw those in as honorable mentions of some sort.
Top Pop Albums
1. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
2. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
3. Ulver – Flowers of Evil
4. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
5. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
6. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
7. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
8. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
9. The Weeknd – After Hours
10. Hum – Inlet
11. Deftones – Ohms
12. Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
13. Hundredth – Somewhere Nowhere
14. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension
16. Moses Sumney – Grae
17. Enter Shikari – Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible
18. Smashing Pumpkins – Cyr
19. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor
20. Nothing – The Great Dismal
I was actually intensely interested to see how this category would shake out given that I assume it is the area our readers as a whole likely spend the least amount of time listening to. There were certainly some expected top-charters like RTJ, Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa, and The Weeknd in there. There were indie darlings like Phoebe Bridgers, Perfume Genius, Tame Impala, and Sufjan Stevens in the mix. Some alt-rock/pop representation from Hum, Deftones, Smashing Pumpkins, and Hayley Williams. And then there’s Ulver! Frankly I think they would be tickled to see themselves place so highly on this list, and, yes, there isn’t really any other appropriate genre here to put them in, so I guess pop is as good as any for their updated take on Depeche Mode-like darkwave.
Also pour one out for Taylor Swift, who was close but didn’t crack the top 20. Maybe next time Tay-Tay!
Other Fun (and Less Fun) Stuff!
In addition to asking you for your favorite albums of 2020, we also were interested in your thoughts on some aspects of the year as a whole and some predictions about 2021.
For obvious reasons, Covid-19 was the topic, or at least hung around in the background, of several of these questions.
2020 was an exceedingly rough year for millions upon millions of folks, between the health crisis of the pandemic, mass unemployment caused by it, loneliness and isolation also caused by it, tons of social and political unrest all across the world, fucking fires everywhere (oh, did you forget about the fires?), and plenty more.
It seems that for many of our readers though, at least when it came to their personal experience, it was pretty okay! The average score was 5.35, and around 60% of respondents placed their year somewhere between a 5 and an 8. I am very glad to hear that so many of you are feeling relatively safe and secure in spite of everything.
Great news as far as public health is concerned, the vast majority of you said that you intend to receive one of the Covid-19 vaccines this year. If we could actually make this a reality and gather everyone together, we would actually achieve herd immunity!
I expect that “I already have!” number is a little bit higher now than it was this time last month when we conducted the poll, but not by much. Vaccine rollout and distribution has been an absolute abomination in the US thus far, so the bigger question seems to be less a matter of “if” but “when.”
Meanwhile, 2/3 of you were feeling optimistic enough to say that you expect to see a live concert in person this year. I really, truly hope that can come true for you all! But at the same time I am still enormously concerned that we’re not going to be as in the clear as we’d like to think for far longer than we think. I know things are operating a bit differently elsewhere, but at least in the US most summer fests are already canceling or at the very least postponing to the fall. Maybe if we’re lucky there will be some sanctioned outdoor shows by then. I am far less optimistic about the prospect of returning to indoor venues anytime soon. Think we’re looking at spring into summer 2022 earliest before I’d personally take that plunge again.
Continuing with that sense of optimism, people are feeling bullish on 2021 as a whole, at least compared to the shit-tsunami of 2020. With an average score of 3.6 and a median score of 4, most folks believe that there is some reason for some optimism this year. I sure hope you’re all right! I would very much enjoy that.
The rest of the questions were about us specifically. I won’t post the specific results from all of that since we plan to keep that data for internal use, but a few items of note:
- Nearly 3/4 of you have responded positively or very positively to the changes we made to the website last fall. This is great news to hear! None of what we’re doing matters if you’re all not into it. We do understand that there are some legitimate downsides to this new content model from a reader perspective, and we’re going to keep working to make it as accessible to you all as possible while still maintaining the integrity of the platform we’re trying to build here.
- A lot of you still aren’t aware that we have a Patreon now! That is super understandable as it’s still new for us and we have very intentionally not been trying to shove it down your throats. However, if you haven’t already taken a look at what we’re doing and planning on doing with Patreon, you absolutely should! We just hit our second goal of $150/month, which means those of you who are subscribed can expect some really cool stuff starting soon. And if you aren’t into the idea of a monthly subscription but like what we’re doing and want to show your appreciation anyway, we also have a “tip jar” set up with Ko-fi for one-time donations. Once again, no pressure! We love you all the same.
- People are very interested in Patreon-exclusive content, including columns, podcasts, and especially playlists. This is all stuff we intend to build up in 2021, so you can absolutely expect plenty of that to come. We will continue to make the vast majority of content we post here completely free, including all monthly genre columns and the like, as we strongly believe that digital information and content should be as open and free as possible and feasible.
- Bitches love t-shirts! Up to this point we’ve printed a handful of different shirts through our merch partner at A Thousand Arms. We thought maybe you all would be tired of shirts and might want to try some other clothing or apparel, but nope! That’s fine by us. We’re already in early discussions on a new shirt design for 2021. Strangely enough, a bunch of people also seem to be interested in stickers. We’re on board and will incorporate that into our plans for this year as well.
There were also just an amazing quantity and quality of general comments and feedback. Trust me when I say that we are reading through every single one of them and take all of your feedback extremely seriously. Especially as we enter a few weeks of much-needed downtime, we’ll be closely examining all of this.
As always, this entire site is nothing without you all. Thank you so much for continuing to support us in every possible way. And let’s all hope for a great 2021 all around!