Ghost Cult is kicking off our “End of Year Guest Post Extravaganza” with a slew of posts from bands, industry, PR types, and more! We’ll be sharing lists, memories, and other shenanigans from our favorite bands, partners, music industry peers, and other folks we respect across the globe. Andrew Field of APF Records gets things off to a greater start with his top 10 albums of 2020, in reverse order.
2020 might have been a rank year because of the pandemic, but it’s been a truly great year for new music. Distilling my list of 50 potentials down to just 10 has been so hard. Especially as I’ve taken out the albums APF Records unleashed during the last 12 months. I spend a lot of time listening to bands on my label, because I really do love them all.
In reverse order, my Top 10:
10 – Goblinsmoker – A Throne In Haze, A World Ablaze (Sludgelord Records)
Adam Kennedy of Goblinsmoker is my spirit animal. His band’s desolate, unyielding sludge doom anthems have been the perfect soundtrack to the 2020 shitstorm. Goblinsmoker’s songs crawl along at funeral pace, with Kennedy screaming his lungs out over riffs Electric Wizard probably wish they had thought of. Huge, pregnant, horrific anthems that are enduring and sublimely evil.
9 – Ungraven – Live at Stuck on a Name Studio (Black Bow Records)
The great live albums are raw as hell, and Live At SOAN is such a beast: so blistering you kinda expect amps to explode and fall apart at any given moment. Ungraven is Jon Davis of Conan and Tyler Hodges of mighty London duo Tuskar. Davis’s ability to summon up huge swathes of monolithic riff, which Hodges then tramples into oblivion, makes for a truly life-affirming experience. Absolute filth.
8 – Natt – Fallen Oracles (Argonauta Records)
I stumbled across this Italian instrumental post-metal band on a Spotify playlist and was instantly transfixed. Fallen Oracles is full of soaring, sonorous melodies built over gut-wrenching bass and driving rhythms. At times redolent of the mighty Ufomammut, it’s a definite headphones album, best experienced in the dark.
7 – Pig Destroyer – The Octagonal Stairway (Relapse Records)
A great many things have made me angry in 2020, most of them to do with the rank stupidity and selfishness of my fellow human beings. Come August I was able to find a cathartic release from any feelings of negativity in Pig Destroyer’s apocalyptic grindcore nastiness. 25 minutes in their company is like pressing the reset button. I’ve needed to do that several times in the second half of this year.
6 – Vile Creature – Glory! Glory! Apathy Took Helm! (Prosthetic Records)
The closing segue on this album, after which the record is named, is my musical highlight of 2020: a Canadian choir sounding achingly beautiful before bleeding into asphyxiating and climatic Bismuth-enhanced funeral sludge. Their unburnished, guttural vim is a proper kick up the ass. I urgently need to see them play this shit live.
5 – Elephant Tree – Habits (Holy Roar Records)
It took Elephant Tree an awfully long time to follow up their 2016 eponymous full-length debut, but my god it was worth the wait in the end. Chock full of a-game songs – many of them bleak as hell – all having a timeless quality, sounding like they were recorded in a cathedral, with so many moments of sonic bliss.
4 – Elder – Omens (Stickman Records)
Elder have been threatening an album as transcendental as Omens for a long time. These 5 tracks ebb and flow through different musical moods and themes, with so many moments of goosebumps-inducing aural beauty. Nick DiSalvo, Jack Donovan and the lads are now unparalleled masters of their craft and Omens is a bona fide classic.
3 – Pallbearer – Forgotten Days (Nuclear Blast)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Pallbearer, but did I think they had an album of the year contender in them? No, I did not. Everything about Forgotten Days is stellar: from the unusual chord changes and swagger of the title track to the murky atmospherics of Silver Wings and the shuffle doom of The Quicksand of Existing. The elegiac Rite of Passage is the icing on an already considerably tasty cake. Wonderful stuff.
2 – Palehorse/Palerider – Legends of the Desert Vol. 1 (Desert Records)
Legends of the Desert Vol.1 is a split with Lord Buffalo, but forget about them – it’s the Palehorse / Palerider side which has blown my mind this year. They somehow manage to sound like the wild west, but also like UK shoegazers Ride. Musically it’s the widescreen, panoramic equivalent of driving with the top down through back roads of the south USA on the edge of a desert. Doomgaze, their record label calls it. Whatever the case, Palehorse / Palerider have owned my stereo more than any of other band this year. I am in love with them.
1 – Primitive Man – Immersion (Relapse Records)
The new benchmark for dense, slow, sludge doom heaviness. The pleasure-pain principle applies on Immersion: it’s a 35-minute session of bleak musical punishment, just unrelentingly unpleasant. But at the same time it’s such a wonderful experience in one sitting, a total assault on the senses, leaving you breathless at the sheer anguished nihilism of it all. It keeps pulling me in, like a vortex. I no longer resist it. I let it wash over me and take me down into the grime. Gloriously abhorrent, it’s my album of the year.
Support APF Records here: https://www.apfrecords.co.uk/