Metal Chris’ favorite doom and stoner albums of 2020

It’s the end of the year so it’s time for my end of year album lists! I’m posting several lists, each for a different subgenre/category, and ordered by release date instead of ranking them. 2020 has been a unique year with unique challenges, to say the least, and I fully expect that to be reflected in my lists. This stoner and doom list is my second of these lists and you can find my black metal list here.

OcclithGates, Doorways, and Endings
Released 1 May 2020 on Transylvanian Tapes
California based Occlith plays a style of blackened funeral doom metal that is slow and drenched in hopelessness but also has a mystical vibe of dark rituals being read from dusty ancient tomes. Each of the five tracks are over 10 minutes long but there’s enough variation here to keep them from getting boring.

Paradise LostObsidian
Released 15 May 2020 on Nuclear Blast Records
I’m not sure what Paradise Lost’s secret is but a band this old has no business putting out material this high quality this late in their career. They coined the term “gothic metal” almost 30 years ago but now they’re writing modern gothic doom songs using elements of that entire career, shedding what didn’t work and perfecting what did. The songs on Obsidian are varied yet consistent in their dark beauty.

GoatsnakeBreakfast with the King b​/​w Deathwish
Self-released 5 June 2020
The two songs on this EP were originally recorded for the Los Angeles based band’s 2015 album Black Age Blues but weren’t released until this year. They’re both total bangers and the only “new” material we’ve gotten from Goatsnake since 2015. George Floyd was murdered 11 days before this release and the band is donating all of the proceeds from purchases of these songs to the Color Of Change charity.

ValkyrieFear
Released 24 July 2020 by Relapse Records
Virginia’s Valkyrie returned in 2020 with the follow up to their 2015 Relapse debut Shadows. The albums are quite different though, despite both being excellent. Former Baroness guitarist Pete Adams and his brother Jake exchanged dueling solos relentlessly on Shadows whereas Fear has a much more laid back attitude, letting the songs build up and focus on their Appalachian twang. Don’t worry there’s still some great dueling solos, but the band has grown a lot in the five years between releases and they’re only getting better.

AtramentusStygian
Released 21 August 2020 on 20 Buck Spin
Phil Tougas of death metal Chthe’ilist wrote the Stygian album back in 2012 though he didn’t get around to forming a band and recording it until 2018. Finally released in 2020, the plodding funeral doom found here still has that cavernous aspect Chthe’ilist is known for, though this time at a much slower pace. I really hope it doesn’t take the Montreal based Atramentus another 8 years for us to get a follow up album.

Sergeant ThunderhoofDelicate Sound of Thunderhoof
Released 4 September 2020 by Pale Wizard Records
This is an odd album for this list because it’s all acoustic versions of earlier Sergeant Thunderhoof songs. Somehow this transformation, which doesn’t come across nearly as moneygrabby as those old MTV Unplugged albums did, worked wonders here as Dan Flitcroft’s vocals really take center stage. The English band wasn’t the only stoner/doom group to release an acoustic album this year with genre heavyweights like Tony Reed of Mos Generator and Wino also doing so, but against all odds Sergeant Thunderhoof’s was the one I kept coming back to.

various artistsVol. 4 [Redux]
Released 30 October 2020 by Magnetic Eye Records
I don’t usually include things like covers albums on these lists but this one is so good it had to be included. This “redux” version of the entire 1972 released Volume 4 album by Black Sabbath sees a different band covering each song, and the fact that they even made the songs “Changes” and “FX” fun to listen to just solidifies their place on this list. Top talent like Spirit Adrift, Thou, Matt Pike, Wino and even Zakk Wylde make this one of the best Sabbath cover albums of all time.

Mountain CallerThe Truthseeker
Released 6 November 2020 by New Heavy Sounds
This London based trio’s debut is almost entirely instrumental doom with a bit of a proggy edge. Despite the lack of lyrics, the album plays like the soundtrack to some coming of age tale of epic adventure with all the ups and downs that entails. I’ve never really heard a concept album executed like this before but they pull it off quite well and I can’t wait for the sequel.

The Re-StonedThunders of the Deep
Released 19 November 2020 on Clostridium Records
The Re-Stoned are Moscow’s answer to Earthless. They’re an instrumental trio with a Russian spin on psychedelic stoner jams. Guitarist Ilya Lipkin is the mastermind of The Re-Stoned and on Thunders of the Deep, their 9th full length album since 2010, he has added some blues elements and slowed things down in parts while managing to keep the songs interesting throughout.

Bantha RiderBinary Sunset Massacre
Self-released 4 December 2020
Another instrumental stoner band from Eastern Europe, Bantha Rider blends desert rock vibes with the sand dunes of the desert planet Tatooine from the Star Wars universe. It might sound like a funny gimmick but there’s some serious riffs to be found on this Polish band’s debut full length.

Review of Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Well all our year end posts have put me a bit behind on things but better late than never I suppose. On Sunday, December 27th I was at the 9:30 Club to see Clutch play along with Crobot and Valkyrie. There was a film crew there so it is very likely that this show, or at least parts of it, could wind up on a future Clutch video.

I got there early to make sure I could catch Valkyrie. The band is from Harrisonburg, Virginia, and is probably best known for sharing a guitarist with the band Baroness, Pete Adams. However it is Pete’s brother Jake Adams that is the driving force behind Valkyrie. The band’s sound is steeped in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with Jake’s vocals often pausing for several extended dueling guitar solos between the Adams brothers. Riffs abound and the chemistry between the brothers is as apparent as the fun they were having while performing on the 9:30 Club’s big stage. These guys have been something of a regional secret and it’s about time the word gets out about them. Hopefully this winter mini tour with Clutch will lead to bigger and better things for them.

The next band to play was Crobot from Pottsville, Pennsylvania. They’re a relatively new band, having formed in 2011, though they obviously see themselves as some sort of 70s throwback band. I’m generally ok with throwback bands but I’ve got to admit these guys just didn’t do it for me. I found their songs overly simple and the vocalist, Brandon Yeagley, was running around on stage striking poses like a coked up Steven Tyler. His voice was reminiscent of Geddy Lee, which is probably a good thing to some and bad thing to others, but honestly his stage presence was so annoying I quickly lost interest in not just him but the entire band.

Finally it was time for local favorites Clutch! This was the first time the Germantown, Maryland, based band would play to a local audience since the release of their latest album, Psychic Warfare, back in October. The album was well received and Clutch played the entire album throughout the course of the night, though not in order. A giant sized banner with the new album’s cover artwork hung behind Clutch while they performed their new songs with some older tunes thrown in throughout as well, and what a performance it was! The band hit the stage hot and seemed to fly through their set list without a whole lot of talking between songs. Clutch has really perfected their sound and live performance over the years and shows like this one make it obvious that they aren’t slowing down any time soon. Many bands at this stage of their careers start to lose a step or three but Clutch seems to only be getting better. It’s a rare quality that makes their energetic live shows special every time they play to their home crowd here in DC.

Below are my shots of the bands that night, you can click on any of them to see them full sized.

Valkyrie:

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Crobot:

Crobot at the 9:30 Club

Crobot at the 9:30 Club

Crobot at the 9:30 Club

Clutch:

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club