The hottest month of the year has passed, leaving in its wake a terrible humid aura of despair, hopelessness, and fear. And, as we breathe this thick muck every single day, with no end in sight, there's one thing that does help us get some fresh air: the sounds of heavy metal. A handful of us gathered our thoughts on the heavy albums from August 2020 that stood out the most; check out our selections below, and please, stay safe and well as we charge headfirst into even stranger, more concerning times.

-- Andrew Rothmund

Andrew Rothmund

Sensory Amusia -- Bereavement
August 20th, 2020

Listening to Bereavement should, really, be part of a wicked science experiment testing cognitive ability post-exposure. One spin of this absolutely maniacal beast, and I'm sitting here drooling while mentally attempting to put square pegs in round holes -- Sensory Amusia scrambles my brain in the best way imaginable. Their approach: beat you absolutely senseless with extremely fast hardcore-inspired deathgrind. Really, it's a blend of hardcore, death metal, and grindcore, and it almost feels 33% of each. Balanced, yes, and there's nuance to be found, but there's no goddamn subtlety here. Nope. None.

Ted Nubel

Predawn -- Living Rock
August 28th, 2020

The initial appeal of Living Rock is its larger-than-life guitar tone, straight out of the early days of heavy metal and imbued with a supernatural clatter once thought lost to the ages. No more -- it's been resurrected here and wielded in six massive tracks that pull from the weirder sides of early doom and traditional metal. The gruff vocals stack up with the chunky riffs for an unorthodox result landing somewhere between early Celtric Frost and Pentagram.

That's a large gap, of course, but this fairly-short album manages to cover a lot of the ground there. There's a lot of different things going on, from the sinister groove of "Nightmare Suitor" and its later incorporation of campy synths to the d-beat-laced "El Jefe," and even a doomy ten-minute closing track to switch things up from the four-minute average. The gritty textures of the band bring it all together, shaping a retro-minded album that sacrifices absolutely zero volume or impact in its pursuit of timeless heavy metal.

Ivan Belcic

Nug -- Alter Ego
August 14th, 2020

Melding the optimism-shredding heft of post-metal pioneers Isis with the melodic overtones of The Ocean and the buttery smooth cross-meter time-melding of Meshuggah is Ukraine-based quintet Nug. After testing the waters with an EP back in the 2018, the group dropped their debut full-length Alter Ego — it's an engaging synthesis yet oddly chimeric work, one that burbles with curious dynamism while remaining ultimately honed in on the band's core aesthetic. Nug spend the majority of their time on Alter Ego wallowing in the viscous lurching of their twin guitars, the multifaceted textures and delicate sprinklings of synth player (and vocalist) Yuriy Dubrovsky as well as the effervescent bass lending brightness to an otherwise dour template. There's a concrete beauty lurking beneath the surface, and this band shines at their brightest when revealing this inner light through its shallow, grasping, desperate breaths.

Tom Campagna

Necrot -- Mortal
August 28th, 2020

Necrot's approach with their latest album Mortal, much like fellow California legends Autopsy, involves picking you apart and slowly crushing you with subtle grooves while their caveman riffing pummels you into oblivion. Take the album closer and title track for instance: the drums carry the infectious riffs, but not really breaking the speed from beyond a mid-paced affair.

The album opens with a relatively speedy song "Your Hell" -- tempos change rapidly and allow for the listener to go from groove to riff by the moment. This level of subtlety helps to summon the sounds of yore, but Necrot retains the ability to make this sound theirs all in the same. Mortal is another powerful album that death metal lovers would gladly decorticate themselves annually to receive.

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