20 Underground Records Still To Look Forward To In 2020
Okay, we all know that in terms of music (as with so much else) this pandemic sucks. Tours and festivals are cancelled and there’s always a chance that a group of celebs will do something else as smugly heinous as the Imagine cover.
You can’t stop musicians from being creative though, and there’s still plenty of great new music emerging. We’ve already run through some of the biggest albums to look forward to in 2020, but big isn’t always better and there’s plenty of good stuff to find if you dig a little deeper.
Here, then, are 20 upcoming albums to get excited about from the fertile and sometimes fetid depths of the underground.
It’s already been close to a four-year wait for the Portland sluggers’ fifth album, with Only Ghosts emerging in October 2016. The band reported on Instagram that they’d finished the new one, titled Arrows, back in October. As with so many releases, it’s been pushed back to an as yet unconfirmed date, but for now check out the typically hilarious video for Antidote and, while you’re at it, download their Red Fang: Headbang app – billed as the first music video game that you have to headbang to play.
As the godfather of doom, Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich is generally known for teeth-rattling volume and distortion. On new solo album Forever Gone (due June 26) the Saint Vitus and The Obsessed legend shows another side. The album will launch the Ripple Music label’s new Blood And Strings series, which present “albums of acoustic heaviness from some of the most admired names in riff-rock and metal”. And, if Wino’s recently released acoustic cover of Joy Division’s Isolation is anything to go by, “acoustic heaviness” is right.
Old Man Gloom
Old Man Gloom are sort of an underground sludge-metal supergroup, featuring past and present members of the likes of Converge, ISIS and Cave In. They’ve never played by the rules and this year followed Seminar VIII: Light Of Meaning with the surprise digital release of a whole new album in Seminar IX: Darkness of Being. Both get a physical release tomorrow (May 22) and both are profoundly influenced by the death of bassist and core member Caleb Scofield in 2018. The band said in a statement: “Almost every song has elements of our last two years without Caleb, and even the songs that aren’t directly related to him are embedded with the emotion and struggle for closure and healing that we’re all going to be in for a long time. This pandemic we’re all living through is creating so much distance between all of us. This is our way of bringing us all a little closer.”
A lot of bands have been described as ‘hardcore legends’ but in Cro-Mags’ case it really is true. The New York band were pioneers in crossover thrash and are set to return with their first studio album in 20 years, In The Beginning, on June 19. Going off the two EPs they released at the tail-end of last year, expect it to be as ferocious as ever.
Bringing together doom, sludge, prog and general weirdness, OHHMS have been a staple of the noisier end of the UK underground since emerging over half a decade ago, and they’re set to return with new album Close through Holy Roar on June 26. The label says: “Whilst they’ve never shied away from nods to luminaries such as Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, OHHMS in 2020 are a far more multifaceted animal - with jarring Big Black-esque noise rock and 16 style sludge bludgeon creeping into their arsenal of sounds.” Hard to argue with that.
Featuring members of Oathbreaker, Amenra and YOB, you might expect Living Gate to bring a touch of doomy experimentalism to this new project. Instead it looks like something a little more primal. The members say they “got to be a band through a shared love of golden era death metal” and it looks like we’ll get a blast of just that on their Deathlust EP due on June 12 via Relapse. Lovely.
Alain Johannes was a founding member of alt.rockers Eleven but has also lent his talents to a number of luminaries including Queens Of The Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, PJ Harvey, Chris Cornell and Arctic Monkeys. Now he’s returning with his third solo album Hum, out July 31 on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings. Alain says of the album: “It was something I was striving for and needed to communicate. Coming out of a difficult period, I was liberated. I had lost people who were very close to me. I went through struggles with my own health. There’s a personal energy behind the way it was recorded and the feel of the songs. It’s a document of my life right now.”
King Buzzo & Trevor Dunn
Also on Ipecac, King Buzzo’s new acoustic solo album Gift Of Sacrifice sees hirsute Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne teaming up with lifelong friend and Mr Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn. Originally due out this month, the release has been pushed back to August 14. Trevor said of the record’s sound: “I’ve never heard this kind of production on an all acoustic record. It’s insanely fucking cool! I wouldn’t have thought to combine acoustic instruments with modular synths.” To which Buzz replied: “There’s probably lots of shit you wouldn’t have thought of.” Those guys.
Something heavy this way comes. Xibalba are set to return with Años En Infierno, their first album in five years. It’s described by the band as “more harsh, brutal, and creative in a metaphorical sense” than their previous work, but you can probably expect more of those monstrous hardcore grooves with a jagged death metal edge. The album is due out on May 29 through Southern Lord.
Canada’s doomy experimental duo Vile Creature debuted single You Who Has Never Slept on Kerrang! last month. Now they’re set to follow it up with fabulously titled full-length Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!. It’s out through Prosthetic Records on June 19 and promises more experimental instrumentation wrapped in low, slow doom metal riffs.
Oceans Of Slumber
Oceans Of Slumber made waves this month when they returned with a cover version of Abel Meeropol’s Strange Fruit and accompanying music video, filmed back in February in observation of Black History month. The U.S. progressive metallers have also just finished working on their new full-length album. We’re still waiting on details but you can expect the follow-up to 2018’s The Banished Heart to appear this year.
If you’re a fan of synth, loops, sludge and Italian soundtrack specialists Goblin (who were a huge influence on this duo), Zombi are back with the aptly titled 2020, out on July 17 – their first full-length album in five years. Drummer Anthony Paterra commented: “20 years ago I wouldn’t have expected us to still be writing music – but we’ve managed to stick together and continually improve our production and engineering techniques, which makes this whole process completely rewarding. As always we’ve tried to make a different album this time around, and we hope our fans will enjoy it as much as we do.”
Dream Nails’ highly-anticipated self-titled debut album has been pushed back from an initial April release date to September 4, via Alcopop! Records. We have had a bunch of singles, though, the last one being the fantastically fiery Kiss My Fist, which railed against homophobic violence. Guitarist Anya Pearson declared: “Our message to homophobes and transphobes is clear: ask us to kiss again, and we will eat your brain.”
They’ve been dubbed math-rock but Covet’s second album, the aptly titled Technicolor, promises to bring a widely expanded palette. Guitarist/vocalist Yvette Young said: “There are so many textures and types of songs that it’s a new direction for us. Some of them have a nostalgic feel. Others can be quite heavy. Technicolor traditionally is a technique used to colorize old film. In the same spirit, we’re taking these sounds and developing them. The word encapsulates what we set out to do.” Find out yourself when it emerges on June 5 through Triple Crown.
Make Them Suffer
Aussie metalcore crew Make Them Suffer are set to return with their fourth album How to Survive A Funeral, due out on Rise on July 24. They presaged it with the rather ripping single Erase Me and their label says the album will see “inspiration from their past and present sounds twisted together”.
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin
Mix the bass-led doom of Bell Witch with the dark folk of Aerial Ruin and it seems likely that you’ll end up with something suitably bewitching. Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin has collaborated with the doom duo before, but new album Stygian Bough Volume 1 is a full-on mind-meld. You can find out for yourself how well it works when it hits on June 26 via Profound Lore.
London-based solo artist A.A. Williams has been making waves with her darkly lustrous and layered songwriting. An EP tested the waters last year and her debut full-length Forever Blue follows on July 3 through Bella Union, with a guest appearance from Cult Of Luna’s Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg. For now you can get a taste through the haunting new single Melt, or check out her stunning cover of the Deftones’ Be Quiet And Drive as part of her Songs From Isolation video project.
Genre-fluid post-metallers Inter Arma pay tribute to some of their influences on the new covers album Garbers Days Revisited. The title references the band’s former practice space (and a certain Metallica EP of course) and features covers of artists including Nine Inch Nails, Prince, Cro-Mags and Neil Young. It’s due out on July 10 via Relapse.
Napalm Death still count as underground, right? The grindcore gods released the Logic Ravaged By Brute Force EP at the start of the year and have been hard at work on the follow-up to 2015’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat. Frontman Barney Greenway told J. Vuorela Interviews in February that the new album was “almost finished” but still needed to be mastered. Speaking to Metal Mad TV he said that a recurring theme on the album was ‘the other’. Explaining further, he revealed: “One good example of people being treated as the other is this whole thing about immigrants. Not everybody, but there is a certain percentage of the population that looks at them as something different – like, not human, almost. I wanted to challenge that way of thinking.”
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