Top 10 Music for 2020

Super Special, 10th Anniversary Surprise Top 10 List!!!

If there’s anything that can possibly lift one’s spirits during the shit show that was 2020, it’s music (and beer). This here’s my yearly rundown of the top 10 new music I thought was worth listening to. As usual, it doesn’t necessarily mean NEW as in just released, just “new” to me.

Of course, 2020 was a different beast as I spent much more time at home and not out socializing or working my part-time beertending gig. This left plenty of time to explore Youtube as a resource for new music, and particularly, “reaction videos”. Mind you, I don’t watch the Twitch-type accounts with attention whores just looking to gain followers by overreacting to stuff. With 22+ years in marketing, this is way too transparent to me. Not to mention annoying.

I seek out people with professional skills related to the music I’m watching them react to – people who might know something and that I can learn from. Opera singers and voice coaches are a particular favorite, especially when they’re experiencing something for the first time that I’ve listened to for decades. A great example is Queensryche’s live version of Take Hold of the Flame, Tokyo ’84. Every single opera singer and voice coach hearing Jeoff Tate for the first time is blown away. Who knew Metal had it so good? We did!

I did find some great new stuff by following this particular rabbit hole and can’t wait for more. but until then, here’s the 2020 list of Randy’s Top 10 New Music.


Strapping Young Lad

There are a few watershed moments in my music experiencing history. Moments when you hear something and you knew this was important. In 1988, my Army bud, Scott Wilczek introduced me to a band called Ministry, the album was Twitch. Strange, new wave, raw garage production, and unusual vocals. But it wasn’t that album that blew my mind, it was the followup, The Land of Rape and Honey. The intensity of the drums, the heavily distorted guitars, and the perpetual hoarse scream-style vocals of Al Jourgensen galloped an intense emotion of unbridled anger. Pure rage to a beat. I was enrapt. Their follow up The Mind is aTerrible Thing to Taste was like an Empire Strikes Back level sequel.

Imagine my disbelief when this year I found a band that took everything Ministry did and turned it up to Eleven (or twelve!). And somehow I missed it! What the hell was I doing from 1994 to 2006?

I’ve peripherally known about Townsend from his work with the Devin Townsend Project thinking it’s kinda cheesy power metal. So I start digging (rabbit hole syndrome) and find out he was in a previous band called Strapping Young Lad. OK, let’s hit up Youtube. First up is a song called Detox. Holy fuck. I was completely sold on anything they wanted to sell me musically from that moment on. I was transported back to that day in the barracks in Germany with my friend, his Bose speakers, and Ministry.

You wouldn’t know to look at him today, but Devon Townsend was once one of the angriest and scariest looking motherfuckers in thrash/speed/industrial metal. Just watch the live concert at the Download 2006 show in Canada. Not only is he incredibly talented, he’s incredibly funny and a consummate performer, which comes off a lot less scary nowadays.

Without further ado, here’s something everyone should experience at least once in their life: Strapping Young Lad.

Detox

SYL

p.s. the little boy telling the story at the beginning is Devvy at age 3

Relentless


Lovebites

I’ve been listening to Japanese metal for a few years now. While Babymetal’s 2014 smash Gimme Chocolate (featured on this list in 2015) was a lot of thrashin’ fun, but the kawia (cute) aspect made it a little uncomfortable at first. You had to laugh at it until you realized it absolutely rocked!. This made me start paying attention to the Japanese metal scene, particularly female-led or all female bands. Band-Maid (featured in 2018 and again this year) and Dollsboxx (featured in 2018 as well) were just the start of the all female metal band rabbit hole that led me to the next band.

At first blush, Lovebites sounds like either like a cheesy kawai band name or a Judas Priest song. While the band members do wear frilly dresses and high heels while performing live, these ladies shred like the biggest names of 80’s heavy metal and power metal. Influenced by Metallica, Slayer, Judas Priest, Pantera, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, etc. It’s all in there.

The bassist, Miho, is the leader of the band and writes a majority of their work. Drummer, Haruna, is a beast and might even give Gene Hogland a run for his money. The twin lead guitars of Midori and Miyako, are perfect doppelgängers of the guitar parings of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden (Think K.K> Downing and Kirk Hammet). Asami’s vocals are powerful and Bruce Dickinson in nature, takes awhile to get used to as she still follows the typical Japanese inflections.

Side note: They write/sing all of their lyrics in English because they WANT to be like the mental bands that influenced them 😉

Thunder Vengance (LIVE)

Break the wall / Shadowmaker / Piano etude (LIVE)

ps: if you’re a fellow thrasher and can’t get into this, we can’t be friends.


The HU/Lizzy Hale – Song of Women

This song makes me cry nearly every time I hear it. It’s just… so… beautiful.

I’ve featured both The Hu, and Halestorm (Lizzy’s band) in previous years top 10 lists, and deservedly so. The Hu’s folk metal Mongolian throat singing is amazing and unique enough as it is, but contrasted with the passion, ferocity, and tenderness that Lizzy Hale can bring forth…. Such pure emotion and power.

p.s. That whistling sound at the end isn’t through pursed lips – it’s throated harmonics.


Feuerschwantz

I love a band that has talent, sounds great, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Feuerschwantz fits that bill to a T. Germanic, medieval, viking-style metal. This is the band that closes the Renaissance Festival overflowing with warm beer and mead.

And I don’t care if I understand the lyrics, everything else is great.

Schubsetanz (it’s about moshing)

Ding (cover of Seeed song – it’s about cheating)


Nightwish

This is a band that I was “formally” introduced via the reaction video rabbit hole on Youtube. I’d heard of the band and knew they were a Finnish, symphonic metal band. I’ve indulged in a few that match the criteria but they just seemed to me like “We’ve got an operatic singer!” and not much else. This is not the case with Nightwish.

I know Floor Jansen is not the original singer (even for this song) but I’m ok with that. Floor has a breadth of voice and depth of emotion that is a perfect match for operatic metal. She also, at 6’, has the commanding stage presence of a Viking Queen with complete adoration of, and for, her subjects.

In one word: Epic.

Ghost Love Score

Greatest Show on Earth


Lucius – Born Again Teen

Two things: drums and the Kate Bush style vocals. That’s it.

Picked this one up on a brew day at Bad Habit brewing with Salmi while making my Red Beeron red IPA. Not only a fun, trippy song, but a great memory attached to it.


Priest

The Pit

I like me some dark, moody synth trance dance. I don’t dance to it, but I will bounce and along 😉


Jinjer – Pisces

I’m not a huge fan of growlcore music as most of it becomes intelligible (though I do rather enjoy the Butcher Babies, featured here in 2017). Tatiana’s regular voice is beautiful, lilting, and has incredible power – and you can understand the lyrics when she does do her “thing”. I bumped into her clicking through the “reaction videos” circuit on Youtube and was blown away by her voice and her performance.

Angel or demon? Why not both?


Band-Maid

I featured this band three years ago and haven’t regretted it at all. Super technically proficient and very talented high energy rock. Band-Maid is led by rhythm guitarist/vocalist, Miku. Believe it or not, she got the inspiration for the bands name and aesthetic while working at a Japanese maid cafe (apparently there are such things – it’s Japan!).

There are a few differences I’ve noticed about the Japanese approach music creation, egos, and live performances, both as performers and audiences. Not just Band-Maid, but most of the bands I’ve listened to and watched always find time to spotlight each fo the performers. You can usually hear each instrument as well, nothing is faded back and only featuring, say, guitars. Listen to most Van Halen pieces and you’ll get what I mean; the drums, and bass are there to support the guitar…

Japanese audiences are very reserved compared to the US crowds. Between all of the live concert footage for Band-Maid. Lovebites, Aldious, Bridear, Babymetal, Unlucky Morpheous, or Cyntia; not one single mosh pit or circle pit. There’s a few songs where I look up and expect to see the swirling masses near the front of the stage, thrashing, spinning, and jamming… but no. Just hands in the air, pumping fists, and singing along.

I can’t wait for this covid shit to be over because I seriously want to start attending these bands when they make their overseas tours.

Oh, and the worlds happiest drummer!!! (and a complete beast)

Different

Domination

Onset – and if you didn’t need any more proof of their technical prowess…


Yello

Yeah, it’s nonsense. But it’s fun nonsense!

Yello has always been an anomaly when it comes to music. Swiss, electronic, tropical lounge masters Boris Blank and Dieter Meier (yes, their real names) put out another fun, nonsensical, bouncy, and atmospheric album. Point has the genetic pattern of the last 40 years of material. Each song can be pinpointed to somewhere else along their timeline.

And yes, they’re the “Oh Yeah” guys of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame.

Waba Duba

Out of Sight

Hot Pan