In a year turned entirely upside-down by the global pandemic, music still found a way to be awesome and provide respite for our weary souls. For some reason, even-numbered years recently have not had any all-time pantheon-level releases, while odd years have always had one or two albums that tower above the rest; that trend persists here, as this year’s best material—while excellent—doesn’t hit my threshold for glory. If we did numerical ratings here, I would say that 95% and up is that standard, and I don’t think anything from 2020 exceeded about a 92%. But don’t misunderstand; while there’s no Everest, there are still plenty of high peaks in a massive mountain range of music! And in particular, as always, there’s a lot of underrated stuff that has gotten overlooked by the more mainstream metal review outlets.
One monumental change for me in this year’s list: I have abandoned strict sequential rankings. Those who know me know that I value that format to a fault; this year, I simply couldn’t muster the energy. Imposing that level of granular classification on this crop of albums feels arbitrary and unnecessary. So instead, I’m going to present my rankings in broader tiers, spending a little more time writing about the higher-tier releases, narrowing to a top tier where three albums will share the award for Albums of the Year. Also, these are not going to be the best and most insightful reviews you’ve ever read. Again, I couldn’t muster the energy to go track-by-track and dive into details except for in a few cases where specific moments were worth highlighting. I didn’t analyze these albums, but I listened to them, and in Peter Gabriel’s immortal words as Genesis frontman, “I know what I like” (that’s not going to be this article’s only Peter Gabriel reference. Stay tuned.)
Tier 5: Worth a Listen, but Not Much to Say
End – Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face (grindcore)
Lûs – Müde heim (zu den Sternen) (post-black/dsbm)
Ainsoph – Ω – Ⅴ (blackgaze)
Druon Antigon – Desonstijging (post-black/electronic)
Old Growth – Mossweaver (post-black)
Ketoret – Ketoret (post-black)
Caelestra – Black Widow Nebula (post-black)
Yaeth – MMXX (microtonal black metal)
Eoront – Gods Have No Name (black metal)
Aara – Εν έργο είναι (En érgo eínai) (black metal)
0 – Entity (black metal)
Shaidar Logoth – Chapter Ⅲ: The Void God (black metal)
Drouth – Excerpts from a Dread Liturgy (black metal)
Aodon – 11069 (black metal)
Déluge – Aegō templō (blackened hardcore)
Afsky – Ofte jeg drømmer mig død (prog black)
Enslaved – Utgard (prog black)
Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies (avant-garde black)
Fire-Toolz – Rainbow Bridge (vaporwave/black metal)
Fliege – The Invisible Seam (experimental black)
Golden Ashes – In the Lugubrious Silence of Eternal Night (black metal)
Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin kynsi (psych black)
Asēitās – False Peace (prog death)
Autocatalytica – Powerclashing Maximalism (prog death)
Countless Skies – Glow (prog death)
Sweven – The Eternal Resonance (prog death)
Xenobiotic – Mordrake (prog death)
Haken – Virus (prog metal)
Atavist – Ⅲ: Absolution (doom metal)
Mountaineer – Bloodletting (post-metal)
Respire – Black Line (screamo/post-hardcore)
Soft Kill – Dead Kids, RIP City (darkwave)
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – Worlds Within (classical/chamber)
Brendan Byrnes – Realism (microtonal pop)
Poppy – I Disagree (pop/metal)
Tier 4: Interesting Enough to Raise an Eyebrow For
Serpent Column – Endless Detainment (black metal)
Serpent Column – Κᾰ́θοδος (Káthodos) (black metal)
Decoherence – Unitarity (black metal)
Ôros Kaù – Imperiī templum Ariēs (black metal)
Bâ’a – Deus quī nōn mentītur (black metal)
Light Dweller – Apparition (black metal)
Seven Chains – Thus She Speaks, the Spiraling Maranatha (avant-garde black)
Victory over the Sun – A Tessitura of Transfiguration (experimental black)
As I told a friend this year, I love albums that hate you. This sentiment covers both Serpent Column releases (vicious), Decoherence (reminiscent of the best eras of Blut aus Nord), and Ôros Kaù (borderline war metal, wrapped in thickly oppressive production). Bâ’a are a bit less hateful, a very refined take on a familiar French black metal approach. Light Dweller’s album balances that intensity with brilliant piano, hitting its best strides when both sides come together (as toward the end of opener “Incorporeal Rebirth”).
Seven Chains blends avant-garde black with modernized old-school death (think Mitochondrion meets Skáphe) and has absolutely gigantic potential as a band capable of making a lasting artistic statement; there are not many bands that have the audacity to pull the compositional stunt they do at the 2:24 mark of their album opener. But ultimately I wanted the album to be about 20% better, more creative, more suffused with ideas than it was; I’ll be holding my breath for a follow-up.
Victory over the Sun leads a very prestigious group of trans women making innovative metal, with Liturgy and Fire-Toolz already acknowledged above. A Tessitura of Transfiguration could benefit from a little more production polish, but the compositional creativity is top-tier. The freakout in the middle of “Half-Silvered Mirror” is one of those perfect moments that’ll stick with me beyond this year.
Fellwarden – Wreathed in Mourncloud (post-black)
If you were a little disappointed with Fen’s last album because it veered too far afield from the black part of their post-black style, Fellwarden features two-thirds of the band providing the necessary corrective. It’s much more straightforward and less proggy than peak Fen, so it doesn’t totally scratch the itch, but it’s more than adequate atmospheric black metal.
Jonathan Fraser – Heaven Is at a Distance (post-black)
Vast in ambition and crisp in execution, Jonathan Fraser stamped his mark on 2020 with ninety achingly beautiful minutes of largely instrumental post-black goodness. Intertwined guitar melodies and thundering drums anchor some tracks, while more meandering pieces also feature richly curated ambient sections. It perhaps doesn’t quite earn its exhaustive runtime with a plethora of creative ideas, but it’s pleasant melancholy mood music throughout, tinged with palpable currents of Fraser’s year-and-a-half emotional struggle following his mother’s passing.
Forlesen – Hierophant Violent (doom metal)
Not for the impatient, Forlesen presents two huge slabs of especially slow-burning atmospheric doom. Opener “Following Light” takes nearly eight minutes before anything of rhythmic substance emerges, with another minute and a half before ethereal vocals drift in, echoing Kelly Schilling in some of Dreadnought’s quieter and eerier passages. By the eleven-minute mark, we’ve got something resembling full-blown music, with drums, guitars, and organ carving a harrowing sonic portrait. Fans of brooding, long-form metallic prose like Dreadnought, Subrosa and Soldat Hans will find much to adore here.
Atlases – Woe Portrait (post-metal)
A perfect blend of modern, heavy, sludgy post-metal with classic Dark Tranquillityesque electronic elements. Harsh and clean vocals accentuate the material in turns. Immense production value richly enhances the ambient sections while giving a crushing heft to the crunchy death-doom riffs.
Cryptic Shift – Visitations from Enceladus (prog death)
Look, you’re not going to release a progressive death metal album with a twenty-six-minute opening track and not land on my year-end praise list. Cryptic Shift splits the difference between Blood Incantation and Vektor and weaves gigantic, technically proficient, proggy tapestries. And despite my adoration of long epics, I have to confess that the album’s back half, with three shorter songs, features stronger material than its massive opener.
Fuck the Facts – Pleine Noirceur (grind/post-hardcore)
Much like another band we’ll get to later, FTF expanded their sound beyond the simple confines of grind, incorporating sludge, screamo, and post-hardcore into a dynamic and robust new experience. The balance is not always perfectly calibrated; there’s still a lot of room for growth, expansion and creativity to be built on this scaffolding, but the existing structure is still exciting to behold.
Protest the Hero – Palimpsest (prog/post-hardcore)
A band I haven’t paid much attention to since their landmark debut returns with a vengeance here. Palimpsest finally lives up to the band’s virtuosic musical potential, balancing instrumental technicality with a catchy and powerful vocal performance. The progressive aspects are tastefully executed, restrained enough to avoid accusations of “cheese” or “wankery”, and the lyrics present a stark yet optimistic look at social issues both modern and historical.
Loathe – I Let It In and It Took Everything (post-Deftones)
The surface comparisons to Deftones are easy to make, easy to hear, and done to death. But there’s an even deeper parallel. Many Deftones listeners—including myself—became aware of the group when their hit song “Change (in the House of Flies)” hit MTV2 airwaves in May 2000. Thousands of people bought the album White Pony expecting more of Chino Moreno’s smooth and emotive vocal stylings over heavy melodic rhythm guitars, and were shocked to uncover far more aggressive tracks mixed in, like gritty opener “Feiticeira”, “Street Carp”, and above all the borderline-metalcore “Elite”. In 2020, people who had never heard of Loathe probably first checked out their radio-friendly, two-chord-motif, all-clean-vocal “Two-Way Mirror”. But when you let them in to take everything, you discover an album comprising almost entirely modern-day Elites; brutally heavy nu-deathcore/djent cloaked in harsh screams and abrasive guitar tone. There is balance to be found, with a few other tracks carrying the approachability of “Two-Way Mirror”, but the unabashed heaviness they contrast them with is a system shock. Both sides of the spectrum are executed brilliantly, so if you enjoy these seemingly disparate styles, this album is highly engaging and rewarding.
Cassowary – Cassowary (neo-soul/jazz)
Jamiroquai, Thundercat, and Tyler, the Creator walk into a bar; out comes Cassowary with gorgeous, harmonically dense synth-and-bass driven jazz-funk. Classic acid, modern r&b, lo-fi hip hop and West Coast cool jazz dance around each other in inextricable entanglement.
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia (pop/funk)
Prizm – All Night (pop/synthwave)
Kylie Minogue – Disco (pop)
An excellent year for female-fronted pop, including records from Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli ⅩⅭⅩ and Lady Gaga that didn’t quite make the cutoff above but were nevertheless mostly enjoyable. Dua Lipa took a massive step forward with her deeper appropriation of disco-funk and Europop sounds, perfectly balancing retro and modern techniques on the aptly named Future Nostalgia. Prizm, pairing female vocalists Krisluv and Danni James, takes the modern synthwave/outrun musical style (which is typically instrumental) and adds richly layered pop vocals throughout for a catchy and addictive collection of bangers. But above all towers the remarkable fifteenth full-length album from 52-year-old Australian pop goddess Kylie Minogue. Redeeming her late career after a pretty big misstep with 2018’s twangy “Golden”, “Disco” lives up to its ambitious title by delivering nonstop quality, some of the finest and most consistent jams of her career.
Tier 3: The Ones that Linger in Your Playlist
Neptunian Maximalism – Éons (experimental avant-garde black/doom/drone)
Impossible to capture in writing, Éons draws from avant-garde, free jazz, drone, and metal universes to craft a truly maximalist sonic tour-de-force. Ritualistic and chaotic percussion surrounded by waves of dissonant synth and saxophone textures completely absorb the listener for two full hours. Music that will transport you… somewhere, although it might be hard to get back home afterward.
Esoctrilihum – Eternity of Shaog (avant-garde black)
This remarkably prolific French solo project never fully clicked for me until this, its fifth album in the past four years. There is a polish and a compositional clarity to Eternity of Shaog that makes it Esoctrilihum’s most refined and immediately accessible release; perhaps an odd characterization of a furious, hour-long, intense psychedelic-occult black/death metal album. Nowhere else will you find devilish violin arpeggios arcing over thunderous double bass and an abrasive surge of guitars. All the instrumentation is incredibly tight for a one-man act.
Wyrmwoods – Gamma (avant-garde black)
Just a jaw-droppingly bizarre and unique album. On one hand, it’s one of the few things that’s ever been comparable to Erraunt’s masterful EP The Portent in its use of a jangly almost-clean distortion tone. On the other, its abrasive vocals, pervasive synthesizers, and almost playful melodic motifs leave listeners scratching their heads as to the band’s overall mission. But a weird year calls for weird music, and this takes the cake in 2020.
IER – 妖怪 (Yōkai) (prog black/death/dsbm)
Equally laudable for its ambition in both quality and quantity, this one-man Argentinian project presents listeners with nearly two hours of harsh, aggressive black/death metal with influences ranging from Japanese art rock to power electronics. It’s impossible to predict what comes next, with thundering walls of double bass and blasts layered with acoustic guitar, clean vocals, melodeathesque solos, samples, and more. It’s a bleak and weighty voyage, but worth taking.
Kall – Brand (prog black)
Of all the high-quality stuff in this tier, this is one of the closest to getting bumped up a notch. This Swedish group, with roots in depressive black-rock legends Lifelover, goes a lot of different places on their sophomore album Brand. The opening track sets the tone with mid-tempo, groovy and proggy black metal, not dissimilar to Enslaved’s weird early 2000s-era material. The bass stands out most commendably, very active and animated beneath the grungy rhythm guitar lines. The second and third tracks are a bit slower and more measured, with evocative saxophone closing out “Fervour” and a positively Silverchairesque major key progression driving “Eld” before it shifts to an accordion-and-sax outro. Seventeen-minute “Fukta din aska” is the album’s towering highlight, showcasing each of the band’s facets at their sharpest and clearest. The epic midsection (reprised at the end) with wild sax contorting over blast beats is a pristine example of how to meld the worlds of metal and jazz fluidly.
Gargoyl – Gargoyl (prog black)
If you want to see a band doing something different, every aspect of Gargoyl is almost impossible to draw accurate parallels to. Angular and unexpected guitar work frames a theatrical and dramatic vocal performance for a sort of grungy dissodeath final product.
Hail Spirit Noir – Eden in Reverse (prog black)
This album absolutely nails a sweet spot for me, experimental metal with a heavy dose of psychedelic synth. Hail Spirit Noir incorporate those retro textures without veering into cheesy synthwave territory; Pink Floyd is too lofty a comparison, but imagine a more reined-in, rock-oriented twist on Kayo Dot’s Coffins on Io with some Oranssi Pazuzu-lite riffs sprinkled throughout and you’re onto something. Infectious keyboard and vocal melodies are juxtaposed with discordant guitar and a proggy rhythm section, and the result is hypnotic and intoxicating.
Atramentus – Stygian (doom metal)
Funeral doom done very right, with towering organ backdrop, layers of cacophonous guttural vocals, and molasses-slow down-tuned riffs. A dreary journey into the lowest bowels of metal’s catacombs.
Dahlian – Moonlit (prog death)
Progressive death metal tried some stuff in 2020, and a lot of it didn’t work. Dahlian’s outstanding Moonlit absolutely did. Staying very close to the “death” side of the genre, Dahlian offers expansive and intricate compositions that reveal a multifaceted and dynamic sound peppered with acoustic tinges and crafty lead guitar work.
Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear (prog/post-metal)
An early AOTY contender, Huntsmen smoothly incorporate folk and Americana into a Mastodon/Baronessesque prog-sludge framework, weighty with complex time signatures and multilayered vocals for rhythmic intrigue and beautifully intricate guitar work. Their ability to juxtapose crushingly heavy sludge parts and clean, lilting country vibes within the same song is immaculate, and with stoner and psychedelic elements occasionally enhancing the sound, there is a tremendous amount to love in this 78-minute romp.
Elder – Omens (prog rock)
Elder’s third album showcases the extremely rare phenomenon of a band improving their sound by getting less heavy. Their previous straddling between the worlds of proggy stoner metal and psychedelic rock never quite lived up to the hype for me, but on Omens they shed the pretence of metal for a more fully prog-rock dynamic and it lands perfectly in the sweet spot. Their refined sound is able to more expansively explore its terrain without the trappings of forced heavy dynamics, and as a result every song on this album breathes with vivacious splendour.
Ozric Tentacles – Space for the Earth (psych rock/electronic)
If you’re already familiar with the œuvre of the Ozrics, there isn’t a whole lot of new ground being broken here; just an extremely solid batch of new material from the psychedelic pioneers new venturing into their fifth decade of recorded output. The album fuses electronic, dub, jam rock, and world music with impossibly sequenced waves of synth and bass complemented by free-floating acoustic and woodwind elements. Tracks vary from extremely chill and laid back to energetic romps, twisting and turning mellifluously and unpredictably along the way. There’s even a thematic reference or two to previous albums! Everything that has made this band a perfectly smooth listen since their inception resurfaces in spades, proving they haven’t lost a step on their shamanic journey to musical Shangri-La.
Tier 2: The Ones You Show to Friends Immediately
Xazraug – Unsympathetic Empyrean (black metal)
If you’re like me—first of all, what the heck is wrong with you?—but more importantly, you pine for the early days of Krallice, the first three albums, which were dominated by the artistic brilliance of Mick Barr and Colin Marston, each of whom is capable of manifesting aural dissertations worthy of musical doctorates, but whose synergy together produced some of the finest black metal ever created prior to their descent into staleness and subsequent staleness-combating experimentation. With Xazraug, that Ph.D.-level genius of Marston is back at work, crafting five long-form chapters of mesmerizing black metal riffs with sparse, haunting vocals. This has all the hooks and ear worms that make Marston’s guitar work sublime, and the execution and structure allows them to breathe and flow with organic, pulsating vivacity.
Patrons of the Rotting Gate – Bathed in Ash (prog black)
Seven years after jaw-dropping debut, The Rose Coil, (and five years after I recorded my guest vocal spot for track 4), UK one-man wrecking crew Andrew Millar has graced us with the second Patrons of the Rotting Gate album. Millar deals in the Deathspell Omega/Gorguts school of dissonant progressive metal, displaying structural mastery by using repeated rhythmic and melodic motives across the album’s different tracks. Breakneck guitar calisthenics contort around tightly programmed blast patterns that start and stop on a dime as vocals scrape out philosophical virulence. Yes, full disclosure, I’m on one of those songs; but I’m not raking in royalties here. This album deserves immense attention, and not because of me. I know that there’s more material in the pipeline; let’s hope it doesn’t take another seven years to see the light of day.
Dessiderium – Shadow Burn (prog black)
The word I keep coming back to when I listen to Shadow Burn is “impossible”. It seems impossible to craft an album that is so busy and yet so catchy, so intricately woven with contrasting harmonies spread across guitars and keyboards, and then even more impossible that such a masterpiece was laid to tape by one person. Yet with Dessiderium, Alex Haddad has poured out such a deluge of musical creativity and emotional rawness that the resulting album defies its own impossibility. Adding to the pile of albums that transcended the “limitation” of programmed drums, Shadow Burn is prog-black maximalism, suffused with lightning-fast riffs and bombastic melodies, with an agonizing lyrical journey through the depths of grief at the loss of a lover who died at age 23, something deeply familiar to me as a fellow solo artist who has lived (and composed) through a similar tragedy.
Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville (black/disso-death)
After conquering the world of jazz-infused disso-death with 2018’s outstanding Vile Luxury, Imperial Triumphant eschewed the temptation to follow in their own footsteps, boldly shed their brass quintet, and delivered a stark and harrowing statement that they remain the masters of the style even as a bare trio. Alphaville continues to pick at the grimy scabs of society’s underbelly, but does so with cacophonous guitar techniques, assertive bass, and mechanically precise yet jazz-inflected drumming along with occasional deviant bursts of alternative percussion for variety. Other instruments outside this core are deployed rarely, with choral vocals and synthesizer making infrequent yet impactful cameos.
Intercepting Pattern – The Encounter (prog death/jazz)
The number of bands who truly blend jazz and metal at a fundamental, compositional level (e.g. more than “metal with a saxophone solo”) is smaller than you might imagine. Joining the ranks of Merkabah and Cleric is this remarkable project, whose thirty-minute single-track “The Encounter” recalls such monolithic creativity as Meshuggah’s historic I EP. When I first heard this, I listened to it four times back-to-back, the rare mark of music that simultaneously creates and fills a unique void in one’s listening experience. The textural foundation lies in old-school djent (closer to Meshuggah themselves than to their myriad derivatives), but the vast scope and direction of the song unfolds like a balletic jazz improvisation. While I’d always prefer greater length in my releases, this is as pristine a half-hour of music as anything released in 2020, and its shortness and density makes it eminently re-listenable.
Névoa – Towards Belief (post-black)
This album took all of five seconds to land in my top ten. The listener is immediately hit with murky guitar and vibrant sax over a bed of blast beats, and sometimes that’s all you need to hear. That bombastic opening holds a lot of promise that the remainder of the album doesn’t quite live up to, which keeps this outstanding record in tier 2; but what the band does do includes genuinely engaging noir jazz and dark post-rock contrasted with sludgy post-metal with a sprinkling of black metal elements. A Kayo Dot comparison is warranted, though the compositions never veer far enough into the avant-garde to truly stand alongside such a flag-bearer; more often it’s Neurosis-meets-Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble.
Tier 1: Excelling beyond Expectations
Olhava – Ladoga (atmoblack)
Around the turn of the millennium, spurred by forward-thinking bands like Weakling, a novel strain of black metal emerged from the Pacific Northwest. Bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Skagos, Ash Borer and others blended eco-spiritual lyrics with dense atmospheres sculpted from reverb-soaked tremolo picking and blast beats, creating what is denoted “Cascadian black metal”, or more broadly “atmospheric black metal” or “atmoblack”. Yet here in 2020, the style finds itself perfected by a Russian duo. Olhava picks up the torch of one particular member of that Cascadian cohort, Fauna, whose long and winding albums often juxtaposed nature soundscapes with black metal counterparts. Ladoga alternates similarly between these two poles, with odd-numbered tracks named “Ageless River” Ⅰ to Ⅴ providing the sonic respite from the frenetic, droning pulsations of the metallic even tracks. The structure is perfect, and the production and composition match this perfection, with crisp drumming and immersive waves of riffs swallowing the listener for a gorgeous seventy-one minutes of runtime. The album sticks to its theme and never veers into any cheesy gimmicks; there’s no jazz saxophone to be found, no soaring clean vocals, no random banjo interlude. Those things all have their place, but this album eschews them for a lean, polished experience. Hands down the best and most under-appreciated gem in a very good year for black metal.
Wake – Devouring Ruin (grind/prog death)
So a grindcore band wakes (lol) up one morning and thinks… what if we made a progressive death metal record? And thus was Devouring Ruin born, and holy cow did they knock it out of the park. While this doesn’t quite reach the towering conceptual heights of last year’s dominating Warforged opus, Wake presents a plethora of dynamic and extreme compositions, peppered with interludes and unabashedly venturing into long-form territory. Impressively for where they come from, the album’s best song is its longest, “Torchbearer”, with a spectacular dissonant recurring motif undergirding the relentless riffage. All of the fully fleshed-out songs balance the atmo-death approach of bands like Fallujah and Rivers of Nihil with the fast-tempo, finely honed churl of grind, and crisp production accentuates this hybrid writing style with exceptional punch. Add a masterpiece of cover art as the icing on top and you’ve got an unimpeachable winner for best extreme metal performance of the year. (They followed this up with another EP, Confluence containing another twenty-three minutes of exceptional material! How‽)
Kyros – Celexa Dreams (prog metal/power pop)
After effusively praising eight consecutive black (or black-adjacent) albums as the year’s finest, what better way to close out this list than with a modernized take on ‘80s post-prog power-pop? Celexa Dreams is a masterfully composed and expertly produced synthesis of the avant-pop of Peter Gabriel (I told you!), ‘80s soft rock, and ‘90s jazz fusion. Simultaneously retro and immediate, Celexa Dreams covers terrain from chilled-out slow jams to intense prog-metal instrumental showcases to an explosive fourteen-minute epic (sequenced as the third track in the album!) The one-two punch of “In Motion” and “Rumour” to start the album is classic prog-pop of the absolute highest calibre, with punchy percussion layers, funky bass, and impeccably timed interjections of synth and pad hits, along with a cameo of smooth saxophone. The producer on this album deserves accreditation as high as any of the extraordinarily talented band members and songwriters, because every song is laden with finesse and panache that can only come in the editing room. That’s one of the major details that separates this album from comparable peers like Vola and Voyager. Another is the band’s immersive commitment to the retro aesthetic; despite the occasional forays into crushing heaviness, there is a tangible sense that this album truly lives in its past inspirations rather than simply appropriating pieces of them and bringing them forward into the present. Gun to my head, if you forced me to pick a single Album of the Year, it would have to be this one.
Tier VG: Video Games
Aarrohtl, BeefyUncle, Octopi, Thegur90, Tortoise, and Zachary Talis – Celeste Spring Collab
Two quick more-than-honourable mentions deserve a place here, because—for different reasons—they merit discussion among the year’s best music releases. The exceptional platformer Celeste has developed a huge community of casual players, speedrunners, and modders. The modding community put together a gigantic collaborative project called the Spring Collab despite the fact that it didn’t come out until September. It was more than worth the wait, with some eighty custom levels across varying difficulties created by a team of nearly a hundred contributors. Six of those contributors handled the composition of several original songs for the new levels, and many of these tracks were released in two albums on Bandcamp. In addition to being absolute bangers, the tracks are worth your financial attention as 70% of the proceeds go to Trans Lifeline. Play this game, download the mods, and get these awesome songs.
植松伸夫 (Uematsu Nobuo), 牧野忠義 (Makino Tadayoshi), 島翔太朗 (Shima Shōtarō), 鈴木克崇 (Suzuki Yoshitaka), 鈴木光人 (Suzuki Mitsuhito), 浜渦正志 (Hamauzu Masashi), 西木康智 (Nishiki Yasunori), and 中村佳紀 (Nakamura Yoshinori) – Final Fantasy Ⅶ Remake Original Soundtrack
We never thought it would happen. Even after its announcement, the long-awaited remake went into a sort of hibernation for years, leaving fans skeptical about the quality of the eventual release. Finally, in 2020, the first massive part of the complete reconstruction of the greatest video game ever made saw the light of day, and with it came a seven-disc original soundtrack, far and away the largest for any Final Fantasy title (not counting MMOs-plus-expansions together). Primarily led by 浜渦正志 (Hamauzu Masashi), the Square Enix music team had the virtually impossible task of taking some of the most iconic and beloved tracks from the greatest game composer ever, 植松伸夫 (Uematsu Nobuo), and altering them to fit modern gaming aesthetics and musical styles while maintaining their integrity as untouchably historic works of art. And… wow. Let me quote the world’s greatest game reviewer, Tim Rogers, from his three-hour review of the game: “[Hamauzu] and his comrades didn’t just compose remixes of Nobuo Uematsu. They loved Nobuo Uematsu’s music; in public. They wined and dined that music down to every scrupulous detail imaginable.” It’s true. Often, the same original-game base track shows up in a couple of different variations in the new game. Jukeboxes throughout the city of Midgar allow you to play CD singles you can buy in-game that contain lo-fi, swing, or other genre-bent homages to old-school Final Fantasy Ⅶ tracks. Boss fights thunder and roil with lively orchestration. Junkyard night walks are met with tasteful, sparkly new musical content. Suspicious locales teem with anxious ambiance. It is hard to believe that, after all this time, Square Enix got the Remake right; but they did. And the biggest way in which they did was through its music.