- Isenmor – ‘Shieldbrother’
I don’t think there has been a year where this unanimous in giving points. Five of the seven voting team-members gave this album the maximum of 10 points. ‘Shieldbrother’ received a total of no less then 64 points. No doubt who won the competition this year. The crowdfunding was already suggesting right from the start, people had high expectations from Isenmor. And the band really mad it up to this expectations. A killer first full length.
“It’s probably too early to call this a “classic” for the ages but it really has that feel of an album you have listened to hundreds of times in your life and always go back to. I love the mix/sound especially the vocals and violins being front and center but never drowning out all of the other incredible things going on. While I thought Poland’s Windmill had debut of the year wrapped up, “Shieldbrother” in one fell swoop has taken that spot over along with a very high position in the overall top albums of 2020 for me….move over Finntroll, Zmey Gorynich and Amiensus. What is “American” folk metal? Raise the stars and stripes as this album is probably one of the finest examples to date and one that will stand the test of time….amazing album.”
2. Windmill – ‘Dance of Fire and Freedom’
This release is almost a year old, but what an impression it made. 50 points was enough for a well deserved 2nd place. The five voting members which gave their full points to this year’s number one, where all five of the opinion Windmill created the second of third best album of this year.
“Folk instrumentation from what I hear is mandolin and/or bouzouki, mouth harp and whistle/flute which are all performed at various at need be parts of the songs. Digging a little deeper, the band members (Dominik on bass/vocals, Bartek on guitar, Marysia on drums and multi-instrumentalist Jan Kowalski) are all 20 years old and under…what? Putting out this quality of a release so young…? I wish I could have been so focused 30+ years ago. They also had a slew of guest appearances on here…not going to list them but they all helped to create a fine finishing touch to the album. If I had one very slight negative it would be in the overall sound as it does have a little bit of a nasally or twangy tone (I love it in the bass sound though) to it but it doesn’t take away from the performances, writing or overall success of the album. Looking for the future of folk metal has never been so easy to see in this debut from Windmill and I hope that the name of the band (which is a little unusual but they explained it well in the promo goods) doesn’t detract from the fact that this album is a standout in 2020.”
3. Beast Impalor – ‘Goblin’
With 46 points Beast Impalor managed to jump into the top 3, leaving Stilema just one point behind them. Nice job of these Aussi’s.
“The guitar bass and drums are spot on with synergy from the fast parts to the multiple stops and plentiful riffs. Vocally, the raspy and brooding screech really works and not that I’m some English lyrics purist, but it is certainly nice to really be able to understand the lyrics and sing along. I love the overall mix and sound with a heaviness in all aspects like a gut punch and the 20 minutes makes for a quick and enjoyable listen. Worst part of this? It’s only 20 minutes and I definitely want more already, and I think a future release could really mix it up with song lengths, concept and quirkiness. We still have a few months to go until the end of the year lists but I can safely say this will definitely be a top 5 EP for me without a doubt.
4. Stilema – ‘Utopia’
Just outside the top 3 we find Stilema, and when I say just, I mean just. This album was only 1 point short of a joined third place. With a total of 45 points a beautiful efford of Stilema. A debut-album after sixteen years… it’s a long time, but it surely payed of.
“While a lot of bands are mixing different genres as melodic death or black metal with folk elements it is already clear at the beginning of this record that Stilema found it’s own place, never forgetting their roots and the folk elements are playing the essential role in their music. Especially the great interaction of the violin and the metal parts are creating a very unique folky atmosphere. While the violin is played live by Wiktoria the keyboard (Frenk) is additionally supporting this atmosphere with some epic and partly nearly symphonic elements.”
5. Trollheart – ‘Once upon a Troll’
On the 5th place with equal points is Trollheart. Another album where we disagreed on this year. The range of given points differed a lot, but because once again one of the voting members was of the opinion this is the best debut-album of this year, this album is slightly above Mornir. A can put a little spoiler here, the other five members voted for the same album as the best debut 🙂
“Basically the album consists of 9 songs and 4 Interludes ( Intro, Interludes, Trollish Outro ) and The Troll build around himself his own world including blubbery pots, lumberjacks as victims, swampy woods and of course his hut. All this details are perfectly put in place and can be also found in the great mix of epic folk black/death metal. It is impressive that this release was done by one person only. As we are just at the beginning of the history of Trollheart I sincerly hope to hear more from them in future. With this debut they certainly set a fantastic step into the right direction.”
6. Mornir – ‘Dämmerstund’
With Mornir we enter another part of our list. We take a big leap in points and get to the sixth place with a total of 41 points for the album ‘Dämmerstund’, it took the band quite a while for this one was released, but the result is a magnificent album.
“delivering a mix of melodic death, pagan and folk metal. Mornir is not limiting themselves to any sub-genre and every track has a different focus, but all songs are performed on a very high level. My highlight on this release is the track “Herr in Wind und Tälern”, which is basically combining all the genres which Mornir stands for.In general I would say that Mornir is more for the fans of the harder sounds, but due Mornir is showing us so many sides of them on the record, all folk-metal lovers will also find the one or other pearl on this on. With 13 songs and a total playing time of almost 50 minutes I would like to thank Mornir for such a strong first full length release!”
7. Celestic – ‘Glory by the Sword’
Congratulations Celestic. Not only a total of 27 points for this great debut, one of the voting members gave it the maximum score of 10 points!
“The lyrics basically serve all the expectations of a Viking/Pagan Metal fan. The biggest strenght of this release are the very strong guitar riffs combined with the great underlaying epic atmospheric harmonies.
Of course the cover art can be discussed as it comes quite simple. Personally I think it is not failing its aim and is just a different approach how to present an album. With “Glory to the Sword” comes another very solid debut album of the year 2020 and the only thing I need to disagree is, that it is not only for fans of Wintersun, but can reach a much wider audience. CelestiC took the step to release this album free of charge ( or name your price ) on bandcamp and I can only recommend everybody to lend a ear to this great debut!”
8. Kosmogonia ‘Enthrone the Gods’
A total of 24 points for the debut-album of these Greeks. A very good score.
“I have to say I enjoyed the Greek mythology aspect of this album. I’m not all that familiar with Greek mythology, but I did know enough to get a few of the references done in the song and I feel that it’s well done. My favorite song in the album was Daughter of Zeus, which is one of the two slower songs to the album. The flute in this song has an identity of its own and compliments the beautiful voice of the singer perfectly. All together this album has an identity crisis which does dock some points from it, but it seems to pull itself together with each next song until the final song Pandora’s Fall, wraps up the album together with a neat little bow on top.”
9. Lombolo – ‘Vandringsmannen’
“The mix also does have a somewhat homemade sound with maybe a little too much space between all of the instrumentation and vocals. Despite some of my criticisms, I still found this to be enjoyable and a strong start for these dudes. Give it a listen and I’m sure you will some promising material here and a possibility this could sneak into my debuts of the year list.”
With a total of 21 points, our team was quite unanimous about where this album should be on our list, just above Elvenscroll en just below Kosmogonia.
10. Elvenscroll – ‘Never to be Mourned’
Taking quite a leap in points with the slightly older album from Elvenscroll ‘Never to be Mourned’ which received 15 points from four of the voting members.
“What makes this EP stand out? It is one of those albums that clearly show that not all Folk Metal bands play happy folk music or focus more on the folk than the Metal, which is one criticism frequently made about the genre. Korpiklaani’s Kulkija is Folk metal and Elvenscroll’s Never to be Mourned is folk Metal. And as always it’s interesting to hear bands that don’t stick to a formula. As long as listeners can freeride with an album’s energy, and doesn’t mind iffy keyboard patches, this album is an essential of this year’s Folk Metal releases.
11. Passengers in Panic – ‘Passengers in Panic’
This album is just released. Maybe we didn’t have a lot of time to get into the feel of this album, but they managed to score a point anyhow.
“All in all, Passengers in Panic brought powerful spoken-word and lyric narratives to the table with some ballsy attitude and good musical firepower in their songwriting.”
The band is surely not panicking, very daring to release an album in these times!
A strange year with Covid-19 all over the place the music-scene received a severe punch in the face. No tour to support a release, was a major issue for some bands. There were albums postponed until better times. But some band got really creative by the situation. For a long time it seemed the pandemic had a major influence to the new bands who had to release their first album. There was almost none in the beginning of the year, but luckily it got better later on. We have to take a deep bow for the bands which dared to release their debut in this difficult times.
This year a top 11, since we reviewed 11 first full lengths. It would be a shame not to mention only one bands since they received points as well.
Seven of our team-members could find the time to rate the debut albums. The maximum score they can give is 10 points. Which means an album could get a maximum of 70 points.