Welcome to day four of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. I’m really not feeling a big intro today and I suspect that most of you skip past it anyway, eager to see my choice for the day. So, here goes…

Number 27


The Funeral Pyre

Black Lion Records

Score Of Much Metal: 91%

I knew this would happen. I knew that there would be an album that I scored way too harshly, and would therefore make its way into this list regardless of the verdict I made earlier in the year. In my defence, this was back in February, and I was listening to it on an ill-fated nine-hour journey from Scotland via awful public transport, so maybe that clouded my judgement just a little.

The truth is though, that some nine or ten months later and this record is still kicking my backside. It feels like 2020 has been the year of blackened death metal, and this is one of the best of the year without any shadow of doubt. It is cold, sharp, and raw. But it is also full of melody, catchy riffs, and, somewhat perversely, a surprising amount of warmth. Almost all of the songs try to attack your throat with savage aggression, whilst giving you a cheeky wink and a pat on the head at the same time. I rather like that dichotomy and it works on ‘The Funeral Pyre’. It also doesn’t hurt that there are a few moments that call to mind the sadly defunct Dissection. That’s never a bad thing in my book.

But when all is said and done, ‘The Funeral Pyre’ is comprised of wall-to-wall quality compositions, the product of an incredibly talented mind in Jacob Björnfot. The guy has some skills and they come to the fore through Kvaen, a venture I hope to hear much more of in the years to come.

What I  wrote at the time:

“Since grabbing hold of this promo, I have listened to it frequently and I am in no way tiring of the content. Spanning eight tracks and roughly 45 minutes, it is the perfect duration to make an impact and leave, whilst leaving the listener wanting more. Having said that, what more could the listener want? This is an album that is described by Björnfot himself as “black metal with speed, pagan, and Viking metal influences”. It’s a pretty accurate description too, as ‘The Funeral Pyre’ is certainly fast and aggressive, sounding cold and atmospheric at the same time. But the music is also surprisingly melodic with plenty of folk trappings. 

What I really like about ‘The Funeral Pyre’ is that Björnfot has a clear objective and he nails it from beginning to end. There is nothing extraneous to be heard on the album – everything is included for a purpose and not a moment is wasted. As far as Björnfot is concerned, less is more but he is absolutely right as his succinctness has served to make the whole record stronger and more enjoyable.

Anyone who likes their extreme metal in the blackened death or even the Pagan/folk vein, then Kvaen is a complete no-brainer and ‘The Funeral Pyre’ needs to be nestled in your collection with immediate effect. It’s as simple as that.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here: