Symptom of the Metalverse Best of 2020 by D’Monic Boris Lee

Symptom of the Metalverse
Best of 2020

by D’Monic Boris Lee
Intro by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen

D’Monic Boris Lee began writing for me in April of 2019. He did such a great job with his contributions that after a few articles we decided to give him his own column, Sympton of the Metalverse. Since we started working together, D’Monic has written almost three dozen articles, and together we created the Lockdown Rock Down in April of 2020.

I was very pleased when D’Monic approached me about doing a Best Of for 2020, and loved the creative spin he offered with a Two-Stage Best Of event instead of the typical Top 20 list.  When I first read D’Monic’s picks for 2020 I was happy with his choices, glad to see several MBM Music bands included, and pleasantly surprised to find we shared so many of the same favorite songs.

Thank you D’Monic for being such an important part of the Metal Babe Team and thank you to everyone who has supported Metal Babe Mayhem, Sin City Presents, and is reading this article now.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year, and all the best in 2021.

If I was to tell you that 2020 was the best year of my life, you would think me f*cking nuts. Well, I never claimed sanity. Point of fact, I claimed over and over, sanity is overrated and boring. You have to be a little nuts to cope with things. It’s when you end up “Normal,” that things seem to be out of whack. The puzzle pieces don’t fit into our picture of what life is supposed to be.

Guess what? Through all the chaos we have been through this year to one degree or another, and I am no exception to being affected by what went down. As I looked back on the past twelve months, 2020 was arguably the best year of my life. It was a continuation of 2019 for me in personal growth and creative success. I know I did not get everything from 2020 I wanted, thanks to things like pandemics, toilet paper shortages, and all the other sh*t we were shovel feed by the events of 2020. What I got out of 2020 though outshined everything else.

2020 gave me what I needed. My basics were covered. I evolved on levels I used to only bullsh*t about, but genuinely achieved during 2020. Creatively, I wrote some new material, had the opportunity to publish my horror fiction, held my first ever book signing, and had my book, “The Shadows of Insanity,” finish as a finalist in the category of Best Thriller of 2020. Really, I have nothing to complain about if I look at things with a balanced perspective.

I met some of the most beautiful people in 2020. I found myself rid of ALL the shitty people in my life. 2020 allowed me a chance to work on myself, and for that, my eyes opened to the Magick all around me. I am grateful for the challenges that 2020 put me through, since I had to drop the victim delusions and take responsibility for myself in ways I never truly did before. So, I am saying 2020 was the greatest year of my life. Things are not perfect, and darkness is always around me, but I am okay with that. If you can see the DARKNESS, then there must be a LIGHT some place showing you where you are, and the pathway out.

2020 also brought me the opportunity to come across some of the best music I have heard in years. Though I did little with the column this year, and Alison has been beyond patient with me on that, I did get the chance to come into some music from some of the most talented musicians the industry offers. Originality flourished. Homages to heroes hit grand-slams. People found a way to remain on their creative course throughout the chaos. I ended up with a good amount of music that was going to be reviewed or utilized in some other fashion on the column, and I ended up with the challenge of deciding just who would make the Best Of 2020 article. There was so much good music and creative effort, I came up with the idea to expand this year’s Best Of list from a Top Ten Best Songs List, to something more like a Two-Stage Best Of 2020 Event.

The First Stage will have the Best Performances of 2020. This list is comprised from submissions for the Lockdown Rock Down held by Symptom of the Metalverse, Metal Babe Mayhem, and Morbidly Beautiful, back on April 11, 2020. The criteria to make this list was the performance had to be new material for the event, or something not previously used for public video viewing consumption. With that said, this was a difficult list to trim down to the performances that made the list.

The Main Stage will have the Top Ten Best Songs of 2020 list. The criteria to be considered for the list this year was the same as in 2019. The material had to be new and come into my possession for review or use on Symptom of the Metalverse during 2020. That said, not everyone I reviewed on Symptom of the Metalverse made the list. It was nothing personal, and this year it was hard to cut music off the list for me with all the excellent entries.

One other criteria existed for the Best of 2020 Stages. I had to throw this in for myself in order to trim down who made what list and why. I had material from bands that qualified for both lists (stages), however, I decided that bands could only make ONE stage. So, that made it difficult to narrow things down, but a challenge that I enjoyed taking on.

Without further delay, Headbangers and Horn Raisers, welcome to….

The Symptom of the Metalverse Best of 2020

Stage One: Best Performances of 2020

10- Edge of Paradise- Fire. Live from Bochum, Germany

Edge of Paradise conquered my Top Ten Best Songs of 2019 list with two tracks, this being one of them. Margarita and the boys have no idea on how to put on a poor performance. The song is just as powerful live as on the album, and to feel the energy of the audience share in Margarita’s joy onstage, made this a certainty for the list.

9-Corners of Sanctuary- Sandstorm Salvation. World Premiere Music Video

The bad boys of Philly, Corners of Sanctuary, are a Traditional Heavy Metal band bringing the old-school vibe with a fresh feel to the retro sound. Good tune and honor to have them debut the video at the Lockdown Rock Down.

8-Gwarizama- Void Walker. Live from Other Base

These guys immediately jumped on the opportunity to play a virtual gig at the Lockdown Rock Down. San Fernando Valley based Rock n’ Doom band, Gwarizama put on an hour long pit-pulsed performance of “Outlaw Metal,” that was not the greatest on technical execution, but made for awesome music. If there was heart in what happened with the Lockdown Rock Down, these guys had theirs in it 100%. The highlight of their one-hour headbanger beats was “Void Walker.”

7- The Immortalz- My Pet Werewolf. Video Premiere

Groovy are these Ghoulies from Austin, Texas. The Immortalz are a Horror-Punk-Rock band playing original campy creature callings. Lead by Horror Web’s 1,000-Year-Old-Witch, Scarah-Damsel of the Doomed on vocals, her supporting slashers are a group of vampiric villains known as, Phill Collins Robinson (drums), Gorey Corey (guitars) and The Count (bass). This was their first release of original music, and since have put out a serial of killer tunes.

6-Matthew Currie Holmes- Add It Up (Violent Femmes Cover)

For those who do not know, Matthew Currie Holmes is an actor, producer, and director of film. His works include the remake of the Fog (which he pokes his own fun at, and I think is great of him), The Curse of Buckout Road, along with other materials. Holmes was put in touch with me by Stephanie Malone of Morbidly Beautiful, and I was blown away by what he shared with the Lockdown Rock Down audience. Holmes put on a set of passionate cover songs that warmed many a heart during the event. His closing song was “Add It Up,” one of my favorites by the Violent Femmes. A great energetic performance that raised the mood of the events we all had endured early in 2020.

5- Nytrate- The Siren. Live from Rob’s Billiards and Sports Bar, TX.

Arlington Texas is home to one of the best things since Texas barbecue, and that would be Traditional Metal band, Nytrate. There is always Magick in the voice of front woman, Alli Clay, and her brewing of hypnotic operatic screams have a range that cast its own original spell. Shred Master Smooth, Jimmy Adcock fires off the riffs while Taco and John are a rockin’ rhythm section that balance out the music, sending “The Siren” screaming into the top five best performances.

4- Bitch- Save You From the World (2020 Version)

Metal music legend Betsy Weiss and her drummer Randal West, put on a fantastic acoustic version of the Bitch classic, “Save You From the World,” with modified lyrics from Betsy to fit into what we were all dealing with in 2020. After over forty-years in music, Betsy still has her voice and sounds as good now as she ever has. Solid performance from the legend for the Lockdown Rock Down.

3- Lesli Sanders- American Dream

Prophets of Addiction frontman, Lesli Sanders, put together a few acoustic songs for the Lockdown Rock Down, including this version of the Prophets of Addiction song, “American Dream.” I actually reviewed this song in 2019 for Metal Babe Mayhem, but the newer version that Sanders shared with the Lockdown Rock Down audience was far superior to his previously released versions of the song. Sanders was on point vocally and put on a live performance that really made me a fan of his work. There is some serious heart in what he shared at the Lockdown Rock Down.

2- Infidel Rising- Power of Goodbye

Progressive Metal Band, Infidel Rising, came flying into the Lockdown Rock Down with a first ever acoustic set of songs that carried the meaning of power metal in every note sung and strummed. The Texicans made a fan out of me with “Power of Goodbye.”

1- We Are Wasted- Don’t Stop Believing (Journey Cover)

2020 was not short on surprises by any means. It could arguably be the ugliest year in history. The worst year, not really. Ugliest, yes. But through all that, like I said in the beginning of this article, some greatness and beauty could be found too.

Since they’re uglier than seeing Chris Jericho pick up the soap in the shower via the from behind “Danglers View,” these guys fall into the category of greatness. A group of young party dudes with an appetite for wrestling, We Are Wasted balance out comedic antics with serious musicianship skills that range from punk to thrash, and old-school classic rock. For about twenty-minutes, We Are Wasted put on a full live gig for from their living room couch, playing the show as if at an actual live gig. The effort they put into the overall performance carried an energy that I feel transitioned to the Lockdown Rock Down audience, and that was an uplifting and fun nature vibe. If you did not smile during their performance, you missed the point of the entire event.

Closing out their set with the Journey classic, “Don’t Stop Believing,” We Are Wasted hit hearts and souls with the message of positivity they sent out to the audience. These guys were committed to showing the world a good time, and I think they hit it like the Judas Affect, earning them Symptom of the Metalverse Best Performance of 2020.

The Lockdown Rock Down was something special on all levels. From behind the scenes with Alison, Stephanie and myself, to what the artists brought to their respective performances, to the combination of artistic mediums that took center stage, the Lockdown Rock Down was a shining star in 2020 and proof that there is a light to any darkness.

The Symptom of the Metalverse Best of 2020

Main Stage: Best Songs of 2020

Reviewing music was not something I was into much in 2020. I will not lie to our readers and say otherwise. I lost some desire to do it around the time all the sh*t hit the fan in late-March, and my creative desires focused on my horror fiction, which was doing well. I wasn’t even sure I would return to the column. I attempted to leave several times, yet Alison basically dismissed my behind-the-scenes rants and stuck with me, leaving the door open for me to return when I was ready. She has a heart of sincere Magick and deserves every bit of success she gets from Metal Babe Mayhem. With Alison not letting me go, she must have known I would get the itch again, and I guess I have it enough now to work on the column again on a regular basis (barring no life events preventing such).

A great way for me to get the keyboard clicking and my eyes rolling at how many typos I lay out per sentence was the Best of 2020 article. Back in October, I had a great experience writing about my friend and fellow Creative Creature, Michael Nero. I have a new Ritual Moon album in my possession waiting review, and with my going on about finding the light in the darkness, I put that theory to practice by taking on the Best of 2020 article, which reminded me of the great creativity that came out of 2020. Thus Symptom of the Metalverse has a pulse again.

There was no shortage of great music created in 2020, and I had the opportunity to review some classics in the making. Without further delay and my 5am ramblings (It’s actually 5:03am EST as I type this), ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, children of all ages, Symptom of the Metalverse proudly brings to you its’…..

TEN BEST SONGS OF 2020

10- Augmented Chaos- World of Pain. Album: World of Pain

When I was introduced to Augmented Chaos, I was really not sure what to expect. My mind set on reviewing music at the time was going down, and I just did not have the desire to put forth something for the column. However, as a committed journalist, I listened to the Augmented Chaos record, World of Pain, and the music lifted my writing funk at the time. The highlight to the album is the title track. The overall effort from the band was pure old-school metal at heart, and that was something my ears and soul needed to hear.

“It’s been a while since I have heard a solid, no gimmicks, straight ahead in your face, traditional metal album. Keeping suit with the winning hand served up thus far by Augmented Chaos is the title track of the album, “World of Pain.” The song brings the beast beat to the pit, and hammers out a nice little bass solo from Chris Chapman that bridges the first third of the song to the faster tempo of the rest of the tune.”

9- Davey Suicide- Animal. Album: Rock Ain’t Dead

At the beginning of 2020, during the long ago and far away, before toilet paper disappeared and you could go to the local first world store to grab the necessities of basic living, I had a reality check on just how old I really am. This came a few times, but the initial nut crackers were from back-to-back album reviews I did. Ironically, those back-to-back reviews are lining up back-to-back here on my Best of 2020 list.

Millennial Metal Master and ludicrously talented tattoo artist, Davey Suicide, put out an album that would fall into my Top 5 Best Albums of 2020, if I did such a list. The music was in part an awakening for me to what I had been ignoring about modern metal music, or as I call it, Millennial Metal. This music is as good as what I listened to as a kid, just on different levels for a different listening audience.

Making the list at number nine, Davey’s tune “Animal” is something that has a timeless vibe. It could have been released twenty-years ago or today and would find a niche in the music world.

“Techno tones, polished piano pieces and lustful lyrics, in marriage with special guest Gustav Wood make “Animal” arguably the standout song on the album. The song has a well-balanced dance club vibe with a nasty bite to it. Images of sweat-soaked Goth and “Techo-punk” folks flooded my mind while this song slammed through my speakers.”

8- Mister Misery- My Ghost. Album: Unalive

Well, this was the album that slapped my wrinkling face into the reality that I had become my stepfather when judging “Today’s Music.” This was also the album that expanded my abilities as an entertainment journalist, teaching me to take personal taste out of the equation for reviewing another artist’s creative efforts. Mister Misery ended up being a haunting reminder that things change, and if we do not adapt or ACCEPT these changes, we become extinct. A ghost floating along while life around us goes misunderstood. Mister Misery’s album Unalive would also have made my Top 5 list, if I did one.

“My Ghost is the next highlight on the album with a dark carnival feel homage conducted by ringmaster Marylin Manson. The ripping rhythm guitar work and insane shred/tapping lead guitars are cohesive with brutal drums and ‘Beastial’ bass. Good tune. This song caught my attention right away, even when I was not sure I could write a good review about the album.”

7- Ozzy Osbourne- Under the Graveyard. Album: Ordinary Man

This album review was not on my agenda, it was something I inserted in as a must for the column. It’s Ozzy!!! For f*ck’s sake Sharon… It’s Ozzy! This album produced the first ever 5 Raised Horns rating from me, and it was more on the merit of energy shared in the music by Ozzy than the overall creativity. The strongest tune from the album was “Under the Graveyard,” hands down. It’s the most ‘Ozzy’ sounding song on the album, and fits in with what his solo-music career is built on… songs about himself being a train-wreck surviving because of his wife’s love and support. Rather than share my previous thoughts on “Under the Graveyard” on its own, here is what I felt about the music of Ozzy throughout my life.

“As a lifetime fan, and speaking for what I think would be just about every metalhead walking this planet today, thank you Ozzy for sharing your insanity with us through your music. There are more of us out there that made it through our teen years thanks to your music than you may realize. There are more of us middle-aged maniacs that listen to your music and it’s like a shot of adrenaline to our lives keeping us moshing on more than you may realize.”

6- Firewind- Rising Fire. Album: Self-Titled

Burning up the skies and landing on the list at number six is Firewind. I never heard Gus G’s work outside of his time with Ozzy, so when this album came my way for review, I was curious to see what his own band turned out creatively. The answer to my curiosity is some scorching “Tunage!” The soaring hit from the album is “Rising Fire,” a showcase of pure power metal music. I can argue with myself over what was the best song on the album, as seen below, but “Rising Fire” gets my blood pumping the most.

“Fans of Firewind’s signature sound will bang heads and raise horns for “Welcome to the Empire,” “Rising Fire,” and arguably the strongest song on the album, “Devour,” all of which are screaming scorchers.”

5- Cooter Brown- Silver Bullet. Album: Self-Titled

Cooter Brown entered my review realms just as I had decided to take a long-term break from the column (see above, and ask Alison what a pain in the ass I was, and how nice she was to remain patient with me… smiling through all my, “Yeah… I don’t think I’m any good at this…”). I took my break, and was not planning to return until 2021, but here I am, here you are, and here is Cooter Brown, a heavy riff-based band that blends a Midwest vibe with a bit of Sabbath, a splash of Corrosion of Conformity, and a touch from talented musicianship. “Silver Bullet” is a song that comes up on iTunes shuffle now and then, and every time it does I get into a good groove to deal with whatever I’m working on at the time. It’s a solid song lead by Grant Masson’s-Iommi-like feel and sound.

“Cooter Brown present a positive flowing debut full of heavy guitar riffs, venomous vocals, and raging rhythm work that should resonate with a broad group of heavy rock fans, particularly in my age bracket. These tunes do not feel dated and touch on a few styles while remaining true to the core creative concepts.”

4- Ritual Moon- Crimson Avenger. Album: Self-Titled and 2020 Split

Metal Music Magick. Maybe we can just say there is Magick in music, for different genres of music touch everyone in different ways. But for now, this about Metal Music, and three Magick Music Masters, collectively known as Ritual Moon. If you have read my previous reviews of their material, or go all the way back to when Ritual Moon founding members Mars and Belen cast rhythm section spells for Sirenhex, you’ll know that I think the ladies are incredibly talented and arguably the best at their craft.

Recently I received a copy of the forthcoming self-titled release from Ritual Moon (out January 13, 2021… If the Mayans didn’t typo their calendar and mean to write 2021 instead of 2012…), and though I would put another song from the forthcoming album ahead of the song I chose here as a “Best,” I am sticking with my choice of “Crimson Avenger” because I had reviewed it earlier this year when it was released on the 2020 Split album with Harlequin. The song is also a shining example of what I keep saying about improving talents and how good Mars and Bee truly are. The forth coming album version (which I am speaking about here) of “Crimson Avenger” has improved vocals and musicianship from the Brujas. Rachel joining the “Coven of Creativity” earlier in the year has come full circle here, as her bass playing is beautifully brutal! My review of the Ritual Moon album (coming six-days before the album release) will cast a brighter light on the truth of the creative cauldron these ladies are cooking in.

“By summoning the “Crimson Avenger,” Ritual Moon summoned their best metal monster to date. The song features Bee’s first guitar solo, a short shredding spotlight that puts the song on the summit for the ladies to match on future releases.”

3- Lordi- Like A Bee to the Honey. Album: Killection

Lordi. I was not sure what to make of Lordi when I first heard the music. Was this serious, or was this a Metal version of Weird Al Yankovic? Turns out Lordi are both. They are serious about their music and light-hearted about their presentation. This is not an original concept by any means, but Lordi mastered everything about the balance of serious musicianship and theatrics in presentation. Lyrically is where the comedic KISS lies with Lordi, and even that is no laughing matter at how good their songs are. Lordi is responsible for putting out what I believe is the BEST conceptual record conceived, Killection. “Mr. Lordi, (the possible love child of Gene Simmons and Oderus Urungus) leads the monster musicianship of, Amen (guitars), Mana (drums), Hiisi (bass), and Hella (keyboards) into a fictional reality concept compilation that is a near perfect alchemy of clever creativity. The concept to the album is, what if LORDI had been creating music from the seventies through the mid-nineties, and created a compilation album to celebrate their history? Toss in a “New Song” to the greatest hits theory and you have a true compilation album in design.”

The album was so good that when I reviewed it at the beginning of 2020, I did not see anyone dethroning them for my album of year winner, if I did such a list. To choose one song from the album when I found the first ten songs to be about even in killer creativity, was a task. However, the sweetest tune took to the top, and Like A Bee to the Honey is a stinger you’ll be stuck to.

“Like a Bee to the Honey,” hits the album sweet spot. Co-written by Rock-N-Roll Hall of Famer, KISS frontman Paul Stanley, and featuring Michael Monroe (Hanoi Rocks), the musical vibe coming off the song is dead-on accurate to a late nineteen-eighties stalker type song. You know, the songs where there’s a guy who can’t deal with his girl leaving him, and restraining orders fly like paper planes kissed by the breeze of a broken heart. Musically, LORDI do an amazing job creating a score that would fit into the play rotation of an eighties radio station, or roll during the ending credits of a romantic horror film. What makes this song jive and groove most is the keyboards and brass instruments.”

2- Bob Dee with Petro- Midnight Dancer. Album: Stun Gun

The biggest surprise to me of the year musically was not my Millennial Metal acceptance, nor the improvements of some artist musicianship and presentation. The biggest surprise was Bob Dee with Petro. Not that I was surprised by how talented Bob Dee is, or how solid his song writing abilities are, but by how consistent the music on his album Stun Gun was. From start to finish, the album boasts All-Killer-No-Filler tunes. At the time I wrote my review of the album, I had “Switchblade,” as the best song on the record. It is arguably so, however, when I hear “Midnight Dancer,” play in my iTunes shuffle, it always fits into the rotation. Like a Midnight Dancer casting her spell, the song is haunting, invigorating, and resonates with me like the Magick of the moonlit night.

“Midnight Dancer” is a catchy guitar riff and melodic groove perfect for exactly what the title insinuates, a midnight dance. The slight bewitching overtones of the song are idealistic for a spell casting minx to sway her hypnotic hips too, while in the audience of a fire lit forest.”

1- Armored Saint- Missile to Gun. Album: Punching the Sky

How do you pick a song off what I would pick as album of the year, if I did such a list, where every song is a candidate for the Best Song of 2020? With difficulty. Armored Saint released the BEST METAL ALBUM of 2020 this past October with the release of Punching the Sky. The album is a tour de force of All-Killer-No-Filler that is as old-school traditional metal as music gets, and just as modern in tonality and message. Armored Saint have put out consistent solid songs for the past twenty years, and that can stretch all the way back to their early days nearly forty-years ago. The band is as tight now as ever, maybe more so, and John Bush is the definition of a vocalist that never lost a step over the years. He sounds exactly the same now as he did in nineteen-eighty-five, possibly better.

My choice of “Missile to Gun” as Best Metal Song of 2020 comes down to the anthem feel, pit pulse pounding drums, electrifying guitars, venomous vocals, and the get off your ass and groove with the music vibe the song carries from opening to closing note. It is a pure fighter anthem that invites you to stand up and be strong. Fight for your rights and not let the greater threat put fear into your heart. Stand up and manifest an even playing ground and overcome the challenges that would hold you back from being the best you can be. Missile to Gun is Metal to March to, and my choice for Best Song of 2020.

Thank you all for your support of Symptom of the Metalverse. Thank you to Alison, the “Metal Babe,” for her support, patience, and opening opportunities for me. Metal Babe Mayhem took a chance on me, and I am forever grateful. Thank you to Stephanie Malone of Morbidly Beautiful for her support, the opportunities she has offered me, and for Morbidly Beautiful’s contributions to the Lockdown Rock Down.

It’s 2021. Let go of yesterday. Get back on track with what you desire and deserve in life. It’s still out there waiting for you. Just turn the lights on, and there on the other side of the darkness you’ll find your heart again. Horns up! Headbangin’ Happy New Year to all.

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