Wouldn't you know it? At the time of of this post going live; there is a month and 4 days left of this wretched year. Seriously 2020 has been such a crappy year for everyone. If you got out unscathed, you have miraculous powers that belong to be monetized.
Fortunately; 2020 has also been a year where a lot of great music was released. Some are held back till 2021, but a majority of music still came out and it's at it's most glorious. That trend will only continue as the next few years goes onward.
With this being the last Friday in November, it's time for me to arise with my written thoughts and preach out all of the great music that you may have missed this year. Although this year as many exceptions. I simply could NOT get to every great album made in 2020. There are some by bands I loved for decades that I simply just did not have the time to sit down and enjoy the way I should have. Add that to the pains of 2020 and I actually had to scale myself back about 50%. This year will be a Top 50 of 2020, with 10 Honorable mentions and a big ol list of other stuff after all of that is done. I have deep regret not making a Top 100 this year, but I had to be honest with myself and admit that 2020 got the better of me and I am only one man. I am really hoping in 2021 that things will be getting back as scheduled with the mammoth Top 100 list. But until then; I really hope the upcoming 7 parts will be enough to suffice.
So here are the rules:
1.) The list is a Top 50 with 10 honorable mentions. I am really hoping to get back to the Top 100 in 2021. There are simply albums that I know are magnificent that I simply didn't hear, hear enough of, or give enough of a chance to really enjoy in 2020. I know they will be told to me and I know you'll have a great argument on why they should make the list somewhere; but I'm one man and 2020 got the better of me this go around. So enjoy the list as is. Thank you.
2.) The Top 50 must be LPs. No EPs live albums, compilations, rarities, etc. Simply a studio ALBUM released in 2020 before mid-December. If you have an album out after that. What can I tell you, you should have released it in January.
3.) The Top 50 are ranked from 50-1. Honorable Mentions are in alphabetical order.
4.) The entries include Artist Name, Album Name, and FFO (For Fans Of) section. Followed by my short thoughts on the release.
5.) The Top 50 will also have a curated Spotify list with a song off each album in order from 50-1. So you can enjoy the bands in countdown order; or put it on random and make your own ranking.
6.) These are just my own thoughts. No sponsors, no payola, no favors. Just my views. With that; If an album is at 50 does not mean it sucks compared to album 1. all 50 albums and 10 honorable mentions are worthy of praise and deserve to be talked about and any album talked about could be AOTY in someone's eyes. This is a judgement free zone. No negativity here. Just talking great music from beginning to end.
FFO- Melodic Black Metal
If you like your black metal with a great epic feel, evil atmosphere, and completely solid from start to finish; Ages is a band you need to check out. Uncrown shows the 2 man project growing ever stronger with melodies and harmonies in all the right sections, pure chaos throughout and an overall sense that black metal is still in great hands after all these years. While it's been 5 years between albums; Ages is grown ever stronger. See why for yourself!
Burning Witches- Dance With The Devil
FFO- Heavy Metal, Speed Metal, Power Metal
Burning Witches has been on an all out assault since their inception just 5 years ago. The band's 3rd album shows the band at their most mature sounding; showcasing their speed, tenacity, and killer riffs that are sure to bring in old school and new school metalheads alike. Plus, the album ends with a cover of Manowar's Battle Hymn. What else could you possibly need?
FFO- Instrumental Metal, Instrumental Post Rock
Ben Sharp's return to metal is in full force here with Solitude. While the last several years has been filled with Cloudkicker going into many different territories from grunge to acoustic to even looped music; Cloudkicker will always be best known for it's Metal roots and it took a pandemic for that side to return. The album hearkens to what fans loved about the band, but also brings in everything it's learned from it's left of center ventures to create the most captivating music of the band's career. Make sure to go pick this one, plus the whole Cloudkicker catalog out on Bandcamp. Every Cloudkicker release is Pay What You Want, so you have nothing to lose.
The Flower Kings- Islands
FFO- Progressive Rock
One can make the argument that The Flower Kings are at their best when they feel they have the freedom to write what they want and just let their instruments do the talking. That's what happens here with this double disc LP. Of course Roine Stolt's legendary vocals are shown throughout, but the stars of the show is the instrumentation displayed by everyone in the band. It can go from jazzy to heavy to subdued to classy in turns of a dime and it all feels so very natural. Islands is a great starting point for new fans because it shows the band at their best and shows off all they are capable of, and so much more.
Grave Digger- Fields of Blood
FFO- Power Metal, Heavy Metal
The last album in their Scottish War Trilogy; Fields of Blood is one of the heaviest power metal albums released in 2020 (which has actually been quite smaller than previous years). It perfectly captures what it feels like to be in the battlefields of Scotland and fighting for your life. It's fun, it's educational, it's Grave Digger. You simply can't lose!
Hjelvik- Welcome to Hel
FFO- Viking Metal, Heavy Metal, Black N Roll
Seeing Erland Hjelvik branching out on his own and bringing his visions of Nordic tales to the forefront is something that just makes you smile. Everything you loved about his previous band is shown here, but it's so much more heavy metal. It's like a blackened Manowar or a more rock and roll Amon Amarth. Regardless. It pummels you from start to finish just like fighting a Nordic God. This is a must listen fro those that dare to brave the storm.
Katatonia- City Burials
FFO- Progressive Metal, Industrial Metal, Doom Metal
This one pains me not to have higher, but 2020 simply did not give me the chance to give me the time to give this album the time it deserves to enjoy and rank properly. Originally planned as a solo album from frontman Jonas Renske; Katatonia decided to branch out into brand new territory with more industrial programming and atmospheric overtones, but it also starts to bring back some of the Doom elements of the band's very early career. It is absolutely an album that is like wine; it gets better with every listen and everything starts to culminate so much more into what is Katatonia's broadest departure but also their most return to form album. Simply, just listen and you will understand.
Obsidian Kingdom- Meat Machine
FFO- Progressive Metal, Industrial Metal, Experimental
Obsidian Kingdom is a band that refuses to make the same album twice. You will never know what you will get with each subsequent release. The band's 3rd release, Meat Machine truly feels like a concept album with it's themes of human nature and the perversity, over saturation of character, and evil desires that tarnishes one's mind. The music perfectly matches that sensibility. If you need to be able to compare this album to something; let's say it's a mix of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas with some Peeping Tom thrown in for good measure. Of course the band is not a Mike Patton rip off of any kind. Meat Machine is a one of a kind experience in 2020 and it's indeed worthy of your time.
Pallbearer- Forgotten Days
FFO- Doom Metal, Progressive Metal
If I had been able to give this album more time, it easily would have fit in with one of my absolute favorite albums of the year. Sadly, that was just not the case. The band's 4th album shows the band being more than just known for their doom driven crushing riffs, but added a newly accepted layer of progressive rock and metal that really makes the music sound even more grandiose and inspired. Of course the band still sounds like Pallbearer, but just...more than Pallbearer. This album is a full on grower and you should give it the chance to flourish and take over you.
Sons of a Wanted Man- Kenoma
FFO- Post Black Metal, Hardcore
Finding that sweet spot of not being too black metal and not too hardcore to create a sound of their own. It gets as brutal as Ringworm, but has a beauty of Alcest, all layered in a raw production that will satisfy both sides of the equation. I know Belgium isn't the first thing you think of when it comes to blackened hardcore and blackgaze, but it's about time you look in that direction and enjoy the fruits of their labor. With this being their first LP, the band will only continue to grow into a pure monster that will take over by force.
And there we go folks. My ten honorable mentions of 2020. I know, I know, it feels wrong to me as well having so few, but these ten are indeed worthy of praise and to be enjoyed. Hopefully you will for yourself. Return Monday for Part II: 50-41
- That Drummer Guy (Josh Rundquist