Alrighty folks, here it is. The big bad booty daddy of 2020 lists; my top albums of the year. Its in the rules, but I feel like I have to stress this again and again and again, I didn't get to hear as many albums as I normally do thanks to 2020 being a terrible year. So many albums that I have that may deserve more love that shown here if any love shown, deserve that love and praise and I will more than likely go back to those albums as some point as I most likely have said albums and for a few weeks I'll have to time to go back and see what I missed. But I stand by my Top 10 whole heartedly. these top 10 albums are what I feel to be the best albums of the year and I won't be revising my thoughts. Let's see how many you agree/disagree with!
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.
10.) Dark Tranquillity- Moment
FFO- Melodic Death Metal
Yes, I will forever say that Finland has the best melodeath in the world, but that does that mean they are the only place to continue to make stellar melodeath. Sweden's legendary melodeath band, Dark Tranquillity has returned after 4 years with a new lineup and IO dare say, a new sense of what the band should be. EASILY the most commercial and mainstream album the band has done in their career; the majority of the album has been taken over with clean vocals (there may be even a song or two where there is no harsh vocals on it at all, don't quote me, I may be wrong) and the harsh vocals are used more for effect rather than the main voice of the band. DT has always been one of the most underrated Swedish bands for absolutely no good reason; the band has more than proven that they are a real staple of melodeath and metal in general with Moment. At the time of writing this, I may have only had the album a couple of days; but even now I feel like I am ranking this album too low. It will be a genre defining album in years to come, mark my words.
9.) Oceans of Slumber- Oceans of Slumber
FFO- Death-Doom Metal, Progressive Metal, Gothic Metal
The band's 3rd major label LP is the most bombastic of the bands short, but amazing career so far. Between Dobber's stellar songwriting, The new lineups new inspirations into the band, and Cammie's soon to be legendary vocals (it's already legendary, just give it time for the rest of the world to hear); the self titled album showcases the best of the band with their ever somber display of emotions. If this is your first listen, imagine a mental hell-driven mix of Candlemass, Edge of Sanity, Enslaved, and a female fronted Evergrey and you start to get closer to what this band is all about. The journey you'll take with every Oceans of Slumber album is unprecedented and the self titled album is the most majestic and epic feeling so far.
8.) Wills Dissolve- Echoes
FFO- Progressive Death Metal, Post Metal
A sophomore album that is one song at over 31 minutes of length filled to the brim with outer worldly progressive death metal and atmospheric post metal that feels like a blend of Edge of Sanity, Green Carnation, ISIS, and Morbid Angel? Did these guys specifically write this album for me? It really feels like it! But in all seriousness; Echoes is a mammoth of a song that explores so much musically and lyrically that it will take multiple listens to start to comprehend, but once you do, it will be all worth it. It's no wonder that both Wills Dissolve and the previously reviewed Oceans of Slumber are from the same city. There is something in the water of Houston, Texas that is creating some of the best progressive death metal this side of Dan Swano. And epic that truly deserves it's place in progressive death metal history is on display with Echoes. Listen and hear for yourself.
7.) Falconer- From A Dying Ember
FFO- Power Metal, Folk Metal
The lone power metal on this year's list (I seriously can't explain it, it just worked out that way) is the final album we will hear from Sweden's Falconer. Everything about this album finalizes the band at it's top form and there is no better way to go out than that. Creating basically a best of Falconer of brand new material; Falconer really gave longtime fans the proper sendoff and farewell with FADE (ah,, AH, see what they did there?). When I learned mid-interview that the band was breaking up, I felt my heart crush and I was at a complete loss for words. Thankfully, Falconer has written their last words and it's everything you'd want from the legendary band. Now let's see what the future has in store for the former members of this band going forward.
6.) Pain of Salvation- PANTHER
FFO- Progressive Metal, Pain of Salvation
Daniel Gildenlow is one of the most profound songwriters in prog history and that continues with PANTHER. This is a bit of a polarizing album as In The Passing Light of Day has become the new favorite album of POS fans. Many were hoping the band would continue in that vein, but that just wouldn't be in Daniel's musical vision. The easiest (and still wrong) way to describe this album is the 2020 version of the 2007 album, Scarsick. It has a bit of a modernized Road Salt production as well matching up with modern music synths and styles, yet is a portrayal of where we are as a society in 2020 (well, per-pandemic...maybe even during the pandemic as well). The album is a complete trip, check it out and see if you are up for the ride.
5.) Svalbard- When I Die, Will I Get Better?
FFO- Blackened Hardcore, Dream Pop, Blackgaze
Easily the most jaw dropping discovery of 2020 for myself. Svalbard is what I've wanted from a band. A complete mix of Astronoid, Alcest, Ringworm, and Venom Prison. It's the most complete feeling of ethereal chaotic bliss one could imagine. Dream pop moments that Astronoid has made famous in metal over blackened hardcore that can make the kids in the pit go absolutely bonkers. Its so calming and so raging at the same time. It's almost a paradox, except it actually works. There's a reason this made the top 5. Listen...just listen.
4.) Enslaved- Utgard
FFO- Progressive Black Metal
Enslaved...I'm pretty sure I've said it with every release since I started reviewing albums, but Enslaved only gets better with every album. On Utgard, the band not only has had a lineup change, but they also doubled down on their formula of progressive black metal. The black metal hearkens back to the early day Enslaved album (just with WAAAAAAY better production) but the progressive elements are at their absolute best. It feels like a never ending battle between Bathory vs Pink Floyd, Unleashed vs. King Crimson, Mayhem vs Yes. I can't say enough great things about Enslaved. They are one of my favorite bands for a reason and Utgard solidifies that for another album cycle.
3.) Anaal Nathrakh- Endarkenment
FFO- Soundtrack To The End Of The World In 2020
In speaking of another band that only gets better as they go along; Anaal Nathrakh has unleashed their finest epic masterpiece to date with Endarkenment. The perfect musical score of the downfall of humanity, ESPECIALLY in 2020. AN basically points out that humanity is screwed from our own doing, but hey, at least we got some great music. Endarkenment is easily the most musical album the band has produced, but the utter apocalyptic chaos is in full gear. 2020 absolutely sucks, but it's because of 2020 we have a song where the chorus rings out 'A THOUSAND COCKS, BEGIN TO ROAR'. What else could you want in 2020? Well, besides the world getting back to normal.
2.) Silent Skies- Silent Skies
FFO- Piano Driven Somber Music
Tom Englund of Evergrey and Redemption on vocals & Vikram Shankar of Redemption, Lux Terminus, and Threads of Fate decided to put out the absolute polar opposite album than stated above with the self titled debut from Silent Skies. Just vocals, piano and synths with light use of strings and orchestration used for good measure. People think Adele is the pinnacle of somber music. Well outside of metal, that could hold some truth, but Silent Skies has taken her place on the mantle and made some of the most tear jerking, emotional, and GORGEOUS music that you can have in this style. If a full LP of these emotional ballads was not enough to tear you apart; they also decided to cover The Eurythmics' Here Comes The Rain Again to add that last ghostly punch to the soul for extra emotional value. I knew about this project for quite a while now and I am so happy to FINALLY see it come to fruition in 2020. In a world where so many of us have shed tears over this year; Silent Skies comes and more emotions to the pyre of tears. And you know what? I wouldn't want it any other way.
1.) Green Carnation- Leaves of Yesteryear
FFO- Progressive Metal, Gothic Metal
Green Carnation wrote my favorite song/album of all time 'Light of Day, Day of Darkness' and by some means, I was able to experience that album live before my eyes at ProgPower 2016. I cried that day because I never in my life would have imagined I'd get the opportunity to witness such an event. Flash forward to 2020 and I could easily cry again because Green Carnation wrote their first album in 14 years with Leaves of Yesteryear. Everything you love about the band is on full display. Whether you love the prog epics, the faster, near black metal styling or just some fantastic songwriting that hits your soul so hard and doesn't let go. between all 4 original songs and a tear jerking cover of Black Sabbath's Solitude (what an underrated Sabbath song); Green Carnation has risen up from some of the darkest things one could go through (seriously, just look up what Light of Day, Day of Darkness is about) and being able to release not only the best prog album of 2020, but one of the best albums of the 21st century. I am so thankful to have this band back in any capacity and it really feels like they are here to stay. Also! be sure to check out the band's brand new epic, 'The World Without A View" available ONLY on Bandcamp. I had to get that plug in as My interview with Kjetil mentioned that they were working on a new song that may come out in 2020 and low and behold, it happened. Also back on track, check out Leaves of Yesteryear. It will change your views on what progressive music is and can be.
And there we go. All 50 of the best albums in 2020 in my eyes and 10 honorable mentions. 2020 was an amazing year for music, I truly believe that. And I hope you found at least 1 band or album that grabbed your interest enough to discover something new. I'll be back for the finale on Monday with my grab bag of random things I loved this year. I will most likely not be giving reviews for any of them because...I'm 0% energy and need a recharge for 2021, but I always like showing off that I'm not just an album guy and I have other interests as well. I will also be adding a Spotify playlist of the best 50 albums of the year that will show off a song from each band listed (as long as they are on Spotify) in case you don't want to search for anything yourselves.
Thanks again for reading and I hope you have a good (as possible) last few weeks of the year before we hopefully and can start steering the ship of life back on track in 2021.
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)