2020 was a rubbish year, but a killer one in terms of new music. Unperturbed by events around the world, many artists brought their ‘A’ game to the studio to record excellent new music, music we all hope we’ll hear from a stage at some point in 2021. Fingers crossed.
To underline my point about the strength of releases this year, I have put together this article to list a few of the other notable albums that were excellent, but didn’t quite make it into my top 30.
In addition, despite reviewing the best part of 150 releases during the year, I didn’t hear everything that I wanted to sadly. So, I thought I’d reference the albums that got away, which I will hope to take a good listen to in 2021 if time allows.
If you missed my Album of the Year 2020 Top 30 Countdown series, and you’re interested in reading it, you can access it here.
Thanks for reading!
Honourable mentions (in no particular order):
Countless Skies – Glow
Arguably only missed out due to the late release date, and the fact that I couldn’t listen to it as much as I would have wanted. ‘Glow’ is high quality Scandinavian-inspired melodic death metal from the UK.
Necrophobic – Dawn Of The Damned
I cannot believe that this band have eluded me for so long. This is cracking melodic blackened death metal from an institution I’d barely heard of before 2020. Shame on me.
Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night
I hope that this isn’t the last album from the US progressive metal stalwarts. But if it is, it’s a fine way to bow out. A fantastic album, but something prevented me from including it in my top 30. Still not sure what it is, but I don’t feel compelled to return to it as much as I thought I would.
Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage
Great quality progressive metal release, this time from Italy, at the hands of Soul Secret. It wasn’t love at first listen, but with a little repeated listening, its charms became ever stronger and ever-more hard to ignore.
Amaranthe – Manifest
‘Manifest’ is another great outing for the ever more popular Amaranthe. Featuring their trademark triple vocal attack, as well as some unashamed mainstream polish and panache, the songs are as strong as ever, heavy, catchy and lots of fun…if you like that sort of thing.
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
This really should have been in my top 30. But it’s not. Try as I might, I just can’t get it to fully click with me. It’s different, it is intriguing, but it is simply not as good as ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ for me. A couple of the songs I still don’t ‘get’, whilst I remain conflicted about the guitar tone. It’s a great album, just not good enough for the top 30.
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Any other year, and I’m confident that ‘What Lasts Forever’ would have taken a place in the top 30. The problem for the German band however, was that it was a stellar year for blackened death metal, and despite releasing an excellent album, they just missed out.
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Again, without sounding like a broken record, I really think that this should have bagged a spot in the top 30. The only problem was, in the end, there just wasn’t room. Nevertheless, the varied and modern nature of the progressive death metal on offer really had a positive impact on me.
Gaerea – Limbo
A word of warning: ‘Limbo’ is not the music to play if you’re looking to feel better about life. This is brutal and bleak black metal, laced with darkness and melancholy, with just a hint or two of melody. A real surprise package.
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
‘The Reckoning Dawn’ is easily one of the black metal highlights of the year, another genre that suffered a little in 2020. Atmospheric, organic, and authentic, Winterfylleth weren’t shy of ripping off our faces with some pretty savage black metal, blending it nicely with just about enough melody to hit the sweet spot for me.
Havok – V
Arguably my favourite thrash metal album of 2020, it came so close to finding a place in my top 30. More complex but catchier than ever before, but the caustic venom of the music remained very much intact, to create a razor-sharp thrash beast of an album.
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Another album that probably should have made the top 30 cut, but just missed out by the skin of its teeth. The melodic death metal at the core of Wolfheart’s sound is joined here by elements of black, folk, and dark metal, which come together excellently to provide an intoxicating final product.
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Thunderous and powerful, ‘Titans Of Creation’ is one of the best releases from the American juggernaut for a fair few years. Chuck Billy and Co. have lost none of their passion and ability, as this record more than ably demonstrates.
Ilium – Carcinogeist
2020 has been an awful year for power metal if we’re honest, but Australian band Ilium were one of the few highlights within the genre. It’s melodic, fast, and great fun from start to finish.
Godthrymm – Reflections
‘Reflections’ is a cracking doom metal album, laced with Gothic overtones, that harkens back to the 1990s to offer more than a hint of nostalgia, whilst bludgeoning the listener to death. Marvellous.
Thoughts Factory – Elements
Another great progressive metal album with a cinematic, symphonic edge. This record demonstrates the strides the band have made since their debut, although you have to give it a bit of time and effort to unlock all the best bits.
And now, to complete this post and to clear up a few anomalies, here’s what I missed and why:
Pendragon – Love Over Fear
I love this band & have everything they’ve done in my collection. Until now. I simply let this slip unnoticed under the radar due to time constraints and life’s challenges.
The Reticent – The Oubliette
I didn’t exactly miss this one. I took a listen and the Opeth vibes did very little for me. I might return to this one though, because the subject matter is so powerful and well done.
Conception – State Of Deception
I tried and tried to get a promo copy of this before it’s release, but I failed. And then I ended up with a pile of other reviews that needed my attention, so I never got round to hearing it. It’s on my ‘to buy’ list, so maybe I can bring some belated thoughts about this in time…
Teramaze – I Wonder
I missed this one as it was released online with almost no fanfare whatsoever. I shall definitely go back and rectify this as soon as possible.
Vulkan – Technatura
Got the promo, and listened, but it didn’t grab me, so I shelved it. The fact that so many others are lauding it, has convinced me to give it another try just as soon as I can.
Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment – Illumination
Not for the first time, the German progressive metal band leave it until the very last month of the year to release a new album. I was already heavily into my ‘Album of the Year’ series, so I had little time to check it out. That, and the fact that their last record failed to inspire me as a long-term fan of the band.
Green Carnation – Leaves Of Yesteryear
I love these guys, but for some reason, I missed out on this when it came out. I was only reminded of its existence when I saw it start to crop up in a number of other best-of lists. One of my biggest mistakes of the year that I hope to rectify before too long.