Welcome to instalment number seventeen of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. It’s starting to get serious now, and I hope you can feel the tension building as well as the excitement? I certainly hope so, although I suspect you’re all reading this whilst muttering ‘get on with it, Matt’ under your collective breaths.

And I will get on with it. But just before I do though, I want to give my normal reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 16, as well as my lists from previous years too. Shameless self-promotion, but it has to be done!

But on to the main event:

Number 14

Into The Open

Destination Eternity

Independent Release

Score Of Much Metal: 94%

Another prime example of why I do what I do with manofmuchmetal.com can be seen with today’s pick at number 14 for 2020. Yes, I review many of the bigger acts on the bigger labels, but I’ll always try to sniff out the odd gem from elsewhere too; speaking up for the artists that may not get the exposure that they’d otherwise receive. For me, it doesn’t matter if the band are signed to a label or not – if their music is good, I’ll sing their praises. Enter Into The Open.

‘Destination Eternity’ is the independently-released product of a group of Dutch musicians that clearly have a love affair with progressive music. The honesty, talent, and desire shines through each and every one of the eleven songs that will occupy your life for a good hour or so. There’s no filler, no dip in quality, just excellence all the way through.

I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to my signed copy of the CD as much as I would have liked since it arrived, but what’s telling is that I do play it as often as I am physically able. It’s the kind of disc that makes me feel happy, one that spreads a great big smile across my face every time I hear the cheeky riffing, the upbeat tempos, the soulful and highly musical solo embellishments, or the warm atmosphere created by the keys.

But what I love more about the record as time goes on, is the variety that’s on offer. In keeping with the prog rock concept, the music dives around, echoing the feelings portrayed within the story. As such, I never tire of ‘Destination Eternity’, easily one of the best gems that I have unearthed this year.

Credit: Lori Linstruth

What I  wrote at the time:

“…the musicianship is of the highest quality. It is immediately obvious that these guys have plenty of talent and experience when it comes creating good music – in the case of Ketelaers in particular, you don’t get asked to be a part of the Ayreon family unless you are a quality musician. Each member of this band brings with them their ‘A’ game and it shines through the eleven compositions on ‘Destination Eternity’.

Being a concept disc, it is important that each song pushes the story on and that’s definitely the case here. Every track has a different tone and feel, as it seeks to explore another facet of the narrative.

‘Birth’…encapsulates everything great about this band in a six-minute package. The driving beat…is like a pulsing heartbeat that works well with Robert Spaninks’s drumming to drive the track on with energy and purpose. The lead guitar melodies over the top are catchy right from the off and the whole thing has a cheeky, irresistible groove. Naturally…synths are all over this song, but they never remain static, changing guise, from sweeping vistas to tinkling piano notes. The verses are a more minimalist affair with just the bass, drums, synths and Ketelaers’ vocals, which suit the soundscape down to the ground, being mellifluous yet strong. The chorus is simply gorgeous, as the guitars re-enter, providing further texture and some welcome power. …there’s a lead guitar solo or two, as well as twin guitar harmonies that give me chills.

I’ve said it many times before but one of the biggest thrills for me is to discover a new band from out of nowhere that blows me away. Into The Open is one of these discoveries and I have to congratulate all concerned with creating such an incredibly diverse, interesting and beautiful album. ‘Destination Eternity’ comes with my highest recommendation and must be heard by everyone with a love for quality progressive music; it’s masterful.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

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