Anything that can be said about this clusterfuck of a year has been said already, so I won’t even get into it. And even though I do agree that music provided a valuable escape from everyday life in such a year, I also felt that I didn’t connect with many albums the way I usually do – as sitting at home listening to music is fun, but doesn’t make you connect the music to certain points in your life or certain memories. Honestly, it’s weird – I found A LOT of albums I really loved this year, it’s just that I barely connect any memories with them. Nevertheless, it was hard to boil it down to only 25 entries this year. So for what it’s worth, here’s for hoping I will spin these 25 records (and some more) as much in the future as I did this year and that there will be plenty of chances for me to connect with them even more!
A short disclaimer: this might be a metal blog first, but surprise surprise, I don’t strictly listen to metal only! So there’s a bunch of musical genres in my list – and be you a metalhead or anything else, I do think all of them are worth checking out!
But before I get into the actual list, some Honorable Mentions. These didn’t make the cut, but definitely deserve a shoutout:
Zeal & Ardor – Wake of a Nation
Pup – This Place Sucks Ass
Bring me the Horizon – Post Human Survival Horror
Triptykon – Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019) (with Metropole Orkest)
Sigur Rós – Odin’s Raven Magic (with Steindór Andersen, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir)
Albums that didn’t make the list
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Psychonaut – Unfold the God Man
Sweven – The Eternal Resonance
The Microphones – Microphones in 2020
Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
And now, without further ado…my Top 25 Albums of the Year!
25. Sumac – May You Be Held
Sumac seem to be one of the more underrated or overlooked bands in metal. Honestly, this is one of the most genre-bending and experimental albums I’ve heard in years and even though they do get their praise, it’s certainly not enough!
24. Vulkan – Technatura
Just discovered this a few weeks ago, but I cannot stop listening to this. It’s exactly what I want prog rock to be: leaning a bit on the heavy side but still being catchy as fuck. A true gem!
23. Idles – Ultra Mono
Let’s be honest – Idles aren’t reinventing the wheel on their third record, but fuck it. It is still just so. Much. Fun! God, I wanna go to concerts again.
22. Megaton Sword – Blood Hails Steel, Steel Hails Fire
Trve fucking metal. Honestly, that’s what it is. Is it corny? Well, yes. But is it as fun as early Manowar? You’re god damn right it is! This made me pump my fists in the air and sing along like few other records did this year.
21. Primitive Man – Immersion
Yes yes, we’ve all heard about how Primitive Man is the heaviest band ever. And they are. But they also write great music! Slow, heavy, sludgy and immersive as fuck. That about sums it up!
20. Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
There are few genres that need more diversity as much as metal, and Vile Creature brings diversity in full swing. And they rip. From the first note, this doom/sludge album simply pulls you in and only lets you go when literally reminding you to flip over to side b (love this by the way!).
19. Clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned
Daveed Diggs’ voice just has the ability to send chills down your spine. Especially when it’s in form of another horror-themed Clipping-album! It’d be too easy to just see this as a successor to last year’s album – sure, it’s similar, but it’s also a great continuation and works perfectly on its own.
18. Ulver – Flowers of Evil
In a way, this sounds very much like Ulver’s last album and yet, it somehow feels like a new era and style for the band. Maybe it’s simply that I “got used” to it, but I think they truly embrace their newly found dark synthpop-sound here and this record is just full of great songwriting.
17. Friends of Gas – Kein Wetter
It’s always nice to know that there are German (language) bands that do something NEW and don’t just use a known sound with German lyrics. This unique style of noise and post-punk takes heavy inspiration from Sonic Youth and the likes, and yet sounds very fresh. It’s weird, challenging, but ultimately catchy as well.
16. Atramentus – Stygian
Lewandowski-artwork strikes again! One of the strongest funeral/death-doom releases of the year, this is a carefully crafted work of art which definitely should be experienced as a whole. 3 songs in 45 minutes, there’s segments of pure beauty and soul-crushing death in here. Hauntingly beautiful!
15. Motorpsycho – The All is One
I didn’t expect anything from this record and got my favourite Motorpsycho album since “The Death Defying Unicorn”! Not that I didn’t like any of their previous records – they were all very solid prog albums, and they always delivered, which is why I thought this album would do the same. But somehow, this album just got me. I think it’s a bit more grandiose and catchy than the previous entries of this “trilogy” and just has whatever makes an album “great” instead of just “very good”.
14. Molassess – Through The Hollow
I gotta be honest, I knew (of) The Devil’s Blood, but this is the first time I truly sat down and listened to “their” music. Well, it’s a great classic rock record that’s full of 70s vibes and yet feels fresh. Also, it made me immediately check out The Devil’s Blood back catalogue. A great re-iteration of a great band!
13. Moses Sumney – Græ
I wanna say “soul album of the year” but calling this soul is a bit over-simplifying things. Moses Sumney’s voice might say soul, but his music takes influence from electronics, art pop, rock and so much more. And his voice! Simply a great album.
12. Einstürzende Neubauten – Alles in Allem
I never really listened to Einstürzende Neubauten before, but I instantly fell in love with this album. Is it representative of their sound? It doesn’t seem like it, and even though I did enjoy going back into their more industrial early days, I just love this “Nick Cave meets Tocotronic”-sound and simply love the songs on here!
11. Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Leave it to someone named “Bowie” to be the next art rock star! Honestly, their music might be completely different but this album just has this Bowie vibe. It’s ecstatic, experimental and has a whole new sound. The name of the first single speaks for itself: “Gospel for a New Century”.
10. Bedore – Hypnagogic Hallucinations
There were a lot of hyped death metal records this year, a lot of which I liked as well. But this one I LOVED. It just has this special something, is a bit more than “just” old school DM, has a lot of progressive elements and very much reminds me of Death. A throwback and progression at the same time.
09. Perfume Genius – Set my Heart on Fire Immediately
I’ve followed Perfume Genius a lot over the years, but most of his albums after “Put Your Back N 2 it” just kind of came and went for me. This one stuck with me though. It’s more emotional than his previous work, more cohesive and simply a bit more artistic. It has all the indie pop elements that I want from him, but is way more grandiose in scale. Definitely his best album to date!
08. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin kynsi
Simply one of the moodiest records of the year. It’s black metal, but it’s also the spaciest, most psychedelic, chill music ever in a way. So, maybe not BM after all. You can both mosh and simply space out to this. Absolutely loved it!
07. Wayfarer – A Romance with Violence
Last year had plenty of black metal gems for me, but this year kinda fell flat. Then this beast of a record came along. What a great mix of folk and black metal, you can simply feel the wild-west-vibe when listening to it! An album that should be considered the footprint of truly “American” black metal, next to Panopticon.
06. The Strokes – The New Abnormal
Well, I definitely didn’t see that coming. I had basically already written off The Strokes, and here they are in my Top 10! Deservedly so. This is simply their best and most original record since…their debut? I mean it. This has hits after hits, great production, and a somewhat new sound that very much feels like home for this band. I know, they were never “gone”, but I consider this a comeback!
05. Ulcerate – Stare into Death and Be Still
This. Hits. Hard. Progressive death at its finest! Not much more to say about this record, besides that it has the ability to crush you into pieces while also somehow being…soothing? Ulcerate’s music just has a very unique feel and ambience to it that’s hard to find in prog metal.
04. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
I listened to this album a lot before realising how much I actually liked it. Which is kind of perfect though: it sucks you in without you even realizing it, as it is very catchy and feel-good. But beyond that there’s also great songwriting and instrumentation that goes way beyond the term “singer-songwriter”. This was deservedly Phoebe Bridgers’ year!
03. Eternal Champion – Ravening Iron
I mean, can anyone deny the fun of this record? You’d have to be dead inside not to enjoy this! This is just classic, epic heavy metal. Fun for days. Great riffs, great hooks, great everything! (Fuck this cover art though. Honestly. I hate it!)
02. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
There’s been plenty of good pop records this year, but this one is the best. By far. Why? Mostly because it’s all killer, no filler. 11 songs, 37 minutes. Most pop albums these days are simply overblown with too many songs, but this doesn’t overstay its welcome. Besides that, it has absolutely great production! This truly is the future of nostalgia.
01. Protest the Hero – Palimpsest
Yep, this is it. I forgot how much I love this band until this record came out! And then…I couldn’t stop listening to it. Not only does this have peak PtH-prog metal tunes, it’s also the timeliest album of the year. Sure, an album about the “greatness” of the USA in an election year might seem like fair game. But nobody could have known just how timely songs about John Dillinger or Amelia Earhart would feel in 2020. This album would have been great in any year, but in 2020, it just hit right home.