Metal Nation’s Top 50 Hard Rock and Metal Albums of 2020


40. Primal Fear – Metal Commando (Nuclear Blast)

With Metal CommandoPrimal Fear serve up another slab of thick riffs, wailing vocals, and big melodies.  It’s business as usual for these Teutonic metal stalwarts. With every album, an artist likes to believe it has created its seminal work. Primal Fear is no different and bassist Mat Sinner has already declared this to be the band’s best work. While, I will not be so bold as to to call it the band’s ultimate studio effort, Metal Commando is certainly representative of the best that Primal Fear is. All the elements that metal fans have come to expect from these German legends is on display across the 11 tracks that encompass this record. Vocalist Ralf Scheepers is as commanding as ever. Sinner, as usual did a brilliant job on the album production and his partner in crime, Jacob Hansen (Aborted, Tyr, Unleash the Archers, Volbeat) remains the master of the metal mix. Primal Fear has a right to pound its chest boldly with this offering, – RR

39. DevilDriver – Dealing with Demons I (Napalm Records)

This ferocious heavy metal band out of California have broken the mold again with perhaps their best album thus far. Simply put, you don’t always get emotional input from front-man Dez Fafara, he is not necessarily an open book, which sometimes can lead to lyrics that are unrelatable. That being said, the musicianship is always outstanding. Dealing With Demons I flips this right over. Fafara decided to lay out his personal and societal demons out there for others to hear, see, and well, feel. “Wishing” in particular, is an existential crisis of wondering what life would be like without the one/s you love. You wouldn’t expect this amount of depth from this band. It is a powerful shift that is important, inventive, and exceptional. Adding in some metal badass musicians to complete the feel: Mike Spreitzer (lead guitar), Diego Ibarra (bass), Neal Tiemann, (rhythm guitar), and Austin D’Amond (drums), and you have the beginning of an exciting start to a part two series of albums. Neeka Rogers Rodriguez (NRR)

38. Kvelertak – Splid (Rise Records)

Despite the departure of their owl-worshipping-shirt-hating frontman, Erlend Hjelvik, Kvelertak returns with a blistering set of Scandanavian party metal in a year when we needed it most.  Mastodon frontman Troy Sanders even shows up on a song–marking one of the only occasions where it is possible to actually decipher the lyrics.  But lyrics do not matter when an album is this fun to listen to.  Splid makes me want to get drunk and throw furniture into a bonfire. Christopher Cox (CC)

37. Necrot – Mortal (Tankcrimes)

Oakland’s death metal heathens return after three years with a sophomore album that showcases the band’s maturing sound. Necrot’s old school death metal approach just punches you in face with riffs, riffs, and more riffs. Their songs don’t stay in the same place for long. The music is broader and the versatility of the riffs within the old school sound just keeps you entertained as your wrecking your neck headbanging. Mortal seems to be a perfect mix of European and American old school vibes while creating Necrot’s own niche in a recently oversaturated genre. Their debut, Blood Offering was a beast of an album and to be able to offer a record that takes the next step just shows these dudes have something special here. There’s a lot of old school bands returning with new albums or young bands representing that old school vibe but Necrot is the exemplification of how it’s done right! Mortal is probably the best old school/early 90’s death metal sounding albums that has come out in the past decade. – BB

36. The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (Metal Blade)

While vocalist Trevor Stnrad would have fans believing this is The Black Dahlia Murder’s most expansive album to date, that would be a bit misleading. What Detroit’s melodic death metal titans do deliver is their ninth studio album packed with everything TBDM fans have come to expect. Verminous has a slightly more mature feel to it, but all the horror infused caustic chaos is still dripping from every brutal riff and gnarled vocal expulsion that emanates from Strnad’s mouth. Packed with one face-ripper after another, TBDM deliver some of their filthy best on the aptly titled Verminous. This is perhaps a perfect soundtrack for the fetid wasteland that is 2020. – RR

35. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment (Metal Blade)

England’s Anaal Nathrakh is like a fine caliginous wine, gets better with age. They have been reaching new heights in the past few years and you’d think we’re due for a letdown, but oh no, Endarkenment is fantastic! Another album that is consistently visceral and aggressive but sinks those musical hooks into you which will have you humming the choruses for days after. I do feel the song writing on Endarkenment is a bit more accessible to the average metal, but still doesn’t take away from how great this album is. Anaal Nathrakh continues its journey of musical extremity and is still a juggernaut to be reckoned with. And that artwork… – BB

34. Haunt – Mind Freeze (Shadow Kingdom) & Flashback (Church Recordings)

Are we cheating? Two albums, one band. Fresno traditional metallists, Haunt have been prolific to say the least, releasing four studio albums, two EPs, and two splits in a three-year stretch. In 2020 alone they gave us Mind Freeze in January and Flashback in June. While Mind Freeze was a full band project, for Flashback, frontman Trevor William Church was a one man show, likely due to the pandemic lock down. Mind Freeze is prototype Haunt with a bit more atmosphere and keys/synths than previous efforts. Conversely, Church has penned some of his catchiest tracks on Flashback. Both are excellent old school metal records and it would be difficult to say that one is better than the other. This could have been released as a double album. – RR

33. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi (Nuclear Blast)

Psychedelic black metal. WTF? Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu return with their fifth studio album and this time they’ve amp’d up the psychedelic ambience and dialed back a bit on the black metal aspects. If you weren’t already high at the outset, by the time album’s 50-minute run time ends, you’ll be mumbling gibberish and hallucinating…or was that just me? Each of the six lengthy tracks on Mestarin Kynsi have a haunted disorienting feel to them, yet you keep listening to all the oddball eccentricities and the album’s immense density. With each album Oranssi Pazuzu manages to evolve its sound and expand boundaries, and they have done it again with an album that somehow finds continuity in chaos. – RR

32. Body Count – Carnivore (Century Media)

Three decades after its formation, Body Count is back with its seventh studio album. Carnivore is the band’s highest charting record since its 1992 self-titled debut, and the record balances that 90s style with modern production. Carnivore is packed with confidence and attitude and Ice-T is as feral as ever. The album features cameos from Amy Lee (Evanescence), Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), and the late Riley Gale (Power Trip) who tragically passed earlier this year. The band does a crushing cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” along with giving a metal adjustment to two old school Ice-T tracks, “Colors” and “6 In the Morning”. Carnivore offers an abundance of hardcore thrashing crossover metal with plenty of ear-bending and thought-provoking social commentary. – RR

31. Cirith Ungol – Forever Black (Metal Blade)

cirithCirith Ungol’s style and approach to metal has always been idiosyncratic and nuanced and that is fully on display across the nine tracks on Forever Black. The album is a faithful representation of the band’s sonic DNA. Tim Baker’s voice has retained its demonic flair and the fretwork from Jim Barazza and Greg Lindstrom recalls the likes of Iommi and Schenker in its depth and originality. Fans have waited so long for this record that it would be easy to either overstate its impact due to nostalgia or disregard its epicness due to grand expectations built over three decades. Ultimately, Forever Black is a fantastic journey back in time yet equally relevant today. The album has plenty of anthemic highs alongside darkly foreboding moments. It all comes together quite nicely and it not just a gift for long-suffering fans, but a grand return to form for a tragically overlooked band. – RR

  1. D.R. White says

    The cover of Killer Be Killed – Reluctant Hero is virtually the same as In Loving Memory ‎– Negation Of Life from 2011
    Just thought you should know..

  2. John Gallagher says

    You missed Raven “ Metal City”
    Yeah, I’m biased but still …

    1. Rustyn Rose says

      Holy shit. You are right. I didn’t even hear the new Raven this year. Fu@king 2020. I’m off to listen now! Hope all is well!

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