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


30. Benediction – Scriptures (Nuclear Blast)

As I get older there are two things I appreciate more when listening to metal. #1 enjoying more of the old school classics in every genre and #2 when a veteran band drops a new album that is incredible! That is what we have right here, 12 years later we finally get new music from the Birmingham behemoths and it’s awesome! Dave Ingram is back on vocals which helps bring back that nostalgia factor. The song writing shows that band has fresh energy back to create a great Death Metal album. Scriptures is this the best thing they’ve done since 93’s Transcend the Rubicon and 95’s The Dreams You Dread! This album is a testament that Benediction back at the top of the genre! – BB

29. Deathwhite – Grave Image (Season of Mist)

deathwhitePittsburgh’s post-metal doomgazers, Deathwhite, returned in 2020 with their appropriately bleak sophomore album. Grave Image. If ever there were a year for this dim and atmospheric album, 2020 is it. The band takes a good stride forward from it’s acclaimed 2017 debut For a Black Tomorrow. Grave Image is a more cohesive record and showcases the band’s evolving songwriting skills. This record is steeped in caliginous eccentricities and inky eclectic sonic journeys. Perhaps the brilliance of Deathwhite and Grave Image is its ability to defy succinct labels.  When I listen to this record it feels to me like the soundtrack for the Dean Koontz character Odd Thomas and his battle with the malevolent Bodach spirits. – RR

28. Pallbearer – Forgotten Day (Nuclear Blast)

Doom metal wasn’t really on my radar about five years ago. It’s now arguably my favorite genre within the metal sphere. Pushing their way to the forefront of the American scene, Pallbearer returns after producing one of the better records of the decade with Heartless. Forgotten Days takes us right back into that album, while adding more layers to an already dense sound. It feels like it would be beyond difficult to add variance to doom. If there is an example of how to do just that, it would be Pallbearer.Brent Jurgensen (BJ)

It is most certainly a crime that this album isn’t in my top 10, because it is probably my favorite album from Pallbearer to date.  These guys have long been considered one of the saviors of the American doom scene–so it’s not like they need me to nudge them towards notoriety–but Forgotten Days is a massive sounding album and a tight, cohesive offering which should not be missed. – CC

27. Katatonia – City Burials (Peaceville Records)

Album Review: KATATONIA - City BurialsSwedish metal force, Katatonia is one of my all-time favorite bands, and City Burials is an impressive album to add to their already mind-blowing discography. Vocalist Jonas Renkse and guitarist Anders Nystrom along with members; Niklas Sandin (bass), Daniel Moilanen (drums), and more recently Roger Ojersson (guitars), are been the genius minds and musicians behind this album.  There is more of a progressive rock and haunting ambiance yet still some heavy riffs and guitar solos galore. The ebb and flow is otherworldly as the songs transition flawlessly from one track to the next. “Neon Epitaph” is a progressive classic with Renske’s chilling and beautiful lyrical content and vocals. Absolutely brilliant. – NRR

26. Warbringer – Weapons of Tomorrow (Napalm)

California thrash stalwarts, Warbringer are about as consistent a band as any headbanger could ask for. After the triumph of its 2017 offering, Woe to the Vanquished, the quintet is back with perhaps it’s most crushing slab of metal to date. Weapons of Tomorrow opens in a maelstrom of furious thrash bangers and mid-tempo crushers that would make Sodom take notice. Warbringer can also stretch out for more epic moments such as the cinematic and doomy mammoth, “Defiance of Fate”. John Kevill is one of metal’s most inspired extreme vocalists and his ability to be aggressive and gruff yet enunciate perfectly is a skillset rarely heard. The combined fretwork of Chase Becker and Adam Carroll is melodic, heavy, and serves each song divinely. The rhythm section of Chase Bryant (bass) and Carlos Cruz (drums) is propulsive when needed and brutal where it’s required. This is a highly addictive album full of riff-centric thrashers and violent bruisers. Best Thrash album of 2020  – RR

25. God Dethroned – Illuminati (Metal Blade)

Three years later and after their war trilogy, God Dethroned has reverted back to the dark side with their Satanism/Anti-Christianity theme! Illuminati is a well constructed opus that the band’s song writing has brought back that incredible sinister atmosphere and recognizable God Dethroned style of riffs that created those memorable songs similar to earlier in their career. This album is the perfect mix of blasting, intense-headbanging death metal and melodic riffs that will haunt your brain for days after. God Dethroned is back with this album. Even fans that have turned from the band should take a moment to rediscover these Netherland stalwarts as they’re one of the most impressive and underrated acts in the genre. – BB

24. Ambush – Infidel (High Roller)

The Swedish metal traditionalists made fans wait five long years for the follow up to 2015’s amazing Desecrator record. Infidel is the band’s third full-length effort. The album is packed with a shit ton of fist-in-the-air metal anthems, big hooks, memorable riffs, gang chant choruses, and propulsive rhythms. It takes me back to my favorite 80s metals bands like Judas Priest, Saxon, and Accept. The band’s unapologetic and unrestrained love of vintage metal is on full energetic display, even reveling in some of the bombastic, over-the-top cheese of the era.  Every track is a worthy headbanger. There are a lot of newer bands reviving what I consider the strongest era and genre of metal, but few do it as well as Ambush. Give me a record that hits my ears like a good beer and the feel of my favorite jeans, and I’m a happy headbanging camper. All that’s old is new again, and Ambush is at the top of its game in delivering the old school goods. – RR

23. …and Oceans – Cosmic World Mother (Season of Mist)

Finland’s …and Oceans debuted as a symphonic/melodic black metal band in 1998. Their sophomore album The Symmetry of I, the Circle of O (1999) was their best in my opinion. On their fourth album, Cypher they shifted towards a very heavy industrial/techno-ish sound and then disbanded a two years later. Now 18 years hence, …and Oceans  deliver its fifth studio album, Cosmic World Mother.  I was expecting a continuation of the Cypher album but WOW! …and Oceans has returned to its old school glory! This album is amazing! A fantastic display of symphonic/melodic black metal! This album is a bit more straightforward black metal, the keys/synth are still there but not as heavily focused. I truly love when a band can produce their best or a career topping album years after their debut! …and Oceans has just proven why the black metal genre is not done by a long shot! – BB

22. Pale Divine – Consequence of Time (Cruz Del Sur Music)

Pale Divine you magnificent beast of a band. The Doom metal virtuoso’s out of Pennsylvania are not stopping and continuing to go full speed ahead. How you can completely shift some vocal styles on a musical soundscape we already grew to know and love, yet still knock it out of the park, is something magical. Dana Ortt adds some intriguing vocals we didn’t know we needed, taking it to another level of Dio-ish vibes. All with the familiar and incredible Sabbath-like vocal styles of Greg Diener, and you have, yet another, banger of an album that doesn’t quit, from beginning to end. Darin McCloskey still annihilates the drums, and Ron McGinnis hammers out the bass lines.  It speaks to the soul and leads you along its harrowing path but with light steps and a full heart. These musicians never disappoint, and I am already anxiously awaiting their next album endeavor. – NRR

21. Burning Witches – Dance with the Devil (Nuclear Blast)

Album Review: BURNING WITCHES - Dance with the DevilI was admittedly apprehensive when I sat down with the third studio album from Switzerland’s Burning Witches. Their sophomore album, Hexenhammer was among my Top 5 albums of 2018. Dance with the Devil would mark a change at lead vocals, and that left me pretty skeptical. A dozen songs after I hit play on this record I am sold on Laura Guldemond’s vocals, and I’m thrilled to find this is Burning Witches best overall effort to date. Guitarist/composer Romana Kalkuhl continues to write riffs and melodies that embrace and celebrate our 80s metal heroes while remaining vital and credible in a sea of retro wannabes. The ladies have managed to switch vocalists without losing a step and have put together another ensemble cast of memorable headbangers and visceral performances. They may not be reinventing the wheel, but Burning Witches sure make you wanna go along for the ride. – 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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