Tis the time of the year. Although 2020 was bad in every possible way, it was good for releases within the rock and metal world. It’s a hard task and every album is very good on its own way. You can search for more albums for your personal taste, but these fifty (50) ones - listed in no particular order -, you must hear. So, shall we get started?
- MAJESTICA - "A CHRISTMAS CAROL"
Singer Tommy Johansson said he had this dream and made it come true. This album was based on a Charles Dickens‘ classic, of the same name. It combines the Christmas spirit with power metal at its best and this record is full of surprises. Although Tommy sings and plays the main character (Ebenezer Scrooge), the other band members sing as well, and that’s amazing. The adventure starts with the homonymous track of the album and the instrumental part grabs the listener’s attention to the story timeline and what will happen. Every track brings joy, comfort. There are passionate guitars, sleigh bells glockenspiel, many more instruments that bring the sense and spirit of Christmas, fast drums, choirs and an orchestra. What’s most amazing about this album is that Majestica wrote original lyrics and didn’t try to copy Charles Dickens. There’s also a ballad and Tommy sings his heart out, alongside the piano and the solos of Alex Oriz. Don´t forget the bass that will make you shred. Hear “Ghost Of Marley” and you’ll understand it. They’ve created a new genre: power metal musical! If you like Avantasia, you’ll like this, even more if you love the Christmas spirit and feeling that it brings to you. It’s a must have (Raquel Miranda).
- ENSLAVED - "UTGARD"
Enslaved deliver another manifestation of art, philosophy and tradition. In “Utgard” they rediscover themselves, bringing again to the foreground their black metal side. The prog element is still present, referring directly to the psychedelic/kraut scene of the '70s, but without prevailing. Here, it embraces darkness, without setting the rules. Orchestrations that exceed conventional perception interweave proggish patterns and harshness. True Norwegian aggression and psychedelia of an old age make orgies of unsurpassed beauty, inviting you in a fiendish playground. Dreamy patterns, surrounded by dark, moist, Norwegian landscapes, send you to psychotropic, cosmic travels; you float beyond time, only to get back by staggering, blackish storms. Enslaved’s proficiency in interconnecting different worlds is transcending, offering a dark journey towards myths and spirituality (Alex Nikolaidis).
- THE UNITY - "PRIDE"
Henjo Richter proves once again how a great musician, songwriter and composer he is, but it is a team effort and everyone has a share in the successful outcome. Everybody in the band has been involved in the creative process. I really liked Jan Manenti’ s voice, he shows that he has evolved and he can sing in a different way where required. There is a variety in the songwriting, there are elements of many genres in their music besides power metal, like hard rock and melodic metal. From the beginning to the end, "Pride" is a catchy album which impressed me, with cool riffs, inspired and strong melodies (Nikos Arvanitis).
- CATS IN SPACE - "ATLANTIS"
For another time, Cats in Space are very much inspired and their tons of fresh composing ideas have been turned into killer songs. The band members’ extraordinary, passionate, emotive performances will take your breath away, every song seems like a dreamy venture and “Atlantis” has this magical, romantic feeling/vibe that will surely impress you! With the clear sound of the unmistakable production, the addition of the amazing voice of Damien Edwards and all the Cats in Space trademarks (sharp and heavy guitars, solid and compact rhythm section, multi-layered vocals and well-crafted harmonies, astonishing keyboards and pianos and of course, the clever use of the orchestra), “Atlantis” will definitely cause a stir (Dimitris Zacharopoulos).
- HORISONT - “SUDDEN DEATH”
The Swedes did it again, with a diverse and dynamic album, which proves their evolution as a band throughout the years. It keeps getting better and better (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- DEATHCRAEFT – “ON HUMAN (D)EVOLUTION”
Deathcraeft, a newly-formed death/thrash metal band from Ioannina, Greece, and a personal project of Kostas Kalampokas, impress with their debut. The band emerge from death metal territories, but their structures are multilevel, embodying elements of black, thrash and symphonic metal. Hence, “On Human Devolution” has a rather blackened essence, creating an atmosphere that serves perfectly the lyrical content of Cthulhu mythos. Aggressive death patterns, melodic/atmospheric parts, well-crafted abyssal or more technical riffing, tons of blast beats, precise drumming patterns and a variety of growls indicate dedicated work and skillfulness. The use of symphonic parts is selective and timely, making compositions more epic and immersive. “On Human Devolution” impresses with its pluralism, dynamism and excellent sound quality. Deathcraeft prove, even in this early stage, that they are able to combine countless patterns without being tiring or flamboyant (Alex Nikolaidis).
- THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA - “AEROMANTIC”
The Night Flight Orchestra is currently the best band on this retro, end of 70s/early 80s AOR and rock sound. These guys have a tremendous ability to blend all these vintage AOR elements from that past era and travel us back in time with wonderful melodies and unforgettable choruses. Hoping to see them live within 2021 (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- HEATHEN – “EMPIRE OF THE BLIND”
After ten years, Heathen return. “Empire of the Blind” has all these features that made them remarkable: violent, addictive thrashing riffage, sentimental, mesmerizing patterns and White’s ageless, expressive voice. Their approach is modern and not so much old school, as Exodus’ influence is evident occasionally. However, you have exactly what you expect: a guitar-oriented album, with tons of easily memorable riffs. Indeed, Heathen’s trademark remains the guitar duo: Altus and Lum enrich every song with imaginative, ingenious, timely leads, declaring unparalleled virtuosity and composing ability. Heathen emerge again, with an amalgam of Bay Area’s thrash and melodic -and even epic- attributes, indicating undeniable skillfulness and musicianship (Alex Nikolaidis).
- CONCEPTION – “STATE OF DECEPTION”
Once upon a time, there was a band that created great music and in a short time it managed to become known, but suddenly its members decided to part ways and the band ceased to exist. For years their albums was the holy grail of heavy metal fans. Many years passed and finally Conception reunited to create another masterpiece, a dynamic album, a variety of songs with different stories and expressions. They created music by taking new steps on old familiar paths, the feeling of their music is more progressive than ever (Nikos Arvanitis).
- FATES WARNING – “LONG DAY GOOD NIGHT”
Immersive from the first to the last song, Fates Warning’s new album travels us back to the golden days of the progressive metal genre. Its compositions are like elegies, ethereal and dramatic, through which true emotions are expressed and thrilling stories are told. “Long Day, Good Night” isn’t Fates Warning’s best album, however, it is a small masterpiece of emotional progressive metal, a phenomenal experience, which should not be missed (Dimitris Zacharopoulos).
- FIREWIND – “FIREWIND”
You won’t find a filler song in here – every note has its importance, every second of the group’s performance comes to satisfy our hunger for good melodic metal! “Welcome to the Empire”, “Rising Fire”, “Overdrive” and “All My Life” will blow your mind, “Longing to Know You”, “Devour” and “Break Away” will steal your heart – I personally have blown my speakers with “Orbitual Sunrise”! To sum up, with this album Gus G and Firewind should be absolutely happy, since it continues the band’s tradition to release great albums. Changes have affected the band in a positive way and “Firewind” is a new, very interesting chapter in Firewind’s book. What are you waiting for? Go get it! (Dimitris Zacharopoulos)
- KATAVASIA – “MAGNUS VENATOR”
Greece produces and exports black metal and we are proud for it. Six years ago, five musicians from well-known Greek bands gathered to celebrate that legacy and honour our roots. That’s the purpose of Katavasia. In their second effort, they exceed their brilliant debut, bringing in our times the original Greek sound and aesthetics. Storming, mind-blowing black metal riffs, representative of our scene, are omnipresent. Gripping melodic and heavy metal elements intervene, along with discreet pagan glimpses, to transform the darkness, giving an epic, primitive and sacramental tone. Katavasia’s composers are experts and in “Magnus Venator” they surpass even themselves; and among these, Stefan, one of the forefathers of the Greek underground, excels, singing with the enthusiasm of a teenager. “Magnus Venator” is Greek black metal as it should be taught (Alex Nikolaidis).
- DARK TRANQUILLITY - “MOMENT”
Showing the way towards their 30th anniversary as a band, this album is an excellent mark of their music craftmanship, their status as an extreme metal band and a statement that they are alive and kicking (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- TESTAMENT - “TITANS OF CREATION”
The Bay area specialists have such a great career of more than 3 decades, with their ups and downs. However, their latest album is another proof of what they are capable for, full throttle. The “Chief” and the rest of his companions deliver and they do it emphatically (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- MY DYING BRIDE – “THE GHOST OF ORION”
Ah, Doom! What a lovely genre! Welcome back, boys and girl! We’ve been missing you a lot. The last five years since “Feel the Misery” have been all too real for My Dying Bride. Between Aaron Stainthorpe’s young daughter battling (and thankfully beating) cancer and having two members of the band up and quit while this was happening, it’s no small wonder that we even have a new album to begin with, so all the respect in the world for the creation of "The Ghost of Orion". The opening track, “Your Broken Shore”, starts with a driving guitar, played by Andrew Craighan, and a violin (Shaun MacGowan is the master, who performs) plays counterpoint. Then the noise drops away and we’re left with clean vocals, proclaiming a tearful point. No My Dying Bride album is complete without a vague sexual and bloody track, and “To Outlive The Gods” is that track. "The Ghost of Orion" could be like a diary. Aaron Stainthorpe sings with all his heart in “Tired Of Tears”. It isn’t easy for a father, to know that his child has cancer, specially a little one. This song is about it and what he felt about the diagnosis. A magical, enigmatic album indeed, that also combines folk elements, with guests such as Wardruna’s Lindy Fay Hella and cellist Jo Quail (Raquel Miranda).
- AKHLYS – “MELINOE”
Melinoë was a chthonic nymph of the ancient Greek mythology, regarded as the bringer of nightmares and madness. Alcameth, a prominent figure of the American black metal, composes her soundtrack through Akhlys (one of his numerous projects) and unleashes darkness. “Melinoë”, with its violent, high-pitched tremolo picking attack, dark ambient sounds (an integral part of the band’s work until now), frantic blast-beating and Alcameth’s venomous shrieks and terrifying whispers, creates an atmosphere of horror: the kind of horror that uneasy dreams cause. You suffocate in Alcameth’s personal nightmares. You may have the illusion that redemption approaches, but you are foolishly deceived: Akhlys, whether storming or ambient, don’t let you escape. The band in their third album shine darkly, conveying your subconscious terror with their relentless, blood-freezing black metal. Even Melinoë herself couldn’t conceive and compose such a nightmarish gem (Alex Nikolaidis).
- OF THE VINE – “LEFT ALONE”
Of The Vine from Atlanta, Georgia, was a carefully well-kept secret, until now. There is no meaning in trying to define their music; for matters of conventional wisdom, it might be ambient rock or post rock. “Left Alone” cannot be contained within labels. Its understanding requires the listener’s complete sentimental surrender: only through the abolishment of conventionality, can you travel through and comprehend its intricate structure. Tranquil, ambient dreamscapes make you float, only to deliver you to unexpected emotional explosions that grab you abruptly, beaming you up to another dimensions. Of The Vine craft their way diligently, defying conventional structures and wondering through planes of crystal dreams and out-of-this-world guitar and drumming outbursts. In the end, “Left Alone” may seem chaotic, but this delicate chaos has the rare attribute of making you lighter. Allow yourselves to be a puppet of its maze (Alex Nikolaidis).
- ARMORED SAINT – “PUNCHING THE SKY”
Tireless, unmistakable, unbreakable. It is Armored Saint again, with a great new album, which sounds so fresh, so powerful, so masterful! Superb melodies, hard hitting guitars, strong vocals, plus a tight rhythm section and an awesome production – “Punching the Sky” is all these and many more! John Bush and co make quality music and we can’t stop headbanging! Excellent album by the veterans (Dimitris Zacharopoulos).
- H.E.A.T. - “II”
A really valuable addition to their impressive catalogue, “II” proves why this band holds a unique status in the AOR/melodic hard rock scene (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- KVELERTAK - “SPLID”
This is another great album from the Norwegians who have well established themselves all these years. Inspired, diverse, straight forward songs from a unique band (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- FALCONER – “FROM A DYING EMBER”
Unfortunately it is the swan song of the Swedish band Falconer, who after a full musical career decided to stop, giving us one of their best records. This is an excellent album with all those elements that made them famous. Beautiful melodies, catchy riffs and inspired solos framed by traditional instruments such as bagpipes, fiddle and organ. We will miss them but fortunately they leave a great legacy (Nikos Arvanitis).
- AMARANTHE - "MANIFEST"
I couldn’t finish this year, if I didn’t talk about this album, and this one sure deserves to be included in any top 10 or 20 best albums of 2020. Guitarist and co-songwriter Olof Mörck has delivered some good content and amazing lyrics, that suit the three vocalists. “Viral” is the best track for the crazy times, that we live and the chorus is very catchy. We can clearly hear the powerful voices that the singers have. Electronic elements in "Adrenaline" take you by storm, the song has an unique Swedish trademark, that Elize Ryd, Nils Molin and Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson got us used to, and Olof leaves us with a powerful solo. “Strong” features Noora Louhimo, one of the most prominent names these days in the heavy/power metal scene, this ballad shows the chemistry between Noora and Elize. It’s clearly “girl power”! “The Game” is one of the best tracks of the album, I love how it starts, the fast drums from Morten Løwe Sørensen and the hard guitars and bass from Olof and Johan Andreassen at the beginning of the track. It shows that Nils is already comfortable with his place in the band. “Crystalline” is like a lake of swans, with Perttu Kivilaakso, from Apocalyptica, playing the cello, alongside Elize and Nils singing. Let’s not forget “BOOM!1”. With this one, for me, Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson is the Eminem Of Metal, in a good way. Change my mind (Raquel Miranda).
- DEREK SHERINIAN - “THE PHOENIX”
This is another robust and great record from one of the finest keyboardists of our time. With such a huge career and participation in dozens of projects, bands, records, Derek Sherinian has delivered some very fine solo records and “The Phoenix” is a fantastic record to spin on your stereo and enjoy (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- PRIMAL FEAR – “METAL COMMANDO”
Teutonic metal powerhouse Primal Fear is led by pure inspiration and releases one of its best albums! “Metal Commando” stands as a true metal feast, where traditional metal in the vein of Judas Priest is celebrated. Ralf Scheepers gives all his potential, the guitars are really amazing and the rhythm section is so steady and solid. Being a fan of the band since day one, I was truly shocked with the beauty and freshness of this album. If you want to listen to some kick-ass classic heavy metal songs, you must trust the Germans! (Dimitris Zacharopoulos)
- REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER – “ASCENSION”
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber become darker and colder, unfastening the post/sludge cloak to show their inner, black metal garment. “Ascension” is their blackest creation: Amenra’s aura and post soundscapes lurk in the dark, leaping out amidst vast atmospheres, but the band evidently head to Blut Aus Nord’s path. The French reach a zenith of songwriting, with five lengthy exemplary compositions, full of emotions, ingenious sequences of lavish themes and a variety of vocals. As yet, they were shaping their sphere of knowledge, but now they offer something transcendent: “Ascension” is painstakingly multi-layered, crushingly heavy and overwhelmingly captivating. Supported by flawless production, it’s a manifestation of how deep, stately, melancholic and epic the modern post-black metal can be (Alex Nikolaidis).
- AC/DC - “POWER UP”
What a comeback for the mighty Australians! This is a great album with their trademark sound and characteristics for which we have loved this band from day one. And it has always been a family matter. Guarantee (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- SOILWORK - “A WHISP OF THE ATLANTIC”
A favorite band of mine, Helsingborg’s finest have put so much inspiration, intensity and excitement on an EP, like it would have been an LP on their latest work. “A Whisp of the Atlantic” might be short in the number of songs, but it is rich in ideas and elements and makes it so difficult to put on it a specific label on what specific genre it represents. A brilliant EP (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- DYNAZTY – “THE DARK DELIGHT”
Well, well, well. Sweden sure delivers quality stuff and this album is no exception. Nils Molin (vocals) is a true poet and writes fine lyrics. Tight solos and fast guitars from guitarists Love Magnusson and Mikael Lavér are essential. Let´s not forget Jonathan Olsson. This dude sure can jam his bass. Georg Härnsten Egg is a beast on drums. They create such fine melodies, such as “Heartless Madness”. If you miss the '80s, the atmosphere, the keyboards, then this song is for you. “Hologram” is so beautiful and Nils sings it from the heart and could be the opening ceremony song, at a wedding. So much genres we can hear on this album. From heavy metal to power metal, they can make everything; they brought a Celtic vibe to “The Man And The Elements” by arranging guitars and synths to sound like bagpipes, and a western feel to “The Road to Redemption”. They even have a special guest, GG6 from Amaranthe, on “From Sound To Silence”. That’s what make this album stand out from their previous ones. For me, the best Dynazty album (Raquel Miranda).
- DELAIN – “APOCALYPSE & CHILL”
I loved this album from the first listening. The unique and special voice of Charlotte Wessels once again captivated me. Having listened to all their records, "Apocalypse & Chill" is their natural evolution - every Delain album so far has been better than the last one, and this one is no exception, making it their most mature release (Nikos Arvanitis).
- SOJOURNER – “PREMONITIONS”
This album is a must have and deserves to be here. Sojourner has evolved very much, musically and lyrically speaking. For me, one of the highest points is having members from different countries. It shows the wealth of sounds that are combined. Which countries? From New Zealand to Sweden and Scotland. Guitarists Mike Lamb and Chloe Bray have joined forces once again and developed an almost unrivalled songwriting partnership. “The Monolith” transports you to the countryside, thanks to the piano and the beautiful voice of Chloe. Love the flute here. “Eulogy for the Lost” has a tender and melancholic feeling that fills the song’s melodies, alongside Emilio Crespo´s voice. Love how the keyboards, guitars and tin whistle blend so well in the song. Beautiful. You want a song that could come from a movie soundtrack? “The Apocalyptic Theatre” is for you. This band can combine folk elements with metal very well. If you miss bands like Theatre Of Tragedy and Tristania, at the beginning of their career, this is for you. An amazing melodic death metal/black metal album, for sure (Raquel Miranda).
- LUCIFER - “LUCIFER III”
Johanna Sadonis & Co. have given the vintage/retro hard rock sound another, different flair, having added Nicke Andersson from the previous release already and with those powerful, seductive vocals, the unbeatable rhythm section and those ‘luciferian’ riffs have provided us with a remarkable record (Antonis Mantzavinos).
- DRACONIAN – “UNDER A GODLESS VEIL”
Draconian continue their longtime dark, melancholic journey, being a band that never disappoint fans. Their composing ability hasn’t faded as years pass; on the contrary, it keeps on soaring. “Under a Godless Veil” has the familiar Draconian’s doom heaviness, but the approach differs. The presence of Heike Langhans has pushed the band to explore new ideas and adopt a more gothic and melodic orientation. Now they give her more space, they rely on her. Her ethereal voice casts a delicate shroud of sorrowful beauty, making a perfect and balanced contrast with Anders’ growls. Majestic compositions, either explicitly doom-oriented like “Moon over Sabaoth” or sentimental and angelic like “Burial Fields” and “Night Visitor”, entice you to wallow in the Erebus. Draconian, with their unparalleled ability to sound both crushing and heavenly, are at their finest, approaching even “Arcane Rain Fell” (Alex Nikolaidis).
- TRAVELER – “TERMINATION SHOCK”
The Canadian masters of true heavy metal return, only a year after their debut, to impress again, justifying their hype. “Termination Shock” treads the path of its predecessor, but the approach is different. Structures are not so straightforward; they don’t cause the addiction of the speed-oriented debut. Songs become more complex and sophisticated, indicating the band’s decision to mature; they don’t reveal their attributes early. What really excels (again), is the impressive work of the guitar duo: Ries and Schadlich give another exemplary performance, offering astounding heavy/speed rhythmic patterns and mesmerizing leads. And somewhere in there, Iron Maiden’s influence easily stands out. Of course, the band feels confidence: if you have in your line-up a singer like Abboud, who can support every composition and idea you conceive, you have nothing to fear. The Canadian underground thrives lately, and Traveler are one of its ambassadors (Alex Nikolaidis).
- PAIN OF SALVATION – “PANTHER”
The line-up may change with every new album, nevertheless, Daniel Gildenlow seems always inspired, creative and fruitful. This time the outcome of his craftsmanship is “Panther”, a consummate studio album with wondrous melodies, fantastic themes, incredible twists and turns, amazing ups and downs! Gildenlow is always experimenting and improvising, and what he gives us is pure art. Pain of Salvation releases another great work, which will satisfy the fans and bring new people to its fanbase! (Dimitris Zacharopoulos)
- HIGH PRIESTESS – “CASTING THE CIRCLE"
In their debut two years ago, the all-female psych-doom trio from LA had thrilled us with an aura of Eastern mysticism, meditative essence, desert-like heavy sound and spacey atmosphere. Now, they expand their vision: their music becomes more esoteric and ritualistic, delving into the human soul, our dark inner self. High Priestess fulfill their purpose through psychedelic riffing patterns, ethereal choral and hymnic vocals and strong occasional grooves. However, the more meditative attitude of “Casting the Circle” required a significant change: the sound is not that dirty, becoming rather smoky. They wander among oriental religious ceremonies, while balancing skillfully between psychedelia and warm, straightforward doom, bringing in mind Windhand. High Priestess impress, offering an immense hallucinogenic, psychotropic mushroom. “Casting the Circle” is hypnotic, uplifting, invigorating, splendidly spacey and crushingly heavy (Alex Nikolaidis).
We should also refer to the following albums:
- Sepultura – “Quadra”
- Unleash the Archers – “Abyss”
- Psychotic Waltz – “The God-Shaped Void”
- Leaving Tomorrow – “Morningdom”
- Vanden Plas – “The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination”
- Illumishade – “Eclyptic: Wake the Shadows”
- Aether Realm – “Redneck Vikings From Hell”
- Vanishing Point – “Dead Elysium”
- Alestorm – “Curse of the Crystal Coconut”
- Iron Savior – “Skycrest”
- Bring Me The Horizon – “Post Human: Survival Horror”
- Paradise Lost – “Obsidian”
- Unverkalt – ““L'Origine du Monde”
- Bob Katsionis – “Amadeus Street Warrior”
- John Petrucci – “Terminal Velocity”
- Haken – “Virus”