Mike’s Albums of the Year (2020)

I had a hard time prepping for this with how dismal this whole year has been. Still, 2020 did produce some great new metal. These are the albums that really punched me in the gut this year….

Sons of Apollo – MMXX

This one surprised me, since I didn’t give prog metal/rock much attention this year, if any at all. Sons of Apollo play a style I haven’t really admired since the mid 2000s (Zero Hour), but this band packs a punch despite not reinventing the wheel.

Dawn of Solace – Waves

I love this one. This is a side project of members of Wolfheart for those unfamiliar. Despite the lack of harsh vocals, this is some seriously emotional music with great Finnish melodic death/doom undertones. This is one of the few releases that really propelled me through last winter.

Temperance – Viridian

This is another major triumph from this Italian symphonic metal band. This is a seriously underrated band who expertly layers their music with so many subtleties that you’re noticing new things with every listen. Primarily female-fronted, they have three main vocalists who each bring their own dynamic to the table and really separate them from the pack overseas. Great guitar work, melodies, choruses, etc.

Beneath the Massacre – Fearmonger

If you can call them deathcore meets technical death metal, they might’ve been the first of their kind I ever heard almost 20 years ago. The fact that they’ve reemerged is a real treat and most bands of the genre can’t touch them. They are as intricate as they are just plain powerful with their deliveries. They are borderline unmatched, and I only say that because BTM have always stood out to me as being very unique in a now overly saturated genre pool.

Nightwish – Human :II: Nature

Anyone who knows me knows that Nightwish are one of my all-time favorites. That being said, I really couldn’t get behind the first half of this album. However, the instrumentals comprising the second half are mind-blowing. Absolutely superb songwriting from Tuomas once again.

Paradise Lost – Obsidian

This album really shines bright to me, despite its title. I’ve loved this band for literally decades and they always capture my mood at just the right moments. Paradise Lost have gotten me through the darkest of times and their perfect blending of heaviness and tranquility on this album was so important to me during this stressful year.

Voivod – The End of Dormancy

I used to love this band for their sci-fi themes and their wacky, undefinable sound, but slowly phased out of them. However, Greg DiPasquale and I did a podcast on them a few months back and it really rekindled my love for this band. I felt like I was watching Jason Newstead join them all over again. That’s how excited I got. This EP rules.

Ayreon – Transitus

This was a theatrical masterpiece that couldn’t have come at a better time. Arjen Lucassen has released compelling stories via concept albums since the beginning of Ayreon, and Transitus is nothing short of another triumph in his catalog. All the guest vocalists shine across the board, bringing the best of their arsenals together to craft believable characters for Arjen’s universe. Ayreon has once again successfully bridged the gap between live theater musicals and symphonic, progressive metal.

Contrarian – Only Time Will Tell

The fourth studio album from Rochester’s own Contrarian really made me happy. This was a beautifully written progressive death metal record with a glorious sci-fi concept as its vehicle. Contrarian always pushes the envelope, while keeping things grounded and melodic at all the right moments. I love the diversity in their songwriting. There is always something reminiscent of classic heavy metal in all their songs, despite all the craziness going on. I think that’s the main reason I dig them. They always represent metal’s roots, even in their most aggressive moments.

Dark Tranquillity – Moment

I was thrilled with this. This is another band I’ve been choking down for decades and the supreme blend of classic melodic death metal and darker clean-vocal driven metal throughout this entire album is so impressive. I absolutely adore Chris Amott’s solos, Mikael’s vocal style array, and the overall songwriting across the board. Given my limited tastes this year and this consequently short list, this might be my album of the year.

Soilwork – A Whisp of the Atlantic

Despite a few obvious stylistic changes over the years, Soilwork are a band that have yet to disappoint me. Sure, the classic albums from twenty years ago or more are unquestionably their best material, but I think Strid’s vocal abilities and the band’s songwriting and musicianship all have yet to waver. I thought it was a solid EP. The short film to go with is also a nice treat.

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