In years past, I have put together a top 18 albums of 2018, a top 19 albums of 2019, and naturally this should be a top 20 albums of 2020. WIth 2020 being what it is there are no more damn rules so I'm just expanding my list to my favorite 100 albums of 2020.
Also different this year, is the combination of my "prog & metal" list and my "non-metal" list. I used to separate these genres (as well as a separate synthwave list) thinking that it made more sense to highlight the non-metal music I listen to. I ran into a few issues of where to place prog jazz metal hybrids, and it's not worth the time and energy to do that anymore.
As always, all the album cover art will be clickable. I will link to a Bandcamp page if I can, otherwise it will be a link to the album in Spotify. Please support these bands if you like them!
One more caveat, this list is somewhat of a living document. Listening to these albums more and more over time can easily change the order. How much I love an album can also depend on my mood on that particular day. Ranking these albums was not easy, and at times can be somewhat arbritary. I did my best to represent how I ranked my favorite albums of the year.
Without further ado, I'm going to list out my top 100 albums of 2020, ten albums at a time. Let's start with the bottom!
100. Poppy - I Disagree
I started listening to Poppy with 2018's Am I a Girl? It was essentially a straight up synth pop album, but there was something strange and different about it.
In 2020, Poppy decided to pivot and blend here bizarre pop stylings with metal. The end result is a fantastic genre blend, similar to Babymetal. One of the most unique albums of the year, and the closing track "Don't Go Outside" eerily predicted the future.
99. Sons of Apollo - MMXX
One of Mike Portnoy's bands post Dream Theater sees him reuniting with his former bandmate Derek Sherinian. It sounds like they picked up right where Falling Into Infinity left off.
This particular brand of progressive metal is now "old hat." However, this is done very well, and makes me nostalgiac for the days when I was first discovering progressive metal. Creative album title bro.
98. Valkyrie - Fear
I kept swapping this one in and out of my top 100 list. Ultimately, there was something that kept me coming back to this, and it was those tasty guitar licks and guitar harmonies.
Valkyrie is a traditional heavy metal band, and are a good alternative if you can't quite get into Kvelertak (who you'll see later) due to the screamy vocals.
97. Kvaen - The Funeral Pyre
I don't know why, I'm not usually into albums that have this kind of black and white cover. This makes no sense since it doesn't have anything to do with the music.
That "rule" doesn't apply at all here. The Funeral Pyre is a fantastic debut album from this one-man black metal outfit. This one also weaved in and out of my list, but the more I listened to it, the more I knew it belonged on here.
96. Fantastic Negrito -
Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?
Oakland's very own Fantastic Negrito combines rock, blues, funk and soul that sounds both nostalgic and new.
In 1999, he was in a car crash, spent three weeks in a coma and several months in recovery. He still suffers from immobility in his hands and arms.
None of that stops him from absolutely ripping it on guitar, and if anything gives him a unique sound to his playing.
95. Rïcïnn - Nareïd
Nareïd is the sophomore effort from French experimental singer Rïcïnn (aka Laure Le Prunenec). She also sings in the equally strange Igorrr.
The avant garde scene in France is truly next level, and Rïcïnn doesn't disappoint with her haunting operatic baroque vocal stylings.
94. Cody Carpenter - Control
That last name should be familiar to all of you horror fans. Cody Carpenter is John Carpenter's son, and even helped scored the 2018 Halloween movie.
His solo work is a nostalgic trip down prog rock memory lane. My first time listening to the song "Emotional" I thought it sounded a lot like Planet X, and lo and behold, Virgil Donati is a guest on this track! I bet you are impressed.
93. Soften the Glare - Glint
Soften the Glare is an instrumental progressive rock trio from Raleigh, North Carolina. It reminds me of Stu Hamm, Primus, and King Crimson.
The bass playing really stands out on this, and I didn't realize that the bassist of Mudvayne, Ryan Martinie, plays in this band!
BRR BRR DENG!
92. Névoa - Towards Relief
Years ago, I joked that I would form my own death metal jazz band, and it would be this revolutionary new sound. Well, it's been done several times over, and done really well.
Nevoa continues to push the boundaries my revolutionary genre blending idea. They brilliantly blends jazz, doom and black metal together, and this is one of the most interesting releases of the year.
91. Exist - Egoiista
Modern progressive metal led by Max Phelps on the guitar. He was a part of Cynic for a few years, and fronted the Death tribute band Death to All. Both of those projects are present here in Exist, as well as a dash of Alkaloid sprinkled on top.
Their previous album So True, So Bound, I dug right away on the first listen. Egoiista took me a few spins before it clicked.