The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020

“Rock stars come and go. Musicians play until they die.” – Eddie Van Halen

What can I say about the year of 2020? No words can describe all the pain, fear, anxiety, losses and struggles we all had to endure during what’s going to be sadly remembered as the worst year of our modern times. We saw the rise of coronavirus, which had a huge negative impact on pretty much everything and everyone we know, with millions of hardworking people unfortunately losing their jobs, concerts being cancelled, restaurants and other businesses being shut down, people getting stuck in their homes and having to deal with psychological issues like depression, and more important than that, with countless lives, and in some cases people really close to us, people we love, losing their battle against such horrible disease. We also witnessed a gut-wrenching surge in racism against black people all over the world, and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the never-ending fight for freedom and justice, trying to make our world a better place for everyone. And last but not least, we lost so many iconic figures it’s hard to list everyone without crying a little. We lost sports titans such as Kobe Bryant, Diego Maradona and Paolo Rossi, amazing, talented actors and actresses including our beloved “Black Panther” Chadwick Boseman, the original “Darth Vader” David Prowse and the unstoppable Mad Max’s villain “Immortal Joe” Hugh Keays-Byrne, and music geniuses like Rush’s unparalleled Neil Peart and one of the best and most revolutionary guitarists of all time, the one and only Eddie Van Halen. May their souls rest in peace.

However, although we might be living such difficult and stressful times, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with the development of effective vaccines that will certainly put our society back on track sooner than later, giving us all some hope and pointing to a much better future for all of us. In the meantime, I guess one thing that we metalheads have been doing (and will always do) throughout such shitty year is using the music we love to face all of our problems and fears with our heads and horns high in the sky, never giving up nor giving in. Having said that, I’ll leave you with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums, showing to us all that it doesn’t matter what happens with the world, heavy music will always stand strong. From the most primeval form of Black Metal to fast and electrifying Power Metal, from a beyond amazing soaring numbers of women kicking ass in an array of styles such as Doom, Symphonic and Death Metal to the most underground Atmospheric Black Metal entities you can think of, from our good old Rock N’ Roll to modern-day Alternative Metal, music prevailed above darkness, pain and hate, and that’s how it will be forever and ever. Enjoy our list of top metal albums for this (terrible) year that’s coming to an end, and let’s keep raising our horns and banging our heads together in 2021!

1. Primal Fear – Metal Commando (REVIEW)
Join Primal Fear’s undisputed rock brigade and become a true metal commando to the sound of their breathtaking new album.
Best song of the album: Infinity

2. Trivium – What The Dead Men Say (REVIEW)
It’s time to listen to what these four (un)dead men from Orlando, Florida have to say in their thrilling new opus.
Best song of the album: Amongst the Shadows & the Stones

3. Testament – Titans Of Creation (REVIEW)
The titans of Thrash Metal are back in action with another technical, melodic and absolutely pulverizing album of extreme music.
Best song of the album: Night of the Witch

4. Lamb of God – Lamb of God (REVIEW)
Re-energized and unrelenting, Lamb of God are finally back after five years with their pulverizing eighth studio album.
Best song of the album: Gears

5. Sepultura – Quadra (REVIEW)
A sensational concept album based on Quadrivium embraced by a fusion of Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal.
Best song of the album: Guardians of Earth

6. Onslaught – Generation Antichrist (REVIEW)
These UK veterans are ready to set the world on fire once again with one of the most ferocious Thrash Metal albums of the year.
Best song of the album: Religiousuicide

7. Ecclesia – De Ecclesiæ Universalis (REVIEW)
This army of French inquisitors stands strong on their crusade against every doom heretic with their incendiary debut album.
Best song of the album: Antichristus

8. Eleine – Dancing In Hell (REVIEW)
Time for us all to dance in the fires of hell to the sound of the striking new opus by this unstoppable Swedish Symphonic Metal group.
Best song of the album: Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie (W.Y.R.C.L.)

9. Grave Digger – Fields of Blood (REVIEW)
Grave Digger celebrate 40 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal on a journey back to the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.
Best song of the album: Freedom

10. Konvent – Puritan Masochism (REVIEW)
A dark, primeval and stunning fusion of Death and Doom Metal masterfully crafted by four unrelenting women hailing from Denmark.
Best song of the album: Puritan Masochism

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Genus Ordinis Dei – Glare of Deliverance (REVIEW)
12. Paradise Lost – Obsidian (REVIEW)
13. Axel Rudi Pell – Sign of the Times (REVIEW)
14. Raventale – Planetarium II (REVIEW)
15. Hellsmoke – 2020 (REVIEW)
16. My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion (REVIEW)
17. Burning Witches – Dance with the Devil (REVIEW)
18. Naglfar – Cerecloth (REVIEW)
19. Scarlet Aura – Stormbreaker (REVIEW)
20. Thundermother – Heat Wave (REVIEW)

And how about we also pay a tribute to the bands that released short and sweet albums that condensed pretty much the same amount of electricity, rage and intricacy than any of the full-length albums from the list above? That’s why we’re also going to provide you as usual our Top 10 EP’s of 2020 for you to see that size doesn’t really matter.

1. Front – Antichrist Militia (REVIEW)
2. Malfested – Shallow Graves (REVIEW)
3. Tøronto – Under Siege (REVIEW)
4. Soul Dissolution – Winter Contemplations (REVIEW)
5. Lutharö – Wings of Agony (REVIEW)
6. Póstuma – Moralis (REVIEW)
7. Black Sun – Silent Enemy (REVIEW)
8. MĀRA – Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive! (REVIEW)
9. Serocs – Vore (REVIEW)
10. Invocation – Attunement to Death (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2020? Also, don’t forget to tune in every Tuesday at 10pm BRT on Rádio Coringão to enjoy the best of classic and underground metal with Jorge Diaz and his Timão Metal, and every Thursday at 8pm UTC+2 on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of underground metal with The Headbanging Moose Show! And if you lost some or most of our special editions of The Headbanging Moose Show, including our Top 20 Underground Albums of 2020 – Parts I and II, go to our Mixcloud page and there you have hours and hours of the best of the independent scene, sounds good?

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2021!

And before we go, let’s bang our heads one last time in 2020 with a classic Christmas song by an amazing Romanian band that loves Heavy Metal from the bottom of their hearts, pointing to much better times ahead for all of us! Enjoy!

Album Review – Trivium / What The Dead Men Say (2020)

It’s time to listen to what these four (un)dead men from Orlando, Florida have to say in their thrilling new opus.

Three years after the release of the excellent The Sin and the Sentence, the unrelenting Matt Heafy on lead vocals and guitar, Corey Beaulieu on guitar and backing vocals, Paolo Gregoletto on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Alex Bent on drums and percussion, collectively known as Orlando, Florida-based Heavy Metal unity Trivium, return with another round of their always cohesive and breathtaking heavy music in What The Dead Men Say, the ninth studio album and another awesome addition to their undisputed career. Recorded at Studio 606 West in Northridge, Los Angeles, California, engineered, mixed and produced by Josh Wilbur, and mastered by Ted Jensen, What The Dead Men Say brings forward a myriad of styles and sounds that will please fans of all phases of the band, from Melodic Death Metal to Progressive Metal, Black Metal, Thrash Metal and Deathcore. “We’ve found a really great place to exist in this world. We love Melodic Death Metal, we love Death and Black Metal, and we love Hardcore. What the Dead Men Say is everything we do on one record,” commented Matt about their newborn spawn.

Furthermore, like The Sin and the Sentence, the lyrical content on What The Dead Men Say was inspired by modern aspects of life, with the album’s title being taken from a science fiction novella of the same name written by American writer Philip K. Dick, first published in Worlds of Tomorrow magazine in June 1964. For instance, “Catastrophist” deals with the theme of humanity in a crisis, “Amongst the Shadows & the Stones” is about the horrors of war, “The Defiant” was inspired by R. Kelly’s documentary and abuse-enabling, “Bending the Arc to Fear” talks about the surveillance aspect of modern society, and so on, with the closing song “The Ones We Leave Behind” being about “running over” people to succeed in life, delivering a powerful message and portraying a whole new meaning in the wake of the 2019–2020 COVID-19 pandemic. With that said, it was more than obvious that the fusion of a precise and powerful music with meaningful lyrics would result in another future classic by Trivium, leaving us eager for more of their always-evolving and never-repetitive music in the years yet to come.

As soon as you hit play, the cinematic instrumental intro IX (a clear reference to the fact that What The Dead Men Say is their ninth full-length album) sets the stage for Matt & Co. to kick some ass with the title-track What the Dead Men Say, where Alex begins crushing his drums with tons of precision and fury accompanied by the scorching riffs by Matt and Corey. Bringing elements from the Progressive and Groove Metal by bands like Lamb Of God added to their core musicality, this is indeed an excellent way to start their new opus, followed by Catastrophist, one of the previously released singles of the album, keeping the groove and electricity flowing from start to finish. Moreover, its razor-edged riffs remind me of some of their compositions from their 2013 album Vengeance Falls, while Paolo makes the earth tremble with his sick bass jabs.

Then it’s time to go absolutely mental to the sound of Amongst the Shadows & the Stones, by far my favorite of all songs, presenting their trademark riffage and solos, intricate beats, tons of breaks and variations and an endless amount of violence in a hybrid of Groove, Heavy and Thrash Metal, with Matt rabidly roaring the song’s lyrics (“Bloodied corpses, broken bones reveal / A throng of clashes crushed, our nightmare sealed / Amongst the shadows and the stones”), whereas the semi-ballad Bleed Into Me, despite the solidness of the instrumental pieces (in special Paolo’s somber bass lines), doesn’t really click and falls flat after a while, but there’s nothing to worry about as this is the only low (or maybe I should say less intense) point of the entire album. And back to their usual high-octane mode the quartet fires the also amazing The Defiant, showcasing Iron Maiden-inspired guitars walking hand in hand with the vicious beats by Alex while at the same time presenting a great balance between Matt’s clean vocals and harsh screams. As a matter of fact, could this be an “alternate” version or a sequel to their classic “The Deceived” due to the sonic similarity between both songs? That’s a question only Matt, Corey, Paolo and Alex can answer, of course.

In the top-of-the-line Sickness Unto You a mellow and melancholic start gradually morphs into a violent metal feast by Trivium, with sheer rage flowing form Matt’s vocals while he and Corey demolish our ears with their razor-edged riffs, both supported by the always thunderous bass by Paolo, whereas Scattering the Ashes can be considered a good example of how diverse their new album is by blending the music from Silence In The Snow with In Waves, once again presenting a solid instrumental and spot-on backing vocals overflowing pure anguish. Then we’re treated to more of their always cryptic lyrics (“A strain of vigilance / Deep roots that all connect / We wait so diligent / Watching you / Watching you”) in Bending the Arc to Fear, starting in a Black and Thrash Metal-ish vibe and sounding perfect for slamming into the pit to the sound of the bestial drums by Alex. On a side note, I personally love the strident and metallic sound of their stringed axes throughout the entire album, enhanced by its crisp and polished overall production. Lastly, closing the album the quartet offers us all the melodic and vibrant The Ones We Left Behind, featuring the rumbling bass by Paolo accompanied by the stunning beats and fills by Alex while Matt and Corey give a lesson in riffs and feeling, concluding the album in a powerful and effective manner.

After listening to What The Dead Men Say in its entirety for a few times, you’ll quickly notice how not only the band’s technique and professionalism, but also their synchronicity, have been growing stronger and stronger through the years, pointing to an even brighter future for Matt and his bandmates in a near future and, therefore, positioning Trivium as one of the driving forces of modern-day metal music, never sounding tiresome nor predictable at all with each one of their releases. Hence, go check what the boys are up to on Facebook and on Instagram (especially because they’re all very active users of most social media platforms), subscribe to their YouTube channel, and above all that, grab your copy of such entertaining album from the Warner Music webstore or click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream the album (and if you have some extra money go for the Japanese Edition of the album, as it contains two very special acoustic versions for the songs “Bleed Into Me” and “Scattering the Ashes”), raising your horns, banging your head and listening to what the (un)dead men from Trivium have to say through their unparalleled music.

Best moments of the album: Amongst the Shadows & the Stones, The Defiant, Sickness Unto You and The Ones We Left Behind.

Worst moments of the album: Bleed Into Me.

Released in 2020 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. IX 1:59
2. What the Dead Men Say 4:45
3. Catastrophist 6:28
4. Amongst the Shadows & the Stones 5:40
5. Bleed Into Me 3:49
6. The Defiant 4:29
7. Sickness Unto You 6:14
8. Scattering the Ashes 3:25
9. Bending the Arc to Fear 4:46
10. The Ones We Left Behind 4:57

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
11. Bleed Into Me (Acoustic version) 3:45
12. Scattering the Ashes (Acoustic version) 3:04

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitar
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Alex Bent – drums, percussion