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 – Primal Fear / Metal Commando (2020)

Join Primal Fear’s undisputed rock brigade and become a true metal commando to the sound of their breathtaking new album.

Just like what happens with other renowned hardworking metal bands form all over the world, German Power Metal masters Primal Fear seem to follow a “strict” schedule of releasing a new album every two years, and that’s without counting their compilations and live albums. Well, let’s say that two-year formula followed by frontman Ralf Scheepers, bassist Mat Sinner, guitarists Magnus Karlsson, Alex Beyrodt and Tom Naumann, and newcomer Michael Ehré on drums has been working amazingly for the band, keeping them sharp, ready to rock and always hungry for more. Primal Fear have been on a roll for decades already, with all of their latest albums, those being Delivering the Black (2014), Rulebreaker (2016) and more recently Apocalypse (2018) being a lesson in Heavy and Power Metal with no shenanigans nor any artificial elements added to their trademark sound, and their streak seems far from being over with their 2020 opus Metal Commando, not only the thirteenth studio album in their undisputed career, but also as the name of the album already states, a lecture in our good old Heavy Metal.

The crisp and electrifying guitars by Magnus, Alex and Tom rev up the band’s engines in the exciting opening track I Am Alive, a traditional Power Metal tune by Primal Fear to properly kick things off with Ralf majestically delivering his usual (and absolutely awesome) high-pitched vocal lines, followed by Along Came the Devil, blending the classic metal music by Judas Priest with Primal Fear’s characteristic sound (also reminding me a lot of their own Apocalypse bonus track “Fight Against All Evil”, by the way), and with Mat and Michael making a thunderous duo with their bass jabs and rhythmic beats, respectively. In the inspiring Halo we’re treated to straightforward, thrilling lyrics (“One man genocide / Broken halos / Wings that used to fly / Into the dark / Angel in the light / And disappear / I can see your halo”) while the music transpires pure Power Metal for our total delight, with Ralf once again stealing the spotlight with his blazing screams, whereas less visceral and more melodic than its predecessors, Hear Me Calling is a very pleasant Hard Rock tune showcasing meaningful lyrics intertwined with the always razor-edged, hypnotizing guitar job done by Magnus, Alex and Tom, keeping the album at a high level of awesomeness.

And Michael pounds his drums with tons of power in the heavy-as-hell The Lost & the Forgotten, with Ralf and Mat generating a fantastic paradox between their soaring screams and rumbling bass punches, making it impossible to stand still to their headbanging feast. Then slashing riffs and fast and furious beats are the main ingredients in the high-octane My Name Is Fear, a lesson in German Power and Heavy Metal displaying a flawless fusion of harmony and rage (and fear, of course), all spiced up by the insane solos blasted by the band’s guitar triumvirate, and after so many metal anthems it’s time for a soothing ballad titled I Will Be Gone, where Ralf obviously thrives with another passionate performance while his bandmates generate an ethereal ambience perfect for embracing your loved ones on a cold winter night, followed by an ode to all things Rock N’ Roll entitled Raise Your Fists, where their riffs and solos will pierce your ears while Michael dictates the pace with his classic beats. Put differently, there’s nothing better than raising our fists and banging our heads to Primal Fear’s old school Heavy Metal, don’t you agree?

In Howl of the Banshee the band brings forth more of their trademark sonority presenting blast beats, singalong lyrics and another amazing performance by Mat with his unstoppable bass. Moreover, it’s easy to imagine Ralf kicking ass on stage singing this excellent tune to a huge crowd at a summer metal festival, while in Afterlife guess what Magnus, Alex and Tom do to our senses with their axes? It’s indeed another round of scorching, metallic riffs and wicked solos boosted by Ralf’s fulminating vocals, being therefore highly recommended for slamming into the circle pit, before our senses are fully captivated by the 13-minute aria Infinity, where Ralf beautifully declaims the song’s dark words (“Sitting here in the morning / Remembering what my father said / Another day is dawning / And demons are touching me / The rain is falling / And washes away the tears / It’s an early warning / The roar of my fears”) while his bandmates craft a hammering and bold atmosphere, resulting in a brilliant festival of breathtaking solos and flowing smoothly  until its dense and cinematic grand finale. In addition, I would highly recommend you go for one of the special editions of the album to get four amazing bonus tracks, the instrumental intro Rising Fear, the pounding and melodic Leave Me Alone, the 80’s-inspired Hard Rock chant Second to None and the bestial Crucify Me, as they’re all worth the extra investment hands down.

Primal Fear Metal Commando Box

Do you consider yourself a true metal fan? If your answer to this very simple question is a sounding YES, raising your fists and banging your head while answering it, then you must add Metal Commando to your Heavy Metal collection, and you can do so by purchasing the album from the Nuclear Blast webstore, or you can also buy a digital copy of it or stream it in full by clicking HERE, but if I were you I would certainly go for the Metal Commando Box available at the Napalm Records webstore, including the digipak double CD version of the album, a double vinyl with an exclusive color, a poster and a slipmat. Hence, you can also follow Ralf, Mat & Co. on Facebook and on Instagram to stay up to date with all things Primal Fear, and listen to Metal Commando and all of their previous albums on Spotify. Then, and only then, you’ll be ready to become a commando and join Primal Fear’s one and only metal brigade, armed to the teeth with their classy and piercing Power Metal while braving the battlegrounds of our everyday lives.

Best moments of the album: Halo, Hear Me Calling, The Lost & the Forgotten, My Name Is Fear and Infinity.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. I Am Alive 4:34
2. Along Came the Devil 4:21
3. Halo 4:19
4. Hear Me Calling 4:39
5. The Lost & the Forgotten 4:08
6. My Name Is Fear 4:04
7. I Will Be Gone 4:26
8. Raise Your Fists 3:52
9. Howl of the Banshee 4:54
10. Afterlife 4:29
11. Infinity 13:12

Deluxe Digipak/Japanese Edition bonus tracks
12. Rising Fear 1:39
13. Leave Me Alone 4:04
14. Second to None 4:12
15. Crucify Me 4:06

Band members
Ralf Scheepers – vocals
Mat Sinner – bass, backing vocals
Magnus Karlsson – guitars, keyboards
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Tom Naumann – guitars
Michael Ehré – drums