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 – My Dying Bride / The Ghost Of Orion (2020)

A lesson in how to transform pain, agony and grief into beautiful metal music by one of the pioneers of the death and doom style.

It’s impressive when even after 30 years on the road a veteran band like West Yorkshire, UK-based Gothic/Doom Metal masters My Dying Bride, one of the pioneers of the death and doom style alongside Anathema and Paradise Lost, is capable of still delivering top-of-the-line music without sounding repetitive, outdated or tiresome, just like what they have to offer us now in 2020 with their 13th studio album, the majestic The Ghost Of Orion, proving once again why the band currently comprised of Aaron Stainthorpe on vocals, Andrew Craighan and Neil Blanchett on the guitars, Lena Abé on bass, Shaun Macgowan on keyboards and violin and Jeff Singer on drums is and will always be a reference in extreme music. Produced by Mark Mynett (Mynetaur), portraying a stunning artwork by Israeli artist Eliran Kantor (Testament, Tristania, Fleshgod Apocalypse), and featuring very special guest appearances by British cellist Jo Quail and Norwegian singer Lindy Fay Hella (from Folk/Ambient band Wardruna), The Ghost Of Orion not only marks the band’s longest gap between studio albums to date, being released five years after their previous effort Feel the Misery, but it’s also a lecture in how to transform pain, agony and grief into beautiful Doom Metal.

As soon as you hit play, get ready to dive deep into the Stygian waters of doom ruled by Aaron and his horde in the opening track Your Broken Shore, with Jeff dictating the rhythm with his somber, sluggish beats while Aaron is absolutely superb with both his anguished, clean vocals and his demonic roars, resulting in the perfect anthem for savoring endless darkness and solitude, not to mention the delicate and whimsical sounds of the cello by Jo Quail and the violin by Shaun throughout the entire song as the icing on the cake. And that lugubrious vibe goes on in the also captivating To Outlive the Gods, with sheer melancholy flowing from its words (“A fool will believe every single word said / And yes you may speak with only me now on the sunrise / Child of my sore and bleeding body come over here / Sit here and say your words feeding only me till sunrise”) while Andrew, Neil and Lena make our hearts tremble with their crushing riffs and bass punches.

Clearly inspired by Aaron’s arduous experience with his five-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer a couple years after the release of Feel the Misery, from which she was thankfully declared in remission later, Tired of Tears brings forward gentle and serene sounds that graciously permeate the air while Shaun is absolutely amazing with his violin, with Lena and Jeff keeping the atmosphere dense and mournful with their sonic weapons. Put differently, this is a lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal with nuances of Depressive Black Metal and Blackened Doom, showcasing My Dying Bride’s undisputed ability to turn pure sadness into grandiose metal music. Following such touching tune we have The Solace, where the hypnotizing vocals by Lindy Fay Hella are solely accompanied by the grim guitar lines by Andrew and Neil in a minimalist and enfolding creation by My Dying Bride.

In the brilliant The Long Black Land the energy emanating from the cello by Jo Quail together with the low-tuned, menacing bass by Lena is outstanding, embellishing even more the song’s over ten minutes of obscure passages spearheaded by the clean and aggressive gnarls by Aaron, giving life to its poetic lyrics  for our total delight (“On the lap of the world I lay my head / Pick my way carefully through our long past / Hold my hand, young one / Hold my hand / Listen to my voice / Hold my hand / Face your God / Your God”) and ending in a classy and mournful manner. The semi-acoustic, phantasmagorical bridge The Ghost of Orion sets the stage for the also bold and intricate The Old Earth, starting also in a gentle and somber way led by Andrew’s and Neil’s acoustic lines, suddenly exploding into a lecture in devilish and sluggish Doom Metal where Aaron declaims the song’s lyrics with passion and rage, overflowing sheer melancholy before the outro Your Woven Shore brings to the listener an ethereal, sinister atmosphere and sonority, putting a cinematic and therefore fabulous closure to the album.

In summary, as aforementioned, Aaron and his bandmates from My Dying Bride simply nailed it in The Ghost Of Orion, available for purchase from the Nuclear Blast webstore and for streaming on Spotify, filling our ears, minds and hearts with an immeasurable amount of melancholy, sorrow and distress in what’s undoubtedly one of the best metal albums of 2020. Having said that, I highly suggest you go check what the band is up to on Facebook and on Instagram, including their tour dates, as they’ll bring the music found in The Ghost Of Orion to the stages near you without a shadow of a doubt. Hence, after listening to such distinguished album of Gothic and Doom Metal (again and again), I’m sure you’ll understand once and for all why My Dying Bride are so important and relevant to the world of heavy music, getting better and better as the years go by just like that fancy red wine you enjoy savoring all by yourself on a cold and rainy night while listening to their undisputed doom.

Best moments of the album: Your Broken Shore, The Long Black Land and The Old Earth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Your Broken Shore 7:43
2. To Outlive the Gods 7:56
3. Tired of Tears 8:37
4. The Solace 5:52
5. The Long Black Land 10:01
6. The Ghost of Orion 3:31
7. The Old Earth 10:32
8. Your Woven Shore 2:09

Band members
Aaron Stainthorpe – vocals
Andrew Craighan – guitars
Neil Blanchett – guitars
Lena Abé – bass
Shaun Macgowan – keyboards, violin
Jeff Singer – drums

Guest musicians
Jo Quail – cello
Lindy Fay Hella – female vocals on “The Solace”

Metal Chick of the Month – Lena Abé

Your presence here astonishes us, Lena!

Another year, another fantastic female bass player to reignite The Headbanging Moose and thaw all the ice and snow accumulated in the past few weeks. Coincidence or not, she’s also a “doom” bassist just like last year, corroborating the darkest side of music always welcomes any metal chick that chooses to ride the four-strings with arms wide open. I’m talking about Lena Abé, the awesome bassist for British Doom Metal icons My Dying Bride and a woman that, above all things, loves her family, friends and heavy music.

Lena was born on January 4, 1983 in Tokyo, Japan, but moved to the UK with her family when she was still a little baby. Half Japanese and half British, she was raised in Yorkshire and, according to Lena herself, she has the proper accent to prove it. Coming from a musical family and seeing her family as one of her major influences, Lena started in the world of music when she was around 10 years old, having keyboards and other creative toys instead of the usual dolls. She started playing the guitar then, watching her father play his own and wanting to be like him. She mentioned during one of her interviews that the rest of her story is quite typical for most musicians, as she played with some bands in high school, got more involved with the metal scene, and then finally joined My Dying Bride.

Being so close to family has brought lots of benefits to Lena, especially in terms of her inner strength and perseverance, never giving up on her dreams and projects. Our badass bassist believes learning is a never-ending cycle, saying she’s always learning new things by herself or from other people and musicians. By the way, Lena said she has a drum kit in her cellar, which she’s determined to master at some point in her life. With that said, it’s easy to understand why she truly hates things like selfishness, rudeness and inconsideration, and why one of her favorite quotes is “What matters is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

She said she doesn’t remember exactly when she got to know My Dying Bride before joining them, but she remember seeing the band in magazines such as Kerrang and Terrorizer and on MTV. She really got into them around 2004 by listening to their album Songs of Darkness, Words of Light and by seeing them live, and that was more than enough for her to begin exploring the rest of the band’s catalogue.

In regards to her career with them, Lena replaced Adrian Jackson as the band’s bassist in 2007, which was around when Dan Mullins replaced John Bennett on drums. She used to live just a couple of streets apart from the band’s guitarist and founding member Andrew Craighan and they had some friends in common, so when Adrian left the band Andrew asked her to audition. I don’t need to say Andrew and the rest of the band loved her style and skills, right?

So far she has recorded with My Dying Bride the live album An Ode to Woe (2008); the full-length albums For Lies I Sire (2009), A Map of All Our Failures (2012) and Feel the Misery (2015); the EP’s Bring Me Victory (2009), The Barghest o’ Whitby (2011) and The Manuscript (2013); and the single Hollow Cathedra (2015), with For Lies I Sire being her favorite album by My Dying Bride, including all their previous releases from even when she wasn’t their bassist. She also played rhythm guitar for British Death/Black Metal band Severed Heaven between 2011 and 2014, but didn’t record anything with them except for their live performances. Some excellent options for the ones who want to listen to Lena kicking fuckin’ ass with her powerful bass guitar together with My Dying Bride are the songs Like a Perpetual FuneralAnd My Father Left ForeverBring Me Victory and Feel the Misery.

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Our Nippo-British diva believes that spending time with the other band members on tour is one of the best things about being in a metal band, and among her most memorable moments on the road are meeting Adam Jones from Tool and him inviting her to their Manchester show as a VIP, and playing with Metallica and Mastodon in Athens, Greece in 2007. One important detail about this is that, according to Lena, that was only her sixth or seventh show with My Dying Bride, so you can imagine how much adrenaline was rushing through her veins then. In terms of her favorite cities and/or countries to visit or to perform with the band, she mentioned Moscow, Romania, Mexico City, Florida and, of course, Japan. And although being raised in the UK, she considers the UK metal scene very weak and depressing, where people are not willing to spend any money on local bands or travel any distance to see them live.

During her early teens, when she was a fan of alternative music such as Portishead, Janes Addiction and Weezer, she started looking for more powerful music, finally connecting to Heavy Metal. Among her favorite bands we can find dark and progressive acts like All Shall Perish, Behemoth, Tool, Septic Flesh, Tomahawk and Whitechapel, and as a fan of witch house she also enjoys the dark beats by bands like Salem, Mater Susperia Vision and RVT$TVX. In addition, one of her favorite most recent albums is Weighing Souls With Sand, from 2007, by The Angelic Process. Take a listen at this album HERE and you’ll see how dark the music enjoyed by Lena is. And if you want to know her list of the 11 most miserable songs in the world, simply click HERE. You will find amazing bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Type O Negative, especially this one with the song Red Water (Christmas Mourning), very powerful and, obviously, miserable.

Lastly, in terms of hobbies and other activities in her personal life, Lena mentioned she simply loves Wii, Xbox and video games in general, including retro gaming too, as well as she’s a fitness fanatic and likes to spend her evenings at the gym. Also, she reads a lot of true crime and lists Lost Highway as her favorite film. And guess what her favorite food is? Sushi, of course! She might have been raised in the UK, but her Japanese blood gets stronger and speaks up at least in this case.

Equipment
Mayones Be 4 Gothic bass guitar
Mayones 5-String Patriot
Mayones Slogan custom 5-string
Trace Elliot AH600-12 Head amp head, 1518 + 1048H cabinets

Lena Abé’s Official Facebook page
Lena Abé’s Official Twitter
My Dying Bride’s Official Facebook page

My Dying Bride’s Official Twitter

“Prepare yourselves for failure after failure. If you can survive the disappointment and hardship you might just make it with some sanity intact.” – Lena Abé