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 – Axel Rudi Pell / Sign of the Times (2020)

Time doesn’t seem to be an issue at all for this German guitar virtuoso, as he keeps on rockin’ the nation with another round of his first-class fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.

It looks like the one and only guitar virtuoso Axel Rudi Pell and his henchmen Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Volker Krawczak on bass, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Bobby Rondinelli on drums will keep on rockin’ the nation for many decades to come based on the electrifying fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock found in Sign of the Times, the 19th studio album in the band’s impressive career, keeping up with their own stream of one studio album every two years and always delivering first-class music like what they did in 2018 with Knights Call, in 2016 with Game of Sins, in 2014 with Into the Storm, and so on. As a matter of fact, you’ll need to go back over 30 years to fully appreciate the entire work of such talented Bochum, Germany-based guitarist, not to mention the over 1.7 million albums sold worldwide as the perfect indicator of how awesome his music is. Hence, his consistency enjoys more and more respect and appreciation within the hard and heavy community as the years go by, with Sign of the Times proving once again why he has (deservedly) become a true legend among guitar players and all types of metalheads from all over the world, even without accepting such honorable title.

As soon as you hit play, get ready to have your senses invaded by The Black Serenade, a cinematic intro that’s always part of their albums, warming us up for the incendiary Gunfire, where Axel begins slashing his strings in great fashion as usual accompanied by Ferdy’s 70’s-inspired keys and the potent beats by Bobby. Needless to say, Johnny is absolutely superb on vocals, yet again showing us all that their best songs always burn such as “Burning Chains”, “Fire”, and now this amazing composition. Then we have Bad Reputation, a lesson in classic Hard Rock led by Axel’s trademark riffs and the always crisp vocals by Johnny, also bringing a very pleasant pace and vibe and a beyond catchy chorus, all spiced up by the sharp and precise guitar solos by Axel; followed by the title-track Sign Of The Times, where an atmospheric intro is gradually boosted by metallic riffs, classic drums and the rumbling bass by Volker. Put differently, simply relax and enjoy over seven minutes of top-of-the-line Hard Rock that’s at the same time slow, steady and always great to listen to.

Speeding things up a bit the quintet fires the solid The End Of The Line, showcasing Bobby’s old school drumming while Axel and Johnny complement each other’s incendiary performances flawlessly, resulting in another amazing choice for their live concerts, whereas in As Blind As A Fool Can Be it’s time for one of their trademark, classy ballads, where we’re all invited to hold our loved ones tight and enjoy their smooth and gentle musicality while Johnny gives a lesson in passion and reach with his unique voice. And Ferdy takes the energy of his magical keys to a whole new level in Wings Of The Storm, a mid-tempo tune where Johnny tells a thrilling story through his soaring vocal lines while his bandmates generate a well-balanced and captivating ambience in the background, maintaining the album at an absurd level of quality, groove and feeling.

How about one more thrilling Rock N’ Roll ride with the boys? That’s what you’re going to get in Waiting For Your Call, utterly loyal to their own traditions and living up to the legacy of bands such as Bon Jovi, Heart and Journey, with Volker, Ferdy and Bobby being spot-on with their fiery instruments, providing Johnny all he needs to shine on vocals. Following such fun tune, a Reggae-inspired intro beautifully spearheaded by Johnny and Axel soon morphs into a 70’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal extravaganza à la Rainbow titled Living In A Dream, bringing to our avid ears amazing performances by all band members, in special Ferdy with his whimsical keys, and showing a more alternative side of Axel while at the same time keeping his core essence intact. And last but not least, a fusion of epicness and dexterity concludes the album in Into The Fire, where Axel’s riffs sound insanely mesmerizing, therefore showcasing all his talent and skills as the fantastic guitarist that he is. Furthermore, this is such a gorgeous tune that I wish it was even longer and more atmospheric than its final shape and form just to provide us more time to enjoy Axel’s stunning music.

Sign of the Times Vinyl Boxset

I don’t think I need to tell you that if you consider yourself a diehard fan of classic rock and metal, you definitely need to purchase Sign of the Times, right? And you can do so by clicking HERE and selecting your favorite version of the album, with the deluxe vinyl boxset (which comes with a wall clock, a digipak CD version of the album, a double-LP gatefold in different colours, a magnet, a button, an A1 double sided poster, an A5 photo card and a sticker, all strictly limited to 1000 copies) being undoubtedly your go-to version of it. Also, don’t forget to give Mr. Axel Rudi Pell a shout on Facebook showing your respect and admiration for the amazing music he always brings to us fans, with Sign of the Times keeping the flames of such unparalleled guitarist and his loyal bandmates burning bright for the next couple of years until we see more of his stylish metal music. And as you might have already noticed, saying he’ll stun us once again with his captivating creations is not just a simple desire or a dream, but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Best moments of the album: Gunfire, Bad Reputation, The End Of The Line and Living In A Dream.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing
1. The Black Serenade (Intro) 1:40
2. Gunfire 5:21
3. Bad Reputation 5:41
4. Sign Of The Times 7:10
5. The End Of The Line 5:22
6. As Blind As A Fool Can Be 6:14
7. Wings Of The Storm 5:48
8. Waiting For Your Call 5:34
9. Living In A Dream 5:59
10. Into The Fire 6:01

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums