BPMHILL’s Best Albums of 2020

More than almost anything in a hellish year that we’ve all just had, music has been the glue keeping me together. No matter what mood I’m in, there’s a variety of great new tunes that can either help me feel better or conquer whatever problem is in front of me. I found that this year in particular I was not only listening to older records I’ve always loved but also exploring a lot of new artists I had previously not given a chance. I’m so glad I had some time to really dig into new artists as there were several great finds, some of which are on this list. Without further ado, here are my favorite Albums, EP’s and Live releases for the year.

Best EP’s:

I don’t always mention EP’s on my lists but when I do it’s because they’re F*#@in’ awesome so maybe check these out.

  1. Nuclear Power Trio – “A Clear and Present Rager”
  2. Soilwork – “A Whisp of the Atlantic
  3. Ihsahn – “Telemark” and “Pharos”
  4. Carcass – “Despicable”
  5. Thomas Giles – “Feel Better”

Best Live Albums/Virtual Streaming Shows:

Since mid-March in the US, artists had to start cancelling their tour plans and many bands either released killer previously recorded live albums or got creative and did a live streaming show (or both if you’re Devin Townsend).

  1. Devin Townsend – “Order of Magnitude: Empath Live Vol 1” (and all of his virtual shows)
  2. Katatonia – “Dead Air” (Live Stream/Album)
  3. Greg Puciato – “Fuck Content” (Live Stream/Album)
  4. Deafheaven – “10 Years Gone” (Live in Studio)
  5. Tesseract – “Portals” (Live Stream)
  6. Dream Theater – “Distant Memories: Live in London” (Live Release)
  7. The Black Dahlia Murder – “Yule ‘Em All” (Live Stream)
  8. Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate” (Live Stream)
  9. Imperial Triumphant – “An Evening With Imperial Triumphant” (Live Stream)
  10. Leprous & Ihsahn (Live Stream)
  11. Swallow the Sun (Live Stream)
  12. Iron Maiden – “Nights of the Dead: Live in Mexico City” (Live Release)

Best Studio Albums:

  1. Haken – “Virus”: The album I’ve listened to the most and has stuck with me through the year. Haken continue their upward trajectory with “Virus”, one of their best albums yet. Incredibly catchy vocal melodies and terrific musicianship. Do NOT miss. Songs to listen to: Canary Yellow, Prosthetic, Carousel
  2. Intronaut – “Fluid Existential Inversions”: Intronaut knocked it out of the park with their latest album. New drummer, Alex Rudiner, adds a new layer to the band and his work (along with the rest of the band) is very impressive. I keep coming back to this album and rotating my favorite songs as every single one is great. Songs to listen to: The Cull, Cubensis, Pangloss
  3. Imperial Triumphant – “Alphaville”: I know I’ve said it before but Imperial Triumphant are one of the best bands today and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t listen to their new album, “Alphaville”. Featuring some of the best musicianship this year or any other, they are not a band you simply put on in the background. This is a challenging, disgusting and truly rewarding listen. I can’t wait to see what the group does next. Songs to listen to: City Swine, Atomic Age, Transmission to Mercury
  4. Myrkur – “Folkesange”: I can always count on Myrkur to do something different with each new album and on this one, she does away with any trace of metal and instead embraces folk entirely and it’s beautiful. Songs to listen to: Leaves of Yggdrasil, House Carpenter, Harpens Kraft
  5. The Ocean – “Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic”: Confusing album title aside, The Ocean continue evolving with one of their finest albums to date and one of the most enthralling works of art about (checks scribbled notes while listening to said album)…dinosaurs since “Jurassic Park”. Songs to listen to: Jurassic |Cretaceous, Triassic, Holocene
  6. Enslaved – “Utgard”: I’ll admit that this album took awhile to stick for me but when it finally clicked, I fell for it. I should never doubt Enslaved as every album is excellent. The band is at their creative best and have a seemingly endless amount of brilliant riffs at their disposal. Songs to listen to: Homebound, Storms of Utgard, Flight of Thought and Memory
  7. Greg Puciato – “Child Soldier: Creator of God”: If you’ve been reading my posts for a bit, you’ll already know I’m a big fan of Greg’s and thus two releases with him made my top ten. His debut solo album is absolutely stunning. On an initial listen, it might seem bi-polar in nature, bouncing between aggressive songs like “Fire for Water” to dark synth-wave tracks like “Temporary Object”. However, I found the more spins I gave it, the more it opened up to me and all the pieces came together to form a truly wonderful piece of art. Songs to listen to: Temporary Object, A Pair of Questions, Fire for Water
  8. Old Man Gloom – “Seminar VIII: The Light of Meaning & Seminar IX: Darkness of Being”: Old Man Gloom made a new double album and it’s both devastating and crushing. Aaron Turner has been one busy dude between this band, Sumac, his solo albums and multiple other projects but somehow every single release is top-notch. This release is one of the bands most varied and perfect for newcomers to start with. Songs to listen to: Death Rhymes, By Love All is Healed, The Bleeding Sun
  9. Killer Be Killed – “Reluctant Hero”: This insanely talented group have been secretly working on their second full length for a few years. The time since their debut has given the musicians a chance to stew on each track and it really paid off. This is even better than their first release and a must-listen for metal fans of all kinds. Songs to listen to: The Great Purge, Dream Gone Bad, Deconstructing Self-Destruction
  10. Finntroll – “Vredesvävd”: We’ve had to wait seven long, cold years in between albums but Finntroll made it count with their seventh studio album. Catchy and inventive, there’s no band that sounds quite like them and that’s a very good thing. Songs to listen to: Att Doda Med En Sten, Forsen, Mask
  11. Paradise Lost – “Obsidian”
  12. Ulver – “Flowers of Evil”
  13. The Black Dahlia Murder – “Verminous”
  14. White Stones – “Kuarahy”
  15. John Petrucci – “Terminal Velocity”
  16. Pallbearer – “Forgotten Days”
  17. Katatonia – “City Burials”
  18. Silent Skies – “Satellites”
  19. The Night Flight Orchestra – “Aeromantic”
  20. Sumac – “May You Be Held”

In case you missed it, here’s my list of top songs for the year. For more Best Albums lists check out FancyMemo‘s, and UndercoverSadGirl‘s lists.

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BPMHILL’s Top 26 Songs of 2020

As we’re nearing the end of the year, it’s time for a roundup of all the best ear candy this difficult year had to offer us. Others on this site (Mates…) will claim their top songs of the year are the best, but I promise the songs below are all you really need to hear. ANYWAYS, I’ll be further discussing full albums from several of these artists on my Best Albums of 2020 list in a few weeks, but for now, check out my personal favorite (read: THE BEST) tracks listed below.

Haken‘s “Canary Yellow” – Haken continues to impress with their latest album and “Canary Yellow” may just be one of my favorite songs they’ve composed to date. It’s very hooky and remarkably beautiful. If the last minute of the song doesn’t give you full body goosebumps, I don’t know what will.

Intronaut‘s “The Cull” – The last concert I was able to see before the pandemic hit was Cult of Luna and Intronaut in early March. I had been familiar with Intronaut but hadn’t fully explored their music. The live experience was incredible. I picked up the album immediately and it has continued in rotation ever since. While these songs aren’t really ranked in order, this is certainly in the top 5.

Imperial Triumphant‘s “City Swine” – I discovered Imperial Triumphant this year and have quickly become addicted to these dingy, yet elegant metropolitan doom-slayers. The track “City Swine” is overwhelming but in a really wonderful way. It takes many listens to fully comprehend what the band is accomplishing here. The drumming is insane too and Tomas Haake (Meshuggah) even shows up!

Myrkur‘s “Leaves of Yggdrasil” – What a stunning song. Myrkur has been a fascinating band to watch evolve. The first album was pure black metal no matter what the true kvlt haters may say. The new album however is Danish folk music and I absolutely love this composition and Amalie’s amazing vocals.

The Ocean’s “Jurassic | Cretaceous” – One of the longest tracks on my list and one of the longer songs period by The Ocean. The band never settles in one place too long and this song shows just how creative they are. Plus, Jonas from Katatonia shows up for guest vocals so you just know it’s going to be killer.

Enslaved‘s “Homebound” – This may very well be Enslaved‘s catchiest ear worm to date. It’s a total ripper but then that chorus hits and it soars. There are a bunch of tasty riffs throughout the album but I keep coming back to this song.

Finntroll‘s “Att Doda Med En Sten” – Finntroll really knows how to kick off an album and this is an absolute barnstormer. If you ever need an anthem for kicking some evil troll ass, this will be the one.

Old Man Gloom‘s “Death Rhymes” – This isn’t really like anything else in Old Man Gloom‘s discography, which ends up making this stand out from their other songs. A touching and beautiful song from an extraordinary band on the top of their game.

Greg Puciato‘s “Temporary Object” – There are numerous tracks I considered going with from this album but I feel like this one needs more exposure. It’s lush, addictive and perfect for a late night cruise on an empty highway.

The Black Dahlia Murder‘s “Removal of the Oaken Stake” – Riffs upon glorious riffs, The Men of TBDM never fail to impress. Need to take down some vampires impervious to light? Just blast this crusher of a song (and open a freakin’ curtain bro) and they won’t stand a chance.

Ulver‘s “Nostalgia” – I had considered going with one of the more typically Ulver songs on the album (honestly, what does that even mean with this band?) BUT “Nostalgia” is seriously infectious and more people need to discover it.

Katatonia‘s “Lacquer” – Atmospheric and moody as ever, this feels like it was made for the darkness we’ve all been shrouded in this year. It fits nicely next to “Unfurl” in the bands catalogue of songs and is destined to be on their setlist whenever concerts can happen again.

John Petrucci‘s “Temple of Circadia” – There was no way that a new song featuring guitar hero John Petrucci and drum god Mike Portnoy playing together again WASN’T going to make this list. I’m just so glad the whole album is top-notch. The two artists have such great chemistry and it really comes off in abundance here.

Killer Be Killed‘s “The Great Purge” – You’ve heard the singles and want a deeper cut from the band? Look no further than “The Great Purge” which is my favorite on an album filled with great songs. Oh and did I mention Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Greg Puciato (The Black Queen), Max Cavalera (Soulfly) and Ben Koller (Converge) are all on this track and uhm the entire album because this band is made up of brilliant musicians?

Fates Warning‘s “The Longest Shadow of the Day” – The longest song on Fates new record and also my personal favorite. It encapsulates the feel of the album but also what the band has accomplished since 1982. If you listen to only one Fates song this year (and WHY would you even do that??), make it this one.

Pallbearer‘s “Riverbed” – Not unexpected from the group, but this is one BLEAK track. It’s gorgeous, melancholic and tugs at the heartstrings. If you haven’t experienced Pallbearer‘s special blend of Doom and Prog, give this track and their new album a listen.

White Stones‘ “Rusty Shell” – Martin Mendez from Opeth launched a new group this year and if you’re a fan of old school Opeth, this will most certainly be for you. This track kicks hard out of the gate and that solo in the middle section hits all the right notes. Can’t wait to see where the band goes from here.

Panopticon‘s “Rune’s Heart” – Sorry but not remotely sorry for all the long songs featured on this list. Particularly when they’re this good. This is definitely in my top 10 songs from Panopticon. Austin Lunn AKA Panopticon, wrote this about his son who was born with a rare heart condition. It’s epic (nearly 20 minutes!), stunning, and as always with Panopticon, incredibly unique.

Ihsahn‘s “Manhattan Skyline” – Ihsahn covers a-ha with Einar from Leprous? And it freakin’ rules? YUP. Speaking of, Ihsahn and Leprous are playing a livestream concert December 20th, which is obviously a must-see.

Sons of Apollo‘s “New World Today” – I’ve been enjoying Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian’s new group (plus Jeff Scott Soto, Ron Thal and Billy Sheehan!) a lot the past few years and this song is one of my favorite tracks of theirs so far. It has some mid-90’s Dream Theater vibes and is just a damn good prog song, allowing each musician plenty of room to shine.

Nuclear Power Trio‘s “Ukraine in the Membrane” – I’m so glad I discovered that Trump, Putin and Kim Jong-Un formed an instrumental power metal band. You think I’m kidding. Check out this music video from one of their other songs for actual evidence…It’s incredible.

The Night Flight Orchestra‘s “Divinyls” – Need some stylish 80’s synth-driven hard rock in your life? Of course you do. This track and really any song from the group will fit like a Power Glove. Plus it features Soilwork‘s Bjorn Strid, David Andersson, Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy) amongst others as band members so it’s a must listen.

The Pineapple Thief‘s “Demons” – I got to see this UK alt-prog band on their US tour last year and they were incredible on stage. For album number thirteen, The Pineapple Thief went for a more stripped down approach and “Demons” is the perfect intro to the group if you’ve yet to discover them.

Silent Skies “Solitude” – Tom Englund from Evergrey is one hell of a vocalist and in this new project, his somber, yet beautiful voice takes center stage. “Solitude” may be one of the saddest songs on this list but also one of the more hopeful going into 2021. It’s an ideal song choice for the cold winter ahead.

Soilwork‘s “A Whisp of the Atlantic” – Did Soilwork just drop an absolutely insane 16 minute track. Hell yes they did. It’s completely different from any of their other songs, featuring many layers to explore in a good pair of headphones. I’m really excited to see if they’ll continue in this direction for future songs and albums.

Sumac‘s “Two Beasts” – I was going to cut this list off at 25 but then Sumac comes strolling in with one of their best songs ever right at the tail end of the year. It’s an enormous, sprawling, vicious, and mesmerizing song that shouldn’t be missed.

Metal in the Morning – Enslaved’s “Jettegryta”

Enslaved have been a fascinating band to watch evolve since their inception in the early 90’s. Their first few albums such as “Vikingligr Veldi” and “Frost” were icy Viking black metal but with enough twists and turns to stand out from the numerous other bands in the genre. Their next several albums continued in this direction but it was clear they weren’t interested in repeating themselves. They’ve consistently progressed and have added new sounds and incredibly catchy riffs on each album. Personally, I’m a huge fan of their run of albums between “Below the Lights” and “Axioma Ethica Odini” but the band is consistently putting out excellent and varied releases so they never fail to impress. With their fifteenth album, “Utgard”, about to release, Enslaved have proven they aren’t stopping anytime soon. If anything, they are continuing to embrace new ideas and push boundaries even further. They’ve also brought a new drummer along for the ride. Iver Sandøy goes all Phil Collins, pulling double duty with drums and clean vocals on some tracks. Anyhow, “Jettegryta” is their second single of three and is probably my favorite song so far. That opening riff. That first howling death growl. That shift at the three minute mark which is so epic. The song kicks so much ass. May Enslaved forever reign.

“Utgard” will be released October 2nd.

Additionally, the music video is insanely cool. Check it out here: