Best Albums of 2020: Top 60 in Rock and Metal

2020-12-15

From AC/DC to Alter Bridge to Sevendust, here are Audio Ink's top rock and metal albums of 2020.

Story by Audio Ink Radio staff – Alter Bridge photo by Dan Sturgess, Sevendust photo by Travis Shinn, David Ellefson photo by Melody Myers, AC/DC courtesy photo

From AC/DC to Alter Bridge to Sevendust, here are Audio Ink Radio’s top rock and metal albums of 2020

This year has certainly been one for the music history books, with concerts and festivals shut down for the first time in the history of live music entertainment. What 2020 was lacking in live music it made up for in new releases, as everyone from the biggest bands in the world to fresh faces used their downtime to get creative and create new material.

From the classic hard rock of AC/DC to the modern edge of Alter Bridge and Sevendust to the industrial metal of Static-X, this year brought a range of releases across the rock, metal and alternative music spectrum. Read on for Audio Ink Radio’s Top 60 Rock and Metal Albums of 2020 (in alphabetical order), and get ready for a new batch in 2021. Listen to a discussion of the year’s best music via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

AC/DC, “Power Up”

AC/DC’s “Power Up” was one of the most anticipated albums of the year, and with all that build-up, one would think it would be difficult to live up to the hype, but AC/DC sure did. “Power Up” delivers a sound much like AC/DC’s classic “Back In Black” record, which is a great thing, and the album features the surviving members of the classic lineup, including Angus Young on lead guitar, Brian Johnson on lead vocals, Cliff Williams on bass guitar and Phil Rudd on drums, plus Stevie Young on rhythm guitar. It’s a tribute to late band member Malcom Young, making this an extra special release.

Albert Bouchard, “Re Imaginos”

Blue Oyster Cult’s famed “Imaginos” release was originally intended to be a solo album from drummer Albert Bouchard, but instead, it became one of the band’s most complex and intriguing studio albums. Now, Bouchard has revisited “Imaginos” and, in honor of late producer Sandy Pearlman, released a new album paying tribute to those classic sounds with a modern approach. Watch Audio Ink’s interview with Bouchard here.

Alter Bridge, “Walk the Sky 2.0”

Alter Bridge are road warriors, as they’re known for putting on solid, energetic live shows night after night. With live music pretty much non-existent in 2020, the band decided to release a live album, “Walk the Sky 2.0,” featuring footage from their final concerts before lockdown. The album focuses on new songs off their 2019 release, “Walk the Sky,” and truly captures the magic and charisma of Alter Bridge’s vibrant live concerts. The set also features a riveting new song, “Last Rites,” which was first written during the “Walk the Sky” sessions. Check out Audio Ink’s interview with Scott Phillips of Alter Bridge here.

Amaranthe, “Manifest”

Amaranthe are one of Sweden’s most popular heavy metal bands, and on their latest album, “Manifest,” the group continues with the tradition of strong power metal with a fun dance beat. Elize Ryd and the crew also welcome a bevy of special guests on “Manifest,” including Noora Louhimo of Battle Beast, Perttu Kivilaakso of Apocalyptica, Elias Holmlid of Dragonland and Heidi Shepherd of Butcher Babies. See Audio Ink’s interview with Ryd here.

Anvil, “Legal at Last”

Canadian heavy metal band Anvil are on their whopping 18th studio album, and “Legal at Last” continues their tradition of soaring guitar solos and crunchy guitars. While Anvil have never quite broken into the mainstream like some of their peers, there’s no denying the talent and songwriting is there, and it’s all over “Legal at Last.”

Armored Saint, “Punching the Sky”

Los Angeles’ Armored Saint have always walked the fine line between heavy metal and straight-ahead rock, attracting fans from both spectrums. With “Punching the Sky,” the band shows off its heavier side, with a guitar assault and strong vocal delivery that makes this one of their best albums yet.

August Burns Red, “Guardians”

When anyone says metal-core is a thing of the past, all you have to do it look at August Burns Red to prove them wrong. The Pennsylvania band has been going strong since the early 2000s, and their latest album, this year’s “Guardians,” shows off their experimental side with distorted, smoky sonic textures. It’s a win.

Avatar, “Hunter Gatherer”

Swedish metal band Avatar are known for their dramatic makeup and stage antics, but that doesn’t mean they skimp on quality music. “Hunter Gatherer” features complex lyrics and elaborates riffs and rhythms, plus Johannes Eckerstrom’s crisp, clean vocals, adding just the right touch.

Black Stone Cherry, “Human Condition”

Those who love down home, meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n’ roll with a slight Southern drawn will find lots to like in Black Stone Cherry’s latest release, “Human Condition.” While the band adds a bit more metal to “Human Condition” than previous releases, their core of rock still shines through, making this a solid release.

Body Count, “Carnivore”

Body Count is known for its riveting riffing coupled with Ice-T’s smart rhymes, and 2020’s “Carnivore” delivers that, and more. The album features some of the best guitar work of Body Count’s career, plus some unique appearances from Amy Lee of Evanescence, Riley Gale of Power Trip and Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. It’s an eclectic mix that works.

Bring Me the Horizon, “Post Human Survival Horror”

Bring Me the Horizon are one of those bands that proves teenagers and the younger generation still loves heavy guitars. Their latest set, “Post Human Survival Horror,” sees lead vocalist Oliver Sykes handling all of the production and some engineering, and the result is a cohesive set that shows off the band’s musical chemistry.

Clint Lowery, “God Bless the Renegades” and the “Grief & Distance” EP

Clint Lowery of Sevendust not only released his debut solo album in 2020, but he also followed it up a few months later with a new EP. “God Bless the Renegades” and the “Grief & Distance” EP, respectively, both show that Lowery is comfortable singing and playing guitar, and with catchy melodies and choruses, they’re a delight to crank.

Corey Taylor, “CMFT”

Corey Taylor wears many hats, from fronting masked metal band Slipknot to crooning with melodic hard rockers Stone Sour. In 2020, for the first time, Taylor released a solo album, “CMFT.” What makes this record extra impressive is the range of genres it covers, from blues to country to hard rock to acoustics. Is there nothing he can’t do?

Deftones, “Ohms”

Deftones have yet to release a bad album, and they certainly didn’t do so with “Ohms.” The band’s latest collection has vocalist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter and company offering up dense guitars, dissonant chords and atmospheric sonic textures to great effect.

Destruction, “Born to Thrash – Live in Germany”

German thrash metal legends Destruction brought their live show into the living rooms of metalheads across the globe with “Born To Thrash – Live in Germany.” The new live album was recorded the weekend of the group’s “Born to Perish” record release show at Germany’s Party.San festival, and it’s filled with spontaneous moments and ripping riffs. Listen to Audio Ink’s interview with Destruction here.

Don Dokken, “The Lost Songs: 1978-81”

As the story goes, while he was going through his garage, Don Dokken stumbled upon a collection of old demos from the early days of Dokken. He thought it would be fun to put out these lo-fi recordings from the ’70s as a window into the band’s beginnings, and the result is “The Lost Songs: 1978-81,” an energy-packed collection of early Dokken songs without any bells and whistles. Hear Audio Ink’s interview with Dokken via this link.

Ellefson, “No Cover”

Ellefson, the solo band of Megadeth bass player David Ellefson, puts their spin on a range of classics with their new covers album, “No Cover,” packing more than a dozen cover songs from Def Leppard, W.A.S.P., Judas Priest, Motorhead and more. The group features Ellefson with vocalist Thom Hazaert, guitarists Andy Martongelli and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and drummer Paolo Caridi, and this set features an array of guest appearances by Charlie Benante of Anthrax, Frank Hannon and Troy Lucketta of Tesla and more. It’s an imaginative collection of covers as you’ve never heard them before. Listen to Audio Ink’s interview with Ellefson via this spot.

Enuff Z’nuff, “Fatal Distraction”

Chip and Enuff Z’nuff always make fun, party-happy rock ‘n’ roll, and “Brainwashed Generation” carries that tradition. The new tunes have plenty of catchiness and pop sensibility, buoyed by the record’s upbeat lead single, “Fatal Distraction.”

Fever 333, “Wrong Generation”

Fever 333 offer more than music- they offer a message. On “Wrong Generation,” the band writes about the murder of George Floyd, with frontman and activist Jason Aalon Butler using the album to draw attention to issuing facing Americans and his generation today. Musically, there’s lots of diversity, from rap to hardcore to nu-metal.

Firewind, Self-titled

Greek power metal giants Firewind write solid songs that highlight lead guitarist Gus G’s riffs and sky-high solos, and that’s more than apparent on their new, self-titled album. The record sounds triumphant and powerful, with thick, strong vocals a la Herbie Langhans and Gus G’s expert guitar work. It’s a joy to hear. Listen to Audio Ink’s interview with Gus G here.

Five Finger Death Punch, “F8”

A lot has changed since Five Finger Death Punch first formed in Las Vegas, but the band’s knack for churning out No. 1 radio hits has not. From 2007’s “The Way of the Fist” to 2020’s “F8,” the band has topped the charts. “F8” is a very personal record, with frontman Ivan Moody singing about his struggles with addiction and alcohol. This is also the final Five Finger Death Punch album to feature the band’s original guitarist, Jason Hook, closing a chapter for the band.

Goo Goo Dolls, “It’s Christmas All Over”

Goo Goo Dolls are kings of melodic pop-rock, and that kind of music goes hand-in-hand with the holiday season. That said, it was about time for Goo Goo Dolls release a proper Christmas album, which is what they did with “It’s Christmas All Over.” The album features a handful of festive covers, as well as three originals, “This Is Christmas,” “Better Days” and “You Ain’t Getting Nothin’.” The originals really shine, with delicate instrumentals and John Rzeznik raspy vocals, offering cozy holiday jams.

Grey Daze, “Amends”

Chester Bennington’s pre-Linkin Park band Grey Daze have a new album out this summer, “Amends” shows that Bennington earnest, pure talent, even as a teenager. The album features Bennington’s remastered vocals with a set of newly recorded music.

Hayley Williams, “Petals for Armos”

The world came to know and love Hayley Williams as the lead vocalist of Paramore, but in 2020, Williams stepped way from that mold to present one of the biggest albums of her career. “Petals for Armos,” her new solo album, is a bit more pop-oriented than Paramore, but even rockers should appreciate the dynamics and creativity on the album, with songs such as “Creepin'” and “Sugar on the Rim” shining bright.

Hatebreed, “Weight of the False Self”

Hatebreed were ready to release their latest studio album, “Weight of the False Self,” back in the spring, but the release got shelved due to the pandemic. Fast-forward several months, and the hardcore band finally unveiled the album to the world in late-November. It was worth the wait, as the set features some of Hatebreed’s heaviest and most mature songwriting to date. Hear Audio Ink’s interview with Hatebreed’s Wayne Lozinak at this spot.

In This Moment, “Mother”

In This Moment’s sound and style has evolved over the years, from raw metal-core in the early days to elaborate, melodic, haunting metal today. On “Mother,” Maria Brink and company shine when it comes to songwriting, with catchy, hooky metal songs that stick in one’s head for days. “Hunting Grounds,” featuring Ded’s Joe Cotela, is a stand out, with heavy guitars and thunderous rhythms.

Kataklysm, “Unconquered”

Maurizio Iacono and Canadian death metal band Kataklysm tackle the universal theme of overcoming obstacles with their 14th studio album, “Unconquered.” The record is brutal from front to back, with the bone-crushing riffs and rhythms that fans have come to expect from Kataklysm.

Lamb of God, “Lamb of God”

Many are calling Lamb of God’s new, self-titled album the best album of their career. It’s certainly one of the best, as the album brings tight, mature songwriting, pristine guitars and rhythms and frontman Randy Blythe questioning everything about life, society and purpose. It’s the perfect record for 2020.

L.A. Guns, “Renegades”

Steve Riley and Kelly Nickels’ L.A. Guns unleashed a new record this year, “Renegades.” The collection features a classic Sunset Strip sound with fun, carefree rock songs that almost make one forget 2020 was filled with so much negativity. It’s a wild, free rock record that begs to be played over and over again. Watch Audio Ink’s interview with Riley here.

Lynch Mob, “Wicked Sensation (Reimagined)”

“Wicked Sensation Reimagined” is a true celebration of the original Lynch Mob album, bringing its 30-year legacy into a new era. The album features reimagined versions of the songs off the original record, spearheaded by George Lynch, who exclusively broke the news to Audio Ink Radio that this will mark the final release under the Lynch Mob moniker. It’s an exclamation mark on the band’s legacy.

Mastodon, “Medium Rarities”

With “Medium Rarities,” Atlanta metal band Mastodon present anything but the typical compilation album. The set features a collection of rare Mastodon tracks, including unique covers, live recordings and instrumental versions of previously released songs. It’s an inside look at Mastodon and their inner workings.

Morgan Rose, “Controlled Chaos”

This year saw many firsts, and one came from Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose, who released his debut solo album, “Controlled Chaos.” The set sees Rose stepping up to the lead vocalist role. His clean vocals sound modern and edgy, and backed by sharp guitars and rhythms, this makes for a very fresh-sounding metal release. Watch Audio Ink’s video interview with Rose at this spot.

Napalm Death, “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism”

Grind-core legends Napalm Death have been going strong for more than 30 years, and their latest set, “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism,” brings all the brutal sounds fans and come to love from them. The album marks their 16th, and while some bands start to taper off as the years progress, Napalm Death show they’re stronger and mightier than ever.

Nightwish, “Human :||: Nature”

Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish returned with a new album this year, “Human :||: Nature,” and once again, the group truly reinvented themselves on the est. The double album features a range of genres, from folk to power metal, and it’s a varied sound that keeps the listeners entertained from start to finish.

Ozzy Osbourne, “Ordinary Man”

Ozzy Osbourne hasn’t stated whether “Ordinary Man” is truly is final full-length album, but if so, he’s going out on a high note. The record features a bevy of surprises, such as Osbourne’s collaborations with Post Malone, Duff McKagan and Chad Smith, and while the guests are all big pieces of the record, they never overpower the simplicity of “Ordinary Man.” It’s an honest, direct album that seems an appropriate book end to Ozzy’s career.

Paradise Lost, “Obsidian”

Paradise Lost are all about making sure their albums are never repetitive, and on “Obsidian,” the band holds onto their classic doom sound, while adding in gothic and even post-punk vibes, such as murky atmospheres, theatrical song structures, grand melodies and swirling rhythms. With “Oblivion,” Paradise Lost continue to position themselves as one of doom metal’s most influential, and spontaneous, acts, leaving fans always guessing what’s ahead.

Pearl Jam, “Gigaton”

There’s no denying the irony that Pearl Jam’s new album, 2020’s “Gigaton,” came out in a year with, well, little gigging. That said, Pearl Jam, indeed, is a live band, and “Gigaton” captures their live energy and magic without sounding like a full-on live record. The album features straight-ahead rock music that has earned raves from the band’s followers from the 1990s to today.

Poppy, “I Disagree”

At first glance, Poppy might seem like more of a pop artist than a metal musician, but she has won over the metal world with the heavy, genre-bending tracks “Anything Like Me” and “Concrete,” off 2020’s “I Disagree.” Now, Poppy has been nominated for Best Metal Performance at the upcoming Grammy Awards for “Bloodmoney,” solidifying that she’s a force here to stay.

Primal Fear, “Metal Commando”

German power metal titans Primal Fear returned in 2020 with their latest studio album, “Metal Commando,” and the set features some of the best vocals of frontman Ralf Scheepers’ career. Songs such as “I’m Alive” and “Halo” shine with huge riffs and clean vocals, making this one of Primal Fear’s strongest albums in a years.

Puscifer, “Existential Reckoning”

Puscifer’s fourth studio album, “Existential Reckoning,” brings together the talents and minds of vocalist Maynard James Keenan with a familiar cast of members, including Mat Mitchell and Carina Round, in a shining new set that’s filled with imaginative and creative songwriting and performances. There’s a sense of mystery and intrigue throughout “Existential Reckoning,” which makes is a curious listen.

Richie Kotzen, “50 for 50”

Guitarist Richie Kotzen celebrated his 50th birthday the way any good musician does- by releases a new album. The set, called “50 for 50,” features Kotzen’s imaginative guitar work packed into a whopping 50 tracks, with no dull moments at all.

Ross the Boss, “Born of Fire”

Ross the Boss have decades of history creating classic, big-sounding metal music, and “Born of Fire,” brings that classic sound to the modern day. “Born of Fire” features aggressive vocals, cutting rhythms and melodic choruses. It’s simply a fun listen.

Seether, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”

“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” the latest release from Seether, has the South African post-grunge band doing what they do best: rocking out with grungy guitars and solid songwriting. The album, which is the band’s first with new guitarist Corey Lowery in toe, scored yet another chart-topper for Seether in “Dangerous.”

Sepultura, “Quadra”

Some bands get watered down as the years progress, but not Sepultura. The Brazil-based thrash metal band rips and shred on their latest album, “Quadra,” and the result is one of their heaviest, and finest, concoctions to date.

Sevendust, “Blood & Stone”

Sevendust have built a strong and loyal fan base with their melodic metal, coupling hard, heavy riffing with vocalist LJ Witherspoon’s powerful, soulful vocals. “Blood & Stone,” the band’s latest album, is one of their most melodic to date, with Witherspoon stretching his vocal range far and wide, really showing off his clean power. The band’s cover of Soundgarden’s “The Day I Tried to Live” earned them a top spot on the rock radio chart, to boot.

Smashing Pumpkins, “Cyr”

Smashing Pumpkins often take risks with their new music, and they certainly get creative and experimental on “Cyr,” yet they manage to keep that classic Pumpkins sound. The album features imaginative lyrics and plenty of synths and new wave touches, making it a trip worth taking, from front to back. It’s a fresh, novel sound proving the Pumpkins are better than ever.

Smith & Myers, “Volume 1” and “Volume 2”

Brent Smith and Zach Myers of Shinedown are usually seen performing in arenas and amphitheaters, playing amped-up, plugged in music to tens of thousands of rock fans. With Smith & Myers, the two take a step back, performing acoustic music in much more intimate spaces. The duo’s “Volume 1” and “Volume 2” releases features a collection of unexpected covers from Billie Eilish, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel and more, as well as some stripped-down original tunes, giving Shinedown fans a fresh dose of music that stands apart from Smith and Myers’ main band, but has the same charm.

Static-X, “Project Regeneration, Vol. 1”

When Wayne Static of Static-X passed away in 2014, it left a hole in the heavy music world, especially industrial metal. What a blessing that Static-X’s surviving band members were able to find a treasure trove of Wayne’s unreleased vocals to create an entirely new album featuring his words and melodies. “Project Regeneration, Vol. 1” brings together the energy and crazy grooves of Static-X with Wayne’s familiar voice. It’s a haunting, beautiful set.

Stitched Up Heart, “Darkness”

Stitched Up Heart stand apart from their modern hard rock contemporaries thanks to their pop sensibility, and the band’s latest album, “Darkness,” shows off even more of a catchy, pop-fueled sound. By pop, that doesn’t mean the album doesn’t rock. Lead vocalist Mixi Demner and company cover the gamut, from scream-filled hard rock anthems to lighter, dance-worthy numbers, making this an exciting listen.

Stone Temple Pilots, “Perdida”

With both of their vocalists, original singer Scott Weiland and later vocalist Chester Bennington, now gone, Stone Temple Pilots have reintroduced themselves with vocalist Jeff Gutt, whose sweet tenor fits Weiland’s original lines well. The band’s latest album is unique, as “Perdida” offers an acoustic, delicate presentation of very melodic, almost melancholy songs.

Stryper, “Even the Devil Believes”

Michael Sweet and Stryper deliver a fiery, triumphant collection of metal music with “Even the Devil Believes.” Sweet’s inspiring, uplifting lyrics perfectly compliment the record’s big melodies and riffs, and the result is a powerful, meaty metal album with a kick.

10 Years, “Violent Allies”

The guys of 10 Years have a young vibe as a band, so it’s hard to believe they’re on their ninth studio album. “Violent Allies” features 10 Years’ trademark modern rock sound, coupling Jesse Hasek’s emotive vocals with a dense, melodic hard rock style.

Tesla, “Five Man London Jam”

Before the world was shut down from touring, Tesla were gearing up to release a new live set, “Five Man London Jam.” As it turns out, the album was released right as concerts were being canceled, giving rock fans a taste of fantastic live music just when they needed it most. The album, recorded at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios, features some of the outfit’s most iconic songs.

Testament, “Titans of Creation”

When it comes to thrash metal, Testament are the standard. Now decades into their careers and without an end in sight, the band has released “Titans of Creation” offering some of their most brutal, yet beautiful, records to present. Frontman Chuck Billy’s vocals especially shine on the set, as he does more clean vocals than on previous Testament releases.

Theory of a Deadman, “Say Nothing”

Theory of a Deadman’s seventh studio album, “Say Nothing,” features the band’s popular modern rock edge with a few surprises. Themes cover the gamut from political divisions to domestic violence to depression, making this a very mature and weighty album.

Todd Sucherman, “Last Flight Home”

Fans know Todd Sucherman from his decades of drumming for Styx, but as a musician, he also has a clean, honey-sounding singing voice that’s a great fit for melodic rock. Sucherman’s debut solo album, “Last Flight Home,” shows off Sucherman’s emotive vocals, and while it’s different to hear Sucherman out front, it’s a good different, because he certainly fits the bill.

Trivium, “What the Dead Men Say”

Trivium were set to release their new album, “What the Dead Men Say,” in April, but with everything shutting down in mid-March, some in the industry encouraged them to hold the release. They didn’t, and that was a great thing. Getting the new Trivium record was like manna from Heaven for metalheads, and the fact “What the Dead Men Say” was one of the band’s most powerful records to date made it that much sweeter.

U.D.O., “We Are One”

“We Are One” is a collaborative effort between U.D.O. and the Musikkorps der Bundeswehr, the renowned Concert Band of the German Armed Forces, bringing together the metal world with a full concert orchestra. The album brims with passionate heavy metal and orchestral music, and the result is inspiring and uplifting.

Unleash the Archers, “Abyss”

Power metal titans Unleash the Archers presented their latest album, “Abyss,” this year, the follow-up and compliment to their dramatic 2017 release, “Apex.” On “Abyss,” the Canadian band succeeds in telling elaborate stories surrounding the themes of good vs. evil and dark vs. light. It’s the theatrical kind of release that fits well in such a wild year.

Comments

comments