Welcome to our Mid-Year Report, in which we are sharing the music, movies, and television shows that have helped us survive the tumultuous first six months of 2020. Here, we celebrate the Top 20 Metal Albums of 2020 (So Far).
In a year that has taken a heavy toll on us emotionally, physically, and economically, the heaviest genre of music has come through in a big way. Metal has never avoided dark themes in its subject matter, and this year it is providing a cathartic experience for headbangers all over the world.
While the concert industry is at a standstill, a steady stream of albums continue to be released, and we’ve seen a number of stellar LPs in the first half of 2020. Veterans like Lamb of God, Testament, and Sepultura have delivered albums that rank among their finest, while the unbreakable Ozzy Osbourne soldiered through a series of physical setbacks to release his best solo LP in years.
Code Orange took the next step in their evolution with a genre-defying album, while Body Count came through once again with an LP filled with provocative lyrics and outstanding instrumentation.
Longtime European metal institutions like Katatonia, Paradise Lost, and My Dying Bride showed no signs of rust, offering up efforts that would rank high in each of their discographies.
In a turbulent world, heavy metal remains a steady force. So sit back, take a deep breath, and soak in the Top 20 Metal Albums of 2020 (So Far).
Note: The mid-year list is unranked, listed in reverse chronological order of release date.
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence
Lamb of God – Lamb of God
Origin: Richmond, Virginia
Release Date: June 19th
The Gist: Lamb of God possess a knack for churning out the grooviest of heavy metal, coupled with Randy Blythe’s weighty and poetic lyrics, focusing on political and social issues. Getting a new Lamb of God album in the midst of a global pandemic somehow seems appropriate, and the band delivers, with a hard-charging set featuring poignant lyrics and topnotch instrumentation.
Why It Rules: The self-titled LP is aggressive, brainy, fist-pumping heavy metal at its best. Now, more than 20 years into their career, Lamb of God’s consistency is impressive. From addressing school shootings in “Reality Bath” to condemning the treatment of immigrants in “New Colossal Hate”, Blythe delivers a scathing yet important examination of the state of the nation, and the world, for that matter. With its strong songwriting and presentation, Lamb of God stands out as one of the finest metal releases of the first half of 2020, and one of the band’s best albums ever. —Anne Erickson
Pick up Lamb of God’s self-titled album here.
The Ghost Inside – The Ghost Inside
Origin: Los Angeles
Release Date: June 5th
The Gist: The Ghost Inside have truly triumphed over tragedy with their fifth studio album. The band had to overcome a bus accident that occurred back in of November 2015, which left vocalist Jonathan Vigil, guitarist Zach Johnson, and drummer Andrew Tkaczyk in critical condition. Tkaczyk lost his right leg in the crash but returned with “The Hammer,” a custom-made drum kit provided by his father. On July 13th, 2019, the band played a “one time only” concert at The Shrine Outdoors in Los Angeles where they hinted about the possibility of new material. This promise has finally come to fruition.
Why It Rules: With their fast paced, aggressive riffage and shouted vocals, it is sometimes easy to miss the band’s uplifting message. On this album, The Ghost Inside don’t dwell on the tragedy but rather bask in positivity on what is musically a logical follow up to 2014’s Dear Youth. This is not to say the band avoids the topic completely on blasting songs like “Still Alive” and “Aftermath”, they simply approach the subject with the same upbeat message for which the band is known. This self-titled album certainly signals the bands rebirth. —Colette Claire
Pick up The Ghost Inside’s self-titled album here.
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Origin: Halifax, England
Release Date: May 15th
The Gist: The United Kingdom’s Paradise Lost have mastered a multitude of styles since their inception 30 years ago. From the doomed death metal of their earlier years to the gothic rock experimentations of the late ’90s, Paradise Lost have proven themselves as songwriting adepts over and over. Their latest, Obisidian, touches on every stylistic choice the band’s made while maintaining a core identity all its own.
Why It Rules: Obsidian feels like a victory lap after a decade of powerful records representing one of metal’s most remarkable late-career rebounds.Paradise Lost don’t reinvent the wheel, but after experimenting so long, why bother? Each song on Obsidian is a pop-metal confection with pitch-black icing and a little razor hidden inside. —Joseph Schafer
Pick up Paradise Lost’s Obsidian here.
Umbra Vitae – Shadow of Life
Origin: Multiple cities
Release Date: May 1st
The Gist: Umbra Vitae are a new supergroup from vocalist Jacob Bannon (Converge, Wear Your Wounds). The band also features members of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Job for a Cowboy, Hatebreed, and others. The group’s debut album, Shadow of Life, promised death metal riffage and a frenetic metalcore atmosphere. The LP was recorded by Bannon’s Converge bandmate Kurt Ballou, so one thing was for certain: the guitars were going to sound massive and remarkably polished.
Why It Rules: If you’re looking for a classic sounding metalcore, Umbra Vitae undoubtedly deliver. This album is bursting with heavy riffs and chugging breakdowns played at a breakneck speed. Shadow of Life is as cathartic and uncompromising as scraping your knee on pavement or sitting down and listening to Converge’s Axe to Fall. “Fear is a Fossil” runs through three different guitar passages in its opening minute alone, and all of them are absurdly catchy for how crushingly heavy they are. —TJ Kliebhan
Pick up Umbra Vitae’s Shadow of Life here.
Vader – Solitude in Madness
Origin: Olsztyn, Poland
Release Date: May 1st
The Gist: The godfathers of Polish death metal never disappoint, and Vader’s Solitude in Madness is as consistent and satisfying as any of their records, albeit with maybe their fiercest production job yet. If you find comrades Behemoth too heavy on the arty aesthetics and too light on good ol’ fashioned brutality, Vader will scratch that itch. For those never tried Vader before, Solitude in Madness is a great place to start.
Why It Rules: Metal bands are often like military campaigns, requiring sophisticated interlocking maneuvers across multiple fronts to confuse, surprise, and elicit surrender from their listeners. Vader don’t do that. They just send in the bombers and arc-lite their listeners until everything’s blown to smithereens. Solitude in Madness strikes without mercy from go and doesn’t relent until it’s done just about a half hour later. It’s pure mosh fuel with hooks for days and no distractions. I hope you like the smell of napalm in the morning. —Joseph Schafer
Pick up Vader’s Solitude in Madness here.
Click ahead for more of the Top 20 Metal Albums of 2020 (So Far) …