2020 has been a rough year on so many levels and I am optimistic to a fault. Earlier this year, I expected live entertainment would return by the summer. Boy, was I wrong. I want the world to be a fun place and everyone to be happy, but unfortunately, sometimes that just isn’t possible and this year has been unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime. Now, I am shifting my optimism into next year and am looking forward to attending shows again. I am also hopeful that people can treat each other better next year after a toxic election season. Life is too short to treat each other so poorly.
This year was especially rough for me personally as my father courageously battled cancer, before ultimately passing away peacefully. During times of personal struggle, music is especially important and that’s why I am so personally grateful for the good music that helped me through the year.
20. Stand Atlantic – Pink Elephant
Stand Atlantic’s Pink Elephant is a beautiful, vibrant rock record with soaring choruses and melodies. If Warped Tour was still around, they should be on the main stage.
19. Dragged Under – The World Is In Your Way
Dragged Under’s The World Is In Your Way is a rebellious rock record with thought-provoking lyrics that prove the band is unafraid to be unapologetically true to themselves in an era where rock music has become hyper safe.
18. Code Orange – Underneath
It took me a long time to ‘get’ Code Orange. They’re an intense and complex band that is truly unique while so many others sound like carbon copies of the leaders of the genre. Code Orange shines on this album and set themselves apart from other bands by being one of the first musical artists to livestream their performances. It’s a shame they haven’t been able to perform these songs in front of a crowd, this is a live band you can’t miss.
17. Smith & Myers – Volume 1 & 2
While this certainly isn’t your typical distorted guitar driven rock record, anytime you get the chance to hear Shinedown’s Brent Smith sing with an acoustic guitar is a gift. After all these years, he is still one of the most extraordinary singers in existence. Zach Myers and Brent Smith make a great tandem in all that they create.
16. Carcosa – Absent
The first effort from Carcosa is a deathcore fan’s dream. This album is disgusting and at times overwhelming. If you’re looking for something absurdly heavy, this is for you. In an era where much of the deathcore music you hear has become stale, Absent feels like it moves the genre forward.
15. MGK – Tickets To My Downfall
Tickets To My Downfall proves that there is a place for rock music at the top of the charts and in the mainstream conversation. The album, debuting at #1, offers MGK’s take on pop-punk. Based on the album’s success, it could lead to more mainstream major label interest for bands and better tour opportunities.
14. AC/DC – Power Up
AC/DC released an album this year. They could fart into a microphone for 45 minutes and I would put them on the list. Fortunately, the album is actually great. Whenever a major band like AC/DC puts out new music, you can expect it to be extremely high quality, produced with masterful technique, and this album delivers on all fronts. Expectations were high and they didn’t disappoint.
13. Five Finger Death Punch – F8
Five Finger Death Punch has dealt with member changes over the last few years, but they have still maintained their signature sound. Some songs are hit or miss, but with songs like A Little Bit Off, Brighter Side of Grey, Living The Dream, and Inside Out, the ‘Death Punch sound is alive and well.
12. Fit For A King – The Path
A musically diverse metal record that is a theatrical wave of emotions.
11. Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man
Ozzy Osbourne teamed up with Post Malone’s producer, Andrew Watt, and reinvigorated his creative side.
10. Corey Taylor – CMFT
Corey warned people for months that this album wouldn’t sound like Slipknot, but still, a few were somehow caught by surprise. This folksy Foo Fighters-esque all American rock record gave Taylor an opportunity to showcase his diverse musical tastes. There is something for everyone on this album.
9. Deftones – Ohms
I like to say that Deftones is nu-metal for craft beer drinkers. It’s high quality and high brow, but I can also slam a Busch Lite to one of their songs at any given time. You can get classy to this record while I stay trashy, baby.
8. Sevendust – Blood & Stone
Dammit. This band means so much to me. I cannot put it into words how much I love Sevendust. Lajon Witherspoon is a saint and his voice is the soundtrack to most of my life. I hope they never stop making music. Another home run from one of rock’s criminally underrated bands.
7. Lamb of God – Lamb of God
Virginia metal titans Lamb of God don’t put out trash. Randy Blythe’s wisdom filled lyrics paints a beautiful portrait of what a complete modern metal record should sound like.
6. The Ghost Inside – The Ghost Inside
The Ghost Inside’s self-titled album sounds like a band that now sees the world from a perspective that few people understand. Each member was nearly killed in a tour bus tragedy that killed their driver. Collectively, the band required dozens of surgeries to get them to this point. The album offers a perspective of what life is like when you recognize its inherent fragility. Of all the albums on this list, this record hits my soul the hardest.
5. Alpha Wolf – A Quiet Place To Die
I had never heard of this band before this album came out. People just wouldn’t shut the fuck up about how good this album was, and now, I won’t shut the fuck up about it either. Alpha Wolf gives hope for the future of heavy music. A Quiet Place To Die is essential listening for the modern heavy music fan.
4. Hardy – A Rock
Yeah, I know. Hardy is mostly country but the guy did a song with Zakk Wylde and if you’ve ever heard his single ‘Boots’ on this album, you know where he stands as a fan of metal. His music sends subtle signals that inside this scruffy, beer drinkin, truck drivin sumbitch is a dude who grew up losing his shit at a Whitechapel show. There is a video of him on his YouTube channel blasting Slaughter To Prevail. I’m a big fan.
3. Bring Me The Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror
“but dis duznt sound lyke count ur blessingz”. At this point, BMTH has been a hard rock band longer than they ever performed deathcore. Still, there is a lot to offer heavy music fans on this release. Listen to ‘Dear Diary’ if you don’t agree. If they had put Babymetal on every song, this would be #1.
2. Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.
Bad Wolves knows how to write catchy rock songs. It’s a formula that they have mastered and they are surely going to continue to experience growth for years to come. Tommy Vext is constantly embroiled in controversy and surely many of his listeners don’t agree with some of the things he says. Still, controversy often generates interest in a band that, if the songs are there, can elevate a band to amphitheater level success. If Bad Wolves keeps crankin’ out radio hits, they will be around for a long time.
1. Seether – Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
The album title translates to ‘If you want peace, prepare for war.’ Frontman Shaun Morgan is a masterful lyricist and songwriter. Morgan is one of the most transparent musicians in the rock genre, using his songs as a personal journal. I feel like I grew up with him and I deeply identify with so much of what he says. The eternal optimist in me is also oddly drawn to music that is dark and dreary.
Seether is so important to rock music. Morgan has hinted at not wanting to tour as much (or maybe at all) after spending so much time off the road during the pandemic and seeing his income evaporate overnight. I hope he reconsiders, but if he doesn’t, he has amassed an immaculate discography with this album as one of their best.