2020 End Of Year Top Twenty2020 End Of Year Top Twenty

This seems to come around quicker every year! Despite the fact that 2020 was dominated by coronavirus, it didn’t stop the release of a bumper crop of truly great albums and here’s my favourites, augmented in places by quotes I’d written at the time. Enjoy!

1. LOUISE PATRICIA CRANE – ‘Deep Blue’ (Peculiar Doll Records)
“Perhaps best known for her vocals on The Eden House’s ‘Songs For The Broken Ones’, where she would meet future collaborator Stephen Carey, Belfast-born Louise Patricia Crane’s debut solo release is an album of rare beauty. Backed by Carey on guitars as well as fellow Eden Housemates Simon Rippin and Steve Gibbons, ‘Deep Blue’ presents a wistful, breathless ride through the gothic dreamscape of the likes of Byron and Shelley, boasting equal measures of psychedelia, passion and longing, and a sprinkling of the spirit of Kate Bush. Although opener ‘Deity’ might imply a sweet-natured pop album, it’s a sucker punch as it’s cuts like ‘Ophelia’, with its heart-rending mid-section, and the melancholy piano-based title track which best personify the album – songs which evoke a sadness and a yearning which transcend the years, much as the album itself transcends genres. And while a lot of attention has been focussed on the album’s guest musicians – Ian Anderson, for example, and King Crimson’s Jakko Jakszyk who crops up on pretty much every track – but this shouldn’t be allowed to detract from Ms Crane’s achievement in putting together what’s pretty much a perfect album, as the triumphalism of penultimate song ‘Isolde’ ably demonstrates”unpublished Record Collector review.

2. AVATARIUM – ‘An Evening With Avatarium’ (Nuclear Blast)
“Features a band that is obviously pretty much at the peak of its powers, and the result is an hour-and-a-half of sheer perfection”– JTOnline

3. OCEANS OF SLUMBER – ‘Oceans Of Slumber’ (Century Media)
Phenomenal album from Houston’s finest, fronted by the talented Cammie Gilbert

4. AYREON – ‘Electric Castle Live’ (Mascot Label Group)
Stunning live rendition of Arjen Lucassen’s most enduring album

5. RAVEN – ‘Metal City’ (SPV)
“With ‘Metal City’ the band have certainly produced an album as exciting and as relevant as any of those first three Neat releases” – Rock Candy

6. TRIPTYKON – ‘Requiem’ (Live At Roadburn 2019)
“Ambitious and haunting... a true spectacle” – Record Collector

7. KATATONIA – ‘City Burials’ (Peaceville)
“Unveils some of the most breath-taking and exciting material the band have ever set to tape, and the result is a beautifully resonant album, best savoured in one sitting” – Record Collector

8. BLUE OYSTER CULT – ‘The Symbol Remains’ (Frontiers)
Stunning return after nearly twenty years of silence – check out ‘The Alchemist’ (or anything else on the album, come to that)

9. TOUNDRA – ‘Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari’ (InsideOut Music)
“Takes you on a journey with passages that are often extensive and hypnotically repetitive before a crashing chord sequence or sudden increase in power jars you back to reality” – JTOnline

10. DIAMOND HEAD – ‘Lightning To The Nations 2020’ (Silver Lining Music)
“[Featuring a] hyperactive version of ‘Sweet And Innocent’ which has been treated with a course of anabolic steroids to give it more testosterone than an NFL locker room” – Rock Candy

11. DOOL – ‘Summerland’ (Prophecy Productions)
“A peerless band with a beguiling sound and a diverse catalogue of exciting and thought-provoking songs” – JTOnline

12. DEEP PURPLE – ‘Whoosh!’ (earMusic)
Deep Purple’s twenty-first studio album sees the band in a comfortable groove

13. AYREON – ‘Transitus’ (Mascot Label Group)
Tenth studio album under the Ayreon name sees Arjen Lucassen in playful mood and captures a terrific performance from Oceans Of Slumber’s Cammie Gilbert in particular

14. ARMORED SAINT – ‘Punching The Sky’ (Metal Blade)
“Is there such a thing as a bad Armored Saint album? No, is the simple answer” – JTOnline

15. SÓLSTAFIR – ‘Endless Twilight Of Codependent Love’ (Seasons Of Mist)
“Imbued with frenetic misery and features all the band’s trademarks. Crushing riffs herald lengthy compositions which refuse to be hurried” – Fistful Of Metal

16.ETHS – ‘The Ultimate Show –Live Au Moulin’ (Edza Films / Kick Your Eyes Productions)
“A raging powerhouse of extraordinary vitality and dynamism... it’s a shame that the band – electrifying and trailblazing as they were – decided to split. Metal needs bands like ETHS to keep things evolving” – JTOnline

17.SONS OF APOLLO – ‘MMXX’ (InsideOut Music)
Second studio outing from the incomparable combination of Soto, Thal, Sheehan, Sherinian and Portnoy

18. PSYCHOTIC WALTZ – ‘The God-Shaped Void’ (InsideOut Music)
“An Aladdin’s Cave of extraordinary songs, all of which are complex without being unnecessary complicated and accessible without selling their soul to commercial acceptance” – JTOnline

19. THE ALLIGATOR WINE – ‘Demons Of The Mind’ (InsideOut Music)
“A heavy little mofo, inspired and bonkers in equal measure. Twisted, anarchic and, let’s be honest, fun” – JTOnline

20. THE MOON AND THE NIGHTSPIRIT – ‘Aether’ (Prophecy Productions)
“If you could capture in musical form the most beautiful thing you’d ever seen, this is how it would sound” – JTOnline

See you next year!
John, December 2020