The 50 best albums of 2020

30. Haken - Virus


One of Britain’ most enlightened prog bands, <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Haken always combine a thrash-style ferocity with intimate complexity. Virus continues that development. Their sixth album, it follows predecessor <a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Vector in many ways, having a similar sense of musical structure.

At the core is the five-part Messiah Complex, which allows guitarists Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths to give full rein to their jazz-rock aspirations as well as belting out some bloodied riffs. 

There’s much to admire on this record, and proof that Haken are well on their way to delivering the masterpiece that’s within their scope.

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29. Sepultura - Quadra


One of the most startling returns to form of any veteran metal act in recent years, Sepultura’s 15th album is not only their best with <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Derrick Green but stands shoulder to shoulder with their 90s classics. 

Supremely talented drummer Eloy Casagrande also delivers his best work on his third album with Sepultura, propelling the razor sharp riffs, tribal grooves, strings and hits from throughout their career into one, memorable whole.

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28. Mr. Bungle - The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny Demo


Original Bungle members Mike Patton (vocals), Trey Spruance (guitar) and Trevor Dunn (bass) recruited two thrash icons to complete a new line-up for the band's reimagining of their first self-released demo tape from 1986: <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Scott Ian and <a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Dave Lombardo, the genre’s most righteous rhythm guitarist and revered drummer respectively. 

Unsurprisingly, this rips harder than 99% of every thrash record you’ve ever heard, as these 35-year-old songs are reborn as the destructive metal monoliths they were (presumably) intended to be back in 1986.

As brilliantly off-beam as ever but crushing like never before, Mr. Bungle have turned a noble but nostalgic exercise into one of 2020’s most exhilarating metal records. Heroes.

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27. Larkin Poe - Self Made Man


There’s something about Rebecca Lovell’s booming, bluesy voice that simply brooks no argument, and on <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Larkin Poe's fifth studio album she sounds more authoritative than ever. 

Opening salvo She’s A Self Made Man may have a sardonic side to it, but there’s a non-ironic conviction underpinning it that reflects a belief in earthy roots rock values. 

While Larkin Poe are worthy, though, they’re never dull – the <a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Tyler Bryant-guesting Back Down South accompanies a loving evocation of their home region’s musical legacy with a winningly gnarly riff. 

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26. The OBGMs - The Ends


Gripping the sound of the old and catapulting it into pastures new is something <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">The OBGMs have mastered on The Ends, effortlessly scrambling together a hybrid of metal, punk and echoes of jungle from eras across the board. 

Hosting tracks such as Triggered and Karen-O’s, The Ends has arrived within a year where outdated attitudes have been questioned and difficult conversations forced into the spotlight. Which isn't to say The Ends is a polite request, no – this record is ready to set the world on fire and throw away the ashes, so get ready for bloodthirsty choruses, ferocious riffing and a truck-load of anarchy.

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25. Biffy Clyro - A Celebration Of Endings


Much as the rock world looked askance when Biffy Clyro were announced as Download headliners, they have, to their credit, become an arena rock act while we were all staring into our pints. They’ve even used sleeve designers <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Hipgnosis for previous albums, and you don’t get much more grandstanding than that.

Biffy fan or not, there is much to enjoy on this album, such as the thundering North Of No South and the snap of Tiny Indoor Fireworks

But it’s the lingering beautiful sadness of songs like Space and Opaque that really stays with you.

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24. Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets - Live At The Roundhouse


No one expected jolly old <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Nick Mason to end up becoming the keeper of the <a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Pink Floyd flame, but the stalwart drummer did his old band proud with this sparkling trip down memory lane, recorded at Floyd’s old North London stomping ground. 

Cannily avoiding the pressure of expectation by sticking to pre-<a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Dark Side Of The Moon material, Mason and the Saucerful Of Secrets Band – a motley assortment of prog rock refugees and stray members of Spandau Ballet – sound like they’re having a blast on Arnold Layne and The Nile Song, the latter with a cheeky <a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Sex Pistols reference. 

In lieu of any actual Pink Floyd action, this was the next best thing.

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23. Paradise Lost - Obsidian


Three years on from the uncompromising Medusa, Obsidian finds <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Paradise Lost playing to their strengths magnificently, from the ponderous, paranoid, string-drenched doom of opener Darker Thoughts, to the utterly magnificent, sumptuous goth dream of Ghosts, a thing of inky wonder that combines militaristic, driving rhythms with atmospheric, swirling riffs. 

With 32 years of influences and invention under their belt, they mix in metal and alt.rock flourishes with laser accuracy, packed with ideas but not a note surplus to requirements, with frontman Nick Holmes’s portentous growl piling drama on top of the drama. 

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22. Lamb Of God - Lamb Of God


After their first significant lineup change in more than two decades, <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Lamb Of God have good reason to hit ‘Reset’ for their eighth full-length record. 

There are subtle evolutionary tricks being pulled here. Randy Blythe’s sparing but effective use of clean vocals drags hulking opener Memento Mori in and out of woozy, gothic metal territory, while Routes (featuring <a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Testament’s <a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""">Chuck Billy) is all mutant metal-punk tempo shifts, Blythe in full-bore psycho mode.

Delivering the goods with considerably more venom than you might expect at this stage in the game, Lamb Of God remain hard to beat.

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21. Testament - Titans Of Creation


There’s no respite in Titans Of Creation. Power surges through WWIII, Dream Deceiver and The Healers, yet Testament do occasionally head for fresh territory, as on the black metal-influenced tornado of Night Of The Witch and the doom stylings of City Of Angels

There’s also the instrumental mastery on Symptoms, highlighting the tormented lyrics concerning mental illness – so appropriate in the current age. 

Titans Of Creation is a peerless example of Testament’s craft, and among their best albums in a 30-plus-year recording career.

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