Skip to main content

The 50 best metal albums of 2020

40. Bleed From Within – Fracture

Scottish ’core underdogs Bleed From Within ended a five-year dry spell when they released the triumphant Era in 2018. Following it up with Fracture barely two years later, the quintet proved their brilliant comeback was no fluke. Monstrous anthems like Into Nothing screamed that they were more driven than ever, earning their stripes as one of the UK’s best bands. Metalcore rarely sounded more intense this year.

39. Sharptooth – Transitional Forms

The second album from this Baltimore hardcore crew was exactly what we needed in 2020. On Transitional Forms, Sharptooth pointed their incandescent rage inward, targeting abusers and misogynists in the hardcore scene and anyone using their platform for empty platitudes. Claustrophobic and intense, this was a confident comeback that established the band as defenders of social justice, with fire in their bellies and hearts, and something to say.

38. Atramentus – Stygian

Phil Tougas and his Chthe’ilist bandmates didn’t so much dip their toes into funeral doom with this Atramentus debut as dive in headfirst, resulting in one of the most extraordinary records the subgenre has seen in some time. A concept album documenting the darker side of immortality, Stygian was remarkably well-realised and thematically consistent. Every second here felt vital, building to a stunning, genuinely cathartic climax.

37. Uada – Djinn

With spiteful disregard to the thinning herds of black metal elitism, the enigmatic Portland-based metal crew fused a venomous black metal undercarriage with elements of doom, psychedelia and even good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll. The results were spectacular. Bolstered by expansive production, Djinn easily claimed its seat among the year’s best, establishing Uada as one of the most important voices in US black metal.

36. Make Them Suffer – How To Survive A Funeral

On their fourth album, Perth metallers Make Them Suffer expanded upon their sonic palette. Beautiful yet bludgeoning, the symphonic deathcore assault for which they made their name sat alongside synth-driven breakdowns and djent-inflected passages as the startling contrast between Sean Harmanis’s gutturals and Booka Nile’s intoxicating cleans illustrated the album’s euphoric eclecticism. How To Survive A Funeral pushed the quintet towards major metal-player status.

35. Katatonia – City Burials

Sumptuous, versatile, affecting and sublime, Katatonia’s 11th album found the Eeyorish prog-metal masters tweaking towards perfection, still sharpening and strengthening their signature sound and style. City Burials came after a four-year hiatus, the band’s refined recalibration resulting in a record that ratcheted up every level of production, from the haunting emotional clarity of Jonas Renkse’s voice to the optimum sonic balance of harmony and dissonance.

34. Sólstafir – Endless Twilight Of Codependent Love

Sólstafir may be the Icelandic Tourist Board’s unofficial musical wing, but their seventh album was way more than just a musical representation of their homeland’s stark beauty. Endless Twilight Of Codependent Love found the four-piece redrawing the boundaries on their already one-of-a-kind sound, adding prog-metal, lounge jazz, frostbitten black metal and even a slow-burning English-language torch-ballad to the mix, proving they remain maverick to their bones.

33. Armored Saint – Punching The Sky

Settling into their release schedule of an album every five years, LA veterans Armored Saint proved they can still slug it out with the best of them on this glittering set of classy anthems, each track eliciting a titular sky-punch. Ex-Anthrax frontman John Bush confirmed his status as an all-time great metal singer, and after nearly 40 years the band’s chemistry remains at boiling point.

32. Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

Recorded in his 72nd year, Ordinary Man captured Ozzy at his most vulnerable, delivering immense emotional gravitas and historical poignance reminiscent of David Bowie’s Blackstar or Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. Moments of silliness offered welcome levity and an important reminder: Ozzy’s anything but an ordinary man and won’t greet the future without a maniacal cackle and a glint in his eye.

31. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment

The world is shit and Anaal Nathrakh gave us the perfect soundtrack; Endarkenment’s hyperactive, grind-flecked industrial death metal was as instantaneous as it was heavy. Dave Hunt fully embraced his inner Bruce Dickinson, the title track’s refrain bothering the catalogues of NWOBHM legends like Maiden and Priest. Meanwhile, Requiem served a pathos-drenched, puerile parting-shot for a record truly made for the times. Abject bleakness has never been this catchy.