After an absence in 2019, I’d like to welcome you to the return of the annual tradition at manofmuchmetal.com, the countdown of my favourite records of 2020.
Please note the wording above – this is a series where I shine the spotlight for one final time this year on the albums that I have enjoyed the most. My choices are not based on the technical abilities of the artists, although it’s a factor. It is also not a list of the most ground-breaking, original, or mystifying albums of 2020. Again, these may be factors that contribute to my decisions. However, what matters most is how much I enjoy the music. Do I connect with it? Do I want to listen to it? Do I choose to listen to it when I have a million other records to check out and review? Essentially, what albums floated my boat, what tickled my fancy, and what helped to get me through one of the hardest, weirdest, most difficult years of my life.
As a result, there is likely to be much within this list that will meet with your consternation, or downright disagreement. But despite a shared love of the heavier side of music, we all have different tastes. I do hope that there might be some agreement along the way too, but if not, never mind, because what follows is a list of MY favourites.
In keeping with previous years, this list will comprise of my top 30 original studio albums, with artwork, sample tracks, and links to the full review, not to mention a little commentary about why the album deserves a place in my list. What more could you want?
For clarity, EPs are not included, and neither are live records or reissues. Also in keeping with the previous couple of years, whilst there are numbers applied to each release for the purposes of the day-by-day countdown, there is no real order to numbers 30, down to 16. All of these records simply deserve a place in my favourite 30, and any placings would be fairly arbitrary. If you make it into my Top 30, it has to be great, simple as that!
If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:
But enough of the context and the ground rules, let’s get cracking…
Awake By Design
Awake By Design
Score of much metal: 92%
It feels right that the first album to feature within this year’s countdown is an independent release. No big label support, no real fanfares, just brilliant music from a committed band. The band are Awake By Design and they’ve really impressed me with their latest, self-titled effort.
It literally is an album where song after song is high quality, enjoyable and well-crafted. It’s one of those records where, by and large, it’s impossible to press the skip or fast forward button. And the fact that I return to it so frequently, means that it has really struck a chord with me. I worried at the outset whether I might get bored with the content as it was fairly immediate, and albums that I like straight away can lose their appeal more quickly I find. In reality, the opposite has happened. I gave the album a score of 92% earlier in the year, but since then, when I’ve returned to it, I keep thinking that I could have gone a little higher with my score. I’m thinking 93-94%.
What a great way to start off this year’s countdown.
What I wrote at the time:
“The music is out of the top drawer of melodic metal; it is lush, rich, powerful, and full of gorgeous melodies that you simply can’t ignore. Oh and it has been produced by Karl Groom of Threshold fame, so it sounds right on the money in this respect.
…they do have some echoes within their music of mid-era Kamelot et al, thanks to the strong keys-led symphonics, as well as hints of the likes of Evergrey and Fates Warning, due to a smidgen of progressive leanings here and there. You could also throw in a little NWOBHM and a touch of European power metal too if you felt so inclined.
Genuinely strong melodies, well-written songs, great performances from each member of the band, and a production that does the music the justice it deserves – what else is there that you could possibly want? ‘Awake By Design’ is a fantastic melodic heavy metal record, the release that should bring these guys the kind of recognition that they fully deserve.”
Read the full review here