Welcome to instalment number twenty-eight of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. That means we’ve reached the final three places for 2020. I hope you’re as excited as I am about this? Thank you again to you all for sticking with me and joining me on this rather epic annual tradition. It has been a rubbish year in just about every way except for music. No live gigs admittedly, but we’ve been treated to some incredibly impressive studio releases along the way, as this list testifies.
There’s just time for the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 4, as well as my lists from previous years too.
And now, onto the bronze medal winners for 2020…
Score Of Much Metal: 96%
Woah, where the hell did this record come from? I really enjoyed Pyramaze’s last album ‘Contingent’, but I wasn’t prepared for ‘Epitaph’. This little beauty came from nowhere to blow my socks clean off. And that’s why it is positioned so high in this year’s end-of-year list. Rightly too, I might add.
There are some that have criticised the band for abandoning their progressive edge in favour of a more melodic, streamlined approach. Normally, I’d be one of those people, as I do like my prog as you all know by now. But (and this is a big but), the melodies on this album are insane. On ‘Epitaph’, it feels like it is one amazing chorus after another, to the point that if I did a top 10 individual songs of the year (and I will), I could easily think of three or four worthy entries from this album alone. Yes, it is that good.
Pyramaze may have sacrificed some of their progressiveness, but they have not relinquished their ability to blend heaviness with melody to devastating effect. The riffs are huge, the rhythm section is commanding, and the choruses have more hooks than a Captain Hook convention.
In my review, I questioned the longevity of ‘Epitaph’, given how immediate these melodic metal anthems were. I may have only had two or three months of listening under my belt as the year ends, but I can safely say that the magic has yet to wear off. If anything, I want to return to ‘Epitaph’ ever more frequently so I can immerse myself in the melodies and sing my heart out. That’s good enough for me. And so, there is no doubt that ‘Epitaph’ deserves the number three spot in my year-end list.
What I wrote at the time:
“I can safely say that ‘Epitaph’ was an instant hit for me. Huge choruses, giant hooks, and mellifluous vocal lines struck me from the very beginning when listening to this, their sixth album.
This is verging on melodic manna from the Gods. It does mean that the quintet may need to give their ‘melodic progressive power metal’ tag a slight re-think though, because the progressive nature of the music seems to have retreated somewhat in favour of bigger and bolder melodies. Some longer-term fans may baulk at this, but despite being a prog fan, I’m a sucker for good hooks too, so I can absolutely get on board with the approach here on ‘Epitaph’.
I’m not kidding when I say that pretty much each of the twelve tracks on the record offers something juicy and memorable.
The true opening composition is entitled ‘A Stroke Of Magic’ and it blasts into life with a chunky riff, layers of keys, a pounding rhythm section and an overall muscular presence. Terje Harøy sounds fantastic as he enters, but when the chorus hits, my mouth falls open. I can’t help but be reminded of Pagan’s Mind at their most melodic, as the hook-laden chorus weaves its considerable spell immediately. There’s no ‘this could be good after a few spins’ thoughts – it’s an instant love affair. To it’s credit, there is a vague progressiveness to the song, but that chorus…and the ensuing lead guitar solo…it’s electric.
A word at this point about the production, because as you might expect if Jacob Hansen is involved, it sounds crystal clear, and full of vibrancy.
Yes, yes, and thrice yes. Without realising it, Pyramaze have put together just about the perfect album for me right now. It remains to be seen how well it fares in terms of longevity – will I return to it this rabidly in a few months’ time? – but right here, right now, it is blowing me away. I love just about everything about ‘Epitaph’ and whilst it might not be progressive enough for some, it is an undisputed thrill-ride and for sheer entertainment value alone, it is easily one of the best metal albums of any genre that I have heard during the horror show that has been 2020.”
Read the full review here.
The list this year so far…
If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here: