Top 10 Songs Of 2020

Having now completed my Album of the Year 2020 Top 30 Countdown, I thought I’d briefly turn my attention to the best individual songs of the year.

As with the Top 30 series, this is a list of my personal favourite songs. They might not be the most technical, clever, or complicated songs of the year, or they might be. But it doesn’t matter. These are the ten songs that I could happily listen to time and time again, and which stood out to me the most.

In no particular order, here goes:

Haken

Canary Yellow

As I state in the quote below, ‘Canary Yellow’ is a stunning piece of music, that definitely stands alongside ‘Deathless’ as one of their very, very best. Power, emotion, subtlety; it’s all here and it’s a mesmerising song from start to finish.

What I wrote in my review:

“This four-minute song is more about subtlety, whilst creating atmosphere and strong emotion. It begins quietly with Jennings’ voice accompanying an understated beat, delicate guitar notes and soft synths but the minute the central melody emerges, I’m smitten. We get hints as the song develops, as we’re taken on a more ambient, post-rock-influenced ride, but at the 1:34 mark, we’re hit squarely by something utterly stunning. Jennings has, for my money, rarely sounded better and alongside him, we hear the full power of that melody. The guitars, bass and keys might not be in full attack mode but they come together in perfect unison. And I mean perfect. I’ve not been this beguiled by a Haken melody since ‘Deathless’ from ‘Visions’. It sends shivers down my spine every single time.

Pyramaze

Steal My Crown

To be honest, I could have picked any one of about five songs off ‘Epitaph’, but I have finally chosen ‘Steal My Crown’ because it still plants an enormous smile of my face every time I hear it. And I hear it at least once or twice a day!

What I wrote in my review:

“‘Steal My Crown’ is insanely good. As I wrote my notes, I scribbled: ‘one of the best songs of the year’. I cannot tell you how superb the chorus to this song is, it is absolute bliss to my ears. Groovy, hook-laden and beautifully executed, I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t listen to it at least once an hour, it’s that good.”

Silent Skies

Solitude

I don’t mind admitting that this composition is the one that had brought me to tears the most in 2020, despite only hearing is a month or two ago. So emotional and stunningly beautiful, it is Shankar and Englund at the very top of their game.

What I wrote in my review:

“‘Solitude’ is possibly the greatest example on this record. It is a stunning composition in every way possible. The piano playing is delicate and conveys a fragility at its core, whilst the vocals from Tom are equally emotional too. His performance on this song and across the album as a whole does nothing to dissuade me from the feeling that his is my favourite voice ever. If anything, it only underlines why I love his style, his tones, his delivery…everything. The chorus is heart breaking in its beauty, led by some exquisite playing from Vikram, but there’s a quieter section that allows the sound of waves to permeate the melancholy, before the introduction of a deep, rich, yet equally sombre cello, the perfect accompaniment to the composition. It’s no good, I’m typing through tears again.

Avandra

Celestial Wreaths

From the first moment I heard this song, I fell in love with Avandra’s new album, ‘Skylighting’. It represents everything that is so great about this band and their excellent brand of progressive metal.

What I wrote in my review:

“I cannot tell you how much I love the intro to ‘Celestial Wreaths’, the opening cut on ‘Skylighting’. It is bright, breezy, incredibly melodic, and full of life and vibrancy. The guitar riff is superb, supplemented by expansive, immersive synths, before the rhythm section joins the party. That sense of smoothness that I spoke so much about within my review of ‘Descender’ is immediately present and correct. It means that despite a definite metal core, the music seeps into your ears like liquid honey thanks in part to the layers of rich keys courtesy of guest musician, Vikram Shankar, and Ayala’s vocal delivery. The lead guitar solos are beautiful and melodious, whilst the crunch of the rhythm chords is delicious. But it’s that central melody that does the most damage, sending a shiver or two down my spine every time it re-emerges.”

Soul Secret

Blue Light Cage

Yes, you read that right. The Man Of Much Metal has chosen a song in his top 10 of the year, which features a saxophone, the next most evil instrument to the trumpet. Has the world gone stark raving bonkers? Nope, it’s just a fantastic song and worthy of a mention in this list regardless.

What I wrote in my review:

“I’m also reminded of ‘Another Day’ from ‘Images And Words’ when I listen to the title track to ‘Blue Light Cage’. Not that the two songs are in any way identical; more because both are gloriously melodic in their own way as well as both successfully incorporating a saxophone, into the song without me recoiling in horror. This is quickly becoming a firm favourite and could easily find a place in my top 10 songs of 2020 as it stands.”

Vanishing Point

Count Your Days

A track that never loses it’s magic and, when listening to the song alongside the video, you can’t fail to be moved by the passion with which this song is performed. The stunning AOR-like chorus just gets better and better.

What I wrote in my review:

“‘Count Your Days’ comes rampaging out the blocks, thanks to muscular riffing, pounding drums, and layers of orchestration to underline my previous statement. And then, a little unexpectedly, we’re hit with an enormous 80s AOR-like chorus that’s a dream to listen to, especially when coupled up with the bridge that precedes it, both of which nicely counterpoint the beefy instrumentation that surrounds them, not to mention the wailing guitar solos that also emerge in the latter stages.”

Sorcerer

Lamenting Of The Innocent

Sorcerer have a knack of writing one song per album that, as superb as all the other songs are, just sends shivers down my spine like no other. And it’s the title track once again. The melodies are beautiful, the heavy riffs are beguiling, and the whole thing just works beautifully and magically.

What I wrote in my review:

“It begins quietly and out of the murk, you can hear the sound of the wind, as well as what appears to be some kind of religious ceremony. In comes a slow guitar melody and then the full weight of the band enters and crushes everything in its lumbering, churning path. The pace is almost glacial, but the ominous quality of it makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. Everything then cuts away, to be replaced by a gentle guitar, dense, atmospheric synths and the delicate vocals of Engberg. At the 2:25 mark, I’m then left dumbfounded by one of the best notes I think I’ve ever heard. It is just so low and heavy, speaking to something primeval deep in my soul. Trust me, it has to be heard to be believed. But if that wasn’t enough, the chorus is pure nectar; truly epic and incredibly melodic, more in the vein of a NWOBHM ‘ballad’ than a doom song. And yet it works. The whole thing just sounds perfect. Deep, growled vocals accompany some double-pedal drum ferocity to inject a touch of welcome aggression, whilst once again, the lead guitar solos pierce my heart such are their glorious eloquence. Nine minutes of musical genius? Yes. Very much yes.”

Night Crowned

Reborn

This band created one of the biggest surprises of the year, in the shape of ‘Impius Viam’. And tracks like the stunning ‘Reborn’ are the reason why. Intense, extreme metal is the order of the day, that allows glorious melody to emerge and stand shoulder to shoulder with it, as well as lead guitar solos aplenty. What’s not to like?

What I wrote in my review:

“…‘Reborn’ is the first ‘proper’ track and it literally blasts from the speakers like a rabid demon from the underworld, full of fast-paced blast beat drumming and scything, tremolo riffing, not dissimilar to Dissection in approach. The gruff vocals are as savage as the music but even in the grip of the whirlwind, you can hear some melodic intent. And then, out of nowhere, the storm parts to reveal a brief piano melody, before the onslaught begins again with renewed intensity, albeit with some gloriously melodic lead guitars to accent the melody. From then on, the song flits between the opening delivery and the more melodious embellishments to great effect. I feel battered and bruised but also elated, because it’s the kind of song that I want to hear and long to hear.

My Dying Bride

The Long Black Land

This song remains an exquisite experience for me, thanks to the perfect blend of all the elements that make My Dying Bride so special; the claustrophobic, lumbering heaviness, the sense of the epic, and the incredible melodies. Put it together, and you’ve got magic on your hands.

What I wrote in my review:

“I will admit that my favourite track on the entire record, however, is the utterly enthralling and sublime ten-minute ‘The Long Black Land’, principally because of its grandiose, epic construction. It begins in typically ponderous, lumbering fashion before it opens up in the mid stages to reveal a fabulous melody. The song initially drops away to the strains of guitar feedback, resonant strings and building synths, only to explode via some great drum rolls from new drummer Jeff Singer, raising the intensity and expectation masterfully in the process. The hairs stand fully on end and I struggle as I’m listening, to think of a My Dying Bride song that I prefer to this if I’m being truthful.”

Winterfylleth

The Reckoning Dawn

As has been commented elsewhere, black metal didn’t have the greatest year in my opinion. However, Winterfylleth penned arguably my favourite black metal composition of the year in the shape of their title track. Brutal, bruising, and uncompromising, it is also an atmospheric, melodic, and epic tour-de-force.

What I wrote in my review:

“My favourite song on the album has to be the title track. I adore the way in which the song is a tale of two halves, where the first half is full-on black metal attack full of savage intent, whilst the second half delivers something epic, grandiose and incredibly beautiful. I never like using the word ‘epic’, but it’s fitting here. The way that the lead guitar melodies and harmonies soar over layers of atmospheric keys, whilst the rhythm section lays down a simple, uncluttered beat is utterly beguiling and mesmerising. It’s like the inhospitable terrain is suddenly bathed in shafts of sunlight, giving the vista below an entirely different appearance. I love it.”

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