Next to reveal their top ten albums is Stefan who joined the team this year.
As you all will know, this year has been inflicted severely by extremely difficult times and circumstances for us all this year since the touring side of the music industry has been put on hold.
Thankfully though, it has also been one of the very best years in terms of music releases that have graced our ears. These releases this year has proven that although the non-touring situation may be heartbreaking for musicians at the moment, they have prevailed so extremely well through these dark times to lovingly give us much needed music to radiate our lives throughout this year and the coming months.
I’d like to thank them all so very much for providing these beacons of hope for us to listen to. So with that said, here’s my top 10 albums from bands that has kept me sane this year, I hope that you will also find enjoyment in discovering the albums that I’ve chosen.
10. Blind Channel – Violent Pop
Kicking off my top ten albums of this year in style is a band that I had the pleasure of seeing at the beginning of the year in February supporting AMARANTHE and you could say that I automatically became a fan of their style. It’s what I would call LINKIN PARK but with a mean streak, they are BLIND CHANNEL.
As luck would have it, the Finnish band dual fronted by Niko Moilanen and Joel Hokka on vocals from Oulu, would be releasing their third album Violent Pop the very next month. Violent Pop is not only the name of their album, but is also the nature and sound of their music: which is heavy metal music, with a eclectic mix of pop elements, nu metal and electronic vibes and touches of the death metal scene.
This combination of styles can be heard all throughout their album on tracks such as Over My Dead Body, Fever and Love Of Mine. The standout song on the album for me however is the brutally addictive Snake featuring AMARANTHE’s Henrik ‘GG6’ Englund Wilhelmsson, who brings it a whole new level of energy and growling awesomeness.
Find BLIND CHANNEL on Facebook.
9. Seven Spires – Emerald Seas
SEVEN SPIRES is an American metal band that I discovered through AMARANTHE announcing them as support on their North American Tour. Hailing from Boston, they specialise incorporating melancholic tales and tenebrous grandeur into their Steampunk style of melodic and symphonic metal.
They are fronted by dual clean and harsh vocal specialist Adrienne Cowan who also does the keys, with Jack Kosto on Guitars, Peter de Reyna on Bass and Chris Dovas on Drums. Together they flourish with their second album Emerald Seas by giving off something so gothic and yet fantastically cinematic with how they draw from across various metal genres.
They combine brilliantly bittersweet melodic metal anthems with apocalyptic melodic death and black metal to tell stories of demons, death, love and the human condition.
Adrienne’s mastery of clean and harsh vocals and storytelling can be heard on the contrasting songs: Succumb “And so I succumb to cinnamon, sweat, and rum. Laughing with stars in your eyes and your hair undone. And I pray one day our stars align. So I might hold you one more time. And succumb to cinnamon, sweat, and rum.” and Drowner Of Worlds “Ravenous beast. Ancient guard of the northern sea. Drowner of worlds and granter of dreams. I bow before your majesty and accept my fate. For it remains as unchanging as your rule.”
Find SEVEN SPIRES on Facebook.
8. Conception – State Of Deception
Norway’s secret weapon fronted by the most iconic male voice in symphonic metal … Roy Khan are back and better than ever. CONCEPTION are a hard rock, power metal and progressive metal band known for melodic and rhythmic music of a powerful, yet dynamic blend, with unique influences from other styles of music such as jazz and classical music.
This album has become one of my favourites of 2020, not only because when listening to this I can hear how Roy’s vocals have evolved since his KAMELOT years to be that more grandeur in nature on such songs Waywardly Broken and Feather Moves. But I/we get to hear two of the most iconic voices in metal reunited together on the stunning ballad The Mansion, they are of course Roy and AMARANTHE’s Elize Ryd “She wanders the fields. By the mansion. In lonesome majesty. With no one else to answer for. Yes, she wanted to live. In the mansion of her dreams. Forevermore.”
Find CONCEPTION on Facebook.
7. Illumishade – Eclyptic: Wake Of Shadows
This is a debut album that as soon as it was announced, as it got me very interested on how it would sound. The debuting Swiss Metal band, fronted by Fabienne Erni (ELUVEITIE) on vocals with Jonas Wolf (Guitars), Yannick Urbanczik (Bass), Marc Friedrich (Drums) and Mirjam Skal (Orchestration/Synthesizer) definitely have captivated my interest in this band and their music. As right from the beginning of this album, it’s like you’re being transported to an enchanting and mystical world (like Avatar’s Pandora) with how their music flows and feels.
This album’s filled with enchanting melodies and songs that can be heard on songs such as Muse Of Unknown Forces and World’s End that really demonstrates just how wonderful Fabienne’s vocals are. However it’s Rise, the ballad on the album that I feel that Fabienne really illuminates on this otherworldly song and it’s chorus “Try and hurt me. I will fight alone. Stood strong. I will survive. Try and break me. I will guard my home. I will give my life. Without care. I’ll rise, I’ll rise. You will haunt me. Cause I’m not on your side.” There’s also another treat for ELUVEITIE fans as Chrigel Glanzmann lends his vocals for a fantastic collaboration on Tales Of Time. Another highlight are the instrumentals that bridge the songs together in this album extremely well in a magical way.
Find ILLUMISHADE on Facebook.
6. Volturian – Crimson
VOLTURIAN is band that was recently founded in 2019 and their debut album Crimson, released back in April. I discovered it rather late in this year (around a month ago). What automatically drew me in to their music and style is how they describe themselves … Vampire Metal, so this got me very intrigued as I hadn’t heard of this genre of Metal before. I was hooked from the very first minute of listening to this unique Italian band, lead by ex SLEEPING ROMANCE vocalist Federica Lanna who is absolutely splendidly on vocals. She is also one of the founders of the band alongside songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist Federico Mondelli.
The whole album has a very modern metal sound, seductively entwined with dark and gothic vibes throughout making them one of the stand out up and coming bands of 2020. The AMARANTHE esque vibes through the electronics that they have merged with their own dark and heavily melodic melodies goes so brilliantly well with Federica’s ethereal voice.
This is an album filled with a dark atmosphere and modern brilliance as so many styles are so well incorporated, even the Europop sound is used throughout songs such as New Life, Broken, Days Before You Died and Fading Like A Flower. The Killing Joke however is the song that immediately drew me in as it infuses highly addictive electronic melodies with haunting guitar riffs and Federica’s pristine vocals, with a very catchy chorus “We will leave this place at night. In the moonlight all the fears. Will seem like fragile dreams. When seen in a different light.” This is a very entrancing album.
Find VOLTURIAN on Facebook.
5. Ad Infinitum – Chapter I Monarchy
Chapter I: Monarchy, the debut album from AD INFINITUM for me is the perfect embodiment of atmospherically gothic, yet uncompromisingly energetic symphonic metal. It transports myself and others back in time through darkened Middle Ages and Victorian era Europe whilst having somewhat of a Steampunk vibe to their music.
The debuting Swiss symphonic metal band fronted by the captivating and talented Melissa Bonny on vocals, Niklas Müller on drums, FOLLOW THE CIPHER bassist Jonas Asplind and guitarist Adrian Thessenvitz have created an addictive blend of soaring metal riffs and elegant symphonic orchestrations.
This album is filled with sublime brilliance and Melissa Bonny’s multi-faceted vocals fill every song so perfectly. From the dark and powerful atmosphere, smashing drums and forceful guitar riffs created on Marching On Versailles “We are the army of silent cries. Marching on your denial. We are the justice for those who died. For the glory of Versailles.” To the enchanting tale of love and loss on See You In Hell “Goodbye, my love. May we meet again. Heaven is closed. See you in Hell. Goodbye, my love. For you rings the bell. I’ve no remorse. See you in Hell.”
Find AD INFINITUM on Facebook.
4. Dynazty – The Dark Delight
This is band that I discovered through my love for Melodic Metal and AMARANTHE, as vocal powerhouse Nils Molin is also in AMARANTHE too. The Swedish quintet have most certainly delivered upon a delightfully solid album injecting their own sound with bombastic hooks, high-octane choruses and plenty of modern electronic sounds and synth usage.
Accompanying vocalist Nils Molin are guitarists Love Magnusson and Mike Lavér, bassist Jonathan Olsson, and drummer George Egg.
The album subtly lures you in before exploding into life with Presence Of Mind and it’s arsenal of riffs, grooves, rumbling bass and hefty drumming. This is the prelude before it’s powerfully anthemic chorus that you won’t forget. “This is were we crash and burn. This is were we start to learn. Ground zero this fear of your presence of mind. Where the mind plans to perfect. We reverse and we reset. Ground zero this fear of your presence of mind.”
The songs Paradise Of The Architect and Heartless Madness comes pretty close to songs that you’d expect to hear coming from the world of AMARANTHE with their up-to-date melodically modern electronic sounds and brilliantly catchy choruses. AMARANTHE’s own Henrik ‘GG6’ Englund Wilhelmsson lends his furious growls on From Sound To Silence and Apex alongside Nils to deliver songs that sound primed with heavily charged awesomeness.
Waterfall and Hologram stick out so fantastically well on the as Nils gives a such an emotive and raw vocal performance that sounds like he held nothing back, but then again DYNAZTY have definitely pulled out all the stops on The Dark Delight.
Find DYNAZTY on Facebook.
3. Beyond The Black – Hørizøns
This is an album from one of my favourite bands that I was anticipating it’s release for since it was announced. I feel that the German Symphonic/Melodic Metal quintet of Jennifer Haben, Chris Hermsdörfer, Tobias Lodes, Stefan Herkenhoff and Kai Tschierschky have definitely delivered on a bold and powerful fourth album. I say bold as the band has aimed “for new horizons” by exploring a new Modern, more Melodic Metal side that we haven’t seen before and I love it.
This album is full of impactful songs from the anthemic Some Kind Of Monster, Paralyzed and Golden Pariahs (I can visualise this being a crowd jumper) to having some of Jennifer’s best impressive vocals too on songs such as the title track Horizons “Horizons, horizons, horizons . Oh, won’t you come with me. We can share a common vision. Come with me. We can aim for new horizons.” and I Won’t Surrender featuring cellist Tina Guo.
Guitarist Chris Hermsdörfer gets a more prominent role on both clean and harsh vocals in this album too especially on Marching On with Jennifer.
There’s also a real gem within this album called Wounded Healer which for me is an absolutely beautiful collaboration between Jennifer Haben and AMARANTHE’s own immensely talented Elize Ryd in which they harmonize so stunningly together. “Come be my wounded healer. Sing your blissful melody cause. I believe in. The wonders of your medicine. You’re the preacher. I feel it through my skeleton. Wounded healer. Save my soul from darkened nights.”
Find BEYOND THE BLACK on Facebook.
2. Kamelot – I Am The Empire: Live At The 013
This is a live album from one of my favourite bands that got me really looking forward to it’s release since it’s announcement. Symphonic Power Metal masters KAMELOT definitely deliver a spectacular show filled with an stellar array of amazing special guests that night such as Elize Ryd (AMARANTHE), Alissa White-Gluz (ARCH ENEMY) and Charlotte Wessels (DELAIN) to name a few. This show and album has a feeling of an unforgettable atmosphere that the band has become masters of over the years since their first live album The Expedition (2000) and then again for One Cold Winter’s Night (2006).
There are so many highlights throughout this highly impactful live album including: My Confession featuring string quartet EKLIPSE, which gave me goosebumps for the first time ever especially with how beautifully Elize Ryd delivers Tommy Karevik’s line in the song “Save a place for me in heaven. We’ll meet another day. I found forgiveness and the meaning of it all. My fear is gone, Gone.” KAMELOT classics March Of Mephisto, which features Alissa White-Gluz on bringing the powerfully brutal growls needed, and Forever, featuring one of the most epic KAMELOT guitar solos ever also feature on this live album to name a few.
The song for me that I really get goosebumps on is my all time favourite KAMELOT song Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife) which mesmerisingly guests both Elize singing and Alissa growling flawlessly alongside Tommy Karevik “Sing for me Angel of Afterlife. Calming me down. Chaos inside my nebula. And may the wrong turn to right. In a celestial light. Forgive my Sacrimony.” …. for me this will always be THE quintessential KAMELOT song.
Find KAMELOT on Facebook.
NUMBER ONE: Amaranthe – Manifest
This year however, the crown and No.1 spot of album of the year goes to my absolute favourite band AMARANTHE and the release of their very highly anticipated, by myself and other fans, sixth album Manifest.
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of this band and completely love their own distinctly unique style & sound. I also consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen them live twice at the beginning of the year: Supporting SABATON in Wembley Arena and seeing them headline for the very first time in The Netherlands, both unforgettable and spectacular shows.
AMARANTHE have definitely more than excelled on Manifest. I couldn’t be prouder as it’s at the very least a masterpiece of powerful positivity and energy filled with their heaviest riffs to date. It also contains naturally catchy choruses, sublime drumming and vocals of perfection from all three vocalists Elize Ryd, Nils Molin and Henrik ‘GG6’ Englund Wilhelmsson (whilst keeping their signature style and sound going back to their self titled debut album).
The album kicks off absolutely perfectly with Fearless. This song has an unbelievable amount of power, drive and positive energy to the extent that it’s one of my all time favourites from the band. For me this song signals a magnificent new era of the band “Out of the dark, into the sun. I’m in a higher state of mind. A brand new start. I will transform into the fearless. A stronger force above the ground. The radiant era has begun. Out of the dark, into the sun. ‘Cause now I’m fearless.”
Manifest has the most diverse range of songs that the band has ever done, ranging from the explosive battle of Henrik’s lightening fast growls and Nils’ soaring vocals on track BOOM!1 (we even hear Elize’s first ever recorded growl in history, that’s a goosebump moment right there). The beautiful and uplifting collaboration of two of the metal world’s finest voices on Strong between Elize and BATTLE BEAST’s Noora Louhimo. The current pandemic influenced and year defining Viral “Halt, like a pawn in a long, long line. As the virus spreads inside. No one’s there when we go down. Going up, going viral.”
The especially intense emotions on the heartfelt ballad Crystalline that we get from both Elize and Nils on the album. The track guests APOCALYPTICA cellist Perttu Kivilaakso and DRAGONLAND’s Elias Holmlid on piano and orchestral arrangements to give it an cinematic feel. It tells an impassioned story that has hit me on a very personal level.
The last song that I’ll talk about is Archangel as not only does the song have all of the characteristics of that iconic AMARANTHE sound but the song also introduces myself and other fans to a new unexplored Gothic side of themselves as the song based on the fall of Lucifer Morningstar. Archangel is one of those songs that I love everything about it, from Elize’s heavenly harmonisation on the bridge (then again, Elize’s vocals have been so phenomenally beautiful and powerful, whilst also having lower vocal tones on Manifest) and Henrik’s demonic growls to the amazing outfits as well as visuals on the music video. THAT chorus is purely awesome with its catchy gothic/pagan/ritualistic feel that also symbolises that the vocalist “trinity” of Elize, Nils and Henrik are now one unstoppable force together. “Archangel rise. The trinity has synchronized. A remedy for humankind. Archangel has fallen down. Against the odds. We bring a bloodless sacrifice. From hell on Earth to paradise. Archangel has fallen down.”
I am a firm believer that AMARANTHE are future arena headliners …. watch this space.
Find AMARANTHE on Facebook.