Classic Rock Bottom

The year of 2020 isn't likely to be remembered all that fondly by many people. In the grand scheme of the universe calling 2020 a complete clusterfuck is being kind on Nobel Peace Prize winning level.

In the music world, the almost total loss of the live concert industry since March was a hard pill to swallow for musicians and crew who depend on it for their livelihoods and for the fans who look at seeing a show as an outlet for the day to day stresses of everyday life. I only saw three shows before everything shut down: UFO (Review Link), Geoff Tate (Review Link) and The Appice Brothers. The list is short but I did get to meet UFO's opening act Damon Johnson and pick up an absolutely fantastic album from him called Release.

But we're not here to talk about live music all that much rather the best albums released in 2020. As always there are many to choose from, regardless of what musical genre you prefer. For me, it is all about rock and metal this year so my submitted list to KNAC.COM and here are one and the same this year.

There are albums I just ran out of time to get a review written for so they are obviously not on the list. Besides studio releases, I got to experience a number of reissued discs and even a couple of box sets this year. The two CJSS and two Chastain reissues from Divebomb Records were all outstanding. I reviewed World Gone Mad, Praise The Loud, Mystery Of Illusion and For Those Who Dare and loved them all. Guitarist David T. Chastain even shared the Mystery Of Illusion review on his social media accounts. I don't typically buy box sets that much, but when it comes to Doro Pesch, if she puts it out I tend to pick it up. So Magic Diamonds - Best Of Rock, Ballads & Rare Treasures was a must buy. And I had to get The Bronx Casket Co. release The Complete Collection as well.

Live releases weren't on my radar much this year. I got releases from Iron Maiden (1 official and 2 bootlegs) and Dee Snider but that was it.

My final list of the best albums in 2020 represents my picks for the best albums that I actually listened to this year. I factor in not only how much I liked the album but also how often the album got repeated plays. If an album you liked isn't on this list, I didn't listen to it or I just simply didn't like it as much as you did. 

With all that blather now out of the way, let's channel our inner Casey Kasem and get "on with the countdown!"

#10.  STEELCITY - MACH II - Being at home so much more than even I usually am is what led me to "discovering" SteelCity this year. I bought both of the band's albums from their website. The 2018 CD Fortress was pretty darn good but Mach II is an amazing album that combines high energy rock and roll with killer melodies. Mike Floros is pretty cool to talk to as well. Released by Perris Records.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

#09. AC/DC - PWR/UPI don't know what else can be said about the new AC/DC album that anyone who has heard the album hasn't already said. The band's signature sound is fully intact and sounds completely refreshed after a trying few years that included the loss of founding member Malcolm Young and lineup changes galore. With the return of Brian Johnson on vocals, the band continues their amazing rock and roll charge moving ever onward! Released by Columbia Records.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

#08. BLACK SWAN - SHAKE THE WORLD - I reviewed this album all the way back in February and I can tell you that the album is still finding a regular place in my play rotation. Black Swan has singer Robin McAuley, guitarist Reb Beach and bassist Jeff Pilson being joined by drummer Matt Starr to form a tight and powerfully melodic rocking band. This is a fantastic album, period! Released by Frontiers Music Srl.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

07. MIKE TRAMP - SECOND TIME AROUNDMike Tramp has seemingly become a perennial inclusion on my list the last few years. His career from Rock God to poignant but still rocking singer-songwriter has been an incredible evolution to watch and this album is simply another fantastic step on his musical journey. Released by Target Records.

06. PRIDE OF LIONS - LION HEART - While bandleader Jim Peterik sometimes lacks subtlety in his lyric writing, when he hits the target just right his songs are an amazingly energetic melody driven rock and roll party. He does that over and over again on this album. The release of Lion Heart came as a surprise to me but Pride Of Lions delivered another prime example of great melodic rock. Released by Frontiers Music Srl.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

05. KINGS OF DUST - KINGS OF DUST - This album's inclusion on the list is a bit of odd timing for me. This was the last album I reviewed this year. And that review hasn't actually gone live yet. But let me tell you, this album was a monster release. It came out in March but I was delayed in buying and listening to it. It wears the band's 70's classic rock sound on their sleeve but they aren't simply aping the style but rather sprang from it essentially. This gives the band much more of an authentic feel than most bands that come up with this sound these days. I bought this album based on the fact that ex-Badlands bassist Greg Chaisson is a key member of the band and that decision paid off handsomely. Released by Shock Records / Vanity Music Group.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

04. HOUSE OF LORDS - NEW WORLD - NEW EYES - I have to admit that I was a little surprised to find how much this album stuck with me through the year. In the past, I've liked a number of the albums from House Of Lords but good music and good reviews haven't always translated to a lot of repeated playing. It's completely different this time around because I've been playing this album A LOT! The album is packed full of hard-charging rockers and the key to me is just how amazing guitarist Jimi Bell's playing is on this disc. Just a killer album! Released by Frontiers Music Srl.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

03. FATES WARNING - LONG DAY GOOD NIGHT - For my money, despite many claimants to the throne, Fates Warning is the one band that is the true king of progressive metal. If you need proof beyond their back catalog, you can just check out their stunning Long Day Good Night album. This is a killer release that finds the band pulling out all the stops and delivering one of their finest works to date. Released by Metal Blade Records.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

02. ARMORED SAINT - PUNCHING THE SKY - I've been a fan of Armored Saint for a very long time. And I've been proclaiming that their Raising Fear and Symbol Of Salvation albums have long stood as their best overall releases. Well, I'd venture to say that duo of albums is now a trinity with Punching The Sky. This is a brilliantly conceived and executed album, period. And the song "Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants" is my absolute favorite track of 2020!

Read my full Classic Rock Bottom review here!

And my pick for the #1 album of 2020 is...

01. METAL CHURCH - FROM THE VAULT - I was asked to write up a brief summary for the album for the Limelight's Top 10 albums of 2020 list. I didn't help in the ranking of the albums for that list but getting to do the summary for From The Vault was a real treat for me. I wrote a full review of the album when it was released and I'm convinced that this is the singular best album I've heard all year long. I'm going to copy and paste what I wrote for that Limelight piece because I can't do a better summary than what I wrote here:

"I’m sure that it is tempting to simply write off From The Vault as a run-of-the-mill compilation release since if features live cuts, songs left over from the recording sessions for the Damned If You Do album and other such material.

But if you do that, you are missing out on what I consider my own personal album of the year. While the various tracks may have been sourced from other parts of the band’s recording history, where they come from matters less than just how amazing the material actually is.

The newly written songs like “Dead On The Vine” and “For No Reason” are amazing. The Damned If You Do material like “False Flag” and “Tell Lie Vision” demonstrate that they could’ve been justifiably included on that release and the band’s covers of “Black Betty” and “Please Don’t Judas Me” are filled with a ton of emotion and adrenaline. Even the live songs fill a void you didn’t know you had!

Yes, strictly speaking, this is a compilation release. But the quality of the material amply demonstrates that Metal Church’s From The Vault is a utterly undeniably great album!"

By the way, Metal Church saw that Limelight piece and shared the link on their social media, giving both myself and the website a nice shoutout.

Read my full KNAC.COM review here!

And there you have it, my favorite albums of 2020. While I will be otherwise glad to see 2020 in the rear view mirror at least I have so many great musical memories to look back on. I'll be continuing to review CDs for KNAC.COM in 2021 (I have 3 albums lined up already) and continue to write The Cassette Chronicles for Limelight Magazine as well. So come on back at the end of 2021 for more of the best in rock and metal! As always, thanks for reading and as a friend of mine likes to say, "Raise The Fist of the Metal Child!"

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Replies to This Discussion

Ah, you guys are KILLING me!
Yeah, you... Top List rebels with all your Live, Best Of, and such album inclusions to the Top List of Best NEW Releases. There is etiquette, and you are breaking it.

Just kidding.
Fire away. I wouldn't care if you put ABBA's 1979 Voulez-Vous on the #1 spot of your 2020 Heavy Metal List.
I might even give you some bonus points for thinking outside the box. In fact, it wouldn't be beneath me to do the same if I haven't had enough "new" material to create a list. However, as soon as I do reach that magic number 10, I hear a voice telling me "Don't do it!" (Yeah Shyamalan, make a movie out of that). For this I envy you. Quite often my Top List would have had a different appearance if I could just ignore that squicky little voice in my consciousness. He-he.

As for your list, there are only 2 albums I haven't heard of/sampled over the past year. One of them is Metal Church (choose not to, since they never commanded a purchase with their regular albums for me, I doubt goodies from a vault would have made a difference), and Kings Of Dust. I do remember reading about Chaisson's new project but failed to follow up on the news. Perhaps I should give it a spin. As for the rest of your entries, and their fates of populating or not populating my own list it remains to be seen.


To each their own. If I hadn't had a late run of new CD reviews, your head might've exploded because a reissue or two might've made the list. 

George Carlin had a line in his routine about what is and is not a sport where he said, "These are my rules, I make them up!"

We might disagree on whether a compilation of mostly new material can be included on a best of the year list but differing opinions is part of what makes the interactions on here worthwhile. As long as we put forth our arguments in a decent manner, I'm not going to be irked because someone else has a different notion than I do.


Nah, you don't need any argument for me. "It's my list and I put on whatever I like" logic is always good enough for me. I genuinely enjoy this time of year, when people present their Album Of The Year lists. It's fun to compare tastes, and occasionally even learn about something new or get acquainted with missed opportunities. I've been following your lists for a while so it's nice to see you exploring new bands too.
Keep it up.

I've been getting some interesting feedback on Facebook and shares from a few of the bands too. 

It's always nice to see your hard work is appreciated.
And this is true both ways.


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