As we’re nearing the end of the year, it’s time for a roundup of all the best ear candy this difficult year had to offer us. Others on this site (Mates…) will claim their top songs of the year are the best, but I promise the songs below are all you really need to hear. ANYWAYS, I’ll be further discussing full albums from several of these artists on my Best Albums of 2020 list in a few weeks, but for now, check out my personal favorite (read: THE BEST) tracks listed below.
Haken‘s “Canary Yellow” – Haken continues to impress with their latest album and “Canary Yellow” may just be one of my favorite songs they’ve composed to date. It’s very hooky and remarkably beautiful. If the last minute of the song doesn’t give you full body goosebumps, I don’t know what will.
Intronaut‘s “The Cull” – The last concert I was able to see before the pandemic hit was Cult of Luna and Intronaut in early March. I had been familiar with Intronaut but hadn’t fully explored their music. The live experience was incredible. I picked up the album immediately and it has continued in rotation ever since. While these songs aren’t really ranked in order, this is certainly in the top 5.
Imperial Triumphant‘s “City Swine” – I discovered Imperial Triumphant this year and have quickly become addicted to these dingy, yet elegant metropolitan doom-slayers. The track “City Swine” is overwhelming but in a really wonderful way. It takes many listens to fully comprehend what the band is accomplishing here. The drumming is insane too and Tomas Haake (Meshuggah) even shows up!
Myrkur‘s “Leaves of Yggdrasil” – What a stunning song. Myrkur has been a fascinating band to watch evolve. The first album was pure black metal no matter what the true kvlt haters may say. The new album however is Danish folk music and I absolutely love this composition and Amalie’s amazing vocals.
The Ocean’s “Jurassic | Cretaceous” – One of the longest tracks on my list and one of the longer songs period by The Ocean. The band never settles in one place too long and this song shows just how creative they are. Plus, Jonas from Katatonia shows up for guest vocals so you just know it’s going to be killer.
Enslaved‘s “Homebound” – This may very well be Enslaved‘s catchiest ear worm to date. It’s a total ripper but then that chorus hits and it soars. There are a bunch of tasty riffs throughout the album but I keep coming back to this song.
Finntroll‘s “Att Doda Med En Sten” – Finntroll really knows how to kick off an album and this is an absolute barnstormer. If you ever need an anthem for kicking some evil troll ass, this will be the one.
Old Man Gloom‘s “Death Rhymes” – This isn’t really like anything else in Old Man Gloom‘s discography, which ends up making this stand out from their other songs. A touching and beautiful song from an extraordinary band on the top of their game.
Greg Puciato‘s “Temporary Object” – There are numerous tracks I considered going with from this album but I feel like this one needs more exposure. It’s lush, addictive and perfect for a late night cruise on an empty highway.
The Black Dahlia Murder‘s “Removal of the Oaken Stake” – Riffs upon glorious riffs, The Men of TBDM never fail to impress. Need to take down some vampires impervious to light? Just blast this crusher of a song (and open a freakin’ curtain bro) and they won’t stand a chance.
Ulver‘s “Nostalgia” – I had considered going with one of the more typically Ulver songs on the album (honestly, what does that even mean with this band?) BUT “Nostalgia” is seriously infectious and more people need to discover it.
Katatonia‘s “Lacquer” – Atmospheric and moody as ever, this feels like it was made for the darkness we’ve all been shrouded in this year. It fits nicely next to “Unfurl” in the bands catalogue of songs and is destined to be on their setlist whenever concerts can happen again.
John Petrucci‘s “Temple of Circadia” – There was no way that a new song featuring guitar hero John Petrucci and drum god Mike Portnoy playing together again WASN’T going to make this list. I’m just so glad the whole album is top-notch. The two artists have such great chemistry and it really comes off in abundance here.
Killer Be Killed‘s “The Great Purge” – You’ve heard the singles and want a deeper cut from the band? Look no further than “The Great Purge” which is my favorite on an album filled with great songs. Oh and did I mention Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Greg Puciato (The Black Queen), Max Cavalera (Soulfly) and Ben Koller (Converge) are all on this track and uhm the entire album because this band is made up of brilliant musicians?
Fates Warning‘s “The Longest Shadow of the Day” – The longest song on Fates new record and also my personal favorite. It encapsulates the feel of the album but also what the band has accomplished since 1982. If you listen to only one Fates song this year (and WHY would you even do that??), make it this one.
Pallbearer‘s “Riverbed” – Not unexpected from the group, but this is one BLEAK track. It’s gorgeous, melancholic and tugs at the heartstrings. If you haven’t experienced Pallbearer‘s special blend of Doom and Prog, give this track and their new album a listen.
White Stones‘ “Rusty Shell” – Martin Mendez from Opeth launched a new group this year and if you’re a fan of old school Opeth, this will most certainly be for you. This track kicks hard out of the gate and that solo in the middle section hits all the right notes. Can’t wait to see where the band goes from here.
Panopticon‘s “Rune’s Heart” – Sorry but not remotely sorry for all the long songs featured on this list. Particularly when they’re this good. This is definitely in my top 10 songs from Panopticon. Austin Lunn AKA Panopticon, wrote this about his son who was born with a rare heart condition. It’s epic (nearly 20 minutes!), stunning, and as always with Panopticon, incredibly unique.
Ihsahn‘s “Manhattan Skyline” – Ihsahn covers a-ha with Einar from Leprous? And it freakin’ rules? YUP. Speaking of, Ihsahn and Leprous are playing a livestream concert December 20th, which is obviously a must-see.
Sons of Apollo‘s “New World Today” – I’ve been enjoying Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian’s new group (plus Jeff Scott Soto, Ron Thal and Billy Sheehan!) a lot the past few years and this song is one of my favorite tracks of theirs so far. It has some mid-90’s Dream Theater vibes and is just a damn good prog song, allowing each musician plenty of room to shine.
Nuclear Power Trio‘s “Ukraine in the Membrane” – I’m so glad I discovered that Trump, Putin and Kim Jong-Un formed an instrumental power metal band. You think I’m kidding. Check out this music video from one of their other songs for actual evidence…It’s incredible.
The Night Flight Orchestra‘s “Divinyls” – Need some stylish 80’s synth-driven hard rock in your life? Of course you do. This track and really any song from the group will fit like a Power Glove. Plus it features Soilwork‘s Bjorn Strid, David Andersson, Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy) amongst others as band members so it’s a must listen.
The Pineapple Thief‘s “Demons” – I got to see this UK alt-prog band on their US tour last year and they were incredible on stage. For album number thirteen, The Pineapple Thief went for a more stripped down approach and “Demons” is the perfect intro to the group if you’ve yet to discover them.
Silent Skies “Solitude” – Tom Englund from Evergrey is one hell of a vocalist and in this new project, his somber, yet beautiful voice takes center stage. “Solitude” may be one of the saddest songs on this list but also one of the more hopeful going into 2021. It’s an ideal song choice for the cold winter ahead.
Soilwork‘s “A Whisp of the Atlantic” – Did Soilwork just drop an absolutely insane 16 minute track. Hell yes they did. It’s completely different from any of their other songs, featuring many layers to explore in a good pair of headphones. I’m really excited to see if they’ll continue in this direction for future songs and albums.
Sumac‘s “Two Beasts” – I was going to cut this list off at 25 but then Sumac comes strolling in with one of their best songs ever right at the tail end of the year. It’s an enormous, sprawling, vicious, and mesmerizing song that shouldn’t be missed.