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The Best of 2020!

In addition to my top picks for 2020, you can also read the top 5 picks from Mike, Jez, and Pete. Since we all have different tastes, it makes more sense to see different folks' opinions.

For each of us, the listing contains 3 parts:

  1. Top 5. Self-explanatory.
  2. Honorable Mentions. Very good releases for the year that either fell just short of the top 5, or had to be on the outside looking in due to the limit of 5.
  3. The Rest of the Field. There is nothing qualitative about this section; the releases may range from good to mediocre to complete and utter garbage. It only exists to show you what each of us considered in coming up with our Top 5 and Honorable Mentions. If an album isn't listed in our Top 5, Honorable Mentions, or Rest of the Field, it means we didn't get a chance to hear that album. We don't all listen to the same set of releases each year.


Dan's Picks for the Best of 2020

The Also Rans

AC/DC — POWER UP
Agenda — Maverick
Alizarin — The Last Semblance
Allen-Olzon — Worlds Apart
Amaranthe — Manifest
Ambush — Infidel
Amy Angel and the Hellraisers — Do It Again
Angelica — All I Am
Ani Lo Projekt — A Time Called Forever
Anthea — Illusion
Anvil — Legal at Last
Archon Angel — Fallen
Arkado — Never Say Never
Armored Saint — Punching the Sky
Asgard - Ragnarokkr
AshenMoon — UMBRA I
Assignment — Reflections
Avenged Sevenfold — Diamonds in the Rough
Ayreon — Transitus
Beneath My Sins — I Decide
Benevolent Like Quietus — Kill The Bliss
Black Stone Cherry — The Human Condition
Bloody Heels — Ignite the Sky
Blue Oyster Cult — 40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune
Blue Oyster Cult — Cult Classic
Blue Oyster Cult — Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014
Blue Oyster Cult — Live at Rock of Ages Festival 2016
Blue Oyster Cult — Live iHeart Radio Theater 2012
Blue Oyster Cult — The Symobol Remains
Bon Jovi — 2020
Brothers of Metal — Emblas Saga
Cats in Space — Atlantis
Chris Rosander — King of Hearts
Confess — Burn Em All
Crosson — Rock N Roll Love Affair
DGM — Tragic Separation
Darker Half — If You Only Knew
David Reece — Cacophony of Souls
DeVicious — Phase Three
Dead Kosmonaut — Gravitas
DeadRisen — ST
Decarlo — Lightning Strikes Twice (Japanese Edition)
Delain — Apocalypse & Chill
Demons & Wizards — III [2CD, Deluxe Edition]
Dendera — Reborn into Darkness EP
Dennis DeYoung — 26 East Volume 1
DevilDriver — Dealing with Demons I
Dirty Shirley — ST
Domination Black — Judgement IV
Dukes of the Orient — Freakshow
Easy Action — That Makes One
East Temple Avenue — Both Sides of Midnight
Eclipse — Viva La Victouria
Electric Mob — Discharge
Elegy of Madness — Invisible World
Elegy of Madness — Live at Fusco Theater
Enuff Z'Nuff — Generation Brainwashed
Eternal Idol — Renaissance
FM — Synchronized
Falconer — From a Dying Ember
Fierce Heart — War For The World
Firewind — ST
Five Finger Death Punch — F8
Foreign — The Symphony of the Wandering Jew Part II
Fortune — The Gun's Still Smokin' Live
From the Depth — Moments
Goblins Blade — Of Angels and Snakes
Gotthard — 13
Grand Design — V
Green Day — Father of All Motherfuckers
Hardline — Life Live
Harem Scarem — Change The World
Hartmann — 15 Pearls and Gems
Hartmann — 3
Heathen — Empire of the Blind
Helion Prime — Question Everything
Helix — Eat Sleep Rock
Hell in the Club — Hell of Fame
Hellsmoke — 2020
Her Chariot Awaits — ST
Hexx — Entangled in Sin
High Spirits — Hard to Stop
House of Lords — New World — New Eyes
Iboga Gazebo — Dose Age
Imperium — Heaven or Hell
In Vertigo — Sex, Love & Chaos EP
Iron Mask — Master of Masters
Iron Savior — Skycrest
Jeff Scott Soto — Wide Awake [In my Dreamland]
Jesse Damon — Damons Rage
Jet Jaguar — Endless Nights
Jorn — Heavy Rock Radio II
Khymera — Master of Illusions
LA Guns — Renegades
Landfall — The Turning Point
Lastworld — Over the Edge
Lazarus Dream — Alive
Leaves Eyes — The Last Viking
Lionheart — The Reality of Miracles
Lionville — Magic Is Alive
Lord Vigo — Danse de Noir
Lordi — Killection
Lords of Black — Alchemy of Souls
Lost Legacy — In The Name of Freedom
Love And War — Edge Of The World
Lufeh — Luggage Falling Down
Lyonen — This is Lyonen
Magic Dance — Remnants
Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall — We Are the Night
Mark Boals and Ring of Fire — All the Best!
Mark Spiro — 2 + 2 = 5 (Best of + Rarities)
Maryann Cotton — Hallelujah
Mentalist — Freedom of Speech
Michael Des Barres and the Mistakes — Live EP
Michael Grant & the Assassins — Always the Villain
Michael Thompson Band — High Times (Live in Italy)
Moonlight Desires — At The Movies EP
Moonlight Haze — Lunaris
Mors Principium Est — Seven
Nefesh Core — Getaway
Newman — Ignition
Nightmare — Aeternam
Novena — Eleventh Hour
OST — Kill Me Today Tomorrow Im Sick
OZ — Forced Commandments
One More Word — Wheel of Suffering
Onslaught — Generation Antichrist
Operus — Score of Nightmares
Orianthi — O
Osyron — Foundations
Ozzy Osbourne — Ordinary Man
Pain of Salvation — Panther
Passion — ST
Perfect Plan — Time for a Miracle
Poltergeist — Feather of Truth
Pretty Maids — Maid in Japan
Pride of Lions — Lion Heart
Primal Fear — Metal Commando
Protokult — Transcending the Ruins
Pyogenesis — A Silent Soul Screams Loud
Pyramaze — Epitaph
Rage — Wings of Rage
Ramos — My Many Sides
Ravenword — Transcendence
Re-Machined — Wheels of Time
Reb Beach — A View from the Inside
Redemption — Alive in Color
Revolution Saints — Rise
Rob Moratti — Paragon
Room Experience — Another Time and Place
Ross the Boss — Born of Fire
Royal Hunt — Dystopia
Sculptor — Untold Secrets
Season of_Dreams — My Shelter
Secret Rule — Against
Selenseas — The Outer Limits
Semblant — Obscura
Serious Black — Suite 226
Seven Spires — Emerald Seas
Shadow Breaker — ST
Shadow Tribe — Reality Unveiled
Shaft of Steel — Steel Heart
Shakra — Mad World
She Bites — Joyride
Shining Black Ft Boals & Thorsen
Silent Skies — Satellites
Silverthorne — Tear the Sky Wide Open
Sinister — Deformation of the Holy Realm
Sinners Blood — The Mirror Star
Smackbound — 20-20
Squealer — Insanity
Stallion — Slaves of Time
Stardust — Highway to Heartbreak
Stoneflower — Finally
Stormburst — Highway to Heaven
Stryper — Even the Devil Believes
Tanna — Storm in Paradise
Terra Atlantica — Age of Steam
The HU — The Gereg (Deluxe Edition)
The Killer Smiles — Raising the Stakes
The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic
The Ragged Saints — Sonic Playground Revisited
Theatre of Tragedy — Musique (20th Anniversary)
Thoughts Factory — Elements
Thundermother — Heat Wave
Thy Despair — The Song of Isolation
Tina Schssler — Verwirrte Welt
Tokyo Motor Fist — Lions
Tony Mitchell — Church of a Restless Soul
Tragedian — Seven Dimensions
Traveler — Termination Shock
Trick or Treat — The Legend of the XII Saints
Tuple — Wooden Box
UDO — We Are One
Unruly Child — Our Glass House
Vanden Plas — The Ghost Experiment — Illumination
Vanishing Point — Dead Elysium
Vega — Grit Your Teeth
Vicious Rumors — Celebration Decay
Victoria K — Essentia
Volturian — Crimson
Voracious Scourge — In Death
Welicruss — Siberian Heathen Horde
Winters Verge — The Ballad of James Tig

Honorable Mentions

A Life Divided — Echoes. This one received very little discussion within the HH community. A bit of a grower IMO, a blend of modern hard rock and '80s retro synthwave and pop. Lighter than previous efforts but eminently listenable. As I mentioned in the forum, kind of a blend of 7th Heaven and The Cure set to a synthwave foundation.

Amberian Dawn — Looking for You. This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but damn it's catchy AF. Take ABBA and put it over a European power metal instrumental base. Seom real ear worms in the bunch.

Arctic Rain — The One. Promising debut album! Great hooks and production, reminiscent of One Desire in places with a tinge of H.E.A.T (vocally) in others. The only complaint is that the songs are somewhat generic and I found the staying power not quite as I had hoped.

Black Swan — Shake the World. Anybody want a vintage McAuley-Schenker album for the modern age but with a heavier edge? I was cautiously hopeful, but this exceeded all expectations.

Bonfire — Fistful of Fire. Some people get hung up on the new lineup and that it's not their grandfather's Bonfire, but not me. The new vocalist and material is top notch, with a bit heavier edge than the old material, yet still melodic. If you stop trying to compare it with "old Bonfire" and treat it musically on its own merits, it's quite good.

Brother Firetribe — Feel the Burn. Nothing groundbreaking, and yet nothing disappointing either. Quintessential BFT sound, but comes off as a bit "safe". More laid back than previous efforts.

Captain Black Beard — Sonic Forces. This one came out of the blue... totally unexpected based upn their previous releases. Really love the new sound and vocalist. Just outside my top 5 for the year. The song Emptiness and Disco Volante are just stellar.

Communic — Hiding from the World. Dark yet melodic prog/power metal that is extremely consistent. I had no idea they've been around for 17 years.

Gotthard — Steve Lee-The Eyes of a Tiger. A wonderful tribute to a man taken far too soon. These alternate versions and unreleased tracks give us one last bit of Steve's wonderful voice.

Jessica Wolff — Para Dice. Thoroughly enjoyable female-fronted hard rock with a modern crunch instrumentally and heavier than previous efforts.

Kansas — The Absence Of Presence. Superb production and arrangements and I love the vocals. Consistency suffers a little bit. It's musically intricate, but as with many prog albums, some songs get a wee bit long in the tooth.

Ocean Hills — Santa Monica. Modern hard rock with some pop elements... Shinedown meets Nickelback? Very radio friendly; well executed.

Paralydium — Worlds Beyond. Another very surprising release, Symphony X meets Threshold. Heavy prog metal with good melodies and excellent choruses. Somewhat self-indulgent, as most prog is, but not to an annoying extent.

Persuader — Necromancy. A somwhat unusal release for the Frontiers label, old school power metal. Apparently the band has been around for 23 years. Comparisons to Blind Guardian are inevitable, which is a good thing IMO, albeit with more crunch and less symphony, also to be construed as a good thing. One of 2020's biggest surprises.

Sapphire Eyes — Magic Moments. This is the band's third release in 9 years. Nothing earth shattering, but very well executed AOR. Predictable yet also reliable. The one disapointing aspect is that the production isn't quite up to par compared to other releases in the AOR genre.

Waiting For Monday — ST. Classic Journey blended with Survivor, but in 2020. Very 70s/80s in feel. Would have been perfectly at home over the airwaves during that era.

Wildness — Ultimate Demise. This is their second album, albeit with a different lead vocalist, which gives it a rather different feel from the debut, and the overall sound is a bit more cohesive. A great slice of bombastic Scandi-AOR.

Dan's Winners

5th Place

cover One Desire — Midnight Empire (Frontiers Records). Their debut album was my pick for 2017 CD of the year, and this one is a worthy sophomore effort, just not quite to the same level, in my opinion. Musically I love it... but it's a case of less would be better. Stop trying to channel prog bands and making darned near every song 5-6 minutes long! I found myself both enjoying and fatigued by the same album. If they had cut about a minute off each track, it might have made the top 1 or 2 of the year. Still, it's an enjoyable album with great production.

4th Place

cover H.E.A.T — II (earMUSIC). This album is bittersweet for me. It is a phenomenal album, yet marks the end of an era with Erik's departure from the band. I realize it's a matter of preference, but as capable as Kenny is, to me Erik is the voice of H.E.A.T. This album is lush, tight, and has all the hallmarks that has made the band so popular. Tearing Down the Walls is still my favorite H.E.A.T album, but this one is a close second.

3rd Place

cover Unleash the Archers — Abyss (Napalm Records). I've always had a thing for good old European power metal, and when you add a capable female lead vocalist, so much the better. I didn't really become familiar with the band until late 2019, so I'm a bit of a latecomer. Their cover of the folk song "Northwest Passage" is what caused me to discover them, and the rest as they say, is history. This album is just chock full of epic metal; while there are some symphonic elements, they never get in the way of the metal, which is refreshing. The addition of synth-style keyboards in appropriate places adds a great bit of flavor. Lest people think it's only thundering metal, the ballad material is equally good! Listen to "The Wind That Shapes the Land" below... tell me that she doesn't sound *exactly* like Heart's Ann Wilson at the beginning. Tremendous replay potential!

2nd Place

cover Dynazty — The Dark Delight (AFM Records). Another stellar effort from these Swedish lads. Firesign was my CD of the year in 2018, and this one came darn near to taking the crown again. Great energy, and I just love the vocals and choruses as they weave back and forth across the border between hard rock and melodic metal. The chorus of the song "Hologram" may be my favorite chorus of 2020, "Paradise of the Architect" is absolutely epic, and Waterfall has a great sing-along feel. There's just something about Nils' vocals and tambre that hits all the sweet spots for me when it comes to heavier hard rock.

Dan's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2020 CD of the Year

cover Palace — Rock and Roll Radio (Frontiers Records). Well, this may be a first... a band (well single artist really) with three releases and all three have wound up in my top 5 for the year they were released: "Master of the Universe" was my #1 in 2016, "Binary Music" was my #5 in 2018, and now in a return to form, Palace tops off my 2020. This came out very late in the year, released on December 4, so it may not have been considered by quite a few reviewers for "Best of" lists, but it's absolutely worth it! I think Michael Palace has really found his stride with this release, as it is top notch with no filler at all. Old school melodic rock/AOR, with hooks and melodies galore, from the title track clear through to the end. The song "Castaway" is just pure ear candy. If you like retro AOR from years gone by, this is absolutely essential!


Mike's Picks for the Best of 2020

2020, a year unlike any other... a pandemic, an election, and countless musicians taken from us far too soon. While many were among our favorites here on HH (Neil Peart, Frankie Banali, Leslie West, etc...) it was the loss of Eddie Van Halen that affected me the most. Eddie was quite literally one of the writers of the "soundtrack of my youth", and his music has carried me through not only the happiest years of my life, but through many dark times as well. There will never be another like him. R.I.P. Eddie Van Halen.

While 2020 was a complete and utter crapfest out in the "real world", here in HH land, things were looking up, as I found 2020 to be quite a bit better music wise than 2019. While there were still quite a few mediocre to just slightly above average releases, I found that the best albums really separated themselves from the pack last year, and this list was quite a bit easier to put together. So, without further ado...

The Also Rans

Alcatrazz — Born Innocent
Alien — Into the Future
American Jetset — Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop
Armored Saint — Punching the Sky
At The Movies — The Soundtrack of Your Life — Vol. 1
BPMD — American Made
Babe' Blu — II
Bad Boys — Turn on the Radio
Bad Touch — Kiss the Sky
Brian Barnhouse — Here Today
Reb Beach — A View from the Inside
Bloody Heels — Ignite The Sky
Conny Bloom — Game! Set! Bloom!
Bon Jovi — 2020
Bonfire — Fistful of Fire
Boss — Step on It
Stan Bush — Dare to Dream
Biff Byford — School of Hard Knocks
Champlin / Williams/ Friestedt — II
Daylight Robbery — The Enemy Within
Decarlo — Lightning Strikes Twice
Deep Purple — Whoosh!
Def Leppard — Hits Vegas — Live at PLanet Hollywood
Def Leppard — The Early Years 79-81
Dennis DeYoung — 26 East Vol 1
Devil's Balls — Stormy Weather
Dirty Shirley — Dirty Shirley
Dokken — The Lost Songs: 1978-1981
Dreams of Avalon — Beyond the Dream
Dynazty — The Dark Delight
Eagles — Live From the Forum MMXVIII
Ellefson — No Cover
Emerald Rising — Emerald Rising
Enuff Z'Nuff — Brainwashed Generation
Marc Ferreira — Come and Get It
Fierce Heart — War for the World
Freeways — True Bearings
Ace Frehley — Origins Vol.2
George Lynch & Jeff Pilson — Heavy Hitters
Girish and the Chronicles — Rock the Highway
Goo Goo Dolls — It's Christmas All Over
Gotthard — 13
Gotthard — Steve Lee — The Eyes of a Tiger: In Memory Of Our Unforgotten Friend
Grand Design — V
Great White — Live
Greg Golden Band — Storyteller Vol. 1
Hardline — Life Live
Heavy Pettin — Best of Heavy Pettin
Helix — Eat Sleep Rock
Hell In The Club — Hell of Fame
Iron Maiden — A Quiet Night In
Iron Maiden — Nights of the Dead — Legacy of the Beast — Live in Mexico City
Jack Russell's Great White — Once Bitten — Acoustic Bytes
Jefferson Starship — Mother of the Sun
Kings of Dust — Kings of Dust
Kix — Midnite Dynamite Re-Lit
Richie Kotzen — 50 For 50
Laci Violett — Laci Violett
Jorn Lande — Heavy Rock Radio II — Executing The Classics
The Last Renegades — Valley of the Kings
Lazy Susan — Bad Habit
Bill Leverty — Divided We Fall
Lynch Mob — Wicked Sensation Reimagined (30th Anniversary Edition)
Magic Dance — Remnants
Chris Manning — Destination
Mark Boals and Ring of Fire — All the Best!
Richard Marx — Limitless
Metal Church — From the Vault
Metallica — S and M 2
Michael Grant and the Assassins — Always the Villain
Rob Moratti — Paragon
Nasty High — Where The River Runs
No Love Lost — Bliss
One Desire — Midnight Empire
Oney — The Legacy
Paralydium — Worlds Beyond
Passion — Passion
Axel Rudi Pell — Sign of the Times
Steve Perry — Traces (Alternative Versions & Sketches)
Pinnacle Point — Symphony of Mind
Robert Plant — Digging Deep: Subterranea
Platinum Overdose — Back For the Thrill
Pretty Maids — Maid In Japan
Primal Fear — Metal Commando
Prowess — Blacktop Therapy
Pulse — Chasing Shadows
Ramos — My Many Sides
Rawkon — Street Eagles
Revolution Saints — Rise
Rich Kid Express — Bubblegum Radio
Rich Kid Express — Psychodelic
Rock Boulevard — Stand and Fight
Ron Keel Band — South X South Dakota
Salem — Peace of Mind
Signal Red — Alien Nation
Simon Says — Spin This
Sons of Apollo — MMXX
Jeff Scott Soto — Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)
Mark Spiro — 2 Plus 2 = 5 (Best of Rarities)
Starmen — Kiss The Sky
Steelcity — Mach II
Steeler — Come Hell or Hollywood
Tesla — Five Man London Jam
Tora Tora — Unplugged
Toto — Old Is New
Trailer Park Vampire — A Blessing and a Curse
Mike Tramp — Second Time Around
UDO — We Are One
Unruly Child — Our Glass House
Vandenberg — 2020
Frank Vestry — My Collection
Waiting For Monday — Waiting For Monday
Whitesnake — Love Songs MMXX
Whitesnake — The ROCK Album MMXX
Wildside — ...Formerly Known as Young Gunns

Honorable Mentions

5th Machine — Back in Time. Solid hard rock from Brazil; "The Song of a Beggar" is a particular fave

AC/DC — Power Up. Angus and company return with what is, in my opinion, their best release since "The Razors Edge". "Shot in the Dark" and "Through the Mists of Time" are excellent!

Jesper Binzer — Save Your Soul. The second solo release from the D-A-D frontman, and he's really hit his stride here! "Move a Mountain" is one of my favorite songs of the year.

Black Stone Cherry — The Human Condition. A solid release from these Kentucky hard rockers, with "Ringin' in My Head" and their excellent cover of ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" being personal faves.

Brother Firetribe — Feel the Burn. Finland's Brother Firetribe return with another excellent release chock full of what I refer to as "Power AOR"!

Cats In Space — Atlantis. Since their arrival in 2015, the Cats have been consistently cranking out great melodic rock, and a new lead singer hasn't changed that at all on "Atlantis"; great stuff!

Collateral — Collateral. 80s style hard rock with just a touch of country on several tunes; check out "Merry Go Round" to sample them at their best.

Dave Friday Band — Actions That Have Consequences. Hard rocking second release from the Dave Friday Band; check out the excellent "Sucker Punched" to hear what this band is all about!

Janet Gardner — Synergy. The 3rd solo release from former Vixen front woman Janet Gardner sees her going in a less modern, more traditional hard rock direction, with "Rise Up" being the best track on offer; check it out!

Harem Scarem — Change The World. HS have been on an incredible run since returning in 2013, and "Change the World" is another great entry in their discography; "Death of Me" and "No Me Without You" are highlights.

H.E.A.T. — II. Erik Gronwall's H.E.A.T. swan song is another solid slab of melodic hard rock, with "We Are Gods" and "Rise" being particular faves. Good luck to lead singer Kenny Leckremo on his return to the band!

L.A. Guns — Renegades. I'm 100% sure I'm in the minority here, but I actually prefer Nickels/Riley's "Renegades" to the last coupla releases from the Lewis/Guns version of the band..."Crawl" and "Lost Boys" are standouts.

Tony Mitchell — Church of a Restless Soul. Kiss of the Gypsy frontman Tony Mitchell's second solo effort sees him upping his game and delivering an excellent release! Check out "Living on the Run" and "In & Out of Love" to hear what this one's all about.

The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic. NFO are one of my favorite bands of the last decade, and "Aeromantic" continues a string of top notch releases. Solid effort from start to finish!

Palace — Rock and Roll Radio. Sweden's Michael Palace is back with his third, and BEST effort to date! The title track and "Eleonora" are my personal faves, but this is truly solid from start to finish. Barely missed my top 5!

Queen — Live Around the World. Great live release with Adam Lambert handling vocals on all of the band's biggest hits; a VERY entertaining listen!

Rock Boulevard — I Got What You Want. Originally released back in 1990 as "Rock Boulevard" this re-issue from Metallic Blue Records deserves a special mention, as now one of the most sought after indies in the melodic hard rock genre is available affordably to all!

Dee Snider — For the Love of Metal Live! Excellent live release showcasing not only classic Twister Sister hits, but some of Dee's best solo tunes as well!

Starmen — Welcome to My World. Probably my most pleasant surprise of the year! Sweden's Starmen take their cues from Kiss (obviosuly) as well as Van Halen, Motley Crue, and 80s hard rock in general. Check out "Dreaming", "Ready to Give Me Your Love", "Warrior" and "Freewheelin'" to hear for yourself just how good these guys are!

Tokyo Motor Fist — Lions. While I enjoyed their 2017 debut, TMF have really upped their game here! With tracks like "Youngblood", "Mean It", and the absolutely excellent "Decadence on 10th Street", this one barely missed my top 5!

Mike's Winners

5th Place

cover The Struts — Strange Days (Interscope Records). "Young & Dangerous" was my favorite release of 2018, so I was expecting alot from The Struts on their follow-up, and they have not disappointed! From the balladesque title track (featuring Robbie Williams), to their excellent cover of Kiss' "Do You Love Me", to the hard rocking "Wild Child", there's a little something here for everyone! This one would have had a shot at number one if it hadn't trailed off a bit in the disc's second half, but still, another excellent release from the Struts!

4th Place

cover Ozzy Osbourne — Ordinary Man (Epic Records). It's been a while since we've heard from Ozzy, 2010's "Scream" to be precise, but the metal madman has returned in a big way! After a string of decent, yet very average releases going all the way back to 1995's "Ozzmosis" I wasn't really expecting a whole lot from new Ozzy music, so to say I'm pleasantly surprised by "Ordinary Man" would be a massve understatement! From the excellent title track which finds Ozzy reflecting back upon his life and career (with a little help from Elton John), to the booming, powerful "Under the Graveyard", and the wonderfully quirky "Scary Little Green Men", I have returned to this one over and over this year! If this turns out to be Ozzy's final release, he's definitely going out on a high note!

3rd Place

cover Black Swan — Shake the World (Frontiers Records). I usually don't get overly excited concerning these "projects" from Frontiers Records, but with a line-up consisting of Robin McAuley, Reb Beach, Jeff Pilson, and Matt Starr, the potential for greatness was certainly there, and Black Swan have delivered one of the best releases of the year! Hard rockers like the excellent "Shake the World", "Johnny Came Marching", and "She's On to Us", mixed with slower numbers like the wonderful "Make It There", and "Sacred Place", make this an excellent release from start to finish. I've come back to this one many times throughout the year, and for a while, thought it would be my number one for 2020! Word is, there will be a second release from Black Swan, and I can't wait!

2nd Place

cover Stryper — Even the Devil Believes (Frontiers Records). Anyone who regularly reads these year end "Best of" lists on HH knows that I'm a big Stryper/Michael Sweet fan, so I had high hopes when "Even the Devil Believes" arrived in the ol' mailbox, and I was not disappointed! With metallic rockers like "Blood From Above", "For God & Rock n Roll", and "Middle Finger Messiah", to the powerful ballads "Make Love Great Again", "How to Fly", and "This I Pray" this one grabbed me immediately, and I've returned to it many times over the year. Michael Sweet is on one helluva roll dating back to 2013, not only with Stryper, but with his solo output and collaborations with Geroge Lynch as well. I look forward to hearing where he takes us next!

Mike's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2020 CD of the Year

cover House of Lords — New World New Eyes (Frontiers Records). The last time HoL featured in my top 5 was with 2011's "Big Money", which snagged the top spot that year. Here we are 9 years and 4 releases later, and they've returned to the top with "New World New Eyes". When this one dropped back in June, I'll admit that it didn't grab me immediately, but I really enjoyed several songs. As the weeks passed, I found myself returning to the disc quite a bit, and before I knew it, I was enjoying pretty much every track, and kept it in the car with me for my work commute for months! While the disc is solid from start to finish, some of my personal faves are "One More", "The Both of Us", "Better Off Broken" and the wonderful title track. Great to hear James Christian and crew return to form on this one, and as always, I look forward to hearing whatever they do next!


Jez's Picks for the Best of 2020

The Also Rans

Lee Aaron — Power, Soul, Rock & Roll: Live In Germany
Alcatrazz — Born Innocent
American Tears — Free Angel Express
The Babys — Anthology (Re-records)
Russ Ballard — It's Good To Be Here
Blue Oyster Cult — 45Th Anniversary: Live In London
Blue Oyster Cult — Hard Rock: Live Cleveland 2014
Blue Oyster Cult — Live At Rock Of Ages Festival 2016
Blue Oyster Cult — iHeart Radio Theatre N.Y.C 2020
Blue Oyster Cult — Agents of Fortune 40th Anniversary Live 2016
Bonfire — Fistful of Fire
Bon Jovi — 2020
Boys Of Heaven — The Great Discovery
Stan Bush — Dare To Dream
Catalano — Nightfighter
Cats In Space — The Echo Zoo Sessions
Collateral — S/T
Deep Purple — Whoosh!
Def Leppard — London To Vegas (Box)
Diamond Head — Lightning To The Nations 2020
Dream Theater — Distant Memories: Live In London
Dukes Of The Orient — Freakshow
East Temple Avenue — Both Sides Of Midnight
Eclipse — Via La Victouria
Finntroll — Vredesvavd
Flying Colors — Third Stage: Live In London
Girish & The Chronicles — Rock The Highway
Gotthard — #13
Harem Scarem — Change The World
Robert Hart — Pure
Marko Hietela — Pyre Of The Black Heart
House Of Lords — New World-New Eyes
Iron Maiden — Nights Of The Dead: Legacy Of The Beast
Liar — Sunset Plaza Drive
Louisiana's LeRoux — One Of Those Days
Leaves Eyes — The Last Viking
Magic Dance — Remnants
Marilyn Manson — We Are Chaos
Marillion — With Friend's At St. Davids
Mark Kelly's Marathon — Mark Kelly's Marathon
Neal Morse — Sola Gratia
Newman — Ignition
Nightwish — Human:ll:Nature
Overland — Scandalous
Pearl Jam — Gigaton
Pride of Lions — Lion Heart
Queen + Adam Lambert — Live Around The World
Raider — Tokyo EP
Rain — Singularity
Dan Reed — Liftoff
Rose Tattoo — Outlaws
Ross The Boss — Born Of Fire
Solstice — Sia
Jeff Scott Soto — Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)
Stoneflower — Finally
The Struts — Strange Days
Stryper — Even The Devil Believes
Unruly Child — Our Glass House
Vandenberg — 2020
Jessica Wolff — Para Dice

Honorable Mentions

A Life Divided — Echoes. A superb blend of hard rock guitars. synths and an 80's touch, that give a distinctive, powerful and melodic album

AC/DC — Power Up. It's an AC/DC album, so we all know what it sounds like, but when it's done this well, we can forgive the lack of' originality' on show. Probably their most consistent album since 1990's 'The Razors Edge'

AD Infinitum — Chapter 1: Monarchy. A fine selection of symphonic metal anthems, with the added bonus of some truly excellent vocals from Melissa Bonny. Excellent stuff

Allen/Olzon — Worlds Apart. If you liked the excellent series of Allen/Lande albums, then this should be added to your must hear list, as it is right up there in the quality stakes of those 4 releases (if not better in some instances). Annette Olzon is a great 'replacement' for Jorn Lande and complements Russell Allen's voice in fine fashion. Add an impressive input from Magnus Karlsson and you have a mighty fine release

Amberian Dawn — Looking For You. Imagine a heady mix of Abba style melodies, rock guitars, huge catchy choruses and a symphonic metal twist you have this album. It's cheesy as hell, but an immense fun listen and I guarantee you'll be humming some of these songs for days afterwards.

Amaranthe — Manifest. This follows pretty much the same formula as their previous releases. A mix of Euro pop metal, crunching guitars, clean/ death metal vocals and songs with huge catchy hooks.

Arctic Rain — The One. Debut album from this upcoming new Swedish band and very typical of the type of stuff Frontiers are turning out regularly at a rate of knots seemingly every month. As with a few others this year, the defining factor in this one heading towards the upper echelons of many a 'Best Of' list this year, is the quality of the songs on offer, They aren't re-inventing the genre by a long way, but there is a certain freshness to some of the songs on offer here and the performances from all the band add up to a very promising new band

At 1980 — A Thousand Lives. A great, nostalgic flashback and a fine selection of lush, 80's inspired Retro Synthwave.

At The Movies — The Soundtrack of Your Live - Vol. 1. A hugely enjoyable 'Lockdown' project masterminded by Chris Laney featuring some of our favourite 80's movie soundtrack songs, performed by members of The Night Flight Orchestra/Soilwork, Royal Hunt, Pretty Maids and many more. Absolutely loved this one and I hear that Volume 2 is in the making.

Beyond The Black — Horizons. Previous album 'Heart of The Hurricane' was a major highlight of 2018 and with 'Horizons', the band may have even surpassed that. This is less 'heavy' than previously, with more than a hint at a more commercial, dare I say poppier direction, but the quality of songs throughout is undeniable.

Jesper Binzer — Save Your Soul. First class melodic hard rock from the D-A-D front man. This one hits all the right spots in the song writing department, with an overall sound not that far removed from his day job.

Black Swan — Shake the World. A bit of a supergroup' this one, featuring Matt Starr, Reb Beach, Jeff Pilson, and the always impressive Robin McCauley. Another of your Frontiers 'Project' releases, but a highly impressive one this time around and one that actually 'Rocks Out' for a change. Hopefully they will do a part 2.

Blackfield — For the Music. A classic Blackfield album in sound and one of the best they have done after the superb 'Blackfield II'. It's exceptional in all areas from the beautiful song writing, performance and production, with the only slight let down being its short 30 minute running time. Very nearly a top 5

Blue Oyster Cult — The Symbol Remains. Each year usually throws up a pleasant surprise or 2, and this year's award goes to this new highly impressive BOC release. Over 50 years into a career and nearly 20 since their last album (01's Curse of The Hidden Mirror), 'The Symbol Remains' shows the band firing on all cylinders having lost none of their magic...from the dark riffs, hooky harmonious choruses and great lyrics, all of which are present and correct on this very fine album..

Tim Bowness — Late Night Laments. 6th studio album from the No Man vocalist and another great collection of lush, atmospheric songs, beautifully performed

Brother Firetribe — Feel The Burn. One of THE most consistent bands over their 5 album history and a band that just gets better and better. This certainly isn't their most 'Rock' album, in fact it is probably their lightest to date with its feet firmly planted in to that keyboard friendly 80's sound, but they do it so well and are pretty much the leaders of the pack in this genre.

Biff Byford — School Of Hard Knocks. Surprisingly this is the Saxon vocalist's first foray into a solo career. What has taken him so long is anyone's guess, but the end product is really good. No real surprises (except the cover of the trad. 17th century ballad 'Scarborough Fair'), melodic heavy metal not too far removed from his day job circa mid 80's rather than the more bombastic Saxon sound of recent years. All in all, a very good, solid album, well worthy of repeated plays.

Captain Blackbeard — Sonic Forces. A nice mix of anthemic Euro AOR and melodic rock. For fans of H.E.A.T, Brother Firetribe and the mighty Night Flight Orchestra, Their best album by far so far

Champlin/Williams/ Friestedt (CWF) — II. This is the type of lite/melodic stuff I love listening to the most i.e. Old School' and this is just that, classy, west coast/ soft rock/ yacht rock, call it what you will. If you like your 'classic' 70's/80's bands like Pages, Player, Chicago, and Toto (of course), then this is the one for you.

Dark Sarah — Grim. Anyone into the Euro sympho metal scene will absolutely love this. A symphonic conceptual metal album with all the trademark sounds this genre has to offer, from the big, operatic female vocals, orchestral arrangements and crunching guitars.

DarWin — Darwin 2: A Frozen War. A short, sharp 30 odd minute mini album to follow up last year's excellent 'Origin Of Species'. 5 tracks of varied, well written rock/ prog performed by a bunch of multi talented musos inc. Simon Phillips and Matt Bisonette

Delain — Apocalypse And Chill. One of the best of the newer sympho bands out there and this is categorically their best album yet, by far. It's got the lot, huge songs, fantastic vocals and guitar, with a smattering of electronic stuff as well. This band should be up there with the big guys of this genre, as the material they out is consistently excellent..

Dennis DeYoung — 26 East: Vol. 1. It's good to have 'The Voice' back after over 10 years and still sounding great. This is a nice trip down memory lane, with more than a nod at his past exploits with Styx, pomp rock and balladeering, as well as a few modern touches too. Very good stuff with presumably a Volume 2 to follow I hope

Diabulus In Musica — Euphoric Entropy. Heavy, Intense metal with some sublime chorals sections, Not your run of the mill sympho metal album this, as it takes a few spins to truly appreciate, but it's a true listening experience all the same

Fish — Weltschmerz. Lyrically fabulous, musically varied, poignant, melancholic, and emotional.. His final solo album it would seem and quite a way to bow out after a 40 year career. Thanks for the music Mr Dick.

Fish On Friday — Black Rain. Excellent, light melodic prog rock/art rock ala Dave Gilmour, Alan Parsons and Marillion. Great, tight songwriting, with the emphasis on the songs, (so no drawn out prog rock meandering on here).A very very pleasant hour or so of your time awaits

The Flowerkings — Islands. This is a band I kind of dip in and out of, but their previous album, last year's 'Waiting For Miracles' and this new one have piqued my interest once more. Great melodic symphonic prog rock, with good instrumental passages and a few challenges along the way too. Excellent stuff

FM — Synchronized. They have been building up to this for a long time now and finally with ''Synchronized', they have finally gone and released their best album since' Tough It Out'

H.E.A.T — II. Probably the most popular band out there in melodic rock land right now and judging by their live performances on MORC X earlier in the year, I can see the justification. Everyone plays great and it sounds a million dollars but I found it a little samey after a few spins if i'm honest and haven't really played it much in the last few months. If I need my H.E.A.T fix, I keep going back to 'Address The Nation', which is still their finest hour. Still, this is a very good album with many excellent moments, if a little on the overrated side.

In This Moment — Mother. A much more commercial sound this time around (which is dividing their fan base no end), with much more emphasis on electronics/ keys, but no less quality in the songs...'Legacy' especially is magnificent and one of my favourite songs of the year.

Jump — Breaking Point. Another fine album (their 14th) and an excellent slice of classic rock with a prog twist. Thought provoking lyrics coupled with some fine musicianship, make this an album well worthy of investigating for a slightly different.

Kansas — The Absence of Presence. Another of the old' classic rock' bands still pumping out great music, and this, their 16th studio album is highly melodic if complex and challenging at times, but still quintessential Kansas all the way.

Kepler Ten — A New Kind Of Sideways. A great new prog band from the UK, and their 2nd album. There's some fantastic playing on here and If the likes of Rush, Muse, Yes and some of the newer modern prog tickles your fancy, then this is a band well worth checking out.

Khymera — Master Of Illusions. One of the better 'Project' bands on the Frontiers label and melodic AOR as it should be done. Yes it's formulaic as hell, but the songs are so good here, with sweet guitars and keys, bags of hooks, nicely produced, just as it should be done. 'The Greatest Wonder' is still the crowning glory in this projects discography, but this comes in a very good second place

Lionheart — The Reality of Miracles. A nice mix of old school melodic rock with some AOR touches thrown in. Some sweet songs on here, with some great vocals from the scene's ever present Lee Small... great little album this one

Lionville — Magic Is Alive. Again, one of the better bands doing this type of stuff, along with Work Of Art and Brother Firetribe and another really top quality album of sweet, well crafted AOR..Their best yet

Lonely Robot — Feelings Are Good. Another instalment of the Lonely Robot saga from the supremely talented John Mitchell (Arena, It Bites, Kino, Frost*). Excellent, modern prog, full of great melody and interesting arrangements.

Lordi — Killection. A fictional compilation album of songs in the style of the 70's-90. It's quite varied in style from the Kiss disco pastiche of 'Zombimbo', the more 70's rock feel of 'Apollyon' through to the exquisite 80's AOR of 'Like a Bee To The Honey (written by Jean Beauvoir & Paul Stanley) 'Cutterfly' the superb 'Scream Demon and the all out heavy metal of the title track. This is a great fun listen all the way through and really well done

Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall — We Are the Night. The 3rd 'Free Fall instalment and another very fine bombastic melodic metal album. As with previous releases, a great cast of vocalists on show including Tony Martin, Ronnie Romero and Battle Beast's brilliant Noora Louhimo. who's 'Queen Of Fire' is the standout track on show.

Magnum — The Serpent Rings. A notch up in the quality compared to the previous 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' and a band releasing some of their best work since the late 80's early 90's. It's typical Magnum, so no surprises, but it's a very fine album all the same.

Tomi Malm — Coming Home. A very smooth mix of west coast, soft rock and jazz fusion, supremely played and produced by the man himself, with a list of very impressive musicians, including Steve Lukather, Tim Pierce, Simon Phillips, Bill Cantos and Neil Stubenhaus. Top quality this one and a worthy follow up to 2017 brilliant 'Walkin' On Air' album

Richard Marx — Limitless. Still releasing great albums 35 years into a memorable career, 'Limitless' continues in a familiar vein to previously with melodious, radio friendly modern pop/rock with those trade mark smooth vocals.

The Midnight — Monsters. As with the At 1980 release, a nostalgic foray into the soundtrack of the 80's and some excellent, sweet retro synth.

Moonlight Haze — Lunaris. Last year's 'De Rerum Natura' was indeed a promising debut for this new Italian band. Symphonic metal anthems slickly played and produced, just as you would expect with this type of release. 'Lunaris' takes things up a notch or 2 in the song writing department and although in no way treads new ground, it is an impressive sophomore release

One Desire — Midnight Empire. As with the excellent debut, 'Midnight Empire' is a bold, bombastic melodic rock album, and one of the better bands doing the rounds at the moment and one that I am sure will appear in many 'Best Of 'lists this years

The Outlaws — Dixie Highway. A great old school southern rock album from this legendary band. This has all, the trademarks from the dualling guitar solos, acoustic interludes and everything in between. There aren't many albums released like this one anymore, but this is timeless stuff.

Ozzy Osbourne — Ordinary Man. Another of the year's big surprises and one of Ozzy's best releases in recent years and a star studded one it is., with Slash & Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, Tom Morello and even Elton John getting a look in. It's diverse stylistically from ballads to mid paced rockers with only 'It's a Raid (Feat. Post Malone') letting the side down. Apart from that, stellar all the way

Palace — Rock n' Roll Radio. Michael Palace's latest entry into the world of AOR, and his best one yet. Written, played and produced entirely by himself, this is a very impressive 3rd album, full to the brim of sweet AOR anthems

Pattern Seeking Animals — Prehensile Tales. Hot on the heels of last year's excellent debut, comes part 2 and another excellent slice of 70's/ 80's influenced prog with a modern touch. Great band.

Perfect Plan — Time For a Miracle. Excellent 2nd album from this Swedish quintet and another set of perfect melodic rock featuring the excellent vocals courtesy of Kent Hilli

Pinnacle Point — Symphony Of Mind. Hugely influenced by the Kansas, the second Pinnacle Point album even runs the original masters latest album very close in the quality stakes here. Extremely good melodic, symphonic rock with a proggy edge.

Revolution Saints — Rise. Aldrich, Blades and Castronovo return for another Rev. Saints chapter and as previously, they have produced another very competent, supremely delivered melodic rock album with no real surprises.

Joe Satriani — Shapeshifting. Satch's latest, eclectic mix, showing off his versatility and fantastic musicianship. A nice, accessible and melodic album of quality instrumentals

Son Of Man — State Of Dystopia. Big hooks and harmonies coupled with impressive musicianship and production add up to a very fine album indeed from this Welsh quintet, Classic rock at its best

Sons of Apollo — MMXX. Prog metal heaven, with some of the world's best players showing their immense talents. There are songs galore on here as well, so it's an ultimate all round prog package. Not surprisingly, THE best prog metal album of the year by far.

Stardust — Highway To Heartbreak. This is very good, especially when compared to a lot of the genres' so called 'Big Hitters'. A very well presented album, full of catchy, 80's influenced melodic rock. For a debut album, a seriously impressive feat. indeed

Tokyo Motor Fist — Lions. Ted Poley and co. return for a second album that is in every way better than the debut. That one left me a little cold... this one hits all the right spots.

Tuple — Wooden Box. I wasn't too sure on this one on first listen, but repeated plays have been kind and it has turned out rather good The vocals take a little getting used to and there are a couple of average tracks to be found, but no doubting the quality of the others on show, especially the title track and the excellent 'Kryptonite'

Robby Valentine — Separate Worlds. A slightly different approach to Robby's usual bombastic pomp rock and an album of pop ballads and classical pieces. Very nicely done it is too with Robby singing, performing and producing everything himself.

Vega — Grit Your Teeth. One of the best of the British melodic bands of recent years and another very good album, full to the brim of melodic goodness. Maybe not the best release in their impressive discography, but still well up to standard

Volturian — Crimson. Debut album and a nice mix of modern, electronic and gothic metal with heavy, downtuned guitars and elegant vocals. It's a nice mix of styles, which gives the album a little extra edge and contrast. If you dig the Amaranthe style of modern metal, then this one will hit the spot

Wildness — Ultimate Demise. Follow up to the very impressive debut album from a couple of years back and an album that follows a similar path. Top quality heavy AOR/ melodic rock with a strong set of songs. Not quite as good as the debut, but recommended all the same

Young Gun Silver Fox — Canyons. Another infectious slice of west coast/ soft rock/ FM pop.ala Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates and Fleetwood Mac. Very smooth, very infectious and very excellent.

Jez's Winners

5th Place

cover Gathering of Kings — Discovery (RN Records). The bar was set very high with last year's very fine debut 'First Mission', but 'Discovery' takes this excellent 'Project' to a whole new level. A huge sounding album packed to the gills with superb radio friendly bombastic hard rock, performed by its multi talented cast of musicians. THE best of its type by far this year.

4th Place

cover The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic (Nuclear Blast Records). One of the year's first releases way back in January, this has remained in my top 5 pretty much ever since. NFO have hit on a magic formula over the course of their last few releases, and as with the previous Sometimes The World Ain't Enough and Amber Galactic, Aeromantic contains all of the now trademarks of this very fine band. Unashamedly retro 80's AOR with massive hooks, underpinned with a hint of 70’s pop and disco, all blended together to give their original take on the genre. Brilliant band, brilliant album!

3rd Place

cover Kim Mitchell — The Big Fantasize (El Mocambo Records). Kim's first album in nearly 15 years and It's class all the way, as you would expect with his fine pedigree. The superb Red Horizon eases you in gently with its chilled, beautiful, acoustic melodies, before 2Up2Bdown kicks in and rocks with typical gusto. The rest is more laid back and reflective, but with no less quality, The Best I Never Had especially, being another very special moment. As a bonus, the album also features 4 live bonus tracks featuring a brilliant 8 minute version of All We Are just to top things off superbly. This really is a very very fine album indeed... yes it's pretty laid back for the most part, but it has all of the KM trademarks from superb, subtle guitar lines, great vocals and those timleless, beautifully crafted songs.

2nd Place

cover Cats in Space — Atlantis (Harmony Factory Records). This has the lot, in spades, from the atmospheric intro of Dive which segues into the rollicking Spaceship Superstar and equally up tempo Revolution, to the ELO like Sunday Best, pomptastic Marionettes and super slick radio friendly AOR of Listen To The Radio. It has more laid back moments too, with Can't Wait For Tomorrow providing a little light relief, before surging back with more pomp rock perfection in Seasons Change and the excellent title track, which ends its brilliant 47:09 duration. A band going from strength to strength it would seem and an album that really does finally, prove once and for all, what a superb act studio (and live) they really are.

Jez's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2020 CD of the Year

cover Pendragon — Love Over Fear (Toff Records). The first time in many years a progressive rock album has finished top of my 'Best Of...' year list, but when an album is as good as this, the style or genre really doesn't matter one iota. Pendragon have had a long career, with many fine releases under their belt The Window Of Life, The Masquerade Overture, Pure, and Passion especially being standouts and with Love Over Fear, they really have released one of their very best albums, even after 40 odd years into their musical journey. All The Pendragon trademarks are present and correct, superb, well constructed songs, from the exquisite, delicate and beautiful Starfish And The Moon through to the epic Truth And Lies and Who Really Are We?, both featuring Nick Barrett's sublime guitar work. It's vintage Pendragon all the way, whilst also being fresh, innovative and up to date and really is a superb and special piece of work.

N.B. Check out the limited edition version of the album, as it comes with a 12" art book with all the gorgeous art work, as well as an acoustic version of the album, and an instrumental version too.


Pete's Picks for the Best of 2020

The Also Rans

5th Machine — Back in Time
AOR — The Best of the Westcoast Spirit
Alcatrazz — Born Innocent
Alien — Into the Future
Allen / Olzon — Worlds Apart
Ambush — Infidel
American Jetset — Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop
American Tears — Free Angel Express
Angeles — Hell on High Heels
Angelica — All I Am
Ani Lo. Projekt — A Time Called Forever
Anvil — Legal at Last
Archon Angel — Fallen
Arctic Rain — The One
Arkado — Never Say Never
Arrival — Light From A Dying Star
AshenMoon — Umbra I EP
Asphalt Valentine — Twisted Road
At The Movies — The Soundtrack of Your Life - Vol. 1
Atlas — Parallel Love
Autumn's Child — Autumn's Child
Axxis — Virus of a Modern Time
Reb Beach — A View from the Inside
Beverly Killz — Iguana Mulata
Black Rose Maze — Black Rose Maze
Black Stone Cherry — The Human Condition
Black Swan — Shake the World
Blackwater Conspiracy — Two Tails and The Dirty Truth Of Love and Revolution
Bloody Heels — Ignite The Sky
Conny Bloom — Game! Set! Bloom!
Albert Bouchard — Re-Imaginos
Boys From Heaven — The Great Discovery
British Lion — The Burning
Bullets and Octane — Riot Riot Rock n Roll
Biff Byford — School of Hard Knocks
Canedy — Warrior
Captain Black Beard — Sonic Forces
Catalano — Nightfighter
Cats In Space — Atlantis
Champlin / Williams/ Friestedt — II
Chris Catena's Rock City Tribe — Truth in Unity
Collateral — Collateral
Simon Collins — Becoming Human
Confess — Burn Em All
Ron Coolen — Rise
Maryann Cotton — Hallelujah
Crosson — Rock n' Roll Love Affair
Cherie Currie — Blvds of Splendor
DGM — Tragic Separation
Damnation Angels — Fiber of our Being
Dangerous Project — Cosmic Vision
Darker Half — If You Only Knew
Dave Friday Band — Actions That Have Consequences
Daxx and Roxane — Daxx and Roxane
Daylight Robbery — The Enemy Within
Dennis DeYoung — 26 East Vol 1
The Dead Daisies — The Lockdown Sessions
DeadRisen — DeadRisen
Decarlo — Lightning Strikes Twice
Deep Purple — Whoosh!
Devilskin — RED
Diamond Lane — Must Be Hell
Domination Black — Judgement IV
Dukes of the Orient — Freakshow
Dynazty — The Dark Delight
East Temple Avenue — Both Sides of Midnight
Eclipse — Via La Victouria
Edge of the Blade — Feels Like Home
Electric Mob — Discharge
Elixir — Voyage of the Eagle
Brent Enman — Retromatic Volume 1 Red
Brent Enman — Retromatic Volume 2 White
Enuff Z'Nuff — Brainwashed Generation
Euphoria — Euphoria
Every Mother's Nightmare — Resurrect The Faithful
FM — Synchronized
PJ Farley — Accent the Change
Ferreira — Come and Get It
Fortress Under Siege — Atlantis
Fortune — The Gun's Still Smokin' Live
Ace Frehley — Origins Vol.2
Gathering of Kings — Discovery
George Lynch and Jeff Pilson — Heavy Hitters
Gotthard — 13
Gotthard — Steve Lee - The Eyes of a Tiger: In Memory Of Our Unforgotten Friend
Grand Design — V
Robert Hart — Pure
Hartmann — 15 Pearls and Gems
Heavy Pettin — Best of Heavy Pettin
Helix — Eat Sleep Rock
Hellsmoke — 2020
Her Chariot Awaits — Her Chariot Awaits
Hericane Alice — Gotta Be Real
Hexx — Entangled in Sin
High Spirits — Hard to Stop
House of Lords — New World New Eyes
Imperium — Heaven or Hell
Invisible Horizon — Deafcon:One
Iron Mask — Master of Masters
Jefferson Starship — Mother of the Sun
Jet Jaguar — Endless Nights
Khymera — Master Of Illusions
Kilimanjaro — Phases and Changes
Kiss the Gun — Nightmares
L.A. Guns — Renegades
Laci Violett — Laci Violett
Jayce Landberg — The Forbidden World
Jorn Lande — Heavy Rock Radio II - Executing The Classics
Landfall — The Turning Point
LastWorld — Over The Edge
Lazarus Dream — Alive
Leaves' Eyes — The Last Viking
Bill Leverty — Divided We Fall
Liar — Sunset Plaza Drive
Lionheart — The Reality of Miracles
Lionville — Magic is Alive
Lordi — Killection
Mad Max — Stormchild Rising
Magic Dance — Remnants
Magnum — The Serpent Rings
Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall — We Are the Night
Maidens of Mercy — Life EP
Mallet — Rock 'n Roll Heroes
Lucio Manca — Third Outline of a New Beginning
Marenna - Meister — Out of Reach
Mark Boals and Ring of Fire — All the Best!
Richard Marx — Limitless
Massive Wagons — House of Noise
Mean Streak — Eye of the Storm
Mentalist — Freedom of Speech
The Mercy Kills — X
Merryweather Stark — Rock Solid
Michael Des Barres and the Mistakes — Live EP
Sam Millar — Radio Gouda
Miss Crazy — Make America Crazy Again
Monday Shock — Rude Awakenings
Moonlight Haze — Lunaris
Rob Moratti — Paragon
Nasty High — Where The River Runs
New Device — Karoshi
Newman — Ignition
The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic
Night — High Tides - Distant Skies
Nightwish — Human. :II: Nature.
NoN (formerly Now or Never) — III
Novena — Eleventh Hour
OZ — Forced Commandments
Obliviax — Obliviax
Ocean Hills — Santa Monica
Jase Old — Hemisphere
One Desire — Midnight Empire
Onslaught — Bow Down to the Clowns
Operus — Score of Nightmares
Overlaps — In This Room
Ozzy Osbourne — Ordinary Man
The Outlaws — Dixie Highway
Overland — Scandalous
Palace — Rock and Roll Radio
Paralydium — Worlds Beyond
Ian Parry — In Flagrante Delicto
Passion — Passion
Passion — Under the Covers
Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons — We're the Bastards
Pinnacle Point — Symphony of Mind
Platinum Overdose — Back For the Thrill
Poltergeist — Feather of Truth
Pride of Lions — Lion Heart
Pyogenesis — A Silent Soul Screams Loud
Rage — Wings of Rage
The Ragged Saints — Sonic Playground Revisited
Raider — Tokyo EP
Rämlord — From Dark Waters
Ramos — My Many Sides
Return to Void — Infinite Silence
Revolution Saints — Rise
Rich Kid Express — Bubblegum Radio
Rich Kid Express — Psychodelic
Rising Steel — Fight Them All
Ron Keel Band — South X South Dakota
Room Experience — Another Time and Place
Chris Rosander — King of Hearts
Ross the Boss — Born of Fire
The Royal Beggars — Wounded Hearts N' Bloodstained Souls
Ryder's Creed — Lost Souls
Rylos — Solarworks Pt. 2
Sainted Sinners — Unlocked and Reloaded
Sapphire Eyes — Magic Moments
Season of Dreams — Obscura
Semblant — Obscura
Serious Black — Suite 226
Shadow Breaker — Shadow Breaker
Shaft of Steel — Steel Heartbeat
Shakra — Mad World
She Bites — Joyride
Shining Black — Shining Black
Shyyne — Go Your Own Way
Signal Red — Alien Nation
Silent Tiger — Ready For Attack
Silvera — Edge of the World
Silverthorne — Tear the Sky Wide Open
Simon Says — Spin This
Sinner's Blood — The Mirror Star
Sinnocence — State Of Grace
Skintrade — The Show Must Go On
Slick Rock Circus — Six.66 Buck
Smackbound — 20/20
Sons of Sounds — Soundsphaera
Sorceress of Sin — Mirrored Revenge
Soundtracks — Kill Me Today Tomorrow I'm Sick
Stardust — Highway To Heartbreak
Starmen — Kiss The Sky
Starmen — Welcome to My World
Steelcity — Mach II
Stoneflower — Finally
Stormburst — Highway to Heaven
Stryper — Even the Devil Believes
Super Vintage — Shining Light
Andy Susemihl — Burning Man
Sven Gali — 3
Syteria — Reflection
Tanna — Storm in Paradise
Terra Atlantica — Age of Steam
These Wicked Rivers — Eden
Those Damn Crows — Point of No Return
Thundermother — Heat Wave
Tokyo Blade — Dark Revolution
Tokyo Motor Fist — Lions
Tokyo Storm — Optimistic State Of Mind
Mike Tramp — Second Time Around
TreaTmenT — Sagacity
Trishula — Time Waits For No Man
Trotoar — No Salvation
Tuple — Wooden Box
U.D.O. — We Are One
Unruly Child — Our Glass House
Vandenberg — 2020
Frank Vestry — My Collection
Vice Squad — Battle of Britain
Vicious Rumors — Celebration Decay
Voodoo Six — Simulation Game
Waiting For Monday — Waiting For Monday
Warrior Soul — Cocaine and Other Good Stuff
Fee Waybill — Fee Waybill Rides Again
The Waymaker — The Waymaker
When Frames Collide — Quattro EP
Wild Souls — Queen Of My Heart
Wildness — Ultimate Demise
Winter's Verge — The Ballad of James Tig
Wishbone Ash — Coat of Arms

Honorable Mentions

AC/DC — Power Up. AC/DC, sounding exactly like AC/DC... any questions?

Bonfire — Fistful of Fire. Great songs, killer production, and Alexx on vocals sounds great on the old and new stuff.

Brother Firetribe — Feel the Burn. Straight up Melodic AOR, like a hard rock ABBA.

Stan Bush — Dare to Dream. Amazingly well done, I feel like I'm in the 80's when I listen to it.

Compass — Our Time on Earth. Steve Newman's melodic prog just shines like the diamond it is. I hope there's more coming!

Jesse Damon — Damon's Rage. Good, solid rock with plent of hooks. I can't get "Tell Me Lili" out of my head.

Dirty Shirley — Dirty Shirley. George Lynch/Dino Jelusic collab. Dino is a freaking amazing vocalist, and Lynch actually sounds inspired on this one.

Eternal Idol — Renaissance. I didn't realize how much I like symphonic metal until I heard this. Perfect blend of melody and power.

Firewind — Firewind. Gus G... damn... what can I say. Killer power metal, with great riffs.

The Great Affairs — Everybody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt. Good old fashioned guitar rock, almost like Black Crowes meets the Gin Blossoms. This is a regular spin for me.

Harem Scarem — Change The World. Harem Scarem has mastered the art of making perfect melodic rock albums, and Lesperance's guitar work puts it over the top for me.

Heavy Pettin — 4Play. Glad to see these guys back, and this is a solid release, would love to see a full length album.

Hell In The Club — Hell of Fame. A little more straight ahead rock'n'roll but still hooky as hell and a fun listen.

Iron Savior — Skycrest. Power metal the way it was meant to be. I feel like they really brought it on the songwriting end with this one.

Kings of Dust — Kings of Dust. Former Badlands bassist Greg Chaisson really serves up some delicious 70's style hard rock.

Lords of Black — Alchemy of Souls. Tony Hernando's guitar work pairing nicely with Romero's vocals for some hard hitting hard rock.

Michael Grant and the Assassins — Always the Villain. I will never understand why Michael Grant isn't more well know. The guy can sing like a banshee and play guitar like a mofo. If you liked Endeverafter you'll dig this.

Nightmare — Aeternam. Female fronted power metal, great songs and production that makes me want to drive fast.

Pyramaze — Epitaph. My favorite from Pyramaze, prog/power with plenty of melody.

Perfect Plan — Time for a Miracle. Melodic rock perfection, really just a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end.

Shiraz Lane — Vibration I. If this wasn't an EP it would EASILY be in my top 5. "You Will Remain" alone is worth the price of admission.

Jeff Scott Soto — Wide Awake (In My Dreamland). JSS doing melodic rock... I get that he likes to go heavier and proggier whenever possible, but damn is he good at this stuff.

Vega — Grit Your Teeth. I LOVE these guys, every album is just so well done, with the Martin brothers' songwriting, and Nick's vocals it's a win for me every time.

Wicked Smile — Delirium. Driving and powerful melodic hard rock from The Radio Sun's Steve Janevski. Looking forward to a full length release!

Pete's Winners

5th Place

cover David Reece — Cacophony of Souls (El Puerto Records). The mighty David Reece returns with another solo album, and his best yet in my humble opinion. Driving and heavy, but not at all lacking melody, this is a cohesive slab of crushing hard rock. David's voice is a bit different than his early days in Accept, but with that comes a depth and richness that is just a pleasure to listen to. Highlights for me include "Back in the Days", "Chasing the Shadows", "Metal Voice".

4th Place

cover Girish and the Chronicles — Rock the Highway (Lions Pride Music). These guys have been around since 2009 apparently, but my first exposure was the advance single "Rock the Highway", and I was blown away! It's pretty straight up 80's hair metal, but to me that's no insult, especially when it's done as well as these guys are doing it! I can't imagine there's a huge scene in India for this type of music (not that there is anywhere these days), but these guys sound like they were born to do this. Check out the title track, "Every Night Like Tonight", "Trapped Inside a Mirror".

3rd Place

cover Storm Force — Age of Fear (Escape Music). Post Brighton Rock Greg Fraser out put has always included killer riffs, the guy knows what he's doing behind a guitar, but with Storm Force and the passionate vocal talents of Patrick Gagliardi, everything's up a notch. Just really good, well written, well produced hard rock. Standouts for me: "Marshall Law", "Because of You", "Ride Like Hell".

2nd Place

cover Armored Saint — Punching the Sky (Metal Blade Records). Easily their best release since the classic "Symbol of Salvation", the Saint brings all the power you'd expect but with absolutely killer riffs and hooks that do not disappoint. The Saint is back baby! Highlights for me; "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants", "End of the Attention Span", "Do Wrong to None"

Pete's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2020 CD of the Year

cover Tony Mitchell — Church of a Restless Soul (AOR Heaven Records). I admit it, I am absolutely biased when it comes to Tony Mitchell! But because of the talent, and the quality. Not that he's not a great guy (he is), but this is just one stellar release... all the hooks you'd ever want whether it's flat out rockers, soulful ballads, huge poppy hooks, or even a church choir for god's sake! Standouts for me include the title track, "Killing Me to Love You", "Electric", "One Good Reason", but to be completely honest I love them all.




Existing comments about Best of 2020

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: January 24, 2021 at 6:03
Each year, I look at the HH gang's lists and I realize how bored I've become with so much of this smooth, light AOR type music. You're supposed to mellow out as you get older, right? I guess I'm weird. My list: 1) Paradise Lost - Obsidian; 2) Lamb Of God - Lamb Of God' 3) Communic - Hiding From The World (good call, Dan!); 4) Supersuckers - Play That Rock 'n' Roll; 5) Katatonia - City Burials; 6) The Wild! - Still Believe in Rock 'n' Roll; 7) enslaved - Utgard - 8) Armored Saint - Punching The Sky; 9) Deatwhite - Grave Image; 10) Pallbearer - Forgotten Days ... Honorable mentions to Primal Fear, My Dying Bride, Testament, Bad Touch, Thundermother.

From: Wardy Date: January 24, 2021 at 9:35
Yeah enjoyable read but am seemingly also moving further and further away from this modern smooth AOR stuff am mostly with Doghouse and 2020 highlights fer me (still in no particular order) were Armored Saint, Katatonia, Dawn Of Solace, Demons & Wizards, Vanishing Point, Paradise Lost, REECE, Benevolent Like Quietus, Sevendust and ACDC...

From: Auslander Date: January 25, 2021 at 12:15
Some nice lists. I was hanging out for this! My top 5 of this music type for 2020: 5. The Struts - Strange Days 4. Girish & The Chronicles - Rock the Highway 3. One Desire - Midnight Empire 2. Passion - Passion Winner: H.e.a.t. - II Other best by genres: Indie Rock = Tame Impala - The Slow Rush Rock = The Killers - Imploding the Mirage Metal = Deftones - Ohms Prog = Wobbler - Dwellers of the Deep

From: Doug Date: January 25, 2021 at 17:00
First Rule of 2021: Never talk about 2020! What a lousy year in so many ways. But thankfully, we had music to get us through. For me, not a lot of highlights, but here are mine: Black Swan, "Shake the World." Revolution Saints, "Rise." Tokyo Motor Fist, "Lions." and AC/DC, "Power Up." Was particularly thankful for "Power Up." True to form, and what we all needed.

From: 123charpenay Date: January 26, 2021 at 18:22
my top 13 for 2020.first.the song of tne year is "bullet to my heart "from STARDUST. 1 STARDUST "highway to heartbreak" 2 BAD RADIATOR "V" 3 WILDSOULS " queen of mu heart" 4 THUNDERMOTHER "heat wawe" 5 PERFECT PLAN "time for a miracle" 6 HEARTWIND "strangers" 7 BLACK PAISLEY "rambler" 8 FIGHTER V "fighter" 9 WILDNESS "ultimate demise" 10 SHAKRA "mad world" 11 GRAND DESIGN "V" 12 KHYMERA "master of illusions" 13 JADED HARD "feels like yesterday".

From: Scandiman Date: January 29, 2021 at 4:14
As usual, big kudos to you all for putting the time and effort into such great lists each year! I have already found a few great releases that I completely missed! Here is my top 15 for 2020: 1--> One Desire - Midnight Empire 2--> Smash Into Pieces - Arcadia 3--> Brother Firetribe - Feel the Burn 4--> H.e.a.t - H.e.a.t II 5--> Perfect Plan - Time For a Miracle 6--> East Temple Avenue - Both Sides of Midnight 7--> Sapphire Eyes - Magic Moments 8--> Stardust - Highway To Heartbreak 9--> Grand Design - V 10--> Dynazty - The Dark Delight 11--> Night Flight Orchestra - Aeromantic 12--> Cats In Space - Atlantis 13--> A Life [Dividied] - Echoes 14--> Black Paisley - Rambler 15 --> Gathering of Kings - Discovery

From: CC Date: February 10, 2021 at 19:10
Top 5 for me, One Desire, Ozzy Osbourne, Renegade Saints, Girish & The Chronicles & Passion.

From: Doug Date: February 19, 2021 at 18:11
Adding to my list above: debut album from the band, Dirty Shirley. Another one of George Lynch's projects, man this dude is everywhere.


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