Best Albums of 2020

My Top albums of 2020. Considering the year its been, all bands deserve a massive pat on the back for getting their music out there!

Hi there dear reader, how’s it going? It’s been a bit of a shit year, well since March anyway. Covid, lockdown, mutated covid, more lockdown. Thankfully the new vaccinations will be rolled out before the mutated virus takes hold and we will be back to some form of normalcy, whatever the fuck that’s supped to be like? I just hope that gigs are a part of it because a musicians life is pretty fucked, not only because of Covid, but Brexit could put paid to overseas acts wanting to play the UK, especially as it look like no deal has been done for the performing arts, and its likely that any touring artistes to the UK will have to fork out a shit load of money before they set foot in Blighty. They will pay tax on all merch they bring in, even if they don’t sell much, and will no doubt require visas, jumping through hoops and whatever else the UK government throws at them. Only the most dedicated and higher profile bands might prevail. I just hope it doesn’t kill off the industry once and for all. We all need to support bands moving forward, through album and merch sales directly via the bands so that they see the money, and go and support live music like its never been supported before, like our lives depend on it. Even going to support bands we haven’t wanted to before because they and every band need the support. What I missed in gigs in 2020 I made up through album purchases, and I think waiting for albums to arrive at my door kept me from a downward spiral. I haven’t written much because I found it difficult, so I apologise to all the PR people who sent me stuff, I struggled to get my arse into gear and I promise you a lot more in 2021. 

If you brought out an album in 2020, well done. In the most trying of circumstances, you still did it. Far be it me to slag off an album, because you fucking rocked this year in getting your music out there. Well done guys.

All the albums below are purchases made in 2020. 

Enough of my opinion, let’s get down to what counts the most. Music. 

15. Jim Kirkpatrick – Ballad of a Prodigal Son

We all know Jim can sing, because FM have some of the best harmonies in the business, but the man’s got soul and blues in his voice! He even ropes in fellow villager Steve Overland so you know its in a good place. It’s for fans of Bad Company. Talking of BC, check out  ‘Ain’t Goin’ Down Alone’, its brilliant.

14. Room Experience – Another Time And Place

Solid work again from Firmo and the gang. They certainly like a power ballad and mix it up with some heavier numbers. Its this heavier numbers that whetted my appetite. Check out ‘A Thousand Lies’ and ‘Another Place and Time’

13. Perfect Plan – Time For A Miracle

Heavier than the debut, and its a cracking second album. They evoke bands like Foreigner, Giant and Bon Jovi and in Kent Hills they have one of the finest singers in the business. Check out ‘Nobody’s Fool’

12. The Spectre Beneath – The New Identity Of Sidney Stone

Sophomore album from these guys, who’s debut I loved last year. Paz has followed it up with some brutal riffs, and has unearthed a gem in Lockser. The killer track for me is ‘The Premature Burial’.

11. FM – Synchronized

Probably the second best album of FM Part 2 which started back in 2010 with Metropolis. FM are in a golden period, and are one of the finest British rock acts of this or any other generation. It saw a slightly different approach and showed that they are not resting on their Laurels. In ‘Change for the Better’ and ‘Pray’ the future of FM is there for all to see.

10. Pain Of Salvation – Panther

These guys never do anything by halves and live up to the meaning of ‘progressive’. Its not their most accessible, but after a few listens you truly appreciate the magnitude of the songs on offer. Highlights are ‘Wait’ and the epic ‘Icon’ and magnificent ‘Icon’.

9. Deep Purple – Whoosh

Who would have though that two of the best albums of 2020 are by bands that were founded many, many decades ago! First up from the oldies is Purple with probably their best album since Perfect Strangers. Ian Gillan still sounds great, Morse is superb, and when you have Airey, Glover and the master (Paice) making up the band, they can play anything. Now in their SEVENTH decade, long may they continue. Check out ‘No Need To Shout’ 

8. Stryper – Even The Devil Believes

Since the last decade began Stryper have been on a metal journey, with every one of their albums being ‘more metal’ than the previous one and I for one am loving it. I just wonder what kind of band they would be had they taken this current path some forty odd years ago. They still remain a novelty band to some, but to me they are one of the finest metal bands on the planet. Thats metal, not Christian. Check out ‘For God and Rock ’n’ Roll’ and ‘Make Love Great Again’ and ‘This I Pray’

7. Cryptex – Once Upon A Time

Think Queen crossed with Meatloaf, Jethro Tull, Tim Burton and the Brothers Grimm and you might have an idea of their music. Its all the brain child Simon Moskon, but they are one of the best 3 pieces this side of a DFS sale. ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘Bloodmoon’ are fantastic

6. H.E.A.T. – II

Heat have been good with Gronwall, bordering on great. They have tried to grab the audience kicking and screaming by the lapels to listen to their very infectious brand of music. They have had the tunes, the personality and the determination to succeed, but ut hasn’t quite happened. Gronwall recently bailed and original singer Lekremo is back in the fold. The next album needs to be a belter. Check out ‘One by One’ and ‘Rock Your Body’

5. Lionheart – The Reality Of Miracles

Another veteran band to make the list. Their last album was my fave of the year back in 2017. As soon as Lee Smalls sings ‘Rock and roll is gonna save ya!’ You know the stall is well and truly set out. Great harmonies, great songs. Only Vega in the melodic rock genre did it better this year. Check out the title track ‘The Reality of Miracles’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’

4. Larkin Poe – Self Made Man

I was introduced to these two gems by my son. They have been building their reputation in the UK with each album, and ‘SMM’ is no exception. Probably the best Blues outfit you haven’t heard yet! Check out ‘She’s A Self Made Man’ and ‘Back Down South’. Wonderful!

3. Vega – Grit Your Teeth

Vega went big with “GYT’ with a capital B.I.G! And it worked. Easily their best album to date. Huge anthems, harmonies to die for and Workman is in top form. These guys should be big by now and I don’t know why. Im hoping that 2021 will be their year. Check out ‘Blind’ and ‘Grit Your Teeth’

2. Ayreon – Transitus

Mr Lucassen never lets me down. He came back with a cast of old and new and ripped up the rule book for symphonic, bombastic storytelling. He even roped in the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker! Check out ‘Listen To My Story’ and ‘Talk Of The Town’. Deserves to be made into a Broadway show!

1. AC/DC – Power Up

I’ve never been a massive DC fan and have dipped in and out over the years, mainly because amongst all the truly great stuff, there has been some bog standard stuff along the way. I’ve got to the point in my life where a 65 year old in a school uniform just looks fucking freaky! A couple of years back I thought they would slip away gracefully especially after losing lynchpin Malcolm Young, and then seemed to kick Johnson into the Shady Acres Metal Singers Retirement Home. I had no desire to listen to an Axl fronted DC, so when the PR started appearing everywhere across the web, I was intrigued to see if they could still cut it without Malcolm Young, and boy did they deliver. Obviously there is nothing new here, but that’s AC/DC in a nutshell. But when they get it right, they are brilliant. Check out ‘Shot In The Dark’, ‘Demon Fire’ and ‘Realize’.

The Spectre Beneath – The New Identity Of Sidney Stone

Sophomore album from The Spectre Beneath is a mix of metal and storytelling of the highest order.

Hello dear reader. How are you? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s been a pretty shite and fucked up year by all accounts. If another rock giant bites the dust this side of Christmas, that’s me done. Enough of the pleasantries…..

Today is the day that I go outside of my little bubble (not the Covid type, but my musical bubble) and listen to metal. Proper metal. The metal that my little melodic rock ears are not tuned to. Well its a request you see, from a mate, and a bloody clever one at that. He’s an author with many books under his name, plays guitar, and everything else, sings, does IT and is nice to animals. And he’s a top bloke, which lets face it, does not conform to the typical Ozzy, Chris Holmes, Lemmy, (insert name here) badass metal stereotype. Theres always an exception to the rule. That exception is PAZ.

Anywho, last year, PAZ asked me to review their debut album ‘The Downfall of Judith King’. It was most excellent – review of that can be read here –

Twelve months on comes the sophomore album, ‘The New Identity Of Sidney Stone’. In these mental times Paz has brought back L Locker (v) and Consta Taylor (d). Lets face it, if you can’t write and record an album in 2020 , when what looks like 70% of the planet is working from home, you’ve got no chance. The time has been spent well.

‘Clockwork Great’ sees Paz and Taylor bringing all the fire and fury with fast and frenetic riffing and thunderous drumming, whilst Lockser cuts through the mayhem for great contrast. It’s how I want my metal served up, tasty, not grunty. ‘Voice In The Static’ still has its bludgeoning riff foundation, but it’s very melodic considering the aural assault of ‘Clockwork’ and has nice harmonies from Lockser. ‘Broken’ has its foot firmly on the gas. Paz’s guitar work is fast, heavy and oh so good. Again the contrast with Lockser works well and the layering of vocals on ‘Broken’ are great. ‘Have You Waited For The World To Change’ entrance is subdued for The Spectre Beneath, and is a distant cousin to Queensryche’s ‘Anybody Listening’. But, sure enough, like a Dio song, if something starts off quiet, you know there’s a bit of welly and menacing guitar just around the corner, and that’s what we have here. It’s part grunge/part Delain and ALL The Spectre Beneath.

’20 Shillings a Town’ song title sounds like it belongs on Lionel Bart’s Oliver! But its more akin to Powerslave than slaving in Mr Bumbles work house. (I surprise myself sometimes). Theres quite a lot to take in such is the n&dbmp (notes and drum beats per minute – or should that be second). Consta’s drumming is right at the fore and he is an absolute beast. It even includes clips from ‘Witchfinder General’ courtesy of one Vincent Price. ‘The Last Light In The House’ is a departure from anything preceding this. There’s a bit more breathing room and it is quite a contrast, with more of a sombre and plodding tone like 70s rock used to do when going off on tangents. It proves to be a welcome break from the barrage of metal, in a good way of course. ‘The Criminal’ is a raucousness of riffage, a bombardment of beats and desolation of Dean (guitar). ‘The Funeral’ takes me back to my early days of listening to Dream Theater and I’ll just leave it at that.

‘The Premature Burial’ is the monster of the album, epic in length (Stargazer length) and in quality (Scene Nine:Finally Free quality). The guitar playing is more to what I’m used to, in a classic rock shredding style kind of way, than most of the rest on the album, and its probably why it ticks all of the boxes for me. I like a bit of brutality like the next guy, but my safe house is bands like DT, Queensryche etc. Finally we get to ‘The Exhumation’ and the Ronseal style of playing comes to fore. Consta is playing the drums as if he has bionic limbs, Paz goes for the jugular with some mental guitar work, even I was exhausted at the end just listening to it, and in L Lockser, Paz has unearthed a gem.

In conclusion, I haven’t enjoyed this as much as the debut, but in comparison, its like me preferring ‘Heaven and Hell’ to ‘Mob Rules’. Both are cracking albums, and that is exactly the same here, but the debut edges it for me. Whilst on a similar subject……

I have one gripe with Paz and its not this album. The ‘best’ is ‘Holy Diver’. There. I said it.


The Spectre Beneath
L Lockser – vocals
Pete Worrall – guitar/bass
Consta Taylor – drums

Vini Assis – additional lead guitar
Martin Worrall – Piano/Keyboards
Katy Lennon – Additional Vocals

Martha Hall – Kate Walsh
Sidney Stone – Pete Worrall
Voice on the phone – Ray Moreton

Track Listing:
Clockwork Heart
Voice in the Static
Have you waited for the world to change?
20 Shillings a Town
The Last Light in the House

The New Identity of Sidney Stone:
The Criminal
The Funeral
The Premature Burial
The Phone Call
The Exhumation