2020 was a clusterf*ck of a year, I believe we all pretty much can agree on that. However that didn’t prevent musicians – as much as they faced incredible challenges during the last 12 months – from creating excellent music that will go down on history because of the mere fact that was released in one of the most surreal and unprecedented times of our lifetimes.
In an era where technical complexity seems to be heralded as the defining feature in determining what makes an album great, the refreshing breath hard rock provides is obscured by fanatics who strive to classify albums by whose musicians can challenge the boundaries of human performance in their songwriting. While such rankings certainly have their place at the end of 2020, this list instead turns to the realm of hard and melodic rock. It would be unfair to pit the likes of Pendragon’s explorative melodies or the unapologetic thrash magnificence of Heathen against the steady, vibrant electric guitars of a much more classic rock scene.
The following list brings attention to the visions of rockers, undoubtedly rooted in the legendary pioneers of the genre, but also those that have been bold enough to reimagine what rock should sound like in the modern era of polished production and nearly infinite competition. Balancing tribute to the greats that formed rock as we have come to recognize it alongside the increasing demands of a saturated music scene may have taken its toll, but the following artists have shown that they can take the challenge with grace and create something stunning. Some artists have elected to follow a more melodic route, hopefulness and light weaving seamlessly with steady hands on electric guitars, while others have crafted their biting style on a traditionally inspired raw grit and howling falsettos.
Taking a considerable share of the market in a sometimes overlooked genre is the indomitable Frontiers Music SRL, whose bands consistently bring not just tribute to the tenets of hard rock in vibrant guitars and raspy vocalists, but also bright new talent. The vast majority of the albums listed below have their home with the Italian team led by Serafino Perugino, Mario Riso, Nick Tieder , Elio Bordi and Giulio Cataldo. Other small labels releases have also been strong contenders this year, where artists have had the opportunity to not just pay homage to the musicians that inspired their journeys, but to create something new for present and future generators to enjoy in equal measure.
As always with music, taste is highly subjective, and the following list is no exception. While it may have been impossible to listen to every album that was released in 2020, the following list reflects the final results of a lengthy deliberation of the many stunning albums that came across our many contributors’ desks. We can only hope that you enjoy reading the list as much as we enjoyed listening to these albums!
15.- A Perfect Day – With Eyes Wide Open ()
“With Eyes Wide Open” is apparently the third release from here.. The album ead more about the album in our review
14.- Tokyo Motor Fist – Lions (Frontiers Music SRL)
From the wild throes of “Around Midnight” through the distant comfort of “Look Into Me,” Tokyo Motor Fist have provided yet another soundtrack for summer that has little room to disappoint. “Lions” plays to all of its artists strengths in a demonstration of balance and sensibility, giving fans exactly what they expected with little room to maneuver. Siphoned straight from some of the genre’s most practiced artists, “Lions” is a showcase of the traits which allowed melodic rock to thrive for decades. A youthful heart with experienced hands, Tokyo Motor Fist delivers a consistent and enjoyable record that speaks to the genre’s timelessness. Read our detailed review here.
13.- Revolution Saints – Rise (Frontiers Music SRL)
If your life and tastes are like “Stranger Things,” a sweet return down memory lane to food courts, Trans Ams, hair-sprayed bangs, and Goonies never saying die and/or ihere.This is a wonderfully executed and instantly listenable album no matter who you are. The Revolution Saints have not reinvented the wheel, but the wheel they’ve made here really knows how to roll. Check out our detailed thoughts about this album
12.- The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic (Nuclear Blast Records)
What a fun album.
11.- Girish and The Chronicles – Rock The Highway (Lions Pride Music)
So what do we have here? Well, if hair metal from the Indian subcontinent is not “authentic” to the scene, then it’s the most beautiful counterfeit we have ever heard. This is a great little record with lots of heart, and it’s one of those newer bands you cannot help but want to see them succeed brilliantly. The album is primarily straightforward rockers and groovers like the title track and “Rock And Roll’s Here To Stay,” but there are enough exceptional tracks like “Distance Between,” and “Identity Crisis” to keep it interesting. If you are an old-school metalhead, especially of the Dokken/Crüe/Winger/Bon Jovi stuff, this record from Girish and the Chronicles will be right up your alley if you are open to new music. Find our own review of the album here.
10.- Vandenberg – 2020 (Mascot Label Group)
Releasing an album of original material decades after the last one came out can be a challenging endeavor, especially with such a dramatic lineup change. at this location.Make sure to read in detail about “2020”
9.- Bloody Heels – Ignite The Sky (Frontiers Music SRL)
Bloody Heels have created an entirely immersive sonic experience which engages the senses and evokes images of life’s most euphoric moments with the enthralling dynamism of 80’s rock. “here.. Check out our review of “Ignite the Sky”
8.- East Temple Avenue – Both Sides of Midnight (AOR Heaven)
7.- Harem Scarem – Change The World (Frontiers Music SRL)
After almost 3 decades in the scene and 15 albums under their belt, Harem Scarem came back with another studio album to follow up their acclaimed previous release “United”. A cohesive unit still able to deliver a power-rock-packed punch, swaggering riffs, and hooks to die for, Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance without a doubt show the world that their partnership still works. Harem Scarem are a melodic rock band at heart, combined with evident hard rock edges and sprinkled with a very smooth and catchy execution. There are more hooks here than in your average bait shop but there’s a thump behind the vocals and guitars that prevents it all from getting predictable. Pair that with a polished and pristine production that brings forth the band’s robust sound and you have an stellar, hook-laden and anthemic collection of songs.
6.- Jeff Scott Soto – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) (Frontiers Music SRL)
here.. Our review can be read
5.- H.E.A.T – II (earMusic)
40 minutes and 11 tracks that don’t stop rocking, “II” sees this band coming back with a vengeance. H.E.A.T doesn’t hide its love for classic rock heroes, but doesn’t try to copy it either. After the semi-experimental “Into the Great Unknown” many followers were afraid that this excellent melodic rock band was heading in the wrong direction, but “II” eases our troubled minds by serving up what this quintet does best: freshly sounding, energetic melodic rock with bombastic melodies and bluesy undertones, exceptional vocals and a sense of live adrenaline that shines through. Direct and forceful, the songwriting is spot on and every track radiates a great deal of joy that lingers around your ears after the music is over. Simply put, a powerhouse collection of rock anthems.
4.- Perfect Plan – Waiting For A Miracle (Frontiers Music SRL)
The stupendous Swedes have done it again, delivering exactly according to their mission statement: paying homage to the great at this location.of the last 30 years, and doing so brilliantly, If these words don’t convince you enough, your can peruse at our review
3.- One Desire – Midnight Empire (Frontiers Music SRL)
here.. Our own take of “Midnight Empire” is
2.- Black Swan – Shake The World (Frontiers Music SRL)
1.- Dirty Shirley – Dirty Shirley (Frontiers Music SRL)
here.Read more about our favorite melodic hard rock album of the year
INSTRUMENTAL MELODIC ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Reb Beach – A View from The Inside (Frontiers Music SRL)
A great voice is not a necessary precursor for a stunning take on melodic rock. The following album was able to captivate and impress us with instruments alone, a feat that is both beautiful and noteworthy. We could have included it as part of the list above, but we felt it deserved its own spotlight. Richard Earl Beach, better known as “REB” to friends and fans alike, continues to be one of the scariest and most underrated talents in the world of guitar, and should never be underestimated. Although weighing in a little light at approximately 45 minutes, A View From The Inside” scratches the itch of the lead guitar fan without overstaying its welcome. As guitar albums go, this one is one of the best. If Reb understands one thing about guitar, it’s tasteful presentation and execution. This album paces itself well, and has a well-planned variety of ingredients, from blues to fusion to mind-blowing lead playing, and also seems poised to stand the test of time. Reb Beach, the omnipresent working man’s lead guitar player, and jack of all bands, has finished one of the definitive lead guitar albums of the decade. Check out our extensive review in this link.
LIVE MELODIC ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Eclipse – Viva La VicTOURia (Frontiers Music SRL)
Erik Mårtensson and company seem to be having a hard time not being featured in our end of the year best of lists. They claimed the top spot last year with the absolutely brilliant “Paradigm,” and they are back again in 2020, with the melodic rock live album your collection is screaming for. I could try to convince you as to why you must pay attention to this release, but I feel the guys at The Rock Pit did a great job when summarizing it: “…If you’ve yet to sample the sonic delights of Eclipse this isn’t a bad way at all to start. If you love wonderfully uplifting melodic rock with a great emphasis on melody and hooks you need this. If you’re a fan of Eclipse already you probably need all versions. As modern day live albums go this is wonderfully produced and sounds amazing…” If that still not convince you, let me try to be blunt: Eclipse might not be a multi-platinum selling band (yet) but they surely are one of the most consistent act in the melodic rock scene of the last 10 to 15 years, and “Viva La VicTOURia” simply highlights how mind-blowingly these guys really are.
SURPRISE MELODIC ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Palace – Rock N’ Roll Radio (Frontiers Music SRL)
Coming out of left field, this album took our melodic-rock contributors by surprise.