CALIBER’S BEST OF 2020: TOP 20 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
2020 was an absolute “throw the whole thing away and start over” dumpster fire of a year– we’re all glad it’s over. The world endured lessons, tragedy, and chaos– we watched some carry overwhelming burdens on their backs, we witnessed revolution erupt in the name of justice and fixing a broken system, we gave a resounding wave-with-one-finger to whatever 2020 took from us– and ultimately, music proved itself as a universally unifying force.
Persevering through unprecedented times called for introspection and finding solace in the soundtracks we curated. Feelings of familiarity and understanding upon first listen, catharsis, creative defiance, and lack of better terms for “this is just good” gave way to 20 albums in particular resonating the most meaningfully with the CaliberTV staff, Discord server, and voting participants.
Here are the Top 20 Albums of 2020.
20. The Ghost Inside – ‘The Ghost Inside’
“Kicking off our top 20 albums of 2020 is LA metalcore powerhouses The Ghost Inside who dropped their self-titled full length album ‘The Ghost Inside’ in June after a five year hiatus from music following the tragic bus crash that left the band on a long road to recovery.
After five long years, the group was able to prove that they are a hell of a force to be reckoned with, with this record showing off lead incredible riffs and breakdowns along with vocalist Jonathan Vigil’s powerful screams and clean vocals. The production effects, lyricism and instrumentals combined helped reflect on what the last five years have been like, as it deals with the emotions of what the group had gone through on that horrid day as well as the last five years. The conceptual emotion behind the album, along with the just all around stellar sound have made it easy to land The Ghost Inside’s self-titled a spot as one of our best releases of the year, without question.”
19. Emmure – ‘Hindsight’
“The seething anger and bitterness of ‘Look At Yourself’ made for the polar opposite of a genuine self-reflection, and its response warranted a return with outspoken vengeance. ‘Hindsight’ permeates its atmosphere with self-awareness and resentment as Frankie Palmeri’s musical character blurs the line between anti-hero and villain, serving as a milestone of reflection on Emmure‘s career and experimentation within their hip-hop influenced metal sound. “Persona Non Grata” is a stabbing introspection, while “I’ve Scene God” takes a clever approach to humble brags, with bending dissonance and breakdowns curating much of the album’s aura. The same gusto from 2017’s “Shinjuku Masterlord” goes balls-to-the-wall on ‘Hindsight’‘s absolute standout track, “Thunder Mouth”, and brutality continues as “Uncontrollable Descent” resolves the album’s previous rock bottom moment. ‘Hindsight’ presents a new epitome of Emmure‘s sound with a unique and infectious attitude.”
18. PVRIS – ‘Use Me’
“Pulling back the curtain to reveal the spirit and creative genius behind the project, Lynn Gunn takes the reins for ‘Use Me’, a darker reintroduction to PVRIS’ alternative-pop sound in its rawest form. Danceable “Dead Weight” grasps listeners’ attention with its chorus, and Lynn Gunn lets her emotional guard down to hone her skillset on the album’s climax, “Old Wounds”. “Use Me” calls upon stylistic box-refusing solo artist 070 Shake to give the collaboration a taste of emo rap, and balladic melody and hip hop beats backed by an aura of ghostliness flourish on “January Rain”, the reconciliation that takes listeners back to reminisce on the sounds of early 2000’s mainstream pop. With maturity and refinement, ‘Use Me’ confidently strides toward a future for PVRIS that’s vibrant with potential. “
17. The Word Alive – ‘MONOMANIA’
“On ‘MONOMANIA’, The Word Alive took their established progressive metalcore leanings, trimmed the fat and expanded the possibilities of their production. The results were surprisingly in-depth and mood-driven, detailing fallen relationships and depression. “No Way Out” and “Searching For Glory” are the live anthems TWA have needed in their stock since the likes of “Life Cycles” and “Trapped” became fan favorites. The best part is, this direction feels like an honest expansion rather than a forced left turn.”
16. Invent, Animate – ‘Greyview’
“Moreso than any of their contemporaries, Invent Animate have the progressive metalcore style in the palms of their hands. Those same hands surely must have 8 fingers to be playing the riffs heard in “Cloud Cascade” and “Reflection Room”. The combination of clean, atmospheric passages and shifting rhythms isn’t a new thing but Invent Animate work them into a sound that feels next-level and with a new frontman in Marcus Vik.”
15. Fit For A King – ‘The Path’
“‘Breaking The Mirror’ led Fit For A King’s devout fans to believe the metalcore vets were gunning for a higher place and leaving their core beginnings behind. Hearing the crushing likes of “Vendetta”, “God of Fire” and “Stockholm” quelled their fears while the title track, “Faces of Hate” and “Locked (In My Head)” rose the band to brave new areas of metal. Undeniably, FFAK excel at the arena style of metalcore and bring to mind Killswitch Engage’s heights with soaring melodic choruses and raw aggression as heard in album highlight “Louder Voice”.”
14. Like Moths To Flames – ‘No Eternity In Gold’
“The ability to find peace within ourselves is one of the greatest powers we possess, and Like Moths To Flames come out swinging to prove its antithesis: how we are the architects of our own demise. Within seconds of pressing play, ‘No Eternity In Gold’ engulfs listeners in frontman Chris Roetter’s same self-inflicted misery as deep anguish and ongoing battle with self steadily burn at the heart of his macabre poeticism. “Habitual Decline” soldiers mental chaos amidst its struggle to find answers and higher truths; the battering, bruising rhythm of “YOTM” complements the certainty that 2020 is the Year Of The Moth, and the band explores their more melodic side on “Killing What’s Underneath”. ‘No Eternity In Gold’ recites a violent inner monologue that ruminates in bleak pain, yielding some of Like Moths To Flames’ most no-nonsense, personal work to date.”
13. Currents – ‘The Way It Ends’
“Sustaining a balance of instrumentally and emotionally heavy is closely familiar to the Connecticut metalcore ensemble, Currents. Plunging into depths of darkness and disdain, ‘The Way It Ends’ forges its connection with listeners by cycling through every burdensome emotion while demonstrating the sound the band does best. Jarring soliloquy “Never There” screams its agitation into space, introducing the lyrically dismal atmosphere the following tracks’ interlacing of djent, groove, and melody will serve as the backdrop for. Anyone who has ached experiencing the difficulty of toxic relationships or abandonment will find the palpable emotion of “Let Me Leave” and “How I Fall Apart” immediately resonant, and anti-hopeful anthem “Better Days” welcomes apocalypse.”
12. Movements – ‘No Good Left To Give’
“In September of this year, California native Post-hardcore band Movements dropped their album, ‘No Good Left to Give’, and while many fans of Post-hardcore felt that there was just no way the band would be able to top their 2017 release of their first full length album ‘Feel Something’, they were 100% able to prove us wrong.
The 12-track album, which features singles “Don’t Give Up Your Ghost”, “Skin to Skin” and of course the powerful “Tunnel Vision”, deals with themes of loss, love, the ups & downs of relationships and the often discussed themes surrounding mental health that the band tends to speaks out on not just through their music, but on the steadily growing platform they have as well. The band was able to do a great job painting a picture and portrayal of how the album is meant to make you feel. Considering the sincerity as well as the intimacy of the lyrics on just about every track, paired with the overall sound of the album, which gives us very post punk/hardcore vibes- as well as some beautiful spoken word and very subtle pop undertones in the actual production quality, and Miranda’s stellar vocals (we’re talking about you, “Seneca”), the record as a whole was near perfection. Movements ‘No Good Left to Give’ left us all in our feels, earning its rightful place as one of the best releases of the year.”
11. Alpha Wolf – ‘A Quiet Place To Die’
“Alpha Wolf released their sophomore full length album, ‘A Quiet Place to Die’ in September of this year, and the album most definitely lived up to the hype that their two singles “Creep” and “Akudama” set it up for. The album features all around stellar production, easily capturing the brutality and both emotional and musical heaviness that the combination of lyrics, instrumentals, screams are intended to bring forth. This album has virtually no misses, and it gives us the old school, fast paced riffs followed by slowed down, nasty breakdowns we all know and love (talking about you “Ultra-Violet Violence”).
10. Code Orange – ‘Underneath’
“Blending industrial, hardcore, punk, alt rock and metal on one album would make one believe that Code Orange are the chameleons of metalcore, but the consistent electronics and bleak atmosphere prove the band’s direction is solidified. Surprisingly deep and innovative sonic textures blend with chaotic aggressive and catchy songwriting in a way that recalls Roadrunner’s early days with Slipknot. “Autumn And Carbine” and “Sulfur Surrounding” from any other artist would sound like two different bands entirely. Code Orange have the expansive tool belt to pull it off believably.”
9. Polaris – ‘The Death Of Me’
“Australian metalcore band Polaris dropped their sophomore album, ‘The Death of Me’ in February of this year, which fans were looking forward to after the release of their stellar singles “Masochist”, “Landmine” and of course, the electrifying “Hypermania”.
The album features bouncy, fast paced, djent style riffs that are perfect for a pit (once, you know, shows are a thing again), and some seriously filthy riffs-along with being able to showcase lead vocalist Jamie Hails all around fantastic vocals. The production quality of the album is also impeccable, with a strong use of studio effects to add to an ominous and tense ambiance from the very first track to the end. Polaris’ ’The Death of Me’ gave the metalcore scene an all around fantastic album this year.
8. Slaves – ‘To Better Days’
“Alternative rock group Slaves put out their newest album, ‘To Better Days’ in August of 2020, and every single aspect of the release overall is phenomenally done. With the addition of new vocalist and NBC’s The Voice runner up Matt McAndrew, the band proved that they were and still are a force to be reckoned with in the alternative rock scene with this album.
McAndrew joined the band after former vocalist Jonny Craig left the group- and ‘To Better Days’ was a perfect transition to show us what the new frontman had up his sleeve for not just now, but the years to come. The overall lyricism pairs perfectly with McAndrew’s powerful vocals, as it deals with themes of self reflection and relationships that we can all find ourselves relating to on at least one of the tracks.
Some of the most prominent tracks off of the release would be “Talk to a Friend”, “Wasting my Youth”, “Like I Do” and “Witch Hunt”, which all perfectly showcase the band’s hard rock and post hardcore influences all while adding that bit of pop flair that made for a beautifully produced album. Slaves’ ‘To Better Days’ is one that we’ll be taking with us for years to come.
7. Silverstein – ‘A Beautiful Place To Drown’
“What ‘A Beautiful Place To Drown’ may lack in substance (for some) is fully recouped from its boldness and heart-wrenching emotion. Yearning to showcase the experimental facets of their musicianship, Silverstein present something equally unpredictable, raw, and familiar. Post-hardcore ballad “Shape Shift” and the soft electronic air of “All On Me” explore both edges of the same devastated and culpable sword, while “Burn It Down” and “Infinite” respectively borrow vocal ferocity from Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo and Underoath’s Aaron Gillespie to scream frustrations created by mental prisons into the void. ‘A Beautiful Place To Drown’ is where Silverstein drift out of their comfort zone without sacrificing their consistency, and— to be clear— Princess Nokia rightfully claimed the undisputed best feature of 2020 on “Madness”.”
6. Dance Gavin Dance – ‘Afterburner’
“Where other bands would be running out of ideas on their tenth release, Dance Gavin Dance sound like they’re just getting started. Who knew the progenitors of modern experimental post-hardcore still had this much creativity in their systems? “Calentamiento Global”’s Latin sway was unexpectedly infectious and “Into The Sunset” features the best executed DGD rap break to-date. Refinement was everywhere on ‘Afterburner’, even making the more typical DGD moments like “Strawberry’s Wake” and “Lyrics Lie” shine bright. This band are on a roll.”
5. Deftones – ‘Ohms’
“Heavy music veterans Deftones returned to tap into the roaring and restless side of their sound with ‘Ohms’. Album opener “Genesis” crafts an aura of mystery, luring listeners into a trap of false security before erupting into the band’s trademark metallic sludge. Harmonies of a hundred voices whisper “The Spell of Mathematics”’s hook, sweeping listeners into a trance, and “This Link Is Dead” violently self-reconciles hatred. Deftones never fail to strike a balance of grace and tension through their sound, and ‘Ohms’ asserts itself as one of the band’s best releases.”
4. Machine Gun Kelly – ‘Tickets To My Downfall’
“Perhaps one of the biggest curveballs of 2020 in the scene was rapper Machine Gun Kelly deciding to trade in his fly sneakers for some Vans.- and when we say it might’ve been one of the best things to happen for Pop-punk in a very, very long time we mean it. While Kelly’s album, ‘Tickets To My Downfall’, (produced with the insanely iconic and legendary Travis Barker of Blink 182), has gotten a bit of heat from the scene on whether or not they enjoyed the album, there is no denying that not only does the album as a whole feature some seriously catchy bangers, but it also brought the genre back into the mainstream and managed to expose a whole new generation of people to enjoy it too. The album’s singles “my ex’s best friend (ft. blackbear)” and “My Bloody Valentine” have been at the top of the charts and taking over the mainstream radio waves for months now— which hasn’t happened for music from the alternative scene in a while.
One of the coolest things about this release, though, is the amount of collabs MGK was able to score. Not only is it produced and tracked by Barker, but the album features names like alt pop singer Halsey on “Forget Me Too”, rapper Trippie Redd on “all i know”, Iann Dior on “nothing inside”, and the real solidifier for this being a scene album, was the track “Bodybag”, featuring alternative rock singer Yungblud and The Used’s very own Bert McCracken.
Overall, whether you enjoyed it or not, the album did it’s job in the sense that Pop-punk is about having a good time and not taking yourself so seriously, and that’s exactly what this album did- (even if you have to be wearing uncomfortable shoes to do that!) Machine Gun Kelly’s ‘Tickets To My Downfall’ is saving pop-punk, which is why it earned itself a spot on our list.”
3. Bring Me The Horizon – ‘POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR’
“Coming in at number three is none other than the legendary Bring me the Horizon’s ‘POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR’. The album, which dropped back in October was highly anticipated, as the band had been dropping quite a number of singles like “Parasite Eve”, “Obey (Ft. Yungblud)”, “Ludens”, and of course “Teardrops”. None of the singles were a miss, and it definitely was a foreshadowing of what was to come for the official release.
Based on the fantastic lyricism and storytelling skills, the band tackled what seems to have been a post-apocalyptic conceptual album that was a perfect fit for the state of the current world we are living in; and it was done phenomenally. One of the most head turning things about this release, though, is that lead vocalist Oli Sykes brought back what so many fans were hoping for from him for a very long time- screams, lows, and a whole lot of fast pace riffs being ripped on just about every track.
The album starts off with a very ‘Suicide Season’ meets ‘Sempriternal’ feel with the track “Dear Diary”, as well as “KINGSLAYER” which has a BABYMETAL feature that ties into the record fantastically. (Shoutout “KINGSLAYER” for some BRUTAL lows from Sykes too!) The album ends with an absolutely beautiful ballad, “One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be in Your Chest As You March Toward Your Death” which features the iconic Amy Lee of Evanescence, giving the album a hauntingly beautiful and perfectly executed end. Bring me the Horizon’s ‘POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR’ managed to send fans on an emotional rollercoaster, while bringing back the heavy sound we’ve all been missing for so long which is why it earned itself a spot as one of the best releases of 2020.”
2. Kingdom Of Giants – ‘Passenger’
“If it was 1987 and not 2020, Kingdom of Giants would sound right at home. Pulsating synths, a perfect vibe for night drives and what feels like a lifetime of watching Bladerunner all encapsulate ‘Passenger’. Lucky for us, hits like “Wayfinder” and “Night Shift” sound incredibly vital and cool here in 2020. ‘Passenger’ is an experience of a record that elevates Kingdom of Giants into a new realm of metalcore approaches.”
1. Loathe – ‘I Let It In And It Took Everything’
“The aggressive perseverance of Loathe’s mission to furnish an intimately cathartic experience of purging tribulation is amplified throughout the atmosphere of their emotionally-evocative sophomore album, ‘I Let It In And It Took Everything’.
Unrestrained and enigmatic, Loathe traverse vastly diverse soundscapes with immaculate precision— “New Faces In The Dark” swings between metal, melody, and djent; sludge and dissonance ascend into textured synths and shoegaze on the jarring “Aggressive Evolution”.
The band demonstrates intensity through more than their sonic breadth, though, as frontman Kadeem France’s poetic lyricism recounts his personal endurances, speaking to the album’s thematic vulnerability. “Two-Way Mirror” mesmerises listeners with its ethereal dreamscape, detailing the self-examination following scrutiny, while “Heavy is the Head That Falls with the Weight of a Thousand Thoughts” desolately spirals into self-destruction.
‘I Let It In And It Took Everything’ is an experience best approached like a painting; getting lost in the nuances it illustrates is crucial to its understanding. If they persist with the same momentum, a renaissance for the future of heavy music resides in the hands of creative visionaries like Loathe— and theirs is the only album of 2020 I’ve given a proper 10/10.”