We Asked, You Decided: Heavy Blog Readers’ Top Albums of 2020

In all the years I’ve been a part of this site and helping out with our end of year coverage, I have wanted to conduct a readers’ poll. Alas,

3 years ago

In all the years I’ve been a part of this site and helping out with our end of year coverage, I have wanted to conduct a readers’ poll. Alas, we never had the bandwidth to do so given the timing and timeframe that we used to impose upon ourselves. With our new model giving us a perfect excuse to change up how we approach our year in review content though, we took it upon ourselves to make the readers’ poll happen!

I didn’t want to just get your opinion in one area though, so our poll asked you to pick your favorite albums across a wide range of genres. We’ve got a lot of results to cover here, so without further ado, here are your collective favorite albums from 2020!

Top Overall Albums

1. UlcerateStare Into Death and Be Still
2. The OceanPhanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
3. Orannsi PassusuMestarin Kynsi
4. WakeDevouring Ruins
5. Imperial TriumphantAlphaville
6. DeftonesOhms
7. Emma Ruth Rundle & ThouMay Our Chambers Be Full
8. SvalbardWhen I Die Will It Get Better
9. WayfarerA Romance With Violence
10. Countless SkiesGlow
11. Caligula’s HorseRise Radiant
12. HakenVirus
13. Protest the HeroPalimpsest
14. HavukruunuUinuos Syomein Sota
15. IntronautFluid Existential Inversions
16. Black Crown InitiateViolent Portraits of Doomed Escape
17. Code OrangeUnderneath
18. HumInlet
19. KatatoniaCity Burials
20. Clipping.Visions of Bodies Being Burned
21. AfterbirthFour Dimensional Flesh
22. ElderOmens
23. LoatheI Let It In and It Took Everything
24. Unleash the ArchersAbyss
25. Phoebe BridgersPunisher
26. Paradise LostObsidian
27. PyrrhonAbscess Time
28. EndSplinters From an Ever Changing Face
29. Run the JewelsRTJ4
30. IgorrrSpirituality and Distortion
31. Cryptic Shift Visitations from the Enceladus
32. PanzerfaustThe Suns of Perdition – Chapter II: Render Unto Eden
33. Vile CreatureGlory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
34. KvelertakSplid
35. SwevenThe Eternal Resonance
36. Spectral Lore & Mare CognitumWanderers: Astrology of the Nine
37. PsychonautUnfold the God Man
38. EnvyThe Crimson Fallen
39. Fiona AppleFetch the Bolt Cutters
40. Fawn LimbsSleeper Vessels

With by far the most #1 votes, Ulcerate easily landed the top spot here, which isn’t a huge surprise given that we also liked it quite a bit. Outside of that, most of the albums present are ones that landed on our own top 25 lists pretty frequently, though probably the biggest divergence of note was The Ocean‘s synth-heavy Phanerozoic II, which sadly underwhelmed many of us here. By the way, you all owe Noyan a debt of gratitude for having to wade through and correct the seemingly infinite ways you all decided to spell and enter that album.

Like many of us here, there are some notable non-metal entries that made appearances on this list, including albums from Heavy Blog faves Clipping., Phoebe Bridgers, Run the Jewels, and Fiona Apple. All-in-all, good job, everyone!

Top Death Metal Albums

1. UlcerateStare Into Death and Be Still
2. NecrotMortal
3. Cryptic Shift Visitations from the Enceladus
4. Black CurseEndless Wound
5. SwevenThe Eternal Resonance
6. AfterbirthFour Dimensional Flesh
7. WakeDevouring Ruins
8. Imperial TriumphantAlphaville
9. Faceless BurialSpeciation
10. PyrrhonAbscess Time
11. UndeathLesions of a Different Kind
12. Defeated SanityThe Sanguinary Impetus
13. BedsoreHypnagogic Hallucinations
14. Umbra VitaeShadow of Life
15. Beneath the MassacreFearmonger
16. UltharProvidence
17. Cytotoxin – Nuklearth
18. Of Feather and BoneSulfuric Disintegration
19. Countless SkiesGlow
20. Black Crown InitiateViolent Portraits of Doomed Escape

No surprise that Ulcerate landed the top spot here as well. Though there was a fair amount of crossover with the big list (Ulcerate, Cryptic Shift, Sweven, Afterbirth, Wake, Imperial Triumphant, Pyrrhon, Countless Skies, and Black Crown Initiate), just over half did not appear there, including top 5 entries Necrot and Black Curse. One can probably assume that those two albums were particularly loved by folks who live and breathe death metal and not nearly as much by everyone else.

Top Black Metal Albums

1. WayfarerA Romance With Violence
2. Orannsi PassusuMestarin Kynsi
3. Imperial TriumphantAlphaville
4. Spectral Lore & Mare CognitumWanderers: Astrology of the Nine
5. HavukruunuUinuos Syomein Sota
6. Paysage d’HiverIm Wald
7. LiturgyOrigin of the Alimonies
8. PanzerfaustThe Suns of Perdition – Chapter II: Render Unto Eden
9. RespireBlack Line
10. GaereaLimbo
11. WakeDevouring Ruins
12. Enslaved Utgard
13. Anaal NathrakhEndarkenment
14. EsoctrilihumEternity of Shaog
15. BeltezA Grey Chill and a Whisper
16. SkyforestA New Horizon
17. Vengeful Spectre Vengeful Spectre
18. Dark Fortress Spectress from the Old World
19. UadaDjinn
20. KralliceMass Cathexis

Not too many shockers here either at the top, though it’s interesting to see how many people selected either Imperial Triumphant or Wake for both the death and black categories, which makes sense given how those bands exist well within those two sonic realms. Also happy to see some love given to the post-black catharsis of Respire.

Top Doom Metal Albums

1. AtramentusStygian
2. Emma Ruth Rundle & ThouMay Our Chambers Be Full
3. Primitive ManImmersion
4. DraconianUnder a Godless Veil
5. Bell Witch & Aerial RuinStygian Bough: Volume 1
6. My Dying BrideThe Ghost of Orion
7. Paradise LostObsidian
8. Vile CreatureGlory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
9. PallbearerForgotten Days
10. ElderOmens
11. KatatoniaCity Burials
12. GarganjuaTowards the Light
13. Elephant TreeHabits
14. Spirit AdriftEnlightened in Eternity
15. DrownSubaqueous
16. KonventPuritan Masochism
17. MSWObliviosus
18. Pale DivineConsequence of Time
19. Green DruidAt the Maw of Ruin
20. AtavistIII: Absolution

A challenger appears! When it comes to all things low and slow, readers picked Atramentus‘s Stygian, which did not crack the overall list. Elder and Katatonia seem personally like stretches to me for this category based solely on those albums, but at least with Elder the history is certainly there.

Top Metalcore Albums

1. EndSplinters From an Ever Changing Face
2. Code OrangeUnderneath
3. LoatheI Let It In and It Took Everything
4. TriviumWhat the Dead Man Say
5. Misery SignalsUltraviolet
6. Protest the HeroPalimpsest
7. The Acacia StrainSlow Decay
8. 156/SilenceIrrational Pull
9. Sylosis Cycle of Suffering
10. Invent, AnimateGreyview
11. Bring Me the HorizonPost Human: Survival Horror
12. GulchImpenetrable Cerebral Fortress
13. PolarisThe Death of Me
14. Terminal NationHolocene Extinction
15. Palm ReaderSleepless
16. SvalbardWhen I Die Will It Get Better
17. Under the PierPuff Pieces
18. TallahMatriphragy
19. The God Awful TruthMemory Palace
20. Fawn LimbsSleeper Vessels

A little surprised Code Orange didn’t run away with the top spot for this one! Svalbard and Protest the Hero also landed lower than I would expect based on their high placement on the overall list. Perhaps some disagreement over what actually qualifies as “metalcore” now versus other genres those two bands also exist heavily in.

Top Prog Rock/Metal Albums

1. The OceanPhanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
2. HakenVirus
3. Caligula’s HorseRise Radiant
4. Protest the HeroPalimpsest
5. IntronautFluid Existential Inversions
6. The ReticentThe Oubliette
7. KatatoniaCity Burials
8. ElderOmens
9. Oceans of SlumberOceans of Slumber
10. Countless SkiesGlow
11. WobblerDwellers of the Deep
12. Plini Impulse Voices
13. PsychonautUnfold the God Man
14. Black Crown InitiateViolent Portraits of Doomed Escape
15. Pure Reason RevolutionEupnea
16. Imperial TriumphantAlphaville
17. UlcerateStare Into Death and Be Still
18. Pain of SalvationPanther
19. Green CarnationLeaves of Yesteryear
20. Cryptic ShiftVisitations from Enceladus

This one fell pretty much exactly as I’d expect based on looking at the overall list. Lots of familiar faces here, and an excellent reminder that I need to listen to that Wobbler record again because I completely forgot about it.

Top Post-Rock/Metal Albums

1. The OceanPhanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
2. PsychonautUnfold the God Man
3. CaspianOn Circles
4. Emma Ruth Rundle & ThouMay Our Chambers Be Full
5. RespireBlack Line
6. NothingThe Great Dismal
7. DawnwalkerAges
8. SolstafirEndless Twilight of Codependent Love
9. IntronautFluid Existential Inversions
10. EnvyThe Crimson Fallen
11. AesthesysAlignments
12. Vile CreatureGlory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
13. sleepmakeswavesthese are not your dreams
14. CoastlandsDeath
15. Crippled Black PhoenixEllengaest
16. GloeDead Wait
17. YashiraFail to Be
18. PostvortaSiderael pt One
19. Spook the HorsesEmpty Body
20. HumInlet

Listen, we here are about as sympathetic as any to the idea of “post-” being an open category and definition that is constantly changing by its very nature. However…y’all. You all made some pretty wild picks here! Psychonaut? Nothing? Vile Creature?? I definitely sense a strong bent towards bands who pull influence from post- or post-adjacent music into what they’re doing as opposed to some more traditional picks. That said, more conventionally post-rock/metal bands like pg.lost, Telepathy, Barrens, Nug, Jesu, VASA, and Holy Fawn didn’t miss making the top 20 by a lot, so I am happy to throw those in as honorable mentions of some sort.

Top Pop Albums

1. Run the JewelsRTJ4
2. Jessie WareWhat’s Your Pleasure?
3. UlverFlowers of Evil
4. Dua LipaFuture Nostalgia
5. Phoebe BridgersPunisher
6. Perfume GeniusSet My Heart On Fire Immediately
7. Charli XCXHow I’m Feeling Now
8. Fiona AppleFetch the Bolt Cutters
9. The WeekndAfter Hours
10. HumInlet
11. DeftonesOhms
12. Aesop RockSpirit World Field Guide
13. HundredthSomewhere Nowhere
14. Tame ImpalaThe Slow Rush
15. Sufjan StevensThe Ascension
16. Moses SumneyGrae
17. Enter ShikariNothing Is True & Everything Is Possible
18. Smashing PumpkinsCyr
19. Hayley WilliamsPetals for Armor
20. NothingThe Great Dismal

I was actually intensely interested to see how this category would shake out given that I assume it is the area our readers as a whole likely spend the least amount of time listening to. There were certainly some expected top-charters like RTJ, Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa, and The Weeknd in there. There were indie darlings like Phoebe Bridgers, Perfume Genius, Tame Impala, and Sufjan Stevens in the mix. Some alt-rock/pop representation from Hum, Deftones, Smashing Pumpkins, and Hayley Williams. And then there’s Ulver! Frankly I think they would be tickled to see themselves place so highly on this list, and, yes, there isn’t really any other appropriate genre here to put them in, so I guess pop is as good as any for their updated take on Depeche Mode-like darkwave.

Also pour one out for Taylor Swift, who was close but didn’t crack the top 20. Maybe next time Tay-Tay!

Other Fun (and Less Fun) Stuff!

In addition to asking you for your favorite albums of 2020, we also were interested in your thoughts on some aspects of the year as a whole and some predictions about 2021.

For obvious reasons, Covid-19 was the topic, or at least hung around in the background, of several of these questions.

2020 was an exceedingly rough year for millions upon millions of folks, between the health crisis of the pandemic, mass unemployment caused by it, loneliness and isolation also caused by it, tons of social and political unrest all across the world, fucking fires everywhere (oh, did you forget about the fires?), and plenty more.

It seems that for many of our readers though, at least when it came to their personal experience, it was pretty okay! The average score was 5.35, and around 60% of respondents placed their year somewhere between a 5 and an 8. I am very glad to hear that so many of you are feeling relatively safe and secure in spite of everything.

Great news as far as public health is concerned, the vast majority of you said that you intend to receive one of the Covid-19 vaccines this year. If we could actually make this a reality and gather everyone together, we would actually achieve herd immunity!

I expect that “I already have!” number is a little bit higher now than it was this time last month when we conducted the poll, but not by much. Vaccine rollout and distribution has been an absolute abomination in the US thus far, so the bigger question seems to be less a matter of “if” but “when.”

Meanwhile, 2/3 of you were feeling optimistic enough to say that you expect to see a live concert in person this year. I really, truly hope that can come true for you all! But at the same time I am still enormously concerned that we’re not going to be as in the clear as we’d like to think for far longer than we think. I know things are operating a bit differently elsewhere, but at least in the US most summer fests are already canceling or at the very least postponing to the fall. Maybe if we’re lucky there will be some sanctioned outdoor shows by then. I am far less optimistic about the prospect of returning to indoor venues anytime soon. Think we’re looking at spring into summer 2022 earliest before I’d personally take that plunge again.

Continuing with that sense of optimism, people are feeling bullish on 2021 as a whole, at least compared to the shit-tsunami of 2020. With an average score of 3.6 and a median score of 4, most folks believe that there is some reason for some optimism this year. I sure hope you’re all right! I would very much enjoy that.

The rest of the questions were about us specifically. I won’t post the specific results from all of that since we plan to keep that data for internal use, but a few items of note:

There were also just an amazing quantity and quality of general comments and feedback. Trust me when I say that we are reading through every single one of them and take all of your feedback extremely seriously. Especially as we enter a few weeks of much-needed downtime, we’ll be closely examining all of this.

As always, this entire site is nothing without you all. Thank you so much for continuing to support us in every possible way. And let’s all hope for a great 2021 all around!

Nick Cusworth

Published 3 years ago