Well, the end is finally here. With mere hours of 2020 left remaining, we present the third and final part of our definitive albums of the year list. It may have been a nightmare ranking this list as a whole, but cracking down the top ten records of this year was a challenge like no other. Nevertheless, after hours of debate we got there in the end.
10: Phoxjaw - Royal Swan (Hassle)
The enigmatic Bristol based Phoxjaw hinted towards things most grandiose and gilded with their initial two EPs. 2018’s Goodbye Dinosaur and 2019’s A Playground For Sad Adults introduced a band that promoted progressive tendencies and ambiguous mysticism above all other aspects, with the two extended plays showcasing a brilliantly unique level of beguiling density stereotypically not seen within such young acts. Still, even with such lofty expectations, Royal Swan dropped jaws en-mass upon release.
An ever so-slightly surreal exploration of the parallels between primitive medieval living and anarchic modern culture, Royal Swan is a dizzying soiree of purely unparalleled individualism. Capturing the ancient power abundant at Devil’s Bridge Cottage recoding studio, the record sees the band waltzing possessed through progressive heft, hypnotic hooks and through musical veils interweaved with ornate originality. The end result is an utterly extraordinary sonic tale expressed with modern esoteric cadence. In an age where many emerging bands chose to copy from the blueprints of their inspirations, Royal Swan is an intoxicating breath of fresh air. - Dan Hillier
9: CLT DRP - Without The Eyes (Small Pond)
It appears once a year, a band will emerge and completely set the scene they belong to alight. In the instance of 2020, that band was the Brighton electro-punk trio CLT DRP. Whilst the band spent several years producing tremors from within venues in the South and beyond, the release of Without The Eyes was the catalyst for widespread alarm all across the underground punk echelon. Produced with just two instruments, the record offers a sound so alarming, so expansive and so jarring one would be forgiven in thinking the group utilised a whole arsenal of musical weaponry to create it.
As the furious and combative instrumental interplay rips itself apart as one, frontwoman Annie Dorrett explores her relationship with feminism and sexuality with energy aplomb. The end result is a record that takes the volatile energy of underground UK punk and fuses it with the unrestrained chemical energy of combative subterranean electronica – a fusion so erratic and manic it’s almost terrifying to think of the mayhem this record will soundtrack when it’s played live. Make no mistake, Without The Eyes is very much the shape of punk to come. - Dan Hillier
8: Nova Twins - Who Are The Girls? (333 Wreckords)
The ever-expanding rock genre has been continuing to shift and broaden thanks to many rising bands who are unafraid to take a risk or do things outside the usual mould. London two-piece and best friends Nova Twins are one of the latest breakthrough acts to find themselves in a genre of their own. Constructed in a sonic world found in amongst rock, grime, DIY, punk and everything in between, Nova Twins continue to spread the word of their individual style in the form of debut LP Who Are The Girls?
Don’t expect the expected with this fiery duo, they have been supplying an abundance of extraordinary since their formation and this compendium is no exception. Who Are The Girls? is an accomplished first full-length offering from the latest trailblazers in the expansive rock environment. Jammed with exciting choruses and daring instrumental harmonisations, this is a relentless rollercoaster you won’t want to end. - Jess Boswell
7: Palm Reader - Sleepless (Church Road)
This eagerly awaited fourth album from this Woking outfit is head and shoulders above any of their previous work and arguably most of their peers output too. Their evolution in sound has proved that they are no one trick pony and that their label as UK’s answer to The Dillinger Escape Plan is a fair sentiment but also now should just be a footnote on where they stand now sonically. Josh’s exploration into soaring vocal lines alongside atmospheric guitar work whilst not ignoring riffs and distortion, this work of art is catching the eye of a much wider audience than Palm Reader are used to and rightfully so. ‘A Bird And It’s Feathers’ a beautiful epic, a highlight.- Adam Vallely
6: Creeper - Sex, Death & The Infinite Void (Roadrunner)
A feat of theatricality and brit-pop magic that belies the emo tag it has been placed under. Creeper's Sex Death & The Infinite Void is a rampant pomp of hook laden pop songs strewn amongst a dystopian setting and is laced with a misanthropic sense of humour that strikes a chord with youth and mature listeners alike.
There is a mix of Bowie and Queen here at points on 'Cyanide' and the concluding emotive number 'All My Friends' while also maintaining an aching, brash personality with the toe tapping 'Annabelle' and the cut-from-a-50's-diner crooning on 'Thorns Of Love'. At its best, Creeper have written an album equal parts melancholy, joyous and anthemic, soon to be scrawled on the arms and atop notepads of wistful teens and cynical adults alike. A soundtrack to 2020, indeed. - Sam Evan
5: Deftones - Ohms (Universal)
Honestly, what can be said about this record that hasn’t been said before? After the somewhat divisive nature of 2016’s Gore, 2020 saw Deftones not just celebrating the 20th anniversary of their career defining White Pony, but also reaffirming their unbridled excellence with their ninth full length Ohms. An awe-inspiring amalgamation of what makes the Sacramento troupe so illusively alluring, the record saw the band recalling all the elements from illustrious career thus far before refining and reshuffling them with cutting edge finesse.
From the oceanic splendour of ‘Pompeji’ to the neon lit haste of ‘Urantia’ and the inherent borderline eroticism of ‘Headless’, Ohms is a fully immersive deep dive into the tact and educated musical charisma of a band that have always been a step ahead of a curve. Even after 30 years under the scrutiny of the public eye, Ohms is concrete proof that Deftones are still leagues ahead than the vast majority of their original contemporaries and are an act that fervently radiate both magnetism and enticement. - Dan Hillier
4: Code Orange - Underneath (Roadrunner)
As with any landmark record, it's hard to determine the level of its impact in the present. For Code Orange, Underneath's true greatness might not be realised for a while yet. You've read the think pieces and dissection articles discussing the record as a landmark moment for hardcore, but it's more than that. Underneath's ingenuity makes it a flag pole sticking proudly out of the summit of alternative music.
Rarely before will you have heard an album as bold, harsh, and sometimes outright scary as Underneath. Produced with a fine liner and performed with a grimace - this record makes Code Orange the most important band our future relies on. - Kris Pugh
3: Bring Me The Horizon - Post Human: Survival Horror (Sony)
The alternative event of the year, from *the* alternative band of the century. Bring Me The Horizon spent five years convincing the world that they'd waived any legitimate claim to the UK metal throne before unleashing a release that immediately places them atop of any and all future headline festivals slots. From the mania of 'Dear Diary' (where guitarist Lee Malia briefly erupts into Kerry King in the exposition) to the absurdity of 'Kingslayer', (a Babymetal infused collaboration that reminds listeners that Ollie Sykes could front Pendulum if he wanted thank you very much), the Sheffield giants consistently display their versatility and vitality in the most grandiose style.
To conclude is the stunning 'One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death', a classic duet between Ollie and Evanescence's Amy Lee, a heart-rending harmony that concludes one of the most obvious musical flexes in recent memory. There is a switch that Bring Me The Horizon can flick anytime they want to be the best rock band in the UK. We're incredibly glad they did this year. - Sam Evan
2: Loathe - I Let It In And It Took Everything (Sharptone)
A record that surely couldn’t be missed this year was Loathe’s sophomore album “I Let It In And It Took Everything”. With this unique piece, the Liverpool five piece made rippling shockwaves that could be felt all over the world. It’s a brilliant record, that showcases the band on a completely different level from the rest of the heavy music scene. I Let It In… is a wild ride that will make any listener’s head turn, whether through praise or disgust.
These unparalleled sounds are raw, organic and visceral, yet thought-out and well-produced at the same time. Every second of this wild ride draws your attention, from the opening chimes of “Theme” till the last note of the title track that closes this record. Loathe's dream duo Kadeem France and Erik Bickerstaffe deserve high amounts of praise for the delivery of their phenomenal vocal performances all around. With this perfectly balanced album, Loathe enters near-masterpiece territory, and yet it only feels like the beginning. - Koen van Meijel
The Album Of The Year: Svalbard - When I Die, Will I Get Better? (Church Road Records)
In a year as tumultuous as 2020, only one album truly captured all its facets in scabrous but gorgeous detail. Svalbard's third outing, When I Die, Will I Get Better? is a triumph of emotional music, drawing from a diverse range of genres, including hardcore, black metal and shoegaze, to craft something truly outstanding. Lyrically scathing, Serena and Liam trade barbs and offer frank assessments of issues from sexism both in the music industry and the wider world ('The Currency of Beauty') to mental health ('Listen To Someone').
It’s a deeply personal album; written during the depths of depression, it’s both scathing about the state of the world but also sounds strangely hopeful, with closer Pearlescent serving as the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. When I Die, Will I Get Better? is a blistering, cathartic exercise in blackened post-hardcore where the darkness is tempered by the gorgeous instrumentation and melodies. The shoegaze elements, even during the most acerbic screams of “fuck off!” during 'Click Bait', lend lushness and beauty to the darkness. We truly can’t say enough good things about this album - a true paradigm shift in the band’s evolution and the music scene, turning their gaze on issues all too often maligned and ignored by the wider world. Essential listening and a stunning, masterful album. - Will Marshall