With all that 2020 has brought with it, what we needed was some rabble rousing trad metal. And thankfully, we got it – and from some of the most talented acts on the planet too. From high velocity NWOTHM to modern classics from old hands, this year proved to be a treasure trove of old school heavy metal.
Rich Holmes and Simon Rushworth squeezed themselves into denim and leather, and brought it all together with Rushonrock’s best trad metal albums of 2020.
10. Traveler – Termination Shock (Gates Of Hell Records)
Powered by Priest and Maiden, and doused in the unbridled spirit of Canadian metal, Traveler don’t do things by halves. And just a year after the release of their self-titled debut, the Calagary quintet blasted Termination Shock right through the NWOTHM scene. With Toryin Schadlich and Matt Ries lighting up every track with their dexterous fretwork, and Jean-Pierre Abboud bringing his supercharged vocal cords to the party, this album was a joyous celebration of pure heavy metal.
9. Judicator – Let There Be Nothing (Prosthetic Records)
Bearing tales of Byzantine conquest and sparkling with exhilarating axework, Judicator’s fifth album was the band’s spearhead into bigger leagues. Their first opus for Prosthetic saw the US quartet neatly balance the heroic power metal bombast of earlier releases with more potent NWOBHM influences. The result? Full throttle adrenaline surges such as Let There Be Light… and songs which put Judicator on a whole new level.
Check out our review of Let There Be Nothing here.
8. Sorcerer – Lamenting of the Innocent (Metal Blade)
Sorcerer would normally sit within an epic doom top ten. But we’re not doing one of those and besides, Lamenting of the Innocent was a pacier affair than In The Shadow Of The Inverted Cross and The Crowning Of The Fire King anyway. Indeed, Sorcerer stretched their wings and conjured up cast iron heavy metal like The Hammer Of The Witches and Institoris, as well as mellower, more reflective moments such as Deliverance. Resplendent with Anders Engberg’s soaring vocals, Lamenting of the Innocent was a major step forward for the Swedish quintet.
7. Raven – Metal City (Steamhammer/SPV)
Next month metal heads everywhere will celebrate the 40th anniversary of NWOBHM staple Rock Until You Drop. To get the party started Raven unleashed the magnificent Metal City and the Gallagher Brothers created the perfect mood music in an unpredictable year. Part tribute to their Newcastle home and part social commentary on a world in flux, this fearsome assault on the senses celebrated the past and pointed to the future. Metal City proved a future with Raven is something to revel in. Bring it on.
For the full review of Metal City click here
6. Haunt – Flashback (Church Recordings)
Haunt launched headfirst into 2020 with the formidable Mind Freeze, but main man Trevor William Church moves at one hell of a pace and by July, the Californian had already unveiled Flashback, an ultra-slick slab of 80s hard rock and Maiden-esque NWOBHM. And as good as Mind Freeze was, this opus just about topped it. Why? Because Church honed his craft even further and produced high energy, high class performances like Electrified and Winter’s Breath – as well as some of Haunt’s most focused songs to date. One to remember.
Check out our interview with Trevor William Church here.
5. Armored Saint – Punching The Sky (Metal Blade)
Armored Saint packed a punch with their first long player since 2015’s Win Hands Down and few metal albums went the distance quite like this all-filler, no-killer modern-day classic. John Bush is heavy music’s equivalent of a vintage red — better with age and maturing into one of the genre’s most valuable assets. Metal needs men like Bush and bands like Armored Saint more than ever: these messengers of mayhem might be nearing 40 years in the business but their relevance and impact remains undiminished.
4. Eternal Champion – Ravening Iron (No Remorse Records)
Eternal Champion’s magnificent blades shone like the sun on Ravening Iron, their heroic follow-up to The Armor Of Ire. This was sword and sorcery heavy metal built for loin-clothed heroes, and performed by a quintet of Texan titans with magma in their veins. World conquering in more ways than one, Ravening Iron could go toe to toe with any trad metal record… and put it six feet under.
3. Spirit Adrift – Enlightened In Eternity (Century Media)
Through Chained To Oblivion, Curse Of Conception and Divided By Darkness, Spirit Adrift had been building towards this moment. But despite the pre-release buzz, little could have prepared us for Enlightened In Eternity. It was an album of blood and thunder heavy metal and deep Sabbathian grooves, a record of anthemic songs and supreme musicianship. The US duo of Nate Garrett and Marcus Bryant certainly aimed high with this one. And thanks to songs such as Cosmic Conquest and Battle High, they reached the stars.
2. Wytch Hazel – Pentecost III (Bad Omen Records)
Lancashire’s Wytch Hazel donned their armour and galloped into battle on Pentecost III, a proud acclamation of singer Colin Hendra’s Christian faith… and a record forged from British steel and rustic 70s rock. From He Is The Fight to Ancient Of Days, the quartet’s third full-length was a captivating, life-affirming masterpiece, sumptuously produced by ex-Purson man Ed Turner and bristling with glorious choruses. Wytch Hazel may not be one of the UK’s best kept secrets for much longer, if they keep making albums like this…
1. Cirith Ungol – Forever Black (Metal Blade)
Can it really be 30 years since Cirith Ungol unleashed Paradise Lost – the last of the four albums that cemented their place in epic metal history? Apparently so. But Forever Black was the comeback of 2020. A record as unpredictable as it was unexpected, its blinding mix of fantasy and fret-melting wizardry provided a compelling reminder of the Californians’ enduring class. Frontman Tim Baker’s oven-ready metal rasp had to be heard to be believed.
Enjoyed our round up of the Best Trad Metal Albums of 2020?