2020 In Review Part One: What We Already Know
Hello! And welcome to my year in review. This is going to be a two-part series with regards to my highlights from 2020. The first of which runs through albums that have already been discussed on Proghurst, and hopefully many of which our readers will be very familiar with by now. The second delves into ‘the ones that got away’ because as much as I’d like to write a lengthy review about all of my favourite albums from this year, I simply don’t have the time.
As usual, these albums are listed in alphabetical order to avoid any sort of ranking bias. Although I will reveal that Kyros’ ‘Celexa Dreams’ has taken my top spot this year.
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
This band have really made a name for themselves in the progressive music scene over the last few years with some cult hits. Rise Radiant is a great album too, although I do worry that they’ve aligned themselves with the rest of the genre instead of following their own style. Jim Grey delivers outstanding vocals throughout this album as to be expected from his luscious pipes. A fantastic addition to their overall discography, and one of many bands that I can’t wait to see play their new material live.
Favourite Song: ‘Autumn’
Hällas – Conundrum
The finalé in a three-part saga following the story of ‘Star Rider’, ‘Conundrum’ is Hällas’ entry to the end of year list. It’s full of wonderful synth sounds that please my ears greatly. With fantastic instrumentals and singing, a charming story being told, all that accompanied by punchy production; what’s not to love?
Favourite Song: ‘Tear Of A Traitor’
Killer Be Killer – Reluctant Hero
This came out of nowhere for me, and delivered way above my expectations upon seeing the personnel behind this prog supergroup. Fantastic sludgy goodness, and something great to get the adrenaline pumping, even whilst sat at home during the wonderful pandemic life that we all now lead.
Favourite Song: ‘Comfort From Nothing’
Kyros – Celexa Dreams
I really hate ranking albums, saying that one is better than another, but for me personally ‘Celexa Dreams’ is my album of the year. The production is amazing, the musicianship is all over the place, and sound design reminds me of Haken’s ‘Affinity’ if they quadrupled their nods to the 80s. If you haven’t read our full review and interview with their lead singer, I’d highly recommend giving it the once over the familiarise yourself with their fantastic work this year.
Favourite Song: ‘In Vantablack’
Lucas De La Rosa – Sunlight Highlights
Despite this being a shorter release, it’s jam-packed full of incredibly technical playing. Lucas plays enough notes in 20 minutes for a full-length album which I have a great deal of admiration for. I’ve personally found some of their playing a great influence on my own music writing this year, particularly their whammy bar tricks. It’s pushed me to improve my production skills, and writing skills to make better music to challenge myself and my abilities which is something that I’m sure Lucas will appreciate me saying.
Favourite Song: ‘Lightrays’
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Tick Tock. No not the social media app! It’s 22:59 and time to listen to my favourite Ross Jennings album of the year once again. I loved Novena’s debut EP when it came out in 2017, and ‘Eleventh Hour’ exceeded my expectations for what the band were capable of when it came to their first signed studio release. It’s emotional, compositionally clever, and full of variety to have you dancing next to the stage.
The band had originally planned a launch party for the album in London, UK earlier this year – but unfortunately, COVID-19, yadda yadda yadda, I’m sure you know the story by now. The band are lined up to play Tech Fest in 2021, so hopefully, we can all enjoy their fantastic album in person then.
Favourite Song: ‘Corazón’
Pain of Salvation – Panther
‘Panther’ was a huge love for me this year. When I heard Pain of Salvation’s 2017 studio album, I immediately fell in love with it. ‘Panther’ was no different. The band have evolved their sounds into something entirely new whilst still managing to keep the core charm and style. They pulled it off with swagger and left us with another timeless album in their discography.
Favourite Song: ‘Accelerator’
Shaman Elephant – Wide Awake But Still Asleep
Another band that took me by surprise this year. I’ve struggled to get their psychedelic album out of my head and keep returning to it frequently. I’m incredibly hopeful that I can see this band come together live post-pandemic.
Favourite Song: ‘Traveller’
Steve Howe – Love Is
Before this year I’d not tried out Steve’s solo work, and I was pleasantly surprised with this release. It’s light-hearted music, but heavy on the acoustic guitar. I’ve found it very peaceful and serene to sit back and relax to, particularly through the painful points of 2020 thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. (I had to mention it!).
Favourite Song: ‘Love Is’
The Flower Kings – Islands
Although this album can be cumbersome at points, the music within is thoroughly enjoyable if you’re looking for some classic sounding progressive rock with a modern twist. It’s a lot to get your teeth into,
Favourite Song: ‘Solaris’