2020 was an insane year in practically every way possible and the heavy rock scene was no different as molten lava of styles erupted from all over the world. Yes, I have a multi tie for 50th place and honestly feel bad that I left MANY MANY more great albums off this list. Please forgive me! Hope you discover some cool stuff and always support the bands by following them on social media, Spotify, YouTube etc. along with snagging their music. Long live rock ‘n’ roll!
~JOHN GIST (Vegas Rock Revolution)
*****The German WALL of Rock ****
50. CRIMSON OAK -CRIMSON OAK (Germany) This album provides rocking good stuff with blues rock influences while creating catchy stuff. Listen to their songs 3 times and likely you will have one locked in your head. For fans of stoner/ retro/ doom.
50. SLOW GREEN THING – AMYGDALA (Germany) 4th album by this always consistent stoner/doom/sludge band that gives you great vocals and tones that at times flashes back to Alice in Chains. Don’t let the name scare you…it’s not super slow!
50. SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT- END OF FOREVER (Germany) An apparent end of an era for this long-time heavy psych band as they wrap it up with a 5th and final long player. Heavy on the instrumental side of things they squeeze this in right at 2020 buzzer.
50. HAMMADA – ATMOS (Germany) This album popped on a few of our radars with this creative gem of an album that appeals to listeners of heavy psych/stoner/ desert/ doom. Want some cool organs layered in with your heavy rock and airy guitars with a crisp but fuzzy sound?
50. SCREAM OF THE BUTTERFLY -BIRTH DEATH REPEAT (Germany) Our final installment of the German Wall of Rock at number 50 is a follow up album from this Berlin band that brings a culmination of heavy rock styles together that has a base in the vintage variety …..and yes some Hammond Organ for you! Vocals unique and very strong.
*******You are exiting Germany******
49. KING CHIEFS – FLYING INTO THE VOID (San Diego) King Chiefs drop this heavy rock album just in time in December…. These chaps played Planet Desert Rock v2 and kicked off night two. Whoever didn’t know them before their performance was buzzing about them afterwards. Paul Valle and Jeff Podeszwick know how write songs that tell a story while mastering a 2-guitar approach.
48. FORMING THE VOID – REVERIE (Louisiana) 4th full length from these Louisiana boys who create doom beauty with stoner/psych/ progressive influences via Ripple Music. This album will capture your attention from the opening track (Sage) and lures you in for a journey for your ears.
47. BIG SCENIC NOWHERE – VISION BEYOND HORIZON/ LAVENDER BLUES (USA) This supergroup put a full length and a 3 song release to announce their arrival. Not only does this feature the mighty Tony Reed of Mos Generator but also 2/3 of Yawning Man, Bob Balch of Fu Manchu and a cast of characters you will recognize upon research.
46. PALE DIVINE – CONSEQUENCE OF TIME (Pennsylvania) These cats have been putting stuff out since 2007 and guess what it’s time to you to pay attention. This is super strong traditional doom band that loves to blend metal into their songs. Vocals strong and clean and the riffs heavy with a two-guitar attack. Yes, go check out their previous releases….
45. HIGH TONE SON OF A BITCH/ HTSOB -LIFECYLCES: EPs of HTSOB (Oakland) 2020 introduced many bands to me that have been around but i hadn’t heard of them yet. One night on the Doomed + Stoned Show, Billy Goate played a track from these guys and the rest is history. These guys are a talented bunch, and their tunes have lots of players on their tracks including members/ former members of Hawkwind, Sleep, Witch Mountain/The Skull, Neurosis, Saviours, Worshipper and others. Expect strong vocals and heavy rock with many influences.
44. GYPSYBYRD – EYE OF THE SUN (Texas) Jake Lewis put together a really cool psychedelic album that sparkles with creativity and catchiness. Likely one of the more unknown bands on this album but this early 2020 release has stuck with me all year long.
43. THE HEAVY EYES – LOVE LIKE MACHINES (Memphis) This long awaited follow up to 2015’s Dreams of Lions they partnered with Matt Qualls ( Dirty Streets, The Cold Stares, Joy and others) for production and they hand us a good ole rocking heavy blues with an attitude kinda album. I can attest that these Tennessee boys are a very good live act as they smoked their set during Planet Desert Rock Weekend back in 2018.
42. MOUNTAIN TAMER – PSYCHOSIS RITUAL (Los Angeles) Mountain Tamer has been doing this for a while and this album is their shining moment so far. For this album they are on the Heavy Psych Sounds Label and they fit right in with their wild psychedelic style. This isn’t the laid back and chill psych …this is a wild ride of psychedelic with an edge and energy to it. Bobby Parker of the band Salem’s Bend produced this album as well as their previous effort. I have had the good fortune of doing 3 live shows with them and was a fan for a show in Vegas at a Goth Bar (no idea how they got booked there) where they were so wild sounding that the bartender shut them down much to our dismay. Slip this one on your tongue and hold on.
41. LORD LOUD – TIMID BEAST (Los Angeles) Staying in Los Angles we shift gears to a different style of psych that is very stripped down, garage vibe and blues as well. This 2-man band brings lots of sound and spirited energy to each and every song. If dig old school vibe these cats scratch their way right into your ears. Their previous 2017 release and 2015 EP both rock!
40. GODZILLIONAIRE – NEGATIVE BALANCE (Kansas) 1st off this band’s frontman is Mark Hennesey formerly of the band PAW. Yep that’s right…this band has a totally different vibe as they swing a tad closer to a Queens of the Stone Age. Like with Queens their songs vary throughout this super cool layered album. Press play and start asking yourself why you hadn’t heard of them earlier. Oh, and Mark still delivers badass vocals!
39. SUN OF GREY – OUTERWORLD (Colorado Springs) You want doom? These guys do Doom right and the fans are recognizing this album quickly as an impact album. This follow up from their 2017 debut really packs a lot in their 6 songs. Freddy Allen fronts Sun of Grey as well as plays bass…rumor has it he played bass on the Gypsybyrd album also!
38. ZEUP – BLIND (Denmark) Good GOD this is a rocking 4 songs filled with riffs and straightforward heavy rock. This Copenhagen trio follows up their previous release in 2019 “A Taste of Zeus” with an album that just get your blood flowing and the air guitar ready. Vocals really strong!
37. ATOMIC BITCHWAX – SCORPIO (New Jersey) Long time stoner/ fuzz rock band Atomic Bitchwax pops out a riffalicous album on Tee Pee Records. Many times, they remind me of a revved up harder Foo Fighters but way more fuzzy. In case ya don’t know something like every member of this band is or was part of Monster Magnet. Their whole catalog rocks but the last 2 albums have carved a direction that will appeal to even more fans!
36. ARCADIAN CHILD – PROTOPSYCHO (Cyprus) Can you find Cyprus on a map? My guess is the best way to find them is smoke some of the devil’s lettuce …close your eyes with headphones on and enjoy the journey. This is their 3rd release, all of which have been released with Rebel Waves which is a branch of Ripple Music. This heavy psych vibe is mellow and creative. This album went all the way to #6 on the Doom Charts.
35. SLIFT – UMMON (France) Dare I say this French band gained a ton of new fans with the release of Ummon. Already 3 previous releases, this album feels the most complete and the buzz around this progressive/heavy psych release. Drop some acid kraut in there and some spaciness and you have yourself and album that keeps you on your toes but rocks heavy! At times I get a heavier Elder vibe….such clean production as well.
34. BLACK ELEPHANT – SEVEN SWORDS (Italy ) This Small Stone release grabs you quickly with an amazing guitar tone that they have well established since their previous fantastic release “Cosmic Blues” . Although this album is not really sung in English as much as the previous release it’s the music surrounding the vocals that is so damn fuzzy and full of fire. If you dig 70s rock but with an edge and guitar hero like chops…. grab this one by the fuzz.
33. VALKYRIE – FEAR (Virginia) The brothers Adams are bad at it after a 5 year break from studio releases. Yes Pete Adams is the same one that was in Baroness for years. Their 2-guitar sound is just plain exquisite while they create a cool classic metal meets heavy rock meets classic rock. Relapse Records had the honor of getting this one to our anxious earholes!
32. WOLFTOOTH – VALHALLA (Indiana) Get ready my fellow vikings this will have you breaking out your sword and getting on a ship ready to pillage the nearby unsuspecting town. Valhalla follows up their much-ballyhooed debut album in 2018 really takes you on a fierce cruise. Cursed Tongue and Ripple Music teamed up for this one and just recently they were announced as the newest addition to Napalm Records Label.
31. HYDRA – FROM LIGHT TO THE ABYSS (Poland ) One part doom one part stoner thus the moniker Stoner Doom. This is sure one heck of a debut album and just sounds like darn good as well as noticeably polished. Vocals shine as they have David Draiman of Disturbed or maybe Paul Stanley tone, but it fits perfect with the dark heavy vibe. One full listen to this 5 track album will have you thinking you need to listen again and turn it up louder.
30. FORMULA 400 – HEATHENS (San Diego) Formula 400 rolls out this debut album with an old school riff and groove reminiscent at times of Corrosion of Conformity with its catchy songs. A rather unique aspect of this band is they split vocals. Both guitarists sing half of the album each. Kip Page formerly of Ride the Sun holds down the killer bass and these boys get your heads bobbing and feet moving. I had the good fortune of seeing them in San Diego this year when they did a livestream, and I will surely catch them again without a doubt. Don’t overthink it just go to Light My Way which starts the album off and thank me later.
29. LEATHERFRANK – DARK FOREST (Turkey) LeatherFrank announces themselves to the heavy psych scene with a majestic 4 song debut heavy psych album that is creative while also fitting in nicely with bands like King Buffalo , Elder and Spaceslug. These Turkish lads have my full attention for what may be next.
28. HUMULUS – THE DEEP (Italy) This Italian power trio is a heavy stoner band that delivers fully on their 4th release. Really fantastic vocals and heavy moods are throughout this darker 2020 release. They created an album that is allowed to breath and breath you shall do at a higher rate when you check this album out.
27. BONE CHURCH – ACID COMMUNION (Connecticut) Ripple Music swooped this band up and next thing you know they are releasing this treasure. Listen this is no doubt of the Black Sabbath influences but not to fear this album is not a Sabbath clone alum. This is a “trip” of an album that doesn’t go away quickly and captivates you with each and every song! Word has it some of the CDs have a hidden hit of acid…. or maybe not. For those church goers…. I dont think you have had communion like this one.
26. BAARDVADER – BAARDVADER (Netherlands) Netherlands not only have great coffee shops they also have some darn good bands. Baardvader’s debut self-titled album is a fuzzy delight with a super cool combo of 70s and 90s rock with a dash of stoner rock. The energy of this album is very infectious and oh yeah, they have great songs!
25. SLOMOSA – SLOMOSA (Norway) Wow I sure do have quite a few debut albums on this year’s list. Slomosa hails from Norway who is also home to some other great stoner/doom bands such as Lonely Kamel, Captain Caravan, Kal-EL, The Devil + the Almighty Blues, Saint Karloff and others. Their sound lingers in the Kyuss range many a times during this supreme album. Clean easy-going vocals and killer guitar tone! Horses is a standout track to many.
24. BUFFALO FUZZ – VOLUME II (Minneapolis) A follow up to their debut in 2016 it took a while for this fuzzy blues based album to hit our ears as 1/2 of this duo sadly passed away at age 24. The surviving member Jared Zachary got this badass album out in 2020 and the buzz was on. If you dig stoner, retro, bluesy, hard rock or just plain killer guitar driven rock this song will quench that thirst. For me one of the standout tracks is ironically “Too Young To Die”.
23. RED DESERT – HORIZON (Minneapolis) Yeah let’s stay in Minny for another one shall we? Red Desert has always had this stoner rock thing down good and this 2020 release is no different. Riffs and vocals emanate consistently into the air as you play it.
I have witnessed their live show as well as they opened night 3 of Planet Desert Rock on a lineup that consisted of Wo-Fat, Sasquatch, Freedom Hawk, Powered Wig Machine and Blackwulf. Take a quick look at their bandcamp pict… that them rocking in pretty cold weather at Beauty Bar. They didn’t bundle up …they just hit the stage and lit a fire.
22. MOOCH – HOUNDS ( Montreal) When you have Brant Bjork as your producer and you record an album in Joshua Tree…you have my attention. When you create a something that is rooted in a variety of styles of rock and the album delivers song after song of rocking tunes that linger in your head after ingesting …you have a good one! If you are a fan of stoner/ blues-based rock/ desert / heavy psych/ classic rock this is your jam. Oh, and the vocals have a Jim Morrisonesque vibe and sound without any doubt and in the case it’s a good thing!
21. Fostermother / Fostermother (Houston, TX) Out of nowhere early in the year this popped to my attention. I was like “damn” I need to hear that soon again. That’s always a good sign. Travis Weatherred and Stephen Griffin put together a really impressive debut album that is stoner but also feels like influences of various styles within the ever expansive “stoner rock genre”. Some 90s vibe or am i just imagining it? Word has it 2021 will grace us with another Fostermother! Yeah and someone might say it came out very late 2019 and for that i say All good brother or sister.
20. Cortez / Sell the Future (Boston) Cortez has been around a while but of late they are knocking out consistently good stuff. They were not only on the Ripple Music series but their last album as well. This album has a fresh sound that hits all the marks needed to dig in multiple times to. Matthew Harrington can sing his ass off. I witnessed it live as I invited them to be part of the last John Garica ticket we did. This time at Count’s Vamp’d. These boys locked in and the crowd was digging it. They had a helluva good set right before them by Loom out of San Diego. This is primo heavy rock with some stoner as well. Ripple Music again delivering a special album.
19. Murcielago / Casualties ( Maine) This one came in hot towards the end of the year and gosh it just rocks damn good. This guys really have a cool blended style that definitely has some desert in there. Vocals are really strong (Neil) and the songs just work! Their previous album is rocking as well. This is a good one for folks who like the cleaner side of stoner rock. Take notice of the opening track ” Blues For the Red Lobster”.
18. Phantom Hound / Mountain Pass (Oakland) From Oakland California these boys hail from and they put together a concept album full of riffs , strong vocals and songs that last. Look no further than the bookend tunes (The Northern Face / The Southern Face). I strongly believe if you like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden or guitar driven heavy rock you will enjoy this.
17. Kryptograf / Kryptograf (Norway) Ahh Norway again announces another spectacular band to the heavy music scene. This debit album grabbed a ton of people by the hand as soon as it came out. Something pretty about a debut album that feels like they have been a band for years. Kryptograf practices the art of hard and heavy rock. They have at times a retro appeal that just makes you want to come back for more and then switches direction on the next song while still maintaining a high level. This album was on Doom Charts for at least 2 weeks.
16. Familiars / All in Good Time (Canada) This trio really has such an interesting but yet rocking sound. They linger and in no way can be pigeonholed in a genre besides just heavy rock. Yes, it has lots of psych elements. Bucky Brown from Doom Charts turned me onto them, and the rest is history. Hopefully one day i get to see this band live. This is the kind of album that when you hear it 2-3 times in semi quick time you just get it!
15. Kind / Mental Nudge (Boston) For me this was one of my most anticipated albums of 2020. Loved their debut album “Rocket Science” so when Craig Riggs mentioned to me a new one in the works, I was excited to hear what they had. This album is so damn cool. A plethora of styles, textures and influences throughout. Each musician is very good their craft. Matt Cueto former drummer with Elder holding it down along with Craig Riggs from Sasquatch/ Roadsaw as well as former Black Pyramid guitarist Darryl Shepard and Rozamov bassist Tom Corino. In other words this needs to be listened to and enjoyed!
14. Huanastone / Third Stone from the Sun (Sweden) Sweden announces its presence as always on end of the year list but this time an unsuspecting bands crashes to our shores with a vibe of cool and some primo shit for you to sink your teeth into. As they say they have a 70s and 90s feel to their songs. At times i can feel of Queens of the Stone Age other times a clean stoner rock vibe meets grunge. Very sharp sound to this album and its accessible at that. Vocals smooth.
13. Void Vator / Stranded (Los Angeles) Ok first off yes i know it came out in late November but shall we say we are close enough. This L.A. party animals truly bring a unique killer sound to the scene. Former Gypsyhawk AX-Man Erik Kluiber makes one half of a stellar 2 guitar attack with frontman Lucas Kanopa who grew up in Uruguay! They are able to shine consistently with killer guitar play and Lucas singing metal with some rock mesh. Catchy songs all the way through. Catchiest is “Nothing to Lose”. That should have been on the radio. Anyways they have played over a handful of shows for me over the years and I can attest…they bring it every time. Hard to not have a good time when bassist Sam Harman is around. One person once said it’s like Megadeth and Foo Fighters had a baby. I don’t know …you tell me!
12. Puta Volcano/ AMMA (Greece) Greece is still in the midst of a Greek Rock Revolution. This female fronted band was actually featured as part of an amazing rock documentary called…… Greek Rock Revolution along with such bands as 1000mods, Planet Zeus, Nightstalker, Naxatras, Villagers of Ioannina City and Tuber. When they dropped their previous album “Harmony Spheres” in 2017 they really captivated a lot of new fans. Front woman Anna has a great way of singing with the song and not over singing and it works so well! Their guitar driving approach on many times just get you in the groove. If you haven’t seen their semi recent livestream production, you may want to give it a shot. Exceptional sound and video.
11. Foot/The Balance of Nature Shifted (Australia) I have come to a conclusion that everything I have heard from them is good! This album is a rocking one for sure that will hit you with some heavy psych love and shift to deeper tones or grooves of stoner as well as doom. Long story short another great album being made that once listened to properly becomes part of your life. Yes, they are very good. Singer at times gives me flashbacks of The Stone Roses from the 90s Manchester scene. They even dropped a 2-song split recently and that song as well is good and has a video you can check out if you feel so inclined.
10. Bonehawk / Iron Mountain (Kalamazoo) A highly anticipated follow up to their previous full length release “Albino Rhino”. Dueling guitars providing such layers to their really cool sound. Vocals on point throughout this album. At times i want to say it has some Thin Lizzy in there but other times they really have their own branding to their songs. The whole thing just flows, and you want to start somewhere? Try “Strange Magic”…. That will get ya if you dig heavy rock with some melodic sensibilities.
9. Ritual King/ Ritual King (Manchester, U.K.) Ripple Music delivering again and this time from across the pond in Manchester England. This gem of an album is a departure from their previous efforts as they shifted to more of a heavy psych vibe. This came out early in the year and many said off the bat that this will be one of the top albums of the year. And I have seen it of late on quick a few end-of-year lists. It’s just a truly unique experience coming from them and it even can blend in jazz elements etc.
8. Tidal Wave / Blueberry Muffin (Sweden) Released in December of 2019 this in your face hard riffing album woke me up in January. This singer has some serious pipes, and their riffs are so good. Just old school heavy rock that has a traditional stoner mixed in with a freshness. Pop in the car…. you will see. In addition, they released a two-song release as well as a new song also. If your gonna die while riffing might as well be by a Tidal Wave.
7. Sun Crow / Quest for Oblivion (Seattle) This late in the year release has systematically hopped on the Doom Charts two months in a row including being Top Album of November. What does that mean? Well it means a group of 35-50 underground insiders voted for them above other bands. These charts are managed better than your local…oh never mind. I kid i kid. Great cataclysm of heaviness and emotions strike you while hearing the ever-present dark tint to it. Tones are just amazing and vocals unique. Debut album yet again! People who like stoner/doom/grunge/metal will eat this up.
6. Psychlona / Venus Skytrip (U.K.) Ahem…another Ripple Music album that made an immediate impression on listeners undoubtedly thanks to the opening track ” Blast Off”.
A follow up to their very good debut album “Mojo Rising” this album took the proverbial jump on this album. It’s got a spaciness to it at times and it collides with other cool psych elements along the way. Stoner and doom fans adore this album equally. One of those albums that get better with each listen and keep in mind they captured most of it on the 1st listen. Was featured on Doom Charts at least 2-3 times.
5. Elephant Tree/ Habits (London) Good lord this album is amazing! Elephant Tree previous release woke up quite a few to them but this one meanders in a little bit of a different space if you will. Birds must be one of the most played songs of our genres this year. Creative gem of a masterpiece. Heck I think they might even have appeared on the charts over there. This album is heavy psych at an optimal level of this variety. The production is immaculate. Mellow …and beautiful.
4. Mr. Bison / Seaward (Italy) What an exquisite concept album this is from the 3 Matteos! Mr. Bison has been around for a while and I loved their previous release so much i asked them if they wanted to play Planet Desert Rock Weekend v2…they accepted and were part of 8 European bands on that weekend’s lineup. Amazing live band but I digress…Seaward is themed out and has a great backstory to it well worth you read up on it while listening to this with your headphones at proper volume. Progressive, heavy psych and stoner styles make up this very well produced piece of art. Bravo gentlemen!
Ripple Music involved yet again on a top album of 2020.
3. Brant Bjork / Brant Bjork (Joshua Tree) The king of cool Brant Bjork formerly of Kyuss was antsy and ready to make some music he was feeling and voila an album completely done by the man himself. Yes, he played every instrument on this album and of course wrote them all as well. I can’t really get out to you what a cool vibe of an album this is. Lyrics clear as they tell a story each time with a mellow style that draws you in closer each time. He even mixed in some glam rock feel on “Duke of Dynamite” and gets old school funky on others. For me the first song to hook me was “Jesus Was a Bluesman”. Made me feel like the kind of song i could hear in the 70s on radio. It’s that good and heck…the whole thing is magnificent. Heavy Psych Sounds delivering.
2. Lowrider/ Refractions (Stockholm, Sweden) If I was to say it’s been a while since we had heard new music from Lowrider I would be understating it a bit. It’s been since late 90s! As we stood at the edge of our seats we had “Red River” hit us right where we wanted and as they say the rest is history. This super early 2020 release has maintained their relevancy throughout 2020 as a mainstay. Peder and the guys really have folks excited for what’s next and word has it we will get more in 2021! Stoner rock legends bringing us Top Choice Stoner rock to the ears.
1.Witchskull / A Driftwood Cross (Australia) Quite a few of you were likely aware this is my numero uno for 2020 and it feels so right ! Blistering high octane precision driving heavy rock music that enters your body like you are being possessed but in a good way. Marcus De Pasquale leads this band into battle with bloody riffs and a very unique voice to bring some outstanding intensity. These guys sound so locked in and outdid their last album which appeared on many fans’ fav from that year. Rise Above Records snagged these Aussies and were darn smart for doing it as these cats have their own killer sound. They are foundationally influenced by the almighty Black Sabbath, but this is an evolution offspring. Witchskull from accounts puts on roaring and incredible live shows….. One day we shall get them over to the states… One day.
If you made it this far …first off thanks! I left off so many great bands and i feel horrible I couldn’t include you or your fav band.
In the end this is just one man’s opinion. I hope you dig the list and please support the bands and thank you being part of a flourishing heavy rock scene. It’s amazing and its worldwide!