The 10 Best Progressive Rock/Metal Albums of 2020

The 10 Best Progressive Rock/Metal Albums of 2020

Rather than succumb to the difficulties of our era, many progressive creators doubled down on their artistry to produce some of their best work and tighten their relationships with their admirers.

10. The Ocean Collective – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic [Metal Blade]


One of the pillars of modern German progressive metal, the Ocean Collective’s album-by-album dives into different eras of history never fail to entice and surprise. That’s certainly the case with
Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic / Cenozoic, which picks up right where 2018’s Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic left off. If push comes to shove, its predecessor is a bit more immediately accessible and enjoyable. However, what Phanerozoic II lacks in surface-level appeal, it makes up for with increased nuance, scope, and ambition. A sublime amalgamation of the group’s in-your-face brutality and cosmic catchiness, opener “Triassic” is an instant earworm. Not to be outdone, “Jurassic / Cretaceous” is even more symphonic and wide-ranging (thanks in part to guest vocalist Jonas Renkse of Katatonia), whereas “Eocene” and “Oligocene” act as a one-two punch of restrained heartbreak. Really, the record is among the Ocean Collective’s most timeless work. – Jordan Blum

9. Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea [Inside Out Music]


Comprised of Chloë Alper and Jon Courtney—as well as some supporting musicians — England’s Pure Reason Revolution crafted three highly beloved and commendably dissimilar studio records during the latter half of the 2000s. Sadly, they’ve more or less been on hiatus ever since which is why Eupnea is such a glorious comeback. The follow-up to 2010’s Hammer and Anvil, the album feels almost like a successor to their debut, 2006’s The Dark Third (which was reissued this year as well). Full of soothing vocal harmonies, commanding post-rock tapestries, and exciting electronic accentuations, the sequence delights all the way through. Entries such as the captivating “New Obsession”, the cleansing “Silent Genesis”, and the exquisite title track likely make Eupnea Pure Reason Revolution’s finest hour thus far. – Jordan Blum

8. Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night [Metal Blade]


Whatever forces kept Fates Warning from soaring to (relative) commercial heights in the 1980s have done nothing to dim the band’s spirit or creativity today. Thirteen albums into their trek, the veteran progressive metal band (arguably the originators of that genre) deliver a 72-minute opus that stands among the best in the band’s discography. The ambitious “Longest Shadow of the Day” is the sound of an act that is at once profoundly seasoned and wholly ravenous in their ambition to create the best music of their career. In truly progressive form, the group keeps striking into new territories, as evidenced by the gorgeous “Under the Sun” and “When Snow Falls”.
– Jedd Beaudoin

7. Pain of Salvation – Panther [Inside Out Music]


Led by the charming singularity of Daniel Gildenlöw, Sweden’s Pain of Salvation have always been among the most unique and consistent progressive metal bands. With 2017’s
In The Passing Light of Day, they crafted their best LP in roughly a decade, as its deeply personal songwriting, assorted arrangements, and subtle ties to 2002’s Remedy Lane made it a lovely return to form. Panther continues that excellence with added variety, experimentation, and thought-provoking quandaries (involving social and intellectual “normality” vs. “abnormality”). As an introduction, “Accelerator” is irresistibly quirky, potent, and expressive, etching itself into your soul from the jump. Then, “Restless Boy” channels the erratic boldness of 2007’s Scarsick, “Wait” evokes the ballads of the Road Salt duology, and “Icon”—like “The Passing Light of Day” before it—instigates introspection with its extensive poetic radiance. Thus, Panther is a true triumph. – Jordan Blum

6. Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant [Inside Out Music]


Now five albums into their auspicious path, Caligula’s Horse thoroughly remain their own band. Never shy about pop proclivities, the group temper those more commercial tendencies with adventurously melodic and rhythmic turns that prove that listening to even one song is nothing short of a sonic event. Starter “The Tempest” and the dark, Steven Wilson-esque “Slow Violence” set the course for the album. Later, winners such as “Oceanrise” and the expectedly epic “The Ascent” ascend as would-be concert highlights that further solidify the Australian collective’s potential to find welcoming hordes on foreign shores. If 2020 has robbed the band of such an opportunity in terms of physical travel, then the ultimate bit of promotion—word of mouth—still seems very much in their favor. From beginning to end, Rise Radiant is musically and emotionally satisfying. – Jedd Beaudoin