Sat. Jan 16th, 2021

Tuonela Magazine’s Annual Staff Picks: Jani Lehtinen’s Edition

Now that the year 2020 is coming to a close, we at Tuonela Magazine want to share what releases we enjoyed the most. Each of our staff members will share their own list; here is that of Jani Lehtinen.


In March 2020, the world changed. One of the advantages of turning old as shit is that you get to see the world change quite a few times. I can faintly remember Chernobyl, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Soviet Empire, and the WTC towers, among other things. Still, the year 2020 easily ranks higher than any of these when it comes to being strange. On the upside, though, the year has also proved to be most rewarding in terms of music.

Having been blessed with a fairly good amount of spare time under these strange, new circumstances, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing some 50 rock and metal albums this year. I discovered quite a few new bands and some of my long-time favorites dropped a kick-ass album in 2020.

Judging by the Spotify stats, my listening sessions seem to have had a recurring theme of the less-beaten musical paths. I seem to have cultivated a habit of listening predominantly to the less mainstreamish sub-genres of metal with a generous dose of psychedelia, post-rock, and prog. In this respect, 2020 has been particularly gratifying. 

Well-established labels, specialized in all kinds of obscure sub-genres of rock and metal, such as InsideOut Music and Svart Records, did not fail to impress me with quality releases time and time again throughout 2020. Without further ado, here are my hand-picked selections for the most awesome music of 2020!

Top 10 International albums

10. Sólstafir – Endless Twilight of Codependent Love
9. Vous Autres – Sel de Pierre
8. Myrkur – Folkesange
7. Draconian – Under a Godless Veil
6. Crippled Black Phoenix – Ellengæst
5. Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
4. Pain of Salvation – Panther
3. Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good
2. The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic
1. Enslaved – Utgard

Read more: REVIEW: Sólstafir – Endless Twilight of Codependent Love, REVIEW: Vous Autres – Sel de Pierre, REVIEW: Myrkur – Folkesange, REVIEW: Draconian – Under a Godless Veil, REVIEW: Crippled Black Phoenix – Ellengæst, REVIEW: Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant, REVIEW: Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good, REVIEW: The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic, REVIEW: Enslaved – Utgard

Top 10 Finnish albums

10. Memoira – Carnival of Creation
9. Sinisthra – The Broad and Beaten Way
8. Kairon;IRSE! – Polysomn
7. Dark Sarah – Grim
6. Antipope – Apostle of Infinite Joy
5. Smackbound – 20/20
4. Dark Buddha Rising – Mathreyata
3. Polymoon – Caterpillars of Creation
2. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi
1. IA – initIAtion

Read more: REVIEW: Kairon; IRSE! – Polysomn, REVIEW: Sinisthra – The Broad and Beaten Way, Interview with Sinisthra, REVIEW: Dark Sarah – Grim, Interview with Dark Sarah, REVIEW: Smackbound – 20/20, Interview with Smackbound, REVIEW: Dark Buddha Rising – Mathreyata, REVIEW: Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi, Interview with Oranssi Pazuzu, REVIEW: IA – initIAtion, Interview with IA

Top 3 EPs

3. Oenos – Musta III
2. Lord of the Lost – Swan Songs III
1. Voivod – The End of Dormancy

Read more: REVIEW: Oenos – Musta III, REVIEW: Lord of the Lost – Swan Songs III, REVIEW: Voivod – EP The End of Dormancy

Best Livestream Concert

I must admit that I didn’t spend much time watching livestream concerts in 2020, despite the fact that I had the chance of a lifetime to indulge in this noble sport, what with all the lockdown measures, social distancing, etc. I did check out two online concerts and they both were truly amazing. First, I watched the beautiful performance of the electronica artist SOHN, sometime in the late spring, as the full concert reinforced with the Metropole Orchestra was live-streamed online. The second occasion was when ENSLAVED celebrated their magnificent new album “Utgard” with a livestream performance which also was, needless to say, nothing short of breathtaking. Considering that live-streaming became the #newnormal almost overnight, I know I’m a bad person for not making the most out of the unprecedented supply of brilliant live performances. As the pandemic is not yet showing signs of loosening its grip on our everyday lives, I shall make a solemn promise to do better next year.

Most Promising Act

The new, Finnish metal ambassadors of the shamanic kind, IA, made the most lasting impression with their debut album “initIAtion,” released independently on June 26th, 2020. I already knew the band was pretty good for having witnessed them live once, years ago, but their first full-length sonic incantation still managed to render me speechless for a moment.

Read more: REVIEW: IA – initIAtion, Interview with IA

Top 5 Music Videos

5. Lamb of God – Memento Mori

4. Daniel Tompkins – Ruins

3. Enslaved – Jettegryta

2. Lonely Robot – Keeping People as Pets

  1. Crippled Black Phoenix – Lost

Read more: REVIEW: Lamb of God – Lamb of God, REVIEW: Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good, REVIEW: Crippled Black Phoenix – Ellengæst, REVIEW: Enslaved – Utgard

Top 5 Lyric Videos

5. Soen – Antagonist

4. Machine Head – Bulletproof

3. Lamb of God – New Colossal Hate

2. Evergrey – Forever Outsider

  1. Pain of Salvation – Unfuture

Top 5 International Songs

5. Our Oceans – Your Night, My Dawn
4. Enslaved – Homebound
3. The Ocean – Jurassic/Cretaceous
2. Long Distance Calling – Hazard
1. Paradise Lost – Darker Thoughts

Read more: REVIEW: The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic, REVIEW: Long Distance Calling – How Do You Want to Live, Interview with Long Distance Calling, REVIEW: Paradise Lost – Obsidian, Interview with Paradise Lost

Top 5 Finnish Songs

5. Dark Sarah – Melancholia
4. Polymoon – Lâzaward
3. Oranssi Pazuzu – Uusi Teknokratia
2. Kairon;IRSE! – An Bat None
1. IA – PromethIA

Read more: REVIEW: Dark Sarah – Grim, Interview with Dark Sarah, REVIEW: Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi, Interview with Oranssi Pazuzu , REVIEW: Kairon; IRSE! – Polysomn, REVIEW: IA – initIAtion, Interview with IA

Top 5 Best Last-Minute Songs

5. Blackfield – For the Music

4. Steven Wilson – Eyewitness

3. Wes Borland – In the Arms of Our Dimensional Fortress

2. Soilwork – A Whisp of the Atlantic

  1. Spiritbox – Constance

Read more: REVIEW: Soilwork – EP A Whisp of the Atlantic

Top 5 Cover Art

5. Sólstafir – Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

4. Katatonia – City Burials

3. Pain of Salvation – Panther

2. The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic

  1. Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good

Read more: REVIEW: Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good, REVIEW: The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic, REVIEW: Sólstafir – Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

Best Collaboration

Since metal + jazz is a winning combination without exception, every time, the best collaboration in 2020 was the joint venture of the Finnish jazz-pianist Iiro Rantala of TRIO TÖYKEÄT and the up-and-coming new metal outfit HUMAVOID:

Humavoid – Aluminum Rain (feat. Iiro Rantala)

Top 5 Most Anticipated Releases of 2021

5. Soen – Imperial
4. Cult of Luna – The Raging River
3. Evergrey – Escape of the Phoenix
2. Harakiri for the Sky – Mære
1. Evanescence – The Bitter Truth

Want to share your lists with us? Comment below with your lists.

The whole Tuonela Magazine team wishes you an inspirational 2021 filled with a lot of new music to discover. We hope to see you back next year!

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