Yes, it’s that time of year again! 2021 gave us some very, very good metal, and I feel honoured to have been able to have listened to as much of it as I have done. There are some notable absences, (for me at least), from the below list, but there’s just not enough time or space for everything, dammit!
2020 was a very blackened year for me; I listened to a lot of black metal, and the list for that year reflected that. At the start of 2021 I decided I’d consciously try to ensure I cast my net a bit wider again, reconnecting more deeply with some of many other styles of metal that I enjoy. 2021’s list reflects this. However, I’ve still ended up with much more of a black metal presence in the list than I was initially expecting. What can I say? I’m a sucker for all of the myriad blackened flavours of the style. However, there’s also a lot of other stuff here that I hope you’ll dig into and enjoy too. I felt that there was a notable absence of grindcore in 2021, as well as some of the more extreme styles of doom. What do you think?
I hope you enjoy perusing some of my favourite records from this year, and I hope you find something new to tickle your fancy. What’s your number one this year?
Suffering Hour – The Cyclic Reckoning
Blackened death metallers Suffering Hour produced an album that’s hostile, otherworldly, and very compelling. This was an early favourite of mine in 2021, so make sure you fully take in its dark majesty.
Vokonis – Odyssey
Odyssey is a colourful slab of melodic progressive doom. With strong songwriting and a high amount of replayability factor, Vokonis’ fourth album made a strong impression on me.
Headshrinker – Callous Indifference
Callous Indifference is an album of cold brutality and dissonant horror. Headshrinker’s old-school death metal adopts an unusual sound, layering the classic formula with elements of multiple subgenres and a pinch of unhinged genius.
Wormwood – Arkivet
I really like the new Wormwood album, there’s just something special about its apocalypse-themed modern melodic black metal. An album of subtle depths and affecting atmospheres, let yourself become immersed in Wormwood’s crumbling world.
Jours Pâles – Éclosion
The very first time I listened to Éclosion I knew there was something special to it. Over time it kept drawing me back and I just absorbed its blackened offerings more and more. This is post-black metal played with real emotion and substance, and just damn good songs.
Gold Spire – Gold Spire
Gold Spire grabbed me unexpectedly hard, and hasn’t let go since. The band’s idiosyncratic style is a heady blending of death metal, doom, and jazz, with plenty of saxophone. It might not sound like it should work, but it really, really does.
Starer – 18° Below the Horizon
The debut album from Starer has stayed with me all year, demanding I occasionally return to it and bask in its keyboard-heavy atmospheric black metal. The music is darkly expressive and very enthralling. A keeper, for sure.
Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm
For a powerful dose of blisteringly melodic atmospheric black metal, look no further than Mare Cognitum’s Solar Paroxysm. This magnificent album will burn your mind with its intensity and spectral delights.
Ethereal Shroud – Trisagion
A late entry into this list, as it only came out in December, but Trisagion really won me over with its atmospheric depth and layers of blackened sound. I love me some atmospheric black metal, and this is right up there with the best of them.
Employed to Serve – Conquering
Employed to Serve’s hardcore-tinged riff-friendly metal assault was very well-received. No filler, all killer; Conquering did exactly that, and it did it with style. Employed to Serve have written a beast of an album.
Blessings – Biskopskniven
The atypical post-hardcore of Blessings really struck a chord with me. Combining rhythmic and percussive heaviness with a level of emotive content that’s infectious, Bishopskniven is an album that I can’t stop listening to.
Doctor Smoke – Dreamers and the Dead
Dreamers and the Dead is simply a fun album to listen to. Packed with catchy choruses, big hooks, and melodies that won’t quit, this is one seriously enjoyable album. Doctor Smoke’s hard rocking metal is just swell.
LLNN – Unmaker
LLNN have produced the most apocalyptic music of 2021. This is a crushing mix of sludge and post-metal with an apocalyptic atmosphere that’s been cranked up to the nth degree. LLNN sound absolutely massive, and they have the songs to back such a colossal sound up.
Moon Machine – Moon Machine
If progressive rock with a textured touch and an emotive delivery is your thing, then Moon Machine is a treasure trove of these things. I can easily just put this album on repeat and get lost in its quality songs. Ace stuff.
Hyperdontia – Hideous Entity
Hyperdontia play brutal old-school death metal, and they do so with skill and substance. A fierce riot of choice riffs and monstrous growls, Hideous Entity is an apt name for this album, and it is just utterly gruesome.
Saille – V
The fifth album from Saille surprised and impressed me deeply. The band’s black metal sounds darker, meaner, and more dangerous than ever. These songs hit the spot and then some. A ferocious reinvention.
Doubtsower – Asphyxiation of a Seasick Soul
Little did I know when I came across this underground gem that it would have such impact and staying power. On this album the artist behind Doubtsower has more than shown how adept he is at crafting emotive and engrossing doom, and this is a project that’s punching well above its weight.
Misanthur – Ephemeris
Misanthur’s Ephemeris hit me hard. This is a thoughtful and sophisticated slice of multifaceted black metal, delivered with modern grace and a grasp on many different blackened substyles. There’s a world to explore here.
King Woman – Celestial Blues
Celestial Blues finds King Woman putting in their best collective performance yet. This is doom metal by way of shoegaze and dream pop, and what an album it is. The music is rich and personal, with an ethereal sheen that marks it as something distinctive.
Intonate – Severed Within
Intonate’s emotive take on progressive death metal is a masterclass in structuring and dynamic expression. The songs are alive with brutal atmosphere and mood-driven progressive exploration. Severed Within is a delight.
Årabrot – Norwegian Gothic
Norwegian Gothic is a very striking, evocative, and charismatic album. Containing the sort of wonderfully atypical rock music that you rarely encounter, the darkness that sits at the heart of this band infuses the songs with a captivating quality that’s irresistible.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Noktvrn
If tastefully emotive post-black metal is your thing, especially if you’re not afraid of a bit of boundary-pushing, then Noktvrn is an absolute gem of a record for you. Combing blackened fury with introspective atmosphere, the new Der Weg Einer Freiheit record is a triumph.
Adliga – Vobrazy
Vobrazy came out of nowhere and blew me away. Adliga’s nuanced take on doomy post-metal has me hooked, and their debut album is ludicrously good. With no weak tracks at all Vobrazy is a firm highlight of 2021.
Impure Wilhelmina – Antidote
On their seventh album I finally discovered Impure Wilhelmina, and I have to say I’m smitten. Loosely categorized as post-metal, the reality is that Antidote is a specialised work, with an individual personality wrought from its various influences. It’s emotionally creative and packed with great songs.
Archspire – Bleed the Future
Bleed the Future is quite the album. Boasting ridiculous technicality, inhuman vocals, and insane speed, all delivered with actual songs…Archspire have outdone themselves this time. Can you survive this intense battery?
Anomalie – Tranceformation
Anomalie have released some very good work in the past, but the progression and development on show on their latest opus has brought them to another level entirely. Tranceformation‘s commanding presence and indomitable songs are precisely what I want from their brand of post-black metal.
Green Lung – Black Harvest
Wow, this is simply a fantastic album. If you haven’t yet checked out the wonder that is Black Harvest, then you better had as soon as you can – this is premier doom rock with songs that just won’t quit. Green Lung get inside your brain and stay there like they were born to. Essential listening for sure.
Urne – Serpent & Spirit
When is the best thrash album of 2021 not even really a thrash album? When it’s Urne’s superb Serpent & Spirit. There’s copious thrash here, of course, but there’s also so much more. Urne have unleashed a riff-heavy feast of metallic might, and it’s a sure-fire classic.
Thronehammer – Incantation Rites
Are you talking about thunderously heavy doom metal with real power and force? If so, you must be talking about Thronehammer. I didn’t expect to end up loving Incantation Rites as much as I do, but it’s simply too great of an album to ignore. It’s a colossal release in more ways than one, and it’s left a mark on me deeper than most.
Midnight Odyssey – Biolume Part 2 – The Golden Orb
Midnight Odyssey stole my top spot in 2015, and now in 2021 this superlative one-man act has done it again. Biolume Part 2 – The Golden Orb describes an epic journey through highly atmospheric black and doom metal waters, delivered in the inimitable way that only the artist behind this band can do. I loved 2015’s Shards of Silver Fade, but Biolume Part 2 – The Golden Orb is even better. It’s a long album, but worth the time invested in it. Don’t miss out on this.