TOP ALBUMS OV 2021 W/ 365 DAYS OF HORROR, EENZAAMHEID, AND NORDLING RITES OV KARHU!
LISTMANIA 2K21 DAY 4, YE ALABASTER ACOLYTES! You know that feeling of too much of a good thing? What about having too much of that feeling? How many days can you avoid unfathomable financial ruination? Give up, ft. 365 Days of Horror, Eenzaamheid, and Nordling Rites ov Karhu.
365 Days of Horror
My knuckles are absolutely scraped to shit after listening to the knuckle-dragging death-doom of Worm’s Foreverglade. Slow, low, and crushingly heavy. The thing that separates this album from others, though, is the melody. It’s the melodies in Foreverglade that keep me interested, whether it’s the skilled guitarwork or the creative usage of keys. It’s these little touches, along with some smart writing and recording choices, that elevate Worm above the other cavernous skull-rattling bands. Sink into the swamp with Foreverglade.
It’s been almost 20 years since Jerry Cantrell’s last solo album. I really enjoy his previous releases Boggy Depot and Degradation Trip. Was it worth the wait? C’mon, it’s Jerry Cantrell. It’s just so nice to hear his voice. Sure, we’ve had a few Alice In Chains albums in the interim, but it’s great to hear him do his own thing once again, especially with the growing dearth of modern rock bands. While there’s a number of known musicians backing him up (Duff McKagan, Gil Sharone, Greg Puciato etc.), Brighten is still Jerry being Jerry. We could probably use a lot more of it right now.
Two years of lockdown have led to me go back to some of the earlier days of metal. While a lot of classic albums have been checked off the “finally listened to the whole thing in one sitting list” a lot of have gone in through one ear and out the other. One style I’ve enjoyed more than others has been traditional heavy metal. It’s been fun to go back and listen to just straightforward metal, y’know? Luckily for me, Australia’s Temtris made a banger of trad metal this year with Ritual Warfare. No gimmicks, no mimicking previous bands, just solid, talented traditional heavy metal. Each song on this album makes me want to throw on a leather jacket, pump my fist in the air, and maybe slice off a goblin head or two. Soaring vocals, killer solos, and driving, constant low end and drums. That’s all you can really ask for when it comes to heavy metal and Temtris knock it out of the park.
8 years have passed since Year Of No Light’s last album. A lot has changed in the world, but Year Of No Light remains constant in their ability to make dark, moody, instrumental music. Consolamentum transports you to another world, one full of ominous shadows and impending doom. Darkness creeps out of the corners with every track, enveloping the listener’s mind, body, and soul. Even though it only contains 5 songs, Consolamentum stretches to almost an hour long. Not a moment is wasted on this atmospheric record that manages to say so much without ever actually uttering a single word. Now is a great time for more heavy instrumental bands to make their return.
An Autumn For Crippled Children continues with their unabashed rage against the light with As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes. Tears of frustration drip from every riff and screamed lyric. These songs are a maelstrom of raw emotion, desperately trying to escape from this mortal coil. While the album doesn’t deviate too much from the usual AAFCC formula, the inclusion of more synths and brighter melodies help lift the songs and accentuate the hellish screams of unbridled agony. There’s a strange peace within the eye of this musical storm, an undefinable joy to feeling bad. It is in that space between feelings where As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes lives, breathes, and succeeds.
What do you get when you mix melodic death metal, power metal, and a few other metal genres? You get Frozen Crown’s Winterbane. Frozen Crown is an overly-talented band just waiting to break out from the underground. When they say “embrace the night” I want to embrace the night. When they say “far beyond the clouds we’ll fly high” you’d better believe I am ready to fly beyond some clouds. My hands are in permanent devil horn position while listening to the dual guitar shreds, blasting drums, and soaring vocals. I could easily see them on the main stages of countless metal festivals, pyro shooting high in the air, as crowds sing at the top of their lungs. Major labels are missing out not having Frozen Crown on their roster. Their appeal is immense, just like their skills. Crank up Winterbane and ride into battle, possibly on the back of Pegasus.
4) Aythis – Secrets From Below
My love of Aleah Stanbridge has been well–documented on this website. Unfortunately for me, the well has pretty much run dry with the final demos being released last year. Thankfully, Secrets From Below from Aythis is here to gently hold me as the pains of the world bear down upon me. Aythis is the solo project of Carline Van Roos from Lethian Dreams, so if you’re a fan of their brand of atmospheric doom, you’ll love this. Carline’s ethereal voice and vibrant soundscapes cut through to my emotional core, a light in this darkened world. Tender, comforting, and heartfelt, Secrets From Below is a soul-bearing album, one to embrace and absorb in our truest moments, when all the walls have fallen and we are finally allowed to think, grieve, and love.
3) Somnent – Gardens From Graves
2021’s surprise entry. Unknown to me, Somnent’s Gardens From Graves landed in my inbox and hit all the right buttons. Dark, reflective, and introspective, Gardens From Graves is a melodic doom opus that is as heavy as a tombstone and just as poetic. The solo work of Giovanni Antonio Vigliotti, each song comes with a crystal-clear clarity, making each word, each note, that much more cutting and excruciating. A unique beauty permeates across the album, matched by the intensity of harsh, guttural growls. Fans of impassioned bands like Swallow The Sun, My Dying Bride, and Draconian will welcome Somnent with open arms and open hearts. Speaking of Swallow The Sun…
2) Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers
Century Media Records
Swallow The Sun seem to have three modes: gentle, brutal, and somewhere in between. Depending on the song, or sometimes the album, you may get one or the other. Swallow The Sun is at their best when they meet in the middle and that’s where Moonflowers lies. Fierceness and mercy become entwined for a moody album that accentuates Swallow The Sun’s more brooding side. Pianos, strings, and the inclusion of Ocean Of Slumber’s Cammie Gilbert make sorrow and melancholy exquisite. There are some heavier and more “metal” songs, for sure, and they compliment the rest of the songs well, this album is for the feelers out there. The sorrow, grief, and utter anguish of 2021 is felt in every single second of Moonflowers.
1) Khemmis – Deceiver
Nuclear Blast Records
Khemmis is a special band and Deceiver proves it. They deftly blend styles, from hard rock to doom metal and everything in between to create something wholly engaging and engrossing. Soaring harmonies, catchy melodies, and an undeniable groove carry the listener on an endless journey. Simultaneously heavy and light, aggressive and soft, Deceiver weaves an intricate musical web. There’s a little bit of something for just about anyone on this album. As I get older, a lot of new music tends to go in through one ear and out the other. That’s not the case with Deceiver. It stays with you long after the last note has faded into the distance. It’s the true mark of a great album when the final song ends, the first song begins again, and you don’t change it to something else.
Not in any particular order…
These guys are the definition of experimental. It’s been 13 years since their last album, which had much sharper edges while relying on electronic melodies to set the atmosphere; Dream Weapon could be just as easily classified as a heavier electro record. It’s all atmosphere, all the time.
Mathcore, light on the math and the core—a crossover album with conversion potential. It even got famed mathcore-curmudgeon Hans to admit to not hating it.
Kanonenfieber – Menschenmühle
Noisebringer | Interview
Unmatched in its focus and mood, even if you don’t speak a word of German you can absorb most of what’s going on in each song. And if you do happen to sprechen, each song is like an intense snapshot of a brief time and place far removed from the collective memory of WWI. They come together in a kaleidoscopic mosaic of a human mill grinding bones—buried shallow and unhonored. Verscharrt und Ungerühmt.
If you’re looking to just d-beat your head until it’s nothing but blackened crust, which I’ve wanted to do countless times this year, then look no further than this steamroller for your brain wrinkles.
Some people hate spoken word in songs, frankly I’m ambivalent—if it sets the tone right I’m all for it. And the spoken word parts of Darwin Falls do just that; they set you up, like a lost cowboy’s journal, to be trampled and shattered between reprieves. Darwin has come to collect this fawn and its limbs.
Probably the only artist that’s (arguably) DSBM on anyone’s list, but this year has seen me through some serious extremes of emotion, and Fyra was one of the only voices echoing it. If you hate spoken word or post-anything, go ahead and skip on down, but if you wanna commiserate with someone entirely terrified and alone (in the grips of addiction in this case) give it a spin.
This year Full of Hell leaned a bit too far out of grindcore and into noise, and I wanted to hear Full of Hell sans Merzbow this time around. Enter Knoll. If you want that rain-of-metal-shards-into-your-ears sound without breaking out Weeping Choir, Interstice is your ticket to grind your skull into pulp.
I’m normally not a doom fan, but this album is such a good combination of noise and atmospherics I was immediately sucked in. It has some sludge and crust parts to break up the noise and is just perfect for tuning out everything, even your own thoughts. I was on the fence until I saw these guys live and just felt like I was drowning as the noise washed over me.
Have you ever lived through a direct hit from a category 5 hurricane? I have. This album is more cacophonous.
Amenra – De Doorn
Relapse | Translation Explanation
While it’ll probably show up on most metal sites’ top 10’s this year, this album has been contentious among the Toileteers I’ve discussed it with. It’s got a lot of spoken word… a lot, so if that turns you off then this will too. Also the lyrics are important to understanding the album… but they’re in Dutch, so unless you spreken or want to ask a Nederlander, you’re left to the band’s somewhat weird translation. However, if you happen to speak Swamp-German and don’t mind some spoken word in your post-black-whatever, then all I have to describe this album is a proverb:
De rozen vallen af, maar de doornen blijven
Roses fall but their thorns remain
Nordling Rites ov Karhu
10. Dungeon Serpent – World of Sorrows
Nameless Grave/Desert Wastelands | TTT-Feature
Every now and then somebody remembers that melodic death metal ought to be about death metal too, and starts a project out of sheer frustration for the lack of it. I don’t know if that’s why Arawn started Dungeon Serpent, but it fits the bill perfectly—guttural grunts, blasting drums, morbid runs (for riffs). I can’t even get my dick up from all this winter blubber and I’ve still been doing all-night dick push-up sessions with World of Sorrows.
9. Sunless – Ylem
Willowtip – Listen & Buy
WANTONLY GROOVES LIKE A MADMAN’S MEMBER IN A MINDLESS’ ARSE.
Touches of dissonance, complexity, melody, hypnotic grooves and a whole bunch of adjective substantives make Ylem one of the most intriguing albums in 2021. Even if I do wish more songs were like “Spiraling into the Unfathomable”.
8. Ronskibiitti – Bändileiri -82
I figured this list was due another black metal album, maybe the excellent farewell album from Necromantia or its alumni’s tremendous debut as Yoth Iria, or Mystras‘ awe-inspiring sophomore. But who am I to say no when the rap group Ronskibiitti decides to get in touch with their HC-punk roots, dropping a surprise mixtape/album right in the start of December? Absolutely no one, that’s who.
7. Ad Nauseam – Imperative Imperceptible Impulse
Avantgarde Music | Review
It would be easy to think I am not smart enough for this shit. Or that I am too old for this shit. But I am, in fact, all about this shit. I want the Big Bren’d Bois of Ad Nauseam to pummel my helpless little think-meat relentlessly with their Impressive Imperative Impulsating layers of complex rhythms and riffs and polyphonic compositions. Come get this brainussy, daddy.
6. Aesop Rock x Blockhead – Garbology
Aesop Rock’s last few have verged on cracking the list, but it takes so much more time to “get through” a non-Finnish rap record than any other kind—months before getting past the beats and flow to digest the lyrics properly—there hasn’t usually been the time. Not so much now, as I’ve come to devour much more hip hop this year than usually. It would feel outright wrong not to include Garbology on this list based on how much it’s dominated for what feels like a few months (although it’s just been a few weeks).
5. Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm
Extraconscious Records | Review
LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS UPON LAYERS of guitar harmonies, melodies, counterpoints and ambiance. Much as I predicted in my review, Buczarski’s latest has only kept growing on me throughout the year with no end in sight. Sure, he’s kind of figured out a template and doesn’t stray from it, but when it rules this hard I do not care. As immense in December as the first time I heard it, if not more so.
4. Concrete Winds – Nerve Butcherer
Sepulchral Voice | Riff-Raff
As much as it is humanly possible to actually control chaos, Concrete Winds has mastered the skill. No other album this year was as rabid, as savage, as bloodthirsty or outright violent. But it’s havoc wreaked and vengeance exacted with such finesse and attention to detail I’m almost overlooking all that. Bewildering, odd-metered riffs—for this particular style anyways—and the slithering savagery inherited from its forebears, Nerve Butcherer is one of the most memorable and impressive records of the year.
3. Ghastly – Mercurial Passages
20 Buck Spin | Review
Psyched-up and airy death metal with a dreamy flow and no rush to get home is right up my bum, so it’s no wonder Ghastly should end up here. Even if it hadn’t been released as early as in May, it’d still be here with the virtue of play count alone. Cannot get enough of this.
2. Ceremonial Torture – Sabbath, Thou Arts
Behest | Review
Medieval Greek Black Metal from Finland? Dungeon Synth-Metal? Chaotic Keyboard and Bass Madness? Yes? Ceremonial Torture‘s full-length debut has been on a consistent rotation since its July 6th release. It’s not fun as in “people who complain you don’t like fun if you don’t think a band that only writes disposable one-hook songs with nothing else going for them.” But it is easily the most fun I’ve had with an album all year, and continue to. The cover art kicks arse to boot.
Hauntingly beautiful dissonant swirls, slithering riffs and dense compositions that have been haunting me with more than just their beauty for the better part of the year. There was a lengthy section in middle of the year that I didn’t really listen to the album, and I still couldn’t stop it from playing in my head.
Honorable Mention: Brodequin – Perpetuation of Suffering
For coming back in our hour of need.