TOP ALBUMS OV 2021 W/ LACERTILIAN, DARTH WTF, AND SNOOTY MCWORDS!
LISTMANIA 2K21 DAY 6, YE FECAL FANATICS! It’s Monday now, a veritable Groundhog Day of lists. Have you recouped your pathetic savings after a nice weekend rest? No? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Lacertilian, Darth WTF, and Snooty McWords are here to kick you in your BofA account with their siqq AotY picks.
Not gonna do my usual best of all genres thing and include the other fave albums I’ve jammed throughout the year (e.g. Armand Hammer, Aesop Rock x Blockhead, Emma Ruth Rundle etc.), there was just too much metal to cover. However, as with the last few years my time to write (and even edit) for the site has been steadily diminishing as our child reaches the age of “never napping” grows ceaselessly. Sorry. The mid-day siesta “site time” is long gone and I’ve been reduced to momentary meme-ing on social media during work breaks. However, I still get to listen to a veritable shit-tonne of music each week at work (some 6k tracks this year apparently). Once again, huge thanks to Spear and Roldo who’ve kept the site ticking over during 2021. Buy them an album on Bandcamp, or just send over a nice animal gif. Both are equitable.
10. Teeth – Finite
Translation Loss Records
9. Craven Idol – Forked Tongues
Dark Descent Records | Review
The main complaint I heard regarding this latest Craven Idol album was that it sounded more like the Vrath’s other notable band Scythian. Guess what? I’ve always much preferred Scythian, so in place of a follow-up to 2015’s Hubris In Excelsis, I’m more than happy to bang my head to this absolute ripper.
FFO: everything good about black/thrash.
Having been following Gabriele’s work since first hearing The Clearing Path a few years ago, it’s almost been difficult to keep up due to his multifaceted (verging on prolific) output. Last year saw the second monstrous offering from Cosmic Putrefaction in as many years, and this year saw the initiation of another band Vertebra Atlantis, which utilizes some of those gigantic death metal hooks but this time infused with a more blackened undercurrent and deeper experimentation. Lustral Purge In Cerulean Bliss is an abyssal album, delving into what feel like unknown aquatic depths, subjected to the pressure below countless kilometers of tumultuous tidal activity. The record seamlessly flows between serene but quizzical sounding passages, laden with doom-drenched dread and moments of chaotic blasting maelstrom with seemingly no notice. Track number 4 “Altopiano Celeste” is easily one of the most unique and intricately crafted songs you’ll hear all damn year.
FFO: Zhrine, Sulphur Aeon, plumbing the Mariana trench with the intent of calling James Cameron a fucking tryhard.
7. Obsolete – Animate//Isolate
Unspeakable Axe Records
A few years ago, Leif Bearikson and I hyped a little two-track EP on our Riff-Raff Podcast by a new band borne from members of Sunlessand Australis (hear me rave about the EP here). Fast forward 3 years and Obsolete’s debut LP definitely lives up to expectations. Insanely tight but most importantly creative, technical death-thrash with an organic production and orbit-escaping velocity. With riffing flare and songwriting skills to match, Animate//Isolate is one of those albums you’ll be recommending to every metalhead you know for years to come.
FFO: Sadus, Aspid, Vektor if they could thrash as hard as they suck.
6. Yautja – The Lurch
How to describe Yautja? Aggro-dissonant-prog-tinged sludgey deathnoise? Fucked if I know, but they rule.
At first The Lurch sounds more calculated than Songs Of Descent but don’t get the wrong idea, it’s calculated same way that the Yautja programs its alien-ass wrist display to detonate an atomic self-destruction device and obliterate Arnie and co. to oblivion.
FFO: Coffin Wisdom, Thermal Imagery, “Getting To The Choppahhhhh”
5. Mystras – Empires Vanquished And Dismantled
As much as I raved about Ayloss‘ first Mystras album (2020’s Castles Conquered And Reclaimed) upon release, this year’s follow-up both expands and strengthens the sound in almost every way. While still a black metal album on the rawer end of the spectrum, the clearer production really allows the grandiosity of composition to shine. Featuring some extraordinary guest performances on various Middle-Eastern instruments of antiquity, and the amazing guest vocals of Nina Saeidi (Lowen), Empires Vanquished And Dismantled is a masterwork showcasing how modern voices can breathe life into ancient stories and history itself.
FFO: anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism.
4. Sunless – Ylem
High expectations coming into this latest from the dissonant death dudes in Sunless following up from 2017’s exalted debut Urraca, and damn did they fucken pull through. Ylem wastes absolutely zero time delivering the angular and rapidly warping riff-fest us wonk-brained defectives desire. I hesitate to dub it heavier than their previous work but only because that’s impossible to gauge; like weighing Jupiter with a bathroom scale, or hearing your Dad say he’s “just going down the road for a pack of smokes” as a 19 year old. Check out the middle-section on the track “Atramentous” if you wanna be transported to the CoolZone™.
As with Obsolete, Siderean were a band who were previously on my radar by way of releasing a very promising 2-track EP some years ago, both of whom delivered massively on that promise this year with insanely strong debut albums. Despite hailing from Žižekville Slovenia, you could easily convince even the most knowledgable modern death metal fan that they were part of the burgeoning Norwegian weird-death scene, this is perfect cosmic-themed metal.
2021 marks the first time Suffering Hour has released an album which hasn’t been my #1 of the year with a bullet. Don’t get me wrong, The Cyclic Reckoning could easily be the greatest album you’ll hear all year, but in the interests of appearing “impartial” it’s here at #2. There’s not much I feel like I need to say about this that I didn’t already cover in the interview with Josh prior to release, and you already know how fucking amazing this shit is. Still one of the only bands breaking boundaries in the black/death genre.
FFO: riffs, food, oxygen.
From all the way back in February, Carcinoma’s Labascation remains my favourite release of the year. Scathing dissonantly-flared riffs erupt and mutate into apocalyptic thunderclaps as quick as lightning through a wet dog. Bridges the gap between the oppressive and asphyxiating atmosphere Ulcerate are renowned for, and the phrenetic psychosis-inducing turnarounds you’d expect from a band such as Pyrrhon. Brilliant album.
FFO: Convulsing, Abyssal, looking like oldmate on the cover art.
So 2021 sucked, that should be pretty universally established by now. Sure, COVID was the universal constant, however the whole shebang sucked in a lot more ways than one. Not music, thankfully. Tons of good metal but also tons of good non-ferrous releases. The whole list is a bit all over the place but then again so was I, so was everyone in twentytwentyone (no rhyme intended).
Honorable Mention: JV & Eevil Stöö – Ooze Alto
2021 has been the year where I developed a weird affinity for Finnish Memphis rap(?), most of all the ski mask-clad Eevil Stöö. I have been told that he is more of a joke persona than anything, but since I don’t speak a lick of Finnish it sounds just as hard (if you want the really special stuff, there’s a phenomenal EP by Khid and Paperi T which is unlike ANYTHING I know and I cannot recommend enough).
As luck would have it, Stöö, together with a guy who goes by JV (who does double duty on production as well as rapping) released a new album under the title Ooze Aalto this September. I can’t stick it into my top 10 on good conscience though. There are fantastic tracks in there but overall I find it lacking in consistency a bit. Still, I’d be remiss not to mention it at the very least if only on account of this weird obsession this year has spawned for me.
Ekulu came at the recommendation of a Swedish friend from cycling circles who said the band was filling the Power Trip-shaped hole in his heart.
Unscrew My Head is a mighty fun album, full of energy. I haven’t been all that huge on hardcore in the past, so while it may be hard for me to put the album in a broader genre context, it activates all the right neurons in my monkey brain.
9. Dormant Ordeal – The Grand Scheme of Things
Independent | TDT Feature
A last minute entry to my list, this brand new album from Polish death metal outfit Dormant Ordeal is what a dear friend of mine called ”ein Brett” (literally: a board of wood). I think the most apt translation is ”massive”, said with a British accent. I can’t think of much interesting to write right now beyond this being a damn fine death metal album, so I’ll just leave it at that.
8. Kayo Dot – Moss Grew On Swords And Ploughshares Alike
Prophecy Productions | Review
It’s Toby Driver. For something slightly more in-depth there’s also a review on this site written by some shmuck.
It’s been a prolific year for the one man army that is Noisebringer Records. Not one but TWO albums that sent heads spinning throughout the metal-sphere. And while Kanonenfieber tragically never really clicked with me, the dude’s second release sure as hell did.
Just like Menschenmühle, this is a BLEAK album. However, with its thematic focus on World War I, Sisyphus is a much more introspective album, an album ”come to life as a result of doubt and self-loathing”. As would be expected of the subject matter it comes wrapped in a loving DSBM package. An album for those special moments in life that are sadly all too common.
This had to end up somewhere on this list, didn’t it? After basically creating a new subgenre with New Model, Perturbator, being the restless Frenchie he is, has already moved on to new things and effortlessly put out an entire darkwave album.
Lustful Sacraments oozes depravity, the whole thing seems to be bathed in a haze, no clean light escapes it, it slurs and staggers. In other words it perfectly delivers on the premise. Perturbator has shown himself as almost infallible with his past releases and there is no indication of the streak ending any time soon.
An absolute spectacle. Up to this point I was walking through life blissfully unaware of who Pharoahe Monch was and the reputation he apparently carries in hip-hop’s underground circles. His teamup with drummer Daru Jones and guitarist Marcus Marchado has created what is essentially hip-hop Black Sabbath.
The writing is brilliant as is the storytelling—contemporary, dense and with a lot of referencing the occult. All in all, any metalhead should feel right at home here.
4. Grey Aura – Zwart Vierkant
Onism Productions | Review + Interview
Dutch black metal outfit Grey Aura has never been one to shy away from ambition. After their debut album detailing the last expedition of Willem Barents, the band evidently decided they had to reach even higher. Zwart Vierkant tells the story of a 20th century painter becoming obsessed with the Russian avant-garde, slowly losing his mind.
The avant-garde spirit is seamlessly imbued in the music as Grey Aura breaks with many of the genre’s conventions. THIS is the progressive black metal everyone wants to be. The fact that the vocals occasionally sound like a content aware scale video—and it doesn’t detract from the experience in any way—speaks volumes about just how well-crafted this album is.
Metal and Hip-Hop have had a storied relationship together, with much of what became nu-metal not being remembered too fondly. Zambian-Canadian artist Backxwash works the combination to a wildly different result, pulling from noise and punk just as well as metal.
I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses is a noisy, angry, even desperate album, dealing with themes of (gender) identity, substance abuse and mental health head on. Backing up the maelstrom is a perfectly picked cast of collaborators, among them Ada Rook and Clipping. With no added sugar, nothing to take the edge off, it leaves the listener with an experience as engrossing as it is harrowing.
Seemingly out of nowhere, like a bird rising out of the ooze of the information highway, Sewerslvt has brought the joys of drum & bass to a whole new generation of internet poisoned youth, me included I’d say. A career trajectory akin to a supernova, sudden and bright, yet also brief, she appears to have bookended her efforts in November with we had good times together, don’t forget that. I still haven’t listened to the latter album, some unnamable force is keeping me off of it and its tragic subject matter.
Which is why I’m talking about her other album released earlier this year: Skitzofrenia Simulation. An album that goes much beyond being a simple DnB effort.
Besides the much heavier mood evident in all of Sewerslvt’s work, it’s not afraid to branch out, incorporating some noise into the mix, some ambient, lots of little doodads that make the whole thing feel incredibly organic and alive. You’re sitting in the belly of the beast and are being showered with spectacular DnB.
German new wave is back baby. And old Konstantin makes it seem like it never left. This came out of nowhere somewhere around the start of this year and it stuck with me like no other album. No album this year got spun in my tiny little Chinese MP3 player as much as this one. Im Institut für Strömungstechnik is moody yet infectious, heck, even danceable if that’s your thing. It’s both deep and shallow depending on what it needs to be in any given moment.
The album even goes the extra mile in providing lyricism that doesn’t merely sound cool as new wave often does, but also effectively delves into all the hot fresh topics like dissociation (possibly relatable?), youth and labor (highly relatable), lost love (not that relatable at least to me, I write for a metal blog after all) or burning down local factories (I WISH that was relatable). It’s been a hit with the depressed little bitches all over the world I’ve recommended it to, and it should be a hit with YOU too, dear reader.
The year is 2021. Marilyn Manson won the Pulitzer Peace Prize for Best Movie, barely edging out perennial crowd-pleaser Mark Zuckerbezos and his smash hit Broadway musical, Meta. Chet Bolsanaro finally cleared out the rest of that pesky Amazon Rain-whatever and made way for the world’s largest diesel-powered beer pong table. England made good on its Brexit promise to eliminate the National Health Service by becoming the 51st state in America and emerging as the focal point for the hyper lethal COVID-19 $MEGA variant. Out of a diligent sense of health, safety and global responsibility, Europe responded by banning all travel to and from South Africa.
Neill Jameson twirled his moustache at multiple wine-tasting events.
In a year such as this, what can one do other than listen to sounds? Enclosed below in no particular numerical order are some that I heard this year.
5. Talking to People in Person
Kind of an unexpected experience this year, but often a pleasant surprise. Who knew that people were of different heights and shapes, body language and even could sound in some way other than a compressed tin-can MP3 on a video call? It’s not the top sound of the year, but there’s a lot of raw talent there and I’m excited to see where People take it in the future.
These things are pretty good. Some of them can be quite fast, and a bit too exciting. Others can be slow and a bit of a downer. There are even ones that, inexplicably, go fast and slow. I’m not totally sold on the idea yet personally but I’m thinking that with some refinement, riffs could really turn into something with longevity.
3. Crunchy Leaves
Where riffs are often lacking in crunch, bite, and that real raw organic sound, leaves make up for in spades. There’re tiny crispy ones, big chonky ones, medium ones with a solid body, the list goes on and on, and nothing quite captures the bittersweet blend of nostalgic youth and a sense of ever-present change hurtling toward a future of musty decay.
2. The Resounding Clang of a Trash Can
A sack of unspoiled misshapen food lands at the bottom of a dumpster with a deep brassy echo. A half empty 40oz Steel Reserve bottle jangles against the side of the public park refuse bin. The lid slams shut on a household wastebasket and sits slighlty askew, the cheap hinge bent where the rivet came loose. All trash cans are equal and cherished under the benevolent gaze of the Saint of Anger, whose snare drums we tighten in solemn reverence.
1. Puppy Noises
Whether it be the pitter patter of tiny feet, the small crunch of mystery item-chewing or a fit of snorts after being too excited, puppies reign supreme as the ultimate purveyors of slabs of unfettered brutality.