Favourite Metal Albums of 2021

Lists are fun, but the gatekeeping in the metal community can be wild. Here’s hoping no one gets mad at my awful music taste. This is my final music year-end list, before I conclude my 2021 reflections with my limited cinematic experiences in due time. x

10. Alien Weaponry – Tangaroa

was no fluke. Tangaroa follows through on Alien Weaponry‘s continued promise of heavy thrash metal that fans of veterans like Sepultura and Testament would relish, and relentlessly spirited energy that infects the dullest of crowds.

Alternating between English and their native tongue, the young band keeps their brand of metal fresh with the welcome influences of their Māori heritage. When the grooves do begin to blend, one standout track Unforgiving dares break out of the formula, slowing down for emotions stripped bare.

9. Beartooth – Below

With their tendency for contagious pop-driven hooks, Beartooth doesn’t neatly fall under the metal umbrella. But while their melodic choruses and depressive lyrics are not for everyone, Below may just comprise enough heavy hitters to move your hardened hearts.

In what is essentially his solo project, Caleb Shomo produces and writes all his music, and it all feels resultantly personal. It’s so hard to know these days if anybody feels the same. His grounded and relatable lyrics act as a catharsis for a generation that visibly struggles to cope in the age of mental crisis and social anxieties.

8. Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Power metal often invites ridicule for its theatrical excess and fantastical subject matter that some may unfairly call cheesy. Yet there is little reason not to love the soaring music for the incredible feelings of triumph it brings.

In its uplifting melodies and lyrical call-to-arms, Austrian power metal band Dragony epitomises the best of this shining optimism. An enthralling symphonic epic, their latest album Viribus Unitis is no doubt perfect for genre fans.

7. Be’lakor – Coherence

On the other end of the spectrum is Be’lakor, whose darker sound is the very appeal of their music. The melodic death metallers knows to paint an atmospheric picture with their songs that encapsulate dread in its rawest form.

Despite the blast beats and rapid notes, the compositions never seek to solely assault. There is a deliberate balance, letting loose its tautly strung tension with acoustic-driven instrumentals like Sweep of Days and Indelible in between.

6. In Mourning – The Bleeding Veil

Swedish metallers In Mourning are keeping up their streak with their sixth release The Bleeding Veil. At under 46 minutes, the album’s length impedes little on quality, with every track composed of their characteristically moody atmosphere and funereal melancholy.

Against the harsh sounds, the accompanying clean vocals befit their intent to convey their dark lyrics and never sound out of place. This is the perfect collection of some of their best works, technical yet impassioned.

5. Herzel – Le Denier Rempart

To the heavy metal community, it’s time to welcome French band Herzel to the top ranks. Their debut album Le Denier Rempart is an absolute relevation, charging in with the skill and confidence of long-time veterans.

Traditional instruments feature on the titular track and L’Ultime Combat, though even without which, the melodic solos and pounding riffs are sufficiently gripping. Their storytelling, by the pure form of music, is a treat for fans of Celtic and folk-laced metal; fluency in their native tongue is optional.

4. Portrait – At One with None

In their latest revisit to old-school heavy metal, Portrait continues to draw comparisons to early King Diamond and Judas Priest, much thanks to the impressive range of vocalist Per Lengstedt.

But At One with None is no mere echo of the past. Even amidst heavy riffage and riveting solos that characterised the glory decades of the genre, there is an audible evolution of their own distinct sound since their last release, that is as melodic as it is, powerful.

3. KK’s Priest – Sermons of the Sinners

The legacy of Judas Priest may have regrettably diverged into two paths, but there is no lamenting that we are getting the best of both worlds. As though no time as passed since his departure from the band, legendary guitarist K.K. Downing finds his own comfortable road with the formation of KK’s Priest.

Recruiting former vocalist Tim Ripper Owens for the mammoth task, the new group unsurprisingly carries on the familiar genre-defining sound of their shared past. With outstanding bangers that could just as easily belong to Firepower, Priest fans can only rejoice, even as we hold out a glimpse of hope for eventual closure to the feud.

2. Architects – For Those That Wish to Exist

Architects gives everything to their performances, and it shows. Intense and evocatively meaningful, For Those That Wish to Exist makes us feel their honesty in every word, their outpour of rage and despair in every note.

Where Holy Hell dealt with the pain of grief on a personal front, these new lyrics fight larger demons on a societal level and hold humanity culpable for our gradual ruin. Incorporating the beauty of soaring strings and brass (even on the album), their openness for orchestral experimentation lends grandeur to their heavy sound – distinctive and unforgettable.

1. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Nearly six years after The Book of Souls, legendary NWOBHM pioneers Iron Maiden has made a spectacular return with an epic double album. Clocking in at over 80 minutes, Senjutsu delivers on their massive ambition for both scale and inventiveness.

Cinematic in sound and aesthetic, the album highlights all that we love about the band, from beautifully operatic vocals to perfect guitar harmonies. It goes without saying that the art direction, which has adorned Eddie in battle-worn samurai armour this time, is an absolute master stroke for this intricately designed experience.

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