Essential Dozen New Metal Albums of 2021!

1. // CONVERGE : Blood Moon 1 (Epitaph / Deathwish Inc)

Converge have joined forces with their close friend Stephen Brodsky (Cave In/Mutoid Man) along with the beautiful singing voice of Chelsea Wolfe (with creative partner Ben Chisholm), to create one of the most experimental albums of the year. Fusing together the bands Hardcore roots with Post Rock/Metal influences, this fine collection of songs has been hotly anticipated ever since they previewed the project by performing together live at the 2016 Dutch Roadburn festival.

With an exquisite blend of vocal styles and the combined musical talents of all involved, the album provides an intense and eclectic listen from start to finish. Recorded at guitarist Kurt Ballou’s renowned God City studio, the album flows perfectly with a deep complexity that gets better with every listen. Pt 1 suggests that this is but the first record from the new side project, and with such a plethora of music talent surrounding Converge and their associated links with other bands, it could be that we see some very interesting further collaborations to come under the Blood Moon name.

2. // MASTODON : Hushed & Grim (Reprise Records)

Mastodon have followed their rarities album release in 2020, by creating one of the finest albums of their career. Albeit a far cry from the heaviness and harsher vocal style of their early releases, Mastodon are a band who have developed their style over 20 years, moving through a progressive style to a more song based phase on their recent albums. A band naturally maturing over their career is no bad thing, and a Mastodon record always has a unique sound that comes with trading lyrics across 3 distinctive vocalists, and an instantly recognisable musical style.

The creation of the album was largely influenced by the death of their friend and manager Nick John, and an increased opportunity for writing throughout the pandemic makes Hushed & Grim, Mastodons first double album, combining a plethora of styles to create a deep and moving tribute. The twin guitars of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher expertly trade riffs and leads throughout, while the rumbling bass of Troy Sanders holds the groove together along with the extraordinary patterns of drummer Brann Dailor, who also provides the group with their cleanest vocal sound. This seems peppered across the record more so than ever before, and none so more electrifying than on pre-release single ‘Teardrinker’.

3. // ARCHITECTS : For Those That Wish To Exist (Epitaph)

2021 saw Brighton Metalcore royalty Architects, reinvent themselves with the release of the their ninth album, but only the 2nd since the death of founding guitarist and song writer Tom Searle. This was to be the first album not to feature any work from the man himself, and seems like the dawn of a new beginning, providing an outlet for creativity beyond what anyone may have expected from the band previously.

Songs such as ‘Animals’ and ‘Dead Butterflies’ showcase the band at its most melodic, without ever losing the power that they possess in their sound, and the result scored the band their highest charting UK album in the process. Vocalist Sam Carter has never sounded better across the most diverse collection of songs the band have created to date, and having previewed material with their first short run of UK shows in the Autumn of 2021, the band will be hitting the road hard in 2022, to build on their rising momentum.

4. // BLANKET : Modern Escapism (Music For Nations)

An interesting second album from the Blackpool quartet, who enhance the unique sound of debut ‘How To Let Go’ (2018) with more emphasis on vocals, combining elements of Art Rock with blasts of Black-Gaze, creating a sublime sounding mix of Deftones, Deafheaven and Radiohead. The singer/guitarist duo of Simon Morgan and Bobby Pook provide a clean vocal style which certainly draws comparisons with Chino Moreno (Deftones / Team Sleep), while complimenting but contrasting blackened screams sit deep in the mix, subtly melting into the music.

Their songs are beautifully complex, lyrically providing a conceptual narrative regarding modern societies obsession with on our online lives, and the effect this has on on our real life relationships. Musically Blanket merge melodic and heavy parts together perfectly, showcasing a myriad of influences which combine to great effect. Songs such as ‘White Noise’, The Last Days Of The Blue Blood Harvest’ and the excellent ‘Romance’, all show a maturity in songwriting that deserve to see the band reach the widest possible audience.

5. // HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY : Maere (AOP Records)

The Austrian duo returned in 2021, scoring their best selling album in the process, with their instantly recognisable Post Black Metal sound, which has been crafted and perfected over their 5 album career so far. Hugely impressive multi instrumentalist Matthias Solar plays and writes all of the music on the album, proving to be a master of diversity as he shows his talents across soaring guitar riffs, pounding blast beat drums and soft melodic piano lines.

Vocalist JJ (Michael V. Wahntraum) has an emotionally deep style of screaming which is always mixed in a way that compliments the music perfectly. Each track on the 85 minute double album provides the listener with a pulsating, mesmerising journey, with many peaks and troughs of chaotic aggression and blissful melody, that have become somewhat of a signature sound for the band.

6. // TIMES OF GRACE : Songs Of Loss And Separation (Wicked Good Records)

Beautifully crafted second album (10 years on from their debut), from Killswitch Engage duo Adam Dutkiewicz and Jesse Leach, who use Times Of Grace as an outlet for an alternative style, taking inspiration from the likes of Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, and blending with the roots of their Metalcore sound. Killswitch guitarist Adam D has composed the majority of the music while also providing the project with a second vocalist, taking to the mic much more frequently than during his day job.

While singer Leach clearly enjoys the opportunity to flex his vocal chords wider than ever before, delivering an outstanding and haunting performance. Both artists have used the struggles of broken relationships as inspiration for the lyrics throughout the record, creating a dark and brooding tone. And while Adam D’s unmistakable riffs naturally often blur the lines between Times Of Grace and Killswitch at times, that’s not a bad thing. However this is one side project which at times out shines the day job, a deeper musical sound highlighted on tracks such as ‘The Burden Of Belief’ and ‘Medusa’.

7. // MØL: Diorama (Nuclear Blast)

Danish Black-Gaze Metal band Møl (translated as ‘Moth’ in English) have released a cracker of an album in 2021, newly signed to Nuclear Blast Records who have backed the band to new levels, with no less than 3 visually dynamic music videos already available from the collection. This album provides a relentless sonic assault across eight tracks, with exquisite musicianship and powerful vocals from Kim Song Sternkopf throughout.

With a sound similar to contemporaries such as America’s Deafheaven and France’s Alcest, Møl blend melodic/shoe-gaze, sounding almost 80’s synth wave at times, with an old school Norwegian Black Metal influence. The band have created a distinct sound of their own within this niche, and ‘Diorama’ takes the music one step further than on their previous records, which has deservedly seen them gain a lot of interest this year.

8. // URNE : Serpent And Spirit (Candlelight)

A hard hitting wallop of a debut album from this London three piece, who have burst onto the scene in style. Envoking a sound that fuses together influences from old school thrash such as early Metallica and Testament, and 90’s Groove Metal in the vein of Pantera and Machine Head, with a modern 00’s influence from the likes of Mastodon and Trivium … this is an album laden with intoxicating riffs and cracking melodies, that weirdly make them sound like one of your favourite old bands.

It will be interesting to see Urne live to hear how only three musicians work together to create a sound as big and heavy as this. The vocals of bassist Joe Nally morph from deep and snarling to melodic and clean, giving a structure to songs such as opener ‘Serpent & Spirit’ and the superb ‘The Palace of Devils & Wolves’ that work incredibly well. Urne aren’t releasing music that breaks any boundaries in terms of originality, however when the songs are this good, that really doesn’t matter.

9. // BLOOD FROM THE SOUL – DSM-5 (Deathwish Inc)

A thoroughly enjoyable ride through a genre which could be described as Industrial-Groove-Punk-Core. In 1993 Napalm Death’s Shane Embury joined forces with vocalist Lou Koller from New York Hardcore outfit Sick Of It All, creating the one off album ‘To Spite The Gland That Bleeds’. And almost 30 years later Embury has seen fit to ressurect the project, this time with the rasping vocals of Converge’s Jacob Bannon on the mic, while also bringing in Megadeth’s Dirk Verbeuren on drums for good measure.

The album provides a pounding, hypnotic sonic journey from start to finish, relentlessly rhythmic and genre defying music across tracks which lyrically deal with the relationship between the conscious and the physical being, in both human kind and machines. Whether we will see this side project on stage or not, only time will tell … but stand out cuts such as ‘Debris Of Dreams’ and ‘Calcified Youth’ certainly deserve to be heard live.

10. // DODSRIT : Mortal Coil (Wolves Of Hades)

Third release from Swedish musician Christopher Oster, creator of Dödsrit (and formally of crust punk outfit Totem Skin), with his developing interpretation on the Post Black Metal genre. On his first two releases (Dödsrit & Spiritcrusher) Oster handled all instruments and vocals himself, while on ‘Mortal Coil’ he brings on board Dutch vocalist/guitarist, and Wolves Of Hades label boss Georgios Maxouris to share duties. Georgios is also a veteran of bands such as Destructo and Nuclear Devestation, and adds a 2nd dimension to the music which has helped Dödsrit’s sound evolve.

A new rhythm section has also been added to the band, which undoubtedly brings more ideas and varying styles to the table to help create the fullest and deepest sounding Dödsrit release so far, Four lengthy tracks make up this record, each one a separate intense journey of sound, with music that builds and drops superbly, keeping you hooked from start to finish. Hopefully we will hear even more fresh music from this new incarnation of Dödsrit in the near future.

11. // GO AHEAD AND DIE (Nuclear Blast)

Max Cavalera is one of the heavy music scenes true legends, bursting out of an underground 80’s Brazilian Thrash Metal scene with Sepultura, who in the 90’s found worldwide acclaim as they matured into a politically fuelled tribal sound. Following an acrimonious spilt while touring their platinum selling album ‘Roots’ in 1996, Max went on to form his second legendary act, Soulfly. Along the way Max has always also been renowned for collaborating and putting out quality music with side projects such as Nailbomb (with Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel), Killer Be Killed (with members of Mastodon / The Dillinger Escape Plan / Converge) and Cavalera Conspiracy (reuniting with his brother Igor & co-founding member of Sepultura).

During the pandemic one of the busiest men in music found the time to lockdown for a period with his son (Igor Amadeus Cabalera) in his quiet Arizona residence, where fuelled on a daily remedy of strong coffee, weed and steak dinners, the father and son team immersed themselves in classic old school thrash/death/hardcore records from the likes of Celtic Frost and Discharge, while watching a plethora of bleak early black & white universal monster horror films. Writing and demoing on the fly and recording with a gritty, distorted throwback sound of the 80’s underground … and ‘Go Ahead And Die’ is the fruit of their labour!

12. // EYEHATEGOD : A History Of Nomadic Behaviour (Century Media)

‘A History Of Nomadic Behaviour’ is the NOLA veterans first album since their self titled effort in 2016, following their initial run of records in the 90’s which helped cement the areas notorious underground sludge sound. The band have put together a new collection of songsfull of Black Sabbath-esq riffs, soaked in distortion courtesy of guitarist Jimmy Bower (who also plays drums in Down, the Phil Anselmo fronted NOLA super-group). 12 tracks of slow pondering, bluesy doom with snarling crust-punk vocals from Mike IX Williams.

Having battled their way through drug addictions and serious health issues over the years, Eyehategod seem to have found a new lease of life after hitting the road with the likes of Black Label Society and Napalm Death just prior to the pandemic. The band have a packed touring schedule in 2022, where the kings of feedback will be able to showcase their new heavy narcotic soaked cuts, such as ‘Anemic Robot’ and ‘High Risk Trigger’, across Europe and beyond.


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