Our Top 20 Albums of 2021!

What an incredible year 2021 was for music. From the biggest bands in the world to the bedroom single person projects, there have been some incredible albums this year. So many, in fact, that narrowing it down to just 20 each was one of the hardest things we’ve done this year. We managed it though! Below, you can read both Brendan and Carl’s top 20 albums of 2021. Enjoy. We sure did.

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Brendan: Number 20 – Cerebral Rot – Excretion of Mortality (20 Buck Spin)

Cerebral Rot Excretion of Mortality album cover

American doom/death metallers, Cerebral Rot, released their second full length album, Excretion of Mortality on the 25th of June via 20 Buck Spin. Not my normal go to style, Cerebral Rot have convinced me with Excretion of Mortality. Maybe it is the slightly more accessible nature, maybe it is just the fact that it’s damn good metal. I don’t know, but I really enjoyed this album. The drums are out of this world and I love the depth to each riff. The vocals are good, really heavy and meaty and the guitar offers little repetitive lines and flourishes which elevate songs at just the right time and just the right places. Cerebral Rot are a top quality outfit with clear skills and Excretion of Mortality is a superb showcase of all they have to offer. Filthy, stomping darkness with just enough groove and punch to keep everyone invested and entertained. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 20 – Callus – A Breath of Flesh Air (Trepanation Recordings)

Hailing from Preston in the UK, stoner/sludge/thrash band Callus are back with a brand-new album entitled, A Breath of Flesh Air.

This album is a blast but it’s also great to hear Callus’ really progressing. Brilliant. What a brilliant release this is. It’s the sort of thing you hear and you know big things are in store for this band based off it. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 19 – Aephanemer – A Dream of Wilderness (Napalm Records)

Aephanemer A Dream of Wilderness Artwork

Aephanemer returned with their third full length album, A Dream of Wilderness, on the 19th of November 2021 via Napalm Records. Following up their second release, the immense Prokopton, must surely have been a daunting task. That album rocketed the French band to insane new heights. It also saw them picked up by Napalm Records but they somehow managed to do it. In a way, I expected nothing less from this talented group but I must say A Dream of Wilderness is a majestic ride, managing to balance super fast heavy metal with symphonic and power metal beauty. A captivating combination that gives a feeling of grandeur and epicness while maintaining a core of fast melodeath. Aephanemer have no fear of genre boundaries. They do what works for them and the songs dabbling in symphonic metal, melodic death, power metal and more to create music that captivates and excites. A Dream of Wilderness is exactly that. A record of immense skill and talent that both captivates and excites from a band who seem to be growing from strength to strength with each passing release. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 19 – Rising Insane – Afterglow (Long Branch Records)

German metalcore quintet Rising Insane returned with their third album Afterglow, out on 10th December 2021 via Long Branch Records. With tracks centred around abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Afterglow deals with some of the most common but difficult problems the brain has to deal with.

For all the complaining we hear about the over-saturation of the metalcore market, it has to be said that the current crop of bands that ply their trade in this genre are absolutely killing it. Case in point – Rising Insane and their blisteringly brilliant new album, Afterglow. A metalcore heavyweight band that you can set your watch too, such is the reliability of their sound.

Afterglow is a triumphant release that oozes passion and has so much heart to it. As authentic sounding as you’re going to hear all year, the emotional impact is complimented by their ability to be crushingly savage. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 18 – Carcass – Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast)

Legendary death metal band Carcass released their 7th studio album and first for 8 years on September 17th, 2021 via Nuclear Blast. Called ‘Torn Arteries’, the title references an old demo created by original drummer Ken Ownback in the 80’s. When you’re a band like Carcass, with such history and such a hardcore fanbase, doing anything out of the ordinary is sure to cause some ripples. It’s why their sonic deviations over the decades have been subtle and part of the band’s natural growth. With Torn Arteries there is no ripping up of the Carcass playbook, it is unmistakably them and shares plenty in common with the Carcass of old. However, it’s also unfair to suggest this isn’t the band continuing to push forward and not live too long in the past. It’s really great to see them still trying to surprise and not just sit on their legacy and based on this outing, Carcass still have plenty left in the tank for now and the future. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 18 – Voices – Breaking The Trauma Bond (Church Road Records)

Returning after a three year absence following the release of 2018’s ‘Frightened’, Voices bring their signature avant-garde come extreme metal sound into a new dimension with their brand new album “Breaking The Trauma Bond”. Made up of 16 tracks and clocking in at 68 minutes “Breaking The Trauma Bond” proves to be perhaps the bands most ambitious release to date. It was released on November 26th, 2021 via Church Road Records.

A huge release. Not just in length (although the near 70 minute run-time can’t be ignored) but in imagination and scope. Voices have a lot to express with this new album and to call it ambitious is to underplay the enormity of what is offered here.

An album that isn’t conceptual but does have an overall theme surrounding mental health, looking both inward and outward, the fracture of the mind, body and soul. It’s strong stuff and the avant-garde, blackened post metal unit express their myriad of thoughts in a powerfully succinct way. Which might seem odd when you consider it’s 16 tracks long.

The feeling that spreads through you when you realise that not a single track could be cut is fantastic. The growing realisation that Voices have aimed high and find themselves soaring now. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 17 – Basterds – A Place to Call Hell (Self Released)

Basterds A Place to Call Hell

Canadian metalcore 5 piece, Basterds, released their debut full length, A Place to Call Hell independently on the 4th of June this year. And what a debut it is too. A fiery and furious mix of all that is good in metalcore but with plenty of diversions towards the heavier deathcore sound on the way. Basically, A Place to Call Hell delivers massively. It is short, at just 24 minutes but they pass in seconds with no filler, no boredom and no repetition. Basterds have really made me want to dive into the mosh pit with this album. They are a band that have definitely grabbed my attention with probably the best example of all that can be good in metalcore that I have heard in a long while. Well played. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 17 – Doodswens – Lichtvrees (Svart Records)

Founded in Eindhoven in 2017, Doodswens initially erupted into the underground scene in 2019 with their demo. Svart Records unleashed the debut album from Dutch female black metal duo. “Lichtvrees” (translation: fear of light) was unveiled to the world on the 3rd of December 2021.

A hellacious listen, Lichtvrees is old-school, raw black metal channelling bleak emotions and negative thoughts into 8 tracks of savagery. The sound of an underground band emerging with a bloodlust and evil intentions. Future superstars of the black metal scene. That much is for sure based off this album. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 16 – To Kill Achilles – Something To Remember Me By (Arising Empire)

Scottish quintet To Kill Achilles released their new album ‘Something to Remember Me By’ on 5th February 2021 via Arising Empire. The modern post-hardcore, melodic metal metal sound of To Kill Achilles, drips in reverberation and intensity, and is delivered with the kind of passion that comes from a band completely in the moment. The new album shows a wide variety of what To Kill Achilles can do with tracks that hit with the force of a sledgehammer and others having moments of melodic levity that add so much more weight to things. Riffs that worm their way into your mind, vocals that scream with passion and heartache. These guys are so talented and so genuine and Something to Remember Me By just cements their place in my mind as one of the very best and most talented bands in melodic metalcore. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 16 – Mastiff – Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth (eOne)

Forged in 2014, Mastiff’s unique combination of blackened sludge, grindcore, and powerviolence creates a bleak and chaotic atmosphere. Conceived during a pandemic-enforced longest stretch between Mastiff records and crafted in just five days at No Studio with producer Joe Clayton (Pijn, Wren, Leeched). The band’s third full-length, Leave Me the Ashes Of The Earth was released on the 10th of September 2021.

Misery loves company and do we fucking love being in the company of Hull’s Mastiff.

It’s been a long wait, but the time has come. Leave Me the Ashes Of The Earth – nine tracks of curmudgeonly driven and ill-mannered metal. This is Mastiff and Mastiff at their most cantankerous. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 15 – Warkings – Revolution (Napalm Records)

Warkings Revolution Cover Art

European Power metal warriors, Warkings, released their third full length titled Revolution the 20th of August this year via Napalm Records and is a typical energetic jaunt through tales of battles and legend. As power metal goes, Revolution is up there with the great ones. Warkings bring a ton of variety too making sure they aren’t just lumped in with the “another power metal album” label. If anything, they ignore the standard. For example, there is no true ballad on this album and the final song is not 6 hours long. The tempos in songs switch regularly, the additional rough vocals, sparingly used orchestral backing and effects. Whatever the genre labels, see and hear this for what it is, energetic and creative heavy metal full of punchy riffs and blazing leads with a singer who just oozes class. It’s catchy, fun, heavy enough to head bang happily along to with songs that are layered and exciting making it easily one of the best power metal albums released so far this year. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 15 – Nealix – Destinations (Self Released)

Nealix is the solo project of guitarist Chris Neal from post-rock/metal band Solars. On December 10th, 2021 he released his debut album of the project entitled Destinations. An instrumental story around the 5 stages of grief.

A concept/theme that really excites. Under the Solars banner, Chris has proven to be a master of his craft and this solo album further solidifies the man’s talents. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 14 – Labored Breath – Dyspnea (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)

Labored Breath - Dyspnea cover

Released on the 2nd of April, one-man Black Metal band, Labored Breath delve into humanity’s fears with the debut album, Dyspnea. Labored Breath hail from Oakland, California and really aren’t starting gently hitting us with a soul altering black metal force in Dyspnea. Thirty six minutes of metal dealing with mankind’s finality, the moment of death and ultimately are miniscule and pathetic existence within an infinite void. Dyspnea is a strong album but definitely not one for the faint hearted. Lovers of the more traditional black metal sound should rejoice at what Labored breath have achieved here but, even within the raw power on offer, there is more than enough on offer to delight fans of the post and atmospheric black metal sound. It’s an intelligent release at just the right length to not become repetitive and will leave you feeling a lot colder and a little introspective by its end. And all this by a one-man band, that’s some talent right there. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 14 – And Now The Owls Are Smiling – Dirges (Clobber Records)

Clobber Records released the new album of atmospheric black metal band, And Now the Owls Are Smiling on January 29th, 2021. Called ‘Dirges’, it follows on from the previous album ‘The Comforting Grip of Misery’ and the debut release ‘Desolation’.

Haunting melancholy, Dirges is both cold and warm, both isolating and freeing and both gorgeous and disturbing. The 8 parts that make up the album can be seen as singular slices of pain or the whole thing can be seen as a lesson in suffering. Not because of its innate savagery but rather because of how mentally draining the atmospheric side of things is.

Dirges gets under the skin and causes maddening itches but scratching is so satisfying, you’ll not want to claw it out. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 13 – Alien Weaponry – Tangaroa (Napalm Records)

Since releasing their acclaimed Napalm Records debut Tū (2018), the New Zealanders’ kinetic presence and unique sound – combining elements of thrash and groove metal with lyrics in the native indigenous language, te reo Māori — has attracted throngs of fans and media supporters across the globe.

Now Alien Weaponry are poised to dominate with the sheer ruthlessness and untempered passion of their fervid sophomore release, Tangaroa. It will be released on September 17th, 2021.

Simpler, as detailed and important sounding as ever, but just as head-smashingly heavy; Buried Underground and Dad both continue to see Alien Weaponry blow expectations out of the water. Before Īhenga delivers one of the album’s best examples of the progression in this band as we get dark moodiness, Gojira-esqe technicality and a marrying of traditional Māori choir vocals and chants with metal’s nastier side.

All good things must and end and it’s with Down the Rabbit Hole that Alien Weaponry draw a line under their incredible new album. One last fervent display that showcases imagination while being one last chance to head-bang your soul into oblivion.

The hype is real. Alien Weaponry are right on course for world domination. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 13 – Harakiri For The Sky – Mӕre (AOP Records)

Austrian melodic/atmospheric post black metal band Harakiri for the Sky return with their new album, “Mӕre,” out February 19th 2021 via AOP Records.

Constantly and consistently one of the most exciting bands, not just in atmospheric and melodic post black metal, but in metal full stop. Harakiri for the Sky never fail to bring epically heavy and thrillingly detailed music to the ears of eager fans. To the surprise of literally no-one, they’ve done exactly that again with Mӕre. At times, they’ve even outdone themselves here. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 12 – Full of Hell – Garden of Burning Apparitions (Relapse Records)

Garden of Burning Apparitions Full of Hell Cover

Back with their 5th studio album, the extreme metal band Full of Hell released Garden of Burning Apparitions on the 1st of October via Relapse Records. Garden Of Burning Apparitions brings a genre-bending assault of hardcore, grind and death metal and sees Full of Hell expand upon the very elements that have propelled them to the forefront of extreme music. Wow. Garden of Burning Apparitions is definitely not for the faint hearted. Garden of Burning Apparitions is a mammoth album. Short, of course, intense and really fucking heavy but scratch beneath the surface just a little and you find creativity, exciting song structures and intriguing instrumentation. The vocals are brilliant, the drums and the guitars – everything. I didn’t expect to like this album as much as I do but I just can’t seem to stop listening to it. A fantastic release. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 12 – Rise to The Sky – Let Me Drown in You (GS Productions)

Rise to the Sky is a one-man doom metal band from Santiago, Chile. It was released on March 12th, 2021 via GS Productions.

We all deal with grief in different ways. This is how Sergio is dealing with his. An album that honours his late father while staying true to Rise to the Sky’s modern atmospheric laden doom sound.

That loss alone adds massive emotional weight to the record but crucially, it comes through in spades via the music.

So, it’s not surprise that our expectations are high here. What is less of a surprise, is that once again Rise to the Sky exceed them. Let’s make this clear right away, this album is stunning. Spelling-binding, heartfelt, emotive and crushingly heavy. Few bands are as good at making you feel as deeply as Rise to the Sky, but even fewer are as capable of making your neck ache at the same time. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 11 – Aborted – ManiaCult (Century Media Records)

ManiaCult was released on September 10th, 2021 via Century Media Records and again is a mark of the true ferocity, technicality and pure brilliance of Aborted. They are a band at the top of their game and have got themselves into the enviable position of being a name that means quality, heavy and inventive technical death metal. This band is becoming unstoppable. ManiaCult offers all the brilliance you expect from an Aborted album. Brutally heavy, intelligent riffing and intense rhythms combine to ensure your fully engaged while vocals threaten to drag you to hell on their own. I love this band – they are another mark of consistency for me these days and ManiaCult is everything I would ever want from an Aborted album. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 11 – Wombbath – Agma (Transcending Obscurity Records)

Wombbath return with the mightiest album of their career. Called ‘Agma’, it this new chapter in the Wombbath story will be released on December 31st, 2021 via Transcending Obscurity Records.

16… yes, 16 tracks long. One of the more amazing things about Agma is how none of it is filler. Simply put, Wombbath were on a creative high when it came to writing this album and every single track sounds necessary. The other amazing thing is how Wombbath sustain their old-school death metal by adapting and experimenting with interesting new elements.

Be it melodies, a violin, high clean singing, thrashy and heavy metal orientated sounds… Wombbath are proving that they have plenty of life in them still.

Though be under no false pretentions, Agma is still out and out death metal chaos. A fiery and destructive blast of aggression, noise and intensity as only the best of the best in this field are capable of producing.

If you’re not sitting in awe of what you’re hearing, it’s because you’re too busy head-banging. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 10 – Dream Tröll – Realm of the Tormentor (Self Released)

Realm of the Tormentor by Dream Troll Album Cover

UK traditional metallers, Dream Tröll, released their latest album, Realm of the Tormentor on the 2nd of July. Realm of the Tormentor is a phenomenal release jam packed full of excitement and quality. I spent most of the album beaming from ear to ear, only stopping on occasion to butcher an insanely catchy chorus. I love a lot about this album. I think the drums are on another level, the bass is treated with respect and pushed to the fore front to often steal the show, the vocals are on point and the guitar work, riffs, melodies and solos, blow my mind. If you want an album jam packed with catchiness, huge riffs and solos and massive choruses that will stay in your head for months, Realm of the Tormentor is that album. A truly accomplished effort full of intelligence, energy and spirit that will genuinely improve your day, Dream Tröll have created an absolute gem here. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 10 – Ghosts of Atlantis – (Black Lion Records)

Ghosts of Atlantis Cover

UK symphonic/progressive metallers, Ghosts of Atlantis, will release their debut album titled on the 26th of March via Black Lion Records.

8 tracks of dark, fantastical, macabre tracks deeply rooted in ancient mysticism. The size and grandiosity of the album is stunning. This album is amazing. An utter joy to listen to from the very first note, to the last. The whole album drips in emotion and passion but delivers that powerful message in brutal fashion. There is a lot going on here with so many different components adding to the story and structure of each song but my god does it work. Grand, epic, dark, fiery, brutal – has it all in an album that will grab your attention and hold it for the long term. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 9 – Necronautical – Slain In The Spirit (Candlelight Records)

Necronautical released their fourth album, Slain In The Spirit, in August via Candlelight Records and it is awesome. The Manchester band are pushing both their sound and their concept to the outer limits. Supremely dark they may be but they are a true shining light in the UK black metal scene. Slain In The Spirit is unwaveringly brutal in their inimitable black metal way but with such a liberal imagination. With songs coated in fascinating layers of varying metal influences and ideas. They seem to be going from strength to strength with each release and that is mainly due to the fact that they seem to refuse to sit still. Evolution is a big part of what makes Necronautical special and Slain in the Spirit is another fine example of what this talented group can do. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 9 – Elimination – Echoes Of The Abyss (Self Released)

Elimination have taken the screams of a dying world ravaged by hate and fear and channelled them into 8 tracks of pure, unbridled rage. Their third album ‘Echoes of the Abyss’ is coming on the 29th of October 2021.

It’s been 10 years since the last Elimination full-length but the thrash heavyweights have been killing it since their 2017 reformation. First, with 2019’s incredible ‘Of Gods and Beasts’ EP, the huge single ‘In the Name of Violence’ and live (such as at Bloodstock 2021) when they could.

Echoes of the Abyss continues that trend with 8 slamming, thrashy tracks rooted in a modern sound but serving up some tasty tributes to the classic days. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 8 – Urne – Serpent & Spirit (Candlelight Records)

Urne’s Serpent & Spirit was released on June 25th, 2021 via Candlelight Records. I liked it a lot at release but it was only after seeing their glorious set at Bloodstock 2021 that it really hit home. That live performance had me return to the album and listen again and that’s the time when I truly got it and fell in love with the dark, heavy and beautiful release. Intensely heavy, the album offers respite only through the glorious use of melody always at just the right time and with just the right amount. Serpent & Spirit has found the perfect balance between heaviness and catchiness and thrust Urne into the forefront of metal heads minds around the world. Truly one of the best releases of this year. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 8 – Waldgeflüster – Dahoam (AOP Records)

Emotional, profound and naturalistic German black metal Waldgeflüster will release their 6th full length record called ‘Dahoam’ on September 24th, 2021 via AOP Records.

There are few bands capable of crafting such deep and meaningful melodious music while staying rooted in the core black metal sound. Few bands that can transport you to wild and wonderous places, filled with natural beauty and a sense of belonging. There are few bands quite like Waldgeflüster and the band continues to show just why they are so beloved.

Simply stunning. What an album. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Overall 7 – MØL – Diorama (Nuclear Blast)

On November 5th, talented blackgazers MØL released their second studio album, Diorama via their new label Nuclear Blast Records. MØL are a special band and really took a lot of people, including all at GBHBL by surprise with their excellent debut Jord back in 2018. And so the news of the follow up, Diorama being released was met with intense anticipation, expectation and excitement. Could they possibly live up to the hype? With ease, it turns out. Diorama is an exciting and fascinating listen. It is also brave as it sees the band expand even further on their Jord sound. The hype from Jord could so easily have seen them just release a part two and to be honest, that would also have been great. Instead, they have grown to even greater, more expansive heights with an album full of intelligence and inspiration. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 7 – Sea Sleeper – Nostophobia (Metal Assault Records)

Portland’s Sea Sleeper’s debut record Nostophobia (Meaning an abnormal fear or dislike of returning home) is out on February 5th 2021 via Metal Assault Records.

Combining two of my favourite genres (death and post) Sea Sleeper are a band after my heart even before the play button has been hit. After hearing the full album, I can confidently say that my heart now belongs to them.

What we have here is an album that is disgustingly intense and brutal. Wild and uncouth and downright dangerous sounding at times. Yet Sea Sleeper have converted their aggression and filtered it through the medium of post and more to come up with a shockingly powerful release. One that is deeply layered and packed with nuances that won’t be picked up on immediately. Stuff that comes at you on repeat listens as your brain looks beyond the crunching drum beat and fiery vocal wails. The guitars taking on a much more profound prominence and for good reason as there is some amazing things going on here.

Every band wants to be unique. To sound like their own thing and to be unmistakable when heard. Few manage it, especially these days. No such problem for Sea Sleeper as it would be impossible to mistake their brand of controlled chaos for anything but them.

It sounds absurd to complain about length here as Nostophobia is around about 43 minutes long. However, the complaint is valid… it’s not long enough! Sea Sleeper have pulled an absolute blinder here and more is wanted. No, desperately needed. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 6 – At The Gates – The Nightmare of Being (Century Media Records)

The long-time leaders of melodic death metal, At the Gates, released their latest offering called The Nightmare of Being on the 1st of July via Century Media. I’m a big fan of the genre (as anyone who knows me is aware) and a big fan of At the Gates who are on one hell of a run with quality albums since their release of their comeback album At War With Reality back in 2014. There is something truly admirable about a band with a legendary status who still have the drive and motivation to evolve and adapt instead of sitting in their status and that is what At the Gates have done again here. 10 tracks of melodeath but that is too basic a description. There are traditional sounding songs, yes, but there are also songs that see the band stretch their progressive and technical legs showing that At the Gates are as relevant and forward looking today as they were back in the 90s.

Carl: Number 6 – Urne – Serpent & Spirit (Candlelight Records)

Candelight Records released Urne’s Serpent & Spirit on June 25th, 2021.

It’s impossible to not be pulled to the dark through the sheer delight that Urne’s debut album will create. If you’re a fan of mood-altering, focused heaviness and exciting twists and turns, then Urne’s slab of heaviness will make you very happy.

From heavy head-banging bursts to mournful and grandiose soundscapes, Urne’s darkness is spread far and wide. The pull to the light is strong but the gloom wins out, thanks to unexpected but captivating beauty. Two words you might not expect to read when it comes to an album that is still crushingly heavy. It just so happens that metal can make you feel when the band is doing it right and Urne are doing it so very right. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 5 – Cradle of Filth – Existence is Futile (Nuclear Blast Records)

Cradle of Filth Existence is Futile Cover

Cradle of Filth returned with their latest offering, Existence is Futile, their 13th studio album, the 22nd of October via Nuclear Blast. 13 albums in, 30 years of existence and Cradle of Filth sound as creative and exciting as they ever have. Existence is Futile is a remarkable body of work. It flows brilliantly and basically just moves from immense track to immense track. There isn’t a bad song, hell, there isn’t an okay or average song on this album. Songs like Suffer Our Dominion and How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose are up there with some of their best work and minor missteps like the slightly flatter chorus in Us, Dark, Invincible are barely noticeable being surrounded by such quality on all sides. These guys are so consistent and settled these days and the music is really benefitting from it. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 5 – Rise To The Sky – Per Aspera Ad Astra (GS Productions)

Rising star in the death/doom underground Rise to The Sky released two albums in 2021 and it’s ‘Per Aspera Ad Astra’ that I will talk about here.

Per Aspera Ad Astra comes from a grief-stricken place and that is something that resonates throughout. It’s an incredibly expressive and sensitive album but one with heavy death and doom at its core. It just so happens that Rise to the Sky twists melody around those heavier elements with such ease.

Musically, it’s a maelstrom of feelings, turbulent depths, haunting power and impressive weightiness. It’s an exhausting listen but worth every second of your time. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 4 – Skverna Liniya – В венке из воска (In a Garland of Wax) (Casus Belli Musica/Beverina)

В венке из воска - Skverna Liniya - A Garland of Wax

Russian black metallers, Skverna Liniya, released their debut full length album titled In a Garland of Wax (В венке из воска) on the 1st of October 2021 via Casus Belli Musica and Beverina Production. The music from the album В венке из воска (In a Garland of Wax) (except the opening track) is based on the lyrics of Boris Poplavsky, (1903-1935) a Russian poet in exile.

Truly talented and deeply intelligent, Skverna Liniya have created a masterpiece here and it’s just a debut. Heavily atmospheric with transitioning sounds and styles that jump from vicious black metal to emotive melancholic melody. You feel involved and affected as you listen and that speaks volumes to the quality of the art presented here. In A Garland of Wax is a must listen, must own and must admire album. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 4 – MØL – Diorama (Nuclear Blast)

Blackgaze masters MØL returned with their eagerly awaited second studio album, Diorama, the group’s first for their new label Nuclear Blast Records.

We’ve all been waiting patiently for MØL to bring us the follow-up to Jord and finally we have it. Called Diorama, it is a fascinating listen because MØL could very easily have just done Jord Part II and most of us would have been happy… but they haven’t.

Oh, don’t be under any false illusion, this is still MØL and all the elements that makes them such a thrilling, emotive and captivating listen are still here. It’s just a developed and forward thinking MØL who aren’t afraid to experiment. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 3 – 1914 – Where Fear and Weapons Meet (Napalm Records)

1914 Where Fear and Weapons Meet Cover

The World War One centred Ukrainian blackened death metal band, 1914 released their latest offering on the 22nd of October, via Napalm Records called Where Fear And Weapons Meet. What an immense piece of work it is too. I listened to the whole of Where Fear and Weapons Meet with my mouth open in awe. Make no mistake, this album is phenomenal and this band, 1914, are exceptional. Not just as musicians but in their insane ability to tell a story. To create a visual image in the listener’s mind. You feel the emotion, the passion, the horror and the triumph with every note, every beat and every lyric. A remarkable album from a phenomenal band, Where Fear and Weapons Meet is a triumph of music and all that is good in metal. Powerful music telling powerful stories that make the listener feel like maybe just for a moment, they understand the true darkness of war. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 3 – The Mountain King – The Smell of Stars and Vomit 2 (Cursed Monk Records)

Psychedelic drone doom mastermind, The Mountain King’s latest album, ‘The Smell of Stars and Vomit 2’ was released on April 2nd 2021 via Cursed Monk Records.

Equally fascinating and daunting, set aside the time needed to fully immerse yourself in this record. There’s absolutely no half-assing it. You’re either all in or you’re not. It’s the only proper way to approach what is an absolute mammoth listen. One where words written can never fully do it justice. We’re talking about 95 minutes of story-telling wrapped up in a mixture of psychedelic and drone sounds.

Where it has both the power to have you sitting on the edge of the seat and equally, the power to send you drifting off into a relaxed dream-like state. There’s been nothing quite like this for some time. Oh, we’ve had plenty of fascinating drone and psychedelia that tells captivating stories but nothing with this much meat to the bones. Nothing that truly encapsulates the journey it is attempting to share. Nothing so long that also feels so short. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 2 – Ghosts of Atlantis – (Black Lion Records)

Ghosts of Atlantis Cover

Ghosts of Atlantis released their debut album titled on the 26th of March via Black Lion Records. They combine Greek mythology and fantastical lusciousness with epic instrumentation to create a grand and immersive soundscape. I was and still am in awe of what Ghosts of Atlantis created here. This album is amazing. An utter joy to listen to from the very first note, to the last and trust me, I have barely stopped listening to it on a daily basis. The whole album drips in emotion and passion but delivers that powerful message in brutal fashion. There is a lot going on here with so many different components adding to the story and structure of each song, but my god does it work. Grand, epic, dark, fiery, brutal – has it all in an album that will grab your attention and hold it for the long term and had been my number one album of the year since it’s release until right at the last. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 2 – Boss Keloid – Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music)

British metal/prog-rockers Boss Keloid released their fifth full-length, Family The Smiling Thrush via Ripple Music on June 4th 2021.

An album that is every bit the Boss Keloid we love but more importantly, it’s a developed and forward thinking Boss Keloid.

As progressive as ever, as chunky and groovy as ever, as harmonious and heavy as ever, this is one of the most exciting things you’ll hear all year. That it is also so heavily focused on positivity makes it all the better. The sort of feeling many of us need in these constantly trying times.

It’s a wild but captivating ride, that should be obvious if you’ve been a fan of Boss Keloid for some time. If this is your first foray into their brand of driven and focused madness then be prepared for some drooling as your mouth gapes open for around 46 minutes. You can read our full review here.

Brendan: Number 1 – Khemmis – Deceiver (Nuclear Blast Records)

Khemmis - Deceiver - Artwork

Khemmis released their fourth full length studio album, Deceiver, arriving via Nuclear Blast Records on the 19th of November 2021 and they have once again blown me away. These guys really are one of the most talented bands metal has in its arsenal. It seems they have the Midas touch, finding the perfect balance between clean, thought-provoking emotion and dark, soul crushing heaviness. Their song writing talent is on another level. I genuinely think these guys are the best we have right now, and we have a ton of great talent in metal.

Deceiver is perfection. I wouldn’t and couldn’t change a note. The pacing is perfect, the passion that pours out of every second of every single song really does connect with the listener in a magical way. It is so easy to get lost in every single song here becoming completely unaware of your surroundings or passing time. I didn’t honestly think Khemmis would be able to better Desolation to me, no matter what they did, but somehow this has achieved the impossible. It has surpassed perfection. You can read our full review here.

Carl: Number 1 – Old Man Wizard – Kill Your Servants Quietly (Self Released)

Kill Your Servants Quietly is the third and final studio album from progressive heavy rock outfit Old Man Wizard.

If you’re going to go out, go out with a bang.

Old Man Wizard leave the musical world on a high and this final album might very well be the best thing they’ve put out so far. It’s both admirable and surprising to see them call it a day when they’re creating music this strong.

Variety is the spice of life and Old Man Wizard are brimming over. So much fun and so consistently stimulating. It’s an album you don’t want to end because it means you’ll never hear new music from Old Man Wizard again (in theory). You can read our full review here.