|2021 Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret of the Uz|
2021 has been a year. I remember the consensus for everyone was that 2020 was behind us and that 2021 would be better, that we would move forward collectively and gain empathy and understanding. Boy was that wrong. Fortunately, music once again rose to the occasion to color our individual moments throughout 2021, to grace our euphoric highs and provide a balm for our seemingly disconsolate lows. Found below are my individual albums that made the clearest marks on me, and unlike last year, ranked accordingly; I really gotta start being more like Dewi and writing little blurbs for the ones I liked so I don’t forget them when list making time rolls around. Here’s to a better year, and happy new year to you all.
|70||Like Moths to Flames|
Pure Like Porcelain
Fun, albeit a little samey metalcore goin’ on; never really gave this band the time of day back in the day, partially because I kept confusing these guys with The Color Morale, who I never cared for, but the cover for this is bitchin’.
|69||Heave Blood and Die|
Post-punk whose back half is by far stronger than their front half, this is still an enjoyable listen overall. Papa Uni, I jam for you.
Happier Than Ever
It’s Billie Eilish. It’s a bit more one-note and unmemorable than her debut, but at least it was better than Lorde’s ass of an album. Pun intended, bitches.
I seem to recall this being quite decent metalcore; very clean production and clean vox present that hearken back to prime era TesseracT/Contortionist. Fun for all ages/a spin or two, and maybe has a shot at living in the outer ranges of Steakcore…
Means to an End
Some intriguing melodeath going on here that brings some tasty atmosphere and instrumentals that makes me interested for more from them. No more, no less.
Solid Finnish death metal that ticks all the boxes, crosses all T’s and dots the I’s but doesn’t do much of anything else to stand out. Still good enough to help bolster your 2021 DM objectivity.
Lamenting a Dead World
Blackened sludge. ‘Nuff said.
Will of Spiritual Cleansing
Some very fun crossover on display, the cheap-ish sounding production only adds to the charm of the overall whole.
Very fuckin’ nasty hardcore. You know you love it.
Very cinematic, soothing post-rock at play. It sucks nowadays returning to the post-rock well and come up empty so many times, but there’s moments, like with this album, that make you think there’s a little magic left down there.
|60||Decline of the I|
Post-black metal. If this is how you’re gonna get me into more black metal, then I really don’t mind that much. Easy on the intangible sensibilities than just dropping one straight into the (black) fire.
Very doomy death metal that’s very tasty in the same breath. Love the old-school atmosphere and production going on in this thing.
|58||The Hyena Kill|
Alt-rock that gets very Deftones-ish at times, especially in the vocals. I’m not gonna complain when it all adds up into an enjoyable experience.
Earth Is A Black Hole
It’s just some fun indie/alt-rock. Sometimes simplicity is the name of the game instead of complexity or atmosphere. Great for sitting in one’s backyard on a late summer afternoon sucking on a Spotted Cow or two.
And we go from simplicity in the previous to complexity here: screamo from Michigan. Just solid stuff, plain and simple.
Damn, I’ve been lowkey following this band ever since their first EP, and now we have their first LP. Just fun stuff here that kinda mashes genres here and there for a very moshable time in your one-man living room pit. Fuck yeah.
|54||Between Sky & Sea|
What Matters Most
More post-rock surely can’t be a bad thing, right?
It’s Quicksand; after being introduced to them via my homework series, you can’t expect me to see their latest material in YEARS and not check it out. To that end, it was really solid, grungy alt-rock which is very satisfying, but this would’ve ranked higher if most of the songs didn’t feel incomplete.
Our Extended Play
After capturing musical hearts (and many year-end lists) last year with her debut EP, musical artist Beabadoobee follows things up with a little EP this year, and the results are just as charming as before. Love it.
Returned to Life
Filthy OSDM worship that alternates between old school thrashing death and slower atmospheric passages, with pinches of black in the vox. Absolutely disgusting, and I wouldn’t want to enjoy it any other way.
Abatement Of The Sun
More death/doom by way of Australia, you know this is good stuff when you can’t understand a single word they’re spewing out at you.
|49||My Lucky Day|
All Shimmer In A Day
As much as I try to diversify myself throughout the year(s), I’ve always got to come back to my roots. Enter My Lucky Day. Absolutely delightful shoegaze by way of pop from Japan, this album is for those kind of days where you feel like everything is going your way. Slay, queen.
Fuuuuck, I just love how unpolished and immediate this sounds/feels. This is like top-notch DIY indie right here. Delicious, delicious, delicious.
Largely mid-tempo DM that subscribes to no secret formula for success, and yet hits just right every single time. I tell ya, when my light seasonal depression kicks in, wintertime is definitely death metal time and all the good shit crawls out of the woodwork.
Is it too much of a self-conscious flex to say I was a fan before all the “Pisces” reaction videos? Jinjer being Jinjer and doing Jinjer musical things, and I’m happy to say I’m here for it.
A Sudden Realization
Another slice of retro sounding goodness, this is for those who enjoy proggy psychedelia. FFO King Crimson, early Pink Floyd, “Raven”-era Steven Wilson. Peace out, man.
Frenetic mathcore that absolutely stands out, and that’s a major positive when you consider this is a genre that’s getting fucking harder and harder to find good, original shit… or maybe I’m just getting older and more set in my tendencies. Fuck.
Adventures In Imperfection
Lo-fi instrumental hip hop beats to study/relax to, c. 2021. A random Bandcamp find, and a relaxing gem. Bless up.
In Quiet Moments
Alt/indie with traces of shoegaze mixed in, and for extra spice different vocalists for every single track. I loved this approach, and this was a delightful changeup to kind of mellow out to.
In Praise Of Shadows
Ambient approach to alternative R&B, this is another one of those albums to enjoy with a good coffee/good beer, good friends and low lights. Good vibes
|40||Black Hole Deity|
Lair of Xenolich
Fucking evil and mildly dissonant take on tech death in the form of an EP. Just fucking nasty all the way around and tasty as all hell.
|39||Brand of Sacrifice|
You know, this probably would’ve been higher if it didn’t come out early this year. Because of that unfortunate situation, I have to honestly say that it doesn’t hold up as spectacularly as I remembered it. Still some fantastic deathcore on display, there’s no denying that.
|38||for your health|
In Spite Of
More mathcore! More hairpin tonal changes! More! More! More! Honestly, this has a more classic vibe going for it in the intangibles, and it’s a fucking blast from start to finish.
In the Court of the Dragon
Nothing terribly original, just Trivium continuing down their self-ordained alt-metal path that’s littered with thrash tendencies, but dammit, it’s still fun as fuck to spin a handful of times. Plus, their drummer is a fucking beast.
Pain Gel of Purification
The second release in 2021 from Cara Neir, this is kind of a slowburn, where it starts a little “meh” but ends fantastically strong. Textbook definition of a grower, this’ll be fun to revisit in the future.
Very retro sounding delicious indie rock/post punk that has room to fucking grow. If they stay on the trajectory they plotted for themselves on this album, keep a damn good eye on them in the future.
|34||Black Sky Giant|
Instrumental stoner rock from sunny Argentina. Sure, stoner rock is stoner rock, but it’s still fun to hear something slightly different being represented in the genre, in this case being able to focus on the instrumentals and intangibles and not have to worry about vox/lyrics not holding up. Fun shit right here.
It could be because I didn’t get to this until late in 2021, but sometimes meat-and-potatoes deathcore that doesn’t set out to reinvent their respective wheel just hits better than the adventurous shit. Vicious little slab of such right here.
Do It With A Smile
Female fronted hardcore that’s fun as fuck to throw some elbows and kicks to. Meet me in the pit, you fucking cowards.
Instrumental prog guitar jams for those of you (like me) who enjoys Polyphia or Chon.
See above, but more Chon than Polyphia influence here. Greetings from Estonia.
|29||Fuoco Fatuo (ITA2)|
Absolutely crushing death/doom from Italy, but with more emphasis on the doom than death though. Just fucking excellent from front to back and fucking clogged with atmosphere.
Ahhhhhhh, jazz. You can never have enough good jazz. Get on it.
|27||200 Stab Wounds|
Slave to the Scalpel
Ya know, there’s death metal that strives to be confrontational and then there’s the tongue in cheek stuff, deliberately gross and vulgar just to get a rise out of you and a laugh for them. Enter 200 Stab Wounds. Disgustingly filthy in all the right ways and still riffs harder than most other DM bands in the scene, I love that they’re starting to get some recognition.
|26||The Joy Formidable|
Into the Blue
It looks like we’ll never reach the heights that The Joy Formidable previously touched with “Wolf’s Law”, but at least we still get new music from them, so that’s still a good thing. Keep going, TJF, I still enjoy you.
This was a Dewi-influenced listen, and the man has spectacular taste. Very thick, oppressive death-flecked grind that leaves one disoriented and gasping for breath, this was, and still is, a blast from the word “go”.
Very gothic infused alt-pop(?), this really scratches that itch I get for when I wish for new Nostalghia. Something I didn’t think I’d get into as much as I did, but this is good.
Who knew such a concoction between sludge, doom and death would create such a vile monstrosity such as this? 2021 was incredible for death metal.
|22||Signs Of The Swarm|
Signs of the Swarm prove they’re still solidly capable of deathcore goodness as we’ve come to expect, and they deliver it in spades on here. I’m glad I didn’t give up too much hope for the genre, as SotS relit my deathcore flame.
Hardcore punk that’s not afraid to punch you in the nose and ask what you’re gonna do about it. Fuck you, bitch.
A cacophonous riot of hardcore and punk, this was incredible - almost pure, undiluted chaos. Fuck yes, more please!
Dissolved in Hyphae
Grind-besmirched death metal in under 10 minutes, proving you don’t need much to make one hell of an opening statement. Can’t wait to hear more from these guys.
I dunno what crack Johnny’s smoking to make him put this low in his lists, I found this to be enjoyable. I agree it’s not as good as “10” but better than “Makkuro”, this is still a toe-tapping good time. My only suggestion is that for their next, can we please have more math and a little less rock? Thanks.
The Black Mouth of Sepulchre
Said it before and I’ll say it again: 2021 was THE year for good death metal. A bit more fast paced than some of my other entries here, this is still fucking damn good, and that’s all that matters.
...And I Return To Nothingness
Ahh, Lorna Shore. If SotS relit my deathcore flame, Lorna Shore rekindled the embers, eschewing some of the more overt -core tropes of the genre and instead leaned into the -death elements. As it is, the band apparently have more material ready for 2022, and I can’t wait to hear it.
Eve of Infliction
More OSDM worship from jolly old Finland, and really the release that got me intrigued enough to test the 2021 DM waters; this thing just crushes expectations right and left and is just so sonically satisfying.
|14||Noise Trail Immersion|
Another release that actually grew on me the more I spent time with it, Noise Trail Immersion’s latest just feels so complete, like the band is confident in their footing and vision, and I can’t help but respect that. Humbug to the haters, this is actually good.
An Evening with Silk Sonic
At times too slick for its own scope, this is still such a good time. This just reminds me so much of growing up and helping my dad, just getting hands dirty and jamming out together with classic rock and Motown on the radio.
Rien ne suffit
Goddamn, but these boys have blossomed into something even more discordant and unsettling as anything they were before, and I don’t want it any other way; just that opener alone is enough to send chills down one’s spine. Goddamn.
A Tear in the Fabric of Life
You know, I’m still not entirely sold on the vox here, but I can’t deny this EP is fucking vicious from start to stop. If their previous material is just as good, what have I been missing out on?
Crypt Of Ice
The first bonafide death metal release from 2021 I really vibed with, I really had no expectations going into this and was subsequently floored. I don’t care if Frozen Soul sounds too much like Band X or Y, I fuckin’ like this.
|9||Rostro Del Sol|
Rostro del Sol
Once again, retro vibes dominate in releases such as this, and I can’t help that I really enjoy this stuff. Mixing blues, funk, jazz and prog, this kind of stuff is 9 times out of 10 my kind of jam due to Uzucore foundations.
Absolutely massive in sound and scope, I couldn’t quite get over how damn good this was. With a band like DVNE and an album like this, modern prog metal looks like it’s in good hands.
Perfect Forever, Forever Perfect
This… this awakens elder memories, of standing on bleachers at Summerfest and experiencing bands like Manchester Orchestra and Brand New for the first time (before all that skeevy shit went down with Jesse), of mentally connecting simultaneously with the heart-on-sleeve approach to the whole experience and the bleeding heart lyricism… damn. For as much as things change, some things still stay the same.
Path of Wrath
Full disclosure, but for the majority of 2021 this was my clear cut favorite to win the top spot on my list, but revisiting this seems to have tempered my memories somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, this is still some fantastic blackened hardcore, but for one reason or another it’s lost that special “something” that made me hopelessly endeared towards it, but enough of my selfish wailing - this is damn good. Check it.
Silver Lining Suite
Incredible piano driven jazz that acts as a perfect counterpoint to my more somber moments throughout this year, Hiromi just keeps effortlessly elevating my opinion of her with each release I hear from her. From beginning to end this album is simply captivating and nothing feels out of place - purely perfect. As much as I enjoy rock and metal in its myriad forms, I will always have time for jazz, and especially for jazz from Hiromi.
I’m lost in nostalgia. It’s hazy and there’s tinges of melancholia brushing almost ghostly along the edges. Bands like Year Twins and Arm’s Length here trigger such feelings, but where Year Twins accomplish this generally, Arm’s Length achieves this much more acutely, and for that I’m too simultaneously sad and happy to feel anything more than grateful. In a musical sense, this is a welcome feeling. I need more of it, and I need more music like Arm’s Length to keep this feeling unlocked and at the ready.
Yarost’ I Proshchenie
Russian doomgaze that certainly eases the pain of missing The Angelic Process. There’s no other way to explain it. Listen to it. Experience it.
Realms of Exquisite Morbidity
My favorite OSDM release of this year, and it’s not even close. To my mind, all the intangibles here are perfect and this brings such an incredible atmosphere to the entire proceedings… just wow. A+ wagyu death metal. Credit to the Realm of Metal’s discord for pointing me to this, otherwise I never would’ve known about it.
Not gonna lie, there was a mild amount of sentimentality that went into deciding this pick, like I knew Wolf King was dropping but I didn’t know what would be my #1 pick. I threw this on and that initial sense of euphoria came flooding back over me as if I was experiencing this for the first time again. The GazettE don’t bring anything wild or excitingly original to the table, and yet Mass shows a band firing confidently on all creative cylinders once again, and it’s been fun to watch the band regain their momentum. Nothing the band does is really going to top their earlier album DIM, but that’s fine with me as long as we keep getting albums like Mass. Roll the nostalgia, roll the euphoria.