Year In Review: The Best Releases of 2021 - Knotfest

Year In Review: The Best Releases of 2021

Posted by Ramon Gonzales in Culture on December 1, 2021

The staff submitted their entries for the artists that really got it right in 2021.

Pandemics suck.

Thank God for the return of live music and a sense of normalcy in 2021. 

An upside to the shutdowns and lockdowns is the plethora of music created when bands couldn’t tour, much of it finding its way into our speakers this year.

2021 saw reliably thunderous platters from veteran old schoolers, including Iron Maiden, Rob Zombie, Carcass, and Cannibal Corpse; bombastic new ones from Mastodon, Gojira, Trivium, Architects, Of Mice & Men, Atreyu, and Every Time I Die; Active Rock radio-ready records from Evanescence, Chevelle, and The Pretty Reckless; head-turning breakthrough albums from Spiritbox and Turnstile; metallic hardcore barn-burners by Knocked Loose, Dying Wish, and Candy Apple; Beartooth’s slick-but-savage Below; Black Veil Brides’ comic-book-style concept album, The Phantom Tomorrow; Ice Nine Kills’ absolutely bonkers sequel to The Silver Scream, Welcome to Horrorwood; rap duo Twiztid’s all rock Unlikely Prescription; and so much more from the directly and tangentially related subgenres, including black metal, death metal, metalcore, synthwave, hip-hop, and more. 

We rounded up the Knotfest staffers ‘round the world and asked them to compile their personal favorites from 2021. 

ZAO – The Crimson Corridor (Observed/Observer Recordings) 

I’ve long believed Dan Weyandt to be the best lyricist produced by heavy music and yet that’s far from the whole story with ZAO. Keeping the band lineup intact for 15 years now, with the core of the group stretching back to the late ‘90s and the band name itself now more than 25 years old, ZAO continues to innovate with each release, anchored in the atmosphere that shaped them but constantly evolving. The Crimson Corridor indulges esoteric soundscapes within the context of stomping, menacing songs, shocking in the mix of complexity, ferocity, melancholy, and authenticity. 

Kabbalah – The Omen (Rebel Waves/Ripple Music) 

Sparse instrumentation makes for a big sound with this psych-soaked occult doom trio from Spain, whose sophomore album is a spooky doom fanatic’s dark dream. Words like “ethereal” and “atmospheric” are as prevalent in descriptions of this style of music as “brutal” and “angry” are in metalcore reviews, but if the witchy boot fits… 

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails…… (Peaceville Records)

At its misanthropic and darkly spiritual best, black metal is truly more about breaking rules than burning churches. 
Not only have Fenriz and Nocturno Culto broken the rules of grammar with the unwieldy ellipsis in the album’s title, but Darkthrone’s Eternal Hails…… embraces a rich sampling of doom and even traditional metal within the same savage alchemy which blessed the world with A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Darkthrone is my favorite black metal band, doom is my favorite subgenre, and I think Fenriz loves Celtic Frost even more than I do, so naturally, Eternal Hails…… is a big “win” for me. 

Cancervo – 1 (Electric Valley Records)

I’ve got two doomy European psycho trios on my list this year. Cancervo, named for the mountain home of a mythical half-deer/half-dog creature, hail from Sardinia, Italy. Thick with fuzz and able to sound vinyl-adjacent even on Bandcamp, the band’s vocal-free debut trek to the deepest recesses of the mind utterly enchants, even for a straight edge dude like me. 

Amenra – De Doorn (Relapse Records) 

Amenra makes worshipful music intended as a form of ritual, as evidenced by the Belgian band’s live shows and series of records with “Mass” in the titles. The existential component here is left open to listener interpretation (especially for us English-only speakers), as waves of dark melodies, atmosphere, doom, and post-metal ebb and flow. 

Bonus: soft-spoken guitarist Lennart Bossu supplies some riffage in Oathbreaker, too. 

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ (Season Of Mist)

La Morsure Du Christ was the end all-be all album for me this year. It has everything I could possibly want in a black metal album: soaring orchestration, emotion packed melodies, tortured vocals and, naturally, a healthy dose of blasphemy. This album from beginning to end is an absolute masterpiece. 

Mol – Diorama (Nuclear Blast Records)

This album was extremely hard to put as #2 on my list, so let’s call it co-#1. Diorama brings something fresh to the black metal genre: hope. The album does have its share of bleakness, what black metal album doesn’t? But it also has emotionally inspiring and uplifting melodies throughout. In a genre where things can get stagnant with everyone trying to “out brutal” each other, Mol stands out from the crowd. 

Green Lung – Black Harvest (Svart Records)

Green Lung bring back what made metal a defining genre. This classic inspired album goes right back to the roots of metal, but with a modern twist. The darkness of this album, the intricate keys and guitars and the perfectly balanced rhythm section make it a must listen from front to back.

Aquilus – Bellam I (Blood Music)

I waited for what felt like FOREVER for this album. Aquilis take the tortured elements of black metal and make them simply stunning. This album almost takes a romantic approach to the pain that is black metal and I cannot wait for Bellam II. 

Voices – Breaking the Trauma Bond (Deathwish / Church Road Records)

Voices create a thoroughly cinematic experience with Breaking The Trauma Bond. This album could serve as the soundtrack to a walk down seedy, neon lit streets. But for every shadow in every corner, there is hope throughout the album. Breaking the trauma bond is grandiose without being overdone, emotional without being unhinged, and a striking addition to the Voices discography. 

Limp Bizkit – Still Sucks (Suretone Records)

The resurgence of nu-metal has been a welcome cultural shift for those of us who can never resist a good bounce riff with some turntables on top, but no band (old or new) can claim and reclaim the title of the kings of the scene: Love ’em or hate ’em, Limp Bizkit is definitely back in the house. Their first album in over a decade delivers exactly what you’d expect, but with a refined and diverse range of styles and a self-awareness that still maintains their unapologetic attitude. This is for everyone who never stopped rollin’. 

Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast Records)

Another artist that pretty much nailed it the first time around and has headbanged and grooved his way to a familiar beat ever since, Rob Zombie’s latest venture into undead psychedelic rock ‘n roll somehow manages to be his strongest body of work since, well, ‘Hellbilly Deluxe’. ‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Conspiracy’ feels massive and the perfect encapsulation of why Zombie has remained so popular for so long. The album has rightfully earned him first number one record for Billboard as well as a Grammy nomination for the lead single ‘The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition)’.

Trivium – In the Court of the Dragon (Roadrunner Records)

By the time the intro and title track of ‘In the Court of the Dragon’ has finished playing, there’s really only one conclusion to draw. Not only is this song and the remainder of the album the very best from Trivium – a perfect distillation of their hard-hitting combination of various metal stylings – but the band has also managed to outdo themselves for a consecutive three albums in a row at this point. Look no further than ‘Like a Sword Over Democles’ and ‘The Shadow of the Abattoir’ to see how these professionals are writing some of the biggest, filthiest, operatic, and essential metal music to date.

Royal Blood – Typhoons (Warner Records)

UK duo Royal Blood reinvigorated the rock scene with their raw and riff-laden 2014 self-titled debut, solidified their sound and technical prowess with a follow-up album three years later, and have now delivered a genuinely perfect work with ‘Typhoons’. Huge melodies and hooks are interlaced with hard and heavy guitar and danceable beats, this time with a greater influence on the electronic elements to make for a fuller sound than ever before. Somebody book a tour with these boys and Don Broco immediately.

Beartooth – Below (Red Bull Records)

With album number four, Beartooth have truly established their definitive blend of brutal riffs and breakdowns guaranteed to set off any number of mosh pits and an ear for insanely catchy choruses that any pop punk band would be jealous of. This is proof that a familiar formula doesn’t have to get stale, and for a band like this who sound like they could be playing anywhere from an underground club to a sold out arena, it’s their best, boldest and brightest. 

AFI – Bodies  (Rise Records)

AFI’s shortest and quickest album since their hardcore punk days took the sophisticated black noir of their latest and refracted it into eleven lashings of colour and bite-size bursts. The ability to harness styles ranging from hyperactive electronic pop to ultra smooth laid-back grooves to surprising moments of starkness and make them all make sense within AFI’s stylish but thoughtful world shows an incredible chemistry between players in a band with no one to please but themselves. 

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined  (Metal Blade Records)

Unrest bred determination in Cannibal Corpse in 2021. Their first line-up change in fifteen years and inability to work in the same place amid the pandemic only seemed to present different opportunities, bringing long-time producer and genre legend in his own right Erik Rutan into the fold for a tour de force of death metal skill and craftsmanship. It’s an exhilarating testament to the kind of vitality that has made this band so unwaveringly relevant, but have not always been given due credit for as they have so emphatically received with this. 

Dödsrit – Mortal Coil (Wolves of Hades)

Dödsrit’s quiet operation in the underground in less than five years of being a band has led them to the rare and valuable point of offering a take on atmospheric and melodic black metal that’s neither overly nostalgic nor part of an overwhelmingly populated movement already. Their ability to hit deep emotional sweet spots without sacrificing the physical thrill of extreme music is what bands should be striving for. Cleverly structured songs hit unbelievable dam burst peaks shockingly early, before subverting traditional dynamics with a sudden break into crust punk looping into something else, unlocking new paths you didn’t see coming but feel all the more magic. 

Tribulation – Where the Gloom Becomes Sound  (Century Media Records)

Tribulation’s final record with departing guitarist Jonathan Hultén feels like the completion of an arc that began with 2015’s The Children of the Night that has seen them become one of the most truly original metal bands on Earth. The deathlike and progressive brand of gothic metal forged there, laced with the dust of the grave but feeling genuinely in touch with something mystical and arcane, has hit its most triumphant and authoritative point, songs to be played in arena-sized catacombs. Where they go next feels like an enticing unfurling of sails for a band so utterly in command of the path they have trodden thus far. 

Unto Others – Strength (Roadrunner Records)

Unto Others arrived into 2021 with a cult debut behind them and an enforced name change throwing a spanner in the works. They leave it having made a star-making record leaving nary a listener untouched, a near flawless collection driven at every turn by classic level song-writing and an attention to detail elevating already robust foundations. Strength pushes into heavier and more unhinged terrain than before with opener Heroin, but the synthesis of confident heavy metal power and irresistible dark melody and harmonies never crumbles. It’s exemplified in the ability to absolutely crush a Pat Benatar cover and have it be just another track on your consistently stellar album, Gabriel Franco’s vocal charisma a howling magnet for a band who can sing about the drudgery of working life one minute and have the sound of an eagle soaring over their record the next and have both be equally convincing.

Ghost Bath – Self Loather (Nuclear Blast Records)

Maybe avoid this one if you’re having a bad day, as Ghost Bath’s Self Loather is a banquet of anguish enough to put the happiest of people in a mournful mood. Black metal with a production job that keeps its edge whilst not being too raw or too shiny is sometimes hard to pull off, but the North Dakotans achieve that immaculately here, and the addition of neoclassical elements really helps with maintaining a mood of misery. An acquired taste given the mass of sobs and screams permeating the record, but if you’re a fan of the more desperate and depressing parts of metal, then this becomes unusually addictive in a purgative sense, and songs like ‘Hide from the Sun’ and ‘Unbearable’ speak to you in different ways whilst still choking you throughout (the beautiful instrumental piece ‘I hope death finds me well’, where you’re allowed to finally catch your breath, aside).

Leprous – Apehlion (InsideOutMusic)

Leprous have had an incredibly insteresting career trajectory, going from being Ihsahn’s backing band to carving out their own sound over the past decade or so in guitar-heavy prog-metal; 2019’s Pitfalls was much more keyboard-led, and Aphelion continues down that path. Right from the reverb-lathered piano and tom intro of ‘Running Low’, you know you’re in for something epic here, and with the country twang beginning of ‘All the Moments’ building into one of the most powerful choruses of the year, and the electronic-led, utterly heart-crushing 8-minute opus ‘On Hold’, you’ll be left with no choice but to give this album your full attention, and it will reward generously in return. Vocalist Einar Solberg would steal the spotlight in any band with his frankly unbelievable range and beautiful timbre, but every single member of Leprous gets to take centre-stage gloriously in parts here, on what is quite probably the group’s best effort to date.

Moon Unit – Differences in Language and Lifestyle

Quite possibly one of the most batshit things you’ll ever hear, Croatian prog-weirdos Moon Unit manage to confuse every single unsuspecting listener on their debut full-length Differences in Language and Lifestyle, with their outstanding use of sampling, electronics and a mix of just about every genre you can think of. The band make a surprisingly coherent effort from such a wide palate – whether it’s vocalist Miholvil Burek powering through a chorus that Axl Rose would be proud of on ‘Motorized Frog Squad’, the ludicrous mid-point of the album where Moon Unit decide they’re now a hip-hop outfit in ‘Secret Squad’ (with a quite genius nod to The Notorious B.I.G.), or the dub of the fabulously-titled ‘Grob Marley’, there’s surely something for everyone here. You may not fully understand it… but that may well be intentional.

Violet Cold – Empire of Love

Black metal. Hip-hop. Shoegaze. Modern pop. Not something that should work on paper, but Emin Guliyev, mastermind behind Violet Cold, has been managing to blend all of the above into a cathartic release of absolute euphoria for years now, and he may just have made his best album to date here in Empire of Love. Feeling like the warmest blanket on the coldest day, songs like ‘Pride’ and ‘We Met During the Revolution’ are paralysing in just how much they convince you that everything is going to be okay after all, and we all just really need that sometimes. This is like nothing you’ve ever heard before – get on it. (Bonus points to Emin for being so vocal in support of the rights of LGBT+ people, people of color, and women.)

Can’t Swim – Change of Plans (Pure Noise Records)

Racking up an impressive four EPs and three full-length records in the mere six years they’ve been a band, Can’t Swim’s third studio album Change of Plans sees the New Jerseyans refine their sound after an experimental couple of years into something that takes parts of all the diverse ventures they’ve explored up to now, whilst bringing so many new elements to the table too – moments such as the jazzy piano verses of album opener ‘Standing in the Dark’, the straight-up metal breakdown in album highlight ‘Sense of Humor’ and the snarling hardcore edge throughout ‘Better Luck Next Time’, combined with the infectious sense of melody we’ve come to expect and love from the band, makes this the best album of their career.  Add in Chris LoPorto’s ever-stirring delivery of some of the most heartbreakingly downcast lyrics you’ll hear, and you have the best album of the year.

Mastodon – Hushed and Grim (Warner)

I can’t think of a finer set of songs released this year. I’m going to blame pandemic attention burnout for anyone who complains that at 90 minutes this album is too long. Imagine if ‘Use Your Illusion’ I and II were all muscle and no bloat. To make an album this grandiose and quietly melancholy at the same time is a mighty achievement, and I really think it’s one that will achieve classic status even if it takes another year or two to sink in. 

Every Time I Die – Radical (Epitaph Records)

ETID have vaulted over their own very high bar on this one. Rightly, “Thing With Feathers” has gotten a lot of attention as one of their most profound and melodically appealing songs. But the album as a whole encompasses incomprehensible brutality, near-cosmic perspective-shifting and a songwriting brinkmanship that sees them obliterating the genre conventions they smashed years ago.

200 Stab Wounds – Slave To The Scalpel (Maggot Stomp)

Exploring the razor’s edge between old-school death metal and hardcore, this debut album is stuffed full of chainsaw riffing and head-stomping breakdowns. What sets it apart is the craft in its songwriting, some textural surprises, truly unpleasant atmospherics (“Phallic Filth” I’m talking about you), and its concision. Well done to them standing out the same year Carcass and Cannibal Corpse released fantastic death metal albums.

Boss Keloid – Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music)

After ‘Herb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Melted On The Inch’ I expected big things from Boss Keloid’s new album and, well, this is wonderful. The riffing is all: weird, inventive, bursting with colour, texture and joy. Boss Keloid are obtuse in the most accessible way, heavy as brass, and weave melodies together like life’s rich tapestry itself.

Sons of Alpha Centauri – Push (Exile On Mainstream Records)

Usually an instrumental group, Sons of Alpha Centauri recruited Jonah Matranga from Far on vocals and Mitch Wheeler from Will Haven on drums (one of two drummers) for this album. The result is post-hardcore with very strong elements of the Sacramento sound throughout. It is tight, has a strong bite, and lots of arresting moods and emotional shades. It sounds like a modern classic of a revisited genre.

Alien Weaponry – Tangaroa (Napalm Records)

Considering I was instantly blown away with the band’s mighty sound upon first hearing , this was an eagerly anticipated album for yours truly. With songs written in their native language of Māori and incorporation of their culture’s traditional instruments, Alien Weaponry take it to a whole new level with Tangaroa, dominating with a heavier sound — and even heavier themes to match.

Chevelle – Niratias  (Epic Records)

This sci-fi-inspired album is the perfect form of escapism for all those interested in life beyond Earth. With sludgy instrumentals and hard-hitting tracks, Niratias is undoubtedly unique and hypnotic. Prepare for liftoff…Niratias will take you on an interplanetary, dystopian journey from start to finish.

Turnstile – GLOW ON (Roadrunner Records)

Turnstile have taken the hardcore genre and unapologetically made it their own with this album. GLOW ON embodies high energy and forward-thinking in a way that has changed how hardcore is defined by adding a whole new dynamic in it’s delivery. Turnstile manage to showcase their eclectic range in a collection of tracks that supersede category to become something unique, something all it’s own. Simply put, Glow On is a pure triumph from start to finish and will be filed as a album that not only propelled the band to new heights but changed the game as a whole.

Tomahawk – Tonic Immobility (Ipecac Recordings)

After eight long years, Tomahawk are back at it again with an album so awesomely obscure that captures the strange times we’ve endured. (Especially with “Doomsday Fatigue.”) Tonic Immobility is packed with surprises and brilliance, showcasing every member’s talents as a supergroup that delivers on being “super.”

Light the Torch – You Will Be the Death of Me (Nuclear Blast Records)

Powerfully passionate, this album is goosebump-inducing from Howard Jones’ vocals to the band’s equally exceptional talent. A combination of well-executed songwriting and emotionally convincing subject matter, Light The Torch cast a huge shadow on a album that is colossal in style and sound.

Bala – Maleza (Century Media Records)

The duo of Anxela Baltar (Vocals, Guitars) and Violeta Mosquera (Vocals, Drums) assemble an especially dynamic record for this, their third full length go-round. At all of nine tracks totaling all of about 24-minutes, the album has a concise, no frills approach in it’s heft. The songs don’t need to rely on stylistic flair to prove powerful as all hell – from a tandem no less. Interesting riffs, pummeling percussion and a style that indulges in a bit of sludge, Maleza is the kind of album with zero lulls.

Lantlos – Wildhund (Prophecy Productions)

Evolving from their earliest iteration of post black metal gaze, the inventive Markus Siegenhort-led project has seemingly embarked on an exploration of a more prog-leaning sound that makes for the kind of songwriting that hits hard and from various angles. Ranging from hefty fits of instrumental power to harmonious stretches of spacy showgaze, Wildhund is a sleeper album that proves convincing from beginning to end.

Genghis Tron – Dream Weapon (Relapse Records)

It’s been more than a decade since Genghis Tron finished out their first incarnation with the cult classic, Board Up the House. The band’s collision of electro-influenced, noisy-art extremity side-stepped any real category to exist in the margins as album that would only get better with age. That was underscored by the band’s ability to reconvene some 10 years later, with an actual drummer this time and still deliver not only a quality record but one that boasts the same spirit of innovation and inventiveness without indulging the troupes of gatekeeper heavy. Genghis Tron embrace of a level of sophistication in their extremity in a way that really does defy the conventional without translating as contrived. Dream Weapon is an essential and much like the lauded previous effort, will no doubt stand the same test of time.

Andrew W.K. – God Is Partying (Napalm Records)

Championed for his campaign of PMA, Andrew W.K.’s partying spirit was never more necessary than the last couple of years. Enduring his own personal turmoil, the undisputed Party God got uncharacteristically personal on his most recent effort and goddamn was it heavy. Discernibly less jovial, tracks like “Everybody Sins” and “I’m In Heaven” took on a introspective tone while still touting the same kind of explosive release that has become synonymous with Andrew’s stylistic signature. While ruminating on life, love, and loss W.K. manages to deliver that same kind of raucous rock heavy respite that both he and the world at large needed.

City Morgue – Volume 3: Bottom of the Barrell (Republic / Hikari-ULTRA)

Violent, volatile and downright venomous, City Morgue have merged the catharsis of the mosh with the bravado of hip hop with the kind of authenticity that separates them from the pack. Boasting bass heavy boom combined with explosive anthems that conjure visions of stage-diving and circle pits, hip hop’s outliers in Zilla and SosMula push the boundaries of the genre with a collection of tracks that are nothing short of a molotov cocktail. Heavy guitars, lumbering low-end and the kind of bars that talk that shit while simultaneously backing it up, City Morgue embody how dangerously dynamic heavy culture can be.

Gojira – Fortitude (Roadrunner Records)

Going into 2021, there was no doubt that French juggernaut Gojira had one of the most anticipated albums of the year and Fortitude certainly delivered on that hype. While the greater societal and environmental commentary of songs like “Amazonia,”Another World” and even “The Chant” showcased a unique, impressive reverence – “Born For One Thing” was the kind of statement song that asserted everything we know and love about Gojira. A technically flawless showing that delivers a knockout punch with pure precision.

Wowod – Yarost’ I Proshchenie (Church Road Records)

On their third full-length (translating to Rage and Forgiveness) the post-metal five-piece from St. Petersburg don’t pull any punches. Kicking an album off with an 11-and-a-half minute, mid-tempo song is a risk that many bands couldn’t pull off. But the tension builds over five minutes to an immense payoff when the first, down-tuned chords and harsh vocals rumble to life, eventually seguing to hypnotic chants over heavy dissonance. From there, Wowod follows up with the sub-two minute fury of Tanec Yarosti (Dance of Ire), where blast beats and d-beats abound, showing there is no roadmap for the album and anything is possible.

The album alternates between extreme intensity and mesmerizing vocal melodies, along with plenty of anxiety inducing string synths interspersed that would make any horror director proud. The guitar and bass tones are impossibly gnarly, sounding as if the players (Gerbert Liskin and Konstantin Borisov) strung their instruments with cables from a suspension bridge. It’s a complete, immersive experience that wraps up in 41 minutes, lending itself to plenty of rewarding re-listens. Do yourself a favor and put this record on in a dark room, late at night with good headphones and get lost in it. Yarost’ I Proshchenie is the best record of Wowod’s young career.

Bewitcher – Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (Century Media Records)

This here is another fine vintage of blackened speed metal. It charges through the night with more fun riffs and hooks than you can swing a scythe at.

Much like other blackened speed metal bands (Midnight, Bütcher, Hellripper, etc.), Bewitcher pays homage to the Metal Gods of yore while coating their songs with sleaze and grime. You’ll find equal parts Bathory and Judas Priest on “Electric Phantoms,” a nice dose of Venom on “Satanic Magick Attack,” and the influence of Jake E. Lee on “Mystifier (White Night City).” But lest you think this is another rehash of old metal, Bewitcher has found a way to not only set themselves apart from the legacy acts, but their peers as well.

Each song has enough heft to it to stand on its own, but as a full album they fly from one track to the next with reckless abandon, keeping your head banging and horns in the air for the entirety of its 36-minute run time. 

Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready (Sargent House)

While possibly not one of 2021’s most relaxing listens, it’s certainly one of its most captivating. 

Sinner Get Ready is not nearly as harrowing as its predecessor — then again, what is? — but that doesn’t make its impact any less visceral. This is a master class in originality and taking extreme music to places that it’s never been before. Proof that you don’t have to have downtuned guitars and blast beats to be heavy. Kristen Hayter weaves her incredible vocal range and blunt lyrics to pull the listener along one gut-wrenching line at a time through her personal turmoil. There is both beauty and ugliness in this record, often time sharing the same space.

The way she weaves in authentic, Appalachian instruments against piano and organs throughout its runtime is an absolute success. A song like “Repent Now Confess Now” has an added menace to it with the cacophony of simple sounds, bolstered by Hayter layering her vocals over herself like a one woman choir. The delivery in the line(s) “He will take your legs and your will to live” is a microcosm of what makes this whole package work. It’s raw, evokes an emotional reaction, and is underscored by the music.

Artists like this don’t come around very often. Artists that can not only lay bare everything inside of them, but do so in their own authentic way that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard. Even if you only listen to it once, don’t let this record pass you by.

Amigo the Devil – Born Against (Liars Club)

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll say “eww.” All within 33 minutes.

Danny Kiranos, aka Amigo the Devil, is closer to folk than metal, but it’s a rare feat when an artist taps into the very essence that makes us all human. When everyone, no matter what music they like or their lived experiences can feel like he’s singing directly to them.

Continuing his macabre storytelling, blunt sense of humor and wry wordplay that made 2018’s “Everything is Fine” such a fantastic release, Born Against is an album with songs that nobody else but Kiranos could write. Songs like “Different Anymore” and “Another Man’s Grave” are an unflinching look at the self, and either trying to be someone else or coming to terms with who you are… and hating it. “24K Casket” is a hilarious take on the idea that all of us are worm food in the end, and “Murder at the Bingo Hall” is a derranged romp through a smoke-filled gaming parlor. But in an album full of standouts, the biggest one might be “Letter From Death Row,” a somber, potentially one-sided love song. You just have to hear it. This man has handcrafted one of the best albums of the year, and can play it with only a single banjo or guitar.

Carcass – Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast Records)

The seventh album from the death metal veterans, Torn Arteries showcases a band who practically created a subgenre known as medical goregrind. This record showcases a unit as extreme as ever. The album’s 10 songs are full of that heavy, brutal and intricate sounds that Carcass has long been championed for. Everything about this album is awesome. From the colorful array of vegetables shaped like a human heart, to the tongue-in-cheek song titles in tracks like “Elanor Rigor Mortis” and “Kelly’s Meat Emporium”. This record is surgical, methodical, and a truly celebratory take on death, grind, rock and roll – vaulting Carcass to the heights of their subcategory and cementing their rank as legends.

Dying Wish – Fragments of a Bitter Memory (SharpTone Records)

An album that is full of both passion and heaviness is intense from the start. Fusing death metal and hardcore with a vibrant new take, Fragments of a Bitter Memory is solid in its delivery and its effectiveness. The songs are full of angst-ridden, shredding vocals and breakdowns that neo-hardcore enthusiasts will swoon over, contrasted with spacey and melodic elements interspersed throughout. This is a band that can cross over between hardcore purists and metal gatekeepers fluidly for good reason. Brute strength, real emotion, and massive talent – Fragments of a Bitter Memory is the kind of introduction that the world of heavy music won’t soon forget.

SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance of Affliction (Pure Noise Records)

This album is not necessarily as dark or aggressive as the band’s last record, the Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds, but don’t mistake that this is still a heavy album. The music is very loud and self empowering; sobering and heavy. SeeYouSpaceCowboy is daring enough to switch tempos and dabble in the realms of prog, punk, screamo and even synth, which blend into an ambitious, cohesive meld. The finished product smacks of a stylized aggression in the vein of AFI with a showing that is as entertaining as it is volatile.

Knocked Loose – A Tear in the Fabric of Life (Pure Noise Records)

The Louisville collective packs an unbelievable wallop in a 20 minute EP. A Tear in the Fabric of Life showcases a unit operating at full creative stride along with ambitious accompanying visuals resulting in brilliantly-bleak animated videos. The tracks immediately start off on the offensive and never relent, asserting some of Knocked Loose’s most brutal, dynamic, and complete work to date. The pulsating energy of the slam is palpable, particularly in songs like ‘Permanent,’ and ‘God Knows’. This EP captures the charge of a live show complete with the kind of thunderous breakdowns deadset on inciting bedlam.

Jinjer – Wallflowers (Napalm Records)

The songs are definitely heavy but the vocals are unlike any other groove metal outfit in the game. Bolstered by influences of Djent, thrash, grindcore, death metal and even pop/reggae and soul/R&B, Jinjer back their hype with real versatility on a record that advances what heavy music can be. Almost all the songs have some sort of extreme elements, but the title track really highlights how vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk can turn from guttural and menacing to beautiful and clean, in an instant. This album goes from Sneaker Pimps to Cryptopsy seamlessly and that is truly impressive feat.

Our website uses cookies and similar technologies to make the site work and improve your user experience. By using this website, you consent to the use of cookies.