2021 Best of Metal: #3 Mastodon-Hushed and Grim

Origin: Atlanta, GA

Release date: 10/29/2021

Personnel: Troy Sanders-vox/bass, Brent Hinds-guitar/vox, Bill Kelliher-guitar, Brann Dailor-drums/vox

Mastodon’s latest is (well, it was for me anyway) one of those albums that gets better with each listening. Hushed and Grim is a double album. So, there’s a lot to absorb on the first few spins. This album tracks in the direction in which Mastodon has been trending over the past few albums in that it is presenting a more palatable version of their sound than their earlier work. That isn’t to say that things have been simplified or watered down in this effort. As I said, there is a shitload of stuff going on with this one and it’s a downright psychedelic trip in many places. Brann Dailor continues to show his range in taking on more and more of the vocal duties. It feels as though he and Troy Sanders are basically splitting the lead vocals at this point and Brent Hinds taking more of a backing vocal role. Overall, this builds quite nicely as a follow-up to Emperor of Sand. I’ve really enjoyed the growth and the choices this band has made going forward in their career.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

3. Mastodon-Hushed and Grim
4. Gojira-Fortitude
5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #4 Gojira-Fortitude

Origin: Bayonne, France

Release date: 4/30/2021

Personnel: Joe Duplantier-vox/guitar, Christian Andreu-guitar, Jean-Michel Labadie-bass, Mario Duplantier-drums

Gojira came back strong with their latest release. Not as heavy as their earlier work, but definitely more dynamic in scope in comparison to their last album, Magma. This album has all of the classic hallmarks of a Gojira album with their staunch environmentalism, distinctive guitar runs and the stellar drumming foundation laid down by Mario Duplantier. Dude is just in a class by himself. By this point, Gojira has created such a distinctive sound as to be one of those bands that are kind of unclassifiable. Their genre is kind of just Gojira. This is one of those albums that was made to be played extremely loud.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

4. Gojira-Fortitude
5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #5 Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound

Origin: Arvika, Sweden

Release date: 1/29/2021

Personnel: Johannes Andersson-vox/bass, Jonathan Hulten-guitar/piano, Adam Zaars-guitar, Oscar Leander-drums

My favorite Swedish glam/goth death metal outfit came back with a very strong release to start the year off with a bang in 2021. Their previous release was a bit of a middling disappointment that never seemed to quite get off the ground. This latest effort simply comes out swinging and results in what I feel is their best album to date. This one is also a bit of a bittersweet moment because right before the release of this album, main songwriter Jonathan Hulten announced that he was leaving the band. I’m not sure what this means for the long term health of the band going forward. So, in the meantime, let’s at least celebrate in this current album.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #6 Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World

Origin: Long Island, NY

Release date: 10/22/2021

Personnel: James LaBrie-vox, John Petrucci-guitar, John Myung-bass, Jordan Rudess-keyboards, Mike Mangini-drums

I’ll be honest. This is probably the most shocking entry this year. After some bloated misfires on their past few albums, I had zero expectations when this one popped up on the calendar. Look, Dream Theater was a big band for me in the 90’s and they definitely took the baton from Rush as the leading prog rock/metal group of their time. But their earlier work was definitely the product of a metal band. It has felt like since the departure of Mike Portnoy that the band has kind of forgotten that the metal side of themselves is really the foundation of the band. It feels like A View From the Top of the World is a step in the direction of them embracing their metalness once again. The songs are long as usual, but they don’t veer into the overindulgent fests of years past. It feels as though they really attempted to craft some very coherent and self-contained songs on this one. Maybe this was a case of very low expectations being somewhat surpassed, but I was really happy to hear them returning somewhat to form.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #7 Exodus-Persona Non Grata

Image 1 - Exodus Persona Non Grata 12x12 Album Cover Replica Poster Print

Origin: Richmond, CA

Release date: 11/19/2021

Personnel: Steve “Zetro” Souza-vox, Gary Holt-guitar, Lee Altus-guitar, Jack Gibson-bass, Tom Hunting-drums

Exodus is like comfort food for me. After years of being away due to Gary Holt’s manning a spot during Slayer’s last touring run, he was finally able to focus his energies back into his main gig. I have always loved these guys and feel like they’ve always been unfairly overshadowed by the so-called Big 4 of thrash. An Exodus album is first and foremost about the crunchiest and most blistering riffs you’ll ever hear. Persona Non Grata delivers them in spades. Lyrically, the guys are as pissed as ever. This was a good album to have come out this year.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #8 Khemmis-Deceiver

Origin: Denver, CO

Release date: 11/19/2021

Personnel: Phil Pendergast-vox/guitar, Ben Hutcherson-guitar/vox, Zach Coleman-drums

Khemmis is back with another album that solidifies their status as one of the keepers of the true heavy metal flame. Their blending of classic Maiden, Priest and Mercyful Fate guitar lines through the sludge filter of Candlemass and Trouble style doom continues to hit that sweet spot. This is their first album as a three-piece since the loss of their longtime bassist. This album is classic Khemmis with six long epic tales centered on fantasy themes. Cue up your inner metal nerd for this one.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #9 Carcass-Torn Arteries

Origin: Liverpool, England

Release date: 9/17/2021

Personnel: Jeff Walker-vox/bass, Bill Steer-guitar, Daniel Wilding-drums

The wait was well worth it for this one. Torn Arteries was supposed to be a 2020 release, but the band pushed the release date back to 2021 due to pandemic issues. Don’t let the bright and shiny veggie heart album cover fool you. The godfathers of gore have delivered another slab of sonic putrefication (said bright and shiny veggies are pictured in an appropriate state of decay on the inside of the album liner). They even pay homage once again to their fellow Liverpudlians with Eleanor Rigor Mortis. Seems appropriate with all The Beatles hoopla of late.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #10 Omnium Gatherum-Origin

Origin: Kotka, Finland

Release date: 11/5/2021

Personnel: Jukka Pelkonen-vox, Markus Vanhala-guitar, Mikko Kivisto-bass, Aapo Koivisto-keyboards, Tuomo Latvala-drums

And we venture into the Top 10 for 2021. Hopefully you are still hanging out and waiting around with baited breath for each album drop. Next up are a band that plies their trade in Scandinavian melodic death metal that actually hails from Scandinavia (unlike yesterday’s pick). The OG boys are one of the premier bands in this important subgenre and they always manage to deliver a consistently solid product. Even though there were some lineup changes for this latest album (new bassist and drummer and the loss of a second guitarist), their sound has remained the same and Origin has resulted in one of their stronger releases in recent years. They continue to work in a good deal of clean vocals on this one as a balance to the harsh death vocals.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #11 Be’Lakor-Coherence

Origin: Melbourne, Australia

Release date: 10/29/2021

Personnel: George Kosmas-vox/guitar, Shaun Sykes-guitar, John Richardson-bass, Steve Merry-keyboards, Elliott Sansom-drums

The album is pure Scandinavian melodic death metal by way of Melbourne, Australia. I swear there is a secret tunnel running from Finland to Australia. There is no other way to fully explain how Be’Lakor managed to produce an album that feels this frozen. This album is reminiscent of Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum and even early era Katatonia. Lush epic songs are what you can expect on this one.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypie-Metamorphosis

2021 Best of Metal: #12 Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell

Origin: Joensuu, Finland

Release date: 8/27/2021

Personnel: Harri Kuokkanen-vox, Lasse Pyykko-guitar/bass, Teemu Hannonen-guitar, Pekka Koskelo-drums

Back to Scandinavia the next entry on the list. Looking at that album cover, you’re probably guessing that this is a death metal band. And you’d be correct. However, these guys kind of play out more like a doom metal band than a traditional sounding death metal outfit. The riffs on this one bring to mind more of something you’d hear off a Trouble album than your typical Scandinavian death metal band. Chuggy and slow moving with a severe guttural sounding vocalist.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis