It’s that time of year again when the cold wind blows, migratory animals retreat to their winter homes and I eat far too many biscuits.
What can be said of 2021 that hasn’t been said already?
Oh, I know.
Of all the things that have ever occurred, 2021 was one of them.
In all seriousness it’s been a great year for music and putting together this list has been really difficult let alone putting them in order. But I have braved the task and here are my best of 2021.
10. Nadja – Luminous Rot
A droning shoegaze inspired offering that reminds us that two of Berlin’s finest have still got the power to create unimaginable texture using a very limited palette. Cuts on your hands drags its ponderous weight across the sonic landscape while simultaneously remaining as light as a ghost.
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9. Bossk – Migration
I had the pleasure of seeing BOSSK do their thing at Damnation, it’s groovy, it’s atmospheric, it’s their new album Migration. If BOSSK ever do a full show of this album then I’d heartily recommend that you buy a ticket and go. The standard home listening experience is one to be cherished but there’s nothing like being in the crowd and feeling the ebbs and flow with a hundred other people and in my view that’s the definitive way to hear this album.
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8. Candlemass – Green Valley Live
I reviewed this album earlier in the year, and it gave me a kick I don’t usually get from live albums. It’s on this list because of that. Otherwise, it’s the same level of quality and musicianship that you’d expect from a band that’s been around for nearly 40 years and have been so ground-breaking historically.
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7. Rivers Of Nihil – The Work
I really liked this, but I have to admit that a substantial part of it in hindsight was the feeling of resolution I gained from Terraria IV. It’s an astounding album that dabbles in a wide range of elements and compositional techniques to create another gripping chapter in the band’s work.
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6. Carcass – Torn Arteries
It’s CARCASS and it’s awesome. I had a love/hate relationship with Surgical Steel as I think a lot of fans did. It wasn’t that it was bad but at least for me it was underwhelming and for a long time it felt like that was the last thing we would ever get from the band. And I’ve never been happier to be wrong about a band. This is a modern classic and I can see it easily becoming one of their most highly regarded albums.
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5. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined
This was a weird one for me. It’s CANNIBAL CORPSE but different. This could be attributed to the lack of the mighty Pat O’Brien but it feels intentional too. This album isn’t a world away from their previous releases but it’s exciting to speculate about just how far the band is willing to go in exploring new territory. I said in my review that it feels like the engineers are showing off a little bit and I stand by that. A huge amount of care and thought went into making this a really exciting instalment in their discography.
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4. Harakiri For The Sky – Maere
I’m going to cheat for this one and just copy what I said in my review.
“I’m astounded time and time again by the skill of some musicians. To manipulate notes, tones, sounds, words and all the musical ephemera to create a tone that is perfect. I don’t feel sad when I listen to this, I feel claustrophobic to some degree but also catharsis. I feel a release and a bond that would be hard to convey without music like this in the world. “
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3. Gojira – Fortitude
I didn’t review this one but it was on constant repeat. Over the last few years I’ve fallen deeper and deeper in love with GOJIRA and watched as their sound has evolved over the years to become this epic, and yet heartfelt artwork. This album features several songs that have held my attention, my imagination and my joy in ways that not many songs manage to do. The Chant, Amazonia and Another World all stand to be consistent fan favourites.
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2. Lake Of Tears – Ominous
This is magnificent. I’ve listened to tracks from this album possibly hundreds of times this year. And I’m not going to give you any further explanation. Go listen to it.
But if you really want one my review is here.
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NUMBER ONE: Soen – Imperial
I genuinely can’t explain how I feel about this one. It was released on the 25th of January and I am still as in awe of it as I was then. At the time I rated it 9/10 and to some degree I stand by that but only because I don’t think I’m fully capable of the complexity of thought I’d need to put it higher. A 10/10 is usually reserved for something that’s better than my expectations of perfection and this has its flaws but every flaw makes it a little more human, makes it a little better.
The album is both dynamically on point and interesting, the lyricism is incredible and the musicianship on display is truly astounding.
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1) DEVIN TOWNSEND
Hevy Devy released not one but two studio albums this year. Described as his most personal releases to date The Puzzle and Snuggles have garnered a mixed set of reviews from fans. I like what I’ve heard and it really has to be said that Mr Townsend has probably been one of the hardest working people in metal for the last two years. My hat’s off to him and the frankly ridiculous list of talent that helped put these releases together.
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2) PORCUPINE TREE
They finally released a single after 12 years. And it was worth the wait.