2021 was a strange, troubled year again, since humanity continued its struggle against the pandemic. There were lockdowns and other restrictions, which didn’t allow tours and concerts, however, music was the perfect sanctuary for both musicians and fans. Numerous records were released in 2021 and the hard rock/heavy metal fan had often the opportunity to listen to some really good music. Having already entered the new year, Myth of Rock takes a last look behind and picks the best hard rock/heavy metal albums of 2021. It wasn’t an easy task, since had to choose from many excellent album releases and to exclude from our list a lot of nice works. Goodbye 2021 and don’t miss the following albums, listed alphabetically. Happy 2022!
- Alice Cooper – “Detroit Stories” (earMUSIC)
The beloved artist keeps away from his flirt with heavy metal, doesn’t try to shock us and focuses on rock n’ roll. Dirty, good ol’ rock n’ roll! Yes, here you will find hard rock tunes, with many other influences – from R & B and hard rockin’ blues to power pop and punk rock! And the interesting and nice thing is the fact that Alice Cooper seems to be pretty much inspired. Fresh, catchy song ideas become crunchy riffs, big refrains and shakin’ grooves, Alice Cooper sings like he’s a teenager, the guitars bite and devour and the fine production boosts everything up! “Detroit Stories” is a deeply personal album for Alice Cooper, he is singing his life story and Detroit City celebrates its rock n’ roll side! Generally, I loved this album and so will you, if you are into Alice Cooper.
- Asphyx – "Necroceros" (Century Media)
The Dutch don’t change recipe; robust rhythm section, crushing, concrete-like sound, grim, claustrophobic atmosphere of war and pain. Asphyx’s orchestrating ability in crosscutting death/thrash explosions and slow parts, without losing robustness, is phenomenal. However, their real power and true essence is hidden in doom; and there’s a lot of delightful doom in “Necroceros”. They may sound familiar, yet a glimpse of melodicism intrigues uneasy listeners, without tampering with the band’s brutality.
- At The Gates - "The Nightmare of Being" (Century Media)
The Swedish death metal pioneers have delivered a really good album, evolved and at the same time with the same successful rate, experimented and progressed their sound a bit further. Nothing is impossible for At The Gates, and since they reunited, all their albums are on the top quality level, including variations on the approach of course, the style and the incorporation of their influences. "The Nightmare of Being" is the perfect blend of all these, especially introducing new elements to their death metal sound. Another great album from the heart of Göteborg.
- Band of Spice - "By the Corner of Tomorrow" (Scarlet)
Spice has nothing to prove. On the contrary, he challenges himself album after album and "By the Corner of Tomorrow" is another successful effort to bring out his demons, his esoteric struggles in a very creative and dynamic way. Sharp riffs, trademark vocals, solid rhythm section by the trio of musicians who do not surprise anyone, but always deliver a fantastic album, in their own unique way. There are no labels here, not any names for the kind of music that the band plays. And this is their success: blending all their influences, they give us an excellent and emotional album that moves them forward and make the fans anticipating for the next one to come. But before that, "By the Corner of Tomorrow’" is the perfect companion.
- Beast in Black - "Dark Connection" (Nuclear Blast)
Guitarist extraordinaire Anton Kabanen has delivered a great album. True to the band's fundamentals, this one is still blowing with blistering riffs and guitar work, which combines with choruses and deep vocal work. Memorable keyboard lines were essential to the conception and its creativity. The result can touch heaven. Beast in Black created a musical experience with cinematic quality. Grab a beer and listen to this one! It deserves to be listened!
- Brainstorm - "Wall of Skulls" (AFM)
Musically, the Germans continue to perform their dark, solid, super-heavy power metal, they continue to be influenced mainly by US metal bands and continue to be based on the guitar layers and Andy B. Franck’s fantastic vocals, however, there’s something that distinguishes the “Wall of Skulls” album – it is so much inspired and catchy! Every refrain, every verse, every part of the vocal melodies will blow your mind. We are talking about great hook lines, very catchy moments in every song, straightforward and infectious compositions, which show that the band hasn’t lost its songwriting skills and that its maturity proves to be very fruitful. From the first to the last song you will come across great melodies, ingenious song structures, monster riffs, an indestructible rhythm section, Andy B. Franck’s unique way of singing and an ideal sound production.
- Crypta - "Echoes of the Soul" (Napalm)
After Fernanda Lira and Luana Dametto left Nervosa, they decided to create another band. Sonia Anubis (ex-Burning Witches) and Tainá Bergamaschi joined forces with the girls, so now we have two bands: Crypta and Nervosa. In "Echoes of the Soul" we can hear the influences of Chuck Schuldiner (Death): intermittent wailing solos, brain-melting/monolithic death metal riffs, fast galloping drums and a voice, which can sing everything. Let’s hope that 2022 will bring concerts and we will be able to see the girls live! Fingers crossed!
- Jerry Cantrell - "Brighten" (Double J)
Third solo album of one of Seattle’s finest, Jerry Cantrell. It is a great example of his tremendous musicianship, it differentiates in a way from his previous two solo albums. All of Cantrell' s signature elements are here (on vocals, guitars, arrangements, overall feeling), this is his most straight forward album of all three. I get the feeling that on this one, there is no gap for him to fill in, between ears and periods, and there are no demons to fight. Thus, he spreads on his own unique way all his influences and inspirations, with a trademark American sound.
- Carcass - "Torn Arteries" (Nuclear Blast)
What a fantastic comeback for the Britons! Such an underrated band throughout the years prove themselves to be on top of the extreme metal Scene (once again). And in a very convincing way. Sharp-end riffs, trademark vocals and the super dynamic duo of Bill Steer and Jeff Walker are the absolute guarantee for an excellent quality record, I repeat, in their own trademark and unique way.
- Crazy Lixx – “Street Lethal" (Frontiers)
If that album was released 25 years ago, it would be a smash hit – “Anthem for America”, “The Power”, “Caught Between the Rock n’ Roll”, “In the Middle of Nothing” and “Thief in the Night” aren’t just nice songs, but a proof that even nowadays, melodic hard rock/metal can be attractive and effective. All the members of the band gave their all to make this album a real killer, however, the protagonist of “Street Lethal” is singer/guitarist Danny Rexon, whose lovely vocals fit perfectly with the sweet guitar work and the well-polished sound of the rhythm section. “Street Lethal” is a lethal weapon of nice music, which comes to gives us many beautiful moments.
- Darkthrone – "Eternal Hails ……" (Peaceville)
Two Norwegian freaks remain loyal to their route, instilling traditional doom into their black coldness. “Eternal Hails ……” is more diverse than you initially think. You’re listening something raw and primitive, introducing itself as a sabbathic heaviness, but ending proggishly in an unconceivable, psychedelic astral journey. Darkthrone strike many chords with their honesty; just “cry” freely.
- Dirty Honey – “Dirty Honey” (Dirt)
One album is enough for them to turn the world of hard rock upside down. Dirty Honey released their debut album in 2021 and taught everybody how rough, dirty and sweet hard rock is played! Their main influence is Aerosmith and they have already shown that their musical fathers should be proud of. “Dirty Honey” is a fantastic, thunderous and marvelous album, which every fan of true, god-damn rock n’ roll must own!
- Dvne - "Etemen Ænka" (Metal Blade)
In their second attempt, the quintet from Edinburgh release a handbook about the ideal combination of progressive metal, psychedelia, post, doom, and even sludge. “Etemen Ænka” is a modern, genius artistic creation, multi-influenced by a variety of sources, and structured upon perfect orchestrations and transitions. If you look for flaws, look elsewhere. From now on, on each journey you make to Arrakis you discover something new.
- The Dead Daisies - "Holy Ground" (SPV)
You could say that this is an album of another all-star band. Many say that this does not guarantee something good in terms of music. However, The Dead Daisies' new album proves that this band really rocks. This is a heavy, melodic, catchy, groovy album, with classic rock touches, but with a fresh and modern air flowing all over. All four members are on great form, giving their best, and most importantly, not showing off, but sound like they have been playing for many years together. Simply great!
- Eclipse - "Wired" (Frontiers)
This is no surprise for Eclipse fans, to have the band releasing top albums within 2021. To the contrary, every release of them creates anticipation and makes the fans put it high on their choice. Fantastic choruses, beautiful melodies, heavy riffs and a very warm and compact production, all make ‘Wired’ an album which could be easily considered the band’s highlight of its career.
- Exodus – "Persona Non Grata" (Nuclear Blast)
At last, good old Exodus are back! Now that Holt has devoted himself to the band, Bay Area legends release an album that lives up to their history, indicating an old-school thrash approach with a fresh and modern sound. Exodus are storming and violent, and even meddle with more “mainstream” compositions. Holt and Altus demonstrate fully their abilities and virtuosity, while Souza is still that angry, rebellious teenager, spitting toxically words of irony and hate.
- Edu Falaschi – “Vera Cruz” (MS Metal)
This masterpiece comes directly from Brazil. Brazilian instruments, played by professional instrumentalists, gave an epic atmosphere that resembles the Age of Discoveries. What is more astonishing, is that, to bring that Brazilian feeling, two special guests sang on the album: Max Cavalera and Elba Ramalho. It is said that Edu always wanted them to sing on a record he would produce. And he did it! Raíssa Ramos (vocals), Roberto Barros (guitars), Aquiles Barros (drums), Raphael Dafras (bass), Diogo Mafra (guitars) and Fabio Laguna (keyboards) helped Edu on this journey. Let’s hope he’ll bring the tour to Europe!
- Gojira – "Fortitude" (Roadrunner)
Gojira become more “direct”, though remaining progressive enough. That might be a paradox, but it’s possible for them, due to maturity, longtime bond, and undeniable talent. “Fortitude” may resemble “Magma” or bring in mind connotations from early-era staff; irrespective of what happens, elements are unforced and integrated meticulously in the band’s current vision. Gojira are pluralistic; they can be unpretentiously mainstream, aggressive, or even tribal. All these aspects occur natural; that’s Gojira’s grandeur.
- Helloween – “Helloween” (Nuclear Blast)
“Helloween” is like heaven on earth, a heavy metal feast where all angels sing and play! The German masters of power metal present a record, which has elements from all Helloween periods – Kai Hansen era, Michael Kiske era and Andi Deris era. “Helloween” showcases the band’s past, present and future, it teaches how power metal should be played, it sets the new standards of power metal music, it is the power metal album we all were wishing for. The Pumpkins managed to forge a magnum opus, better than ever expected, so unique, really breath-taking. “Out for the Glory” is a hymn, just like the anthems “Fear of the Fallen”, “Best Time”, “Robot King” and “Skyfall”, but, hey, every song in here is a god-damn jewel … Helloween release a shape-shifting album, an album which works as an example of first-class power metal in the 21st century. “Helloween” is already a classic, a thunderous power metal giving from an expanded band, which is living a second youth.
- Hot Breath - "Rubbery Lips" (The Sign)
Another high energy rock n’ roll record from a relatively new band. A very promising album, groovy, catchy, it puts a big smile on your face. This is not the average garage rock album, but it’s definitely a lot more than that: a thrilling energy flows all over, the female vocals are great, the guitars crunchy and groovy, that's a blend of AC/DC, MC5 and The Sonics. Simply fantastic!
- Icon Of Sin –“Icon of Sin” (Frontiers)
Icon of Sin's debut album is ideal for the fans of Iron Maiden. If you dig Iron Maiden, you will love this new release! It isn't only Mendes’s voice, but the whole style of the compositions which sound exactly like Iron Maiden's songs! The riffs, the dual guitar solos, the melodies, the vocal lines, everything resembles the works of Iron Maiden, everything is reminiscent of the style and sound of Steve Harris and co. Icon of Sin is built around Mendes, and the band takes full advantage of his voice. I personally really liked this album, I had fun listening to these nice songs and I already have some favourites, like “Night Breed”, “Virtual Empire” and “Clouds Over Gotham”. I don’t know if Icon of Sin is the new messiah of metal, I don’t know if they will have the success, the career of Iron Maiden, but I surely know one thing - I can’t stop listening to this magnificent disc again and again!
- Iron Maiden – “Senjutsu” (Parlophone)
In “Senjutsu” you won’t get fast, powerful and energetic tracks, only adventurous heavy metal music, which will take you on a unique, mysterious and mesmerizing journey to beautiful metal soundscapes. Steve Harris’ 70s progressive rock influences contributed to the development of the sound of “Senjutsu”, which will appeal to everyone who likes the epic/prog side of Iron Maiden. In these epics, Iron Maiden showcases all its trademarks, for example the amazing riffs, the incredible harmonies, the twin guitars, the overwhelming guitar solos, the melodic hooks, the catchy vocal lines, the heavy bass guitar sound, even the nice atmosphere of the keyboards! Yes, that’s Iron Maiden, this is the glorious signature of a legendary band!
- KK’S Priest – “Sermons of the Sinner” (Explorer1 Music Group)
KK Downing is not in Judas Priest anymore, but that doesn’t mean that he has forgotten his passion. KK has made Priest number two and released an album, which will be praised by any fan of classic heavy metal. “Sermons of the Sinner” will give you the new hymns, which will drive you crazy, it will give you the riffs, the refrains, the solos and the soaring vocals, which will make you scream again “Heavy fuckin’ Metallllll”. We will never forget who KK is and what he can do. Evidence is here.
- Mastodon – “Hushed and Grim” (Reprise)
Compared to the previous works of the band, this new album is simpler, more catchy, emotional, straightforward, atmospheric and melodic. I believe that Mastodon have matured enough to present us one of their most complete albums, a modern progressive metal opus, which will talk to your mind and heart. This “new” direction is also owed to the cooperation with producer David Bottrill, who has worked previously with such artists as Muse, Tool and Rush. “Hushed and Grim” is an artistic triumph, as Mastodon succeeds in creating truly interesting heavy music, which sounds so sophisticated, delicate, passionate and majestic. It is a long album, however, it never gets tiring, it just gives you more and more things with every listening session. So, if you are a Mastodon fan, you know very well that your favorite band released an amazing album. And if you aren’t so familiar with Mastodon’s sound, this album will be an apocalypse for you!
- Robin McAuley – “Standing on the Edge” (Frontiers)
Here we have nice songwriting, and of course the wonderful voice of McAuley, who is singing with incomparable passion. He is giving everything he has inside his heart and of course, satisfies even the most demanding listeners. The production is crystal, the songs are perfectly orchestrated and let the people focus on the most precious thing of the record – Robin’s voice, which sounds compelling in the well imagined vocal lines. “Standing on the Edge” doesn’t have not even one filler song, and will keep you good company with its fantastic songs – for example “Last December”, “Run Away”, “Say Goodbye” and “Wanna Take a Ride”. Generally, Robin McAuley, one of the most skilled vocalists in rock, proves us that he has still many interesting things to offer and, above all, he can still send shivers down our spine with his extraordinary performances.
- Moonspell - "Hermitage" (Napalm)
After an album entirely sung in Portuguese, Moonspell came back with an album in English. This record is some kind of a lesson to ourselves, turning our backs to modernity and stop convincing that humanity can do everything. They have grown musically and we can hear some influences from prog to metal, with clear influences of Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden. Captive melodies, full of power, gothic sounds that we are used to are still here. It’s the first album with a new lineup: Hugo Ribeiro takes the drums as Mike Gaspar left the band. This band never disappoints!
- Non Serviam – "Le Coeur Bat" (Code666)
In the most unconventional album of the year, industrial, experimental, black metal, grindcore, trip-hop, baroque, electro, doom, crust are blended in a bowl of exploding rage, nightmarish paranoia and multifaceted sonic and non-sonic attack. Non Serviam abolish the established order in a maze with seeds in the electro universe and branches exceeding to, and scouting, a wide musical mosaic. Submerge yourselves in a noisy landscape, where unshaped voices prowl, yelling or whispering stories of oppression and uprising.
- NorthTale - "Eternal Flame" (Nuclear Blast)
Bill Hudson is no stranger to the metal scene. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, U.D.O, Dirkschneider, I Am Morbid and Doro Pesch are some of the bands/artists he has worked with. Producer Dennis Ward made an incredible production! This Swedish/American/Brazilian power metal super group is what power metal fans should liste to: wet, fast, blistering metal with killer riffs and fast solos! After Christian Eriksson left the band, Bill had to choose a new singer and gladly he did: Guilherme Hirose (from Brazilian power metal band TraumeR), who conquered the fans with his voice. Kai Hansen shares vocals alongside Guilherme, while his son, Tim Kanoa Hansen, plays the guitar. One word to describe this album: BRILLIANT!
- Obscura – "A Valediction" (Nuclear Blast)
Obscura reach apotheosis. “A Valediction” is a monument of Steffen Kummerer’s unrivalled composing ability, a testament of majestic guitar virtuosity. Steffen’s endless inspiration, enhanced by Münzner’s and Thesseling’s return, is a blessing for modern progressive death, setting new universal standards. Whether remaining complex and technical, or being more straightforward and melodic, Obscura are impressive. “A Valediction” reawakens emotions you have, when you hear something as technical as Death and as lyrical as Coroner.
- Orden Ogan - "Final Days" (AFM)
Orden Ogan’s new album encompasses great inspiration, which has led to numerous, unforgettable moments of powerful, passionate, well-crafted power metal. You won’t find a mediocre song here – every composition shines like a diamond, every track will make you sing along, bang your head and shake up and down! I really can’t pick my favorites, as all the songs have something different to say. The Germans get to the highest quality level, they created a melodic metal epos and “Final Days” shall be their breakthrough album. Yes, they are popular, but with such a great album they must get … rich and famous! Now!
- Panopticon - "…And Again into the Light" (Bindrune Recordings)
Panopticon become poetry. Austin Lunn’s endoscopic quest results in a breathtaking testimony. His unique creation of atmospheric black/folk/post/bluegrass is personal and intimate; the harmonic coexistence of black/death outbursts and tranquil themes of cellos and violins form an entity that submerges you in Lunn’s soul. You feel his pain, anger, and despair; you struggle with him, but in the end, he leads you to the light.
- The Quill - "Earthrise" (Metalville)
The Swedes are back with a great album, taking a glimpse on their glorious past but with a fresh and modern perspective on their music. "Earthrise" reminds us of what the Quill is made of and why we like them. A very nice companion to put it on your stereo and enjoy great rock music.
- Soen - "Imperial" (Silver Lining Music)
These Swedes have created a new classic album, that caught the attention of the fans and gave the band new ones. Working with people that worked with Ozzy Osbourne and Bob Dylan has engaged rather well. Soen’s albums always have a concept and this one talks about how the mankind deals with each other. Musically, their music is elegant, sophisticated and amazing. A must have for every record collection!
- Swallow The Sun - "Moonflowers" (Century Media)
Since the release of their debut LP— 2003's “The Morning Never Came”—the Finnish sextet has grown with excellence. With this one, they’ve done it again! Very doomy, atmospheric, elegant and genuine. The music is rich, full of melodies, contemporary and with melodic motives. The tracks sound so full of despair, musically and lyrically, that this record touches the listener in every sense possible. 2021 needed an album like this.
- Todd La Torre - "Rejoice in the Suffering" (Rat Pak)
La Torre is a disciple of the American class of 80s and 90s metal, however, the famous singer has open ears to the modern sound of American metal, especially in the guitar sound, the guitar riffs and solos. This mix of classic and contemporary elements can be found also in the vocal style of La Torre, sometimes he is singing aggressively, sometimes there are some group vocals with a brutal touch, but most of the times La Torre’s voice follows the old school way. His amazing vocals are reminiscent of Geoff Tate and Rob Halford, and I would also say that the whole album reminds me of the Rob Halford solo albums, especially “Resurrection” and “Crucible”. Halford had there Mike Chlasciak and Patrick Lachman, here La Torre has Craig Blackwell.
- Tremonti - "Marching in Time" (Napalm)
The guitar hero of Alter Bridge and Creed continues from where he has left things previously. Another fantastic album, very dark, heavy but also with melodies and slow-paced songs. This album is another reason why this artist has such high musicianship standards. He can do so f****ng really well three things: play the guitar like a virtuoso minus the unnecessary exaggerations. Sing like a great and well-established vocalist. Write music, each time more interesting and intriguing and pushing himself to new standards and boundaries. This album is on top of the modern era hard rock/heavy metal.
- Trivium – “In the Court of the Dragon” (Roadrunner)
Trivium has offered us again a great album, which every fan of inspired, well-arranged and well-produced heavy metal should listen to. “In The Court of The Dragon” has everything a metalhead would require from a major release – here you will find monster riffs, flaming guitar solos, a rhythm section, which serves each song as a wall of sound, brutal vocals combined with an emotional clean voice, melodic hooks that hit to the point and passion. A lot of passion! Trivium are in their best shape, they kick asses with their mature and strong compositions, which – all nine of them- will please all demanding ears.
- Wolves in the Throne Room – "Primordial Arcana" (Relapse)
“Primordial Arcana” is connected, musically, to “Thrice Woven”, without repeating its grandiosity though. Weaver brothers worship primordial lands in their arcane way, making their compositions more black, direct and “down-to-earth”, reminiscent of an earlier self; and from the depths, their ambience emerges, signifying their distinctive temperament. Wolves show with honesty a more primeval, raw aspect, paying homage to the Lightning, the Storm, the Fire… Irrespective of their timbre, the brothers cannot be ignored.
- Wooden Fields - "Wooden Fields" (Argonauta)
The trip from Stockholm brings us a top vintage heavy rock diamond, incorporating in a very nice, smooth and straight forward manner all their influences and inspirations from the heavy rock universe, old and new. Bluesy, groovy, uplifting tunes, without any exaggeration and with the perfect refinement of some of the finest Stockholm musicians. Vintage heavy rock at its finest!
- Yoth Iria – "As the Flame Withers" (Pagan)
Mutilator and Magus return. These four words alone sufficed to raise expectations, which were fully justified. The recently formed Yoth Iria, bearing the experience and maturity of two prominent figures, excel in a debut based mainly on the heavy-metallic approach of the Hellenic black metal. Mutilator uses meticulously heavy/doom influences and majestic melodies, to structure a versatile dark jewel of a hospitable, unholy romanticism.