Coming off of the back of the dumpster fire that was 2020, we all had high hopes for 2021 here at Maniacs. While some of those hopes were quickly squashed by yet another variant of the virus that shall not be named, at least one of them, the desire to hear top-shelf new music from our favourite metal, punk, hardcore and rock acts, was not just lived up to, but well and truly exceeded.
In fact, the quality of music from the heavier end of the spectrum was so next level this year, that we had to expand our album's of the year list from 10 to 20 albums, and we still feel like we left out more than a few worthy contenders off of the list. So with apologies to many and congratulations to 20, listed in alphabetical order, by artist, here are the 20 best albums of 2021, according to us.
Architects- For Those That Wish To Exist
Another standout effort from one of the finest and most influential heavy acts walking planet earth.
Watch the video for Animals (Orchestral Version) below.
Archspire - Bleed The Future
This is the sound of the future of technical death metal. These ludicrously talented Canadians pushed the genre far beyond our expectations, packing extremity, technicality and emotion into one of the most unrelenting sonic assaults of the year.
Watch the video for Drone Corpse Aviator below.
Between The Buried And Me - Colors II
Equal parts sequel to and continuation of Between The Buried And Me beloved Colors, Colors II is another monumental, mind-melting release from a band that continues to melt our brains.
Watch the video for The Future Is Behind Us below.
Cannibal Corpse - Violence Unimagined
At this stage, it should be next to impossible for Cannibal Corpse to shock us, yet on Violence Unimagined, they managed to push the boundaries of decency again, cranking out one of the most vicious and imaginatively violent albums of their career. They are living death metal treasures and we hope they never change.
Watch the video for Inhumane Harvest below.
Converge - Bloodmoon: I
A true-supergroup effort, Blood Moon: I features the Salem heavyweights teaming up with dark songstress Chelsea Wolfe, her bandmate/writing partner Ben Chisolm and Cave In vocalist/guitarist Stephen Brodsky to create a truly unique and captivating masterpiece that is brutal, brooding and at times, beautiful.
Watch the video for Blood Moon below.
The Dirty Nil - Fuck Art
Canadian punk/rock upstarts dropped this on the first day of 2021 and it has held the fuck up ever since. An absolute triumph of unashamed good-time punk and metal-infused rock and roll, Fuck Art is ten tracks of enormously enjoyable, riff-driven rock that drips with sardonic wit and honesty. There are more hooks in a song like Blunt Force Concussion than there is in most bands careers. Fuck yeah.
Watch the video for Blunt Force Concussion below.
Employed To Serve - Conquering
One of the UK's most criminally underrated bands, Employed To Serve are one of the most exciting acts to emerge from the UK metal scene in the last decade and on Conquering they proved they belong among the upper echelon of the metalcore world.
Watch the video for Mark Of The Grave below.
Every Time I Die - Radical
Radical is 16 tracks of peak Every Time I Die, alchemized by a swampy summoning of southern rock and course poetry, the music swirls beneath sardonic and clever wordplay, cementing the band as leaders, not followers. To be producing work of this quality, that shows this much progression, this far into their career showcases exactly why this band is approaching genre GOAT status.
Watch the video for Post-Boredom below.
Erra exceeded even our wildest predictions with this self-titled debut effort. Soaring melodies, explorative guitar leads, pounding rhythms and unexpected swerves are dished up in droves on ERRA cementing them as one of the freshest and most inspiring melodic acts in our part of the music world.
Watch the video for Divisionary below.
Gojira - Fortitude
A dynamic, groove-laden opus of a metal record from one of modern metal's undisputed kings. Fortitude is an absolute force of nature that was inspired by the desperate plight of mother nature. Every note of this record feels vital and every song has its own story to tell. All hail, Gojira.
Watch the video for Amazonia below.
Helloween - Helloween
Hands up who saw this one coming at the start of 2021? No, us either, but the quality of this audacious reunion album speaks for itself. Combining three eras of Helloween into one megaband produced a record full of pure metal magic. This is Helloween.
Watch the video for Out For The Glory below.
Iron Maiden - Senjutsu
With an epic running time of a little under 82 minutes, Iron Maiden's 17th album is a joyous journey featuring all of the signature elements we've come to love over the band's 46-year career on full display while also introducing some new sounds and stylistic influences.
Watch the video for Stratego below.
Jinjer - Wallflowers
One of the fastest rising bands in the metal world, Ukraine outfit Jinjer prove they are the real deal on Wallflowers, expanding their sound while displaying significantly improved songwriting chops. Vocalist Tatiana Shmailyuk is still the obvious standout talent in the band, but the band have truly become a force in their own right.
Watch the video for Vortex below.
Limp Bizkit - Still Sucks
You lied to us Limp Bizkit, this album does not suck. Even some of our dads agree.
Watch the video for Dad Vibes below.
Mastodon - Hushed And Grim
The ninth full-length studio album from the heavy rock legends Hushed and Grim is Mastodon’s most ambitious body of work to date, consisting of 15 disparate tracks, surveying a confluence of textures that include rock, psychedelia, punk, metal, alternative and prog interwoven by their innately expressive musical interplay. A sonic farewell to their longtime manager and friend Nick John, Hushed And Grim’s atmospheric canvas of very real loss, loneliness and longing, permeates throughout, resulting in a magnum opus that bears the influence of his eternal memory. For as much as Hushed And Grim is steeped in one of the darkest periods of the band’s career, with each member experiencing personal grief, its light shines through in a fully realized manifestation of everything Mastodon is right now.
Watch the video for Teardrinker below.
Spiritbox - Eternal Blue
The most hyped emerging metal act of the last few years, Spiritbox came into 2021 under a lot of pressure to deliver on that hype and with Eternal Blue they turned that pressure into diamonds. This is an absolute masterwork of a debut album, one that immerses you in its sonic and emotional depth. The band's ability to transition seamlessly from the ethereal to the brutal without missing a step is a force to be reckoned with. We can't wait to see where they go from here.
Watch the video for Circle With Me below.
Trivium - In The Court Of The Dragon
In The Court Of The Dragon is Trivium in full-scale modern metal god mode for 10 tracks, as such, it is one of the finest metal albums released this year No further explanation is required if you'd like one however head on over to our interview with Paulo Gregoletto.
Watch the video for The Phalanx below.
Turnstile - Glow On
Turnstile's third full-length is a forward-thinking, hyperactive blast of creative energy and expressionism. The band continue to leave no stone unturned in their quest to achieve their kaleidoscopic, genre-hopping intent, and the world is paying attention. Arguably the coolest band on planet earth right now, Glow On is what the future of hardcore sounds like and it seems pretty much everyone in the music industry, from their contemporaries to media outlets, to well, us, agrees.
Watch the short film for T.L.C (Turnstile Love Connection) below.
Teenage Wrist - Earth Is A Black Hole
'90s vibes were strong throughout the music industry in 2021, but no act managed to integrate that revivalism as naturally into their evolving sound as LA duo Teenage Wrist. Earth Is A Black Hole sees the band step boldly out of the shadows of the pure grunge and shoegaze worship of their excellent prior album Chrome Neon Jesus, and into the fuzz-drenched light of their alt-rock future. A nostalgic yet forward-thinking coming together of styles, powered by soaring, emotive vocals and superb, layered instrumentals, Earth Is A Black Hole sucks you into its vortex with its melodies and keeps you warm enough that you willingly surrender to its charms. Give it a spin.
Watch the video for Yellowbelly below.
Unto Others - Strength
Portland, Oregon gothic-metal masters Unto Others dropped Strength in September to universal acclaim from the metal press. At Maniacs we feel it is the finest gothic-metal/rock crossover album in recent memory, a genuine stunner with the potential to bring gothic-metal back to mainstream prominence. It more than deserves its place on this list. If you like gothic metal and you haven't listened to this album yet, do so, right now.
Watch the video for When Will Gods Work Be Done below.
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