I have been writing album reviews a side hobby for ten years now. 2021 was far and away the weirdest of those years, with more late releases in September onward than the rest of the year up to that point. The whiplash between the pandemic-induced drought of most of 2021 and the recent firehose of new music is painful, but as it stands, here are my honorable mentions for 2021. In no particular order, L-R from top down:
New Age Filth, “Hail the Sun” – Coheed and Cambria didn’t release an album this year, and so this was the next best thing, and admittedly, better than anything C&C has put out since Afterman: Descension.
Zao, “The Crimson Corridor” – Truly surprised by this one. Arguably the band’s best release since “Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest” all the way back from checks notes the late 90s.
Demon Hunter, “Songs of Death and Resurrection” – The only band whose logo I will ever be open to getting tattoo’d on me, releasing some of my favorite songs in their most beautiful forms.
Spiritbox, “Eternal Blue” – no comment.
Rivers of Nihil, “The Work” – no comment, but for very different and painfully existential reasons.
Invent Animate, “The Sun Sleeps, As If It Never Was” – behold, metalcore was once dead, but in the span of a 10 minute EP (and a gorgeous music video), Invent Animate has made it alive again and transported it well into the next decade while the rest of the scene thinks that breakdowns are still cool.
Dvne, “Etemen Aenka” – The only mistake these guys made was releasing an album in the year Mastodon makes a comeback and releases their best album in well over a decade. Had this been just a year prior, this would’ve been on the AotY lists of many.
Archspire, “Bleed the Future” – Breaking News, robots have successfully integrated into human society, disguised as as tech-death band and playing faster and screaming more words per second than any mere flesh and blood mortal could ever dare to accomplish. One of a handful of albums that has forced me to contemplate throwing my instruments in a dumpster.
Diablo Swing Orchestra, “Swagger and Stroll Down the Rabbit Hole” – This album belongs in an insane asylum.