They were so close. Up until it came time to figure out this list, this was sitting in my Album of the Year slot as it had for the majority of the year, until I was forced to admit that the album that crowns my Album of 2021 – one that very few people will expect – is just objectively better. “Norchestrion: A Song for the End” is far and away my favorite metal album of the year, and while subjectively I enjoy it more than my AotY, I don’t have to sacrifice truthful praise here to esteem it so highly here.
Need is a very simple band; if Tool and Dream Theater ever decided to collaborate together, they’re too late, because Need has already done it for them. “Norchestrion” makes no attempt to hide it’s influences, and the album is all the better for it. The album doesn’t do anything that countless other bands haven’t already done before; it just does it better than what the countless other bands have done. All of the fundamentals of a great album are nailed here to perfection: memorable hooks, strong lyricism, top-notch musicianship, and above all, stellar album flow. Heck, it even nails the weird interlude track that expertly blends both the album’s subject matter – the end of the world and the end of ourselves – to the album’s opening suite and closing suite.
And speaking of the closing suite: “Norchestion”’s closing trifecta of the title track / “Circadian” / “Ananke” is easily my favorite 30+ minutes of music all year long and my new go-to standard for why an album’s ending is its most important part. The energy, the emotion, the flow, the structuring; all of it, from the calm opening riff of the title track to the triumphant and heavenly closing bridge of “Ananke”, is just masterful, and I just cannot gush about it hard enough. Instagram’s character limits keep me restrained!
“Norchestrion” proves that when you master the fundamentals of good music, you don’t need a gimmick to get people hooked. At #2, it will be played alongside my AotY for years to come.
“Norchestion: A Song for the End” by Need is now available wherever you get your music. Album of the Year tomorrow.