Always late than never, I present my Top Ten AOTY list
Throughout this month I’ve seen end of the year lists that spanned from anywhere from 40-100. I’m going to bring you ten. Ten is a number I feel where I can give you an honest assessment of an album. I’ve listened to these top albums enough times where my opinion was backed by somewhat credible ears. If I tried to expand beyond that, I’d be full of shit. Even more than usual.
I’ll start off with my first five, give a brief synopsis, and then go a little deeper with my top five.
10. Tetrarch – Unstable
I love Nu-Metal. I grew up with it, and it was a major part of my entry into heavy music. Memes and insults aside, nu-metal is pretty much dead. Enter Tetrarch.
This album was straight out of 2003 in the absolute best way imaginable. If you criticize a metal band for being catchy, take a lap and get over yourself. Unstable has catchy hook after catchy hook that deserves to be experienced live. Fantastic songs and I’ll gladly included it in my Top Ten AOTY list.
9. Beartooth – Below
Caleb Shomo needs to be higher on everyone’s rock and metal hierarchy. Every riff, blast beat (shout out), drum fill, and bass line that you heard on this album was recorded by the man himself. That should matter.
It still features those anthemic jams which have become a Beartooth staple, but also has tracks that straight up chug and punch faces.
8. Hooded Menace – The Tritonus Bell
Death Doom stand up! 48 minutes of gloomy yet groovy Death Metal. If you don’t do anything else with your life, I suggest you at least turn on Blood Ornaments and head bob for the next nine minutes.
Those born before 1995, you may feel like you’re sitting in front of a PC playing Doom II. Anyone born after 1995, go download Doom II.
7. Cerebral Rot – Excretion of Morality
The year of death metal continues with the pure slimy evil joy that is Cerebral Rot. This is classic death metal lore from the album work, to the exhausting song titles. But its money maker resides in the perfectly sinister riffs.
6. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined
Honestly, this album is likely number one in any other Top Ten AOTY list. It’s just that impressive from all fronts. Cannibal Corpse is over 30 years into their career and the formula isn’t changing. Adding Erik Rutan to the lineup might have added another 10-75 years for all we know.
Radical Larry’s Top 5 AOTY List
5. Enforced – Kill Grid
I wake up every day thankful that Enforced exists. Make no mistake, 2021 was the year of death metal. But Enforced reminded us there will always be a spot at the dinner table for great thrash. In my perfect world, Kill Grid is the official launching point for the resurgence of thrash. It’s fast, it chugs, and it’s packed full of great riffs.
Knox Colby’s voice blends perfectly with the outstanding attack of Alex Bishop on drums and axe duo of Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan.
I loved this album so much that I started making my own stupid memes for it and making Enforced themselves suffer.
If thrash is to make a comeback, as it should, enforced will be front and center.
4. Whitechapel – Kin
If I could sum up this album in one word, it would easily be “emotional”. A Bloodsoaked Symphony, the premier song of 2021, illustrates this point better than any other. Phil Bozeman also let us know his cleans are just as good as his harsh vocals, giving their catalog an impressive range.
It’s not fair to compare to it to their incredible 2019 release The Valley, but Kin is a great example of trying a few different things for the better. It reminded me in a way of Parkway Drive’s Reverence.
3. Rivers of Nihil – The Work
Rivers of Nihil is currently orchestrating the sneakiest takeover in metal. 2018’s Where Owls Know My Name was a haymaker, and boy did it knock you down.
You get back up, the ref is still counting, grabs your hands, and asks if you’re okay. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. More sir.
“MY BODY, MY PRIDE, ONCE RADIANT INSIDE”
Boom, you’re licking the canvas again.
The Work wrapped up a four album run, each dealing with the theme of a specific season. In this case: Winter. As a progressive metal unit, Rivers of Nihil are firmly established with a powerful yet mystic sound. The Work isn’t a chugging riff celebration or the standard metal blueprint.
It’s a powerful and enigmatic, drawing metalheads from all walks of life that come together and say “This shit slaps”.
2. Carcass – Torn Arteries
Pure stanky grooves.
This album is AWESOME. Let’s take a moment to appreciate when heavy metal titans are still churning out great music 35 years into their careers. Torn Arteries is stank face music. It’s “look at your buddy, squint your eyes, and make a scowl” music. It’s music you play for that hard rock friend that “doesn’t like screamo”. Then Dance Of Ixtab gets into gear and he goes “Hey what’s this?”
Torn Arteries is the album that reminds us that with nasty riffs, anything is possible.
It’s a unique blend of accessible melodies and riffs with harsh and piercing vocals, which frankly, metal could use so much more of. It was the year of Death Metal in 2021, and Torn Arteries was the exclamation point
1. Slaughter to Prevail – Kostolom
For my money (mine) no band had captured our attention in the way that Slaughter to Prevail had when Demolisher arrived. My first taste came from listening to LiquidMetal on Sirius XM. On-air DJ Shawn the Butcher intro’d the song by warning us that the ground was going to open up after about a minute and a half, and Satan was going to emerge.
He was right and it was awesome. Alex the Terrible’s malevolent gutturals took the throne for the most prominent contemporary voice in metal (only to be later challenged by Will Ramos of Lorna Shore). Several months later, Baba Yaga was released as a second single and continued their trend of striving for the heaviest breakdowns in metal.
First impressions after those two singles, I was expecting the album to be a meat and potatoes “nobody is heavier than us because you can’t sound like us” kind of release.
After we had time to fully digest the album, somebody on Twitter had made what I thought at the time was the hottest of takes — Kostolom was a nu-metal album. However, with tracks like “Your Only” and “Agony”, it was easy to see the rationale. You could make the comparisons to Iowa-era Slipknot.
This album did the rare feat of living up to the hype and provides a great transition for somebody looking to dip their toe in the heaviest of realms of music.
An easy number one for my Top Ten AOTY list.