It’s the middle of February, so let me be the absolute last to say Happy New Year and to bring you my top 10 metal albums of the year. This is what happens when you miss half a year in new music and have to catch up.
In general, 2021 was pretty terrible. But it was a fantastic year for music — particularly for metal. No matter what you listen to, there was something for you this year. Are you a thrash metal fan? Thrash royalty Exodus hit us with a powerful new album in 2021. Is old-school heavy metal more your jam? Iron Maiden dropped something that many folks considered one of the top metal albums of the year. Maybe you’re a fan of hardcore or deathcore? Well, then you’re going to love this list!
As “Larry” did with his top 10 albums of the year, I’ll give you a brief look at the albums just outside my top 5, with more in-depth thoughts on those who made it. So, without further adieu, let’s get this show on the road!
Chris Spooner’s Top 10 Metal Albums of the Year: 10-6
10.) Inferi – Vile Genesis
Musically, 2021 was a year of discovery. I discovered great bands I didn’t know existed and “discovered” genres I thought I didn’t enjoy. Inferi covered both bases with their album “Vile Genesis.” I’ve never been much for the tech-death genre, but the #10 album on my metal albums of the year list opened my eyes. It’s a perfect blend of technical prowess without being over-the-top with it.
9.) Rivers of Nihil – The Work
If one tech-death album is good, two is better! Unlike Inferi, I was familiar with Rivers of Nihil coming into my #9 metal album of the year, “The Work.” I’d checked out “Where Owls Know My Name” and really enjoyed it, despite my aversion to tech-death at the time. While “The Work” is very different, it is no less a masterpiece. This is a band that deserves much more attention than they get.
8.) Of Mice & Men – Echo
Oh, metalcore. It’s not my favorite metal genre — that would be thrash, as I’ve mentioned on the podcast before — but it’s a comfort genre for me. One of those genres where, if I see a band falls into it, I know I’m probably going to have a good time. That was the case with Of Mice & Men and their album, “Echo.”
Before listening to “Echo,” I was unaware the songs had been part of three previous EPs, so I got to listen to the album with fresh ears and expectations. Thus it comes in as my #8 metal album of the year.
7.) Jinjer – Wallflowers
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Jinjer. I, like just about everyone else, was *blown away* the first time I heard “Pisces”. It was a revelation, and I immediately went to listen to as much of this band as I could. What I found was a band who, while all are *incredibly* talented, the result wasn’t always as good as the parts would suggest.
That’s not the case with “Wallflowers.” Instead, this album is Jinjer at their peak. The technical prowess is there in spades, but it comes together masterfully, unlike some of their previous releases. Every song shows off just how talented each member is while also fitting together as complete, incredible songs. Of course, the openness and vulnerability in the lyrics from Tatiana Shmayluk are the cherry on top. In just about any other year, “Wallflowers” would easily be a top 5 album. That’s how great 2021 was for metal.
6.) Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
I was late to the party on Spiritbox. Where most in the metal world got their first look from “Holy Roller,” they didn’t show up on my radar until “Circle With Me.” I had no idea what I was missing! “Circle With Me” hooked me, “Holy Roller” sent me into the stratosphere with my fandom. The crazy part? Neither wound up being my favorite track off “Eternal Blue.”
Between tracks like “Hurt You,” “Silk in the Strings,” and the tearjerker “Constance,” it’s impossible to pick a favorite on this album. The only thing keeping “Eternal Blue” out of my top 5 metal albums of the year was the song “We Live in a Strange World.” It was the lone misfire on an album full of some of the best songs I heard all year.