2022 Metal Albums of the Year: Part 2

If you’ve been in the content creation game for long, you know that if you create something in multiple parts and tell your audience when to expect the next part, inevitably something will come up to delay that. That’s exactly what happened with the second part of my look at the 2022 metal albums of the year. But, while we’re a little late on the top 5, we made it and that’s what counts!

If you need a little refresher on the bands and albums we’ve covered so far, take a look at my choices for the numbers 6-10 on my metal albums of the year countdown. And as a reminder, all of these albums are ranked purely on my enjoyment of each. There are no wrong answers here! Now, without further ado, let’s check out my top 5 metal albums of the year from 2022.

2022 Metal Albums of the Year: 5-1

5) Malevolence – Malicious Intent

As we covered last year, hardcore isn’t a genre that I have a whole lot of exposure to. It’s one of those genres that for most of my life I just wrote off as ‘not really my thing’ without ever giving it a fair shake. Then 2021 happened and I discovered incredible albums by bands like Every Time I Die and Dying Wish. They really opened my eyes to what I had been missing with the genre, and how many great albums could be found if I was simply willing to look.

From that point on I made it a conscious point of emphasis to make sure I was checking out hardcore albums to see if anything hit me the way those two albums did. Sure enough, I found another one in 2022. We kick off the top 5 of my 2021 metal albums of the year with “Malicious Intent” from Malevolence.

This is an album that ranked highly in my “top metal albums of the year…so far” piece that I wrote back in July. Though much came out between then and the end of the year, this is an album that had staying power for me. Even after several repeat listens, I’m in love with this album as much today as I was when it first dropped. The combination of crushing riffs, wonderful harmonies, and a distinct voice on the clean vocalist really made this album stand out in a sea of great albums. 2022 gave metal fans a ton of great records and this is one of the ones that took me by surprise

4) Arch Enemy – Deceivers

“Deceivers” from Arch Enemy was one of my most anticipated albums of 2022 and had been for a long time. The band had been teasing this album for a long time before we finally got to hear the full effort in August. So much so that I even raved about one of the singles on a podcast episode months before the album finally dropped.

The wait was well worth it! If you’re a fan of melodic death metal, this is an album you need to check out. One of the criticisms of Arch Enemy throughout the years has been that a lot of their songs wind up sounding the same. They’re not known for pushing the envelope or really testing the boundaries of what the genre can be. They know their wheelhouse and they stick with it.

While “Deceivers” doesn’t deviate too far from that tried and true formula that has made Arch Enemy a melodeath titan, there is enough experimentation throughout the album to keep my ear interested and really hooked.

The star of the show is Alyssa White-Gluz finally displaying her clean vocals on “Handshake With Hell” and showing a side of their artistic expression as a band that we’ve seldom seen before. I would have liked more of this from them on the album, but that’s a discussion for another time.

What we got with “Deceivers” was straight-up melodeath goodness. White-Gluz’s vocal delivery is as powerful as ever, but between the addition of cleans on the aforementioned single and a larger focus on Jeff Loomis’ solo virtuosity, it felt like the step up from the band that fans have been waiting for.

3) Lorna Shore – Pain Remains

While “Deceivers” was one of my most anticipated albums of 2021, “Pain Remains” from Lorna Shore was easily my most anticipated album of the year. Lorna Shore took the metal world by storm when they released “To the Hellfire” and unleashed the unholy noises of Will Ramos upon the world. While that song was the impetus that got me – and most people – to sit up and take notice of Lorna Shore, it was the rest of the “…And I Return to Nothingness” EP that really grabbed my attention.

For me, both “Of the Abyss” and the title track were better songs than “To the Hellfire”. Hellfire had the shock value to bring in the ears, but the other two tracks were where the band really got a chance to shine and show their true potential. Potential that was fully realized with the release of their first full-length album with Ramos.

The star of the show on this album was the first part of the Pain Remains trilogy: Dancing Like Flames. This song really showcased that there’s more to Lorna Shore – and the deathcore genre as a whole – than just trying to be lower, slower, and more brutal than the next band. With Pain Remains, and to steal a line from The Charismatic Voice, Ramos and the band truly achieve the next ascension of emotional tension. The breakdowns and animal noises are great. But deathcore that can make you cry? That’s where the good stuff is!

Rest assured, “Pain Remains” isn’t Lorna Shore going soft. The first part of the trilogy may qualify as a “ballad” by deathcore standards, but the rest of the album still goes hard as fuck. There is plenty of absolute destruction on this album to satisfy even the most staunch of deathcore purists.

This isn’t a case of, say, a Whitechapel putting out an album that is a ton of cleans, a ton of experimentation, and really just a “deathcore” album by way of being put out by a deathcore band. Instead, Pain Remains stays true to the genre while also giving enough variety to push the genre forward in new and exciting ways.

2) Enterprise Earth – The Chosen

If you follow me online or know me in person, it’s no secret that the deathcore genre has a chokehold on me right now. It has ever since Whitechapel, Lorna Shore, and Slaughter to Prevail dropped their albums in 2021 and opened my eyes to the potential of the genre. That chokehold ramped up to 11 in 2022, as evidenced by the genre holding the top three spots in my metal albums of the year countdown.

The second of the three deathcore albums on this list comes from Enterprise Earth with their release “The Chosen”. As we’ve established, I’m a guy who loves songs that tackle difficult subjects, and who appreciates vocal or instrumental variety in his music. I love songs that make me feel, and albums that have enough variation to keep my ear interested and keep me from getting bored. So from the moment, I heard the song “Overpass”, I was hooked.

“The Chosen” hits on everything I want from an album. There are great melodies, there are crushing, brutal vocals. We have some clean singing in parts. There are songs, like “Overpass, that tackle tough subjects such as addiction and suicide. Enterprise Earth even gave us songs that hype you up, give you a pep talk, and make you feel like you can take on whatever shit the world throws at you.

The album doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the world around us. Instead, it tells us that “You know what? The world around you is shit. But you are THE SHIT. Now get out there, rise up, and conquer whatever it is you’re dealing with”. I think that’s a message we could all use a bit more of these days.

1) Fit for an Autopsy – Oh, What the Future Holds

In a genre where everyone is trying to be heavier, more brutal, and more outrageous than the last guy, Will Putney, Joe Bad, and the guys in Fit for an Autopsy said “Nah, fuck that”. And it worked tremendously. Fit for an Autopsy might be the forgotten step-child of the deathcore genre right now, but for my money they’re at the top of their game – and the genre as a whole. And that’s reflected not only in my 2022 metal albums of the year ranking, but also on the charts.

Oh, What the Future Holds was quietly a massively successful album for a deathcore band. The album topped out at #2 on the US Heatseekers chart, #3 on the US Hard Rock charts, and #23 on the Billboard Top 200. One listen to the album and it should be obvious as to why this album had such wide-ranging appeal, and what makes it my top metal album for 2022.

With Oh, What the Future Holds, Fit for an Autopsy chose to eschew the accepted norms of the deathcore genre and really take it back to the hardcore roots. The breakdowns are a far cry from the heavy, brutal sounds of the previous deathcore efforts on this list.

Instead, they embrace their hardcore roots and make you want to get out on the floor and throw fists. The vocals aren’t trying to get lower or more absurd than some of their genre brethren, either. Joe Bad isn’t blowing anyone away with his lows like an Alex Terrible. He’s not making inhuman noises like Will Ramos or Dickie Allen.

On the contrary, he’s giving you an incredibly consistent, heartfelt, angry performance that draws the listener in and makes them feel the anger and resentment at what the world around them has become. That’s the central theme of “Oh, What the Future Holds” – anger at what we’ve become, with a hope for a better future. Things may be fucked up right now, but it’s within your power to rise up and change it. Things may look bleak now, but Oh, What the Future Holds…

2021 or: How I Learned to Stop Cringing and Love the Deathcore

Photo collage of deathcore albums by Whitechapel, Lorna Shore, and Slaughter to Prevail

If you’re of a certain age, just seeing the word MySpace brings a flood of emotions, memories, and reactions. MySpace, a driving force behind the cultural movement of sorts, shone a spotlight on some of the best and worst the millennial generation had to offer. As a precursor to sites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and TikTok, it introduced us to concepts we know and love today, like ‘virality’ and trends. One of those trends that persists today is the “Deathcore” genre of metal.

Be honest, when you read the word ‘MySpace’, did you cringe a little? It’s okay, I did too when I came up with the concept of this article. And if you cringed at the mention of MySpace, you probably cringed at the mention of deathcore, too. That’s okay, too.

Since its inception, the deathcore genre has been highly divisive within the metal community. It has often been looked down upon. Often thought of as “unserious” and “hokey”. I’ll be the first to admit, if you’d talked to me a year ago, I would have had the same reaction.

Now, this isn’t a “discovering metal for the first time” story like you’d see if you’re familiar with someone like Elizabeth Zharoff and her wonderful YouTube channel, “The Charismatic Voice”. No, I’ve long fancied myself a ‘metalhead’.

I grew up listening to classic rock, falling in love with guitar solos and riffs. When I was in my childhood, the grunge era was hitting the scene and I couldn’t get enough of bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. As I grew up, I gravitated towards progressively harder music. Metallica. Slipknot. Bullet for my Valentine. Killswitch Engage. But, inevitably, I always tended to stick within the same few genres, namely thrash and metalcore.

Then something changed. Or, rather, three somethings changed the way I think about the deathcore genre – and to a greater extent how I thought about heavy, extreme music as a whole. It may sound weird to some to say you went through a musical epiphany at the age of 34, but that’s exactly what happened to me thanks to releases from Slaughter to Prevail, Lorna Shore, and Whitechapel.

Slipknot + Death Metal + Russia = ????

I’m not sure if there’s a better way to explain the sound of Slaughter to Prevail’s “Kostolom” than, ‘What if Slipknot’s ‘Iowa’ was a death metal album?” That was sort of the description I got when their single “Baba Yaga” first came onto my radar, and when I tell you I was blown away by the accuracy!

Iowa is one of the most important records to who I am as a person today. That album got me through some dark times, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

That connection, I think, is a large part of the reason I connected so strongly with ‘Kostolom’. It hits a lot of those same notes of anger, brutality, and hopelessness that both the ‘Iowa’ record had, and that I had personally when that record was getting me through.

That was the first thing that really got me to begin to reconsider my stance on the genre of a joke. How can something be a joke if it’s legitimately making you feel emotions? Deathcore can make you feel emotions? That can’t be right, can it?

Oh, it can and it is! For all the shit this genre gets, there’s so much more to it than the memey vibes it was giving off during the MySpace days of its infancy, and there’s so much more that the genre can become as it continues to evolve and pull from other influences like hardcore punk and nu-metal.

Deathcore Evolves with Lorna Shore

“Kostolom” was the album that got me to a place where I was intrigued by the deathcore genre. But it was another album, one that coincidentally dropped on the same day, that picked up where Kostolom left off and convinced me to accept – and eventually love – the genre. That album, or EP if we’re being technical, was Lorna Shore’s “And I Return to Nothingness”.

At first, I was hesitant to give the Lorna Shore release a chance. I’d never listened to the group in the past, but I knew there was some… not great stuff in their past, so I avoided it at first.

Upon learning that this iteration of the band swiftly ousted a member responsible for said stuff and had a brand new vocalist, I caved and listened to their new single “To the Hellfire”.

If I remember correctly, my first impression was something to the effect of “HOLY SHIT…WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!?” Said in the best way possible!

What that was, was the absolute vocal gymnastics of new lead singer Will Ramos. The ease with which he flowed from deep, guttural tunnel screams to his goblin-esque highs blew me away. Then, of course, the pig squeals into that final, sustained tunnel scream to close out the song. My mind was absolutely blown. 

Then, when the EP finally dropped and I got to check out the other two songs – “Of the Abyss” and the title track – my mind was blown yet again. You can do that with deathcore? You can just… go and add symphonic elements to it? I didn’t know that was allowed!

This is Deathcore? Then Why Can’t I Stop Crying?

The entire idea behind this piece stems from a conversation I was having with a friend (@HobbyistBrendan on Twitter) about Whitechapel’s latest album “Kin”. We discussed how much of an absolute masterpiece I think this album is and lamented the (relatively) poor sales performance it had.

Part of that “poor” performance has to do with the music industry as a whole and its evolution. Album sales across the board just aren’t what they used to be. The industry by and large has moved to a place where physical media just isn’t as popular.

The other factor in that performance is fan reception and, let’s be honest, gatekeeping. There’s going to be a contingent who reads this article, sees the mention of Whitechapel, and immediately thinks “KIN WASN’T A DEATHCORE ALBUM YOU ASS!”.

And that’s fine, people are allowed to have their feelings about what characteristics do and do not make up a genre. However, that kind of thinking is a double-edged sword. But that is an article for another day. For now, let’s get back to the overall masterpiece that was “Kin”.

Whether you think “Kin” qualifies as a deathcore album or not, Whitechapel is a quintessential deathcore band, and there are more than a couple of songs off the album that absolutely go hard, so I’m counting it.

In that context, and much like the Lorna Shore album before it, “Kin” pushes the boundaries of what deathcore can be, and adds elements to the genre that should have had fans really excited for the future of the genre. Namely, in this case, incredible storytelling.

“Kin” continues the story from Whitechapel’s previous album, “The Valley” and continues the journey of lead singer Phil Bozeman dealing and coming to terms with the childhood traumas he endured. And all of that anger, pain and suffering really comes through in the lyrics. 

The lyrical content of “Kin” ascends beyond the typical brutality and gore that deathcore typically brings. It really attempts to take the listener on an emotional journey through those emotions, and eventually to a place of coming to grips with them. Getting to a place where you can accept the past for what it was. Appreciate the good times that were had even through the suffering, and move on with life a healthier and better person for it.

Find Music That Makes Your Heart Sing

To me, music is at its best when it piques your curiosity, connects with you, and makes you feel. Whether those emotions are a cathartic release of anger and trauma, or an overwhelming sense of joy, music at its best is uniquely capable of drawing out emotions, and providing an endorphin rush that few other things can.

That’s something that all three of these albums have in common. And to get all of that from a genre that I previously wrote off as a joke was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

If you get nothing else from this piece, I hope it’s to always keep an open mind on your musical journey. Don’t be afraid to listen to something just because of the label it’s been given. Limiting yourself to certain genres is depriving yourself of so much incredible music and so many wonderful stories.

Now get out there and discover something that makes your heart as happy as these albums have made mine. And be sure to catch the return of the Blast Beats podcast!

Top Metal Albums of 2022…So Far

If you’re a fan of heavy, extreme music then 2021 was a great year for you. It certainly was for me in that regard. 2021 was perhaps the greatest year for metal that I’ve ever experienced. Some of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard came out last year, in the form of releases from Whitechapel, Slaughter to Prevail, and Every Time I Die. Somehow, 2022 is following in its predecessor’s footsteps. We’re only halfway through the year, but there have already been a number of incredible albums released. Here are my top 5 metal albums of 2022 so far.

“Malicious Intent” – Malevolence

As I mentioned, three of the best albums I’ve ever heard all came out last year. I say that not as a teenager just beginning his journey into the world of metal, but as a guy who’s nearing middle age and has been listening to heavy music basically since the womb. That’s not to say that I don’t have blind spots, however. One of those blindspots for me has been the “Hardcore” genre.

Growing up, I was pretty big into the mainstream punk scene. Especially when bands like Green Day broke onto the scene. I’m talking actual punk-era, “Dookie” Green Day, not the “American Idiot” days. But somehow as my tastes got heavier and more extreme, that didn’t ever translate to me giving hardcore the time of day. Then I checked out “Radical” last year, and I’ve penciled in Hardcore as one of my genres to make sure to give a spin.

My first exposure to Malevolence was checking out the song “On Broken Glass” on Tank the Tech’s YouTube channel. The guitars and aggression in the vocals were great, but what really hooked me was when the melodic vocals kicked in for the chorus. The voice just hit that part of me that gravitates towards uniqueness in music. I pre-ordered Malicious Intent immediately, and I’m so glad I did.

The song that really cemented Malicious Intent as a top 5 metal album of 2022 was the ballad “Higher Place”. I’m a sucker for a hard, heavy band who can pull off a slower, emotional song. And they pull it off very well here. The clean vocals fit the song to a T, and the solo is so full of emotion, which is something that seems to be harder and harder to find in today’s metal scene. This album is great front-to-back, and if you’re a punk fan and haven’t checked it out yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Fix that as soon as you finish reading this piece.

“Zeal & Ardor” – Zeal & Ardor

What can I say about Zeal & Ardor that hasn’t already been said? If you’re into eclectic metal – genres that shouldn’t mix, but do – then this is the band for you. Manuel Gagneux and the crew are absolute masters at blending two styles – black metal and gospel – that on the surface could not be more opposite. I don’t know how it works, but it absolutely does, and the self-titled album is a wild ride that typifies that.

The ability to seamlessly transition between soulful singing and shrill screaming is immediately captivating, and the intensity and feeling are sustained from cover to cover on the album. We’ve got a great mix of creepy lyrics, masterful storytelling, and lyrics in multiple languages. Just about everything that really appeals to my ear is covered here. It’s one of those albums that truly feels like someone went into my brain and picked out things that would appeal to me in specific.

The fact that this album only comes in at number four on my top metal albums of 2022 so far really is a testament to how strong the first half of this year has been. Don’t let the low appearance fool you, I am absolutely in love with this record. I was never a big Zeal & Ardor fan before this came out, but you can bet your ass I am now. It will be really interesting to see what they do in the years to come to follow this record.

“Erebos” – Venom Prison

Have you ever had one of those moments where you make a discovery and immediately feel embarrassed at your past self for making an assumption that turned out to be wildly inaccurate? That’s what my journey into the Death Metal genre has been. I grew up with a very specific, very narrow idea of what constituted “Death Metal”. And I knew that I didn’t like that sound, so I figured I just didn’t like the genre across the board.

Then we started up a podcast and I realized just how wrong I was. The moment that cemented it for me was stumbling upon my number three metal album of 2022: “Erebos” by Venom Prison. They’re categorized as Death Metal, but could not be further away from the sound I had in my head when I thought of the genre.

Everything about this album just speaks to me. Larissa’s lyrics are aggressive and brutal, yet at times almost hauntingly beautiful. There’s a ton of variation in the vocals, something I didn’t think was possible in death metal before Blast Beats. The guitar work is some of the best I’ve heard since starting to explore the genre. There’s a ton of experimentation and genre-blending going on in “Erebos”, but it rarely feels forced or like it’s taking away from the music or the message. 

There are intensely personal lyrics, politically-charged lyrics, lyrics relating to mythology. There are clean vocals in parts. Parts have proggy influences. There are even piano interludes. It’s a record where pretty much whatever you’re into, there’s going to be something for you here. Venom Prison put on a master class on how to blend myriad influences while staying true to the genre they’re in.

“The Chosen” – Enterprise Earth

If you’re over a certain age, you probably have some very specific associations that come to mind when you hear the term “deathcore”. Cringey, over-the-top lyrics. Guitars downtuned to the absurd. Breakdowns for the sake of breakdowns. And all of that is certainly present in a lot of the genre. But if there’s anything that 2021 taught us – or at least me – about this genre, in particular, is that it can be so much more. The releases from bands like Lorna Shore and Slaughter to Prevail really opened my eyes to the influences that can be brought to the genre – and the potential it can have.

This year has just furthered that trend. Where 2021 was capped by two deathcore bands, my two top metal albums of 2022 at the halfway point are also deathcore. However, these two albums have a much different bent than the Slaughter to Prevail and Whitechapel releases of 2021.

Whereas Slaughter to Prevail and Whitechapel brought a lot of different influences in – and can be argued weren’t exactly “deathcore” albums – Enterprise Earth played it much closer to the vest on “The Chosen.” And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot to be said for expanding influences and pushing the boundaries of a genre. But there’s also a lot to be said about being able to work within a formula and perfect your craft within those confines. I truly believe that’s what Enterprise Earth did with this album.

It’s hard, heavy, and brutal. It has all of the insane vocal talent we’ve come to expect from Dan Watson. The instruments are heavy, technical, and the backbone of their sound. The lyrics are at times inspiring, at times devastating, and at times mysterious and even haunting. While they stay largely within the confines of what we’ve come to expect from the label “deathcore”, there’s hardly anything about this album that I would consider “generic” or “boring”.

It’s a shame Dan left the band after putting out such a banger album. But his work with Mire Lore is also great, and it seems like Enterprise Earth isn’t losing any steam with his replacement.

“Oh, What the Future Holds” – Fit for an Autopsy

“Oh, What the Future Holds” is a title that sounds inspiring; almost whimsical. A title that sounds like it could be straight out of a Dr. Suess book. That is decidedly not the vibe that you get from this album, though. If anything, my top metal album of the year so far is the antithesis of that. And after all the shit that we’ve been through over the past couple of years, it’s not hard to see why a record like this would serve as a welcome catharsis.

This album is heavy. Dark. Unrelenting. It kicks you in the teeth from the jump and doesn’t give you a moment to catch your breath. It opens with a (largely) musical introduction that builds and really sets the table for what you’re getting yourself into with the rest of the record. Then “Pandora” hits and you get a glimpse of the darkness that’s to come with the rest of the record.

“Oh What the Future Holds” really taps into the darkness and despair that a lot of folks are feeling looking at the world around them. There’s a bleakness to this record that is crushing, but also deeply relatable. And the music itself is outstanding. Fit for an Autopsy really embraces the “core” element of deathcore on this record, really tapping into the hardcore influence. There are still the deep, harsh vocals and heavy breakdowns that you expect from the deathcore genre. But at the same time, the vocals definitely have a more hardcore vibe, and the breakdowns generally have more of that feel. Especially when the “four-on-the-floor” kicks in on Far From Heaven. That was the moment this album really clicked for me.

Overall, the first half of this year has been great for heavy music fans. With some truly heavy hitters coming in the second half of the year, it’s going to be a wild ride! Come back in December to see how my list of top metal albums of 2022 changes!

Blast Beats: Top 10 Metal Albums of the Year

Metal Albums of the Year

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.