By Anand Venkitachalam
New Delhi, 2021 has been a rathereventful year as the whole world was grappling withthe worst pandemic in human history, halting theproduction of several bands, and causing delays inseveral releases. However, the metal world has comeback stronger than before and has given us varioussurprises, with legends like Iron Maiden and Acceptreleasing new albums and newer bands emerging.This year, a ton of great material has come frommultiple bands providing evidence that no matter what happens, metal is truly immortal and will never die.
- ‘Senjutsu’ by Iron Maiden
Country of origin – England
Genre – Heavy Metal/Progressive Metal
Iron Maiden need little introduction, and one cannot emphasise enough on their role in the development ofheavy metal as a whole. That said, ‘Senjutsu’, translating in Japanese as ‘tactics and strategy’, is the 17thstudio album of the British metal legends. Released on September 3, 2021, the album is a very dynamic one;and while it carries the traditional Iron Maiden sound of dual guitar harmonies, galloping bass, soaringoperatic vocals and energetic drumming and a brilliant production, it has also given us quite something new.One may very well be inclined to say that this is an album driven heavily towards the progressive metal side,while still retaining the traditional heavy metal sound. Made all the more impressive by Iron Maiden’s asusual brilliant production, everything sounds clear and everyone shines out in their roles. Capable of standingside by side with Maiden’s classics such as ‘Powerslave’, ‘Number Of The Beast’ and ‘Seventh Son Of ASeventh Son’, there is nothing in this album that can remotely disappoint and is easily the best metal album of2021, and possibly one of the best ones ever. A truly flawless gem.
- ‘Aggression Continuum’ by Fear Factory
Country of origin- United States of America
Formed – 1989
- Genre- Industrial Metal/Groove Metal
- The American metal giants are known for their unique style of industrial metal, which while very heavy andaggressive, is also rather dynamic rather than just straight up heavy riffs or blast beats, with theirincorporation of atmospheric elements in some of their songs. Thus, Fear Factory is often labelled as cybermetal, with their lyrical matters pertaining to a bleak futuristic sci-fi setting, taking inspiration from andsometimes directly taking about the ‘Terminator’, ‘Dune’ and ‘Bladerunner’ mythos. Their tenth album’Aggression Continuum’ marks a new phase in the history of the band as long-time original vocalist Burton C.Bell marks his departure from the group after 31 years, leaving guitarist Dino Cazares as the only originalmember. As for the album itself, being Bell’s final album with FF, one could not ask for a better parting gift.Bringing in exceptional production and a killer sound with them, there is very little to say about this album for’Aggression Continuum’ contains everything that we love about Fear Factory, and it can stand with the best ofFF records such as ‘Demanufacture’, ‘Obsolete’ and ‘Archetype’. Whatever the future may have in store for theband, ‘Aggression Continuum’ is certain to be counted as among the band’s finest hours and among the bestalbums of 2021.
- ‘Colors 2’ by Between The Buried And Me
Country of origin- United States of America
Genre- Progressive Metal/Progressive Death Metal/Metalcore (early)
Between The Buried And Me abbreviated BTBAM’s music is hard to describe in just one genre, given as it is ablend of several such as metalcore, thrash metal, death metal, progressive death metal, avant garde metal,progressive rock, hardcore , ambient music etc though progressive metal might be the best suited term todescribe their music. Their marked transition from a Sepultura-like track to something more suited to a PinkFloyd record in a few seconds is something that has earned them both the love as well as the ire of metalheadsacross, for they can be perceived as extraordinarily creative and fresh or just randomly weird and annoying.That said, ‘Colors 2’ continues with the tradition of BTBAM’s unusual and amazing musical sensibilities. Theband released ‘Colors’, which is often considered their magnum opus in 2007, and in spite of having releasedseveral worthwhile and brilliant pieces, many fans felt that ‘Colors’ was a piece of art that the band may neverbe able to top. With ‘Colors 2′ released on August 20, 2021, BTBAM have indeed exceeded the brilliance of’Colors’ if not managed to once again capture it; ‘Colors 2’ while managing to reprise several tracks from itspredecessor is able to classify into something all its own. Totalling 80 minutes in length, ‘Colors 2’ brings outeverything one may expect from BTBAM while deepening the listener’s connection with its predecessor. Thisis easily one of the best BTBAM albums if not their finest record to date.
- ‘Fortitude’ by Gojira
Country of origin- France
Genre- Progressive Groove Metal/Progressive Death Metal
Gojira has become renowned throughout the metal world and need little introduction. Since their formation,the band’s lineup has remained unchanged. Bringing in their own unique blend of progressive groove/deathmetal Gojira’s lyrical matters usually revolve around topics like animal rights and environment protection,and their seventh album is no different. Released on April 30th 2021, ‘Fortitude’ sees a slight musical changeas there was more to it than just technical groove metal, for the album also sees the influences from blues andprogressive rock. Though that does not mean that it is a radical shift for Gojira is still very much bringing intheir trademark sound of deathly growls, super heavy melody laden guitars, ferocious drumming and groovyslightly funky bass with the production helping to bring all of it out. Throughout their career Gojira has notmade a single bad album, and ‘Fortitude’ continues with that tradition, with the album living up to its name,earning a spot for one of the best albums of 2021.
- ‘Force Of Danger’ by Kryptos
Country of origin- India
Genre – Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal/Speed Metal
The Bengaluru-based heavy metal band certainly caught audiences by surprise with their debut ‘The SpiralAscent’, which showed the whole world the power of Indian heavy metal, and since then the band hascontinued to expand. Released on October 1, ‘Force Of Danger’ continues Kryptos’s tradition of 80’s old schoolheavy metal in the likes of Accept, Running Wild, Dokken, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon etc. ‘Force OfDanger’ is an all-out banger and even surpasses its exceedingly brilliant predecessor ‘Afterburner’ as one ofthe best albums the band has ever released. ‘Force Of Danger’ packs everything you would want in atraditional metal record, heavy riffs, groove laden rhythm, killer solos, and overall it is just plain fun. Whilemusically near perfect, the production is a minor hiccup here. It would seem that in an effort to bring out the80’s music, the band had opted for a muddier production and somehow made it too muddy, with the bassbarely audible in the mix and the drums just lacking punch as they become buried by the guitars. However,that does not stop this record from being an all-out headbanging fest and it certainly earns its way as one ofthe best metal albums of this year. It is certainly something that Kryptos can show with pride.
- ‘Coherence’ by Be’lakor
Country of origin- Australia
Genre – Melodic Death Metal/Progressive Metal
The Australian progressive melodic death metal band’s fifth album, released on October 29 continues with theband’s tradition of dishing out heavy, haunting, beautiful and melodic music, staying consistent with theirstyle since the release of their 2007 debut ‘The Frail Tides’. Rather than being a continuation of the 2016 ‘TheVessels’, ‘Coherence’ is something different, featuring everything metalheads have come to love about thegroup. It showcases the band maturing and discovering new heights. Consistency can often result in only twothings, brilliance when done right and an absolute disaster when done wrong, leading to either extremeboredom or a metaphorical ear bleed. Fortunately the Aussies know exactly what to do, and in this case theoutcome is far removed from the latter, resulting in a piece of art that is truly among the best of this year, andsomething that only further embellishes their as of yet near perfect discography.
- ‘Existence Is Futile’ by Cradle Of Filth
Country of origin – England
Genre – Extreme Metal/Gothic Metal
The veterans of the gothic/extreme metal scene mark a triumphant return to the scene three years after thebrilliant ‘Cryptoariana-The Seductiveness of Decay’ of 2017 with their latest record. Released on October 22,the ‘Existence is Futile’ is the newest to explore the band’s horror Lovecraftian themes. Seeing a riff drivenapproach while simultaneously bringing in theatrics with growls, spoken pieces and an atmospheric sectionwith the keyboards, female singing and massive choruses, the band’s sound has changed a great deal sincetheir early beginnings though has nonetheless stayed true to their core. As a result ever since their successwith the 2015 ‘Hammer Of The Witches’, the band has continued with their newer approach of the old NewWave of British Heavy Metal style riffs coupled with black metal and gothic metal, resulting in an intense anddelectably sweet piece of music that is certain to satisfy fans and newcomers.
- ‘The Work’ by The Rivers Of Nihil
Country of origin – United States of America
Genre – Progressive Death Metal/Technical Death Metal
The American progressive metal outfit had certainly surpassed all expectations with the 2018 ‘Where TheOwls Know My Name’, with most fans calling it their magnum opus and something that was indeed very hard
to stand on par with, let alone surpass. But Rivers Of Nihil have managed to do the unexpected with theirlatest record ‘The Work’, which while it doesn’t surpass WTOKMN is certainly a piece of work that can standproudly alongside it. Stylistically different from its predecessor with some bits of resemblance, ‘The Work’ issomething completely its own, showcasing the band’s ingenuity and creativity. Packing crushing and brilliantriffs, death growls, clean vocals, melodies, technical skill, ‘The Work’ only showcases the band’s brilliantmusicianship and has everything one can ask for in a brilliant metal record. Some fans may find itproblematic that ‘The Work’ is quite different from its predecessor, but most are certain to appreciate it for itsingenuity, creativity and the very apparent care that went into writing and producing the album which isnothing short of total excellence.
- ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ by Tribulation
Country of origin – Sweden
Genre – Gothic Metal/Death Metal/Black Metal
Having changed a good deal from their early days, Tribulation’s sixth album released on January 29th iscertainly a contender for album of the year. ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ has an excellent productionwith nothing being overdone or underdone. The Swedes bring in a record which packs in haunting passages,melodies and doomy riffs, with the album ultimately coming out as a straight up gothic death metal. Thealbum displays the band’s various influences from gothic rock, death metal, New Wave Of British HeavyMetal, and even post punk, and ends on a befitting note, particularly for the band as longtime bassistJonathen Hulten announced his departure just a few days after the release of the album. All said and done,this certainly did Hulten’s time in the band justice. While ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ has its flaws, itis an undeniably passion driven album and one the band can certainly be proud of.
- ‘In The Court Of The Dragon’ by Trivium
Country of origin- United States of America
Genre- Thrash Metal/Metalcore
The heavy weights of the metal scene returned to the fold with their tenth album this year, following therelease of their previous album ‘What The Dead Men Say’ in 2020. Released on October 8th, ‘In The Court OfThe Dragon’ is sure to knock the socks of all listeners for it manages to surpass not just its predecessor, butalso the band’s other revered pieces such as ‘In Waves’, ‘Shogun’, ‘The Sin And The Sentence’, ‘Ascendency’, asprobably the band’s best album to date. With over twenty years of playing, the band’s sound has matured agreat deal since their debut, and after a bunch of experimentation with the different sounds, Trivium’s latest
release while completely looking forward manages to hold on to all that gives the band its identity.Experimenting with death metal, black metal, metalcore, progressive metal, heavy metal and thrash metalTrivium have incorporated a bunch of influences and ended up bouncing back stronger than ever. The resultis a diverse, complex, and power packed album with stunning production, and all the flavours of an excellentmetal album. With a truly fine addition to their discography, Trivium have truly outdone themselves as theyhave made a powerful contender for what can only be considered as among the best albums of the year.
- ‘A View From The Top’ by Dream Theater
- ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ by Architects
- ‘The Nightmare Of Being’ by At The Gates
- ‘A History Of Nomadic Behavior’ by Eyehategod
- ‘Torn Arteries’ by Carcass
- ‘Dark Connection’ by Beast In Black
- ‘Too Mean To Die’ by Accept
- ‘Eternal Blue’ by Spiritbox
- ‘Hell Unleashed’ by Evile
- ‘Royal Destroyer’ by The Crown.