The 10 Best Heavy Music Releases Of 2021

2021 was undoubtedly an overwhelming year for music releases. Between the litany of postponed albums to the already planned 2021 releases, it was difficult to catch and dissect the many great records that defined this year. However, as far as the ‘best’ releases go for the heavy music genre, it was especially strenuous to pick an absolute favorite. The sheer variety of talented bands that dropped music in 2021 was unprecedented. Consequently, it feels like the many sub-genres of rock and metal have been filled to the brim with top tier bands, revolutionary young talent, and forward thinking albums. Arguably, this is no bad consequence, but it’s certainly made it hard to narrow down the year’s ‘best of’ list.

With all of that being said, these are what I consider the finest releases from 2021’s heavy music scene.

10. Violence Unimagined – Cannibal Corpse

To put it simply, no other band can deliver blunt force death metal quite as good as Cannibal Corpse. This year the Florida based death metal pioneers put out their 15th studio album, Violence Unimagined, and it just so happens to be one of their most consistent releases to date. Each track is packed with the band’s signature punishing rhythms and inverted hypnotic guitar chugs, whilst being lead by Corpsegrinder’s unrelenting vocal tirades. The sheer level of musicianship can’t be undermined when speaking about Cannibal Corpse, but with Violence Unimagined the band has found a way to make their rather niche musicianship hooky. In part that’s due to the songwriting and production on this record, which is unmistakably brutal as it is memorable. While it’s a fairly barebones album, in that it’s nonstop death metal, the litany of rhythm changes and technically profound breakdowns are sure to have any metal fan swinging their head.

9. Bloodmoon I – Converge & Chelsea Wolfe

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Easily one of the most experimental releases of the year, Bloodmoon I is the epic crossover album from metalcore pioneers Converge and goth-doom metal songwriter Chelsea Wolfe. As unique as it is, it’s hard to define the exact result of what these artists have achieved on Bloodmoon I. Being both part extreme and eerily mellow, with an occasional operatic flow, the dynamics in emotion on this album are easily what make it such a fascinating listen. Given so, there’s not exactly an appropriate sub-genre label for this album, as there’s nothing that quite matches it under the umbrella of heavy music. It has the razor sharp aggression often associated with Converge, but channeled through slower and more palatable songwriting, courtesy of Chelsea Wolfe. However, the biggest achievement from this project comes from the fact it’s a bold undertaking that’s ultimately a very accessible album, one for a variety of heavy music lovers and even rock fans.

8. Infinite Granite – Deafheaven

As a longtime fan of Deafheaven it was rather lukewarm news to find out they were ditching their black metal roots, all in favor for a more straightforward shoegaze/alt-rock album. However, first impressions are often temporary, and after a deep dive into 2021’s Infinite Granite its apparent that the band has crafted something contrastingly brilliant from their previous work. In fact, Infinite Granite is far more than a simple alt-rock album. While they amplify textures from their already pronounced shoegaze aesthetic, Deafheaven maintain their uniquely extreme sonic atmosphere but funnel it through hard hitting rock songwriting. Choruses explode with a frenetic bliss, and are often accompanied by the band’s excellent lead guitar work, but the real cherry on top is how well vocalist George Clarke performs as a singer. Sure, Infinite Granite is fairly tame compared to the band’s previous records, but it’s arguably more unique in its approach to heavy and powerful songwriting.

7. Dream Weapon – Genghis Tron

As bloated as this year was for music and entertainment releases, one record that’s flown under the radar for many is Genghis Tron’s Dream Weapon. This album boasts a magnificent cacophony of prog-metal, synthwave, and ambient rock, and it just so happens to be the band’s first album in over a decade. However, unlike say Tool, who took over decade to put out a great albeit derivative album, Genghis Tron took 13 years to make something exquisitely special and fresh. You’d be hard pressed to find another album that amalgamates heavy music and electronics as tastefully as Dream Weapon does. Additionally, Dream Weapon boasts some of the most satisfying and well produced drumming of any rock related release this year, courtesy of Nick Yacyshyn (drummer of Sumac/Baptists).

6. An Unexpected Reality – Gatecreeper

One of the earliest and also best metal releases of the year comes from the modern death metal outfit, Gatecreeper. In January the band surprise dropped their album, An Unexpected Reality, to which wasn’t beholden as their next full length, but rather a fun experimental record. Clocking in at just under 18 minutes, the record doesn’t over stay it’s welcome but instead gets straight to it’s mission statement: seven brutally fast punk-infused death metal tracks, topped off with a doom metal opus. While it’s significantly short as it is fun, the band succeed in just about every measure with this album, be it its timely lyrics and release, or its unapologetic sonic brutality. Simply put, there aren’t many new extreme metal bands doing it as good as Gatecreeper right now.

5. Eternal Blue – Spiritbox

Quite possibly the most important release from a new band in 2021, Spiritbox’s Eternal Blue touches on everything that’s great about modern metal and heavy music. Crystal clear production, intricate guitar work, and a transparent poignancy brought through the band’s phenomenally talented vocalist, Courtney LaPlante. At times it’s quenchable progressive metal that’s simultaneously A-tier pop music, and then occasionally it’s some of the most downright hypnotically heavy music there is. Based on the trajectory they’ve had over the last year, Spiritbox are on the brink of being this decade’s most beloved new band. While Eternal Blue is only their debut, it’s landed them on a playing field that many tenured bands visit far later in their career, if at all. From popular music fans to extreme metal fans, Eternal Blue is an album worthy of your attention.

4. Radical – Every Time I Die

With their ninth studio album Radical, Every Time I Die has stirred up an unmatched cocktail of sporadic hardcore, groove metal, and anthemic rock. Given the variety of nuances spread throughout this record, it’s an ambitious undertaking from a compositional and production standpoint. However, instrumentally the band is firing on every cylinder here, and with the help of Will Putney as producer it’s the best the band has ever sounded, and it’s quite possibly Putney’s best sounding record to date. Thematically, it’s one of the only heavy music releases to tackle themes of the COVID-era we’re all living in, but in a way that actually resonates with the listener. Furthermore, vocalist Keith Buckley performance on this record cements him as one of finest vocalists in modern rock. His drastic pivots from crisp melodies to explosive screams help conceptualize his virtuosic capabilities, all of which elevate him and the band to a tier they’ve not reached on prior albums.

3. Strength – Unto Others

Plane and simple, Unto Others (formerly known as Idle Hands) are on a dead set path to merge the best of goth and classic heavy metal music. On their sophomore release Strength, the band manages to do so to an immensely delightful degree. Unto Others push goth-metal to the very limits on Strength, to where it’s as catchy as it is classically heavy. Arguably, there hasn’t been a band that’s ignited such a profound interest toward this sub-genre since the days of Type Of Negative. This intentional balance between old school metal and goth is done so meticulously, that it’s bound to attract fans across all generations of heavy and alternative music. With Strength being the band’s first release on Roadrunner Records, it’s only a matter of time before Unto Others are the next heavyweights of their unique sub-genre.

2. Glow On – Turnstile

Across the sub-genres of rock music, there hasn’t been as much buzz surrounding an album since quite possibly the early 2000’s. Moreover, it’s rare you get an album that can stand shoulder to shoulder to its tidal-wave of hype. Glow On has seemingly been that record for Turnstile. The band has elevated their signature hardcore-punk to an unequivocal realm in the hardcore genre, and to a degree that feels artful yet mainstream. Taking it one step further, the band manage to do so whilst juggling an assortment of styles throughout this record. From latin grooves, crossover thrash, emo, and lo-fi, Glow On takes risks that never cease to disappoint, all whilst staying rooted as a hardcore album. And although it’s rooted in hardcore-punk, it happens to be one of the most fun and accessible hardcore albums ever written.

1. Fortitude – Gojira

Seldom does a band sound exponentially better after each studio album, whilst already having a near flawless discography. It’s a seemingly rare instance, but as far as modern metal goes Gojira is that band. Taking from where their acclaimed 2016 album Magma left off, their seventh studio album Fortitude is yet another career high for the french quartet. The band’s impeccable sense of groove and emotive heaviness is on full display with Fortitude, but most notably the ethereal and melodic motifs introduced in Magma are given the chance to be fully realized on this record. Sonically speaking, Gojira wield one of the most nuanced and mature sounding metal albums to date. However, unlike their previous work, the messaging and themes behind Fortitude find a way to puncture the soul. Fortitude is an album rooted in primitive and environmental themes, whether it’s the ongoing battle of the human spirit and dealing with the nature of suffering, or the blatant war cries for environmental and societal justice. While there’s something to be said about the timing of this release, the visceral connection between the lyrics and these unmistakably urgent times is profoundly moving. If Magma solidified Gojira as one of modern metal’s most relevant bands, then Fortitude pushes them to the front of that line.

The Tycoon Herald