It has become an annual tradition at our putrid site to launch our year-end LISTMANIA orgy with the appearance of DECIBEL mag’s Top 40 list, because they always seem to burst from the starting gate sooner than anyone else — and they’ve done it again this year, although about a week later than they did in 2020. There’s also the fact that, in my humble opinion, DECIBEL is still the best print publication out there for fans of extreme metal, and their list always generates healthy discussions, so it’s a fitting way to launch the latest LISTMANIA season apart from the list’s early-bird status.
The DECIBEL list will officially appear in the magazine’s January 2022 edition, which hasn’t yet hit my own mailbox, but DECIBEL again decided (for the sixth year in a row, or maybe the seventh) to scoop their own list rather than letting leeches like me leak it. They published the list on-line yesterday, and so I can now again re-publish their list without too much guilt, beyond the sheepishness that comes from being one of the factors that forced them to start outing themselves in the first place.
Of course, there will be a lot more content in the January issue. It includes a cover story on the Converge Bloodmoon collaboration record with Chelsea Wolfe, a Hall of Fame feature on Arcturus’ “black metal weirdo classic” Aspera Hiems Symfonia, editorial comment on the records that made their year-end list, and more. It will also include a Portrayal of Guilt flexi disc. You can order a copy of the issue HERE.
Before turning to the DECIBEL Top 40 I’ll share again the thoughts that I share every year at this time about the phenomenon of year-end lists in metal. I see no reason to amend the words very much, especially since that would involve effort.
Such lists continue to serve several useful purposes. One, of course, is to introduce fans to albums they may have overlooked. I also know people who don’t buy much music during the year and actually wait to read year-end rankings before preparing their shopping lists. And, perhaps most obviously, they give us something to discuss and argue about. Because apparently we don’t have enough to argue about already, even within a viciously polarized society in which yelling about something (anything) seems to be the daily past-time of millions, and the virus still raging almost everywhere because too many people still don’t seem to give a shit about it.
Of course it’s easy to argue over year-end lists. No matter who compiles them, they’re going to leave out albums you think should be included, they’re going to include albums you don’t think belong, and they’re going to screw up the rankings. I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? The only list that could possibly satisfy any individual fan from start to finish is the one they make for themselves.
I usually try to hold my own comments to a minimum when I post these year-end lists from print publications and “big platform” sites, mainly because I can’t manage to make a list of my own. It seems to me kind of hypocritical to publicly take pot-shots at other people’s lists when you’re not willing (or in my case unable) to put your own out there.
Having said that, I think most of us have come to expect that DECIBEL’s list is always going to include some “safe” choices that include big-name bands and the biggest of metal labels, but will also seize the opportunity to spotlight some much more underground selections, and in doing so will introduce them to people who otherwise might have overlooked them. There’s even two self-releases on this year’s list, to go along with 4 from Relapse, 3 from Metal Blade, 3 from Nuclear Blast, and 2 each from Century Media, Season of Mist, Profound Lore, 20 Buck Spin, Sargent House, and Ván Records.
I haven’t heard all of the albums on the list, which is another factor that militates against taking pot-shots at it. But of the ones I’ve heard, I thought most were at least good and some were great. I was pretty sure those would get recognized, especially the ones from bigger names and those with a big PR push behind them, but for differing reasons was especially happy to see recognition given to the new records by Panopticon (which had essentially no PR push, though I did help announce it and, thanks to an early listen, was able to write an early review), Hulder (whose album we premiered), Dungeon Serpent (whose album we also premiered), Mare Cognitum, The Ruins of Beverast (perhaps in part because I finally got to seem them play live in Iceland last week), Stormkeep, Amenra, The Silver, Skepticism, Lamp of Murmuur, Apparition, and Hooded Menace.
And although the legendary history of Carcass surely played a role in elevating their album to the No. 1 spot, it truly is a wonderful album. I don’t know what album I would put at No. 1 if I could manage to make my own list, but it would be in the running. Of course, the list is missing lots of albums that really shined for me in 2021, but it’s pointless to go down that road.
And with that I’ll shut up and let you guys read the list and continue the conversation in the Comments. I’m quite sure you have opinions.
40. Rivers of Nihil, The Work, Metal Blade
39. Darkthrone, Eternal Hails……, Peaceville
38. Body Void, Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth, Prosthetic
37. Frozen Soul, Crypt of Ice, Century Media
36. Mare Cognitum, Solar Paroxysm, I, Voidhanger
35. Silver Talon, Decadence and Decay, M-Theory
34. Spectral Wound, A Diabolic Thirst, Profound Lore
33. The Ruins of Beverast, The Thule Grimoires, Van
32. Enforced, Kill Grid, Century Media
31. Knoll, Interstice, Self-released
30. Archspire, Bleed the Future, Season of Mist
29. Dungeon Serpent, World of Sorrows, Nameless Grave
28. Exodus, Persona Non Grata, Nuclear Blast
27. Hulder, Godslastering Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry, Iron Bonehead
26. Craven Idol, Forked Tongues, Dark Descent
25. Deafheaven, Infinite Granite, Sargent House
24. Rudimentary Peni, The Great War, Sealed
23. Stormkeep, Tales of Othertime, Van
22. Genghis Tron, Dream Weapon, Relapse
21. Gatecreeper, An Unexpected Reality, Closed Casket Activities
20. Cannibal Corpse, Violence Unimagined, Metal Blade
19. Worm, Foreverglade, 20 Buck Spin
18. Unto Others, Strength, Roadrunner
17. Full of Hell, Garden of Burning Apparitions, Relapse
16. Cerebral Rot, Excretion of Mortality, 20 Buck Spin
15. Amenra, De doorn, Relapse
14. Lingua Ignota, Sinner Get Ready, Sargent House
13. The Silver, Ward of Roses, Gilead Media
12. Skepticism, Companion, Svart
11. Fucked Up, Year of the Horse, Tankcrimes
10. Wolves in the Throne Room, Primordial Arcana, Relapse
9. Iron Maiden, Senjutsu, BMG
8. Lamp of Murmuur, Submission and Slavery, Self-released
7. Converge, Bloodmoon: I, Epitaph/Deathwish Inc
6. Hooded Menace, The Tritonus Bell, Season of Mist
5. Panopticon, …And Again into the Light, Bindrune
4. Apparition, Feel, Profound Lore
3. Tribulation, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, Metal Blade
2. Khemmis, Deceiver, Nuclear Blast
1. Carcass, Torn Arteries, Nuclear Blast