Dec 152021

(Today Andy Synn brings you his suggestions for the albums which represent the top tier of this year’s metallic crop)

So we’re now halfway through “List Week”, although it’s probably more than that considering yesterday’s “Good” post was easily the most complicated and time-consuming of all the week’s articles.

Case in point, today’s round-up of the “Great” albums – the ones which I think represent the crème de la crème of their particular genre(s), whether by pushing them further or simply by exemplifying their very best qualities – is less than half the length of yesterday’s.

After all, while greatness comes in many forms, trying to define it, even pseudo-objectively, means you’ve got to be a little more selective.

Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive or definitive in any way (never trust any site or reviewer who claims otherwise) since it’s impossible for any one writer to hear everything that comes out in a given year, and you’ll probably spot the notable omission of albums by Frontierer (don’t worry, DGR will probably include that one), Clouds (excellent on first listen, but needs more time to really sink in), Møl (not a bad band, but overhyped in my opinion) and many more that I simply didn’t get around to due to the fact that time remains annoyingly linear.

You’ll also note that I’ve left off both albums I was involved in this year since I’m not arrogant enough to review my own records, but if you fancy checking out Apathy Noir’s final full-length, At the Edge of the World, or Beyond Grace’s second album, Our Kingdom Undone, feel free to do so in your own time!

Anyway, with all that preamble now out of the way here’s a collection of what I thought were the “Great” albums of 2021… and if you don’t see it here, that’s probably because I didn’t hear it (or I forgot about it).


It is a truth, universally known, that 2021 was a ridiculously filthy and fecund year for Death Metal in all its forms, from bands like Bæst and Ghastly putting a fresh (and ferocious) new spin on a more Old School sound to more dissonant and atmospheric artists such as Ageless Oblivion and Dormant Ordeal who achieved a whole new level of intensity this year with their long-awaited third albums.

Honestly, whether you prefer things harsh and horrifying (in which case give Acausal Intrusion a listen), raw and relentless (i.e. Antichrist Siege Machine) or punchy and progressive (which means you need to check out the new Lascaille’s Shroud – arguably the band’s best work)) it seemed like Death Metal had something for everyone this year!

Abscession – Rot of Ages

Acausal Intrusion – Nulitas

Ageless Oblivion – Suspended Between Earth and Sky

Antichrist Siege Machine – Purifying Blade

Atvm – Famine, Putrid and Fucking Endless

Bæst – Necro Sapiens

Burial – Inner Gateways to the Slumbering Equilibrium at the Center of the Cosmos

Dormant Ordeal – The Grand Scheme of Things

Ghastly – Mercurial Passages

Gosudar – Morbid Despotic Ritual

Hadit – With Joy and Ardour Through the Incommensurable Path

Lascaille’s Shroud – The Gold Flesh of the Sun

Redemptor – Agonia


Of course, if you like your Death Metal delivered with a level of heaviness and brutality that’s actually considered a war crime in several countries then allow me to be your audio arms dealer and recommend the experimental Death/Grind assault of Fractal Generator, the twisted technical terrorism of Monument of Misanthropy, and the absolutely lethal late-entry from Pyrexia (a perfect soundtrack to the inevitable zombie-ape apocalypse if ever I’ve heard one).

Deformatory – Inversion of the Unseen Horizon

Fractal Generator – Macrocosmos

In Asymmetry – Ashes of Dead World

Logistic Slaughter – Lower Forms of Life

Monument of Misanthropy – Unterweger

Ominous Ruin – Amidst Voices That Echo In Stone

Pyrexia – Gravitas Maximus


I doubt anyone will argue with me when I say that 2021 was a frankly ridiculous year for Technical Death Metal – as already demonstrated by just how many excellent albums were featured as part of yesterday’s “Good” list – and while much digital ink has already been spilled over the likes First Fragment, Archspire, and Rivers of Nihil (and with good reason), I’d contend that the new releases by Alustrium, Eximperitus (no, I’m not typing out the whole thing) and Stortregn (which is easily the best album of their career) deserve just as much attention and acclaim.

Oh, and I know the new Obscura has divided opinion, but I think it’s a fantastic piece of work from a band who clearly sound like they’re having a lot of fun (while still kicking all sorts of ass).

Ad Nauseam – Imperative Imperceptible Impulse

Aenigmatum – Deconsecrate

Alluvial – Sarcoma

Alustrium – A Monument to Silence

Archspire – Bleed the Future

Atræ Bilis – Apexapien

Burial In The Sky – The Consumed Self

Eximperitus – Šahrartu

First Fragment – Gloire Éternelle

Obscura – A Valediction

Ophidian I – Desolate

Rivers of Nihil – The Work

Stortregn – Impermanence

The Beast of Nod – Multiversal


Fans of the more “Blackened” form(s) of Death Metal were also well-served this year, whether by the grim grandeur of 1914’s bombastic Where Fear and Weapons Meet, which saw the band making a subtle shift in sound towards a more symphonic, but no less stunning sound, or the absolutely abrasive auditory assault of Succumb.

And if you really want to challenge yourself, why not try Veilburner’s mind-mangling new opus, Workers in the Capsule of Skull or Withered’s complex-yet-cathartic Verloren, possibly the best work of their career?

1914 – Where Fear and Weapons Meet

Defacement – Defacement

Kanonenfieber – Menschenmühle

Succumb – XXI

Suffering Hour – The Cyclic Reckoning

Veilburner – Workers in the Capsule of Skull

Withered – Verloren


Ok, maybe “perfection” is a little overstating it, but damn there was a lot of good Black Metal released this year, offering a visceral variety of different flavours for practically every palette.

So if you’re looking for raging rhythms and ravaging riffs, then check out Black Jackal and Gravpel (both of which are personal favourites of mine) ASAP, whereas if you’re after a more immersive and atmospheric experience then give the new Wolves In The Throne Room (the band’s best album since Two Hunters, imo) and Woman Is The Earth (the band’s best album… ever) a try.

And if you’re interested in something which pushes the blackened boundaries a bit more then perhaps the cinematic, saxophone-infused sounds of Æthĕrĭa Conscĭentĭa, the propulsive proggery of Dordeduh, or the harsh angularity and hellish intensity of Plebeian Grandstand will scratch that particular itch?

Æthĕrĭa Conscĭentĭa – Corrupted Pillars of Vanity

Anomalie – Tranceformation

Ars Magna Umbrae – Throne Between Worlds

Black Jackal – Forever War

Bornholm – Apotheosis

Code – Flyblown Prince

Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Noktvrn

Dödsrit – Mortal Coil

Dordeduh – Har

Genune – Inert & Unerring

Gravenchalice – Samael

Gravpel – Power to the Filthy Masses

Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm

Massen – Contraesthetic

Misotheist – For the Glory of Your Redeemer

Noltem – Illusions in the Wake

Plebeian Grandstand – Rien ne Suffit

Spectral Wound – A Diabolic Thirst

Wolves In The Throne Room – Primordial Arcana

Woman Is The Earth – Dust of Forever


From one form of darkness to another… if you thought that Black Metal had a moratorium on either aggression or atmosphere then allow me to correct this misconception, by recommending both the absolutely soul-crushing (and, I’ll admit, distinctly “blackened”) new releases from Praise the Plague and Choir (whose debut is one of the year’s biggest and best surprises), along with the much more strange and psychedelic offerings from Hundred Headless Horsemen and Sunnata.

Abstracter – Abominion

Body Void – Bury Me Beneath this Rotting Earth

Choir – Songs for a Tarnished World

Hundred Headless Horsemen – Apokalepsia

Oryx – Lamenting a Dead World

Praise the Plague – The Obsidian Gate

Sunnata – Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth


If there’s one thing I know it’s that there will always be a place for bands on the gloomy, doomy, and groovy side of things, especially since the word “Doom” actually covers a surprisingly wide spectrum of sounds, from the massively ominous and morbidly oppressive approach of The Ruins of Beverast, whose new album is most definitely not for the faint of heart, to the almost dream-like melancholy of Moanhand, or the shamelessly infectious Stoner-Doom swagger of Green Lung, and beyond!

Boss Keloid – Family the Smiling Thrush

Green Lung – Black Harvest

Moanhand – Present Serpent

Omination – New Golgotha Repvbliq

Serpentrance – Akra Tapeinosis

The Ruins of Beverast – The Thule Grimoires


And while I know the term “Post-Metal” can be pretty divisive (and often gets over-used, which doesn’t help matters) I think this year has really shown that the genre’s versatility is actually one of its strengths, as while all these albums share some key components, the music they produce is wonderfully varied and effortlessly distinct, running the gamut from heavy and abrasive acts like Wowod and Kollapse (two artists you really need to check out if you haven’t already done so) to unashamedly melodic artists such as Lantlos and Chrome Waves, to punchy, prog-tinged prodigies like Tharn and Hippotraktor).

Chrome Waves – The Rain Will Cleanse

Hippotraktor – Meridian

Kollapse – Sult

Lantlôs – Wildhund

LLNN – Unmaker

Tharn – Collisions

Wowod – Ярость И Прощение

Year of No Light – Consolamentum


Of course, some bands don’t fit neatly into any one style of music, and 2021 has seen more than its fair share of groups mixing and matching, or just plain ignoring the boundaries, between established genres in order to create some of the most distinctive artistic works of the year.

Prime examples of this are the Pop-Rock meets Post-Metal, Sludge-meets-Shoegaze sound of Sugar Horse (think Amenra meets Biffy Clyro, though that only really scratches the surface) and the experimental extremity of Epiphanic Truth, as well as the always distinctive Arena-Rock Melodeath of Omnium Gatherum, which might just have found its apotheosis on Origin (though I know that’s a controversial statement).

And, then, of course, there’s utterly undefinable and unquantifiable stuff like Voices and Dola which… well, you’re just going to have to listen to those and work them out for yourselves!

Creature – Eloge De l’Ombre

Dola – Czasy

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Epiphanic Truth – Dark Triad

Grey Aura – Zwart Vierkant

Iotunn- Access All Worlds

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Sugar Horse – The Live Long After

Voices – Breaking the Trauma Bond


Finally we’ll finish off with a genre that is still very near and dear to my heart, and a bunch of bands who are pushing its various permutations – Mathcore, Grindcore, Deathcore, Metalcore, etc – in intriguing new directions, whether that be in the form of Dreamwell’s intense emotional catharsis or the claustrophobic “Post” Deathcore of Humanity’s Last Breath, Employed to Serve’s anthemic aggression or Still‘s creative Blackened Post-Hardcore, or… pushing the boundaries of good taste and decency even further… the sinister, skin-stripping chaos of Fawn Limbs.

Dreamwell – Modern Grotesque

Employed to Serve – Conquering

Fawn Limbs – Darwin Falls

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Still – { }

Zao – The Crimson Corridor


And there you have it. You may not agree with all of them, but my hope is that each and every one of our readers finds something here that they hadn’t previously discovered or given a chance.

Tomorrow… tomorrow you get to see which of these albums I picked to represent my “Critical Top Ten” of the year, so keep your eyes peeled for that one!

  24 Responses to “2021– A YEAR IN REVIEW(S): THE GREAT”

  1. The 2 singles from “Gravitas Maximus” have been constants in my strength training playlist. I get stuck on just how bouncy those tracks are. So glad to hear the entire album.

    That said, I’ll definitely be digging into the other menu options under the Brutalise Your Brain category.

    • Glad to hear it. There was a LOT of killer BRUTAL stuff that came out this year. Some of it was also in my “Good” list yesterday, but even more of it ended up in my “didn’t get around to fully digesting” list (which is just for my eyes only, obviously) because there’s just not enough hours in the day to listen to it all properly!

  2. Great list, heard most of them, and agree with many:) What a great year for Death Metal, in any way or shape, this was!!
    Thanks for your lists, I’m always looking forward to them!!!!

    • You’re very welcome.

      It’s funny though, all I can focus on at the minute is just how many different bands and albums I DIDN’T get round to checking out, and so couldn’t feature here.

      It… haunts me.

  3. Nice. Ruins of Beverast and Krallice are albums of the year so far for me. I am really looking forward to diving into that Green Lung, Boss Keloid, Chrome Waves, Year Of No Light, and Iotunn.

  4. Happy to see Moanhand getting some love. I adore that record! And that Lantlos is also a fave of mine when I wanna unwind with something lighter and fun.

  5. I think calling Abscession great is kind of pushing it. Not that they didn’t do a perfectly serviceable album, nothing wrong with it, but like a lot of releases that come out of Transcending Obscurity Records, it’s basically the death metal equivalent of a potato chip. Tastes good but completely forgotten three seconds after you’re done

  6. Vomit the soul’s cold was also some killer brutal death metal. Nice to see suffering hour represented, that record is one for the decade for me, absolutely monumental

    • Ah, you’ve named one of the many bands on my “meant to listen to but didn’t have time” list. It’s a VERY long list this year. But I’ll try and bump it up the queue!

  7. “you’ll probably spot the notable omission of albums by Frontierer (don’t worry, DGR will probably include that one)”


    …yeah, its in there.

  8. I’m not a weekly visitor, but checking out NCS end lists had become part of my december rituals and again I’m not dissapointed. FOMO is really hard if you like music and there is sooooo much that it is impossible not to miss some true gems. This time you introduced me to Sugar Horse and damn what an epic album! Thank you so much!

    • Thanks Pieter, it’s always rewarding and more than a little reassuring to know that people look forward to these lists, and even more so when they discover new bands because of them!

  9. Always appreciate your lists, so thank you for taking the time to put them together. Surprised that Inferi isn’t mentioned? They had a great album this year.

  10. What About Debut self-titled album by the Finnish death metal band Revulsion, which was released on February 5th by Transcending Obscurity Records..
    Surprised to see nowhere in this list

    • As I’ve said a few times, if it’s not on this list, or either of the previous two, than that’s because I didn’t get around to hear it. However, there are a couple of hundred others you’ll hopefully enjoy checking out!

  11. Thank you for doing these massive lists Mr. Synn. I’ve spent an afternoon each christmas the last few years going through your lists and I always find something I’ve missed.

    Zao really outdid themselves this year imho, but I’d also give kudos to Our Kingdom Undone which pretty much has a perfect production. See you next year!

    • “I’ve spent an afternoon each christmas the last few years going through your lists and I always find something I’ve missed.”

      That’s good to hear. I do like to provide a service!

      “I’d also give kudos to Our Kingdom Undone which pretty much has a perfect production.”

      Well, thank you very much. It’s been quite divisive, production-wise, but we wanted to go for something more organic (hint to anyone listening to it – it’s not brickwalled to death, so feel free to turn it up!) and think we got what we wanted. Hopefully we can still make some minor improvements to it next time though.

  12. These lists are an awesome resource I will use for months to come. Really enjoying all of the lists, from “The Good” to the EPs, to “The Great”, “Critical Top 10”, etc. It will take me months to go through it all. I couldnt get into Ophidian I, though, it was just too noodly, constantly up and down, up and down the fret board. Ghastly, Alustrium, Dormant Ordeal, Fractal Generator, Ominous Ruin, (and so many others) were outstanding, however. A great year for heavy metal.

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