(Our friend Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood) has joined us again with year-end lists as 2021 draws to a close, beginning with this selection of EPs and LPs.)
It felt like I blinked and this year was over. When I did these lists last year I was at various hotels traveling while I trained for a new job. Now I just celebrated a year without anyone (either customer or upper management) calling me hurtful names that make me sad. I found that I’ve kept most of my 2020 picks in rotation (and still a good chunk of 2019’s as well) and I don’t really have a dour tone to strike this year, unlike the mess my 2018 list was. I don’t think I listen to anything except Extinction of Mankind from that list at all anymore.
I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats to hear more about my personal life and that’s all well and good but I’m here to deliver what I thought were the most interesting musical moments of the past 12 or so months. Like the previous two years there were a lot of really worthwhile recordings that came out, especially in the category of splits and demos. For this first list I’m going to touch on a few LPs that I didn’t go into detail with elsewhere as well as the EPs, just to start off slowly since I’m trying to romance you into paying attention for a few thousand more words.
And with that, we’re off:
Anthrax (UK) “Serf’s Out” (Grow Your Own Records)
I suppose I should start this off with saying I’d never listened to any of Anthrax’s seminal recordings prior to this record, which is odd since I eat up most everything out of that generation of bands, and that this record just came out a few weeks ago, which should put it out of contention in the eyes of some. But I’d be lying if I said this isn’t one of the most addictive records of 2021. From the excellent production to the strength of the vocals and some of the wittiest lyrics I’ve ever heard, this is by far my favorite anarcho-punk record of the year.
Somme “Prussian Blood” (Deathprayer Records)
Somme continue to create the finest WWI themed black metal around, a sub-sub-genre that I guess has started to grow in the last year or two. Soaring cold riffs, reminding me of the first Azaghal 7”, Crimson Evenfall and other Finnish greats from the late ’90s. Timeless black metal and one of the finest EPs of the year.
Morte Incandescante “Vala Comum” (Signal Rex)
Since starting as a collaboration between Corpus Christii and Merrimack members over twenty years ago Morte Incandescante has grown into its very own, very deadly beast. Nasty black metal that blends elements of the first and second waves while remaining jet-black and malicious. This is one of those bands that really should be paid attention to as they continue to expand and contract with every release, making each new record something special.
Old Forest “None More Black” (Death to Music)
None More Black was Old Forest’s second record, recorded right after the seminal Into the Old Forest, but remained unreleased until years later when it came out on a CDr that barely anyone fucking has and eventually was considered for a proper reissue except the sound quality was apparently too shitty for it to be pressed (which doesn’t stop most bands these days). So, like its predecessor, it was given the re-recording treatment by the current lineup and released (with the original version as bonus tracks) again through Death to Music. That brings us up to speed with some backstory.
It’s no big secret I think their first record is the finest black metal to come from England and this continues the tradition of well-crafted, old black metal.
Lamp of Murmuur “Submission and Slavery” (Black Gangrene)
You could kind of tell the direction M. was taking Lamp by the last quarter of Heir… but the goth rock/post punk leanings really take over this record, making it less, for lack of a better word, challenging than the one that precedes it. That isn’t to take anything away from it, the fucking record wouldn’t be on my list if I didn’t think it held merit over the shit it beat out to get here. It’s a record that is loaded with moments that will stay with you throughout the day, truly and passionately wearing its influences on its sleeve. One of the best meldings of genres I’ve heard in decades and another worthy addition to an already exceptional discography.
Haalbuaer “Mortal Ones Scream in Horror” (Caligari Records)
The amount of new death metal that I’ve given time to in the last few years could be counted on one hand at this point. The “OSDM” trend/fad/movement certainly has been great for a lot of people but I think I’ve hit the point where I don’t pay attention because I was there in the ’90s for “the golden years” and I just haven’t found anything that’s scratched that itch as well as the old bands. Until now, that is.
Norway’s Haalbuarer are in the same mold as early Cadaver, Soulside Journey, Depravity, etc: that golden age I was just talking about. If someone had played this for me without telling me what it was there’s no way I would have guessed it was less than thirty years old. Best death metal record of 2021 for me, hands down.
Order “The Gospel” (Listenable Records)
Deathcrush era ex-Mayhem members making traditional black metal in the vein of the music they created before half the people reading this were born? While that sentence may lead you to think this is some nostalgia vanity project riding on the legacy of a controversial record that people argue about constantly, it’s pretty fucking far from it. The Gospel is loaded with powerful riffs and moments of clarity as to why they’re making this music after so many years removed from the dramatics of the scene. The Gospel upholds the traditions its founders began decades ago.
And so ends the first part of our journey into the ego-stroking parade that is my year-end list. Thank you for sticking with me year after year and join me for the next portion of our program: the demos of 2021.