(As our 2021 Listmania series winds its way to the end we are again delighted to present one of our most anticipated features in the series every year — a year-end list from our friend Austin Lunn of Panopticon, whose latest album …And Again Into the Light has rightly found its way onto many a 2021 YE list itself.)
I want to take this opportunity to preemptively apologize for the intense length of my list here… I swear I actually cut stuff out… but there was just so much amazing music this year, I decided to sacrifice brevity for thoroughness and make a list that is, from my view, obscenely long.
This list is in no particular order… it’s just a long list of records I thoroughly enjoyed this year… I am sure after this is posted I will be kicking myself because someone in the comments will express their disappointment in me by saying “ what, no _________?” And I’ll inevitably say to myself ,” dammit I can’t believe I forgot that!”
2021 was a gnarly year and presented a lot of huge changes for me and my family, as well as many changes for people we know. Many tragic events, joyous triumphs, crushing losses, and heartbreaks. In the end, all I can do is express gratitude to the folks who were there for me, and to the folks I was able to be there for…. I am appreciative of the sense of community I have had the privilege to enjoy this year. I hope to return this favor as best as I can.
So thanks for kindness, friendship, and support. And thanks for MUSIC.
Here’s my list:
Bhleg returns with another brilliant homage to the old days of black metal, but with the renewed spirit and passion of a modern, young band. This is a fitting successor to their brilliant Solarmegin album and the following Äril mini LP.
Grima: Rotten Garden
Grima has made many fantastic albums, and I eagerly await every release they put out. I thought that Siberian Sorrow would never be topped, but this record inches ahead of it. Grima have a fervent, yet mysterious sound…this is not to be missed.
Minnesota’s own reminding us of a forgotten sound… somewhere between Strid and Setherial’s Nord LP with just a touch of Weakling. This record is crucial.
Valac: Burning Dawn of Vengeance
Valac are raw, primitive, and scratch an itch for me. The music is aggressive and perfect in its imperfection.
Ethereal Shroud: Trisagion
A long-awaited return and brilliant send-off for an amazing band. The album is amazing, shows development and change in sound… I’m sad to know that this is the end of the band, but thankful for the music.
Pan Amerikan Native Front: Little Turtle’s War
Pan Amerikan Native Front return with a fresh slab of native history fueled, raging black metal.
Aylwin: The Arch Holder
California’s Aylwin fill the void for me left by Lake of Blood and this album only has one flaw… I wish it was longer. I’m looking forward to more. There’s moments of doom… there’s moments that remind me of Fauna… it’s a really versatile and dynamic record. Not over-produced, not under-produced… just right. And the ethereal moments are bliss.
Ad Nauseam: Imperative Imperceptible Impulse
Somewhere between Gorguts’ Obscura and Ulcerate’s Destroyers of All. This album is brilliant in its production and composition. This is a must for fans of technical and avant-garde death metal.
Hulder: Godslatering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry
Pissed-off, old school black metal. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But you can always make it meaner and this album certainly is that. It kicks ass.
Marblebog: Once in a Black Moon and Csendhajnal reissues
Marblebog has been a mainstay in our house hold for about 14 years or so. Csendhajnal has long been a favorite of mine and so seeing it reissued on vinyl this year was amazing. Also having a cassette of all the random splits and things that are on Once in a Black Moon is quite convenient. Awesome to have these on more than just CD.
I know this came out in November 2020, but I didn’t get it until January, so I am going to include it. I hadn’t checked in on Jesu in many years… I lost interest in the direction the band took. About half of this album doesn’t appeal to me, but I see the value in it and respect the talent. However I listened to “When I Was Small” and “Terminus” over and over again. In particular, one memory stands out… one very very cold day I cleared an ice rink that had about a foot and a half of snow on it so my kids and I could ice skate and I spent about an hour and a half listening to this on repeat on a sub-zero (Fahrenheit) day, with the sunlight from a clear blue sky glistening across the snow…. damn, what a beautiful memory.
Morke: We are the River
The finest moment from this Minnesotan project. Such a beautiful album.
Olhava: Frozen Bloom
I love this band and was very proud to contribute a guest spot to it. Of all the amazing bands coming out of Russia right now (see: everything on Slow Snow Records) this band is one of the best. Absolutely amazing.
I’m having a really hard time waiting for the next Wedrujacy Wiatr album to come. But this record helped tide me over. I think I listened to this a couple hundred times in 2021 : while chopping fire wood, driving long distances, going on my daily trail run… doing the dishes, doing brewery work, pretty much doing anything. This record warranted enough repeated listens to the point where I can just remember it in my mind and don’t have to actually play it. I would like to have it on vinyl though….
Amazing record coming from members of Blut Aus Nord. Picks up where the Memoria Vetusta series left off but with less keyboards and more of a “cascadian” atmosphere. Really great.
Soft Kill: Dead Kids, RIP City
My favorite Soft Kill album is Choke but this is a close second. Some songs I like more than others, but I like the album a lot overall. However the final 2 songs take the cake and I would absolutely love to hear a stripped-down acoustic record similar to the concluding song “I Needed the Pain”. Such a beautiful, brave, vulnerable moment.
Somewhere between later-era Death and Dissection is this sound. What a killer album. An absolute Progressive melodic death metal masterpiece.
Lebensnacht: The Realm Beyond
This album has a wonderful, old-school black metal feeling to it and has had many repeat listens. Especially during the snowy months, here in northern Minnesota.
Genune: Inert & Unerring
This band is very new to me and I know very little about them, but I really liked this album a lot… I liked the nostalgic, longing sound of it. It’s a very lonesome sounding black metal/ dark metal album.
Cold and mysterious…. The artwork fits it perfectly. This came out during the summer and I absolutely couldn’t wait for winter to return once I dug into to it. Great record.
Ringarë: Thrall of Winters Majesty
Excellent record. The drums on this are absolutely bonkers. Those kick drums are inhuman!
Efterbild: En Flod Av Tid
Amazing shoegaze album by a good friend. I love this record, and the production on it is perfect. Such a beautiful, melancholic album. The sound track to introspection and longing.
Autumnfall: Ghosts of Light
Members of Fall of the Leafe return to their Storm of the Autumnfall roots. If you love that demo, and also love OBSEQUIAE, you will love this.
Excellent, cold black metal from Russia. Once again, Russia is crushing it in black metal.
Amebix: The Power Remains the Same
I waited for this damn thing to come out for about half a decade.It is finally here and it was absolutely worth the wait. I love live albums, and Amebix has been one of my favorite bands since I was a teenager… so this is really special to me. Bek and I saw them on this tour and it was fantastic.
This band’s called “Rye” in English, and this album is absolutely amazing. Imagine if Skagos and Asunder did a collaborative album together…. it’s that good. Black/ Doom excellence. Again… they are a Russian band…..
Thy Light: s/t EP
Awesome to see this band return after a long silence. This EP was quite nice.
I really loved this record. I listened to it a lot… very atmospheric, very moody.
Woman is the Earth: Dust of Forever
These guys are a personal favorite of mine and this record just takes their sound to bigger and broader peaks and valleys. Such an amazing band that top themselves with every album. AMAZING.
The first song on this record is astounding. The rest is good too… but good gods this first song is awesome.
Noltem: IIlusions in the Wake
Excellent full-length by an excellent band. Whoever plays drums on this record is a beast. (Kerr I’m looking at you, bud).
Grot: Hymns of the Woodland
Excellent black metal album full of sorrowful melodies. There’s some Alda vibes to it at times. I wish it was longer though. I liked this a lot.
My favorite album of the year. AND ITS NOT JUST BECAUSE IT IS JAN’S BAND. I love this record, I love the artwork, and I love the concept. It’s such an awesome progression for this band… yet it seems to return to the soundscape of Femundsmarka. New but nostalgic. It’s perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Friisk: ...un torügg bleev blot Sand
Speaking of Jan, he showed me this record and I really liked it a lot. I hope there will be a repress soon so I don’t have to pay out the ass to get a copy on wax.
Dödsrit: Mortal Coil
I have listened to this album a ton. This is also one I have listened to while trail running this year. It is absolutely crushing blackened crust. Full of raging D-beats and triumphant tremolo-picked melodies.
Alda: A Distant Fire
My dear friends return with another masterpiece of cascadian black metal. This is a new take on their sound, with cleaner, more hi-fi production, letting the brilliant songwriting shine even more. For fans of cascadian black metal…. hell, for fans of MUSIC in general.
Grima: The Mighty Spirit
Damn, I love live albums.
olim: A Mighty Disposition
This is another album that has been a great companion on my trail runs… this has been my winter trail run record. The art fits the sound perfectly. It has that kind of melody that bands like Forteresse have but with a shimmery post-black metal production quality that is wonderful.
Groza: The Redemptive End
This reminds me of Mgła quite a bit, but with some differences that make them stand out a bit from the other Mgła clones. I enjoyed this album a lot and thought the performances were really tight. There’s some cool Dissection type moments in there that I really enjoyed too. Killer.
Sturgill Simpson: The Ballad of Dood & Juanita
Sturgill Simpson Rules. On top of seemingly being an amazing guy, he is a brilliant songwriter.
Uprising: Uprising 1.1
Killer to have this on wax!
Rübezahl: Remnants of Grief and Glory
This is awesome. Alaskan Blackened Death, with a focus on the death metal side. Fans of early Aeternus take note.
I loved this band’s first two releases, so it was cool to see it have such a busy year. I haven’t spent much time with the other 2 releases they did this year (Inagape and Ihum jolhduc) but I really enjoyed this one.
This band is hard to keep up with but I really enjoyed this record and I love the cover art.
Fluisteraars: Gegrepen Door De Geest der Zielsontuiking
This record is great. It has cool packaging as well (it’s a die-cut LP with a clear velum that tints the photo beneath it). This band certainly would appeal to fans of Grift, I think.
Í Myrkri: Bag Skyggernes Slør
Excellent Danish black metal… cold and hypnotic.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit: Noktvrn
There’s some really amazing moments on this album, and I’m not talking about the one that sticks out the most on the album hahah. I love this band’s sense of melody and I love the urgency their drummer performs with. Amazing band.
Gloosh: Sylvan Coven
Ok… Russia again. Gloosh is amazing and this album is really great. It certainly appeals to folks who like Bhleg…. I have enjoyed all of Gloosh’s releases.
Slow Crush: Hush
Always nice to hear Slow Crush. Excellent shoegaze.
Natürgeist: Reinvigorated Terror
This EP has a very Strid quality to it… also kinda reminds me of Krohm a bit. I’m excited for a full-length some day…
Aran: Pimeyttä Vasten
EXCELLENT black metal from Finland.
Runespell: Verses in Regicide
I’ve been following this band for quite some time. If I am to understand it correctly it’s a member of Eternum and kind of continues that sound. I love the atmosphere their music brings… the stillness in the long acoustic parts.
Tardigrada: Vom Bruch Bis Zur Freiheit
An amazing sophomore release from this band. This one is even better than their debut, which was hard to top! Very sorrowful black metal with clear production…. every instrument just so in its place.
Carcass: Torn Arteries
The kings return. This album is a mix of every era of Carcass. My only question is… what’s up with the lyrics being all scrambled in the booklet?
I had never heard this band until I saw them at Decibel Beer and Metal Fest and they really blew my mind. I promptly marched my ass down to their merch table and bought one of everything they had. They are brilliant, dark, dissonant death metal with some slow heavy passages… for fans of later-era Gorguts, Krypts, Vastum, and Ulcerate.
This is an awesome record with members of Dark Fortress doing Lunar Aurora style black metal… it’s a really awesome concept album and is absolutely worthy of repeat listens.
Primeval Well: Talkin’ in Tongues with Mountain Spirits
Hell yes. This record is really really unique and well done. I love it and would love to have a copy on wax some day. I love the production on this and the feeling of it… it blends country/ Americana music but into a chaotic black metal format. Its arrangements are amazing, the atmosphere and chaos of it… it’s fantastic. There’s moments that have this Krallice-like abrasiveness and aggression and atmosphere similar to Leviathan’s The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide, but then the melodies morph into very Appalachian folk and almost old time music… both in actual folk moments and with the black metal instrumentation. Also I like the subtle atmospheric keyboards on this a lot. The intro to “Where All Things Are Forgotten” makes the hair on my neck stand on end. This is an amazing record.
Thulcandra: A Dying Wish
Dissection worship done to perfection. Always glad to have a Thulcandra record.
Funeral: Prasesentialis in Aeternum
This was another favorite of mine…. Funeral kind of reinvented themselves a bit on this album. Imagine a super down-tuned Candlemass album with an orchestra and choir and beautiful lyrics in Norwegian. I have immensely enjoyed this album.
Dauþuz: Vom Schwarzen Schmied
Deep mining-themed black metal from Germany. Every record they have done is awesome. This is no exception.
This was a relatively late discovery for me. I love the folk instruments and classical arrangements… the accordion on this record is really sentimental sounding… the melodies are razor-sharp. Fantastic album from this French black metal band. Incredible.
Brilliant instrumental (mostly) music by members of Olhava. Extremely atmospheric and emotional post-black metal.
Negura Bunget: Zău
I don’t even know where to start on this album.
I have long been a fan of this band, and I love all eras of the band… I love the records after the original line-up separated as well. The Translylvanian trilogy was a massive undertaking and this album is its bittersweet ending. The drum tracks were completed before founding member, Negru, passed away, and the remaining members sought to complete the album in his honor.
This album is mysterious, drenched in reverb and atmosphere… it’s sound is spacious, pristine, cold and expansive. I have to say that after listening to it over and over since its release day, it very well may be my favorite Negura Bunget album. There’s something so magical and serene about it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it on headphones as I made my way through the snow-covered evergreen forests near my home this winter… it’s a perfect soundtrack to such a landscape and I highly suggest listening to this album in outdoor places… from start to finish without interruptions.
I love Hypocrisy… one of my favorite death metal bands. I love all the alien-themed stuff and conspiracy-theory stuff… it’s just an awesome concept… not to mention they are a raging live band…. But there is a line on this album that cracks me up every time I hear it :
“Can’t get what you wanna get? Why don’t you steal like the government?”
I don’t know why, but every time I hear that line I just bust out laughing. Peter Tätgren is such an amazing vocalist, but his delivery on that line is particularly awesome.
This album was long-awaited and totally worth it. Hypocrisy is still amazing. One of my favorite bands, without a doubt. Always fun live or on record. Worship does not disappoint.
Swallow the Sun: Moonflowers
Swallow the Sun return with another deeply sorrowful, introspective album about grief and loss.
Heavy as ever, but this time with some really beautiful orchestral contributions. Awesome.
Like Windir? Especially the first 2 albums? This is for you. Awesome folk-influenced atmospheric black metal from Skellefteå, Sweden.