EDITOR’S NOTE: Our annual LISTMANIA series includes re-posts of lists from “big platform” music sites and selected print zines, but we usually don’t re-post lists from other metal blogs because that truly would make this long series virtually endless. But as we’ve done in many previous years, we’ve again made an exception for Brutalitopia, because through a variety of MDF hijinks over the years, the NCS crew have become fast friends with the guys behind Brutalitöpia — Tom, Mick, and Durf. The following is a Top 10 synthesis they compiled from their individual lists originally published at their site — which you can find HERE.
Once again we survived and are living through the maddening times that are pandemic life, so in lieu of the true and infinite wisdom of family members and friends there were some good ol’ tunes to get us by in the 2021st year of our dark lord.
We at Brutalitöpia got off our collective asses and brought new columns, whether it be weekly bearded workouts or 6 songs from each of us monthly (6+6+6 for the unencumbered, isn’t Mick funny?) Since we do our very best to do exactly what we want, when we want to do it, this annual exercise seemed the perfect example of 11th hour magic that we take pride in over at the Töp, so read on NCS friends and be astounded by the amount of copy/paste and micro edits from our actual lists, hell read them too if you want, otherwise this aggregate below should do. Durf even blurbed about albums not from his list.
Several beers deep, or deep in thought you ask? You, yes you the reader, can decide. Let’s kick 2022 in the balls before it has the chance to be another downer, read on below, onward and upward.
10) Suffering Hour – The Cyclic Reckoning (Durf #3)
I had never heard Suffering Hour before listening to The Cyclic Reckoning, and I immediately devoured their first album and EP after I heard it. Their cosmic blackened death sound is both primitive and futuristic, and while I don’t want to play apples and oranges, it’s crazy to me that Blood Incantation seems to get infinitely more hype than Suffering Hour. The Cyclic Reckoning is a crushing, dynamic album, with riffs and melodies to spare.
9) Lucifer – Lucifer IV (Tom #2)
Tom: A band that has continued to find its rightful place in my seasonal playlists would be Lucifer. I am of the opinion that the band has continued to improve throughout their career, finding their way into both my spring “driving with the windows down” and haunting “Halloween mood” playlists; they check off a lot of different boxes. A massively consistent band that doesn’t take a ton of chances, but they ultimately don’t need to with the incredible vocal foundation of Johanna Sadonis and her husband, the legendary Nicke Andersson, helping this band sound like the garage rock version of Black Sabbath. There is plenty of rocking energy keeping this ship afloat, finding a balance somewhere between Cathedral, Sir Lord Baltimore and Captain Beyond; retro-sounding but still ultimately fresh. “Crucifix (I Burn For You)”, “Bring Me His Head”, and “Louise” are riff fests but variety on tracks like “Mausoleum” showcase the Stevie Nicks-esque frontwoman skills of Sadonis.
Durf: I have no idea what this band is, but based on the name I’m envisioning female-fronted occult rock in the vein of Blood Ceremony, but maybe a little more classic metal-tinged with less flute. In short, the exact kind of album you’d expect Tom to love.
8) Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm (Durf #2)
If I were a better writer, I’d be able to tell you exactly what is so transfixing about this album, but I’m just me, so all I can say is this album is amazing. There is a hypnotic quality to Solar Paroxysm that comes from the way Mare Cognitum blends melody and rhythm; it’s not quite atmospheric black metal, but there’s certainly more atmosphere and ambience than there is in straightforward black metal albums. This is great music to get lost in, from one of the best bands working in the genre.
7) Hooded Menace – The Tritonus Bell (Tom #6, Durf Honorable Mention)
Tom: If Worm perfectly described death/doom in 2021, then let Hooded Menace take it one step further and add levels of melodicism to the mix. The Tritonus Bell is the sound of this Finnish foursome evolving, and quickly at that, from 2018’s Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, a solid album but not one that helped Hooded Menace to stand out from the crowd. This feels like the band’s proper marriage of Autopsy’s Mental Funeral in conjunctions with Carcass’ Necroticism. Barring the unsightly nature of both bands, you get the doom plod but without the fear of sounding too pretty to properly bury the listener six feet under. “Chime Diabolicus” and “Corpus Asunder” do these things in droves. This was the best doom of any kind that 2021 had to offer.
Durf: As soon as it warms up where you live, get in your car, roll down the windows, and throw this fucker on at full volume. Thank me later.
6) The Lion’s Daughter – Skin Show (Mick #1)
Mick: In a year with a multitude of fantastic releases, my tie-breaker for the top spot had to go to something truly unique. Captivating, catchy, heavy, and unsettling, The Lion’s Daugther’s Skin Show is truly in a league of its own. Along with sludge and doom metal, the band seamlessly weaves in synth-laden backgrounds that provide a cinematic feel. I can’t remember where I read this, but somewhere this album was described as the “doom version of a John Carpenter soundtrack” and I’m honestly not sure I can come up with a better descriptor. To top it all off, the lyrics dive deep into abuse, violence, sex, and drugs; creating a world themed around depravity. Skin Show is an album that has an unshakable darkness about it; one that will both enthrall and unnerve you. But these are the kinds of listening experiences that are hard to forget and tend to stand the test of time.
Durf: Mick is on-point here; this album is incredible. It’s legitimately scary in a way very few albums have ever been.
5) Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound (Tom #3, Mick #5)
Tom: I should continue to be upfront about my love of Tribulation. Ever since they ditched the death metal, they have become one of the most consistent bands in the metal genre, adopting a sound of goth-tinged, moody black metal that has no problem straight up rocking. Departing guitarist Johan Hulten‘s leaving surely hurt the band at the time, especially since it happened during the release cycle for Where The Gloom Becomes Sound, but the band has continued to persevere. The longest songs on the album begin and end it with “In Remembrance” starting off slowly and “The Wilderness” proving to be one of their finest solo tracks to date. There is a lot to cover here, hell I already did that, what is with this band and making my lists with all of these early year released albums? Whatever the case may be, Tribulation continue on their quest for heavy music supremacy.
Mick: Continuing to run with the successful formula from their prior album, 2018’s Down Below, Tribulation’s “black n’ roll” stylings are still very much intact. However, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound manages to take things a step further and make the overall gothic presentation darker and more menacing. Whereas Down Below managed to achieve this by heavily utilizing sounds akin to an almost child-like music box, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound takes a more straightforward approach by letting the guitars drive even more of the melodies and set the ambience. Along with piano/organs and gravelly vocals, the album gives off a certain regalness and sophistication that is a sign of the band’s maturation more than anything else. Going back to the “black n’ roll” genre tag, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound is a great example of how you can have eerie tones and harsher vocals mixed with more accessible guitar riffs and rhythms that, oddly enough, would make the whole presentation completely work in an arena rock setting.
Durf: Sure looks like Down Below was the outlier Tribulation album for me; Gloom was an enjoyable listen, but it just didn’t do much for me beyond that.
4) Wolves In The Throne Room – Primordial Arcana (Mick #3, Durf #4)
Mick: Being as into atmospheric black metal as I am, I always wonder why Wolves in the Throne Room is a band that I’ve never included much into my regular listening rotations. I ponder this question once more because hearing Primordial Arcana for the first time was easily the most fun I’ve had listening to the band that wasn’t in a live concert setting. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this album reinvents the wheel, but everything about it just flows so effortlessly and hits all the right ebbs and flows throughout that it makes for an extremely fluid listening experience. The vocal screams, the driving drum rhythms, the menacing guitar tones, and even electronic elements from a certain WITTR album that shall not be named all play off of each other in a variety of interesting ways that keep Primordial Arcana balanced but also 100% on-brand with the WITTR aesthetic.
Durf: Easily the most pleasant surprise of the year; after two albums that were more ok than great, Wolves in the Throne Room returned with one of the best all-around efforts in their discography. Primordial Arcana leans hard into the Cascadian mountain magic that makes this band great, unapologetically taking their time in atmospheric passages while also bringing the heavy.
3) Panopticon – …And Again Into The Light (Durf #1, Mick #2)
Durf: I spent a lot of my time listening to …And Again Into the Light wondering if I was being critical enough, if I was listening to it honestly for what it is, and not listening to it through the lens of it being the newest album from my favorite band. I thought about it way too much, until one day I realized I was being silly, and set out to listen to it and not think about what I thought about it. And you know what? …And Again Into the Light is phenomenal. Austin Lunn continues to be one of the signature voices in heavy music today, and …Light finds him looser and more inclined to take risks than ever before. From the quiet, doomy opening minutes of “Dead Loons” to the folksy interlude of “As Golden Laughter Echoes,” to the incredible “The Embers at Dawn,” Lunn has Panopticon firing on all cylinders here. While I’ll always enjoy Panopticon‘s acoustic work, …And Again Into the Light proves that Panopticon is at its best when Lunn combines all his influences instead of splitting them apart.
Mick: Saying a new Panopticon release is excellent is becoming old hat, but this one is truly special. Special in that it is the truest encapsulation of everything that is Panopticon. From the twangy acoustic guitars, banjos, and cellos to the heavy hitting blackened death metal riffs, …And Again Into the Light not only brings back all of the project’s trademark elements but brings them back sounding the best they’ve ever sounded on a Panopticon album; both in actual sound quality and thematic cohesion. In terms of the theme itself, Austin Lunn notes that “this record is dedicated to all who refuse to give up and continue to struggle for light and beauty in this world.” Knowing that statement comes from the context of struggling with mental health, it brings a whole new dimension to this album. The heavier riffs hit harder and the longer-form compositions feel all the more grandiose given the intent is to put positive vibes out into the world. In my mind, any further debates about which Panopticon album is the best are really debating about which album is second best. …And Again Into the Light takes the #1 spot and it’s not even close.
2) Worm – Foreverglade (Durf #5, Tom #11, Mick #15)
Durf: Fun Fact: I’ve been working on this list for an embarrassingly long time and so it wasn’t until this very morning, on the day of my list’s publication, that I learned Foreverglade is not, in fact, Worm‘s debut album. Which, on the one hand, means I know what I’m going to listen to on my commute today, but on the other, means I had to erase, like, two sentences and replace them with this anecdote. Deathy and doomy and sludgy and utterly fantastic, Foreverglade came out of nowhere to bury its swampy, humid putridity all the way into my cold, black heart. Also, I want someone to put “Subaqueous Funeral” over the opening credits to Hard Target. Or just remake Hard Target and let Worm do the soundtrack. If they’re gonna ruin Road House with a remake, there’s no reason I can’t get a Worm-scored Hard Target.
Tom: Florida based death/doom unit Worm have returned after 2 years and their well-received Gloomlord to up the ante yet again with the powerful Foreverglade paying homage to their home while still allowing for the band to drag themselves through their state’s ample amount of marshes. The 6 tracks measure out to 45 minutes, which is relatively bite-sized when compared to bands that sound like Worm; they consistently get the most out of their riffs while remaining stylistically static. The death metal here is murky and slow, cavernous and frightening. The title track alone is worth the price of admission and serves as a proper introduction to boot. Worm is a band on the rise, with plenty to offer fans who need that level of disgust to get through their day, plus that artwork is just spectacular.
Mick: When Foreverglade first came out, Durf was singing from the rooftops about how amaze-balls the guitar tones were. He was right to do so. Florida’s Worm blends death, doom, and funeral metal all into one grungy and grimy mix that feels like the funeral doom elements of Evoken meets the clean reverberating guitar tones of Pallbearer. Between the deep vocal growls and the constant crusty droning of the guitars, everything about Foreverglade is cavernous where nothing feels like it has a bottom end. It’s a constant hammering that will keep you simultaneously drawn in but also rendered helpless to escape. Ultimately, this album reminds me of how I feel about the last release from Tomb Mold; I don’t typically lean towards this type of metal but the way it’s executed in this specific instance just knocks it out of the park.
1) Carcass – Torn Arteries (Tom #1, Durf #9, Mick #13)
Tom: It has been a long 8-year wait since the last Carcass album, the career redefining Surgical Steel, dropped into our laps, so when Torn Arteries got announced there was excitement abounding. What would it sound like? If you told me Carcass made the proper transitional album between Heartwork and Swansong, I would have told you I would have been on board with it from the get-go. Surely, Torn Arteries is exactly that and just so happens to be the best album 2021 has to offer. Fandom aside, few albums came close to this one, with songs like the powerful opener/title track “Dance of Ixtab” slowing things down and the absolute hand-clapping insanity of “In God We Trust”. I want to make sure that you understand that this album made its way to #1 on its own merit and not due to it being the newest Carcass album; some other sites might disagree, but that’s where we differ. Carcass got the most words out of me in 2021 and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Showing no rust whatsoever, Torn Arteries is the album that was beyond compare this year.
Durf: Look, I liked this album a lot. It’s great. But the fact is, back when Durf’s Weekly Workout was running strong, I gave Decibel a lot of tongue in cheek shit for aping Brutalitopia and starting a health and fitness column. And NOW we’ve turned around and aped their pick for Album of the Year?!?! Thanks a lot Mick and Tom; really making me look like a jackass here. But for real this album is great.
Mick: In 2013, I’m pretty sure I was the only person anywhere that didn’t include Surgical Steel on my year-end list. But I’m here now to put some respect on Carcass’ name. Featuring riffs that are slowed down a bit (by their standards, anyways) and much more groove-based, Torn Arteries is more my speed. As good as Surgical Steel was, Torn Arteries allows the death metal legends to showcase more range. The dizzying harmonized guitar riffs and solos going by at blazing speeds are evened out by thunderous rhythms that provide needed breaks in the madness. Jeff Walker’s screams remain as sharp and vicious as ever, remaining a steadfast foundation for the band. While I understand the notion that some may be irked by Carcass being on the top of so many year-end lists (including this one) solely because they are Carcass, albums like Surgical Steel and Torn Arteries are legitimate reasons that they’re in these discussions at all.
Tom: and will continue to be for a long time
Make sure to catch all of us at Brutalitopia, and see what other stuff I can provide for you at Invisible Oranges and Heavy Music Headquarters.