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Well, another year in the books. Another year of excellent metal and another year scrambling to put together year end lists from the vast amount of quality music released in 2021.

Below is the finely crafted crème de la crème of year end lists from our dedicated staff, who strive to provide to the great daily content here at TeethoftheDivine, and their year end reward is to spout their opinions of what they liked, disliked and anticipate.

As usual feel free to add you own lists or comments and of course browse the site to find reviews of the contained material where we have it. But more importantly lets hope for a better and closer to normal year in 2022.

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Erik T

2021 was one of the best years of metal in a long time. The creativity that occurred either during COVID as musicians were locked down, or the post COVID explosion was evident across all genres from all countries. Some late December release really fucked things up but much like 2019, it was evident 2 things were my go-to: epic symphonics (almost half the releases have major keyboards) and breakdowns (7 are deathcore or slam of some sort), though tech-death certainly was a heavy presence as well this year (8 could be considered technical metal). Also, it appears the death knell for deathcore was a little early as the genre (largely due to Unique Leader) blew the fuck up. Unlike last year where I didn’t have to agonize over my list or top efforts, there was a lot of late-year shuffling in 2021, and outside of my top 10 things could be pretty interchangeable depending on my mood.

  1. First FragmentGloire Eternelle (Unique Leader). Usually, a 70 + minute album would wear on me, but Phillip Tougas and co somehow delivered an absolutely bonkers, entertaining flamenco laced tech-death masterpiece that improved on the debut and heads a simply killer year of tech death.
  2. Mental Cruelty A Hill to Die Upon (Unique Leader). Let’s be honest, this is a Lorna Shore homage and the much-increased orchestration dramatically improved an already massive deathcore band, and I’m a sucker for this stuff.
  3. Ophidian IDesolate (Season of Mist). Such a vast improvement over the debut with a constant melodic shred along with amazing musicianship, barely beat by First Fragment as 2021s best tech death release.
  4. 1914Where Fear and Weapons Meet (Napalm Records). Add some dramatic orchestration to already magnificent WWI based doom/black/death metal and the results are spectacular.
  5. PasséismeEminence (Antiq Records). Three Russian death metal dudes from Wombripper delivered amazing medieval epic black metal and the year’s best black metal release, from a label that had some really good black metal. Whodathunk?
  6. Dessiderium – Aria (The Artisan Era). A late-year top 10 buster, this solo effort from Alex Haddad of Arkaik, out Nihil’ed Rivers of Nihil with progressive, epic melodic technical black/death metal, just no sax.
  7. WizardthroneHypercube Necrodimensions (Napalm Records). Hopefully, the Alestorm chats fallout isn’t too bad, as this fun and epic Bal-Sagoth inspired side project has some real promise.
  8. VallenduskHeralds of Strife (Northern Silence). Not a shoo-in for the top 5 as I’d expected due to 3 weaker songs, but the 4 other songs are good enough to warrant a top 10 spot.
  9. AephenamerCall of the Wilderness (Napalm Records). Man, what a fun uplifting, synth-filled melodeath album. I loved that these guys progressed with 2 self-released albums then deservedly got signed to a bigger label and delivered as a stunning third effort.
  10. Seven SpiresGods of Debauchery (Frontiers Records). I admittedly have a crush on Adrienne Cowan, but man, her voice and compositions skills are top-notch. Such a talent.
  11. Harakiri For the SkyMære (AOTP). My first introduction to this Austrian duo was this epic, 2 cd, hour-plus-long effort of effortlessly perfect modern black gaze.
  12. DuskmournFallen Kings and Rusted Crowns (Self-Released). Amorphis meets Ensiferum with epic keyboards. Vastly underrated US act that needs a label ASAP.
  13. AldaA Distant Fire (Eisenwald). After 2 solid albums, Alda took the jump into elite levels with a nigh-perfect Cascadian black metal album for the ages, and should see the band mentioned in the same breath as WIITR and Falls of Rauros.
  14. Be’lakorCoherence (Napalm Records). Well worth the 5 year wait as Australia’s answer to Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum (who delivered an utter snoozefest on Origin) again delivered the goods.
  15. Rivers of NihilThe Work (Metal Blade). A draining, angst-filled progressive death metal album that really shows how developed these guys have become.
  16. StormkeepTales of Othertime (Van Records). A bit different from the EP, but in a good way. Rousing D & D metal for your next Dungeon crawl.
  17. Necronautical Slain in the Spirit (Candlelight). Yep, the best symphonic black metal album from the UK was this, not Cradle of Filth. And it wasn’t close. Additional Fleshgod Apocalyse like orchestration and choirs elevated these guys immensely.
  18. Fear FactoryAggression Continuum (Nuclear Blast Records). If the stupid legal issues between band members made this indeed the band’s last album with Burton C Bell, he went out with a bang and the best album since the classic first 3 releases. This won’t be the same band with a different singer despite what Dino says….
  19. UtbyrdVarskrik (Petrichor). Grandiose epic, black metal from an energetic new band.
  20. Funeral MistDeiform  (Norma Evangelium Diaboli). Yet another Black Metal Masterpiece from Marduk’s Arioch.
  21. Worm ShepherdIn The Wake of Sol (Unique Leader). Yeah another Lorna Shore knock-off, but another really good one, the next album (which comes out pretty soon) should be huge
  22. KorpseInsufferable Violence (Unique Leader). Another ridiculous slamming death metal beat down from Unique Leader.
  23. Ominous RuinAmidst Voices that Echo in Stone (Willowtip). A real surprise in 2021s massive tech-death onslaught. And to think it’s only their debut.
  24. OsiahLoss (Unique Leader). Could have also been Crown Magnetar‘s A Codex of Flesh, Signs of the Swarm‘s Absolvere, or Zeolite’s Proselytism, as deathcore blew the fuck up again in 2021.
  25. Humanity’s Last BreathValde (Unique Leader). A nice fill-in for Vildjharta’s hefty lumbering djent. utter devastation.
  26. VildjhartaMåsstaden Under Vatten (Century Media). And speaking of Vildhjarta, they made the long wait worthwhile with a sprawling, 2 cd, hour plus, exhausting effort that I’m still absorbing
  27. PyrexiaGravitas Maximus (Unique Leader). A simple, effective groove-laden beat down from the bridesmaids of old school, US  slamming death metal. Perfect workout music. Or music for punching grandma in her stupid fucking face.
  28. Stortregn – Impermanence (The Artisan Era). More tech death, more brilliance from Swiss masters.
  29. InferiVile Genesis (The Artisan Era). Yep, more tech-death, these shredding yanks have nailed their sound with utmost skill and confidence.
  30. Bound in FearPenance (Unique Leader). Possibly the year’s most stupidly heavy downtempo/deathcore album, just nipping Exorsized Gods Banished Into Conflagration.
  31. Hannes GrossmanTo Where The Light Retreats (Self-Released). What else would we expect from Obscura drummer? yeah, more superb tech-death that’s actually a little better than the new, more melodic Obscura effort.
  32. DauþuzVom Schwarzen Schmied. (Amor Fati Productions). How the fuck do you make black metal songs about mining, epic and catchy as hell?
  33. Obscura A Valediction (Nuclear Blast Records). A more melodic approach made these tech death master a bit easier to swallow, but still master of thier craft.
  34. MassacreResurgence (Nuclear Blast Records). An album that finally sounds like a Massacre album with Kam lees iconic vocals back in the fray at last.
  35. AquilusBellum I (Blood Music). Like Dessiderium, a stunning late-year release of classically inspired, symphonic, progressive super ambitious music that I could not decide was either a year-end contender or completely overblown. Also how many solo classically trained artists are doing this in Australia????( See Christian Cosentino below)

Best Digital-Only Independent Releases (AKA release physical goddamn versions already please): RuneshardShadowbane. Downright brilliant and epic Bal-Sagoth worship. even more so than Wizardthrone or even Kull, and they have actual Bal Sagoth members!!!!.  Urdôl UrSeven Portals To The Arcane Realms. Pure unabashed Summoning homage that’s superbly done. Third World PartyBros Avec la Morte. Another Lorna Shore influenced band that has great things in their future.

Best Eps: Christian CosentinoLawn (Self Released). EP? LP? Don’t care. Absolutely gorgeous symphonic black metal with a classical edge. Really looking forward to what he does next. , Lorna Shore – …And I Return to Nothingness (Century Media). Any doubt here? The new genre kings show off new vocalist with some absolutely crushing symphonic deathcore that’s been mimicked to death since 2020s  Immortal. (See above list).

Biggest Disappointments:Spectral Lore –  Ετερόφωτος (I, Voidhanger) , Mare CognitumSolar Paroxysm (I, Voidhanger). Both of these one-man projects once delivered some of the most majestic, melodic, atmospheric black metal around, but both 2021 releases bored me to tears. MaladieThe Sick is Dead, Long Live the Sick (Apostasy). Not sure what happened here, but the once experimental, daring, and ambitious Germans, simplified their sound and the results are pretty unimpressive. It’s not a gut-wrenching disappointment, but certainly …’ different’.

Best Change in Production:MystrasEmpires Vanquished and Dismantled (I, Voidhanger). The debut was a hot mess, so Ayloss fixed the production and released an album that was better than his Spectral Lore release.

Best 2020 Discoveries:Vela PulsarMemoirs of Unbecoming EP  (Self-Released) Gorgeous multi-layered and dual vocal Cascadian black metal.  ScarabMartyrs of the Storm (ViciSolum Productions). A monster, groove-filled death metal album that passed me by last year.

Best Label: Not even close. Almost a third of my list is from Unique Leader Records. Napalm Records and The Artisan Era had a solid year also.


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