The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2021

“I wanted to play drums because I fell in love with the glitter and the lights, but it wasn’t about adulation. It was being up there playing.” – Charlie Watts

And there goes another year without a single metal concert in Canada. Another year full of uncertainties, fears, polarization, restrictions, and everything else we “love” so much. I honestly don’t know what to say about 2021 apart form the fact it was undoubtedly much better than 2020, but that means nothing considering the total nightmare that 2020 was. We lost a lot of huge names in the rock and metal scene such as Joey Jordison, Dusty Hill, Mike Howe, Johnny Solinger, Marsha Zazula, Alexi Laiho, John Hinch, John Lawton, Charlie Watts and Hank Von Hell, among many others. Tons of festivals including Download, Wacken Open Air, Hellfest, Bloodstock Open Air, Sweden Rock Festival and Dynamo MetalFest were scheduled to return this year after the 2020 editions of those festivals were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately Sweden Rock, Hellfest, Download and Wacken Open Air were once again cancelled. With that said, why do we metalheads still believe in a better future? Is it because, despite all adversities, our favorite bands released some of their best albums from the past few years?

Hence, as new lockdowns are being imposed upon us in a never-ending pandemic loop, there’s not much we can do but enjoy The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2021, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums, keeping us sane until this madness is finally over. Or maybe I should say if it will be over one day, of course. There’s a bit of everything for all types of fans, from classic Heavy Metal to the brutality of Death Metal, from the modern nuances of Melodic Death Metal to old school Thrash Metal, and so on, and in my humble opinions one of the most interesting facts about several albums launched in 2021 is their duration, with many of those surpassing the one hour barrier such as Senjutsu, Helloween, Persona Non Grata, Existence Is Futile and Blood on Blood, not to mention the over four hours of music from the Lordiversity boxset, which for me proves how much the bands responsible for those albums love their fans by offering them a lot of new music to enjoy during such difficult times. I would say that even if there are ZERO metal albums launched in 2022, we’ll still have a lot of great music to enjoy throughout the year thanks to all the amazing records released in 2021, don’t you agree?

1. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu (REVIEW)
Behold another masterpiece by the one and only Iron Maiden with its 82 minutes of tactics, strategy, war, resilience and determination.
Best song of the album: Hell on Earth

2. Helloween – Helloween (REVIEW)
A dream come true for all generations of “Happy, Happy Helloween” fans from all over the world.
Best song of the album: Skyfall

3. Trivium – In the Court of the Dragon (REVIEW)
It’s time to join Trivium in the court of the dragon to the sound of their magnificent new opus.
Best song of the album: Like a Sword Over Damocles

4. Exodus – Persona Non Grata (REVIEW)
Don’t be a “persona non grata” in the world of heavy music and get into the circle pit to the sound of this newborn thrashing beast.
Best song of the album: Lunatic-Liar-Lord

5. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (REVIEW)
State of the art Death Metal played with passion and breathless precision by the most violent and unrelenting band of all time.
Best song of the album: Surround, Kill, Devour

6. 1914 – Where Fear and Weapons Meet (REVIEW)
Ukraine’s own doom infantry is back into the battlefield with another masterpiece, telling the gruesome tales of World War I.
Best song of the album: Pillars of Fire (The Battle of Messines)

7. Motorjesus – Hellbreaker (REVIEW)
Let’s drive through the fires of hell together with one of the best bands from the German rock and metal scene.
Best song of the album: Hellbreaker

8. Nervosa – Perpetual Chaos (REVIEW)
A deadly and thrashing lesson in perpetual chaos by four metalheads hailing from Brazil, Italy, Spain and Greece
Best song of the album: Time to Fight

9. Gojira – Fortitude (REVIEW)
Let’s all face up the world to the sound of the new masterpiece by one of the most dynamic bands of the current metal scene.
Best song of the album: Amazonia

10. Blaze Bayley – War Within Me (REVIEW)
The man who will live for a thousand years is back, inspiring us all to fight the war within us and to take our future in our own hands.
Best song of the album: Pull Yourself Up

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Running Wild – Blood on Blood (REVIEW)
12. Lordi – Lordiversity (REVIEW)
13. Cradle of Filth – Existence Is Futile (REVIEW)
14. Diabolizer – Khalkedonian Death (REVIEW)
15. Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida (REVIEW)
16. Moonspell – Hermitage (REVIEW)
17. Lutharo – Hiraeth (REVIEW)
18. Unflesh – Inhumation (REVIEW)
19. Scarlet Aura – Genesis of Time (REVIEW)
20. Coiled Around Thy Spine – From The Ashes (REVIEW)

In addition to all that, let’s bang our heads with our Top 10 EP’s of 2021 to prove once and for all that not all great albums of the year have to be so long. The EP’s from this list are simply awesome, showcasing the band’s talent and their ability to sound epic even if the music lasts for only a few minutes.

1. Eonian – The Nomad (REVIEW)
2. Lady Beast – Omens (REVIEW)
3. The Agonist – Days Before the World Wept (REVIEW)
4. Tantivy – Eyes in the Night (REVIEW)
5. Grale – AGITACIÓN (REVIEW)
6. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Hemispheres Part 2: Cerebral (REVIEW)
7. Kadavereich – Radiance Of Doom (REVIEW)
8. Wolvencrown – A Shadow Of What Once Was (REVIEW)
9. Juliet Ruin – Dark Water (REVIEW)
10. Black Hole Deity – Lair Of Xenolich (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2021? Also, don’t forget to tune in every Tuesday at 10pm BRT on Rádio Coringão to enjoy the best of classic and underground metal with Jorge Diaz and his Timão Metal, and every Thursday at 8pm UTC+2 on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of underground metal with The Headbanging Moose Show! And if you lost some or most of our special editions of The Headbanging Moose Show, including our Top 20 Underground Albums of 2021 – Parts I and II, go to our Mixcloud page and there you have hours and hours of the best of the independent scene, sounds good?

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2022!

And before I go, I’ll leave you with some touching words by Mr. Lordi and his crew of monsters…

Something something blah blah to you
All the sincere wishes come true
I put vengeance on my wish list
And that’s what Santa brought
So have a merry something and a happy blah blah blah

Album Review – Grale / AGITACIÓN EP (2021)

Comprised of four Canadian musicians who share the same passion for heavy music, this newborn and fully virtual Sludge Metal entity is ready to show us all the power of the riff with their debut EP.

3.5rating

grale-agitación-ep-2021Formed during the first pandemic lockdown, Canadian Sludge Metal project Grale is comprised of musicians who share a friendship with artist and producer Greg Dawson (guitarist for Canadian Doom Metal beast Olde) and a love of heavy music. Already an all-star unit featuring the aforementioned Greg Dawson on the guitars, Daniel Allen (of Indian Handcrafts) on vocals and guitars, Mark Rand (of Cross Dog) on bass and Kevin Farmer (of The Compound) on drums, Grale also enlisted contributions from members of metal heavyweights Sacrifice, Revocation and Gargoyl to elevate their “pandemic project” into a fully-fleshed and ferocious five-song assault, their debut EP entitled AGITACIÓN. Recorded at BWC Studios by Greg (who was also responsible for all mixing and mastering), Bandage A/V by Mark, Farmer Sound by Kevin and The Bethlab by Daniel, each song from the EP evolved from one good riff, with the band creating and collaborating remotely, focused on forging an organic new sound that would have followers of High on Fire, Motörhead or Judas Priest banging their heads in approval.

And guest vocalist Rob Urbinati (of Sacrifice) lends his enraged roars to Grale in the opening tune Meth Aggressor, making a dynamic duo with Daniel while the music showcases a visceral fusion of Death and Sludge Metal led by the massive riffs by Daniel and Greg, and with Kevin pounding his drums in great fashion. Then in No Justice For All the quartet brings forward a Mastodon-inspired sound (which means a more Progressive Metal vein, of course) where Daniel keeps vociferating nonstop accompanied by the low-tuned, rumbling bass by Mark and the always hammering beats by Kevin; whereas Grale slow things down considerably, investing in an old school Doom Metal sonority in The Blade, featuring guest guitar solos by Luke Roberts (of Gargoyl and Battlebear) and David Davidson (of Gargoyl and Revocation), with Daniel and Greg being once again merciless, worshipping the power of the riff with their guitars. The Emptiness Project is another dense and aggressive Sludge and Stoner Metal tune blasted by the quartet where all instruments are in absolute sync in the name of madness, with the piercing sound of the guitars walking hand in hand with the groovy bass jabs by Mark, and lastly, back to a more Progressive Sludge Metal sound, Grale offers us all the heavy and thrilling Terror Control, presenting visceral, raspy vocal lines, slashing riffs and crushing drums, therefore putting an awesome ending to the EP and leaving us eager for more of their sick music.

grale-2021I’ve already seen countless bands and artists releasing awesome material during this never-ending pandemic, but I must admit what the guys from Grale did together is beyond impressive taking into account they never even met in person to create their songs, rehearse or record them. If you’re curious to know how four guys from four different locations sound together in this virtual world we’ve been living in, simply go check the full EP on YouTube and on Spotify, and if you like what you see don’t forget to show them your support by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course by purchasing AGITACIÓN from their own BandCamp page (or click HERE for all places where you can get to know more about the band and purchase their music). In such difficult times, heavy music once again conquers all, uniting not only us fans but also talented musicians from all over the world (or in the case of Grale, from here in Canada) and keeping us sane until the pandemic is finally over. And I it takes even longer for this madness to finally end, at least we can rest assured the guys from Grale are among us to prove once and for all there’s nothing more comforting than the power of the riff.

Best moments of the album: Meth Aggressor and The Emptiness Project.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Meth Aggressor 4:31
2. No Justice For All 3:24
3. The Blade 4:04
4. The Emptiness Project 4:13
5. Terror Control 5:25

Band members
Daniel Allen – vocals, guitar
Greg Dawson – guitar
Mark Rand – bass
Kevin Farmer – drums

Guest musicians
Rob Urbinati – vocals on “Meth Aggressor”
Luke Roberts – guitar solo on “The Blade”
David Davidson – guitar solo on “The Blade”