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 – Running Wild / Blood on Blood (2021)

The German pirates of Heavy and Power Metal are back with what’s unarguably their strongest album in over 20 years.

The German pirates of Heavy and Power Metal, collectively known as Running Wild, are finally back with an album that lives up to their own legacy, the excellent Blood on Blood. Produced, recorded and mixed by the band’s own mastermind, vocalist and guitarist, the one and only Rock N’ Rolf (aka Rolf Kasparek), and displaying an old school artwork by Jens Reinhold of Zenz-Art, the seventeenth studio album by one of the most important names of the German metal scene to emerge in the early to mid-80’s puts the band back on track after a few bland albums, offering us fans the power and the glory of fantastic albums such as Under Jolly Roger, Death or Glory, Black Hand Inn, Masquerade and The Rivalry. Put differently, if you’re into stories and tales of piracy, or into songs about riding your motorbike wildly and freely, then Rock N’ Rolf and his crew comprised of Peter Jordan on the guitars, Ole Hempelmann on bass and Michael Wolpers on drums have exactly what you’re craving in heavy music with their new opus.

Rolf and Peter begin their incendiary riff attack in the title-track Blood on Blood, an upbeat Heavy Metal tune will put you to headbang within 20 seconds without a shadow of a doubt, whereas Wings of Fire sounds even more traditional than the opening track, with Rolf being on fire with his trademark raspy vocals while Michael dictates the song’s pace, inviting us to hit the road to the sound of such rockin’ tune. Say Your Prayers is another thrilling mid-tempo song mixing old school Heavy Metal with badass Rock N’ Roll, with Rolf’s piercing voice being effectively supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals; followed by Diamonds & Pearls, where albeit their pirate-inspired lyrics might be too cheesy (“Setting all gear, no doubt and no fear / Trailblazers stories were told / Sliding the waves that cover the graves / Of seamen and ships in the cold”), they go along really well with their straightforward Heavy Metal instrumental parts. There’s no time to breathe as Rolf and his crew keep kicking ass in Wild & Free, another fast song about riding free in the name of rock and metal music, with Ole making the earth tremble with his sick bass, not to mention the slashing riffs and solos by Rolf and Peter. Then soulful guitars set the stage for the quartet to shine with their Pirate Metal in Crossing the Blades, showcasing an addictive chorus (“Crossing the blades / Flashing the steel / We will ride, and united we stand / Flashing the blades / Crossing the steel / One for all, and all for one, in the end”) amidst a prancing, beer-drinking, sword-fighting sonority.

Running Wild Blood on Blood Deluxe Box

I personally believe Running Wild shouldn’t try to do any ballads, and One Night, One Day is the ultimate proof that those do not match with their core essence, getting tiresome and bland after a short while, falling flat and sounding way too generic, especially if compared to the rest of the album. Fortunately they get back to a much more thrilling vibe in The Shellback, where Rolf leads his crew of buccaneers inspired by the band’s own early days, with Ole and Michael bringing the groove to the overall result. It’s then time for another rockin’ tune with a powerful vibe that will inspire you to hit the road with your metal brothers, entitled Wild, Wild Nights, where Rolf and Peter are precise as usual with their razor-edged riffs, before the band invites us to join them in an epic journey through The Iron Times (1618-1648), showcasing stunning passages, sharp riffs and solos and pounding beats, all spearheaded by Rolf’s dark, storytelling vocal lines, flowing like an arrow on fire in total darkness until its epic finale. In addition, if you go for the Japanese edition of Blood on Blood you’ll be treated to three very special bonus tracks, those being Stargazed, their cover version for KISS’ classic Strutter (which you can check the original one HERE), and my favorite one Ride on the Wild Side, all worth the investment in this unique version of the album.

As aforementioned, if you’re into Heavy and Power Metal with a strong pirate vein you’ll have a really good time listening to Blood on Blood, which is available for purchase from the Steamhammer Records webstore or as a very special deluxe box from the Napalm Records webstore, strictly limited to 666 units and including the digipak CD and tape versions of the album, a flag, a pendant, a patch, an autograph card and a chain, or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream the album. “We all know the difficulties the cultural sector was faced with during the lockdown. On the other hand, it also gave me and many other artists some extra time since most releases had to be postponed. I used that time to fine-tune every little detail of my new material. The result is an album that in my opinion is probably the best in Running Wild’s career to date. Every one of the ten songs sounds exactly as I had it in mind when I composed it. I’ve never been happier with a Running Wild record before,” said Rock N’ Rolf himself, and although he might be exaggerating when saying it’s the best Running Wild album ever we must agree it’s indeed a sharp, exciting and detailed piece of work by those German pirates, who are by the way waiting for you to join their crew on Facebook and on Instagram. As the title track says, “one for all and all for one, blood on blood, we stand as one!”

Best moments of the album: Wings of Fire, Say Your Prayers, Crossing the Blades, Wild & Free and The Iron Times (1618-1648).

Worst moments of the album: One Night, One Day.

Released in 2021 Steamhammer Records

Track listing
1. Blood on Blood 4:07
2. Wings of Fire 3:57
3. Say Your Prayers 5:14
4. Diamonds & Pearls 4:44
5. Wild & Free 5:28
6. Crossing the Blades 6:00
7. One Night, One Day 4:59
8. The Shellback 6:11
9. Wild, Wild Nights 4:30
10. The Iron Times (1618-1648) 10:29

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
11. Stargazed 3:40
12. Strutter (KISS cover) 3:05
13. Ride on the Wild Side 4:05

Band members
Rock N’ Rolf – vocals, guitars
Peter Jordan – guitars
Ole Hempelmann – bass
Michael Wolpers – drums