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 – Moonspell / Hermitage (2021)

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution returns with their thirteenth full-length album, offering us all a revolutionary and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence.

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution Moonspell is approaching their 30th anniversary more ambitious and stronger than ever, and in order to proper celebrate such important milestone there’s nothing better than savoring each and every track from their newest opus, entitled Hermitage, the thirteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Paradise Lost, Ghost, Sólstafir) at Orgone Studios and featuring a stylish artwork by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh, Hermitage is not only the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2017 album 1755 and their 2015 masterpiece Extinct, but it’s also a revolutionary, wonderfully intuitive and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence masterfully crafted by frontman Fernando Ribeiro, guitarist Ricardo Amorim, keyboardist Pedro Paixão, bassist Aires Pereira and newcomer Hugo Ribeiro on drums, as well as a testament to what they’ve always loved the most, which is honest, emotional metal that binds us even in the darkest times.

Just like the soundtrack to a dark thriller, the opening track The Greater Good will already mesmerize your senses, with the thunderous bass jabs by Aires and the massive beats by Hugo adding heaviness to such atmospheric tune, whereas sheer poetry flows from Fernando’s words (“So close to me, as tight as you can be / Inside the cell / The voice within, the desert wind / Calls out our name / So close, so close”) in Common Prayers, another captivating Gothic Metal aria by Moonspell where Ricardo and Aires are on absolute fire with their stringed weapons, not to mention the epic keys by Pedro. In All or Nothing, the guitars by Ricardo exhale passion and harmony nonstop in a beautiful display of Dark and Melancholic Metal that will please all fans of Moonspell’s most Gothic side, while Fernando is flawless as usual on vocals; and back to a more visceral and atmospheric sonority we’re treated to the dense Hermitage, with Fernando roaring the song’s epic lyrics (“In the circle of life and sin / On this day of apocalypse / On our way to hermitage / It’s the return to innocence”) while Hugo pounds his drums mercilessly. Then the cryptic bass sounds by Aires are intertwined with the classic keys by Pedro in Entitlement, a very melodic tune blending elements from Gothic and Progressive Metal, therefore sounding very experimental at times, with Ricardo taking the lead with his soulful riffs and solos.

It’s time for a fully instrumental voyage through the realms of darkness in the form of Solitarian, offering our ears classic, crying guitars, delicate keys and tribal beats, working as an interlude for the piercing The Hermit Saints, a headbanging extravaganza where all band members are in absolute sync, generating that classy trademark sound found in their latest albums. Moreover, Fernando’s anguished vocals are effectively supported by all background elements, resulting in a lecture in Dark Metal. In Apophthegmata we face an enfolding and smooth start, evolving into a massive sonority where Ricardo and Aires are once again unstoppable with their axes while Hugo showcases all his skills and potency behind his drums and Pedro keeps the ambience as sinister as it can be with his keys; whereas the quintet offers us fans over seven minutes of magnificent Dark Metal titled Without Rule, where the music remains ethereal but at the same time heavy and sharp from start to finish, with Fernando leading his bandmates into the unknown, flowing into the cinematic Black Metal-inspired outro City Quitter, putting a beyond atmospheric conclusion to such multi-layered album. Not only that, if you purchase the superb mediabook or limited deluxe box set versions of Hermitage, you’ll get as a beyond amazing bonus track the song Darkness in Paradise, Moonspell’s cover version for Candlemass’ classic tune from their 1988 album Ancient Dreams (check out the original version HERE), and let me tell you that their tribute to one of the pillars of Doom Metal is just as imposing as the original song, with Fernando stealing the spotlight with his Stygian vocals.

You can enjoy Hermitage in its entirety on Spotify, but this album is so detailed, enfolding and captivating that I highly recommend you purchase a copy of it to add it to your collection of dark and melancholic albums from Moonspell’s BandCamp page or webstore (where you can by the way find the special mediabook edition), or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream this precious gem of contemporary Dark Metal. Needless to say, don’t forget to follow Moonspell on Facebook and on Instagram to keep up to date with all things surrounding one of the most important metal bands of the European scene. As soon as this pandemic is over, we’ll all be able to leave our hermitages, including the guys from Moonspell, and we’ll finally be able to meet them again on stage to stun us all with the impressive creations of their newborn spawn.

Best moments of the album: Common Prayers, Hermitage, The Hermit Saints and Apophthegmata.

Worst moments of the album: Solitarian.

Released in 2021 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. The Greater Good 5:04
2. Common Prayers 4:08
3. All or Nothing 7:22
4. Hermitage 4:43
5. Entitlement 6:16
6. Solitarian 4:07
7. The Hermit Saints 4:22
8. Apophthegmata 5:41
9. Without Rule 7:42
10. City Quitter (Outro) 2:59

Mediabook/Limited Deluxe Box Set bonus track
11. Darkness in Paradise (Candlemass cover) 7:10

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards, samples, programming
Aires Pereira – bass
Hugo Ribeiro – drums