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 – Lutharo / Hiraeth (2021)

Behold the first full-length album by this fantastic Canadian Melodic Death Metal band, balancing hauntingly beautiful atmospheres with raw power and aggression.

Following the success of their 2020 EP Wings of Agony, Hamilton, Canada-based Melodic Death Metal outfit Lutharo (or Lutharö, if you prefer) is back into the battlefield with their first full-length opus, entitled Hiraeth, a Welsh word that has no direct English translation but that means an intense form of longing or nostalgia for a place long gone, or even an unaccountable homesickness for a place you have never visited. Recorded and mixed by Tyler Williams at Monolithic Productions, mastered by Lasse Lammert at LSD Studios, and displaying a classy artwork by Gogo Melone, Hiraeth launches into an epic exploration of the technical, musical and compositional abilities of frontwoman Krista Shipperbottom, guitarists Victor Bucur and John Raposo, bassist Chris Pacey and drummer Duval Gabraiel, balancing hauntingly beautiful atmospheres with raw power and aggression, and therefore, representing a huge step in the right direction for such talented Canadian band.

The sound of a beating heart ignites Lutharo’s metal machine in the intro Introspection, setting the stage for Victor and John to kick some ass with their riffs in the high-octane To Kill or to Crave, where Krista already showcases all her talent and fury through her sick, demented roars, sounding like a modern-day version of Angela Gossow during her unforgettable Arch Enemy years. Duval keeps hammering his drums frantically in What Sleeps in Your Mind, accompanied by the rumbling bass by Chris and the always sharp axes by the band’s guitar duo in a flawless display of contemporary Melodic Death Metal, followed by Phantom, slightly more symphonic than its predecessors but still venomous and heavy-as-hell, bringing forward another round of the band’s unrelenting music spearheaded by the she-wolf screams by Krista, and Worship Your Path, where the band’s stringed trio generates a massive atmosphere for their unstoppable frontwoman to shine once again, not to mention it’s epic NWOBHM vibe.

Lutharo Hiraeth Box Set

In Hopeless Abandonment the skillful Krista and the boys show no sign of slowing down, with Duval being on absolute fire with his crushing beats and fills, not to mention the always incendiary riffage and solos by Victor and John. Are you tired already? Because Krista is ready to slash your damned soul with her wicked roars in Valley of the Cursed, displaying a brutal performance by Duval on drums and, consequently, adding an extra touch of aggression to the band’s first-class musicality; whereas In Silence We Reign sounds and feels more epic than the rest of the album, a pounding tune that will work perfectly if played live with Duval making sure we break our necks headbanging nonstop while Krista gives a vocal lesson from start to finish. Their second to last explosion of Melodic Death Metal comes in the form of the breathtaking Eclipse, very intricate and progressive at times, with the guitars by Victor and John exhaling electricity and harmony, and last but not least, the band invests into a darker sonority in Lost in a Soul, putting a climatic ending to the album to the blast beats by Duval and the crisp riffage by Victor and John, until everything fades into an enfolding darkness.

As I like to say, it’s an absolute pleasure seeing bands like Lutharo taking their music to a whole new level and showing the entire world the quality, strength and diversity of the current Canadian metal scene, and with Hiraeth they not only more than succeeded in that, but they also placed themselves as one of the driving forces of the Canadian scene. Hence, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel (like I’ve already done) for more of their awesome music and beautiful videos, to stream all of their creations on Spotify, and of course to grab your copy of Hiraeth from their own BandCamp page or from their Big Cartel (where you can find a fantastic box set containing the Hiraeth digipack CD, a logo patch, a Hiraeth flag, a logo keychain and a signed photo), as well as from Apple Music. It will be interesting to see if Lutharo will be capable of delivering something more powerful and dynamic than Hiraeth in their future releases, but based on the talent of all musicians involved I wouldn’t be surprised if next year Krista and the boys stun us all once again with their undisputed metal music.

Best moments of the album: To Kill or to Crave, What Sleeps in Your Mind, Valley of the Cursed and Eclipse.

Worst moments of the album: Phantom.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Introspection 1:42
2. To Kill or to Crave 4:51
3. What Sleeps in Your Mind 5:19
4. Phantom 5:01
5. Worship Your Path 5:03
6. Hopeless Abandonment 4:23
7. Valley of the Cursed 4:31
8. In Silence We Reign 4:50
9. Eclipse 4:07
10. Lost in a Soul 7:03

Band members
Krista Shipperbottom – vocals
Victor Bucur – guitars, backing vocals
John Raposo – guitars
Chris Pacey – bass
Duval Gabraiel – drums

Guest musician
Elliot Vernon – orchestral arrangements