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 – Helloween / Helloween (2021)

A dream come true for all generations of “Happy, Happy Helloween” fans from all over the world.

5.0rating

helloween-helloween-2021The first album to feature vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen since the 1988 all-time classic Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II and the first one with vocalist Michael Kiske since 1993’s Chameleon, the self-titled sixteenth album by German Power Metal legends Helloween has everything a diehard fan of the band could have asked for (and more). Produced by Charlie Bauerfeind, co-produced by Dennis Ward, mixed by Ronald Prent, mastered by Sascha “Busy” Bühren, and displaying a classy, old school artwork by Eliran Kantor, Helloween marks the longest gap between two albums from the band, released six years after My God-Given Right, but the wait was absolutely worth it. Featuring for the first time ever Hansen, Kiske and Andi Deris sharing lead vocal duties, in addition to Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner on the guitars, Markus Grosskopf on bass and Dani Löble on drums, their new album is a dream come true after the critically-acclaimed Pumpkins United World Tour, a precise time travel through all phases of the band’s history going back to the roots but at the same time at the speed of light towards the future, therefore offering a complete metal universe within its 12 incendiary songs and opening a new chapter after 35 years of a beyond glorious career.

Ominous sounds kick off the beautiful Out for the Glory, a lesson in classic, fast-paced and extremely melodic Heavy and Power Metal that Helloween shaped up in the 80’s, and therefore an ass-kicking start to the album. Furthermore, it’s impressive how Mr. Kiske still has that hypnotizing voice from decades ago, followed by Fear of the Fallen, showcasing a vibrant singalong chorus (“Here come The Fear Of The Fallen / We rise when you’re calling / A light in the night / We are the flame in the fire / The voice in the choir / We’re always nearby”) while Kai, Weikath and Sascha slash their axes majestically. Then get ready for a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal extravaganza entitled Best Time, where Andi, Kiske and Kai will put you to dance and sing with them while Markus and Dani are simply flawless with their rumbling bass jabs and headbanging beats. And more of Markus’ metallic bass is offered to us all in the powerful Mass Pollution, an ode to all things metal where Andi takes the lead with his high-pitched screams accompanied by the stylish solos by the band’s guitar triumvirate, keeping the level of adrenaline in the album absurdly high.

helloween-helloween-vinyl-boxset

Helloween Helloween Limited Vinyl Boxset

More modern sounds permeate the air in Angels, with Kiske taking the lead with his operatic vocals from start to finish. It’s a good Helloween song with all of their trademark elements, albeit not as powerful as the rest of the album, whereas Markus makes the earth shake with his bass attack in the fast and melodic Rise Without Chains, leaning towards the band’s more recent creations with Andi on vocals, resulting in great option for hitting the road with your loved ones. Then an upbeat vibe brings joy to our hearts in the dancing tune Indestructible, where the band’s guitar trio keeps embellishing the airwaves with their riffs and solos while Andi and Kiske are beautifully supported by Kai’s unparalleled backing vocals; followed by Robot King, another contemporary Helloween tune with Andi and Dani dictating the pace with their respective screams and beats, while the guitar lines by Weikath, Sascha and Kai will bring fire to your ears.

The last part of the album begins with another solid composition titled Cyanide, with Andi showcasing all his vocal potency accompanied by the groovy and melodious riffage, bass jabs and beats by his bandmates, and get ready for a journey back to the 80’s with the mesmerizing voice of Mr. Kiske in Down in the Dumps, once again presenting the pounding beast by Dani intertwined with a classic riff lesson by Helloween’s undisputed axe masters. Lastly, the instrumental interlude Orbit will heighten our senses for the absolutely stunning 12-minute aria Skyfall, an instant classic offering us fans another one of Helloween’s fantastic and memorable choruses (“I fell from the sky, so don’t ask me why I’m feeling so down / attacked, shot down and wrecked, / there’s no turning back to find my way home”). Moreover, the music itself is superb, full of breaks and variations and with all band members kicking some serious ass nonstop, or in other words, a lecture in German Heavy and Power Metal that I can’t wait to see them playing live. What a brilliant vocal performance by Andi and Kiske, I must say, not to mention the epicness flowing from the band’s breathtaking riffs and solos until the song’s climatic ending.

helloween-2021In case you’re from another planet like the little alien from Skyfall and haven’t listened to their unparalleled new album yet, you can enjoy it in its entirety on Spotify, but if I were you I would definitely purchase a copy of it by clicking HERE or HERE, in special the limited vinyl boxset including an earbook with the album on CD, a three-track bonus CD (with of course Pumpkins United being by far my favorite one) and a black double vinyl including two bonus tracks, plus a clock, an album cover print, six pins, a necklace, a patch and a certificate, which you can buy from Nuclear Blast’s webstores in Europe or in North America. And of course, don’t forget to stay updated with all things Helloween on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube. The one and only Mr. Michael Weikath characterizes the band’s new lineup and the album in his own way, saying that “it is the incomprehensible encounter of seven musicians who are working as friends and even family and created something that no one would have thought it could be possible. It is like awaking from a sleep but still being in an incredible dream.” Well, we must all agree with him as it’s indeed a dream come true for all of us fans, as I already mentioned, and may Helloween stay united and delivering first-class metal music to us all like what’s in their sensational new album for decades to come.

Best moments of the album: Out for the Glory, Best Time, Mass Pollution, Indestructible and Skyfall.

Worst moments of the album: Angels.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing  
1. Out for the Glory 7:18
2. Fear of the Fallen 5:38
3. Best Time 3:35
4. Mass Pollution 4:14
5. Angels 4:42
6. Rise Without Chains 4:56
7. Indestructible 4:42
8. Robot King 7:07
9. Cyanide 3:29
10. Down in the Dumps 6:01
11. Orbit 1:04
12. Skyfall 12:11

Earbook/Japanese Limited Edition Disc 2 bonus tracks
13. Golden Times 4:48
14. Save My Hide 3:11
15. Pumpkins United 6:21

Japanese Limited Edition Disc 2 bonus track
16. We Are Real 4:24

Band members
Michael Kiske – vocals
Andi Deris – vocals
Kai Hansen – guitars, vocals
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gerstner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums

Guest musicians
Jens Johansson – keyboards on “Skyfall”
Matthias Ulmer – keyboards
Xavier Russell – narration on “Out for the Glory”