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 – Unflesh / Inhumation (2021)

A lecture in Blackened and Melodic Death Metal made in the United States, delving into the concept of desensitization and losing one’s soul or humanity.

4.0rating

unflesh-inhumation-2021Showcasing an incredible amount of new growth from a group already brimming with abundant talent as is, Inhumation, the brand new opus by Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based three-piece Blackened Melodic Death Metal entity Unflesh, is not only the perfect follow-up to their 2018 album Savior, but also a bold statement by the band confirming they’re among us to stay. Mixed and Mastered by V. Santura at Woodshed Studios and featuring a killer artwork by Junki Sakuraba, Inhumation will show you why vocalist and guitarist Ryan Beevers (Solium Fatalis), bassist Orin Hubbard (Excrecor) and drummer Jeff Saltzman (Aversed, Allegaeon, Continuum, Solium Fatalis) have everything it takes to conquer the world of extreme music with their wicked creations. “Inhumation delves into the concept of desensitization and losing one’s soul or losing one’s humanity so to speak. The title itself is used in a metaphorical sense, as the actual definition of the word ‘Inhumation’ is the action or practice of burying the dead. For album purposes, the title is used on a more spiritual and emotional level. Each track on the album is a bit of a meditation on different aspects of the primary concept. When the listener gets to the last song on the album, the totality of the album will have taken form,” commented Ryan about the band’s newborn spawn.

The acoustic guitars by Ryan ignite the intro Behold Nightfall, gradually growing in intensity until all hell breaks loose in the devastating Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers, where Ryan vociferates the song’s devilish words manically (“Spawned from scales of iron / Demonic icon of fear / Bathing in the draining blood / From the steel / Emotionless / Orchestrating blasphemies / Of hundreds and thousands / Their putrefaction is my crest”) accompanied by the crushing drums by Jeff. To Renounce Flesh and Blood is another demonic and very technical creation by Unflesh blending the fury of Death Metal with the obscurity of Black Metal, not to mention Orin’s bass jabs will make your head tremble, followed by the title-track Inhumation, bringing to your ears over seven minutes of breathtaking riffs and bass punches, intricate beats and all of the elements that make Technical Death Metal so compelling. In addition, Jeff sounds truly bestial behind his drum set, while Ryan keeps roaring like a demonic entity from start to finish.

Unflesh keep decimating our senses in the hellish extravaganza titled Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell, displaying an amazing job done by Ryan with his visceral Black Metal riffage and growling, therefore adding an extra touch of malignancy to the overall result, whereas putting the pedal to the metal the trio brings forward the explosive Blackened Death Metal tune Holocaust of Stars, where Orin and Jeff are on fire with their thunderous kitchen generating a reverberating ambience that will ruthlessly smash your cranial skull; and featuring a sick guitar solo by guest Jim Gregory (Solium Fatalis), The Sepulchral Depths is just as violent and sulfurous as its predecessors, offering us fans an ass-kicking portrait of the band’s trademark hybrid of Blackened and Melodic Death Metal. Not only that, Jeff is once again a stone crusher on drums, taking the lead with his blast beats and fills for our total delight. And last but not least, Unflesh bring forth nine minutes of sonic savagery, acoustic and atmospheric passages, enraged roars and endless obscurity in the form of Dehumanized Legion, where the trio is unstoppable and vile throughout the entire song, putting a beyond demolishing end to this precious gem of Extreme Metal.

unflesh-2021After all is said and done, I’m sure you’re more than eager to put your hands on Inhumation, which is by the way available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and in order to do that simply go to the band’s own BandCamp page, to Apple Music or to Amazon, and don’t forget to also show your support to such promising act by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and by subscribing to their YouTube channel. Ryan and his henchmen Orin and Jeff did a superb job in Inhumation, beautifully translating into eight multi-layered, dense Blackened and Melodic Death Metal compositions exactly what Ryan mentioned as “the concept of desensitization and losing one’s soul or losing one’s humanity.” This is exactly how dark and extreme music should always sound, with the band’s new album being a strong contender to feature among the best albums of the year, consequently pointing to a brilliant future ahead of those multi-talented musicians.

Best moments of the album: Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers, Inhumation and Holocaust of Stars.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Behold Nightfall 2:21
2. Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers 5:21
3. To Renounce Flesh and Blood 5:26
4. Inhumation 7:20
5. Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell 6:37
6. Holocaust of Stars 4:42
7. The Sepulchral Depths 5:27
8. Dehumanized Legion 9:01

Band members
Ryan Beevers – vocals, guitars, acoustic guitars, orchestrations
Orin Hubbard – bass
Jeff Saltzman – drums

Guest musician
Jim Gregory – guitar solo on “The Sepulchral Depths”

Album Review – Unflesh / Savior (2018)

A dark, aggressive and extremely technical opus of Blackened and Melodic Death Metal by a four-headed American beast, sounding as pulverizing as extreme music can be.

Forged in 2014 in the fires of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the United States as a solo project of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Beevers (Solium Fatalis), who’s by the way a student at the highly prestigious Berklee College Of Music, but currently located in Boston, Massachusetts, Blackened Melodic Death Metal four-piece squad Unflesh has been on a roll since their inception, having already released an excellent EP in 2016 titled Transcendence to Eternal Obscurity (which featured the astounding German drummer Hannes Grossmann as a session musician), followed by their new and insanely heavy and entertaining album Savior. Featuring a beautiful and menacing artwork by Brazilian artist Junki Sakuraba, Savior will strongly appeal to fans of the unparalleled music by bands such as Dissection, Necrophagist, Emperor, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Dimmu Borgir, among others, placing the band comprised of the aforementioned Ryan Beevers on vocals and guitar,  Chris Gardino (Pathogenic, Wolfsmyth) on the guitar, Peter De Reyna (Seven Spires) on bass and Chris Dovas (Seven Spires) on drums as one of the most promising names of the current underground scene.

Ryan Beevers himself had a few words to say regarding Savior, giving more details on the direction he wanted to follow with his brainchild.  “I’ve always thought of the band as having a kind of mixed sound of 90’s black metal and more technical death metal bands. Since the band started I just called us “Extreme Metal” because it’s a broader label. I never thought the sound of the band would be described as just black metal or death metal. When the first EP “Transcendence to Eternal Obscurity” came out, most people seemed to identify the sound as technical death metal. This album is one more step forward in molding the sound of Unflesh, musically and lyrically the ‘Savior’ album is a lot darker and more aggressive than our previous EP,” said Ryan about his new opus, one that he definitely should be proud of, and one we should all thank him for providing to us, avid metalheads.

An eerie piano intro grows in intensity until progressiveness and sheer devastation invade our senses in the opening track Savior, thanks to the fulminating riffs by Ryan and Chris Gardino as well as the bestial drumming by Chris Dovas. In other words, it’s a dense and intricate depiction of modern-day Progressive and Melodic Death Metal, and a fantastic welcome card by the entire band. Following such breathtaking beginning we have Bestowal of Decay, bringing an avalanche of groove and complexity, being even more demonic than the opening tune with Ryan sounding hellish and demented on vocals, all complemented by some sick guitar solos and some ass-kicking, classic Death Metal lyrics (“The great fade of all life in the dawn / A blissful perception of the fathomless darkness obtained / Primeval scriptures deciphered before the mortal eyes / By forsaken powers of Unanimation / Unveiled”); and their destructive but very harmonious onrush of Black and Death Metal goes on in Final Writhe, an incendiary tune led by the mesmerizing riffs and solos by both Ryan and Chris Gardino, with Chris Dovas showing no mercy for his drum set while Peter brings density and darkness to the music with his unstoppable punches.

More rhythmic and presenting what’s perhaps the most intricate and thrilling beats of the entire album, always supported by Peter’s thunderous bass, Erosive Devotees presents an enraged Ryan growling and screaming nonstop, turning it into one of the top moments of the album, whereas in The Eradication Commenced the band fires more of their electrifying Blackened and Melodic Death Metal with no sign of slowing down at all. Quite the contrary, the band’s stringed trio is on fire from start to finish, slashing our ears beautifully while Chris Dovas adds hints of Doom and Black Metal to his beats and fills. And Caliginous is an even more progressive and melodic tune by Unflesh, with Ryan gnarling in perfect sync with the guitar lines and beats blasted by the rest of the band. Put differently, you can break your neck headbanging or simply close your eyes and enjoy the complex music waves of this multi-layered extravaganza. Either way, you’re going to have an awesome time.

Then a pulverizing display of dexterity and rage waits for us in Desecration of Light, a circle pit-catalyst with all ingredients we love in contemporary Extreme Metal where Chris Dovas will crush your skull with his demonic beats, while Ryan and Chris Gardino have an exciting guitar duel with their wicked riffs and solos, before a superb guitar solo introduces us to another scorching hot voyage through the realms of violence and progressiveness in Disintegration God, ending with another gorgeous guitar solo until everything fades into ethereal sounds, with its classic lyrics being the icing on the cake (“And the somber thrives as animation subsides / When all designed under a star descends into infinity / Predestined fall, all-encompassing fade of life / It corrodes away before the throne of Death / And into its sacred lore”).

In order to let Unflesh penetrate deep inside your mortal flesh with the top-tier metal music found in Savior, simply pay them a visit at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and buy your copy of the album form their own BandCamp page or webstore, as well as from iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. The monstrous beast known as Unflesh is more menacing, violent and cohesive than ever, and I’m sure not only the band’s talented originator is happy with the devastating potential of his infernal spawn, but also anyone else who loves the perfect fusion of aggressiveness, feeling and technique in extreme music.

Best moments of the album: Bestowal of Decay, Erosive Devotees and Desecration of Light.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Savior 5:04
2. Bestowal of Decay 5:23
3. Final Writhe 5:13
4. Erosive Devotees 5:22
5. The Eradication Commenced 5:13
6. Caliginous 5:17
7. Desecration of Light 4:26
8. Disintegration God 5:35

Band members
Ryan Beevers – vocals, guitars
Chris Gardino – guitars
Peter De Reyna – bass
Chris Dovas – drums

Guest musician
Anthony Lusk-Simone – additional orchestral elements