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 – Wolvencrown / A Shadow Of What Once Was EP (2021)

The new EP by this UK Atmospheric Black Metal entity depicts a time when the primeval forest swathed their homeland in arboreal splendor, enfolding the listener in layers of dream and memory.

Following up on the success of their 2019 critically acclaimed album Of Bark And Ash, Nottingham, England-based Atmospheric Black Metal horde Wolvencrown returns with a three-track EP titled A Shadow Of What Once Was, building upon the dynamic melodies and rich atmosphere of their debut opus. Showcasing a stunning artwork by Spanish illustrator Joan Llopis Doménech (Lustre, Sojourner, Ruadh), A Shadow Of What Once Was enfolds the listener in layers of dream and memory, summoning the scent of fallen leaves, the touch of evening mists and the howl of the pack upon the cold night breeze, all accompanied by the enthralling sounds crafted by vocalist and guitarist Nick, guitarist Jack, bassist Reece, keyboardist Will and drummer Matt. In other words, this is a release to be cherished, a dark treasure to uncover, a chance meeting upon a midnight path with long dead kings whose shades are swift of foot and sharp of tooth.

And they don’t waste a single second and begin blasting unfiltered, no shenanigans Atmospheric Black Metal in A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.1, with Nick roaring and slashing his strings at the same time accompanied by the Doom Metal beats by Matt, not to mention the phantasmagorical keys by Will while also presenting elements from classic Norwegian Black Metal. Then we have A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2, the second part of this multi-layered extravaganza that is just as imposing and grandiose as its first act, with Will and Matt darkening the skies with their wicked keys and beats while Nick, Jack and Reece make an infernal stringed triumvirate, resulting in a captivating fusion of obscurity and madness with beautiful and atmospheric passages. Last but not least, get ready for over seven minutes of ethereal instrumental Atmospheric Black Metal made in the UK in Coming To An End, bringing forward a sinister Cradle of Filth-inspired vibe led by Will’s classy keys and the minimalist, tribal beats by Matt, therefore feeling like the soundtrack to a creepy horror movie.

After listening to their debut self-titled EP, to Of Bark and Ash, and now to A Shadow of What Once Was, I must say it’s truly impressive what the guys from Wolvencrown are capable of offering us fans of extreme and atmospheric music without sounding outdated or cheesy; quite the contrary, those UK metallers are always reinventing themselves and surprising us with new sounds, elements and nuances added to their core Atmospheric Black Metal. Hence, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook, and to grab your copy of A Shadow of What Once Was from their own BandCamp page or from Clobber Records in CD or cassette format or as a special bundle that comes with their 2017 debut self-titled EP. For some bands an EP might represent a stop gap release, a time filler between the serious business of full-length albums, but for this skillful UK band A Shadow of What Once Was represents a doorway to new visions, a fresh opportunity to explore and create something vital, alive and utterly essential, depicting a time when the primeval forest swathed their homeland in arboreal splendor.

Best moments of the album: A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Clobber Records

Track listing
1. A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.1 5:22
2. A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2 5:44
3. Coming To An End 7:04

Band members
Nick – vocals, guitars
Jack – guitars
Reece – bass
Will – keyboards
Matt – drums

Album Review – Wolvencrown / Of Bark And Ash (2019)

Close your eyes and enjoy this excellent album of Atmospheric Black Metal made in the UK, blending the obscurity and melodies of extreme music with Nature and the emotions she conveys.

From the heart of the Midlands, the central part of England, more specifically from the city of Nottingham, comes an Atmospheric Black Metal quintet that goes by the stylish name of Wolvencrown, blending the obscurity and melodies of Black Metal with Nature and the emotions she conveys, therefore being highly recommended for admirers of the music by bands like Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Fen. Formed in 2015, the band now comprised of Nick on vocals and guitar, Jack also on the guitar, Reece on bass, Will on keyboards and Matt on drums is unleashing upon us their first full-length opus entitled Of Bark And Ash, following the naturalistic and atmospheric path of melodies and feelings of longing and yearning of their 2017 self-titled debut EP, being packed with stunning riffs, inspiring passages and enfolding keyboards, turning it into a must-listen for anyone who enjoys the absolute heaviness of extreme music spiced up by an embracing atmosphere.

The opening tune, titled Earths Eternal Dawn, sounds brutal and grim from the very first second, with the keys by Will adding a phantasmagorical touch to the band’s classic Black Metal while Matt provides us all we need to headbang like maniacs and Nick growls and gnarls in a truly devilish manner. After such classy welcome card, the band offers us an epic composition divided in two parts, starting with 1194 pt.I, exhaling intricacy, progressiveness and obscurity, with Nick and Jack slashing their axes beautifully. Furthermore, Matt’s beats and fills couldn’t have sounded more complex and violent, while Will’s keys once again bring a delicate balance to the overall result; whereas the second part, simply titled 1194 pt.II, is as grandiose and dense as part one, with Nick leading his horde with his anguished roars while the guitars sound absolutely pulverizing and sharper than a knife, living up to the legacy of both old school and more contemporary Black Metal and with its last part being an amazing, massive sonic havoc.

More rhythmic and atmospheric thanks to the outstanding job done by both Will and Matt, Infernal Throne presents Stygian vociferations by Nick that will penetrate deep inside your soul, while their riffs blacken our hearts mercilessly, and Wolvencrown keep hammering our heads and darkening the skies with their top-of-the-line Atmospheric Black Metal in  the title-track Of Bark and Ash, filled with folk and epic elements. Moreover, the beats by Matt are powerfully complemented by Reece’s thunderous bass lines, resulting in a full-bodied aria that’s at the same time an ode to darkness and Nature, which in the end obviously coexist in perfect harmony, not to mention Nick’s furious screams to make things even more intense and disturbing, just the way we like it in extreme music.

Leaning towards classic Atmospheric Black Metal, Towards Broken Depths mixes scorching riffs with ambient keys and blast beats, again bringing to our avid ears the demonic gnarls by Nick while Reece keeps the atmosphere as dense as possible with his bass lines. Then the cryptic keys by Will ignite the also furious and melodic Destined, perhaps the most epic of all tracks, with all instruments sounding austere and flammable throughout the entire song and with both Nick and Jack stealing the spotlight with their unstoppable riffage, whereas endless melancholy flows from the closing tune titled S.A.D., a lot more melodic and atmospheric than its predecessors while at the same time working as a grim “goodbye” or “farewell” by Wolvencrown, with the violent and harmonious sound of guitars crushing our minds in great fashion, ending in a contemplative and ethereal way.

You can enjoy this precious gem of underground extreme music in its entirety on YouTube, purchase your copy from the Avantgarde Music BandCamp page or from several other locations such as ImportCDs, Barnes & Noble, FYE and Sound Cave, and follow Wolvencrown on Facebook to stay up-to-date with everything related to their music and upcoming tour dates. Every single time our good old Black Metal is infused with the delicate but powerful sounds of Mother Earth, the final result is extremely pleasant to say the least, and Wolvencrown simply nailed it in Of Bark And Ash, showing once again how Atmospheric Black Metal is always the perfect choice for those times in your life where all you want to do is escape from your everyday life and dive deep into the wild.

Best moments of the album: 1194 pt.I, 1194 pt.II and Of Bark and Ash.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Avantgarde Music

Track listing
1. Earths Eternal Dawn 4:14
2. 1194 pt.I 4:54
3. 1194 pt.II 6:42
4. Infernal Throne 4:08
5. Of Bark and Ash 6:43
6. Towards Broken Depths 5:09
7. Destined 7:27
8. S.A.D. 5:46

Band members
Nick – vocals, guitars
Jack – guitars
Reece – bass
Will – keyboards
Matt – drums