As another ludicrous twenty-first century year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect. Not on the lunacy of the whole world in general, that’s what farcebook is for, but more so, at the soundtrack which has defined my year specifically. Gathered here is my top ten list of albums 2021, which have tickled all the right spots, and left me thankful that at least one area of the world is still as phenomenal as it’s always been.
So please, join me, as I take you on a little journey. Get a pen and a notepad, you might wanna take notes…
Okay, where to start…. At the beginning is probably as good a place as any…. Here goes…
10. Hippie Death Cult ‘Circle Of Days’
In at ten, it’s the instantly infectious Hippie Death Cult, and their newest release, Circle Of Days. This one blew me away. Timeless, monstrous, and a throbbing slab of pure doomy goodness indeed. Sublime musicianship with a vibe which is too cool for school, this one truly is a wonder to behold. I think this will become a cult classic over the coming years, and it was truly an honour to review this beauty.
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
9. Sleep Moscow ‘Of The Sun’
This understated little number was a real leftfield choice, but if I hadn’t reviewed it, I would never have known of its true majesty. Sleep Moscow, Of The Sun, which includes the fantastical track Light Will Meet Us, really sucker punched me. Different, adult, dark, and imposing, it’s been a light in the darkness this year. The fact that I love this so much was a surprise for me, but looking back, I could not include it.
Label: Majestic Mountain Records
8. Lore City ‘Participation Mystique’
Well, wouldn’t you know it, they’re like busses, two at the same time. Lore City, just like Sleep Moscow, released an incredible album this year, Participation Mystique, which is both as infectious as it is different, to pretty much all the other music out there right now. One track is entitled, I Know You Know, and if you do, you are my people. Mysterious, ambient, and wondrous, an absolute joy to have in my life.
7. Djiin ‘Meandering Soul’
Having recently stumbled on to this outfit, for it to have slipped into the top ten of the year really is an achievement. Djiin Meandering Soul is far too cool. It’s spooky, dark, and spiritual. It could have been made in the sixties, it could have been made yesterday, it’s timeless. If Janis Joplin had joined Black Sabbath, it would have been a little like this. Source out the video for Black Circus, it’s insanely good…
6. Kollapse ‘Sult’
In at 6, is the insanely immense Kollapse, the first of the more extreme acts on my list. Sult is as brutal as it is intense. A real glimpse into sonic insanity, this one will 100% annoy the neighbours, and I know that first hand. Abrasive, threatening, and guttural, it truly is the kind of thing that will have you on the edge of your seat, from start to finish. A must for any extreme turbulence music fans out there.
5. Emma Ruth Rundle ‘Engine Of Hell’
The first time I heard this album, I was a little underwhelmed, but at the time I hadn’t truly given myself to it. Now, a month later, its beauty is becoming everything to me. Truly a spiritual experience, it needs to have your complete attention to really witness its majesty. A wondrous expose into capturing one’s soul on record, Emma Ruth Rundle has produced a work of art for your very bones. Never one to shy away from pouring her entire being into her music, ERR is the purest of musical artists, and this album is the proof.
Label: Sargent House
4. Bossk ‘Migration’
Well, well, well… Bossk. Local to me on the planet, I’d invested in previous releases a couple of years ago, but was not prepared for this album. It’s a juggernaut. Caught them live at Portals Festival, and they blew me away. Heavy, vicious, and incredible, Migration is an absolute behemoth of an album. Brutal and punishing, yet heavily ambient, and considered. Everything an album should be, a must for any collection.
Label: Deathwish Inc.
3. Blackwater Holylight ‘Silence/ Motion’
Effortlessly in at 3, it’s Blackwater Holylight, with their newest opus, Silence/Motion. Equal parts heavenly as it is dark and dank, Blackwater Holylight have again evolved, grown, and come back with an album that truly captures the dark and the light. The power play between lighter shoegazey moments, and more intense passages, really lets us in on the band’s world and influences too. Playing on their own terms, they’re fast becoming champions of the genre. Captivating, mesmerising, and unforgettable.
Label: RidingEasy Records
2. Crystal Spiders ‘Morieris’
In at 2, is one of my most favourite bands on the whole planet, it’s Crystal Spiders. Morieris is the incredible follow up to last year’s Molt, which was my album of the year in 2020. Morieris picks up where Molt left off but evolves in sound too. A true combination of artists working in unison, Brenna, Tradd, and Mike have created another masterpiece. Morieris was on track for the top spot, and if my number one hadn’t snuck in at the finishing line, Crystal Spiders would, again, have won the year for me. What Crystal Spiders do, they do so incredibly, that to beat them would need to be something so enormous, and phenomenal, that to ignore its importance, would be a travesty.
Label: Ripple Music
1. Rongeur ‘Glacier Tongue’
Here it is, number one, it’s Rongeur with Glacier Tongue. Right from the opening seconds, this album has me. This album is EVERYTHING I have ever wanted in my heavy music. I grew up loving the heavy, vicious bands, the Sepultura’s, and the Pantera’s, the Nailbomb’s, and the Entombed’s. Not since Vision of Disorder, have a band literally grabbed me by the throat, and given me that instant level of intensity that flows through me, like this album does. I couldn’t put this in at number one, as nothing has hit me so hard, and so fast, as this album has this year. It doesn’t at all lessen the rest of my top ten, but this one just hits so much harder for me.
Label: Fysisk Format
So, there it is, my top ten for 2021. You may agree, you may not, but that’s life, we can’t all be the same, as if we were, you would all have to agree that my list is the best. It’s OK, I’m cool with that, I won’t bear any grudges.
At this point, I would just like to throw in a few ‘honourable mentions’ before I sign off, for some other kick ass acts who also rocked my world this year. So here goes…
Holy Death Trio, with …introducing, and Wenches with Effin’ Gnarly. Both incredible albums, kick ass heavy rock like it should be… don’t even fuck about, go check them both out, you can thank me later.
Breaths with Lined In Silver, and Somnuri with Nefarious Wave, both of whom have ripped up the rule book, and made what they do, their own. Again, use the internet for some good, and check them both out…
And then finally, there are two acts who are both so much more to me than just having a good album, and they are Witnesses, and EMBR.
Witnesses, aka Greg Schwan, a master of his art, everything he creates it sublime. What he creates defies logic. And then there’s these guys, Embr, who I have been following on their journey for two years now, and watched grow, adapt, and evolve. 1823 was a superb debut, Idolatry was an absolute grungy joy, and this year’s 1021 EP, which shows a band who have grown and grown, then blossomed, and are developing a sound that is both unique, and truly their own.
As a final thought, I would just like to thank you, the people who read these reviews, and my work, and take the time to go out and check out these bands. They work hard, as a reviewer I always try and be positive, and in a world that trivialises music these days, no price can be put on the value of real musicians, and how hard they work, to give you something to keep forever, as the soundtrack to your lives. Here’s to 2022, a new year, a new start, and a whole bunch of new kick ass albums to fill your lives with joy. This isn’t Ripley, I wasn’t on the Nostromo, signing off…
Scribed by: Lee Beamish