Can you believe it’s that time of the year again! The dreaded moment that I must meticulously work through and trim down my favourite records of the year to a mere top ten! I could easily do a top fifty, but The Shaman would need to stick another 50p in the internet meter, so you get a mere ten! For me it’s been another great year of writing for the Shaman and maintaining my personal blog SleeveItToMe Reviews, which if you enjoy photos of an overweight grumpy bald bloke holding various vinyl’s and other music paraphernalia then I highly recommend you come visit.
Conversely, after another bizarre year of world turmoil, the global pandemic is sadly still here, looking like it’s not going away any time soon, and sometimes it feels like the population’s views are getting farther and farther apart. There’s a lot of anger and hate in the world right now which saddens me to my core, but there’s also a lot of love! One thing we aren’t divided on is our love of music, so I’m stoked to share with you my Top Ten albums, demos, and general noisy things for 2021 and a few… likely too many honourable mentions (sorry, but there’s just too much good stuff being released nowadays!).
So sit back, grab your readers (stop denying it, you know you need them), a fresh bevvy and behold! My 2021 ‘best of’ list! Fair warning it may get loud!
10. Vertebra Atlantis ‘Lustral Purge In Cerulean Bliss’
I-Voidhanger Records are your one-stop shop for the weird and wonderful in extreme music and this year is no exception, especially with this stack of bleak and dissonant death metal. The record is equal parts vicious and atmospheric with a gargantuan sound. The Italian three-piece nail the cavernous tone that swallows the listener whole, and this tone allows the group to weave an ever-changing tapestry of exciting death metal that just never gets boring. Lustral Purge In Cerulean Bliss was only released in the November of this year and astonishingly is Vertebra Atlantis’ debut record, a must hear in my humble opinion!
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
9. Outre-Tombe ‘Abysse Mortifere’
The Canadian death metal demolition crew Outre-Tombe are back and spewing out the horror in their native French tongue. This old-school feast was released in October via Temple Of Mystery Records and sports an insane cover art from artist Putrid Matt that just needs to be made into a back patch! Abysse Mortifere was preceded by the incredible NecroVortex back in 2018 and the four-piece are back and more polished than ever, this is the group at their very best! Every riff is consistently awesome, brilliantly sewn together, and coated in this dripping old-school production that fits just perfectly. This is 100% up there with the best old-school death metal releases and another that I’m stoked to share with you guys!
Label: Temple Of Mystery Records
8. Cerebral Rot ‘Excretion Of Mortality’
What’s that stench in the air? It’s putrid, it’s rotten and it’s thicker than the fatberg that will eventually swallow Great Britain whole! Of course it’s USA’s Cerebral Rot and their sophomore full-length Excretion Of Mortality released in June via 20 Buck Spin. With Excretion Of Mortality you have close to fifty minutes of slow/mid paced death metal of the vilest variety full of thick riffs and all of the chunks. You’ll smell this one before you hear it. Also, the award for the grossest/most awesome artwork goes to this disgusting little ditty, congrats Karina Monzon you ‘killed’ it with your artwork here, so good its huge poster is framed and up on my office wall!
Label: 20 Buck Spin
7. Crypts Of Despair ‘All Light Swallowed’
I had the pleasure of reviewing this one for the Shaman, this is All Light Swallowed from Lithuanian miscreants Crypts Of Despair released April via Transcending Obscurity. All Light Swallowed does exactly what it states on the tin, it’s forty minutes of soul draining modern death metal that is devoid of light and covered in atmosphere. In my review I stated – ‘I find myself talking about death metal a lot these days, which is frankly no issue as it’s one of my favourite genres. However, I don’t think anyone can deny that the genre is currently somewhat overpopulated, but with that over saturation, when you find a great record it makes it even greater because it stands out from the crowd. That’s what you get with All Light Swallowed.’ I stand by that and that’s why it deserves a place in my end of year list!
6. Acausal Intrusion ‘Nulitas’
The second record to feature on my end of year list from I-Voidhanger Records is also probably the most unique sounding release on the list, it’s Nulitas from USA’s Acausal Intrusion released back in May. Nulitas is avant-garde done ugly. This duo has produced an almost uncomfortable listen, by taking the sounds of groups like Ulcerate and Suffering Hour, taking their unique tones like the drums and guitar leads and stretching them out into this progressive nightmare that sounds almost thin in its production, like if it was a physical matter, it would be smoke weaving through the air. You’ll find it hard not to stick this on and not be drawn into it for the entire run length, it’s like a tapestry which you’ll constantly be finding new things from every time you listen. I implore you to give this a go!
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
5. Charnel Grounds ‘Molecular Entropy Examined In The Bowels Of A Great One’
Charnel Grounds out of Florida have produced another one of this year’s weirdest and most intriguing listens. Originally released independently, this was rightly picked up by the guys over at Sewer Rot Records and was released back in April. This is an extended demo featuring six tracks (CD version) and four on the original demo release. This is a stack of the most killer dissonant death metal that I’ve heard this year full of gurgles, blasts and insane guitar leads that never get boring and always keep you on your toes ready to tear you apart in all manner of ways. This dissonance is perfectly personified by the terrifying artwork that adorns its cover and seeps off every edge staining anywhere you place it! I am really excited for a full-length from this group, and you should be too!
Label: Sewer Rot Records
4. Wharflurch ‘Psychedelic Realms Ov Hell’
Another record I reviewed for The Shaman was this absolute trip from Floridian death metal hero’s Wharflurch, titled Psychedelic Realms Ov Hell. This sci-fi psychedelic death march was released back in September by champs Gurgling Gore and Personal Records. This has to be up there with one of my most listened to records from 2021, I absolutely love the tone on here, everything sounds massive and coated in this slimy cosmic goo that you can’t escape from. Wharflurch drag you through their weird space terror filled world. You’re not kicking or screaming, you’re kind of frozen with fear and wonder at the oddities that call this abyss their home. The mix of sci-fi themes, death metal, and doom metal just hit the right spot for me, and I imagine it did for a lot of you guys too. If you haven’t heard it yet, I’d highly recommend you check it out!
3. Defacement ‘Defacement’
Dutch death metal outfit Defacement released this absolute monster Self-Titled record back in September via I-Voidhanger Records and it absolutely blew by head off with its oppressive atmosphere and technical wizardry. The vocals are absolutely inhumane, they are super cavernous and act like a light devouring blanket that has been draped over the caustic destruction from the instrumentation that sit beneath. The record separates each track out with an instrumental piece all titled Limbo I – IV which are ambient, slightly jazzy and really calming. It’s a stark change in tone to the death metal on display and makes the record a really intriguing listen. I think it’s one of the records I have recommended the most this year and I’m so glad to see it get some great attention and kind words, it really deserves it, and it deserves a place on your shelf. Also, it’s another contender for artwork of the year…wow.
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
2. Worm ‘Foreverglade’
Worm featured in my best of 2020 list with their crushingly heavy doom laden monster Gloomlord and they are back in my list at number two for 2021 with their latest release Foreverglade released by the always awesome 20 Buck Spin. Foreverglade is an absolute triumph of swampy oozing death doom that’s coated with influence and blackened atmospheres. The production job is just brilliant, you’ll stick your headphones on and physically feel the reads from the waters brushing across your ears and the smells from the bayou will seep up your nose transporting you to the gloomy lands that Worm call home. This is undoubtedly the death doom record of 2021 and it’s seriously deserved. From the massive riffs and gloomy tones to the well placed synths and cavernous atmosphere, everything on here is just excellent, congrats Worm you killed it!
Label: 20 Buck Spin
1. Suffering Hour ‘The Cyclic Reckoning’
I’ll never be able to thank Steffen from Cryptic Brood, Repulsive Feast, and Lycanthropic Chants for putting me onto Suffering Hour back when we chatted for our interview. I was opened up to the emotional and immensely dark world of Colorado death metal act Suffering Hour. I was super excited when I saw that the group would be releasing a full-length this year and immediately pre-ordered it from Profound Lore when it was announced. Boy was I right to do so. The Cyclic Reckoning has literally not come off of my turntable since back in February when it was released upon this mortal coil.
This record will leave you breathless and with a feeling at the pit of your stomach that you just can’t put your finger on. With a cold and crisp production, the record is ever shifting with exciting drum lines, song structures and guitar tones. I saw someone describe the guitar lines as almost like they were produced by a surf rock band and I can totally hear it, really unique and perfectly in keeping with the harrowing themes and performance from the three piece. What Suffering Hour always deliver is the atmosphere, the themes of loss, sadness, and death. It’s never cliché and always feels demonstrably real. I love this record.
Label: Profound Lore Records
As always, these lists are difficult to compile and take me hours of pain staking deliberation. There are always close calls and things that at a different time could have made my Top Ten, so please also check out the records below as they’re all brilliant and worthy of your time. Thanks everyone and here’s to more killer music in 2022 and plenty more reviews from yours truly!
In no particular order…
Sermon Of Flames ‘I Have Seen The Light, And It Was Repulsive’
Fossilization ‘He Whose Name Was Long Forgotten’
Coffin Mulch ‘Septic Funeral’
Mortuary Spawn ‘Spawned From The Mortuary’
Stormkeep ‘Tales Of Othertime’
Dream Unending ‘Tide Turns Eternal’
Mortiferum ‘Preserved in Torment’
Decrepisy ‘Emetic Communion’
Wode ‘Burn in Many Mirrors’
Scribed by: Matt Alexander