So here we are again, the end of another year and yet another Covid variant has emerged that is with us for the foreseeable future (when will it finally end and bugger off?). Despite this and the general chaos of the world, however, I am eternally grateful for all the incredible music I have been able to review and which has provided me with many a welcome distraction.
My mission to escape the environs of Lancaster to city life (Manchester, or somewhere similar) resumed again as did the sheer tedium of joint house and job hunting. It’s an exercise I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but to quote Blackadder ‘needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle’.
October marked my first gig for well over 20 months when I saw Wishbone Ash at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal and what an awesome performance it was. I was especially blown away when they played Phoenix, a number which always manages to give me goosebumps. In the same month, I managed to get away for a few days to my birth town of Margate (Kent), where I met up with fellow scribe Lee Beamish with whom I took in the record stores of Canterbury.
My criteria for who made the list was simple, it was artists that got played the most. Here then in descending order are my choices for 2021…
10. Maggot Heart/Okkultokrati – Split
I fell hard for Maggot Heart last year when I had the honour of reviewing Mercy Machine and its Voivod infused post-punk/alt-rock. This release features their best material to date, oh and Okkultokrati are pretty damn entertaining too if you dig a hybrid of black metal, Judas Priest and Sisters of Mercy.
Label: Rapid Eye Records
9. Turnstile ‘Glow On’
The only album on the list I didn’t review is a band of whom much hype has been lavished upon, and in this instance, I would say its justified. The third album from the Baltimore hardcore punks Turnstile is even more experimental with elements of shoegaze and The Cure style goth-rock added to the mix. In other words, right up my street.
Label: Roadrunner Records
8. SUAD ‘Waves’
Gloriously dark and classy alt-pop from Finland’s SUAD and the incredibly diverse Svart Records. I loved this record the first time I heard it, emotive yet powerful and laden with hooks. If Bjork, Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush prove too eccentric, and by proxy, annoying for your tastes, then this may prove the perfect alternative.
Label: Svart Records
7. Bleeth ‘Harbinger’ EP
Noise-rock and sludge metal trio Bleeth from Florida managed to cram in quite a lot of diversity on what was a very short EP. Their most concise release to date, it may not be about to change the world, but if Jucifer and Godflesh light your fire then you’ve come to the right place.
Label: Seeing Red Records
6. The Troops Of Doom ‘The Absence Of Light’ EP
The Troops of Doom follow-up to last year’s The Rise Of Heresy EP, is yet more ripping old-School death/thrash metal featuring one time Sepultura Guitarist Jairo ‘Tormentor’ Guedz. The inclusion of two demos may be somewhat perfunctory but doesn’t detract from what is a whole heap of headbanging fun. Can’t wait for the full-length debut in 2022!
5. Black TarPoon ‘Probable Caws’
My discovery of the year was this raucous country/folk punk outfit Black TarPoon who I first encountered via The Thad EP. Then came this beauty, the band’s sophomore full-length album and their most fully realized to date. More diversity is showcased here by Jesse James and the gang, who flex their collective musical muscles with aplomb.
4. Pekka Laine ‘The Enchanted Guitar Of Pekka Laine’
An utterly divine slab of beautiful surf rock instrumentals from Pekka Laine in the vein of early Beach Boys and pop experimentalist Joe Meek. Finland isn’t the first place that springs to mind when it comes to this type of sound, but when put together as deftly as this, it hardly matters.
Label: Svart Records
3. postcards from new zealand ‘city islands’
In the tradition of The Residents, the mysterious postcards from new zealand are a fascinating prospect, totally unidentifiable yet beguiling. Fans of industrial metal, post-rock and post-metal should take note and investigate this excellent record. An ideal gateway into what is a massive catalogue and one which I myself have been exploring in recent months.
Label: Mandrone Records
2. Engine Kid ‘Everything Left Inside’
Engine Kid feature the legendary Greg Anderson on vocals/guitar, imagine Slint with more of a metal/post-hardcore bite. One of the criminally overlooked bands from the 90s and for me the best work Greg has ever done. One hopes for a new album and tour which, if The Misfits can reunite with Danzig shouldn’t be totally outside the realms of possibility.
Label: Southern Lord
1. Lotus Thrones ‘Lovers In Wartime’
This was a no-brainer for me, Lotus Thrones feature former Wolvhammer drummer Heath Rave and released on Disorder Recordings, this was always going to be my number one choice for 2021. First rate death-rock/goth and post-metal goodness. Heath, I salute you.
Label: Disorder Recordings
In no particular order…
Light Of The Morning Star ‘Charnel Noir’
Betty Benedeadly ‘From the Mesa’
Psychic Hit ‘Solutio’
Gridfailure Featuring Mac Gollehon ‘Dismemberment Cabaret’
Chrome Waves ‘The Rain Will Cleanse’
Drug Toilet ‘Believe In Love’
Scribed by: Reza Mills