2021 Album of the Year

1- Amenra – De Doorn
2- Garbage – No Gods No Masters
3- Tomahawk – Tonic Immobility
4- Steven Wilson – The Future Bites
5- Whitechapel – Kin
6- Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra – Songs for the Apocalypse
7- Lord of the Lost – Judas
8- Dave Neabore – Retro Inferno
9- White Stones – Dancing into Oblivion
10- IDLES – Crawler

For all that was wrong with 2021, and there’s a lot, it was a really good year for new music. Six of the ten bands that are in my Annual Top 10 list are appearing for the first time. I actually gave some consideration to doing a Top 15 for the second time, and I easily could have, but I kept it to a Top 10. Yes, I did copy this paragraph from last year’s entry and just changed the year.

Amenra is a Belgian band that I had never heard of before 2021. While watching an interview with Professional Wrestler, Malakai Black (aka Tommy End), I heard him mention Amenra as one of the bands that he had been listening to a lot of. I went to YouTube to find what I could find from them and I was blown away. I also noticed that they had a new album out in 2021 and I ordered a copy of it. What I got was De Doorn. The vocals are not in English and feature a lot of screams. To be honest, I have no idea what they’re saying, but it doesn’t matter. The melodic sound of this album works so well. There’s only five songs on De Doorn, and they all flow together. I won’t recommend specific songs on this album because it’s something that needs to be listened to from beginning to end. It’s such a good listen. I’ve also recently purchased a few other albums from Amenra and I hope to enjoy those half as much as De Doorn.

Garbage is one of my favorite acts, and their albums are usually very good. No Gods No Masters is no different. Although, I do remember when I first heard the album, I recognized the distinct sound that Garbage produces, but I thought it may need to grow on me. And since I’ve ranked it as the 2nd best Album of 2021, it’s safe to say that it did grow on me. The lyrics on the album really do reflect the times and Shirley Manson’s take on the world. If you’re a fan of this band, I wouldn’t skip this album.

Some of my favorite tracks from the album include the title track, “the Men Who Rule the World,” “Uncomfortably Me,” and especially “Godhead.”

I never know what to expect from a project that Mike Patton is a part of. Tomahawk is no exception. This group has put out some incredibly rocking albums. They’ve also put out an album of nothing but Native American songs. Tonic Immobility is more of a “normal” album from Tomahawk and one of the better ones from their library.

The opening track, “SHHH!,” hooked me and the rest of the songs kept me interested all the way to the last track, “Dog Eat Dog.” I also recommend “Fatback” and “Business Casual” as songs to listen to.

Steven Wilson’s the Future Bites was originally supposed to be released in June of 2020, but it was pushed back until January, 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Wilson’s solo work is a hit or miss with me. But when it’s a hit, it’s usually very good. This album was a hit. The first single “Personal Shopper” (released in January, 2020) features a guest cameo by Elton John and really made me want to hear more of the album. When I finally did, I liked a few more songs on it as well.

I recommend tracks such as “Self,” “12 Things I Forgot,” and “Eminent Sleeze.”

Whitechapel was recommended to me a few years ago when their last album, the Valley, was released. I liked it and it made my 2019 Top 10 list. Their latest album, Kin, is another good one. There is so much raw emotion in their songs. It’s sometimes difficult to convey that with growling vocals, but they pull it off very well.

Some of the tracks that stuck out to me include “I Will Find You,” “A Bloodsoaked Symphony,” and “Orphan.”

Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is another act that is new to me this year. I saw a friend raving about their album, “Songs for the Apocalypse” on Twitter and decided to check it out. The first song that I heard was “Bring Out Your Dead.” I couldn’t get enough of that track.

“Down in a Hole” (not the Alice in Chains song), “Alone in the World,” and “Born of the Sun” are also good songs to check out.

YouTube suggested Lord of the Lost to me in 2020. While they’re basically a gothic metal band, I found them to be an interesting mix of styles. Reading more about them, I learned that their lead singer and founder, Chris Harms, says that he’s been influenced by Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Lady Gaga. As I said, an interesting mix of styles. Their 2021 album, Judas is a double album with 24 total songs on it. I expected to lose interest while listening to the album, but I didn’t. It held my attention. That says something. By no means are all tracks great, but there’s definitely enough very good ones with “For They Know Not What They Do” as the best one.

I also like “Priest,” “Viva Vendetta,” and “the Heart is a Traitor.”

Dave Neabore is the bass player from one of my favorite bands, Dog Eat Dog. Horror movies and movies scores are a big interest to him. During the year, he released Retro Inferno, an album of 1980s style synth music. If I wasn’t already aware of him, this album would not have been on my radar. But, I gave it a listen and I really enjoyed it. The opening track was good enough to keep me interested and I kept listening.

“Space Driver,” “Destroy All Robots,” “Electric Sky,” and “Samhain” are currently my favorite tracks from the album, but it’s a good listen from start to finish.

White Stones was founded by Opeth’s bass player, Martin Mendez. Their 2020 debut album, Kuarahy, sounded like Opeth demo tapes and songs that didn’t make the cut with Opeth. However, their 2021 album, Dancing Into Oblivion, is MUCH better. It’s so much better that I may go back and listen to Kuarahy again just to see if I like it any more than I did originally.

Some of the better songs on Dancing Into Oblivion include “New Age of Dark,” “To Live or To Die,” and “Freedom in Captivity.”

As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2021. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):

– Anneke van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies are Always the Brightest: As much as I love her voice, this album didn’t do anything for me.
– Carcass – Torn Arteries: This is a solid album that could have easily made the Top 10.
– Dion – Stomping Ground: Another VERY solid album from Dion. This is a great blues album.
– Ministry – Moral Hygiene: If the Top 10 wasn’t so solid this year, this album would be high on it.
– Moonspell – Hermitage: A good album, but not a great album.
– The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Dance Songs for Hard Times: See Moonspell.
– Sumo Cyco – Initiation: This was a fun listen, but I don’t see myself going back to it often.
– Those Poor Bastards – Old Time Suffering: This is definitely not their best work.
– Tom Jones – Surrounded by Time: Tom Jones has a great voice. I enjoyed this album when I heard it, but it very easily got lost in the shuffle.
– Vola – Witness: This is another band that I was introduced to this year. I really liked this album, and it came very close to making the Top 10.

Steven Wilson’s band, Porcupine Tree, has reunited and will release an album in 2022. Their 2007 album, Fear of a Blank Planet was good enough to be my Album of the Year. Can they do it again? Clutch may also release a new album in 2022. They also had an Album of the Year with 2004’s Blast Tyrant. I don’t know who else will be releasing new records, but I look forward to listening to some new stuff during the year.

A note about eligibility for my 2021 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States release date in 2021.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

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