Top Metal 2021

Playlist link for those following along at home: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtvNsUvEdnGWE2tHWPb-FkWkHh2r5Zdew

1 – Hoaxed – Dark Altar Magic

Very cool new band, just signed to Relapse. Vocals are sorta post-ethereal, the riffs are classic retro, and a great church bell at the start. Fun fact: there’s no bad songs with a massive tolling bell.

(Editor’s Note: he only thinks so cause he’s never made it far enough into “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” to know there’s a bell in it)

2 – Unto Others – Destiny

They used to be called Idle Hands until some other Idle Hands noticed, so now they’re Unto Others. Good gothy metal a bit like Moonspell crossed with Fields of the Nephilim, or Type O Negative crossed with The Sisters of Mercy, whichever you find more useful.

3 – Sarke – Through the Thorns

If you’re a nerdy metal fan you might know Sarke as “That one band with Nocturno Culto from Darkthrone”, and if you’re a very nerdy metal fan you might know them as “That one band with Steiner Gudersen from Spiral Architect”. They’ve been moving from black metal towards a more kind of… I dunno, Nick Cave-y sound I guess? Like this to me has some Red Right Hand vibes.

4 – Rob Zombie – Crow Killer Blues

Off of The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy. It’s a return to the more produced sound. Still John 5 on guitar which is still very good for the sound, and much more change ups in this song including a very clear Doors – Riders on the Storm reference.

5 – Iron Maiden – The Writing On The Wall

Quick caveat: I love this song and would put it up there without qualms on an Iron Maiden greatest hits… but it’s the only song on the album I liked.

6 – Crystal Viper – Sleeping Giants

Legally obligated to mention they’re Polish. Been around for a long time and always kind of at this level of success. I would describe this as “like power metal except good”. Much less Dragonforce, much more retro sound.

7 – Bewitcher – Electric Phantoms

Song feels like it should have been on Kill Em All, band sounds like they should have been on Kill Em All.

8 – Crypta – From The Ashes

Band used to be Nervosa, had some member swaps and just signed to Napalm. Good mix of older and newer thrash, and the new guitarist, Sonia Anubis, solos in a very Blind Guardian-esque style where components are presented in very discrete multi-measure chunks. I happen to like that style a lot, though it never got very popular.

9 – Aephanemer – Antigone

Also just signed to Napalm. Basically symphonic death, in style of Fleshgod Apocalypse, with choruses like Therion, but (and let me really emphasize this point) unlike the previously listed bands it’s not boring.

10 – Battlemaster – Hectored Bugbearean Wrath

First of all: the absolute courage of that guitar sound. That tinny ass low distortion but super loud sounds like angry crickets or something guitar sound. Nothing but respect for putting that on a record. They’re reminiscent of Nekrogoblikon, or maybe a kinda goofy Bolt Thrower. Do spend some time checking out how bizarre the overlap of guitar / vocal riff on first verse is.

11 – Groza – The Redemptive End

Legally obligated to mention that despite the Polish name and the fact they play Polish style black metal they are NOT Polish, they’re German. Very much in that style of Mgła / Uada that’s a major undercurrent atm, and they do it well.

12 – Lorna Shore – To The Hellfire

Generally I hate this Alvin and the Chipmunks vocal style death metal / hardcore cross over stuff, but… it’s the drummer though. Despite the fact I want to hate it I have to admit that this, as they say, slaps. I think I literally heard that 808 drop near the start and immediately thought “ah fuck, this is going on the list isn’t it”.

13 – Godflesh – PARASITE Alternative

It’s literally just weird ‘remixes’ of their recent stuff and it’s goddamn flawless. Just a perfect record of a certain type. You either like these weird repetitive noise things, with that a-factory-building-shambling-to-kill-you vibe, or you’re a bad person.

14 – Darkthrone – Hate Cloak

Ok, so this wasn’t going to go on the list. Don’t get me wrong I have a respect for that current Darkthrone “let’s sound like the old demos we used to listen to in the tape trade days” era, and most of the other albums in it I thought were fine, but I wasn’t super into it. It’s that this… it doesn’t even sounds like old metal demos, it sounds like being a high school freshman and going to a band practice of some seniors’ band. It sounds like a garage, but in a good way. It’s unique, especially for a band that’s been around, what, 35 years?

I ended up putting it on the list cause I caught myself listening to the album over and over, maybe more than any other album of 2021, somehow despite not really having any of the songs stick in my memory. Can’t explain it.

(Editor’s note: he originally wrote “listening to the CD” instead of “album” lol)

Parting thought

Absolutely great time to be into metal. 2020s is possible the best decade in history so far.

KŁY

Well the election is over so let’s talk about something else: Kły.

Have you ever wondered what it’d have been like to be those first people who heard that first Black Sabbath album? The ones who hated it? The first album was panned heavily when it came out by generally everyone. The general descriptor was “hippies trying to be scary and playing badly. done before. boring. dumb”.

I always wondered how it would have been to hear it through those ears since now we just hear a genre defining record packed with radio hits. I suppose it’s natural to wonder about this, it’s sorta the metalheads version of being there for opening night of Psycho and having an experience everyone afterwards can only know about second hand.

That’s the introduction I want to use for Kły specifically and for that Śląsk/Kraków Poland metal scene that’s happening right now. Mgła is the famous band out of it, but probably the least representative one as they went really normal western-style metal recently. More the ones like Furia, Gorycz, Entropia, Biesy, Plaga, or as I said, Kły.

This is the part where I drop the link and I hope you click it, it’s the context:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wmgyy5SzpA

It’s a long track and it’s hard to listen to. That’s the point. Hippies playing badly, done before, boring, dumb.

The sample in the beginning is longer than comfortable, the poor recording on the drums (or drum machine), the slower tempos with very few blast beats (there’s only one sorta near the end), the guitar sounds sloppy compared to most BM, the lack of catchy riffs overall, the lack of a heavy tone throughout, the going between spoken word and harsh vocals, the cheap and non-traditional artwork, the themes being oddly cosmic and I won’t say psychedelic but it’s more that than it is generic metal…

First time I heard something like it I remember thinking “oh, it’s an up and coming band. They’ll get better at it soon”. Then the other bands started releasing stuff and I realized, no this is the sound. This is a microscene and this is what it’s supposed to sound like.

Some people call it ‘post-black metal’ and I dunno. The term already got bandied about for things like Deafhaven and Nachtmystium (spit) and this is nothing like it. I agree both are things that just sound … off to most metal listeners, but this is a step beyond what the US bands are doing. The chord structures of black metal are there but usually buried in repeating psychedelia and even in what would say is 90s throwback minimalist riffing but without the distortion that lets those moments sound full.

It’s a bare sound throughout. It exposes the workings. The sound is representative of the place. This is cold mud in a city, this is factories, this is small basement clubs, this is a chemical haze. This is unpleasant but the unpleasantness of urban loneliness. It’s grey metal.

And I don’t mean to predict that this bunch of local Polish bands on bandcamp will be the new hyper influential genre defining thing like Sabbath was. Really, I kinda doubt most these bands will even make it to spotify seeing as it’s a local scene to an east european country.

I just mean that this is probably what it was like: hearing some kids from an industrial town and thinking to yourself “this is a bit dull. maybe they’ll get better and fit in later”. This is what it was to hear Black Sabbath in 1969.

Metal

So we were at a show at Brick by Brick once and this guy started talking to us, just randomly telling us about his photography and whatnot, and out of nowhere goes “I saw the best ever metal shirt the other day” and I thought “Oh boy, here we go” but asked “Oh yeah? what was it?” and he goes “It was for this black metal band and on the back it just said YOU’RE IN THE WRONG PART OF THE FOREST MOTHERFUCKER” and I just remember thinking “… well shit. that is the best metal shirt isn’t it”