I should start this list with a few disclaimers. Firstly, where I’m from, favourite has a U in it. Sorry online grammar checker! Secondly, these are purely my personal 10 favourite albums of 2021. This isn’t supposed to be interpreted as some kind of best-of list. I don’t believe I have the qualifications to attempt to rank something like musical ability or quality. Music is interpretive. That’s one of the reasons it’s so awesome.
My final disclaimer is that there will be more than 10 bands/albums mentioned in this article. I will still list my 10 favourite albums of 2021, but there were quite a few memorable albums not in the list that rate a mention. 2021 was a good year for the music genres I like to listen to.
The honourable mentions include the album Wallflowers by Jinjer, the self-titled album by Bullet For My Valentine, Sinner by John 5 & The Creatures, Happier? by Volumes, Doom Crew Inc by Black Label Society and Afterglow by Rising Insane.
I was actually tempted to make a list of my favourite 20 albums as the year came closer to an end. That felt like a lot more effort though.
Before I get to the main list of 10 favourite albums of 2021, I want to somewhat reiterate a point I made earlier. This mostly isn’t a ranked or rated list. The final entry is without a doubt my favourite album of the year, but the rest are what I’d call a 9-way tie for second.
2021 was that good.
My 10 favourite albums of 2021
I loved Wage War‘s last album. It was a favourite of mine in 2019—as mentioned on my other website—and I had been wondering what they’d do to follow that album up. Well, what they did was follow it up with more of the same awesomeness.
There’s a little bit more variety in this album though. There’s a lot of the rage and a lot of that metalcore brilliance that can be found on their previous release. But, there are more almost-softer moments to enjoy as well. It’s all beautifully blended in this album of absolute metal perfection.
For me though, that brutal combination of screaming, singing and epic riffage is what it’s all about. Just like the album’s title track does so well.
Of Mice & Men—Echo
Another favourite from 2019, Of Mice & Men returned in 2021 with another example of how a band can maintain its brutality from album to album. Ever since going through a lead vocalist change several years back, Of Mice & Men have showed absolutely no sign of slowing down. In fact, I’d wager that this latest release is up there with some of their earlier heaviness.
This album fills me with a lot of hope. Hope that there are several more albums like this to come.
I loved the visuals that were applied to several of the videos that came with some of this year’s releases as well. Great stuff.
Trivium—In The Court Of The Dragon
I’ve often admired Trivium‘s ability to experiment with their approach to the vocal styling they’ll use on each album as well as their approach to their guitar playing. They’ve released albums that showcased their dual lead guitar chops and they’ve steered in the exact opposite direction at times. This latest release feels like a trip back several albums and I’m all about that.
There are some brilliant guitar moments and the blend of screaming and singing is at the top of the Trivium game in my opinion.
It was also a delight to see the storytelling approach being applied to their music videos again. They’ve often applied their artistic abilities to the promotional material that coexists with the music being released.
I remain a Trivium fan for another year or two it seems.
The Pretty Reckless—Death by Rock and Roll
One of the things I liked the most about this album was the surprises it contained. I was enjoying all of the tracks in isolation as I listened to them in YouTube Music—yes, I’m one of the minority not using Spotify—before I started watching the released videos and reading the commentary that came with them.
Seeing Tom Morello appear on one track and Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron appear on another track was an awesome treat to experience. Any band that gets half of Soundgarden to appear on a song while making the song sound Soundagardenesque—I’m absolutely making that a real word—is A-OK in my book.
The track Only Love Can Save Me Now was a perfect blend of two bands’ styles.
If there was ever any doubt that Jared Dines should be seen as a musician and a YouTuber equally, SION blew that doubt out of the water. The musical compositions, guitar techniques and overall songwriting approaches on this debut album with Howard Jones are all phenomenal.
In an era when many famous musicians are turning to YouTube to become content creators as touring remains restricted, Jared showed that he can play equally in both spaces. Having someone like Howard Jones as a bandmate only shows how seriously Jared and SION should be taken.
Having said that, I often enjoy the comical approach Jared has in his YouTube content. I prefer SION more though. This is killer content.
I am very late to the Gojira party. I’ve heard of them before, but never really take the time to give them a proper listen. Fortitude changed that for me. The riffage on this album is amazing and incredibly tight.
There are so many brilliant tracks on this album. It’s a new sound—for me at least—but it feels like it references the classics that started the heavy metal realm decades ago. There’s a rawness that makes the songs sound incredibly brutal.
One thing I really liked about this brutality was how well it connected to the serious messaging contained in all of the album’s lyrics. There is just so much to enjoy with this album. Especially if you’re fascinated by guitars like I am.
Speaking of brutality—because we are again—very few bands that I listen to combine brutality of vocals and guitars like Silent Planet. I’m a big fan of Garrett Russell‘s vocal approach. It’s raw and it’s filled with emotion. It feels incredibly personal to me when I listen to the lyrics and messaging of the songs.
It also doesn’t hurt that the overall metal guitar sound of Silent Planet is a joy to listen to. In my opinion, this is a band that deserves a much bigger fan base.
Perhaps the dual vocal approach they’ve taken on several of this album’s tracks will bring in some new fans. I just hope the next album isn’t too many years away. I could use a lot more of Silent Planet.
Architects—For Those That Wish To Exist
Not quite as brutal, but equally as impressive musically this year was the Architects release For Those That Wish To Exist. Although slower, the lyrics felt meaningful and personal throughout this album. Whether screamed or sung, soft or hard, this album delivered.
There were tracks that were released with orchestral accompaniment and those tracks truly showed this bands diversity. Released early in the year, this album was an early contender for me. I listened to this album on repeat a lot.
The two main singles were diverse, but equally brilliant. This is another band that I’m keen to continue to watch for years to come.
Eternal Blue by Spiritbox is easily one of the best debut albums I’ve ever heard. Spiritbox has been around for a while and released tracks and EPs before, but this is their first full album. In my opinion, it’s set a new standard for how bands can release new music in the heavy metal genre.
This album is nothing if not diverse. From the opening track—Sun Killer—to the previously released tracks Constance and Holy Roller, this album shows a diversity that works across all tracks like few bands can pull off.
One of the things this release also did was incorporate a guest vocal spot by a member of another band already on this list. Sam Carter from Architects appears on the track Yellowjacket. A guest vocalist from one list member to another was something that would happen once more in this list. More on that very shortly.
First though, give Sun Killer a listen. This song builds perfectly and sets the scene for the rest of Eternal Blue with perfection.
Even YouTube Music told me that this album was my favourite in 2021. I listened to this album like nothing else this year. I listened to this album in so many ways. I listened to the album on constant repeat using youTube music initially. Then, I watched as guitarist Jesse Cash released guitar playthroughs on YouTube from the album.
If you haven’t watched one of the Jesse Cash guitar playthroughs, you really need to do that now.
After watching those videos repeatedly wondering if Jesse Cash is a machine or not, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that ERRA released the majority of their self-titled album as an instrumental release. I love the dual vocal stylings of ERRA, but having an instrumental version of the album was like another new release from my new favourite band.
Finally, two of my favourite musical worlds combined when Courtney LaPlante from Spiritbox recorded some guest vocals for the ERRA track Vanish Canvas, I knew now that my year of music was near-perfect. Just knowing that the bands I was enjoying were also enjoying working with each other as well, was exactly the positive end that my year needed.
The song I listened to the most in 2021 though? That was Snowblood.
This was without a doubt, my favourite album of a musically excellent 2021. I can only hope that 2022 is as good a year (musically).