Despite Covid-19 still making it difficult for many bands to tour, especially in Europe, 2021 has seen the release of some fine metal albums. Here are my Top 10 metal albums for 2021!
Considering my background as the singer and songwriter for Dragony, it’s needless to say that most of my favorite albums this year come from the Power Metal subgenre. And also, quite obviously, I need to start with an “honorable mention” of our own album Viribus Unitis, which was released in January 2021 via Napalm Records and which naturally has to be one of my top albums this year. However, I will not include it in my actual Top 10 list for obvious reasons.
Another honorable mention goes out to Red Eye Temple, the main band of our co-songwriter for the Viribus Unitis album, Matt Plekhanov. Matt, together with his sister Maria on vocals and brother Sam on bass, released their debut album Vortex in 2021, and it’s a very noteworthy album, especially if you are into slightly proggy, guitar-driven rock. The band counts Dream Theater, Tool, Symphony X, and Rush among their main influences, so you can get an idea about what to expect. I also got to feature in the song “Patterns” – the track and album concept as a whole are heavily influenced by the teaching of psychologist Carl Jung. Make sure to pay close attention to the lyrics on this one!
10) Seven Spires, Gods of Debauchery (Frontiers Music SRL)
For a long time, Seven Spires have been treated as somewhat of a hidden gem in the underground scene, even though Gods of Debauchery already marks their third full-length album. Thanks to lead singer Adrienne Cowan’s involvement as a live musician for Avantasia and as the singer for Sascha Paeth’s Masters of Ceremony, the band received quite a bit more mainstream attention. It was able to land a record deal with Frontiers Records. Genre-wise, it is quite hard to categorize. Gods of Debauchery take even more risks in its songwriting, with songs ranging from symphonic black metal in the vein of Dimmu Borgir, to seemingly light-hearted, danceable pop-metal tracks such as “Lightbringer” (which comes complete with a dance routine in its official video). Seven Spires certainly don’t shy away from taking risks and experimenting quite a bit with their sound, and I would say that’s a brave thing to do in this day and age where most bands tend to be highly specialized in a single genre or sub-genre.
Key Track: “Lightbringer”
09) Powerwolf, Call of the Wild (Napalm Records)
Arguably one of the stalwarts of immensely popular Power Metal next to Sabaton these days, the German wolf pack released their eighth official studio album this year. As always with Powerwolf, you get what you expect here: Punching metal anthems, designed to be yelled along to at big festivals, tons of choirs, catchy choruses, and a lot of Christian imagery, werewolves, and “Amens.” If you like this type of widespread, easygoing metal, then Call of the Wild won’t disappoint.
Key Track: “Dancing with the Dead”
08) Ad Infinitum, Chapter II – Legacy (Napalm Records)
Swiss singer Melissa Bonny is arguably one of the hottest newcomers in the metal business these days. After first turning heads with her former trance-metal-project Rage Of Light, she soon found herself supporting established bands like Serenity and Warkings with her mix of guttural and clean vocals and finally released the debut album of her own band, Ad Infinitum, in early 2020. Only one year later, the band is ready to dish out their sophomore effort, Chapter II – Legacy, and they did a pretty darn good job. Highly melodic songs spiced up with the occasional appearance of Melissa’s guttural vocals, excellent instrumental work, and a few high-profile guest appearances such as Nils Molin from Dynazty make this album a delightful album throughout.
Key Track: “Aferlife”
07) Orden Ogan, Final Days (AFM Records)
Seeb Levermann’s Orden Ogan can, at this point, easily be regarded as belonging to the upper echelon of the German (and worldwide) metal scene. With their 2021 outing Final Days, the band moves away from the Western setting of the previous record “Gunman” and takes the band’s music into a post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk setting with songs such as “Heart of the Android” and “In the Dawn of the AI.” Musically, the band stays true to its roots and trademarks, combining huge, epic choirs with slightly proggy, modern melodic metal. If you’re looking for a change from the tried-and-true high-fantasy, high-speed antics of most traditional European Power Metal bands, definitely give Orden Ogan a spin!
Key Track: “Dawn of the AI”
06) Warkings, Revolution (Napalm Records)
The ominous Warking’s debut album “Reborn” can undoubtedly be considered an unexpected hit, and the four undead warriors from ages past, the Roman Tribune (vocals), the Viking (bass), the Templar (guitar), and the Spartan (drums) quickly established themselves as a popular new act among festival audiences all around the world. They also made sure to keep a steady stream of new music coming, and after the second album, Revenge, in 2020, the band already returns with Revolution in 2021. Their third outing once again delivers straight in-your-face classic heavy metal with clean vocals. The band’s sound is definitely heavier than most European Power Metal and is more reminiscent of bands like Mystic Prophecy, Brainstorm, or Jag Panzer. If that’s your cup of tea, then songs like “Fight,” the band’s take on the Italian partisan song “Bella Ciao,” “Spartacus,” or “Ava Roma” will not disappoint.
Key Track: “Fight”