My Top 20
1. Helloween – Helloween
There was never a doubt that this album would be near the top of a few lists, mine included. Silly me wasn’t sure it would be number one on my list because it came out in June, and I thought with 6 months of the year left it was possible that a stronger album might emerge. It did not. While this isn’t my favourite Helloween album, it is definitely in my top 5. My unrealistically high expectations that I held for a reunion album were surprisingly met. The only negative thing I can say is that there is no more Gamma Ray (their last studio album was way back in 2014). With Kai no longer doing the main Gamma Ray vocals, maybe it’s for the best he has returned to the Helloween camp full time. I hope the pumpkins remain united and there are more albums and tours to come.
2. Einherjer – North Star
I’ve always really enjoyed this bands mix of styles from viking/folk to some kind of blackened thrash mash-up. Always great, always delivering. I haven’t listened to NORTH STAR as much as DRAGONS OF THE NORTH (their best, and the re-recorded version from 2016 still got lots replays in 2021) but I’m starting to think this might be my second fav from them. I will need a couple more years to know for sure. Regardless, the band is currently at their peak and I’m here loving every second of it.
3. Brainstorm – Wall of Skulls
German power metal. Well almost, they have elements of that sound but to come off as slightly more modern sounding and aggressive. Regardless of what you wanna call them, they are killer and Wall of Skulls continues with their ongoing awesomeness.
4. Frozen Crown – Winterbane
Despite losing 3 (guitar, bass, drums) of their five members, the band retained their sound and got even better. The core of the band being guitarist Federico Mondelli and vocalist Giada Etro really progressed their sound and recruited new killer musicians into the band. For me, they are one of the more exciting newer power metal bands to have come along in recent years.
5. Lord of the Lost – Judas
The oddball band in my top 20 when compared to the others in my list has to be LotL. This gothic metal band has been in heavy rotation over the past 2-3 years. The lead vocals of Chris Harms are just so damn good.
6. Flotsam and Jetsam – Blood in the Water
7. Moonspell – Hermitage
8. Manimal – Armageddon
9. Burning Witches – The Witch Of The North
10. Tribulation – Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
20. Kryptos – Force of Danger
A couple bonus albums that almost made my top 20: Hypocrisy – Worship, Angelus Apatrida (self-titled)…….
Best Instrumental Album
Gus. G. – Quantum Leap – Not only a cool ole TV show, Quantum Leap is also a very enjoyable instrumental album – not something I generally listen to much of but this is a great mix of melody, riffs, and shred.
Best Live Album
Sabaton – The Great Show. This is their fifth live album. It was released on the 19th November, 2021. While it’s a standard live show, it does showcase an excellent performance and songs. It’s no wonder many, myself included, consider Sabaton to be one of the bands who have been passed the metal flame from the grand-daddies of metal who will retire within the next 5-10yrs.
Best Metal Book
Fathers, Brothers, and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment, and Anthrax.
by Frank Bello (Author), Gene Simmons (Foreword), Joel McIver.
I bought the audio book of this as it was read by Frank himself. It’s not just about Anthrax of course. There’s some laughs and some very heavy moments that were tough to listen to, even harder for Frank to speak about.
Best Concert / Best Live Streamed Concert
2021 was yet another year with no concerts what-so-ever due to the ongoing plague. I didn’t buy as many e-tickets this year for live streams but a couple of memorable ones were Lord of the Lost “Sinister Summer Stream” and Death Angel “The Bastard Tracks”.
Best New Band
WWI history tales come to life on Kanonenfieber’s (German for “cannon fever”) 2021 debut Menschenmühle. The album was the creation of one very talented dude who is anonymous and goes by the moniker “Noise”. “Noise” seemingly came from out of nowhere, creating a killer blackened metal album that is up there in terms of quality with the best works from bands such as MGLA.
My Favourite Discovery of 2021 was Kanonenfieber – see above.
Favorite non-metal release from 2021
Duran Duran – Future Past
As a big fan of their 80’s albums, this is my fav they’ve done since then. There’s some really great songs on here, but I sure miss the guitar playing of Andy Taylor. The guitar itself is missing from many of the songs on here for me. But all in all, a nice easy listen of an album for when the mood strikes.
Favourite female musician
(has to be someone who released new original music in 2021)
Romana Kalkuhl, guitarist and founding member for Burning Witches. Despite there being some lineup changes (other guitarists, and a vocalist change), Romana has kept her coven alive and they keep on getting better. The band’s 2021 album made it into my top album list for 2021.
Favorite BIPOC musician
(has to be someone who released new original music in 2021)
Nolan Lewis, Vocalist/Guitarist for Kryptos.
“Kryptos is an Indian heavy metal band from Bangalore, India, formed in 1998 by Nolan Lewis (vocals/guitars) and Ganesh K. (bassist).They are one of the pioneers of the modern Indian heavy metal movement. Since their inception the band has released six albums: Spiral Ascent (2004), The Ark of Gemini (2008),The Coils of Apollyon (2013), Burn Up The Night (2016), Afterburner (2019) and Force of Danger (2021).”
Even though Kryptos has been together since 1998, my first real introduction to them was with their 2019 album, Afterburner. If you haven’t heard them, then the song “Afterburner” itself is a great starting place. (youtu.be/VnwcFnQw8-U). I think the overall sound of the Afterburner album is superior, but their 2021 release (Force of Danger) is still cool!
Disappointments for 2021
KK’s Priest. I wanted to like this. I don’t hate it, but it’s just so derivative. I love KK, but the songs are just not memorable for a legend of his calibre.
Hopes for 2022
Besides the obvious end to the plague, the one album I have (unrealistic?) high hopes for is the LONG delayed King Diamond album “The Institute”. It was announced so long ago, I’m not even convinced the title won’t change, nor will I be shocked if it comes out in 2023. His last studio album was from 2007. so a 15 year gap between albums is kinda sad for us fans.
I really wish Immortal would do something, anything. They are pretty much my fav Black Metal band yet there has been radio silence since the release of their 2018 post-Abbath album. I wish they could just get along and record music. Sigh.
Also big hopes for the new Blind Guardian, Abbath, Dimmu Borgir….etc.
Lastly, my biggest hope for 2022 is for the plague to end and for live music to properly/safely return everywhere!