Top 20 Metal Albums of 2021
As always, the top albums of the year are for full albums (no EP’s or demos) released in 2021. They are new studio albums for the year, not re-recordings, re-releases, cover songs, or live albums. Below the combined top 20 you will find links to each individual staff members’ personal “best of” lists which besides their top albums contains such things as best new band, best DVD/Blu-Ray/Stream, best metal book, disappointments of the year, greatest hopes for 2022, personal metal discovery of the year, and various other categories. Needless to say, 2021 was another tough year for for many, and for many bands who haven’t been able to play live in 2 years.
1. Helloween – Helloween
With over double the amount of accumulated points of the number two album of the year, the new Helloween totally dominated the top album list this year! The anticipation for this album skyrocketed ever since it was announced that the Pumpkins United line up was making an entire album. The reunification of the pumpkins is one of the greatest and most important occurrences in heavy metal history. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Helloween never went away but Helloween is back, indestructible and out for the glory. Generations of HELLOWEEN combined for a new studio album was a brilliant undertaking for fans salivating for more. If you’re a HELLOWEEN fan that doesn’t like this album then there’s something wrong with you. (Review)
2. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
If you are looking for a collection full of the breakneck tempo galloping rockers that Maiden are famous for, you will be disappointed. There are a few glimpses of those here and there, but so much more exists for us to discover. The soundscapes created here are sprawling, and it takes several listens to fully appreciate the intricacies and nuances meticulously placed in each song by these master song-smiths. (Review)
3. Exodus – Persona Non Grata
After a lengthy seven year hiatus, Exodus finally return with their latest offering, PERSONA NON GRATA. Exodus sound refreshed, rejuvenated, motivated, and downright hungry! They play as if it were 1985, and have something to prove. This album makes a bold statement right from the start: Exodus are alive and well in 2021 and thrashing as hard as ever. (Review)
4. Todd La Torre – Rejoice In The Suffering
When global touring came to a sudden and unexpected halt due to the pandemic, Queensrÿche frontman Todd La Torre used the downtime to put the finishing touches on his debut solo album Rejoice In The Suffering. “Rejoice In The Suffering was truly a labor of love. It’s a pure metal record that certainly showcases a wide range of my vocal abilities. I feel there is something for any true fan of metal on this album. This album is full of groove, dynamics, power, and substance and I can’t wait for people to hear it,” explains Todd La Torre.
5. Carcass – Torn Arteries
Carcass are back, and it seems their seventh studio outing Torn Arteries is an improvement on several levels as it is arguably a far better blast of veteran UKDM than Surgical Steel was back in 2013. Carcass has had an impressive career since their forming in 1986. Leading the pack for being hugely responsible for the goregrind genre as well as solidifying the melodic death metal genre. (Review 1, Review 2)
6. Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix
Evergrey are a band that needs no backstory explanation. Listeners of metal know who they are and what they are capable of. If, by some chance, you do not know Evergrey, ESCAPE OF THE PHOENIX is an incredible place to start. This is a remarkably consistent band, with very few missteps in their expansive catalogue. With this latest release, Evergrey have delivered their most personal and emotional album yet. (Review)
7. KK’s Priest – Sermons of the Sinner
Nearly a decade since KK left the mighty Judas Priest he has returned from beyond the realms with Ripper Owens in tow for another metallic lesson.
8. Flotsam and Jetsam – Blood In The Water
Here we have a mature band that is focused on writing strong songs with many layers and not allowing themselves to be boxed into any genre. Instead what we have here is a killer metal album. There’s some thrash, there’s some traditional, there’s even some power metal…and they were able to make a cohesive album out of it. That’s how it’s done! (Review)
9. Powerwolf – Call of the Wild
Powerwolf are masters of their craft and they are incapable of releasing a truly bad album. Yes they are an acquired taste and some may not like their gimmick or their over the top image; but underneath all of that they are incredible musicians and they are much more than just their image. (Review)
10. Accept – Too Mean to Die
Accept have been sick, dirty, and mean since their inception. TOO MEAN TO DIE was written and executed in that classic Accept fashion to show the world that Accept are still a driving force in metal. Wolf Hoffmann may be the only original member remaining but he is not only keeping the legacy alive but he continues to move the band forward. Bringing in the new decade on a strong note like this shows that Accept truly are too mean to die. (Review)
11. Dream Theater – A View from the Top of the World
Dream Theater’s 15th full-length offering is the band doing what Dream Theater do, and doing it pretty well by all accounts. It’s seven tracks of long, winding odysseys, technical wizardry sprinkled with liberal keyboards. They’re synonymous with the term “progressive metal” and, alongside others like Queensryche and Fates Warning, took huge strides in defining the genre in its early days. Their legacy is clear, their place in the annals secured, and their fan-base devoted. (Review)
12. Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls
WALL OF SKULLS is Brainstorm’s lucky number thirteen album. For some bands that number has not been kind. For Brainstorm, they rose to the occasion. This album will show you why the band perfectly blends power and thrash with a modern twist. (Review)
13. Crowne – Kings in the North
This album is a non-stop thrill ride of good old Swedish melodic heavy metal. As I have stated on many occasions, supergroup assembly can be a very tricky situation. When the creative chemistry is there, they work, and the resulting music can be magical. That is absolutely the case here! Let’s meet the band, shall we? This supremely talented band consists of vocalist Alexander Strandell (Art Nation), guitarist/keyboardist/producer Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.), bassist John Levén (Europe), drummer Christian Lundqvist (The Poodles), and Love Magnusson (Dynazty) supplying guitar solos. With a band like that, you know the quality of tunes contained here is otherworldly! (Review)
14. Darkwoods My Betrothed – Angel Of Carnage Unleashed
The band’s 4th album and first since 1998! Of note is this Black Metal band contains 2 Nightwish members!
15. The End Machine – Phase 2
Lynch and Pilson – together again. But this is not a Dokken album. This is the second hard rocking album from these veterans. (Review)
16. Unto Others – Strength
This Portland USA based band combines traditional heavy metal with gothic rock. This is their first full-length released since their name change (the band was forced to change its name from “Idle Hands” to “Unto Others” in 2020 due to copyright issues).
17. Vreid – Wild North West
Norwegian black n’ roll / blackened metalers 9th studio album is both a concept album a movie. Quite ambitious and one of the few metal bands to have released both album/movie together. (Review)
18. Hooded Menace – The Tritonus Bell
The 6th album from this death/doom band from Finland.
19. Moonspell – Hermitage
Gothic dark metal masters from Portugal are as vital as ever on their 12th album. (Review)
20. U.D.O. – Game Over
This legend’s 17th (post-Accept) solo album proves that age is not a factor in his ability to impress and deliver another solid metal album.