Album Of The Year 2021 -Number 1

I’ve made it! Welcome to 30th and final instalment of my ‘Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown’. Today, I will reveal the winner of this year’s accolade. In terms of prestige, this must surely rank with the Grammys or The Oscars, so it’s a big deal! If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. However, it has been a great deal of fun, and I’ve really enjoyed bringing it to you. I’ve also enjoyed all the comments and the interaction I’ve had with many of you.

It has been a tough year, much like 2020 was. But for me personally, 2021 has been worse. Thankfully my friends, family, and music have helped enormously – I couldn’t have done it without the support. And today’s pick at number 1 reflects that as I’ll explain in a moment.

But I want to thank all the musicians out there who have released new music this year – you’ve all helped many of us to get through some tough and uncertain times, even those of you who released utter dross, because it still made me smile regardless…albeit in a slightly different way.

I also want to thank all of you for visiting my website once, twice, or on a much more regular and loyal basis. As I type, I am nearing 1 million hits at manofmuchmetal.com, an achievement that I wouldn’t have reached without every last click – thank you & here’s to the next million!

Lastly, there’s just enough time for the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 2, as well as my lists from previous years too – hopefully you’ll take a look and become a regular reader.

But on to the main event…here’s the gold medal winner, my personal Album of the Year for 2021…

Number 1

Evergrey

“Escape Of The Phoenix”

AFM Records

Release Date: 26 February 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 100%

The worst-kept secret of 2021!

Regardless of the score I gave it, when I was putting my end-of-year list together, I did think long and hard about whether this was actually my favourite album of 2021. Other albums made a big impact upon me throughout the year, that’s true, and there were times when I wondered about mixing things up a little. But then…I listened to ‘Escape Of The Phoenix’ again, and any doubt was quickly erased.

I will be the first to admit that I am a fanboy of this band, but there’s a reason for that. And that reason isn’t because they are the best looking band (sorry Gents), the trendiest band, the most technical band, or because their keyboardist is an enlightened Spurs fan. They are my favourite band because of the fact that they play the music that I want to hear, music that speaks to me, music that moves me. Listening to Evergrey brings back a thousand memories, both happy and not so happy. The last show I went to before the pandemic was in Malmo thanks to a special person. I met up with great friends, I got a shout-out from Tom and met the guys after the show. It was a great night. But now, as I am no longer with that special person, those memories are tinged with sadness.

For that very reason, 2021 has been a tough year and so I’ve needed Evergrey more than ever. And it’s entirely possible that my feelings towards this album have grown even stronger because of the emotional support that it has provided me.

Regardless of personal circumstances, I simply cannot speak highly enough of ‘Escape Of The Phoenix’. It is a monster of an album, from start to finish. It contains huge, hard-rocking numbers like ‘Eternal Noctural’, through to beautiful and emotional rollercoasters such as the magnificent ‘Stories’. It is also the album that made me re-evaluate my feelings towards Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie, as he delivers a devastating duet with Tom Englund on ‘The Beholder’.

Throughout the year, only Omnium Gatherum have come close to having the same effect on me from an emotional point of view. Alongside the Finns, it was Evergrey and this record that gave me the strength and the courage to make some tough decisions and to keep plodding on during such an horrendous time. And, when out on my bicycle in the wind and rain, this is the album I turned to most to motivate me and help me knock out those miles.

So it’s now December, a few days before Christmas, and not only have I made it through to the end of 2021, I arrive in a stronger, fitter, and much more healthy state than I was in as 2021 began. Music can’t be the catalyst for all this can it? Well in my case, yes. Yes it can. Thank you Evergrey for once again being there for me when I needed you. The fact that the album kicks ass is just the icing on the cake.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ‘Escape Of The Phoenix’, my Album Of The Year 2021!

What I wrote at the time:

“Evergrey is comprised of my favourite singer of all time. Tom Englund could sing the contents of an Ikea catalogue and I’d still listen. In Johan Niemann, Evergrey are blessed with one of the greatest bass players of this generation…Jonas Ekdahl is a monster behind the drumkit, offering dexterity, subtlety and power…Keyboardist Rikard Zander has grown over the years to become ever more integral to the band’s music, offering…depth and richness to the compositions. And finally, but by no means least, we have guitarist Henrik Danhage. His strapline ‘old shredders do it better’ could not be more apt and accurate…”

Taking all this into consideration, how could the quintet ever disappoint? The answer, having been blessed with the company of this record for a number of glorious months, is that they couldn’t. And they haven’t. Not even slightly. If anything, ‘Escape Of The Phoenix’ is better than I could have dared imagine…

I’m well aware of the scores I have given this band on manofmuchmetal.com over the years. And I’ll take whatever criticism that you wish to throw at me. However, I stand by my reviews because there is no other band on this planet that affects me so profoundly on so many levels. And, going back to the original point I made at the beginning of this review, since the current line-up have been together, I cannot fault a single second of the music these guys have created. To these ears, ‘Escape Of The Phoenix’ is damn-near flawless in every way. It is special. It is magic. And it contains the essence of what I love about heavy metal and what I love about this band in particular. There is no other possible conclusion – ‘Escape Of The Phoenix’ is a dark, melodic, emotional, and heavy slab of metal perfection.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 2

Number 3

Number 4

Number 5

Number 6

Number 7

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 2

Welcome to instalment number 29 of my 2021 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. That means that I’m about to reveal the runner-up in this year’s list, the silver medallist.

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and supporting me over the past month. Without all the comments and banter, I don’t think I would have seen it through this year. I’ve enjoyed it and I’ll probably do it again next year…probably!

Before I reveal the runner-up, there’s just time for the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 3, as well as my lists from previous years too.

Number 2

Soen

“Imperial”

Silver Lining Music

Release Date: 29 January 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 98%

As the closing line of my review suggests, I didn’t want to stop listening to ‘Imperial’ at the time of its release. So I didn’t. I bought it the minute it came out and I have listened to it throughout the year. As is my way, I am listening to it whilst I write this post, but I also listened to it back-to-back three times earlier today as well. Yup, it’s that good.

What I love about it is the way that it sounds so delicate one minute, and then explodes with fury the next. I also like the way that the music is incredibly complex at times, yet in a subtle way. You listen and it is only on the fifteenth or twentieth spin that you notice something very clever, very technical, or just plain beautiful that you’d not realised was there before.

Speaking of beauty, there is no doubt that ‘Imperial’ deserves this description too, for it is a real work of beauty. The melodies are unbelievably strong throughout, to the point where my favourite song changes each time I listen to the album. And they are not vacuous, cheesy melodies either, as they are imbued with real emotion, be it frustration, anger, or sadness. This adds another layer to the music, giving each composition a depth that other bands would kill for.

This album may have been released at the beginning of 2021, but for me, it has got stronger and stronger as the months have gone by. I stick with my original review completely and, if anything, would be tempted to bump up the score to the perfect 100%…Soen are special, and ‘Imperial’ proves this beyond any shadow of doubt.

What I wrote at the time:

“Without doubt, ‘Imperial’ is one of my most anticipated releases for 2021

 ‘Imperial’ is just a further exploration of the sound that the quintet have created over their career. The key components of their music remain, but it’s more of a further refinement if you will. This record, as I’m sure we all want and expect, has some killer, angular riffs, thunderous drumming and clever, off-kilter ‘prog’ rhythms. But in spite of this, the album just feels smoother, even more ‘grown-up’ than their previous offerings. 

Soen were always a band that understood inter-song dynamics, perfectly marrying together the heavy with the quiet and serene, taking us all on an aural journey to use that cliché. On ‘Imperial’, it feels like the peaks and troughs are more pronounced, with a slightly greater emphasis on the quieter passages this time around. 

…a sub-45 minute masterclass in intelligent, beautiful heavy music.

The ebb and flow, the darkness and light, the peaks and troughs are a key component of Soen’s songwriting, and they help to create some wonderfully engaging dynamics, and convey a myriad of competing emotions throughout.

‘Imperial’ is a supreme collection of brilliant songs that together create an even better album. It is an elegant, passionate and intelligent affair, one that also adds plenty of human emotion, eloquently wrought through music and lyrics. Progressive, beautiful, and deep, it resonates powerfully with me, to the point where I just don’t want to stop listening. Please don’t make me.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 3

Number 4

Number 5

Number 6

Number 7

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 3

Welcome to Day 28 of my 2021 Top 30 countdown of my favourite albums released this year. Some will write a simple list, others will offer a list with some explanation, and then there’s me. The idiot, the masochist. Every day, I put together a post that shines the spotlight one last time on one of the 30 best albums of the year as I see it. I try to explain my reasoning, offer quotes and a link to my original review, and embellish it all with artwork & an embedded track, different from the one chosen for the review. And so far, the feedback for this year’s list has been great – thank you all.

But now we’re into the final three; the bronze, silver, and gold medal places are revealed over the next three days. I’m excited and expecting to hear all sorts of views about my choices. But I can’t stress more strongly that this list has nothing to do with popularity; it’s a reflection of what I have enjoyed this year – simple as that. All hail the subjectivity of music!

As always, for any newcomers, there’s just time for the usual reminder to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 4, as well as my full lists from previous years too.

And now, to the bronze medal for 2021…

Number 3

Witherfall

“Curse Of Autumn”

Century Media Records

Release Date: 5 March 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 97%

I haven’t seen this record in as many lists as I was expecting, but the fact remains that ‘Curse Of Autumn’ from Witherfall is one hell of an album, deserving of many an accolade. Heavy, riff-hungry, melodic, emotional, and with a hint of a progressive edge…it is a powerful ride from start to finish, and one that I refuse to tire of. In fact, I connect with it more deeply now than I did back in February when I first started listening to it.

Growing up and getting into heavy metal for the first time, my immediate love was for big crunchy guitar riffs and solos. Yes, solos. Those things that the mainstream seems to have abandoned. Such heresy. But happily, Witherfall never got the memo and so ‘Curse Of Autumn’ is littered with sensational guitar work and loads of solos. It’s the kind of thing that I lap up, and have done over the past few months, returning to it on a very frequent basis. And moreover, this is an album that reminds me of why I developed a love for heavy metal in the first place.

Naturally, the emotional depth of this album also has an impact, and takes things to another level of intensity. There’s no doubt in my mind that these guys are living and breathing every moment. No-one is phoning this in from the back of the studio, and you can tell; it’s rather exhilarating actually, and has the effect of pulling me deeper into the music.

There isn’t much else to say at this point other than reiterate just what a worthy addition to my 2021 list ‘Curse Of Autumn’ is. I hope many of you will agree.

What I wrote at the time:

“…as much as I was looking forward to hearing new material from Witherfall, I did wonder slightly whether the band would produce something as powerful and emotional with the ghost of Sagan looming slightly less large over their collective shoulders. 

…on the evidence presented within ‘Curse Of Autumn’, Witherfall will seemingly always be a band that refuses to shy away from confronting their emotions and lacing their songs with poignancy. On this album, there’s a strong thread of anger and frustration, two intertwining emotions that the band, particularly vocalist/keyboardist Joseph Michael and guitarist Jake Dreyer, have experienced over their careers…

…a 57 minute thrill ride into some of the best and darkest melodic heavy metal since…well, since ‘A Prelude To Sorrow’ if I’m honest.

…it is hard to argue against the suggestion that all members of Witherfall deliver their ‘A’ game on ‘Curse Of Autumn’, in many cases even pushing their abilities even further than before in the process.

Witherfall come out of the blocks all guns blazing. Michael sounds like a man possessed as he spits out his diatribes with urgency and unquestionable passion. And then, signalled by a gloriously dirty and heavy open guitar chord, the chorus bursts into life, delivering more disgustingly marvellous guitar notes and effortless-sounding high-pitched vocal melodies.

In a live setting, I bet these guys slay and I sincerely hope that I get to witness this sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, we have another masterpiece to enjoy, in the form of ‘Curse Of Autumn’ – dark and properly heavy melodic metal rarely sounds this passionate or brilliant.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 4

Number 5

Number 6

Number 7

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 4

Welcome to Day 27 of my Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown series.

No long intro today, but before I do reveal my choice at Number 4, just the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 6, as well as my lists from previous years too, going back to 2012.

Number 4

Omnium Gatherum

“Origin”

Century Media Records

Release Date: 5 November 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 93%

First things first, I got the score for this album hideously wrong, although in fairness this was an epiphany that struck relatively recently. Every time I went to place this record in my Top 30, I held off, pushing it further and further up the list as time went on.

I owe this band a great deal. At my lowest point in 2021, when I could barely listen to any music at all, it was Omnium Gatherum that somehow shone when I half-heartedly looked through my CD collection. I put on ‘The Burning Cold’, and it transformed me. Not instantly, but over time, as I slowly came to my senses. And so, when I had the opportunity to listen to, and review ‘Origin’, I jumped at the chance.

Initially, I felt vaguely disappointed, as if some of the zip, energy, and soul of the band was missing. After all, they had lost half the band, and so you couldn’t blame the Finns if something suffered as a result. And in part, that’s why the review ‘only’ scored 93%.

If I was to review this album now, after a further six weeks, it would be up around the 95-97% mark. You see, the fact of the matter is that I have barely been able to go a day without playing ‘Origin’ since I reviewed it, with the music just getting stronger and stronger. Not only that, but the impact that the music has on me just gets more powerful too; listening to songs like the stunning ‘Fortitude’ can either elate me, or have me on the verge of tears. ‘Origin’ is therefore a bittersweet listening experience but one that makes me feel things, which I find so important.

I have said it before and I will say it again: Omnium Gatherum are the best melodic death metal band on the planet. Moreover, they are one of my favourite bands of any genre, with ‘Origin’ only further confirming this fact. I love this band.

What I wrote at the time:

“In essence, having digested ‘Origin’ as much as humanly possible over the past week or so, it means that Omnium Gatherum have decided to dial down the death metal a smidge, whilst dialling up the melody. And the increase in melody appears in many ways, from the lead guitar lines, from the keys that have always been an important element of the band’s sound, and also from what I perceive to be an increase in clean vocals. This upturn in melody is accompanied by a more measured pace overall, with fewer bursts of intense, pacey aggression, leading to a feeling that ‘Origin’ is a more gentle and serene animal than anything before it within their discography to date.

...there remains something about this band…that entrances me and pulls me back into their warm, comforting, melancholic embrace. And that something is the melody; this band can speak directly to my heart as if it’s on speed dial.

I have once again fallen for the not inconsiderable charms of Omnium Gatherum. ‘Origin’ may be even more melodic and less aggressive than ever before, but if you’re prepared to let the music get under your skin, it can definitely have the same effect on you as their previous efforts…considering the backdrop of the last couple of years, it’s remarkable that the Finns have returned at all, let alone with an album of this high quality.”

The list this year so far…

Number 5

Number 6

Number 7

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 5

Welcome to Day 26 of my Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown series.

So, here we are. After more than three weeks, I have arrived at the final five – the five best albums of 2021 as far as I’m concerned. Trends and peer pressure be damned, these are the five records that have had the biggest impact upon me during what has easily been one of the most difficult years of my entire life. The fact that I have made it through to the end of the year is down, in part, to the music that I have discovered and listened to over the past 12 months. I went through the doldrums where I didn’t listen to anything new, and precious little music at all for the best part of three months. But the pull of music was ultimately too strong and I was welcomed back into the fold once more.

I doubt that you will all agree with my last five choices, but I’m absolutely certain about them, so I’m sticking with them.

Before I reveal my choice at Number 5, just the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 6, as well as my lists from previous years too, going back to 2012.

Number 5

MØL

“Diorama”

Nuclear Blast

Release Date: 5 November 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 96%

Such is the unfairness of life. Had ‘Diorama’ been released a month or two earlier and I’d had more time to live with it, it’s entirely possible that MØL would have found themselves even higher on this year’s list. As it is, having only seen the light of day at the beginning of November, the Danish quintet will have to make do with fifth spot.

Those that know me, know of my love for melody and so, when melody is combined with some spiky, nasty black metal, it’s like a marriage made in heaven. But the strength of the melodies, and their elegance takes this album to the very next level.

As I said in my review, this is an album that makes me feel happy, and it’s an incredibly uplifting affair. To say that about black metal feels a bit weird, but it’s true. What you get are short, sharp compositions that hit hard, but which also sooth, and provide warmth.

I can’t stop listening to this record and it is top of my Christmas list. With ‘Diorama’, MØL have gone from being an exciting prospect, to quite possibly my favourite blackgaze artist currently plying their trade in the metal world. Simply sensational.

Photo: Cornelius Qvist Edit: Kim S. /@HeartMatter Artworks

What I wrote at the time:

“The very thought of black metal being uplifting and positive is pretty much heresy, certainly if you listen to those that consider themselves to be ‘trve’ black metal fans. And yet, here I am, listening to ‘Diorama’, the second album from Danish band MØL and it’s the most prominent thought in my mind; I’m happy. As I listen, I can hear the black metal elements of the music very clearly, but I’m thinking ‘this is beautiful, melodic, gorgeous music’.

On the one hand, the music on ‘Diorama’ is raw, aggressive, and harsh. On the other, it’s warm, inviting, and so wonderfully life-affirming. Put it all together, and it is the most unlikely of perfect matches.

…my thoughts haven’t changed since my first listen – ‘Diorama’ is utterly stunning, and I’m hooked. I’ve listened to it too many times to mention, but I’m not even close to losing interest in the music. If anything, the eight tracks spread over 48 minutes are nigh-on perfect…

…for the first time in probably six months, I am listening to an album that has the power to transport me to another place – a better place. A place of some sorrow, yes, but also to a place of happiness, of joy, and a sanctuary where, for a short while, I forget everything else. I can close my eyes, clear my mind, and just allow the beauty of this music to fill me with positivity and a strength that I feared had left me forever. This, dear readers, is the power of music. This is why I love music. And this is why, with ‘Diorama’, MØL have without a doubt, created one of the best albums of 2021.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 6

Number 7

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 6

Welcome to instalment number twenty-five of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. The last pick before I enter the final five for the year. Are you getting excited? I know that I certainly am, and I know the final five placings. For those of you who don’t know, the excitement must be nearing fever pitch…or not!

As always, please excuse the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 7, as well as my lists from previous years too – I’d hate for any newcomers to miss out on all the fun!

But now, here’s the next pick in this year’s series…

Number 6

Ghosts Of Atlantis

“3.6.2.4”

Black Lion Records

Release Date: 26 March 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 95%

You’d be forgiven for thinking that with Cradle Of Filth releasing a cracking new album this year, that Dani and co. would have bagged the accolade of the best album from my home county of Suffolk. But no, you’d be wrong. The accolade instead goes to a brand new band by the name of Ghosts Of Atlantis who, like me, call Suffolk home. Poor sods!

Actually, I have no sympathy at all because I’ve since learnt that the band has within its ranks fans of both West Ham and the Arse…for a Spurs fan, this isn’t great news and I was sorely tempted to doctor my review and give then 20%, not 95%. What this demonstrates however, is the fact that petty sporting rivalries aside, good music is good music and nothing else matters. Only, ‘3.6.2.4’ isn’t good. It’s magnificent.

What you get with Ghosts Of Atlantis, is a great blend of heaviness, extremity, melody and bombast. However, it never feels forced or contrived. Instead, you’re treated to forty minutes of incredibly good extreme metal that understands the importance of being memorable, engaging, and highly addictive. Indeed, as I have put together this post, I have listened to ‘3.6.2.4’ twice back-to-back and it still makes me grin, it still makes me bang my head, and in many places, I still get goosebumps.

Far from getting old and tired, this record seems to get better and better. So, despite the footballing misgivings, it was an absolute no-brainer to find a spot in my end-of-year top 10 for Ghosts Of Atlantis. Thoroughly deserved.

What I wrote at the time:

“The debut album is entitled ‘3.6.2.4’ and for forty all-too-short minutes, we’re taken on a thoroughly engrossing journey into Greek lore and the lost city of Atlantis, across eight distinct compositions.

It is not the easiest music to describe either, which has to be to the band’s credit. The quintet refers to their music as symphonic metal, but that’s a vast over-simplification, because there is so much going on within this album. At times, I’m reminded of the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse or Ex Dio, as the material is properly brutal. At others, the inevitable Cradle or Devilment influences loom large, thanks to the properly grandiose and opulent soundscapes that are created, full of drama, flair, and also a dash of Gothic grandiosity. Hints of black, power, and dark also make their presence known, for Ghosts Of Atlantis are not seemingly content without exploring a myriad of sounds, textures, and atmospheres.

For me though, above all else, it is the exquisite juxtaposition between extremity and beauty that makes ‘3.6.2.4’ such a thrill to listen to. For all those sharp riffs, gruff vocals and pummelling drumbeats, you also get clean vocals, melodies, and hooks that are simply sublime, soaring out of the darkness with grace and elegance to caress the ears.

And what an album ‘3.6.2.4’ is. And it is made all the more special because I simply wasn’t expecting it. Ghosts Of Atlantis were not even close to being on my radar until the promo invitation dropped into my inbox. But now, I can safely say that this has been one of the biggest highpoints of the musical year so far. So, if like me, you’re a sucker for melodically-charged extreme metal with drama, depth, and real heart, ‘3.6.2.4’ by Ghosts Of Atlantis has to be your very next purchase. “

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 7

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 7

Welcome to Day 24 in my Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown. I’m glad that you’re still with me. To those that have followed since the beginning, I thank you all for your support, comments, likes, and general banter over various social media channels. Just seven more days to go, including today’s pick. Where has the time gone? And will I get my Christmas shopping done in time? Just two questions that won’t be answered within today’s post. But if you want to know who has bagged my Number 7 slot, read on.

Before you do though, don’t forget that links to Number 30-8 can be found at the bottom of this post, so if you missed any of my nonsense along the way, you can catch up and enjoy the content via the links below. I’m just so kind to you all, aren’t I?

But on with the show!

Number 7

White Moth Black Butterfly

“The Cost Of Dreaming”

Kscope

Release Date: 28 May 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 95%

It isn’t metal. It isn’t rock. But equally, it is absolutely no surprise to me or many of my regular readers to see this record nestled deep within my top ten albums for 2021.

Featuring the beautiful voices of TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins and Skyharbour’s Jordan Turner, ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’ is an electric and captivating release that demonstrates that good music is good music, whatever the style or genre.

Taking the blueprint of ‘Atone’, WMBB have expanded their boundaries and their experimentation, a true testament to their self-coined definition of ‘contemporary pop with progressive leanings’. There’s a greater emphasis on electronic beats, dirty bass beats, and lots more, some of which initially had me a little scared and way outside my comfort zone. However, over the months, ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’ has lost none of its spark or magic, and songs like ‘Heavy Heart’, ‘The Dreamer’, and ‘Soma’ just get better and better, sending goosebumps up my arms and shivers down my spine with alarming regularity.

With two young girls who have sadly followed their mum’s musical path more than mine, I’m well aware of the music that features on the mainstream radio stations these days. The fact is though, that if the music was one iota as powerful, genuine, and beautiful as you find on ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’, I’d listen willingly.

No, it isn’t metal, but it’s magnificent, and I’ve fallen head over heels for ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’. Sublime.

What I wrote at the time:

“‘The Cost Of Dreaming’…is adorned by one of the most beautiful album covers of the year, probably longer than that in fact. 

White Moth Black Butterfly is the work of TesseracT’s vocalist Daniel Tompkins alongside his Skyharbor colleagues Jordan Turner (vocals) and guitarist/programmer Keshav Dhar as well as keyboardist/programmer Randy Slaugh and drummer Mac Christensen.

And I’ll be damned if they’ve gone and done it again. In a near mirror image of four years ago with ‘Atone’, my epiphany with ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’ came late the other evening, whilst laying on my bed in the dark. I was tired, frustrated, and generally in quite a low mood caused by several factors. And yet I found myself transported to another place; a place that I fell in love with despite it being rather alien to me if I’m honest.

When the band classify themselves as a ‘contemporary pop project with progressive and experimental music at its heart’, you kind of expect them to play around with new ideas and not rehash previous endeavours. And that’s exactly what happens with ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’.  There are still plenty of rich, cinematic soundscapes, as well as lots of minimalism too. However, you also get a much greater emphasis on electronic sounds and more pronounced ‘mainstream’ pop leanings. 

Ultimately it all works incredibly well. But it is quite different to ‘Atone’, so be prepared.

The songwriting is just so strong, the performances so pin sharp and passionate, the experimentation so daring, that there is no way that you couldn’t fall for its charms. White Moth Black Butterfly are an incredibly special entity and whether it’s soothing and cinematic, or bold, dark, and smothered in electronics, their music just works. But more than that, it hits me in places that very few other artists manage to reach. Genres be damned, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool metalhead and I love ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’. And if you give it a chance, so will you.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 8

Welcome to instalment number twenty-three of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. As time gets ever tighter leading up to Christmas, and I realise that I’m nowhere near finished with my present buying, I’m ditching the big intro today again – not that anyone reads them anyway I suspect!

That is, apart from my normal, shameless, reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 9, as well as my lists from previous years too.

With that, let’s reveal the next killer album of 2021…

Number 8

Seven Spires

“Gods Of Debauchery”

Frontiers Records

Release Date: 10 September 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 95%

This has to be one of the biggest surprises for me in 2021. I returned from a self-imposed three-month exile due to a broken heart amongst other things at the beginning of October, and set about filling in the gaps in my reviews schedule. After all, music is the healer of all things, isn’t it?!

I’d heard the odd comment about Seven Spires and so I decided to delve in. I was not expecting to hear what I did and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be blown away in the manner that I was. ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ was nothing like what I was expecting, but in all the right ways. Nearly two months late with the review, I still knew that I had to put pen to paper and shine the manofmuchmetal.com spotlight on such a fantastic album.

Long, intricate, technical, and multi-layered, ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ could have been a self-indulgent, unfocussed mess. Instead, it is a glorious testament to the fact that, when done correctly, more can actually mean more.

Blending a plethora of different styles, what is arguably a symphonic metal album at heart becomes an extreme metal affair, a melodic affair, a progressive affair, and an utter delight from start to finish. It’s so heavy, grandiose, and complex, but it’s also damn catchy. As is my way, I’m listening to the record as I type this post and once again, the goosebumps return on a number of occasions. The magic hasn’t dimmed and so ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ is a no-brainer for the Top 10 this year. So good.

What I wrote at the time:

“Yes, yes, and thrice yes. I always love it when I make a new musical discovery, one that gives me goosebumps, makes me smile, and gives me that feeling that I simply need to carve out time in my day to listen to it. And that’s what I get here with ‘Gods Of Debauchery’, the third album from Seven Spires.

It is incredibly difficult to easily pigeonhole Seven Spires, but that’s only a problem for us reviewers, as it makes us have to work harder for our craft. For the listener in me, it’s a sheer delight. Loosely, and lazily, I guess you could refer to the band as symphonic metal, but really and truly, there is so much more to their sound than that. Throw in some power metal, prog, extreme metal in the shape of both death and black metal influences, classical, and melodic metal, and you’re getting a flavour of what you can expect.

Yes there is technicality to be head, from insanely complex drumming, to eye-watering lead guitar solos, and from killer vocals both clean and gruff, to inspired, dancing bass work. But the melodies are sublime, and the song structures always come first ahead of showmanship, offering dynamism, energy, and a great flow throughout. 

I’m not sure there is much left to say. ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ is a very special album indeed. I can even forgive its length, such is its hold over me. I cannot believe I have never experienced Seven Spires before…

…This is a stunning record, full of variety, technicality and sophistication, one that grabs you and never lets go. “

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 9

Welcome to the latest post in my 2021 Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown. I really can’t believe that I am at the Number 9 point already. It seems like only yesterday that I started compiling my list and writing the first post. But Christmas is arriving with increasing speed, so it means that I’m nearing the business end of this year’s labour of love.

I hope that many of you are long-term readers, but if you’re discovering my website or this series for the first time, please head to the foot of this post to find all the links you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the rest of this year’s list, as well as my entire lists from years gone by.

In the meantime, here’s today’s pick…

Number 9

W.E.T.

“Retransmission”

Frontiers Records

Release Date: 22 January 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 96%

It gets more and more difficult to write about W.E.T. albums because there are only so many superlatives within the English language. Every record that this incredible band has released is as good as the last, if not better. As such, W.E.T. are, in my opinion, the very best melodic hard rock band out there at the current time.

‘Retransmission’ just continues the trend. I may be a metalhead, but there’s something truly irresistible about quality melodic hard rock. The riffs, the hooks, the choruses, the swagger…what’s not to like? And W.E.T. deliver each and every one of these elements with a smooth deftness that must make other bands within the genre weep.

The core trio of keyboardist Robert Säll (Work Of Art), guitarist Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse), and vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman) are incapable of producing magic when working under the W.E.T. moniker. All three bring their ‘A’ game once again to ‘Retransmission’ and even after 11 months since it was released, I am enjoying the record as much as I did in January, possibly more so in fact.

This is such a great record and is a very worthy inclusion in the top 10 albums of 2021.

What I wrote at the time:

“W.E.T. are clearly a band that are incapable of releasing sub-par music.

The album kicks off in typical authoritative style with the lead single, ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’. It comes out of the blocks throwing punches in the form of big, meaty riffs and a strong groove. Soto picks up where he left off last time with another timeless vocal performance, effortlessly charismatic, and full of power, belting out the lyrics with passion. The chorus is a little surprising in that it is softer than the verses, very AOR-driven, complete with acoustic guitars and vocal hooks to die for. You get the obligatory wailing lead guitar histrionics towards the end of what is a cracking opening salvo.

…if anything, I hear more with each passing spin; be it the quality of a riff, a particular lyric, or the increasing strength of a hook or melody. The fact that some of the melodies are quite insidious in their nature, means that the album is afforded the kind of longevity that isn’t always the preserve of the melodic hard rock genre.

There’s little more to say, except to tip a nod to the production which, once again, is superb, affording power, crunch and clarity to best showcase the eleven tracks on the record. As with each of the three albums before it, ‘Retransmission’ is simply a masterclass in how to write, perform, and record near-perfect melodic hard rock. As such, there is literally nothing that I can fault about it. Feel-good melodic rock has rarely felt quite this good; ‘Retransmission’ is a joy to listen to and a joy to write about.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 10

Welcome to instalment number twenty-one of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. And with it, I enter the top ten. This is where it gets very serious, as I reveal my ten favourite albums of what has been a surprisingly strong year. Thank goodness for music, because without it, the outlook for many of us would have been incredibly bleak indeed.

Another huge ‘thank you’ to those of you who have stuck with me since the beginning – I hope I’ve not bored you to tears just yet? And if you have only just stumbled across my blog, then you’re very welcome…and I apologise in advance to you too!

As always, forgive me as I want to give my normal reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 11, as well as my lists from previous years too.

Number 10

Leprous

“Aphelion”

InsideOut Music

Release Date: 27 August 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 95%

Leprous are one of the most interesting and intriguing bands on the planet right now. They are also one of the most talented and emotional too, releasing music that is technical, beautiful, and incredibly raw at times. The same can be said of ‘Aphelion’ too – the well is not even beginning to run low it seems, and that’s great news for those of us who are fans of the Norwegian progressive band.

Note that I didn’t add ‘metal’ or ‘rock’ to the word ‘progressive’, because these days, it is increasingly difficult to apply meaningful labels to Leprous’ music. They do have rock and metal elements to their sound, as well as a number of other elements and ingredients. But ultimately, Leprous just produce great music, full of depth and richness of sound.

No Leprous album is easy to digest on a first listen; it takes time and effort. But, as always, the effort is well worth it, because the music just gets better and better with every spin. Sitting here now, I can honestly say that ‘Aphelion’ is easily one of their best releases within a discography of great releases. It may have been an unexpected product of the pandemic, but it doesn’t compromise in any way – it is simply wonderful, and worthy of a place in my 2021 Top 10.

What I wrote at the time:

“Solberg talks about ‘Aphelion’ being more of a collection of songs rather than being anything akin to a concept record. And that’s certainly borne out of my listening over the past few days; ‘Aphelion’ simply follows its own path, exploring soundscapes at will, meandering where the inspiration takes it, or where the musicians’ inspiration leads. 

From a musical perspective, as I’ve alluded to already, ‘Aphelion’ is a very varied beast, displaying ingredients familiar to long term fans as well as plenty of new ideas as well; we have come to expect a little of the unexpected where Leprous are concerned, and this release is no different. 

…it is becoming more of a stretch than ever to be able to define Leprous as a band with overt metal credentials anymore; they certainly delve into those realms from time to time on ‘Aphelion’, but by-and-large, the output is less metallic overall, much more nuanced and multi-faceted.

If ‘Aphelion’ is an unexpected by-product of the global CoVid pandemic, then it is difficult to entirely hate the last eighteen months on Planet Earth. With this, their seventh album, the Norwegian quintet by the name of Leprous have delivered yet another incredible slab of modern progressive music. At this juncture, the band stand on their own, peerless, making music quite unlike anyone else.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

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