Tonight, the UK’s biggest music awards, The Brits, take place in London. It’ll serve as one of the ‘test’ events to bring live music back to the UK, with thousands of fans and industry personnel expected to attend.
As is always the case with these things, metal hasn’t been so much shunned as written out of existence - in fact, the heaviest acts nominated across the whole awards this year are Foo Fighters and Yungblud. We love Dave Grohl as much as anyone, but there’s so much more going on in heavy music right now - so we thought we’d fill in the Brits nomination categories with our own picks.
Here’s what we came up with - and remember, unless it says ‘International’ on the title, this is an all-British affair…
Female solo artist: A.A. Williams
Entrancing the underground with her affecting, melancholic strain of songwriting, A. A. Williams has proved that you don’t actually have to be be metal to, erm, be metal. Last year’s Forever Blue debut album was a hit with critics, landing in Metal Hammer’s Top 50 Albums Of The Year. With touring plans halted due to the pandemic, she refused to rest on her laurels in 2021, releasing covers compilation Songs From Isolation to put her own, bewitching spin on classics by everyone from Pixies to Deftones.
International Female Solo Artist: Myrkur
Amalie Bruun may have twisted black metal into fascinating new shapes with her immense 2017 album, Mareridt, but she went right back to basics last year with Folkesange, a gorgeous romp through the folky wilderness. It earned her her first Metal Hammer cover, though many are still waiting with bated breath to find out when she’ll make her grand return to the heavy stuff.
Male Solo Artist: Ozzy Osbourne
You just can’t fuck with metal’s OG solo megastar, and Ozzy proved he’s still got it when it matters with his best album in decades courtesy of Ordinary Man. Collaborations with Post Malone and Travis Scott showed The Double O was all too happy to step out of his comfort zone, while the album’s title track - a surprisingly emotional duet with Elton John - highlighted that he hasn’t lost it when it comes to big, fuck-off rock ballads. Plus, he got inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame. What a hero!
International Solo Artist: Corey Taylor
It’s actually been a productive year for lads going it alone in metal - as well as Ozzy’s success, we’ve seen Jonathan Hulten step away from Tribulation for a fine solo effort, while Greg Puciato peeled away more post-Dillinger layers with the excellent Child Soldier: Creator Of God album. That said, there was just no escaping our Corey over the last twelve months - metal’s favourite loudmouth finally put out his long-awaited solo album, accompanied by some bombastic videos, a voraciously received livestream and, as always, a bucketload of opinions. Come on, you know you’d miss them if they were gone.
Album Of The Year: Svalbard - When I Die, Will I Get Better?
One of the UK’s most exciting young bands delivered in style with their third album, taking on issues such as mental health, misogyny and abuse while wrapping them in ambient noise and blackened riffs galore. Svalbard haven’t just become one of Britain’s best bands - they’ve become a vital voice for their generation, and When I Die, Will I Get Better? is the mother of all megaphones.
Best Single: Architects - Animals
Few knew what to actually expect from Architect’s next steps. While Holy Hell marked their first record without beloved guitarist Tom Searle, his input was still all over the album - something that would not be the case for For Those That Wish To Exist. We needn’t have worried; when Animals dropped in October 2020 as the new album’s first single, it felt like an atom bomb going off. With a riff sounding like it was written by Rammstein 200 feet below the surface of the sea and a chorus that pick-axed itself straight into your cranium, it made for an instant Architects classic - made even grander by an orchestral reimagining a few months later.
Best Group: Napalm Death
How is it humanly possible for a band to exist for almost four decades and yet still sound as urgent, as cutting edge and as disgustingly heavy as Napalm Death? The pride of British extreme music reached a new level of grandeur with last year’s astonishing Throes In The Jaws Of Defeatism - it was their 16th studio album, and yet as vital as anything the Brummies had ever put their names to. That, plus frontman Barney Greenway’s evergreen status as one of the most intelligent and passionate figureheads of our scene, makes Napalm as relevant now as ever.
Best International Group: Trivium
When it was clear that livestreaming was going to take up the majority of metal’s ‘live show’ quota across 2020, one band had already been streaming long enough to know exactly what to do next. Trivium’s A Light Or A Distant Mirror stream set the bar for streaming for the entire year, looking and sounding like a million bucks and giving fans a proper chance to feel like they were sharing the experience of a gig from their own sofas. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Trivium also put out a career-best album in What The Dead Men Say. Not bad, fellas.
Breakthrough Artist: Loathe
Unquestionably the British metal band to have broken into metal’s wider consciousness over the last year, Loathe put out a stunner of an album in I Let It In And It Took Everything, kicking their futuristic take on metalcore up a notch to craft a sound all of their own. It earned them the patronage of one Chino Moreno of Deftones, but they weren’t done there - this year they followed up with The Things They Believe, 12 cuts of experimental, ambient instrumental tracks to truly show off their range. Believe in this band.
Rising Star: Nova Twins
Picked up by Fever 333’s Jason Aalon Butler via his 333 Wreckords Crew label, London duo Nova Twins already had the ears of the industry by the time they released debut album Who Are The Girls? last year. Lucky, then, that they delivered: their rabid mash-up of punk, metal and grime marks them out as one of the most exciting and unique names in our scene. Nova Twins live shows were becoming must-see attractions around the UK before the pandemic hit, so once this thing is finally over, make sure you catch them in small venues while you still can.