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The best metal albums of 2021 so far

Love And Death – Perfectly Preserved

The second Love And Death album – and the first since Brian ‘Head’ Welch rejoined Korn – is as anguished, exhilarating and redemptive as its predecessor, Save Me From Myself. From the travails of addiction to failed relationships, Perfectly Preserved delivers past struggles as an emotional punch and connects every time. A terrific second coming.


Moonspell – Hermitage

On their 13th album, Portuguese goth metal trailblazers Moonspell still find new permutations on their rich, elegant, eclectic signature sound. From Pink Floyd-esque prog flourishes to icy dark metal riffs, it’s both the band’s most artfully balanced recording and a one-stop shop for everything Moonspell are good at.


Palm Reader – Sleepless

Palm Reader’s fourth album puts into stark perspective the absurdity of trying to pigeonhole one of the most creative, heavy acts the UK currently has to offer. Where they were once regularly compared to Dillinger Escape Plan, here they offer something that’s more captivating, ranging from apocalyptic sound storms to seductive electronic textures. A distinct, idiosyncratic, beautifully crafted noise.


The Ruins Of Beverast – The Thule Grimoires

The Ruins Of Beverast have long pushed extreme metal into often previously unexplored realms through exciting genre-blurring, and The Thule Grimoires continues that progressive pattern in spectacular fashion. Drawing heavily on goth, new wave, trance, industrial, post-punk and dark ambient, each track offers an enthralling escape from harsh modern realities, building into a singular work that chips away at metal’s boundaries.


Tetrarch – Unstable

Of the crop of snarling, spitting young pups who are relighting nu metal’s fire, Atlanta’s Tetrarch look most likely to break out as next-gen superstars. Their second album, Unstable contains all the right ingredients: bouncing riffs and the kind of instantly memorable choruses that will make venues explode. Familiar, yes, but it’s executed with confidence and energy that elevates it way beyond a slavish throwback.


Tomahawk – Tonic Immobility

‘You got some new teeth, got some new fuckin’ silver hair.’ Yep, Mike Patton and his other bunch of merry weirdos return with their first album in eight years. Sure, Tonic Immobility had its moments of backwoods mania and synth soundtrack strangeness, but Tomahawk are mainly here to rock. Massive riffs, deliberately jarring prog-metal/hardcore mash-ups, scabrous takedowns of corporate America: whatever you want, it’s here   


Tribulation – When The Gloom Becomes Sound

With Where The Gloom Becomes Sound, Swedish miserabilists Tribulation have delivered an album of litanies sealed with a baroque gothic tongue. It doesn’t matter that, singer Johannes Andersson aside, they have little to do with extreme metal anymore: this is what The Cure and Sisters Of Mercy would have sounded like if they’d grown up worshipping Satan and setting fire to churches. Epic, melancholic and brilliant.


Wardruna – Kvitrafn

Wardruna’s major label debut further explores the wisdom, rituals and spirits that connect the present to the past. Kvitravn features the same percussive spine and sombre drone as its predecessors, yet its production is more expansive while leaving their primal edges intact. The result is a wild, shamanic frequency that resonates somewhere beyond mental and material landscapes.

 


While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society

Named after the band’s Patreon platform, Sleeps Society sees While She Sleeps continue the process that began on 2019’s genre-mashing So What? of chipping away at preconceived expectations of what they should be. It still sounds fundamentally like WSS, of course, but what’s  startling is just how natural the more experimental touches now sound embedded in the band’s classic formula. There’s a message of self-love throughout, resulting in an album that’s very much for our times, from a band we can believe in.


A.A. Williams – Songs From Isolation

A.A. Williams didn’t let the shutters coming down on the world stop her creative flow. The Londoner has followed last year’s acclaimed Forever Blue with this stripped down covers album, recorded in her own home. From Nine Inch Nails’ oh-so-apt Every Day Is Exactly The Same to The Cure’s Lovesong it’s both a perfect encapsulation of COVID-era despondency and further evidence of A.A. Williams’ talent.