BEST OF 2021: 30-21

30. TOWER, “Shock to the System” (Cruz del Sur): Traditional heavy metal has come back into focus the last half decade or so, which is great for folks like me who still want to revel in that glory. NYC killers Tower are among those who are doing some of the finest throwback metal of all, led by powerhouse singer Sarabeth Linden, and their second record “Shock to the System” is such a raucous and white-hot good time that refuses to relent over its 10 tracks and 39 minutes. “Blood Moon” kicks things off with the proper amount of energy with Linden giving off the first indication of her goddamn ridiculously strong vocals; “Running Out of Time” gets the juices flowing properly and heavily; “Lay Down the Law” lets the bass pace as the guitars get churning, and Linden’s vocals echo over the verses, feeling a little spooky; and “Powder Keg” is your closer, and it’s one last chance to soak in your adrenaline as everything lights up. If you can’t enjoy this one, you might be dead. (Nov. 12)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TOWERnyc/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

29. GHOROT, “Loss of Light” (self-released): “Loss of Light” is the debut from Boise, Idaho-based crunchers Ghorot, who pledge to worship at the altars of sludge, doom, stoner, and black metal, and they definitely achieve that goal on this punishing five-track, 40-minute record. This is a sooty, blackened, psychotic good time as the band hammers you with great darkness, crushing riffs, and vicious vocals that batter you completely. It’s a really great record, one I have been visiting over and over. “Harbinger” starts the record by heating up with an absolutely killer riff that snakes around you, swaggering as the growls begin to pummel; “Woven Furnace” delivers bubbling guitars as the pace pummels, and the vocals mash hellish growls and muscular shrieks into one ugly package; “In Endless Grief” is your closer, a 12:26-long crusher that slips in and out of darkening mood as the vocals dice into your mind. (July 23)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ghorot

To buy the album (digital, vinyl), go here: https://ghorot.bandcamp.com/album/loss-of-light

Or here (CD): https://www.inverse.fi/shop/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=940&osCsid=0d2ee1eec5a9a69bfbbfce61546aa55b

For more on the label, go here: https://www.inverse.fi/

28. THE SILVER, “Ward of Roses” (Gilead Media): The Silver contain a group of artists who have created some of the more impactful music in heavy metal over the past decade (Crypt Sermon, Horrendous), but here, they deliver sounds you will and won’t expect from them in a way that’s never not enthralling. Their debut offering is “Ward of Roses,” and it provides eight tracks that mix a bevy of different sounds in a manner I don’t really think I’ve heard before. It’s heavy, gloomy, mournful, vulnerable, and exciting, a mix that feels like they’re on to creating something that is unique to them and very much something that makes every drop of your blood sizzle with excitement. “…First Utterance” is a fluid, fog-creating instrumental opener that sets the stage and moves toward “Fallow” where the guitars rise, and the track splits at the middle. “Vapor” runs 9:37, and doomy hell unloads as the shrieks penetrate, and your guts are wrenched as you’re tossed back and forth. “Then Silence…” is the final cut, starting with jabbing guitars and then shrieks that make your spine feel crunched. It’s a mix of chaos and gloom that unite and burn off like jet fuel. (Oct. 15)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSilverOfficial

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/collections/pre-orders

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

27. WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, “Primordial Arcana” (Relapse): Longtime champions of the natural world around them, especially the majesty of the Pacific Northwest, black metal dreamers Wolves in the Throne Room continue to jolt our bloodstreams and capture our imaginations with their incredible “Primordial Arcana,” their seventh but first for new label home Relapse. This is not quite like the records that preceded this one; this album is full of an energy and excitement we haven’t heard from them before with shorter songs that are focused and powerful. “Mountain Magick” starts the record, slowly ushering a spiritual vibe that is thick and ever present before great riffs unload and tangle you, pulling you into the heart of the song. “Spirit of Lightning” is one of their best songs ever, a swirling storm with shrieks hammering as tornadic hell touches down, sending winds, rain, and chaos spreading. “Masters of Rain and Storm” is the longest track, running 10:44 and tearing open with the guitars showing meanness. The track crushes and gets muscular, trading ferocity with the woodsy folk moments. This album is a goddamn revelation. (Aug. 20)

For more on the band, go here: https://wittr.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/b/wolves-in-the-throne-room

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

26. CRYPTA, “Echoes of the Soul” (Napalm): Bands dissolving memberships isn’t always a bad thing, and when Nervosa underwent an upheaval, it resulted in that group reconstituting and the birth of the deadly Crypta, led by vocalist/bassist Fernanda Lira. Their debut record “Echoes of the Soul” is a 10-track, 42-minute bruiser that combines deadly death metal and punishing melodies that combine to form a machine that is impossible to stop. After “Awakening” drips filth and disgust, “Starvation” awaits and arrives fully aiming to tear out your guts with precision and fury. “Possessed” has some really impressive guitar work and feels like classic terrain, leaving you heaving and bruised. “Shadow Within” has some properly murky playing and precision that is both impressive and astonishing; and “Dark Knight of the Soul” is evil and punishing, an example of Crypta at their finest as they carve their own bloody path. (June 11)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/cryptadeath

To buy the album (U.S./Canada), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/

Or here (rest of world): https://napalmrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://label.napalmrecords.com/

25. GENGHIS TRON, “Dream Weapon” (Relapse): A 13-year absence resulted in a reconfigured Genghis Tron both in lineup and sonic presentation, and album that leaves almost entirely behind their grindcore roots and goes deep and heavy into synth-ensconced passages that feel like being locked in a story your brain is telling you while you’re in slumber. So, yeah, it might not have all of the heaviness of their past work, but they move on for the better as this record is an absolute gem, an ear worm that digs deep within you and makes you see visions you couldn’t previously have imagined. “Pyrocene” hits with beats clashing and frosty keys before new vocalist Tony Wolski’s wonderfully ghostly singing starts to move. Strange ambiance doubles as your head is immersed with sounds and ideas, and a mechanical dream unravels. “Alone in the Heart of the Light” delivers jabbing keys and echo as your brain ices over. The music is cosmic at heart as your body is numbed delightfully while the drums rustle. Closer “Great Mother” runs 8:59, allowing the synth to loom and roam before things power up. Sounds rain down as Wolski’s singing pelts away from you, feeling like a transmission from the spirit world. (March 26)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/GenghisTron/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/item/96762

For more on the label, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

24. CHROME WAVES, “The Rain Will Cleanse” (Disorder Recordings): Chrome Waves’ new record “The Rain Will Cleanse” is an experience I wasn’t entirely prepared for as murky goth-rock-splashed post-black metal misery is packed warmly into these six songs. Yet the warmth and longing in these tracks, the absolute vulnerability is what really took me by surprise. The band’s music has shifted a lot over the years, lessening the black metal pressure and really upping the drab majesties that splash their wonderfully moody music, with this album sticking into your ribs like a deadly sharp knife jammed there by someone you must have wronged at some point. “When Night Falls” gets off to a murky start as the melodies thicken and pull you under, and a strong chorus, which is their knack on this record, knocks you for a loop. “Sometimes” is a tremendous song, the best thing on here, and it feels gothy and massive at first, pummeling with moody singing, with the call of, “Looking for a place to sleep eternally,” ringing out in your brain. “Aspiring Death” is the closer, and it’s dark and shadowy as the song basks under the stars before shrieks rain down. (Sept. 10)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/chromewavesofficial

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://chromewaves.bandcamp.com/album/the-rain-will-cleanse

Or here (Europe): https://avantgardemusic.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://disorder-recordings.com/

And here: https://avantgardemusic.com/

23. LAMP OF MURMUUR, “Submission and Slavery” (Black Gangrene): Black metal and supremely dark goth music make so much sense together, but it never felt quite as home as it does on “Submission and Slavery,” the second full-length from Lamp of Murmuur. Helmed solely by M., this band has become one of the most influential in this sub-genre, and for good reason. This banner has been one that has, for the best, changed minds on how this type of music is played and constructed, but it remains as true to the roots as one can be. “Submission and Slavery” is a six-track record that enshrouds listeners in darkness and allure, and how can anyone deny tracks such as the immersive, rumbling, and utterly dark “Reduced to Submission and Slavery”; “Deformed Erotic Visage,” a piece that is built with desperate cries, riffs encircling you, and goth majesty that wraps around every bend; and the killer album-closing cover of Christian Death’s “As Evening Falls,” as proper a setup as any for a band that certainly learned many tricks from the seminal artist? M.’s work keeps coming into clearer focus, and this is a Lamp album that rattles psychological cages. (Sept. 16)

For more on the band, go here: https://lampofmurmuur.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://lampofmurmuur.bandcamp.com/album/submission-and-slavery

Or here: https://www.blackgangrene.com/product/lamp-of-murmuur-submission-and-slavery-digicd/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.blackgangrene.com/

22. STORMKEEP, “Tales of Othertime” (Van): Black metal and battlefield fantasies are things that go so well together and always have ever since the beginning, something Stormkeep capitalizes on with their excellent debut record “Tales of Othertime.” If you need music that makes you feel like you’re roaming through a darkened castle, blade in hand as you fight to survive, then this music should be what gets you there. Combining members of groups such as Blood Incantation, Wayfarer, Abysmal Dimensions, and countless other, Stormkeep make the most of these six tracks and 43 minutes, kicking you off right with “The Seer,” a thunderous dose of icy black metal that revels in the battle that also includes the elements. “The Citadel” is an instrumental track bleeding with dungeon synth and wonder, and elsewhere we get roaring high points with “A Journey Through Storms” that stomps guts but also keeps your imagination running overtime; and closer “Eternal Majesty Manifest” that starts at the heart of battle before exploding with symphonic chaos that swallows you into a world of frigidity. This is an incredible late-year adventure that will shed your blood. (Nov. 19)

For more on the band, go here: https://stormkeep-odl.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://van-records.com/Home

21. DOODSWENS, “Lichtvrees” (Svart): Doing battle against daylight seems like a futile cause, because no one has been able to topple the sun quite yet, but that didn’t discourage Dutch crushers Doodswens (their name translates to “death wish”) and what they unleash their debut full-length offering “Lichtvrees” onto the world. The title means “fear of light,” and perhaps that’s one of the reasons this record resonated with me so much. I tend to thrive in the darkness, and any fluorescent light is an immediate enemy, so I’m ready to take up arms with vocalist/guitarist Fraukje van Burg and drummer Inge van der Zon as they deliver fury, mystery, and a lashing back at the daytime hours, the foe of these menacing spirits. “In Mijn Bloed” buzzes as it opens before the shrieks rip in, and the playing totally devastates, leaving your skeleton shaking; “Eindzicht” brings sweltering noise and a static storm, moving through riffs and complicated melody that eats away at you; and “Het Zwartewaterland” that’s dreamy and weird at first but then completely comes unglued. The playing rumbles viciously, lathering in total blackness as the drums decimate, with van Burg’s vicious wails keeping you at her mercy. (Dec. 3)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/DoodswensOfficial/

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/doodswens-lichtvrees-album/?goal=0_4a25200f14-d3eb44e50a-98321619&mc_cid=d3eb44e50a&mc_eid=a10b82c416

For more on the label, go here: https://svartrecords.com/

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