Let’s not pretend that 2021 was a fantastic year, for many the past few years have been extremely difficult. Though even in the darkest of times our community, our rock and metal music is always there for us. These past few years have really highlighted just how important that connection to music really is. Below you will find the album’s that our diverse RAMzine Team found important to them this past year. We would also love to hear which album’s stood out to you, the reader, please let us know in the comments section at the end of this article.
Elder emo, social media manager and pop-punk pizza-eating stereotype, London.
The Greatest Mistake Of My Life
Genuinely, if there’s one band that’s hit my mood of the year perfectly, it’s Holding Absence. Hearing the opening lyrics of ‘Celebration Song’ ring out across a packed tent at Download Pilot is a moment I’ll truly never forget. Aside from that, though, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is a genuinely beautifully crafted album from one of the most exciting young bands in the British music scene right now. Lucas Woodland’s vocals are absolutely gorgeous, whether it’s at the heavier end (‘Nomoreroses’) or soaring on the chorus of ‘Die Alone’. Emotional, powerful and captivating, but with bite and a raw energy.
Released 16th April 2021.
I am the human personification of a rainbow, who likes dressing as a unicorn in her spare time. Originally from the boring north of England, been living in the exciting capital for 5 years and wouldn’t look back once!.
Rare Americans 2
It was a hard choice, but since this band is not known by a lot of people out there, I wanted them to receive the recognition that they deserve. When they started 2021, they had a handful of songs out, albeit amazing songs that literally took from every genre out there, but still I was left wanting more.
On their second release every song is a story set in the same universe, with overlapping characters and amazingly animated videos that are a must to accompany the craziness! No other band quite pulled off a concept like this, never mind over two albums released in the same year.
Rare Americans 2 was released on 5th March 2021.
Editor of RAMzine – Creator of content. Chaser of Dreams. Lover of cats, metal, and anthemic sounds. \m/
It would have been absolute sacrilege to not include Iron Maiden’s seventeenth studio album Senjutsu on RAMzine’s ‘albums of the year’ list – it’s their first album in six years! In keeping with Maiden’s themes of war the album titled Senjutsu is loosely translated as “tactics and strategy”. They say it’s not a concept album, I suppose as they want to let the tracks have their individuality, but it certainly feels more conceptual then a lot of the other albums on this list. The on-going theme, they say, is “doom”. Stand-out tracks include ‘Darkest Hour’ and ‘The Writing On The Wall’ both featuring guitar solo’s made of dreams. It’s hearing Maiden’s style, and their good old fashion guitar solo’s that make me so crave standing in the mud at Donnington in the rain, beer in hand, soaked despite wearing a poncho. “Scream for me Donnington” – I can’t Wait!
Released on 3rd September 2021.
Retired teacher, now a writer and living in Mid Kent.
Neal Morse Band
Innocence & Danger
Innocence & Danger is the sound of a band at the very top of their game, with everyone in the band a virtuoso on their instrument. It’s another double CD release with eight relatively short tracks on the first disc but, on the second, there’re only two tracks – ‘Not Afraid Any More, pt2’ and ‘Beyond The Years’ which, together, run for fifty (!!) minutes, but the playing is tight, creative, adventurous and masterful.
This is prog rock at its finest.
Released August 21st 2021 via Inside Out / Sony Music.
RAMzine Senior Writer, Surrey.
This album from a living guitar legend takes a subtle view on the suffering emotions of a peripatetic blues-rocker; the nomadic lifestyle, relentless conceptualization, and the need to obtain acclaim through perpetual performance. Joe vocalises the album’s first major anthem, ‘Notches’ then breathes sweat into ‘The Heart That Never Was‘. However, it is the sound of the organ (Lachy Doley) on this track that offers rich textures to his bottleneck and takes this number from blues territory and into progressive rock. ‘Questions and Answers’ is a declamatory symphonic-blues number with prodigious orchestral-style outbursts of bluster and histrionics. Whereas ‘Curtain Call’ is a vivid aria and illustrates the type of monumentality, exoticism, and forsaken agony you might have discovered in Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. The songs on this masterly accomplishment are more vulnerable, sensitive, and omniscient than we’ve ever heard from the artist before… in other words, this is existential!
From Tyne & Wear, I am a vintage clothing collector and seller, a freelance writer and wine salesperson. Sadly I have only been to one festival, Bloodstock, and one gig this year – Michael Schenker Group.
I could have picked Don Broco or Sam Fender for this, or even Iron Maiden – but there was something just “comfortable” about this album.
I’ve been wanting this for almost 20 years, the nu metal kings are back. It’s a short album, and nothing ground-breaking, but it’s exactly what I want from a Bizkit LP in 2021. This sounds more like Fred Durst and co than their later efforts post 2003. I think everyone was intrigued by Durst’s long grey hair and ‘Dad Vibes’ earlier this year and this confirms it. The best thing is they address a lot of the backlash in a few of their songs. And let’s admit it: everyone likes a little bit of Limp Bizkit. Although it’s pretty sad that I can’t give this honour to a younger band, this one got the most spins out of me. Can’t wait for the tour.
Limp Bizkit’s Still Sucks was released on 31st October 2021 via Suretone.
Photographer, guitarist, beer geek and all-round barfly!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Green Lung have exploded since their 2019 release, Woodland Rites. Black Harvest continues the Sabbath styled Londoners sound to epic proportions, the psychedelic stoner vibe has gathered people in their hordes at shows, and Black Harvest is a testament to the reason why.
All things stoner rock might seem like a style stuck in its ways, harking back to the sound of olde, and it’s tough to stand out in a sea of plenty, but Green Lung have got as close to reinventing the wheel as you can get. Whilst the last two years has been a battle for me to get excited about music with little to no gigs, this band and this album has without a shadow of a doubt pulled me through like a shining light in the dark.
Green Lung’s Black Harvest was released on 22nd October 2021 via Svart Records.
Southampton metal lover.
The Surreption II
Ingested are a Manchester group who embody brutality in music and brought us a unique offering in 2021 with The Surreption II. This full re-record of their 2011 sophomore release enabled many fans to complete their physical collections of this band’s discography. It’s not just Taylor Swift embracing the trend of a refresh of some perhaps overlooked material… The long out of print CD is given a roaring new life in a mostly faithful revision of the original. The band refine the songs that affirmed this act as slam metal titans. The original record was promoted on a tour in the UK with Annotations of an Autopsy and Martyr Defiled which defined a generation of UK death and slam metal that was heavier than anything that came before or since. The reintroduction of these songs is a pleasing reminder of a peak of a not too long gone scene.
Released 30th July 2021 via Unique Leader Records.
Small town in the middle of Wiltshire.
Expanding on the foundations laid down in The Valley, Whitechapel have further exceeded themselves on Kin. Blending their unique melodies with their trademark deathcore riffs it is a breath-taking album. Narratively it carries on where The Valley left off and Kin is just as raw and honest as its predecessor. A masterful creation from a band that isn’t afraid to confront its demons.
Whitechapel’s Kin was released on 29th October via Metal Blade Records.
I was born and raised in Denmark but I’ve been residing in Norway for quite some time now. In truth, I’m a rather lousy musician yet somehow I can manage to weave a couple of decent melodies together. Luckily, I’m much better at writing about music than composing my own. Other than that, I’m more or less addicted to dark roast coffee, all eras of Black Sabbath, and baking chocolate orange shortbread.
Five the Hierophant
Through Aureate Void
Is there such a thing as blackened slow-motion doom metal with a post-shoegaze feel to it? Somewhere between crushing doom metal and psychedelic jazz with dark ambient undertones to it, you will find this unnerving and frightening opus where strange harmonies, dissonant tones, and soundscapes that are not of this earth roam free. Monstrous, pulverizing riffs and hypnotic guitars work to maximum effect throughout and do not even get me started on what the saxophone contributes to the mood of its five addictive compositions. This wicked beauty exists somewhere between the savage and the deceptively ethereal and believe me when I say that occult metal has rarely sounded better or more convincing than it does here.
Released February 26th, 2021 via Dark Essence Records.
Freelance Journalist. Music reviewer. Quavers aficionado. Spent several years playing in bands and touring, and now enjoying discovering new music. Would achieve a lot more if it wasn’t for my Xbox.
For Those That Wish to Exist
It’s rare that an album released so early in a year still holds that top spot come the years close, but no release since February came close to outmatching Architects ninth studio album. Hard-hitting, powerful, emotive and truly thought-provoking across each of its 15 tracks.
It showcases an incredible diversification of sound without ever losing that true Architects undertone. Its composition lends itself to live performances outside of what one might expect, such as the incredible Live at Abbey Road.
In all, an immense force of sound and lyrics that deserves your full and undivided attention.
Released 26th February 2021 via Epitaph.
Assistant editor for RAMzine, Peterborough.
Doomy, atmospheric and thought-provoking. The relatively obscure, King Woman led by extremely talented frontwoman Kristina Esfandiari, dropped a hidden gem of a record this year via Relapse Records and caught many by surprise. This isn’t your typical doom release however, it’s certainly a well-produced, well put together an album that has a little something for everyone but it also provides a somewhat avant-garde listening experience. Dripping with atmosphere and attitude, classy and repeatable, Celestial Blues has all the hallmarks of a doom classic, in my opinion, breathing fresh air into the genre and turning heads with the band’s image. Plenty has been said about the record but it really speaks volumes for itself, if you’re a fan of Chelsea Wolfe, Kylesa or YOB then this is worthy of your time if you haven’t checked it out yet.
Released 30th July 2021 via Relapse Records.
North East born, South West domiciled music lover – mainly heavy rock & blues but not averse to other genres. I’m fortunate to have retired early & I can now take full advantage of the 40+ years I have spent collecting, listening, watching & playing (badly) & have enjoyed researching how blues in particular has shaped the music we know & love today. Now if only I could get my Strat & Musicman to sound in reality how they do in my head!
As the pandemic continued to make life difficult, there was still no shortage of great albums in 2021.
I will cheat a little and choose one from the albums I have been honoured to review and one from my purchased collection. It was a very difficult decision for both.
Amongst the gems I bought, Kings by Bernie Marsden stands out: a skilful guitarist and vocalist paying homage to his influences in an original, fascinating and, without exception, superlative fashion.
Strings of Soul
From my reviews, I will go for the brilliant, heavy mix of rock provided by Acid’s Trip and their Strings of Soul debut. And by mix, just try them for 70’s rock a la Kiss, Ash and Lizzy with a pinch of the aggression and nous of MC5.
I’m a writer and self-professed music journalist with 5 years of experience covering heavy metal shows across the North West of England. I like to think I have a broad taste in music but I prefer Progressive Metal.
At The Gates
The Nightmare of Being
Nightmare of Being showcases a band willing to experiment decades into their career while others would be comfortable sticking to a formula.
At the Gates effortlessly blend their iconic Melodic Death Metal sound with brand new progressive elements completely unique to anything they’ve done before.
They have handled their recording comeback better than most and their future output inspires nothing but confidence.
Released 2nd July 2021 via Century Media Records.