Tales from the Jugular

Staff Year End Awards for 2021!
Our Annual Year End Edition of Metal that Hit Our Radar!

By: Maximum Metal Staff
Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2021
We've gathered up our thoughts on the hard rock/metal releases of 2021! Even if you really don't give a damn what any of our opinions are, there are so many releases put out in this age of do-it-yourself creation that you may see names you missed, older bands you forgot existed or unknowns to look up and sample. It's all about getting the word out and supporting the music!

Eric's 2021 Best of List
I believe 2021 was a real highlight in the hallowed halls of heavy metal history. The creative juices seemed to be at an all-time high, perhaps fueled by post-election calmness, confinement during the pandemic, or just a more thought provoking era considering Earth's rocky 2021 rotation the year before.

The labels and marketing machines continue to push releases in different ways. Hypocrisy launched their new album into space! Despite my attempts to dodge memorabilia, the action figures, beer, coffee, shirts, and even skateboards, the merchandising gods eventually captured a tiny sliver of my glossy credit card. They transformed me into a Gollum like character--one tap to capture them all. "My precious" indeed.

If someone looked me in the eye in 1998 and told me that one day heavy metal vinyl will become a new empire, I would have scoffed at the foolishness and continued to polish my jewel cases. This year, the vinyl sales have reached levels of insanity that I never knew existed. Everything is on vinyl. No, let me emphasize: everything is on colored, splattered, numerical gram, limited edition, hologram, special edition, deluxe reissue box set vinyl. So much that even the best labels like Nuclear Blast can't make it fast enough. It sells out instantly. Then the third, fourth, and fifth pressings sell out. Box sets that go for $200 on release date are being flipped six months later for triple the original price. Bands can record "live" in a shed and sell the vinyl live recording for $35 on spit-shined marble slab pea-soup color. Vinyl is performing better than the stock market. It is awe-inspiring, but really nothing new considering the progress the format has made in the last 20 years. Vinyl serves as an offering to the Turntable Gods.

Predictions for next year? More live streams from garages and basements. More bands building home stages to perform on. More tours canceled. Bands will eventually begin running out of money...right?

But, you're here for the list. The best of 2021 based on Eric's AirPods. They tell me what's good and I tell you. Don't shoot the messenger.

1. TRIVIUM - In the Court of the Dragon
2. Bullet for my Valentine - ST
3. The Pretty Reckless - Death by Rock and Roll
4. Volbeat - Servant of the Mind
5. The Dead Daisies - Holy Ground
6. The End Machine - Phase 2
7. Hypocrisy - Worship
8. The Quill - Earthrise
9. Rob Zombie - Lunar Injection Kool Aid...
10. Iron Maiden - Senjutsu

Best Live Show I Attended
Unleash the Archers - Orlando, FL

Most Shocking Death
Mike Howe

Best Video
Sabaton - Christmas Truce

Most Disappointing
KK's Priest - Sermons of the Sinner

Most Anticipated Albums of 2022
Megadeth, Deceased, Halo Effect

Wishlist of 2022
I want Ronnie Adkins to live forever. I hope Mat Sinner gains his health back. I want King Fowley to sing The Ballad of Harry Warden to my wife and I on Valentine's Day! E f'n C

Top Hard Rock/Metal Releases

Album of the Year: Flotsam and Jetsam - Blood in the Water
There's nothing modern or new new on this menu, nothing experimental that will create or progess any genre, nothing I haven't consumed a lot of in my years...but it is what I wanted--a straight-up, meat and potatoes, banger with great vocals, instrumentation, and production. Flotsam and Jetsam are veterans that know their craft and still have a ton of energy in the bones to get us old earth dogs' blood pumping.

SkyEye - Soldiers of Light
Mastodon - Hushed And Grim
Volbeat - Servant of the Mind
Beartooth - Below
Trivium - In the Court of the Dragon
Starlight Ritual - Sealed in Starlight
Significant Point - Into the Storm
Todd la Torre - Rejoice in the Suffering
The Pretty Reckless - Death By Rock And Roll
Greta Van Fleet - The Battle at Garden's Gate
Dirty Honey - Dirty Honey

Best Live Show I Attended
Welcome to Rockville 2021
Unleash the Archers/Seven Kingdoms/AEther Realm - Greensboro, N.C., USA

Top Picks for 2021
At The Gates - The Nightmare Of Being
Bloody Hammers - Songs of Unspeakable Terror
Carcass - Torn Arteries
Cradle Of Filth - Existence Is Futile
Enforced - Kill Grid
Flotsam and Jetsam - Blood in the Water
Gojira - Fortitude
Hypocrisy - Worship
Iron Maiden - Senjutsu
Rob Zombie - The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
Tribulation - Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
Trivium - In the Court of the Dragon
Volbeat - Servant of the Mind

Top 12 Metal Albums of 2021
1. Mastodon - Hushed And Grim
2. Cannibal Corpse - Violence Unimagined
3. Spiritbox - Eternal Blue
4. Pestilence - Exitivm
5. Gojira - Fortitude
6. Darkthrone - Eternal Hails
7. Jinjer - Wallflowers
8. Black Label Society - Doom Crew Inc.
9. Saille - V
10. Flotsam and Jetsam - Blood In The Water
11. Kowloon Walled City - Piecework
12. Lantlos - Wildhund

Rock/Metal Albums of the Year 2021
1. Architects - For Those That Wish To Exist
2. Dream Theater - A View From The Top of The World
3. Myles Kennedy - The Ides of March
4. Greta Van Fleet - The Battle at Garden's Gate
5. Foo Fighters - Medicine at Midnight
6. Starset - Horizons
7. Evanescence - The Bitter Truth
8. Iron Maiden - Senjutsu
9. The Pretty Reckless - Death By Rock And Roll
10. Annisokay - Aurora
11. While She Sleeps - Sleep Society
12. Gojira - Fortitude
13. Atreyu - Baptize
14. Beartooth - Below
15. Spiritbox - Eternal Blue
16. Dirty Honey - Dirty Honey
17. Mammoth WVH - Mammoth WVH
18. Light the Torch - You Will Be The Death of Me
19. Vanden Plas - The Ghost Experiment - Illumination
20. Rob Zombie - Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
21. Soilwork - A Whisp of the Atlantic EP
22. Tremonti - Marching in Time

2021 was a strong year for new hard rock and metal. I was not very aware of Architects prior to their new album which was start to finish my Album of the Year. They proved once again that metal can can have a hook and still be hard as can be.

Love or Hate: By now you either love or hate Greta Van Fleet. Their new album is great, and I am glad they get attention - so few rock bands do these days!
Live Shows: I was not able to see as many live shows in 2021 as would have liked, but the best show of the year was Starset (with openers The Word Alive).
Discovery: Annisokay was another hard rock discovery this year. I love their new album - definitely worth a listen if you have not checked them out.
Best New Artist: Definitely goes to Spiritbox. Their music has been everywhere and Courtney LaPlante (lead singer) has done several guest spots as well.
Surprise of the Year: Aside from ABBA releasing their first new music in 40 years, The Pretty Reckless (Taylor Momsen) really rocked a great album.
Guilty Pleasure: Call me crazy but Miley Cyrus' album "Plastic Hearts" is a good rock album.
Non-Metal Album of the Year: Needtobreathe "Into the Mystery" - these guys are super talented.
Likely to Make Top 10 for 2022: Black Label Society "Doom Crew Inc"; Jerry Cantrell "Brighten"; and Of Mice & Men "Echo"; and some new Devin Townsend.
One Song for 2021: While She Sleeps "Nervous".
Wish for 2022: Geedy Lee and Alex Lifeson get together and record some new music!!

Best Metal Albums of 2021
It's been another strange year, with pandemic-related uncertainty leading to a near-total shutdown of live music followed by its tentative and tenuous return. And while the lives of many artists have no doubt been tossed into a state of chaos, we listeners were fortunate that many of them managed to use the unexpected down time to compose new music, resulting in a considerable volume of releases even as live music had barely begun to make a recovery. This being the case, I found myself faced with more solid new releases than I could keep track of, resulting in a longer than usual list of albums that managed to make some kind of impression on me (even longer than this list, which itself is longer than I usually go), despite there being even more new music than usual competing for our attention. So I found it pretty challenging to narrow this list down to a manageable number of albums, and even harder to list them in an even slightly accurate order of preference (which, as usual, may change drastically by the time you read this). Here is as best an attempt as I could manage.

1. Daxma - Unmarked Boxes
2. Blackwater Holylight - Silence/ Motion
3. Splendidula - Somnus
4. Cynic - Ascension Codes
5. Thy Catafalque - Vadak
6. King Buffalo - Acheron
7. Bottomless - Bottomless
8. Orange Sky - Strange Days
9. Conclave - Dawn of Days
10. Sevan - Guide Me Holy Ararat
11. Tower - Shock to the System
12. Crypta - Echoes of the Soul
13. Dreadnought In the Pond - 0=1
14. Kadavar & Elder - Eldovar
15. Kayo Dot - Moss Grew On Swords And Plowshares Alike
16. Big|Brave - Vital
17. Between the Buried and Me - Colors II
18. King Woman - Celestial Blues
19. Frozen Crown - Winterbane
20. Pupil Slicer - Mirrors
21. Iron Maiden - Senjutsu
22. Here Lies Man - Ritual Divination
23. Obscura - A Valediction
24. Gojira - Fortitude
25. Mastodon - Hushed and Grim

Noteworthy Metal EP's of 2021:
Thank You Scientist - Plague Accommodations
Vajra - Irkalla
Tenebra - What We Do is Sacred
Enslaved - Caravans to Outer Worlds
Lair - At Our End

Guilty Pleasure of the Year:
Dr. Colossus - I'm a Stupid Moron With an Ugly Face & a Big Butt & My Butt Smells and I Like to Kiss My Own Butt

Best Not-So-Metal Albums:
Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime
Blood Lemon - Blood Lemon
Morningstar Delirium - Morningstar Delirium
Opium Moon - Night + Day
The Body/ Big|Brave - Leaving None But Small Birds

Great Live Shows Seen:
Car Bomb, Cleric, TItan To Tachyons @ St. Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY
Opeth, Mastodon, Zeal And Ardor @ Boch Wang Theatre, Boston, MA
Chained to the Dead, Dutchguts, Inherus @ Rushing Duck Brewing, Chester, NY
Cazador, False Gods, Lesotho, Coma Hole @ Dusk, Providence, RI

New Talent To Watch:
Midhaven (India)
Mourn The Light
Tenebra (Italy)

Deaths in 2021 (from Wikipedia):
January 6 - Paul de Leon, drummer of Las Cruces, died from COVID-19 at the age of 52.
January 10 - Marsha Zazula, co-founder of Megaforce Records, died of cancer at the age of 68.
January 13 - Tim Bogert, former bassist of Cactus and Vanilla Fudge, died of cancer at the age of 76.
February 5 - Ors Siklosi, vocalist of AWS, died from leukemia at the age of 29.
February 18 - Tony Matuzak, former guitarist of Lizzy Borden, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 59.
February 24 - Sean Kennedy, former bassist of I Killed the Prom Queen, died by suicide at the age of 35.
March 7 - Lars-Goran Petrov, vocalist of Entombed A.D. and former vocalist of Entombed, died from bile duct cancer at the age of 49.
March 8 - Adrian B─ârar, guitarist of Cargo, died from COVID-19 at the age of 61.
March 17 - Corey Steger, former guitarist of Underoath, died in a car accident at the age of 42.
March 26 - Brett Bradshaw, former drummer of Faster Pussycat, died from undisclosed reasons.
April 18 - Lars "Ratz" Ranzenberger, bassist of Metalium, died in an airplane crash at the age of 53.
April 29 - John Hinch, former drummer of Judas Priest, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 73.
May 9 - Robb Farr, bassist of Warrior, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 58.
May 13 - William J. Tsamis, guitarist of Warlord, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 60.
May 17 - D.V. "Dirt" Karloff, former bassist of Society 1, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 48.
June 11 - Sven Gross, vocalist of Fleshcrawl, died from cancer at the age of 44.
June 26 - Johnny Solinger, former vocalist of Skid Row, died from liver failure at the age of 55.
June 29 - John Lawton, vocalist of Lucifer's Friend and former vocalist of Uriah Heep, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 74.
July 1 - Bryan St. Pere, drummer of Hum, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 52.
July 10 - Chris Hutka, former vocalist of The Bunny the Bear, died from undisclosed reasons.
July 14 - Jeff LaBar, former guitarist of Cinderella, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 58.
July 14 - Gary Corbett, former touring keyboardist of Kiss and Cinderella, died from lung cancer.
July 26 - Mike Howe, vocalist of Metal Church and former vocalist of Heretic, died by suicide by hanging at the age of 55.
July 26 - Joey Jordison, drummer of Sinsaenum and Vimic, former drummer of Slipknot and Scar the Martyr, and former guitarist of Murderdolls, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 46.
August 8 - Tim Audette, former guitarist of Fuck the Facts, died from multiple sclerosis.
August 22 - Eric Wagner, vocalist of The Skull and former vocalist of Trouble, died from COVID-19 at the age of 62.
September 3 - Jochen Schroder, former guitarist of Rage, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 58.
October 13 - Andrea Haugen, former guest vocalist of albums by Cradle of Filth and Satyricon, and ex-wife of Emperor guitarist Samoth, died in the Kongsberg attacks at the age of 52.
October 29 - Eric Greif, musician, producer, lawyer, longtime manager of Chuck Schuldiner/Death and president of Perseverance Holdings (overseeing Chuck Schuldiner's intellectual property rights) died of kidney failure and complications from diabetes at the age of 59.
November 19 - Hank von Hell, former vocalist of Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult, died from undisclosed reasons at the age of 49.
November 24 - Gared O'Donnell, vocalist of Planes Mistaken for Stars, died from oesophageal cancer at the age of 44.
December 17 - Matthew Wolfe, former drummer of Byzantine, died from a battle with addiction at the age of 46.

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