Welcome to the finale of 2021; That Drummer Guy’s Top 100 Albums of 2021 Part VI: The Top 20. We have reached the top of the mountain and it is good….well I think it’s good, it’ll depend on you if you dig what these 20 albums have to offer. Before getting into the trues and battling this list, I would just like to say thank you to everyone for making this far. Despite this being my favorite thing to do every year, this year, it really took a lot out of me, then again, so many things took a lot out of me this year. I’m running on fumes and I am so looking forward to taking the rest of the year off and maybe longer to just try to get back into some sort of normalcy and get back into a better state of being for both body and mind. If you are going through anything similar I am hoping the same for you as well as no one should have to suffer during this time of year on top of all the suffering the world is currently dealing with for the elongated amount of time. But before I go into my thoughts on the world right now, let’s get over to the tules and finish this list off with a bang!
- These are 100 ALBUMS that I loved this year ranked from 100-1.
- No EPs, live albums, compilations, rarity albums, reissues, or any specialty releases. Just brand new LPs
- The list is broken down into 6 parts which I release Monday to Friday, 20 albums a piece, countdown style. Black Friday brings on the Honorable Mentions list, which is 40 albums that didn’t make my Top 100, but deserve just as much praise.
- There are many reasons that an album won’t show up on this list. I did not have enough time to hear it enough, I didn’t hear it, it wasn’t my bag...baby, and new for 2021; The band/Artist does something so stupid that I simply can’t support them anymore.
-While The top 100 is ranked, look at this as 100 albums you should check out and not 5 parts you can skip and just check out the top 20. Every album here is awesome and what may be album 100 or 72 or 47 may be your favorite album or discovery of the year. So give anything that gets your attention a spin. We live in the digital age, there’s no excuse to skip out anymore.
- These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone. No outside influences, no one asking me to put them on the list, no pressure from higher sources. Just what I dig and you just may dig as well.
- And most importantly...go discover some new music!!!
And now let's finish this!
20.) Moon Machine- S/T
FFO- Progressive Metal
There is a new crop of bands that have really latched onto the prog of 15-20 years ago from the likes of Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Tool, and Mastodon that have really taken the best elements and combined their own flavors to create some inspiring new music. That’s exactly what’s going on here with Moon Machine. The debut album from this band is simply incredible and the fact that again this level of songwriting chemistry is just on the debut LP means that the power of what’s to come has someone like me salivating. The album in particular is actually a hard listen for me as it deals a lot with inner struggle *something I’m all too familiar with) and the album really does have those feels of highs lows and emotional swings that you feel when you are dealing with mental health issues. If it’s not enough that this album hits so close to home for myself and anyone else struggling; the album is available as a Pay What You Want feature on bandcamp and proceeds of any money spent on the album on Bandcamp goes to mental health charities. This band is doing everything right and I can’
t wait to see what’s next.
19.) The Lion’s Daughter- Skin Show
FFO- Horror Metal
A band that has such great heavy and sludge metal elements combined with horror synth; this band is going right after my heart. Every song the band has ever written feels like the perfect theme song for a horror movie and Skin Show is no different. The keyboards and synths throughout this album help the band shine through more than if it was just a standard metal affair and it really gives the band that replay value. Then it has the added benefit of having the rest of the band be just as killer. An underrated album for sure and I’m glad I can shine a bit of light on it. If I was to ever be in a band again, this is what I would want to be inspired by.
18.) Nightland- The Great Nothing
FFO- Symphonic Death Metal, Gothic Metal
In absolute proof that nothing is final till I fully write it up. This album was originally in my honorable mentions list as I just didn’t have enough time to really appreciate it….then I decided to give it another spin and I had to push it up all the way into the top 20. This has everything I’m looking for in a band. Power, emotion, brilliant songwriting, sorrowful lyrics, and jaw dropping instrumentation and musical chemistry. While the band can get quite speedy, it doesn’t hit anywhere near the extremes that other symphonic death metal bands do, and that’s what makes it really work, it’s more subdued and focused on atmosphere rather than BPM. Substance over style. I love this album and you may as well if you check it out.
17.) Phantom Elite- Titanium
FFO- Power Metal, Groove Metal, Symphonic Metal
If Gojira decided to become a symphonic power metal band. It sounds like such a far fetched concept, right? Well, not anymore. Phantom Elite really makes it work with such heavy riffs and soaring choruses that sounds so odd on paper but it flawless in execution. It’s catchy in all the right ways. Take away any preconceived notions and give this album a shot. There’s a good reason why I have this album in my top 20.
16.) MOL- Diorama
Once Deafheaven changed their sounds and leaned more away from black metal a few years ago; Blackgaze started to become a less wanted and disassociated genre. While some bands kept the torch lit, other bands followed suite and completely changed their sound or broke up entirely. Then there is MOL, a band that is not your standard blackgaze affair and since 2014 have been writing some of the most abstract and creative music in the genre. Diorama is an odd mix of uplifting sounding blackgaze with absolutely devastating lyrics that knows how to get to a tortured soul such as myself. MOL just continues to prove that any band and any genre can innovate and it’s never too late to see how far your musical wingspan truly is. I love this album...so much.
15.) Northtale- Midnight Bells
FFO- Power Metal
One listen and I knew this was going to be the best pow2er metal album of the year and it was by a country mile. This is what I want from my power metal. Fun music to listen to, try to comprehend, and the visions you get while listening to the songs and deciphering the lyrics. This is what power metal is meant to be and I couldn’t be happier that even with a lineup change and of course the hardships of life that Northtale can come back for a new album and plow through any expectations and raise the bar for any new power metal band to follow. A sheer delight of an album.
14.) Sleep Token- This Place Will BE Your Tomb
FFO- Alternative Metal, Experimental Metal
A band that is either going to make your jaw drop or you will have absolutely no interest. Saying “meh, they are ok I guess” to this band seems impossible. It’s pure love or hate. I LOVE this band and they are easily my discovery of the year. Its so soulful and powerful while taking an experimental approach and adding modern metal, industrial and other genres to the pallet and having all of it stick the landing. This year I have really been getting more into music that really makes me feel something on an emotional and darker level. When you hear the album title, you think funeral doom metal and that’s what I expected going in and that is not at all what I got in return. This is a band I can only picture blowing up on their next album and let’s all hope it happens.
13.) Carcass- Torn Arteries
FFO- Melodic Death Metal, Grindgore
The masters are back after 6 years and they have released another solid album for their catalog. While this album does not hit any of the extremes that some fans may have expected. It takes a much more melodic and visceral approach to an album such as Swansongs. This is extreme in it’s lyrical and musical content, not so much on the speed, but it doesn’t need to be. This a perfect album fort people to get into Carcass if they never have before. It’s just that perfect cynical album of 2021.
12.) Fear Factory- Aggression Continuum
FFO- Industrial, Groove Metal
The final album between Dino and Burton is here and what a hell of an album to go out on with this lineup. This is my favorite album since Archetype (the most underrated FF album) and easily their best album since Demanufacture, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s the perfect blend of the mechanical brutality of riffs mixed with some of the most gorgeous cho9ruses you could possibly hear in a style like this. Plus they have a song about Mad Max called Fuel Injected Suicide Machine, which may be their best single possibly ever. While the soul of Fear Factory is changing and a new singer is about to be announced any time now, I can only hope they can maintain what’s been accomplished here as this is too good of an album to be a final album, though it’s the perfect ending note to this chapter of the band.
11.) Lantlos- Wildhund
FFO- Post Metal, Post Rock, Alternative Metal, Shoegaze
Going from a pure raw black metal band into a blackgaze band into what the band is now shows that the entity known as Lantlos is ever fluid and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Wildhund is an album that is so extremely hard to describe without just having you listen to the music. It’s a gorgeous sounding album and really fills your senses with fantasy and whimsy but it still sounds heavy and very metal. It’s not power metal and follows no similar tropes; its just something completely of it’s own merit. All I can really say is listen to the album for yourself. If you have no idea who the band is going in, it will still be different than what you expect. A true standout album from a truly outstanding band.
10.) Light The Torch- You Will Be The Death of Me
FFO- Melodic Metalcore, Alternative Metal
I haven’t listened to FM rock radio since the start of the pandemic, but I will say that if Light The Torch is not on modern rock radio, that is a complete shame. The band has everything to make it in top 40 rock radio while maintaining integrity. Howard Jones shows off his powerful clean vocals and uses any screams in such a minimal amount that you may forget that he even does them anymore. This is just a solid metal album that deserves the appeal of the masses. There’s no excuse for anything less.
9.) Between The Buried And Me- Colors II
FFO- Adult Contemporary Progressive Death Metal
When I heard that Colors II was an album coming out in 2021, I thought it was joke. Oh how I chortled in rapturous glee. But then I actually experienced the album and this album is no joke. It’s the perfect sequel album to the original Colors album. It’s much more mature songwriting and lyrical content and you can absolutely hear the progression of the band if you go from Colors to Colors II and it’s still the same lineup in both bands, which you in this world of ever changing band lineups, you just don’t expect anymore. This was an album I never would have expected or maybe even wanted, but now that it is here’ I can’t picture a world without it. Now lets see if BTBAM can play both albums each night on tour one day.
8.) Loch Vostok- Opus Ferox- The Great Escape
FFO- Progressive Metal
I’m just going to say it right off the bat. I miss Teddy Moller’s vocals. To me they were the signature part of the band that really got me into the band all those years ago. BUT, and I do mean BUT, having Jonas Radehorn took away any problems that I may have had with Teddy stepping down from vocals and just playing guitar. This album is pure and utter perfection and such a great representation of the world we live in right now. It’s dark and gloomy and it’s a hard look in the mirror, but it’s real and authentic and as screwed as we may be, at least we got a badass album out of it from this long lasting band. Loch Vostok is still dangerously underrated and may be the best prog metal band of it’s style going just listen and you’ll understand why.
7.) Zornheym- The Zornheim Sleep Experimental
FFO- Horror Metal, Symphonic Blackened Death Metal
The sophomore album from this band shows that the band is only getting stronger and the life of this horror universe is only going to continue to grow. With such a dark concept, outstanding musicality and some of the best imagery in metal today; Zornheym is a band that is only growing bigger and bigger and you absolutely owe it to yourself to check this band out be it you’re a fan of the genre, horror, or both. There really needs to be a full on horror movie for this album. One day...maybe…
6.) Bloody Hammers- Songs of Unspeakable Terror
FFO- Punk Rock, Heavy Metal, Horror
Bloody Hammers is a band that I say every time is incapable of making the same album twice and I love them for that reason. They can make a pure heavy metal album, a goth album, a synth driven album, and now in 2021, a punk metal album. With everything you’d want from a horror band and odds to classic metal horro9r movies and tropes, this album goes by so far, but it is so rewarding. Bloody Hammers just scratches the itch no one else can scratch and I know that will continue to happen for years to come.
5.) Swallow The Sun- Moonflowers
FFO- Death Doom Metal
This album wrecked me so hard and it just recently came out. Literally cried multiple times on this record and the music and lyrics are the reasons why. Its the sorrow driven by both the haunting vocals and the dirge driven music that makes you feel like your mortality is coming to an end. It’s the feel bad album of the year and I of course mean that in the best way possible. Make sure to have some tissues with you if you listen to this album, you’ll thank me later.
4.) Mastodon- Hushed and Grim
FFO- Progressive Metal, Sludge Metal, Alternative Metal
This album appears to be quite the watershed moment for the band. If you’ve gotten into the band since Crack The Skye, this double album is easily heavier than anything they’ve done I the past 11 years. If you are a fan up to Crack The Sky, this album as so many familiar moments with everything that’s come after. It’s a mixed bag of both eras of the band. for many that is all too consuming and they may lose interest after a while. For someone like me on the other hand, this is an album I’ve wanted from the band since the very beginning. It’s as heavy as it is mainstream sounding. It’s an odd mix on paper but the execution, while long (it’s a double album, so duh), is so rewarding. Its a true album experience, not just a collection of songs. If you give it the proper time it needs and let it sink it, it will wash over you and you’ll finally get it. This is the best damn double album of the last half decade if not longer.
3.) Rivers of Nihil- The Work
FFO- Progressive Death Metal
I think it’s completely fair to say that the band has really come into it’s own once it started embracing it’s prog side. With their previous effort, Where Owls Know My Name, the band became a near overnight sensation in the more underground metal world. What they accomplished on that album is perfected here with The Work. It’s a bit more experimental and has some inter dimensional transitions, but the overall product is an album that is simply impossible to ignore. All 4 albums to date represent all 4 seasons we go through every year. Now that winter is complete with The Work, it’ll be quite interesting to see where the band goes from here. I hope they can keep this spirit up and keep innovating as they are truly one of the most unique metal bands going and they deserve all the love and attention they are receiving. If you missed out on this, remedy this immediately!
2.) Khemmis- Deceiver
FFO- Doomed Heavy Metal
Khemmis has become one of my favorite bands over the last couple years and Deceiver is the band breaking out of their shell of more doom metal focused on music and really embracing more of the heavy metal sides of their sound. Going from death metal to speed metal to even d-beat on this album is quite the shock to the sense, but it still sounds absolutely like the band and the signature doom metal sound they have excellently crafted over the years is still in tact. This is how innovation works even when you are dealing with classic genres. Khemmis are the heroes of the underground and I love them more and more with every new release. Seriously, check this album out and every previous release to date. You’ll fall under their spell as well.
1.) Panopticon- ...and Again into the Light
FFO- North American Folk Metal (Folk, Black Metal, PostRrock)
I have loved this band since I discovered Kentucky all those years ago and I have been singing their praises ever since. The band has always hit me hard with their beliefs, appreciation for genres and of course the power of their music. This album though, they took everything that’s worked about the band and the formula became my favorite album of the year. It makes me cry, it pulls my heartstrings, it reminds of Minnesota (where the band is now located for several years), If you want tear jerking country/folk it’s here, if you want emotional post rock, it’s here. If you want raw black metal with really good production, its also here. It has everything and I couldn’t appreciate it more. I knew from the first listen this would be in my top 20, but on a repeated listen of the song The Embers at Dawn made me realize this is the album of the year. As much as I can like any other album, nothing will top this album this year. This is perfection!
And there you have it folks, My top 100 albums of 2021. This year has been incredibly rough on me and I can only imagine so many of you reading this. I’ve gone through so many emotions of dread, sorrow, and I had to snap myself out of killing myself several times this year. But the music...the music has kept me sane this year in a way I’ve never felt before. Anyone who says there is no good music anymore simply stopped caring about discovering new music. For as long as I’m still here, I will keep searching, I’ll keep discovering and I will keep presenting bands that are worthy of your attention, be it they started 50 years ago or 50 days ago. Good music is good music and it really can be one of the best things in life. For me, its the best non physical thing in my life and one of the only reasons I’m still here. SO I thank you for checking out this list (even if y ou only checked out the top 20) and I hope you’ll find some new albums that will make your life better in some way.
Till next time, this is That Drummer Guy saying, See Ya!
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)