2021 will be remembered for one thing – it was better than 2020. The introduction of Covid-19 vaccines allowed us to go to public events once again, including a return to live music venues.
The comeback of live music has gone hand-in-hand with some awesome new releases, too. From a classic by legends Iron Maiden to an important mainstream release for Deafheaven, it’s been a year to remember.
With 2022 on the horizon, here are five of the best metal releases from the past 12 months.
MØL – Diorama
Diorama shows Danish quintet MØL at their stunning best. The album mixes the melodic guitar of shoegaze with the chaos of black metal to produce a unique sound – that is made all the starker by some epic breakdowns followed by choruses that grab you by the throat and shake you down.
Lead singer Kim Song Sternkopf’s heartfelt lyrics are the voice of experience — he was involved in faith cults as a child — and you can hear the emotion in his voice as he delivers some memorable lines. Diorama builds on the band’s first album, JORD, by throwing in some savage blast beats and theatricality that the finest actors would be proud of.
Listen out for Redacted, a song that is a prime example of this new album’s exaggerated but fascinating sound.
Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
Bonuses come in many forms. A trader might get a bonus for earning his firm lots of money, while an iGamer may get an unexpected online casino bonus added to their account. Iron Maiden fans got their bonus when they heard that the highly anticipated new Iron Maiden record was to be released as a double album, only their second ever.
Senjutsu is an 82-minute epic, exploring many different forms of melodic metal music. It also achieved critical and commercial success for the way it tackles themes ranging from religion to World War II.
Frontman Bruce Dickinson talked about how the band strived for diversity following the release of Book of Souls in 2015, and they hit the top spot in a wide range of national charts. The album reached number 1 in the USA, Mexico and Belgium, to name just three countries.
Gojira – Fortitude
Speaking of musical themes, none come more important than the one that dominates Gojira’s new album. Fortitude, the band’s first since Magma in 2016, addresses the climate emergency, and it doesn’t mess around.
Singer Joe Duplantier’s vocals berate the human population for destroying the planet, for letting ‘the greatest miracle burn to the ground’. Some of the songs, such as Into the Storm, also call for urgent action.
Following in Magma’s footsteps was always going to be difficult — that record won a Grammy nomination for Best Record five years ago. Gojira take a good shot at it, though, going for a more progressive sound and it’s paid off: single Amazonia was also in the running for a Grammy award this year but just missed out.
Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
Ten years after bursting onto the metal scene with their debut Roads to Judah, Deafheaven released their fifth record this year. Infinite Granite is a dramatic departure from their original sound, opting for a shoegaze sound with cleaner vocals from George Clarke.
The record’s mainstream sound has divided their fans. Some expressed their disdain, comparing the guitar sound to Coldplay – hardly the coolest band in the eyes of most metalheads.
Yet Deafheaven continue to fascinate some fans, who are impressed by the band’s versatility and eagerness to experiment. Critics, too, were impressed by the new sound. UK newspaper The Guardian gave it a 5/5 review, calling it a ‘great, great album’, while Variety magazine hailed Deafheaven one of the most powerful rock acts of the last 20 years.
Love it or hate it, Infinite Granite is an interesting listen.
Eternity’s End – Embers of War
2021 has seen much-changed Eternity’s End hit the studio, with three members leaving and Linus Klausenitzer returning to the band – they even have frontman Christian Münzner on the drums.
Embers of War is the product of these changes. It’s a 45-minute blast of pure metal mayhem, with a classic Münzner riff kicking off Hounds of Tindalos followed by a pulsating vein of tunes running through the record. Highlights include the powerful Call of the Valkyries, an epic title track, and the melodic Shaded Heart. It’s another metal record that’s earned rave reviews.
Some people thought Münzner would struggle to come back from a career-threatening hand injury during his time in previous band Obscura, but records like this assure us that he’s still at his peak. If you haven’t listened to Embers yet, make sure you do as soon as possible. It’s a masterpiece.