My Top Albums of 2021

And starting off at number fifteen. . .

15. Pan-Amerikan Native Front – Little Turtle’s War (United States – Independent)

Black metal with a dash of awe. Pan-Amerikan Native Front’s second full-length is intense with power and rage. It’s lo-fi production adds to the chaos. My favourite track, The Great White Beaver Lurks, is an awesome mid-paced song among the disruption.

https://pan-amerikannativefront.bandcamp.com/album/little-turtles-war

14. Friisk – ..un torügg bleev blot Sand (Germany – Vendetta)

Unlike Pan-Amerikan, Friisk bestows intense moods and atmosphere with their debut album. Similar at times to one of my favourite Icelandic black metal bands, Auðn, Friisk brilliantly showcases some blistering speed alongside their dramatic performances.

https://friisk.bandcamp.com/album/un-tor-gg-bleev-blot-sand

13. Fluisteraars – Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking (Netherlands – Eisenwald)

It’s rare to see 20+ minute black metal songs, yet Fluisteraars pieces one together and it goes by in an instant. Almost avant-garde at times, Fluisteraars’s fourth album is ambitious and rich with nuance – all-the-while still showcasing moments of insanity.

https://fluisteraars.bandcamp.com/

12. Drawn and Quartered – Congregation Pestilence (United States – Krucyator Productions)

A group of death metal veterans, Drawn and Quartered’s newest release features the band’s technical ability to write strong, creative music. With a solid old-school death metal sound, Congregation Pestilence is rich with pacing and riffs to make your ears bleed. Without going into the typical verse/chorus structure, D&Q’s music is filled with brilliance.

https://krucyator.bandcamp.com/album/congregation-pestilence

11. WODE – Burn In Many Mirrors (United Kingdom – 20 Buck Spin)

A mix of blackened/death thrash metal makes WODE’s third album an extreme journey to experience. Unrelenting and surprisingly melodic, the album comes with a great energy to it. With unexpectedly catchy riffs and crisp production, WODE’s ever-changing style serves them well.

https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/burn-in-many-mirrors

10. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (United States – Metal Blade)

Another group of veterans in the death metal world, Cannibal Corpse’s newest may be one of their best since Kill (although I prefer Torture). While still keeping up the same sound listeners have become accustomed to, newcomer Erik Rutan added some awesome power I’m sure no one felt the band was lacking.

https://cannibalcorpse.bandcamp.com/album/violence-unimagined

9. Ŭkcheănsălâwit – Alaskan Escape EP (Canada – Les Productions Hérétiques)

My favourite EP of the year! This speedily album feels bleak and cold – which is exactly what it was going for. To showcase a song: To an Alaskan Glacier, while minimal in instruments, is huge in drama making for an incredible feat to achieve. I would surely buy a full LP of this music whenever one is made.

https://ukcheansalawit.bandcamp.com/album/alaskan-escape

8. Olhava – Frozen Bloom (Russia – Avantgarde Music)

While Fluisteraars had a single 20-minute song, Olhava has one, plus a few more over the 10-minute mark. The Russian duo pieces beautifully intense music with a raging atmosphere and subtle soundscapes. While two of the four songs are really black metal, Olhava brings in drone and ambient elements which perfectly encapsulates the ebb and flow of the natural concept they were aiming for in Frozen Bloom.

https://avantgardemusic.bandcamp.com/album/frozen-bloom

7. Outre-Tombe – Abysse Mortifère (Canada – Temple of Mystery Records)

This band just keeps impressing. Outre-Tombe’s now three for three on making my annual lists and for good reason – their music is really flipping awesome. Moments of Abysse Mortifère remind me of early-Voivod, while others standout as early-Morbid Angel. A ripping good time, Abysse Mortifère knocks it out of the park.

https://templeofmystery.bandcamp.com/album/abysse-mortifere

6. Cynic – Ascension Codes (United States –Season of Mist)

After two thirds of the band passed away in 2020, how could Cynic continue? Paul Masvidal carries on Sean Reinert’s and Sean Malone’s legacy with Ascension Codes – a strange, yet familiar feeling. While the album feels bogged down by short interludes between songs, the music is an emotional progressive journey: absolutely brilliant and constantly transcending.

https://cyniconline.bandcamp.com/album/ascension-codes

5. Liquid Tension Experiment – Liquid Tension Experiment 3 (United States – InsideOut)

Their first release since LTE2 in 1999, LTE3 brings back the brilliance of Dream Theater members John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, and Mike Portnoy, along with legendary bassist Tony Levin, to produce one of the most surprising albums for me this year. All-instrumental, LTE3 is not so much a jam session like previous albums, but a well-executed romp into prog rock and metal.

https://open.spotify.com/album/6GDFV4kWsQDYuah6tSqmu2

4. Grima – Rotten Garden (Russia – Naturmacht Productions)

My favourite atmospheric black metal album of the year, Grima’s Rotten Garden was also the first album I picked up when it was released in January. It has been regularly spun since. It’s haunting beauty comes together with nature and grandiose scope. With the odd keyboard frill and additional accordion in certain songs, Rotten Garden is absolutely a fresh listen to every spin.

https://grima.bandcamp.com/album/rotten-garden

3. Koldovstvo – Ни царя, ни бога (??? – Extraconscious Records)

Not much is known about the band and their debut album: A Russian band name. Roman Numeral song titles. Signed to an American label. Is it one person or a group? What Ни царя, ни бога is though, is an experience. Was the album recorded in another room? The production is both astonishing and very entrancing. It’s albums like this one which I live for. Tracks I and IV are absolute standouts.

https://koldovstvo.bandcamp.com/album/-

2. Ferriterium – Calvaire (France – Epictural Production)

Also released in January, I unfortunately wasn’t able to grab a physical copy as it sold out. And it sold out fast for good reason too: it’s incredible. Immediately fast and dramatic, Calvaire is doused in both strength and agony. A rich and fast-paced album, it’s still a melodic black metal journey filled with so much emotion and heartbreak, you find yourself picking up pieces when all is said and done.

https://ferriterium.bandcamp.com/album/calvaire

1. Mannveira – Vitahríngur (Iceland – Dark Descent Records)

There’s a handful of albums that happen to be there when you need them the most. Mannveira’s debut album Vitahríngur just happened to be that album for me this year.

Doused in sludge and dreariness, Vitahríngur time-and-time again happened to be my go-to when I needed it the most. It’s raw, rather simplistic approach to music writing can keep the listener engrossed to the music and feel what they need to feel.

Rarely going into blast beats or fast speeds, the album keeps a mostly mid-paced tempo to it – its dark nature sucking you in with each kick of the bass drum. The muddied vocals give grief, anger, and sorrow, keeping with the overall tone of the album. The song, Í köldum faðmi is a perfect example of all of that.

While the title track offers a bit of optimism, the album constantly keeps you down, throwing the listener back into the cacophonous well.

While straying a slight bit from the overall sound of Icelandic black metal, Vitahríngur still defines its own sound with a nihilistic approach and gloomy dissonance.

https://darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com/album/vitahr-ngur

Honourable Mentions:

Ungfell – Es grauet

Anneke van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies are the Brightest

Cerebral Rot – Excretion of Mortality

Dordeduh – Har

Hulder – Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry

The Crown – Royal Destroyer

Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû – Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû

Havukruunu – Kuu Erkylän Yllä EP

Most Disappointed:

Steven Wilson – The Future Bites

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Bent Knee – Frosting

Review: Blessed by Perversion – Remnants of Existence

Blessed by Perversion – Remnants of Existence
Iron, Blood and Death Corporation

Brutally intense with some pulse-pounding riffs and beats, Blessed by Perversion’s second album, Remnants of Existence, is a thrilling album for death metal fans to really engage with.

Ironically (or coincidentally) the Greek band released their album on Christmas Day in 2020. Their six-track album hits the ground running and setting a mood of what they’re trying to accomplish. The intro track, Descending into the Catacombs, is a slow minute-fifteen-long burn as the listener becomes surrounded by the sounds and sights the music creates in their mind. Then come the double kicks and Gallery of Bones picks the album up.

Flowing with mid-paced and rhythmic chugging for a short while, a sudden change in structure is where Hell breaks loose. Guitar and bass change – the tempo picks up and the listener is slammed with a wall of brutality. With an impressive guitar solo and well-placed, almost groovy riffs near the end of the track, the song ends only to be carried by an even heavier track, Atonement Refused.

Feeling more in-place with mid-90s death metal, Atonement Refused rips through with blistering speed. The hefty chugs within the chorus, followed by its technical bridge – and well-placed bass groove – changes up with moments of a Phrygian scale and mirrors something sounding almost from Nile. However, it doesn’t come across like a “copy” as the ideas fits within the atmosphere and feeling Remnants of Existence is aiming to create.

Within Among the Tombs of Absent Gods, the crushing riffs don’t stop. Feeling even darker than the last track, the album continues its descent for the listener. With layered vocals, the growls become more sinister and absorb the listener down the band’s dark path.

In Caverns of Torture, there’s a Cannibal Corpse-y feel to the song with its finger tapping intro and addition to more treble on bass guitar. The pounding chorus with pinched harmonics, along with the slamming snare adds some interesting colour to the already impressive track. After a bit of a break down, the song resets itself with the finger tapping intro and descends into madness with a dark guitar solo and filthy riffs that really pushes out the aggression.

The anthem-like Within Monumental Chaos concludes the album with probably the more memorable chorus on the album. The song features a descending scale with a technical breakdown which, in my opinion, really encapsulates the songwriting prowess of Blessed by Perversion. With a sweeping guitar solo, the song begins its double-kick conclusion as it wraps up the album with an epic, yet dark feeling.

Every song on the album was an impressive feat. While bass could been louder in some moments and kick drums may feel over-processed in some parts, Remnants of Existence floored me with quality in both production and song-writing capability. Rarely do I get to review albums from independent bands that really knock me off my feet.

A technically brilliant and dark, haunting journey, Blessed by Perversion’s Remnants of Existence is an album within the death metal realm that should not be missed.

Blessed by Perversion on Bandcamp

Review: Bloodfeast Ritual – Altars of Sacrifice

Bloodfeast Ritual – Altars of Sacrifice
Self-release

In their debut EP Altars of Sacrifice, Los Angeles band Bloodfeast Ritual serve up the guts and glory of old school death metal alongside a variety of death metal styles.

With relentless energy throughout each song, the 20-minute EP perseveres with a battery of brutality mixed in with many melodic moments. In the opening track Grave Fodder, the very-Swedish death metal influence shines through. Many unison riffs in the higher register initially present the band similar to one like Arch Enemy – with epic choruses and bright solos – the song provides a lot of heft among the beauty.

That beauty, however, somewhat disappears within the next song title: Eternally Molested By The One Most Foul. With the band still reeling Swedish death influences, the song itself begins to show a different sound the band is going for. With an influence more similar to the band Death, the song features lots guitar prowess while still being a cohesive song. Riffs and chugging dominate the majority of the song with more-shredding than melodic solos in-between.

And yet, the style changes yet again, rather smoothly into classic death metal with No More Room in Hell. Featuring some of the more guttural vocals on the album, the music also feels heavier. The layered vocals hearken to Aborted, but the music to something like Cannibal Corpse. Fast and devastating, the lyrics even evoke the scenes from Dawn of the Dead: “Eat them one by one / Feast upon the intestines / Smell of death fills the air.”

The heaviest song on the album, Chopped Up and Burned, is the song with the most weight. Blast beats abound, the darkest lyrics, the dirtiest riffs: the song has it all. The very traditional death metal sound is the clear inspiration for the song, with some of the more fast and intense solos the album has to offer.

Concluding the EP with the shortest track, Fetid Offering is the “newest-sounding” song on the album, with melody similar to the first track and guttural vocals reaching some of the higher registers, almost becoming screams. The song ends the EP on a high note with a steady growing, epic-feeling conclusion which somewhat contrasts the rest of the album.

With plenty of ideas mixed together as an EP, it shows many different avenues Bloodfeast Ritual can take. Although each song is brilliantly constructed, as a cohesive whole, the listener may get mixed messages to what the sound the band really wants to achieve.

Consistently brutal and relentlessly thrashy, Bloodfeast Ritual’s Altars of Sacrifice is an impressive and intense debut showcasing the many musical influences and songwriting prowess the band has to offer.

Bloodfeast Ritual on Bandcamp

Review: Al-Namrood – Wala’at

Al-Namrood – Wala’at
Shaytan Productions

Saudi Arabia is not well-known for black metal, yet the country is a muse for what the genre is about: religion, monarchy, paganism, and suppression – just a handful of topics which black metal relates in. Tackling these topics head-on with their seventh album, Al-Namrood’s newest release, Wala’at (“Loyalties” in English) continues stoking the flames of anger and disgust the band feels towards their government and the religion that surrounds it.

The anti-Islamic and anti-fascist themes of Al-Namrood’s music is both intense and dramatic. Mixing musical styles of both Western and Middle Eastern instruments, the band brings a familiarly dissonant style of black metal with the rather sharp contrast with harmonic Middle Eastern scales and tones. The two cultures blend together and create a hauntingly different feeling and mood to the genre.

While the band members remain anonymous due to the potential of the death penalty for performing their music, the three musicians aptly show their musical competency with melodies among the chaos and the foresight on when to change arrangements in their songs.

Standing out foremost in Wala’at is singer Humbaba, who alone brings a huge energetic performance to the music. Between the grunts, screams, and cries, Humbaba’s vocals are flexible and offer an incredible range and dynamic to the music. In fact, his enthusiasm comes together as one of the biggest triumphs on the album. Confident and devastating, his and stanzas are chilling at times while encouraging and uplifting in others. Without always understanding the lyrics, one can still get a feeling for what the band wants to portray. The pain, frustration, and demands for reform are obvious to the listener: Al-Namrood wants the listener to experience what they feel – and successfully does so with each performance.

In tracks like Kail Be Mekialain, musicians Mephisto and Ostron synchronize riffs together to create hauntingly eerie tones – even more so with the reverb cranked up on the drum samples in each song. Linked with Humbaba, there’s a common chemistry between the trio that energizes the music, elevating it beyond what most bands with decades of history are unable achieve.

In another track, Aar Al Estibad, the riffs are thrash-y and come with a punk-ish feel until the Arabian instruments join in. Those instruments ultimately change the feel of the song and move expectations from “just another black metal track” to something different. While the song itself technically doesn’t set new standards or heights in black metal, it’s still a powerful song which sticks with the listener for its almost hypnotic melodies and grinding vocal hums.

With all songs staying under the five minute mark, the near-forty minute album is an intense feast on the ears. Perhaps too overwhelming at first, the second, third, and multiple spins after will continue to bring the listener back to absorb the beauty and raw power Al-Namrood offer with Wala’at.

Al-Namrood – Wala’at on Bandcamp

Review: Deathcraeft – On Human Devolution

Deathcraeft – On Human Devolution
Self-release

Deathcraeft’s debut and concept album, On Human Devolution, features lots of juicy riffs and hefty blast beats with lyrics that explore the socio-political and self-destructing nature of humanity. With clear influences from Testament, Possessed, and Aborted come together, this Greek band offers a surprisingly genuine effort of great arrangements and solid songwriting.

While the The Ritual starts things off with lots of heft and thrash metal influence, The Beginning of the End really kick starts the album with brilliant riffs and chugging that are catchy as hell. The song also starts to showcase more death metal influences in the band while still holding its thrash-like feel – the guitar and bass sounds feel thick and heavy and filled with a groove that almost adds a Pantera-like influence to the song.

Spreading Lies fluctuates with tempos and provides a lot of different highlights throughout the song which feel naturally powerful with its upbeat, catchy chorus.

The fourth track, Welcome to Oblivion, features the closest resemblance to the Possessed/Testament-influence. The groovy descending riffs layered on top of the battering double kicks really strike the listener with intensity. The chorus has triumphant moments which do not detract from the brutality before it, and ripping solos compliment the chorus as it transitions back into the verses.

If there’s one major compliment to give, singer Nikonas Tsolakos offers a wide range with his vocal styles. Whether grunts, growls, screams, or gutteral whispers, there’s a versatile mix of singing provided on the album which keeps the album fresh and easily digestible for listeners who may shy away from the more lower range of death metal vocals.

While featuring one of the better solos on the album, Survival slows down the pace the album has been running with. As a six minute song, it becomes a bit of a fight to bring the album back up again with the next song, Daydreaming in the Abyss, which arguably could have been the slower song transitioning into Paving the Way. However, the slow down allows the listener a bit of breathing room to absorb what they’ve heard before and perhaps realize a lot of the riffs and songwriting had been thematic in many songs – something that can be overlooked and certainly is not common in the death/thrash genre.

With the longest song on the album, Free into the Void is the most climatic song on the album – fitting to conclude the 48-minute concept album off properly – as it closes with a dripping-with-mood conclusion. With some of the heaviest riffs and fastest double kicks on the album, the song’s outro ends rather triumphantly – almost pulling from the folk metal sub genre with feelings of Amon Amarth shining through.

Intense, brutal, and surprisingly progressive, Deathcraeft’s debut throws lots of surprises at the listener to make a impressively creative debut.

Deathcraeft – On Human Devolution

Have You Heard? The Best Progressive Metal Albums of the Last 20 Years

As one of earliest heavy metal subgenres, Progressive Metal has had a lot of time to grow, expand, and become even more progressive. Spawning in the early 1980s with bands like Queensryche, Fates Warning, and King’s X, the genre has become one of the largest and most varied forms of music. However, within the past twenty years there have been plenty of the of different albums – all offering something different than the last. Here, Uncanny Metal takes a look at some of the best Progressive Metal albums that have been released from the past twenty years.


Opeth – Blackwater Park
Music for Nations, 2001

The Swedish band’s fifth studio album, Opeth’s Blackwater Park became a pivotal change of sound for the band. While 1999’s Still Life may be still considered the album with a shift in style, it’s with Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson mix/production on Blackwater Park that really added a sense of progressiveness to Opeth. With their following albums, Opeth style continued to evolve with its progressive and death metal tendencies. Standing back and looking upon the entire discography, Blackwater Park was ultimately considered the tonal shift for the bands future releases.



Tool – Lateralus
Volcano, 2001

Progressive metal and the mainstream never came so close to greatness as it did with the ringing bass lines to Tool’s hit single Schism. While previous albums were also progressive, Lateralus turned progressive metal even more popular and threw the already well-established band further into the limelight. While it was years later for 10,000 Days and Fear Inoculum to eventually see the light of day, Lateralus was the pivotal moment for music fans to unite globally.



Devin Townsend – Terria
HevyDevy Records, 2001

After having worked with Steve Vai and establishing Strapping Young Lad with an outburst of extreme metal, Devin Townsend’s Terria – while probably not everyone’s favourite release, features some of the most intricate atmospheres from Devin’s signature “wall of sound.” A personal concept album and tackling mental health before the movement was in the mainstream, the ebbs and flows of Terria are astonishing with songs still resonating in relevance today.



Green Carnation – Light of Day, Dark of Darkness
The End Records, 2001

Another album with a personal story, ex-Emperor bassist Tchort founded Green Carnation in the early nineties. With their second album, LoDDoD became not only one of the longest songs in the genre of heavy metal, but is also critically acclaimed among metal fans. Crafting an hours worth of music and interlinking it together to unfold a story of both tragedy and life, Green Carnation’s epic stands out as a musical achievement for those who let themselves become encompassed by the grand scope of the song.



Ayreon – The Human Equation
InsideOut, 2004

After multiple science-fiction concept albums, Arjen Lucassen decided to try something a bit different and delve into the human mind. With multiple singers performing as different feelings such as Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt as Fear, Mostly Autumn’s Heather Findlay as Love, and Devin Townsend as Rage, they battle within the mind of the character “Me” (by Dream Theater’s James LaBrie). The album not only tells a story, but actually features incredible twists and turns of regression, infidelity, and coming to the understanding of one’s self.



Shadow Gallery – Room V
InsideOut, 2005

The prog power band Shadow Gallery released their Operation: Mindcrime-esque concept album Tyranny in 1998, only to finish the cliffhanger of a story in 2005. While the concept may feel overdone now, the story and impact comes with a familiar X-Files vibe, with espionage and mystery surrounding almost every song. With impressive songwriting skills and the underrated Gary Wehrkamp on guitars, Room V stands out as a brilliant performance – especially from lead singer Mike Baker who passed away shortly after the album’s release.



Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet
Roadrunner, 2007

The last-great Porcupine Tree album, Fear of a Blank Planet is more progressive rock than it is metal – but it’s still hard to not find yourself headbanging along most of the tracks. With the gorgeous, near-twenty minute epic, Anesthetize, to the seductively heavy final track Sleep Together, Porcupine Tree’s theme on reflecting the exploitation and commercialization of drugs and its impact on the human mind, its deep and thought-provoking while still providing incredible music.



Symphony X – Paradise Lost
InsideOut, 2007

While 2002’s The Odyssey could also be on this list, it’s with Paradise Lost that Symphony X really gained their stride. After a five drought after The Odyssey – which ultimately suffers a bit from production issues – Paradise Lost comes in slamming hard and with some of the juiciest riffs from guitarist Michael Romeo. Every song features standout moments from each musician and the album just keeps hitting. Prog/power often gets a mixed reputation due to the power metal elements sometimes overtaking the progressive ones. With Paradise Lost, Symphony X nails that perfect blend with their songwriting.



Haken – The Mountain
InsideOut, 2013

With their breakout third album, Haken’s The Mountain brilliantly constructs the 70s progressive sound in a modern time, almost coming across like a modern day Close to the Edge from Yes. With heavy influences from bands like Dream Theater, the album never really becomes too technical to the point of becoming overbearing. It’s tame yet still manages to impress on every aspect with melodies and vocal harmonies that will forever stick in your mind.



Fates Warning – Darkness in a Different Light
InsideOut, 2013

After 2004’s album FWX, Fates Warning took some time off and reconstructed themselves for an impressive “debut” so to speak. With Bobby Jarzombek on drums, the album felt like a modern re-imagining of 90s albums, Perfect Symmetry or Parallels. With songs appearing straight-forward, their time-signature twists and turns from each song come across as natural, if not subtle. Ray Alder still sounding as great as ever, Fates Warning came back with a bang and have a new album coming out in the Fall of 2020.



Pain of Salvation – In the Passing Light of Day
InsideOut, 2017

Given the lineup changes over the years, Pain of Salvation’s sound had evolved slightly while still keeping their operatic and Andrew Lloyd Weber influence. With new blood in Icelandic songwriter Ragnar Zolberg, In The Passing Light of Day took the album to new heights which the band had never achieved in their 20+ year lifespan. The autobiographical album by singer/songwriter Daniel Gildenlow goes through his near-death experience with an illness and really drives the emotion home in the title track.



Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
InsideOut, 2019

Although 2003’s Train of Thought could have also made this list, 2019’s Distance Over Time does instead. With songwriting similar to Train of Thought, Distance Over Time became a bit of an anomaly in Dream Theater’s discography with it being the first album without a song over ten minutes (not including The Astonishing which arguably wasn’t so much an ‘album’). The crisp songs are to-the-point for the band which can win over new fans while still providing enough technical excitement to impress old ones. A surprise to be sure and easily one of the band’s strongest releases in 20 years.