Beth’s Top Ten Releases Of 2021
by Beth Jones
Well, this year has certainly been a year hasn’t it! All sorts of changes have happened, the new normal is just a bit weird, and the only thing that’s been stuck up most of our noses this year is a test swab. Rock and fucking roll! But one thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of music being released across our expansive genres of Rock and Metal. I’ve reviewed some mighty fine albums again, and once again picking the one that would occupy my top spot was hard… But after much deliberation, here’s my top ten of 2021:
10: Acolyte – “Entropy” 14/05/2021
This special little number from Australian Cinematic Progressive Metal band, Acolyte, dropped into my pile in May. It was a concept album dealing with the early stages of loss, and the emotions connected to it. I waxed pretty lyrical about this album at the time, as I felt a deep connection with the lyrics, and with lead vocalist Morgan-Leigh Brown, after reading about her struggles with a chronic hidden condition – something to which I can definitely relate. It’s a fabulous album, and really worthy of being higher up my list, but jeez there have been so many awesome releases this year.
9: Syd .31 – “Machine Ready” 02/04/2021
Released in April, this crazy Prodigy-esque mix of Trance, heavy guitars, Punk and synth really got me excited. It was so different, and Dr Magic, the brains behind the project, showed a level of commitment to his art that is commendable, and a level of knowledge about the genres he was encapsulating that was encyclopaedic. This is an album that I have returned to many times this year, because it’s angry and raw and trippy, and perfect if you need to zone out for a bit.
8: Mason Hill – “Against The Wall” 05/03/2021
This was an album that we had waited for… and waited for… and waited a bit more for! So, the excitement when it was finally released was immense, and it did not disappoint and was certainly worth the wait! ‘Against The Wall’, and ‘DNA’ are two songs that, when I hear them, become lodged in my head for days, like if ear worms were those giant monster worms from the beloved 90s Classic, “Tremors” (love Kevin Bacon – legend). To be honest, I’ve not even listened to them while writing this, and yet they’re stuck in my head again now. Damn it! They’re too catchy!
7: Evergrey – “Escape Of The Phoenix” 26/02/2021
Some albums take a bit of perseverance, and a few listens before they actually click. This was one of them. But in those few listens it went from ‘meh’ to ‘actually this is really, really fucking good’, and since hitting that realisation, this has been one of my go to albums. Everygrey’s brand of slightly angsty Melodic Progressive Metal really appeals to me, and with this album they gained a new fan in me. I know – I’m late to the party again, but better late than never.
6: TDW – “Fountains” 26/11/2021
This is one of the more recent albums I’ve had the pleasure to review. I had the pleasure of reviewing his concept album, “The Day The Clock Stopped”, at the end of last year, and that blew my mind. This album is very different from that, but it is equally brilliant, and displays the awesome range of his musical and composition abilities. It was based around the idea of hope, and used suggestions from fans as the root idea for each song, which makes it a really eclectic mix, and a wonderful listen. It’s also produced superbly well, because Tom, the man that is TDW, is a wizard.
5: Aeon Zen – “Transversal” 21/09/2021
I always seem to be the one to be a bit slow cottoning on to things. Aeon Zen are a perfect example of this. Here is an album that is so beautifully crafted, and exquisitely prog, and cinematic, and I think I might be in love with the sound this band makes… and it turns out to be their final album ever. From sheer joy to utter devastation in minutes! (I made it all better by having a cup of tea and getting over my own melodramatic side). But seriously – this is an album for lovers of symphonic prog, and it is such a shame that it is going to be their final work.
4: Leprous – “Aphelion” 27/08/2021
Now we’re getting to the business end of this list, and shit’s getting serious. Leprous had been on my periphery of ‘bands I really should pay attention to’ for some time. This album made me do more than pay attention! The delicacy, precision, and beauty that this album sings out, in all its Proggy glory, is sheer perfection. I listened to this over and over again for a good month, and each time I spotted new and interesting things in the sounds. It show’s how tough a call this list is this year when they’re only sitting at number 4, really!
3: Midgar – “Unity” 18/06/2021
In case you haven’t noticed, dear reader, I’m an emotional old sausage. And I love emotion in music, and cinematic music that tells a story through not just the lyrics, but the intonation, and tempo, and dynamics. “Unity”, by Midgar, did all this and some! I have never cried so much, and so many times, over a song, but the final track on this album, ‘Go, Carefully’, kills me every time. I want it known that if I die tomorrow, this is the song I want playing at my funeral. Sorry to get all morbid on you, but it is simply one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard in my life, and that song alone was worthy of the number 3 spot here on my list, let alone the rest of the album.
2: Skarlett Riot – “Invicta” 07/05/2021
I’ve put Skarlett Riot here in number 2, but it really is by a gnat’s tit, because it is one of the albums I have played the most. And again this is about their music, and in particular, one song, connecting so deeply to my emotions that I am drawn back to it time, and time again. Their punchy Modern Metal, mixed with the vocal skill, and lyrical mastery, of front woman Skarlett, made listening to this album an emotive, immersive, and powerful experience for me. It’s been a funny old year on a personal level, but I actually found a lot of strength and healing from this album. And bawling my eyes out to ‘Into Pieces’ was very cathartic. I felt every word. Stunning album, written from the heart, and performed, mixed and mastered perfectly. What more could a girl want?…
1: Reach – “The Promise Of A Life” 23/04/2021
Turns out the only thing I could want more than an album that made me so emotional that it induced healing was an album that was so batshit crazy, but epically brilliant, that it made my tiny head explode! And “The Promise Of A Life” by Swedish Rockers, Reach did just that. It was an absolute soup of genres, influences, concepts, and styles, that was so ludicrous it should have been hellish, but in reality, was one of the most perfect albums I have ever heard. I introduced it to my eldest daughter, too, and she is now a super fangirl. She’s a huge Panic! At The Disco fan, and has just labelled Reach as “A much better, non-problematic version of Panic!” And to be honest that just about sums it up! This album will dissolve your problems, for nearly 40 minutes at least. Absolute class album!
And that’s it! I think the fact that Devin has released 2 albums this year and neither have made it to the list sums up just how damn good the standard of music has got. I will also give a special mention to Juliet Ruin, Osyron, Van Canto, and Fear Of Falling, who all released fantastic albums, that just missed out on making it to my list.
And that’s me done for another year! Now I am off on a mission to make Keto Christmas pudding and Bailey’s. Good riddance to 2021 which, apart from the music, has been a festering pile of horse shit! See you on the flipside, be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful!
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