Rob’s Review of 2021
By Rob Sutton
Beth here! Our newest addition to the team, Rob, has been a busy beaver for his highlights review of 2021! Not only has he done top ten albums, but he’s also done top ten EPs, and top ten live performances, too! Check out his comprehensive review of the year that live music sort of got back on track, just about!
2021 has been a strange year, the first half was spent sitting in doors, and then suddenly we were all allowed to do what we wanted! We have had everything from online festivals to sit down gigs and then back to normality. One thing that has remained fairly normal has been the constant stream of new albums and EPs, though. So, without further ado, up first is my personal top 10 albums.
10 – Bullet for my Valentine – “Bullet for my Valentine”
Bullet For My Valentine came out of the blocks with “The Poison” back in 2005 and it was a stunning album. Since then for me they never quite got back to the quality that album had. Until now, BFMV have come back with a bang, and without the gimmicks. For me this is their first proper Metal album, and has some cracking riffs and even some breakdowns. Matt has also gone back to using more growls than screams, which personally appeals to me greatly.
9 – Our Hollow, Our Home – “Burn in the Flood”
Our Hollow, Our Home has been a band I have followed since watching them on 2019’s Never Say Die Tour and I absolutely fell in love with their sound. Their combination of Pop Punk style beats and choruses mixed with true Metalcore breakdowns and growls is something very different from the rest of the genre. This album perfectly encapsulates their sound and the addition of Rio from Crystal Lake on ‘Remember Me’ is simply brilliant.
8 – Dreamshade – “A Pale Blue Dot”
These guys are a band that randomly came on my spotify playlists while working, and since then I have not stopped listening to this album. It is so darn catchy! Their guitar work is reminiscent of the Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal scene. Throw this in with some Hardcore style vocals and you have something that is unlike anything else. My personal favourites from this album have to be ‘Shanghai Nights’ and ‘Stone Cold Digital’, again so freaking catchy!
7 – Imminence – “Heaven in Hiding”
The Architects style Metalcore is something that has been replicated and imitated by many bands in this day and age and while MetalHammer put this down as almost plagiarism, I wholeheartedly disagree! There are so many more layers in this album, the addition of a violin is just spine tinglingly pretty. There’s also a much more melancholy feel to each song, as opposed to being upbeat, which is actually welcomed. They aren’t as catchy as some of my other picks here but Imminence offer something a little different from your standard Metalcore.
6 – Architects – “For Those That Wish To Exist”
I’m sure by now you can tell I like my Metalcore, so it was probably obvious that Architects would be one here. “For Those That Wish To Exist” was a slight change to their usual style, the Nu-Metal influences were clear in songs such as ‘Animals’. Architects have been a blueprint for many bands recently, so for them to evolve away from the norm was refreshing.
5 – Ex Deo – “The Thirteen Years Of Nero”
Ex Deo, a band consisting of members of Kataklysm, who said at Metaldays they don’t deal with gimmicks, have a side project that is just that. Aside from the roman theme, the Death Metal on offer here is in your face heavy. The additions of keys make this really feel like it would have been composed by a Roman. I love the concept, I love the music, and this album is how quirky bands should be – more about the music with the theme on top!
4 – Vola – “Witness”
Straight up I have to point out that there isn’t a scream or growl in sight on this album and “Witness” is the only one on my list like that. Vocally, Vola are incredible. Riffs, Vola are jaw dropping, and the technicality in the music is just phenomenal. I have had this album on repeat so many times in my car, singing along to ‘Head Mounted Sideways’.
3 – Arcaeon – “Cascadence”
A late addition to my list, as I only discovered these at November’s Techabilitation, but my god this album is good! Vocally, there are notes I didn’t even think a singer could hit – just listen to ‘Origin of Dreams’ or ‘Ezekiel’s Wheel’! Musically, this is up there with the likes of Periphery. The whole album is just a massive show off of talent and pure Progressive/Djent perfection. Every time I listen to this album I get goose bumps and not many albums do that.
2 – Spiritbox – “Eternal Blue”
Again, probably predictable on this list, but that is for good reason. This album has taken the Metal world by storm. Before 2021, no-one knew who Spiritbox were, now they are almost a household name. This album was greatly anticipated after songs like ‘Holy Roller’ were released. They did not disappoint! Eternal Blue is simply stunning from start to finish.
1 – Annisokay – “Aurora”
For anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for metalcore, this list has made that obvious. This year produced Aurora, probably one of my most played albums of all time now. It is again stupidly catchy and vocally beautiful. Songs such as STFU highlight the bands ability to be straight up heavy while others like Bonfire of the Millennial add a much slower feel to them. This album comes with recommendations from Within Temptation after Sharon worked with the guitarist for a song. These guys aren’t very well known and seriously deserve a lot more recognition, this album is the soundtrack to my 2021!
Rob’s Review of 2021 – Part 2: EPs
2021 also produced some stunning EPs, so I thought a quick ‘top 5’ were worth a mention.
5 – Attack! Attack! – “Long Time No Sea”
Yes I know they are a meme band from the MySpace era and we all used to joke about their constant use of crabcore. These guys did inspire an entire genre and then disappeared off the face of the earth. Strangely I was happy when I saw this was coming out as, despite all their faults, I did really enjoy them. “Long Time No Sea” shows they have grown up a little. Gone are the overly auto tuned cleans, and we are left with a solid singing voice that is quality on its own merit. The EP felt stripped back from the early days without losing too much of what made Attack! Attack! Legends.
4 – Insomnium – “Argent Moon”
I love my pretty Melodic Death Metal, and for me Insomnium are among the best at it. Each release never fails to send me to a state of pure relaxation. “Argent Moon” isn’t anything new for them, but for me a slight evolution on “Heart Like a Grave”. Trying to fix something that isn’t broken springs to mind with this EP. “Argent Moon” is simply beautiful.
3 – Orbit Culture – “Shaman”
If I was making a list last year these guys would have had album of the year, alas all I can add on here is “Shaman”. This is a small addition to “Nija”, and just feels like they have added 5 more songs to the album. They haven’t changed much in a year, but that’s fine; their cross between Metallica and Gojira is just sublime. I think Orbit Culture have the most headbangable riffs in Metal at the moment.
2 – Impending Doom – “Hellbent”
Deathcore feels like a dying genre, but there are still a few gems hiding out there. Impending Doom are one of them. This EP is heavy and relentless, 20 minutes of some delicious breakdowns, bleughs, and blast beats. I wish they had made an album as it has been so many years since new material, and this made me want to walk outside and throw something. AHHHH ANGER!
1 – Lorna Shore – “…And I Return to Nothingness”
Lorna Shore had the misfortune of having to replace a vocalist; this can be make or break for a band. In this case it has made the band into one of the biggest in the scene. Their mix of Synths and Black Metal elements may be some that are used with other bands, but they are simply terrifying here. Throw in some face melting breakdowns and you have proper Deathcore. Okay, this is all good but the real reason these guys have hit the big time is that voice! There is nothing in the Metal genre that comes close. If you haven’t listened to ‘To The Hellfire’, then do so. You will see why this is number 1.
Rob’s Review of 2021 – Part 3: Live sets
Seeing as I have managed to go to so many live gigs this year I thought it was only right to make a top 10. Now obviously, I have seen hundreds of bands this year, and each one was quality on their own merit. This was by far and away the hardest list to make.
10 – Recall the Remains – Grand Central
Grand Central this year has put on some fantastic shows, but for me the set performed by Recall the Remains was head and shoulders above the rest. The sheer power in the voices and cracking stage presence was just stunning. This for me was better than their set at Badgerfest, which many had down as one of the sets of the festival!
9 – Asleep at the Helm – The Waterloo
Asleep at the Helm were utterly brilliant at this gig, and being the first band on, they set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the night. Vocally, they are almost unmatched in the underground Metalcore scene, and the crowd here were bouncing and singing along to almost every song.
8 – Blood Church – The Gifford Arms
If you want to witness a stupidly heavy band, then Blood Church are for you! This set was filled with Black Metal ambience and insanely heavy breakdowns, not to mention one of the best pig squeals I have heard all year. They not only destroyed the venue but for me were the best band on the bill.
7 – Harbinger – Techabillitation
I couldn’t have a live list without this set. Harbingers entire set was spent with me pitting, spin kicking, or on someone’s back. I absolutely broke myself to these guys and was one of the few times this year I fully got involved when at a show. Pure aggression and brilliant stage presence!
6 – Solar Shift – Techabillitation
Another one from Techabillitation. SolarShift I have reviewed on a number of occasions this year, and their set in Oldham was a little lacklustre, but here everything came together beautifully. As a last minute addition to the bill they were very much welcomed. This set was exactly what SolarShift are all about, great fun and of course… BOUNCE!
5 – Grief Ritual – Badgerfest
Grief Ritual are probably one of my finds of the year, their Black Metal/ Hardcore crossover is simply brilliant, and they were the band that really kicked off Badgerfest for me. Not only that, but they also gave me a sore neck, which I had to endure for the rest of the weekend. This whole set was heavy and aggressive and I simply loved it.
4 – Dreameater – Breadshed
This was a last minute gig for me, and I honestly hadn’t heard of Dreameater before, but their ability to flick between genres during a set, all while keeping their sound was stunning. They were brutal and I have been listening to them non-stop since. Their new album, “Cold”, is also worth checking out!
3 – Necronautical – Bloodstock
Surprisingly the only Bloodstock band on here! This wasn’t to say the bands weren’t good at Bloodstock, more that there were so many quality gigs as well. Necronautical were my stand out band at BOA though. Their take on Symphonic Black Metal with the assistance of 2 opera singers (male and female) was gorgeous. The entire set was spine tinglingly good, and will forever be ingrained in my memory.
2 – Arcaeon – Techabillitation
As I have mentioned with my album list, these guys are incredibly talented and this translated fantastically on stage. Although down a guitarist, this didn’t feel thin or light, but was just jaw droppingly good. Not to mention the entire band had massive smiles on their face the whole way through the set, and the vocalist must be one of the happiest vocalists I have seen. The whole set was just perfection and I highly recommend checking these guys if you get a chance.
1 – Countless Skies – Rebellion
A very late addition to this list as I had already started writing it before I went to this gig! However, I simply could not ignore this set. Countless Skies performed an utterly beautiful set that was littered with stunning guitar work and a magnificent voice to accompany. I was left completely speechless afterwards and in a state of awe. I may have seen Countless Skies countless times but each time they amaze me, and for me this was the most enjoyable set of the year.
Just a few other things that impressed me or I thought deserved a mention.
Badgerfest – As a whole this was by far and away the best run of the 3 festivals I have been to this year.
Portrayal of Ruinn – For smashing their headline set in Eccles https://www.facebook.com/portrayalofruinn/
Ever Metal – for giving me a platform to write about the music I so dearly love!
Thrashatouille – for being the best band in the world, ever, and who need signing to every record label so they can take over the world one pizza slice at a time! (I joke this is my band).
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rob Sutton and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.