Rob’s Review of 2021

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. 

Bullet For My Valentine Album Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/BulletForMyValentine

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.

Burn In The Flood Album Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/ourhollowourhome

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!

A Pale Blue Dot Album Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/dreamshadeband

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.

Heaven In Hiding Album Cover Art

https://en-gb.facebook.com/imminenceswe

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.

For Those That Wish To Exist Album Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/architectsuk

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!

The Thirteen Years Of Nero Album Cover Art

https://en-gb.facebook.com/exdeo

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’.

Witness Album Cover Art

https://en-gb.facebook.com/volaband/

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.

Cascadence Album Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/arcaeonuk/

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.

Eternal Blue Album Cover Art

https://en-gb.facebook.com/Spiritboxofficial

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!

Aurora Album Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/annisokay/info

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.

Long Time No Sea EP Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/attackattackus

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.

Argent Moon EP Cover Art

https://www.facebook.com/insomniumofficial/

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.

Shaman Ep Cover Art

https://en-gb.facebook.com/OrbitCulture

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!

Hellbent EP Cover Art

https://en-gb.facebook.com/impendingdoom/

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.

And I Return To Nothingness EP Cover Art

https://en-gb.facebook.com/LornaShore

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!

https://www.facebook.com/recalltheremains


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.

https://www.facebook.com/AsleepAtTheHelmOfficial


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.

https://www.facebook.com/BloodChurchBand/

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!

https://en-gb.facebook.com/harbingerriffs/

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!

https://www.facebook.com/solarshiftmusic

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.

https://www.facebook.com/griefritual/

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!

https://www.facebook.com/dreameaterukband/

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.

https://en-gb.facebook.com/Necronautical/

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.

https://www.facebook.com/arcaeonuk/

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.

https://en-gb.facebook.com/CountlessSkies

Honourable mentions:

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.
https://www.facebook.com/badgerfestival/

Portrayal of Ruinn – For smashing their headline set in Eccles https://www.facebook.com/portrayalofruinn/

0161 MUMC/And Heavy Metal for Wigan – For consistently putting on top quality gigs all year
https://www.facebook.com/0161MUMC/
https://www.facebook.com/andheavymetalforwigan

The Cartographer/From Her Ashes – for being lovely to an unknown drunk northerner at Techabillitation. (Me) 
https://www.facebook.com/TheCartographerUK
https://www.facebook.com/fromherashes

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).
https://www.facebook.com/Thrashatouille/

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.

Badgerfest 2021: Day 3 – The Bread Shed, Manchester – Sunday 17th October 2021

Badgerfest 2021: Day 3
The Bread Shed, Manchester
Sunday 17th October 2021
Review By Rob Sutton
Photography by Sheri Bicheno

Day 3 was upon us and, again, I was filled up on Maccies and ready for another day of metal! Somehow, I had no hangover, but I was sure this will change come Monday morning. Sunday’s line up had many bands I was looking forward to so let’s get on with it.

First up, and with a big reputation building behind them, was Manchester based thrash metal trio, Tortured Demon. The first thing I will say is, yes, they are very young. Now that’s out of the way let’s get onto their performance! Things started with an intro which for me was way too similar to that of Trivium’s Ascendency. I noticed this at Bloodstock, too, and I feel they could come up with something a bit different as it did make me cringe a little. Aside from that they hit the stage full of confidence and energy which was quickly picked up by the large crowd that stood before them. Already we had pits and it was only 12:15! While they do a lot of crowd interaction between songs and keep the hype going, for me there is a little bit too much swearing. Now you may call me a prude, and I know every band swears on stage and it does show passion. But it seems like every second word was the f-word… Having said this though these guys really feel like the future of thrash. Its ballsy, heavy, and has plenty to bang your head to. They have a bright future ahead of them!

https://www.facebook.com/t0rtureddem0n

The heavy, in-your-face theme continued over on the second stage next, as Edinburgh based bruisers Iron Altar hit it, guns blazing. They picked up where Tortured Demon left off, and gave the crowd a good old pummelling again! These guys are the very definition of heavy! So many thumping beats to bang your head to or even start a pit, yes pits were still a thing, even this early on. As previously mentioned, the second stage is not the biggest, and Iron Altar’s vocalist came up with an ingenious solution to create more space… don’t be on the stage! This worked as it gave a much more intimate feel to their show, and him fully interacting with the crowd while performing was really a pleasure to watch. These guys were definitely another one of my finds of the weekend!

https://www.facebook.com/IronAltarBand

The Manchester Metalcore scene is booming these days, and each of the bands within it brings their own take on the genre. Clashmute have gone down the Parkway Drive style, and while this isn’t my favourite style of Metalcore, Clashmute came out with yet more energy to add to an already hyperactive early afternoon. I have seen these guys a few times, but they never really hit the spot for me, however today, they did! They are tight and bouncy; all of this led to yet more pits, and a crowd well and truly on their feet. Their whole sound just felt so much more together than I have previously heard and I loved every moment of it. Sometimes the pauses within the songs are a little too long but they were normally followed by a fantastic breakdown. Clashmute have a good name and following behind them and this was the performance I felt like I needed to see to get on board.

Clashmute live at Badgerfest 2021

https://www.facebook.com/clashmute

Many years ago, I entered Metal 2 The Masses in Liverpool, and played with some unbelievably good bands. So much so, that I have been following one of them since that day, and even got them on a festival in my hometown. I’m talking about Scare Tactics (or Scary Tic-Tacs as people were calling them). While it seems since that first show they have mellowed out over time, they’re music is so much better now. We heard fantastic dual guitar solos, stunning vocal harmonies, and a humble front man keeping us all entertained. What was fantastic to see was the number of people singing along to these guys, and not only that, but joining in with their chants, too. They felt like the audience’s band of the weekend, fully engaging and everyone participating, I mean who doesn’t want to sing along to ‘Drunk Fuck’? If you want to see musicians show off their brilliant skills, have a sing along, and get a massive smile on your face, Scare Tactics are the band for you.

https://www.facebook.com/scaretacticsuk

Today had already been relentless, in terms of top quality bands, and taking to the main stage next was Tech/Death heavyweights, Beyond Grace. These guys are a band I have never heard or seen before, so this was a complete unknown, but boy was I in for a treat! We were blessed with some beautifully crafted Tech/Death which reminded me of the likes of Virvum and Beyond Creation. Beyond Grace are stunningly tight, and it’s just mesmerising to watch their talent on stage, especially the bass player. It was simply incredible to watch the riffs and styles he was doing. So often the bassist is the forgotten member of a band, but this guy stood out. I’ll be honest, I loved this. While they didn’t have the biggest crowd, reaction, or pits, I walked away with a smile on my face over to their merch table, and to me that’s all that matters.

Beyond Grace live at Badgerfest 2021

https://www.facebook.com/wearebeyondgrace

So after Beyond Grace I got collared by Moshville Times to do an interview, thanks to Anthony Timmis. This meant I missed all of Vice. Luckily Anthony did see them and was kind enough to send me his thoughts on them:

For years I had known Vice as a 4 piece, and this was the first time I seen them as a 3 piece, which they have stuck to going forwards. They started off their set with the ‘Wrath’, the first track off their debut album “First Chapter”. This involved plenty of heading banging and hair swirling from guitarist and lead vocalist, Tom Atkinson, and Bassist and backing vocals, Aiden Lord. Even drummer, Conner Summers, gave it some hair swirling like the little mad drummer boy he is. Being a 3 piece really has made no difference to their sound. The vocals where spot on and brutal during the new, and old songs, especially from the Bassist. I Really enjoyed this set and I have really missed this band. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to see them again soon.

Vice live at Badgerfest 2021

https://www.facebook.com/Vicemetaluk

There was one more band before the interval, and after a frankly incredible afternoon so far, we were treated to what is possibly going to be one of the big bands to come out of the UK in the next few years; Norfolk based Symphonic Metallers, Ghost of Atlantis. I was lucky enough to catch them at Bloodstock after they were bumped up to the second stage, and really enjoyed them. This time we had the full line up and their sound is massive! The addition of synth in the music was a welcome change to what has been on before, and with the addition of some almost Black Metal style vocals, mixed with some incredible nearly operatic clean singing, it all created a cold atmosphere, which was not a bad thing. While many members were in Devilment before this, and felt like their fame was down to Dani Filth being in the band, Ghost of Atlantis have their own sound, and it’s a unique one at that. I can’t think of any band that sounds like these. There is a hole in the market, and these guys fill it perfectly.

Ghosts Of Atlantis live at Badgerfest 2021

https://www.facebook.com/GhostsOfAtlantisofficial

After a well-earned rest, it was time for some Proggy/Alt Metal weirdness from Zebedy. Zebedy are another band I have been gigging with and watching for many years, so I knew what to expect here. We were met with some Dream Theatre style riffs, with Biffy Clyro style voices, which may sound like an odd combination, but it actually works. Zebedy utilise the fact that all 4 members can sing, and thus leave us with some fantastic 4-way vocal harmonies, almost like a mini choir in places. Again, like the first half of the day, Zebedy were packed full of energy and humour. They know how to get the crowd involved, and it paid off. Everyone was singing/shouting along and that, for me, is what Zebedy are about. Fun! One thing though, please get some new cymbals, they look very second hand.

https://www.facebook.com/zebedymusic

If Zebedy were the ‘ease back into the day’ band, then Harbinger were the sledgehammer! More Techy Metal on the mainstage, and it was tighter than a knot on a yacht. Vocally they are very impressive, utilising a number of growls, screams and even a personal favourite of mine, rap screaming. It’s basically quick screaming but it sounded brutally effective with these guys. We were also treated to another one of my favourite things to watched, yet more synchronised headbanging! I am pretty sure Harbinger read the book on ‘what Rob likes in a live show’ and then did it. Harbinger are heavy, tight and look all out professional, this was a fantastic performance!   

Harbinger live at Badgerfest 2021

https://www.facebook.com/harbingerriffs

Another band I knew next to nothing about before the festival was Dygora, but I was told they were very heavy. This was true! They were insanely heavy, and pulled influences from many extreme genres, such as Death Metal, Deathcore, and even a bit of Slam. They played with absolute ferocity, and bludgeoned the crowd into submission, with some properly brutal breakdowns, and an insane vocal range. The whole set was an assault, and was absolutely fantastic to watch, my neck, by this point was in pieces!

https://www.facebook.com/DygoraBand

3 bands to go and I wasn’t sure how much more my neck could take after the day so far. My neck needed a rest, and I though I may get it with the next band, Borders… but nope, they brought my neck yet more pain! Borders stood out from this line up, not only with their bright yellow merch, but the fact they drag influences from outside of Metal, in the shape of Rap. It works brilliantly alongside their Techy Metalcore sound, and adds a layer that I’ve only really seen from Hacktivist. I will be honest I prefer Borders. To me it seems unique, while Hacktivist offer dual rapping, Borders offer singing, screaming, growling, and rapping. It’s quite a variety. This performance screamed ‘top tier’ UK bands, as they performed with passion, adrenaline, and enthusiasm. With the crowd bouncing, pitting, and headbanging, Borders had them in the palm of their hands. This truly was one of the best performances of the weekend.

https://www.facebook.com/BordersBandUK

Closing out the second stage was Scottish Prog Metallers, Ramage Inc. They are another band I have seen on numerous occasions, and they never disappoint. Vocally, the lead singer’s voice is exquisite, and today was no exception, I would compare his voice to that of Devin Townsend, it is seriously that good. With them being progressive some of the songs are lengthy, and it can feel like the riffs go on for a little bit too long, but that’s the genre, and these guys play it beautifully. Ramage Inc. felt like the perfect closure for the second stage. Their melodies bring tears to your eyes and make you wish that they would keep playing, much like we wished the festival was continuing on.

https://www.facebook.com/RamageInc

The last band of the weekend need no introduction. It was of course Raging Speedhorn, and it appeared they had come on stage with one mission, to drain what remained of everyone’s energy before normality resumed. Raging Speedhorn have grown such a huge following, which was clear to see by the number of people watching them. That and the number of people throwing themselves at each other for the entire set. Again, both vocalists, and the whole band, had the crowd completely in their hands; what they asked, they got. This set also had the most crowdsurfers of any band at Badgerfest, and that in itself shows how good this performance was. Raging Speedhorn annihilated The Bread Shed, and closed of what had been a truly fantastic weekend.

https://www.facebook.com/ragingspeedhorn

There isn’t much more to say about the festival as a whole. The line up was incredible, and will take some serious beating next year. The bar was suitably stocked, security were on point, there were only a few points where someone was making a fool out of themselves (always expected at a festival), and everything ran smoothly. John Badger and the team behind him have shown just how good a small festival can be, and dare I say it, I enjoyed this weekend more than I did Bloodstock. I will wander home and tell the stories of this insane weekend, and will definitely be returning next year.

Badgerfest Links:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rob Sutton and Ever Metal. All photographic images the property of Sheri Bicheno. 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.