2021 album of the year - my top 15

It’s time for the mandatory 2021 album of the year countdown. This time I decided to make it a top 15, and some choices certainly haven’t been easy. There’s been a lot of good stuff. One thing that was easy was my #1 pick though.

About the author

Stefan Nordström - metal musician and content creator
  • Stefan Nordström
  • Musician, songwriter, content creator, digital freelancer
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Bands: Desolator, Soliloquium, Ending Quest, Ashes of Life, Trees of Daymare, The Ashen Tree
  • Social: Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

2021 album of the year countdown

Here are my 2021 albums of the year, counted down from place 15 to 1.

15. Hanging Garden – Skeleton Lake

Hanging Garden is one of those absolute quality guarantee-type bands for me, and “Skeleton Lake” is no different. I especially love the singles from this album. Expect Finnish melancholy, both inside and outside the extreme metal spectrum.

14. Soen – Imperial

“Imperial” is “Lotus” light for me and many of the people I talk to, but it’s still damn good! The fact that this slightly disappointing album winds up on the top 15 anyway is a testament to Soen’s quality. Just such a good band.

13. Dvne – Etemen Ænka

I slept on this album for a bit, but once I got into it, it got me big time. Dvne are great at mixing atmospheric sludge elements and progressive elements, much like a certain German dinosaur-nerd band I’ve been listening to a lot during 2021.

12. In Mourning – The Bleeding Veil

In all honesty I haven’t digested this one enough yet, but it’s – at least – about as solid as the band’s last album “Garden of Storms”. As usual with In Mourning, it’s a fantastic combo of high-level musical skill and vulnerable emotion. The single “Thornwalker” is particularly impressive!

11. Memoriam – To the End

“To the End” became one of my to go workout albums of 2021, much because of its super-aggressive attitude. I just love the overall sound and flow of this disc. Pissed off, groovy and anti-everything. Just what you need for angry, frustrating times when your concerts keep getting cancelled.

10. God is an Astronaut – Ghost Tapes #10

God is an Astronaut is the ultimate post rock band for me. While this album hasn’t gotten the best reviews, I think it’s another solid addition to the band’s discography. I was listening to it a lot in the first half of this year, and it also got me back into some of GiaA’s previous albums.

9. Møl – Diorama

“Diorama” saw big changes to the Møl sound, but I really enjoy it. Very brave for such a fresh band, and I gotta say I enjoy this version of the band just as much as the old one. It’s refreshing how you can’t really describe their sound (blackgaze? Atmospheric black metal? Melodic black metal? Who knows?), and the two first songs have been stuck on my head a lot.

8. Marianas Rest – Fata Morgana

Marianas Rest is a truly dark band that takes me somewhere else when I listen to them, and “Fata Morgana” is yet another great disc. The band brings out the darkness and melancholy I love so much about Finnish metal music. Very simple music on an instrumental level, but masterfully put together when it comes to evoking dark emotion.

7. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Cannibal Corpse came back with a vengeance in 2021. “Violence Unimagined” even prompted me to go through the entire CC discography to make an album ranking. This album just sounds massive, both in terms of production and performance, and the songs are very memorable and packed with great riffs.

6. Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Epic prog with one of the best vocalists in metal? Count me in! “Access All Words” is a massive-sounding album, and Jón Aldará absolutely dominates. Very bummed out that I’m not seeing them in a few weeks, as I was supposed to.

5. Mastodon – Hushed and Grim

This album surprised the hell of out of me. I haven’t been particularly into Mastodon for years, but “Hushed and Grim” takes everything up so many notches. The album is super-emotional and super-catchy at the same time. If it would’ve been shorter, it would’ve been even higher up on this list.

4. Kauan – Ice Fleet

Kauan is a band I don’t listen to nearly enough. But that changed in 2021. “Ice Fleet” has been with me on many travels and walks throughout the year, and it especially plays well as a full album. It’s one of those rare cases where I can’t even separate the songs, which means I always spin the whole thing. Very atmospheric and beautiful disc.

3. Blood Red Throne – Imperial Congregation

“Imperial Congregation” is my favorite death metal album of 2021. Why? Well, just like always with BRT it’s shock-filled with great aggression, riffs and groove. The band hasn’t changed much, it’s all just so well-written and headbangable. I love band’s sound as much as I did back in 2004 when I discovered it.

2. Jari Lindholm – Trajectories

Jari Lindholm’s solo album was an early 2021 favorite of mine. And I kept listening to it throughout the year, despite being instrumental post rock, which is a style I don’t listen to that much overall. Even without vocals, “Trajectories” is packed with so much atmosphere and emotion (not to mention great melodies!). If you’re into his other projects, or atmospheric music overall, this is a must-listen!

1. VOLA – Witness

There was no question about my 2021 album of the year after “Witness” was released. VOLA has been one of my most listened bands for years, and this is yet another amazing disc. The band is unique and has it all. It’s also cool to see VOLA getting lots of attention, because the hype is certainly real this time! Playing such complicated music and making it sound so easy, natural and catchy is truly amazing.

2021 album of the year summary

2021 album of the year, place 1-15:

  1. Vola – Witness
  2. Jari Lindholm – Trajectories
  3. Blood Red Throne – Imperial Congregation
  4. Kauan – Ice Fleet
  5. Mastodon – Hushed and Grim
  6. Iotunn – Access All Worlds
  7. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined
  8. Marianas Rest – Fata Morgana
  9. Møl – Diorama
  10. God is an Astronaut – Ghost Tapes #10
  11. Memoriam – To the End
  12. In Mourning – The Bleeding Veil
  13. Dvne – Etemen Ænka
  14. Soen – Imperial
  15. Hanging Garden – Skeleton Lake

Does it feel like we have a similar taste? Or maybe not?

How many of the albums have you heard? Do we have a lot of them in common? Am I missing out on something potentially interesting? Tell me!

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Soliloquium – death/doom metal

If we have some music in common you might like my progressive death/doom metal band Soliloquium:

Soliloquium on Bandcamp ->

Soliloquium on Spotify ->

Soliloquium - Things We Leave Behind album cover, Swedish doom metal from 2020

Desolator – old school death metal

Or maybe my old school death metal band Desolator:

Desolator on Bandcamp ->

Desolator on Spotify ->

Desolator 2020 - old school Swedish death metal

Categories: Best of

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