I’m very happy to have been given the opportunity to write reviews for MoshPit Nation over the last few months. A number of the albums on here I found through writing for them. In 2020, I wasn’t able to write a Top whatever number albums of the year and that was a shame for me, but here I am, writing a top 35 and I couldn’t be happier about it. Looking forward to writing more reviews in 2022. Without further adieu, my Top 35 albums of 2021!
- Gosudar – Morbid Despotic Ritual
Russia’s Gosudar really delivers some solid death metal here. Morbid Despotic Ritual checks all the boxes. It’s got doomy moments, old school death metal moments, atmospheric moments, and of course, some caveman moments. An enjoyable listen and I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next.
Highlights: Demented Visions of the Infinite Power, Prophecy Embodiment, Morbid Despotic Ritual
- Sijjin – Sumarian Promises
I reviewed this album when it came out so I’m gonna make this brief. You like Altars of Madness? Yes? You like Necros Christos? Yes? Then this is your album.
Highlights: Dagger of a Thousand Deaths, Those Who Wait to Enter, Angel of the Eastern Gate, Outer Chambers of Entity
- Inoculation – Celestial Putridity
Ah yes, Ohio’s techier addition to the growing cosmic death metal scene. Inoculation delivers more on technicality and brutality than say Blood Incantation or Tomb Mold, which is really nice. Very crisp production and hellish other worldly vocals really brought this album onto this list. I’m a big fan of this one and it continues to grow on me each time I listen to it.
Highlights: I Am Where the Foregods Meet, The Edge of Town, Ovnis Triangulares, Kaneh-Bosm
- Gruzja – Vulgator (Priest Simulator Ost)
Another absolutely bafflingly weird release from Polish experimental supergroup black metal boyband Gruzja. Vulgator sees the band strip away most of their black metal influences and expand on the sounds they experimented with on Konflikt. Tracks like “Coś Więcej” sound like they’re written for someone driving a Trans Am down the Miami strip sometime in the 1980s. “Nie Zapomnę Ci Tego” is a straight up club number with synthesized drums and some ominous minor chords in the background.
Even after listening to this album a number of times, the direction of some of these tracks still astounds me. “Steampop” sounds like an angsty Nu Metal song with hints of grunge and late 90s alternative. “Pov” is another bop on the album, a really driving track with some hard hitting drums, almost reminds me of something Rammstein would’ve released sometime in the early 2000s. I guess the album treads a line between being a weird homage to literally everything from black metal to dance pop while being completely unique and individualistic.
Also pretty good for a video game soundtrack.
Highlights: Coś Więcej, Nie Zapomnę Ci Tego, Steampop, POV, Legion
- Doodswens – Lichtrvess
I heard this one rather late in the year but it climbed up rather quickly. This is probably one of the most straightforward black metal releases of the year that really resonated with me. Hellish and misanthropic vocals with midtempo sections with interspersed tremolo riffs and blast beats make for a very familiar yet new and enjoyable black metal release. I highly recommend it and those who I’ve recommended it to, really enjoy it.
Highlights: In Mijn Bloed, Zwarte Staar, Eindzicht Lichtrvess
- Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
Speaking of bands that I didn’t expect to make my top list, let’s talk about the new Iron Maiden album. There was something about Senjutsu that I liked from the moment the album started. There’s something mature and refined sounding about this album. It’s mid paced and focuses more on slower grooves then most modern Maiden albums and even the faster songs like “Days of Future Past” have a more mature attitude to them. I think Bruce sounds great on this album for the most part and I think most of the song writing is some of their best in recent years.
I think the album suffers from the same thing most modern Maiden suffers from and that’s a lack of diversity and songs that are far too long. That being said, some of the longer tracks on this album are some of my favorites the band has done. Bottom line here is, this is a good album, but it’s kind of inconsistent, but when it’s on it’s on.
Highlights: Senjutsu, The Writing on the Wall,Darkest Hour, Death of the Celts, Hell on Earth
- Darkthrone – Eternal Hails
Over the years I’ve developed a love/ambivalent relationship with Darkthrone. When I was younger I was obviously very into their 90s black metal material and of course Soulside Journey. Their mid era crusty punk stuff however did not do it for me but their newer sound they’ve been developing the last few albums has really surprised me. Essentially, Darkthrone has created a sound that combines elements of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Celtic Frost.
I really didn’t expect Darkthrone to make it onto this list but the more I listened to “Eternal Hails……” the more it grew on me. I really liked the lo fi production, the synthwork, and honestly the guitar tone and menacing Glenn Tipton riffs really seal the deal for me. The songs all have this monolith crawling element to them, even if they lean on the slower side.
Highlight tracks: Hate Cloak, Voyage to the North Pole Adrift, Lost Arcane City of Upparka
- Gràb – Zeitlang
It’s cold, it’s sad, and it’s sonically lush. In a world absent of Lunar Aurora, someone has to rise to the occasion to make frigid melancholic black metal in Bavarian German, and Gràb is just the band to do it. Great atmosphere on this album and pretty good in the riff department.
Highlights: Nachtkrapp, Zeitlang, Nordwand, A Dåg im Herbst, A Gràbliacht
- Rübezahl – Remnants of Grief and Glory
Super cold black metal from the far reaches of Alaska with super guttural vocals. A really great mix on this album too, can’t go wrong with prominent bass. Classic and triumphant sounding riffs. An all around enjoyable listen.
Highlights: Thunder and Oak, Alas Phoenicians, Despair!, Accursed Victory, Echoes Of A Mighty Hall, Anvil Of The East
- Our Place of Worship is Silence – Disavowed, and Left Hopeless
I don’t know about you, but every release by OPOWIS leaves me pretty fucking hopeless. Disavowed, and Left Hopeless is arguably one of the angriest, most nihilistic albums of the year. From front to back, this album just hammers you and hammers you with unbearable and crushing misery. Thick angular dissonant guitar lines paired with hammering drums and anguish filled vocals. Misery, misery, misery.
Highlights: Fury Divine, Disavowed, and Left Hopeless, From the Noisome Pestilence, The Scourge
- Këkht Aräkh – The Pale Swordsman
Are you a sad, introspective vampire looking for some music to validate your feelings of hopelessness and loss because you can’t go in the sun? Well Këkht Aräkh feels your pain and has bestowed upon you the ultimate in melancholic raw sadboy raw black metal. This album is packed with mournful melodies, miserable vocals, and atmosphere so airy and light yet crushingly sad that it’ll keep you coming back for more and more.
Jokes aside, this is a phenomenal album and I highly recommend you listen to it.
Highlights: Thorns, In the Garden, Amid the Stars, Swordsman
- Ustalost – Before the Glinting Spell Unvests
An end of the year surprise to be sure, but a welcomed one! I’ve been waiting for Ustalost to drop new material for years now and this scratches just about every itch. This album really conveys the “recorded in a cathedral sometime in the 1300s type of vibe. Huge reverberated choral vocals, bells and mellotrons, and truly medieval sounding guitar parts. With all these sounds you would expect something very produced sounding. If that’s what you want, this isn’t for you. The production is very raw, which really adds another dimension to the album.
Highlights: Enough Glass Will Cast A Shadow, Stinging Stone, Before the Glinting Spell Unvests, Bright Window Closing
- Thy Catafalque – Vadak
Arguably one of the most diverse and interesting releases on this list. Vadak really takes influence from everywhere, including but not limited to, industrial music, black metal, folk, dance music, and Tony Levin- esque fusion. The main riff in “Móló” is pretty ignorant and chuggy and has some nice death metal vibes to it. Although Vadak runs on the longer side, I highly recommend listening to it. Also extra points for being in Hungarian.
Highlights: Szarvas, Köszöntsd a hajnalt, Móló, Vadak (Az átváltozás rítusai)
- Sanguisugabogg – Tortured Whole
Big stupid caveman time. I anticipated this album to be dumb and good but it wasn’t as dumb as I thought it was going to be and I was pleasantly surprised. Everything here just works, the guitar tone is fucking massive, the vocals are disgusting, and the drums (the star of the show honestly) are so sick. Cody Davidson really lays down some very dynamic drums, especially on the title track, going between traditional death metal beats, slam beats, and punk rhythms. There really isn’t much else to say. The riffs are super groovy and energetic. It’s just a fun release at the end of the day. Awesome debut.
Highlights: Dragged by a Truck, Dead as Shit, Tortured Whole, Urinar Ichor, Posthumous Compersion
- Mortiferum – Preserved in Torment
What’s that? You want more death metal? Well, you’ve got it! Preserved in Torment is an absolute fucking ripper. It’s slow and gloomy while throwing in quick bursts of frantic and groovy nuggets. Honestly, there isn’t much for me to say here, it checks all the boxes, heavy, plodding, groovy, brutal, and atmospheric.
Highlights: Incubus of Bloodstained Visions, Seraphic Extinction, Exhumed From Mortal Spheres
- Phrenelith – Chimaera
There are two types of death metal that I really like; death metal that sounds like it was recorded in a cave, and death metal that sounds like it was recorded by cavemen. Phrenelith does the former better than most. Sprawling, mid paced tracks with clean guitars overlaying crushing riffs, like on the opener “Awakening Titans”, really show the attention the band pays to creating atmosphere. I always appreciate death metal bands that don’t rely solely on brutality to make their music interesting.
The production on Chimaere is one of my favorites of the year. Everything has a big, yet raw sound to it. The guitars are buzzsawed without being too reminiscent of early Entombed and the riffs aren’t overly complex. Phlegethon is one of my favorite tracks because the riffs are slower and murky while not totally being Incantation or Asphyx rip off riffs. The vocals go between harsh mid range growls and low gurglers. All in all a really fun and dynamic listen. I listened to this album a lot at the gym, so it doubles as a good workout album too.
Highlights: Awakening Time, Chimaerian Offspring – Part 1, Phlegeton, Gorgonhead, Chimaerian Offspring – Part 2
- Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined
What can I say? Cannibal Corpse has been one of the most consistent death metal bands to date and Violence Unimagined is no exception. I would go as far to say this album may be one of their best in a long time. Tracks like “Condemnation Contagion” and “Ritual Annihilation” really solidify their place amongst the great Cannibal Corpse tracks.
There are 2 things that really make this album standout to me from the rest of their discography. First, there is a thrashy approach to this album. The albums opener, Murderous Rampage has an old school death metal thrash influenced vibe to it, something I find missing in a lot of modern death metal. Second, is the addition of king Erik Rutan on guitars on the album. There are plenty of moments on this album where the riffs are straight out of Domination era Morbid Angel or Hate Eternal, especially on “Follow the Blood”.
Highlights: Inhumane Harvest, Condemnation Contagion Follow the Blood, Overtorture
- Friisk – …un torügg bleev blot Sand
Rev up those oars cause it’s ocean time! German black metal outfit Friisk returns with their first full length album after their stellar 2018 EP, De Doden van’t Waterkant. Friisk mixes aspects of atmospheric and melodic black metal with more aggressive and in-your-face styles of black metal. I think the really cool thing is some of the songs are sung in the Sater Frisian dialect of German. The songs are dynamic and catchy. No sea shanties here, but the mysteries of the ocean are.
Highlights: Dem Wind entgegen, Mauern aus Nebel,Torügg bleev blot Sand, Fiebertraum
- Tardigrada – Vom Bruch bis zur Freiheit
More on the German dialect black metal, we get to Tardigrada, the Swiss kings of melancholic, atmospheric, and surprisingly catchy black metal. I really like this album, the atmosphere is really gripping, the drums are off the wall (see #2 for the same drummer at it again) and the songwriting is top tier. It takes a lot to write 12 minute plus songs and keep them engaging and entertaining the whole time, and that’s exactly what they do here.
PS: Verrat is probably in my top 10 favorite songs of the year. So fucking sick. I mean the chorus is just fire.
Highlights: Verrat, Zwang, Vom Bruch bis zur Freiheit
- 200 Stab Wounds – Slave to the Scaple
What a fantastically stupid brutal caveman shitshow debut this is! 200 Stab Wounds really brought the beatdown on this album. Every track just absolutely slams. Great riffs that keep you on your feet. Awesome and unrelenting drumming. I never thought a death metal album that wasn’t also a black metal album would be this high in my list but here we are.
Highlights: Skin Milk, Stifling Stew, Phallic Filth, Slave to the Scaple, Paths to Carnage
- Ungfell – Es Graut
Alright, last time I use the “German dialect” bit, but Ungfell are really the chiefs at it. 3 albums deep and the band continues down their path of obscure Swiss folklore themed folkish medieval black metal. This album was certainly a grower for me but after a few listens, and as an aside, really listen front to back. There are folky interlude tracks in between the main songs that in the context of the album really add to the feudal feel of the release.
Highlights: Es grauet überm Dorf (Wie s niemert het chönne ahne), Tyfels Antlitz (Wie e Huerä zwei Chind empfanget), S Chnochelied (Wie e Beschuldigti gfoltered wird und Visione bechunnt), D Unheilspfaffä vom Heinzäbärg (Wie Tod und Verdärbe uf das Dorf iistürzt)
- Qrixkour – Poison Palinopsia
This release is absolutely fire and from the moment it was announced I knew we were in for a treat. 2 tracks and almost 50 minutes long Poison Palinopsia delivers on so many fronts. From horrific psychedelia, so brutal drumming, disturbed vocals, and some of the catchiest guitar riffs of the year, this album fucking slays. Both tracks are absolutely huge sprawling odyssys into a cosmic horrorscape. Stellar mix too, all of the guitars come through, from the single note riffs reminiscent of Svartidaudi to the pummeling and disjointed tremolo riffs. Enjoy the voyage into the horrors of space.
Highlights: Serpentine Susurrus – Mother’s Abomination, Recrudescent Malevolence – Mother’s Illumination
- Suffering Hour – Cycle of Reckoning
Suffering Hour falls into the category of truly one of a kind bands. They really sound like themselves, and that’s it. As a guitarist I find the guitar work here to be hypnotic and ethereal while simultaneously being extremely heavy. A lot of “I wish I had written that riff” moments on this album. An exceptional album.
Highlights: Strongholds of Awakening, Transcending Antecedent Visions, The Foundations of Servitude
- Grave Miasma – Abyss of Wrathful Deities
My introduction to Grave Miasma was about 4 or so years ago, when I was fortunate enough to see them perform at Maryland Deathfest. Since then, I’ve been eagerly awaiting a new release by them. Abyss of Wrathful Deities is exactly what I wanted; murky atmospheric death metal with a flare of black metal peppered in. It’s an evil sounding death metal album.
Highlights: Rogyapa, Ancestral Waters, Under the Megalith, Exhumation Rites, Kingdoms Beyond Kallash
- Fluisteraars – Gegrepen Door Geest der Zielsontluiking
I didn’t think Fluisteraars would be able to top 2020’s Bloem. I was wrong, kind of. The band really stepped back from the more melodic and almost upbeat sounds they experimented with on Bloem to deliver a three track, borderline experimental, black metal masterpiece. Songs like “Brand woedt in mijn graf” sound like they’re straight out of 1994, while still retaining that signature Fluisteraars sound. The albums 20 minute closer, Verscheuring in de schemering”, is an odyssey into all of the wacky and zany sounds one can make with a guitar and a bunch of pedals.
Highlights: There’s only three songs so I’m going with all of them, sorry.
- Wędrowcy~tułacze~zbieg – Futurista
Over the last 4 or so years I’ve been following Poland’s experimental “supergroup” Wędrowcy~Tułacze~Zbiegi on their progression from folk to jazz to post punk to synth pop to narrative story album.
On their 6th release, Futurista, WTZ takes a step back from the more conventional styles of previous releases and delves into the unknown. Futurista combines elements of post punk, electronic, drone, and spoken word to create a very unique yet familiar album. Futurista IV has elements of free jazz while the album’s closer is more of a droney post punk number.
With three different vocalists helming this project, the album really plays like a theater performance, with each vocalist taking on a different part of the narrative. The LP includes an 18 page lyric booklet so you can follow along the tale of a hunter who is turned into an animal and subsequently hunted…or something.
Highlights: Futurista I, Futurista II, Futurista V, Futurista VI, Futurista VIII
- Profeci – Aporia
I wrote a review for this album when it came out so I’ll make this brief. This album is really really good. On first impressions it’s a pretty straight forward black metal album but the more you listen the more you pick up on the doomier and sludgier subtleties. The vocals are absolutely killer and the mix on this album is pretty thick and heavy. All in all a very enjoyable album.
Highlights: Bojaźń i drżenie, Człowiek urojony, Wyrosły już drzewa, Trzecia ofiara
- Iskandr – Vergezicht
Another album I reviewed this year, so again, I’ll make it short. Beautifully textured atmospheric black metal with loads of unique instrumentation and dynamically structured long songs. If you like Fluisteraars or any band in that scene, you’ll love this.
Highlights: Gezag, Bloeddraad, Gewesten der tijd,Verbod, Het slot
- Mānbryne – Heilsweg: O udręce ciała i tułaczce duszy
Really this is just The Seventh Seal soundtrack. This is probably one of my favorite black metal albums of the year and I knew from the time the single was released that it would be. The opening track, “Pustka, którą znam” is one of the most aggressive and melodic black metal tracks I’ve heard in a long time. Everything about this album is super fucking catchy. The vocals have tons of melody to them and are clear as day. The guitar lines are about as second wave worship as you can get and the drums, my god, the drums, are pummeling the entire time. I really hope this isn’t a one and done type of album, as everyone in the band are in other black metal bands, but if it is, it’ll be remembered as one that’s a highlight of the genre.
Highlights: Pustka, którą znam, W pogoni za wiarą, Na trupa trup
- Antediluvian – The Divine Punishment
Full disclosure, this album took a lot of time for me to get into. Upon my first listen, I couldn’t decide whether or not I loved this album or hated it. Something about it, maybe the mix threw me off or maybe it was the general unsettling nature of it. Maybe it was the fact that it was 11 tracks and ran over an hour. As I listened more and more, I began to appreciate what I was hearing. The opening track, “Obscene Pornography Manifests in the Divine Universal Consciousness” starts with a nearly five minute crawl with demonic celestial vocals, droning synths and relatively calm, yet foreboding guitars untl the all too familiar “war metal” breaks in. But even then, it stands above the traditions of that subgenre. The vocals are sickening and the mix puts the vocals and all the weird effects on them right up front, with the guitars drowned out behind them.
All of the tracks on this album are very disorienting in their approach. Demonic growls over clean passages, spoken word sections of feedback loops and drones, and dissonant disharmonic and atonal guitar leads really give the listener a sense of cosmic despair and dysphoria. This album is as deranged as it is enamoring. I’m very happy I ended up liking this album. It’s truly a standout moment in the genre and should go down as a classic in the black/death subgenre.
Also A+ plus for absolutely insane song titles.
Highlights: Obscene Pornography Manifests in the Divine Universal Consciousness, All Along the Sigils Deep, How the Watchers Granted the Humans Sex Magick in the Primordial Aeon, White Throne, The Liar’s Path, Winged Ascent unto the Twelve Runed Solar Anus
- Kanonenfieber – Menschenmühle
As a historian I always appreciate World War I themed music, especially when done right. Kanonenfieber’s debut album is just that. The album combines the heavy chugging of death metal with melodic black metal elements. The album is engaging from start to finish, with “Die Feiertage” being one of the best opening tracks I’ve heard in a long time.
Lyrically the album takes a more anti-war stance, instead of the run of the mill bloodshed/trench warfare bit. Something of note on this album is the abundance of catchy choruses, a bit of music that’s often missing from heavier music. “In’s Neimandland” has one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard in awhile. Very happy with this album. I’ve recommended it to a lot of people who are just getting into death metal or black metal. It’s hard for me to get the highlights for this album because all the songs are pretty great.
Highlight tracks: Die Feuertaufe, Die schlacht bei Tannenberg, Grabenleider, Grabenkampf, In’s Niemandsland
- The Ruins of Beverast – The Thule Grimoire
Honestly, at this point in their career, The Ruins of Beverast have solidified themselves as one of the best one-man-black metal bands. On The Thule Grimoires we see Meilenwald tackle reintroducing black metal to the band, a sound that was largely absent on 2017’s Exuvia while continuing to add new and innovative sounds. The album’s opener, “Ropes into Eden”, begins with a menacing black metal section that harkens back to the Unlock the Shrine era before hitting the listener with some absolutely crawling doom. I’ve found myself returning to this album more and more as the year goes on. It’s such an adventure to listen to and like with most of his releases, there is so much sonic texture woven into the track that each listen unveils a new dynamic.
The album, sonically speaking, jumps all over the place, from the Type O Negative inspired “Kromle’ch Knell” to more black metal inspired tracks like “Polar Hiss Hysteria” and tracks “Deserts to Bind and Defeat” that draw influence from Paradise Lost. I really can’t get enough of this album, the production on it is stellar. Huge sounding drums, massive and encompassing guitars, beautifully layered clean guitars and electronics and melodic and memorable clean vocals. I’d say this is probably their best release in a long time.
Highlights: Ropes into Eden, The Tundra Shines, Kromle’ch Knell, Anchoress in Furs, Polar Hiss Hysteria
- Stormkeep – Tales of Othertime
Well here’s one nobody probably expected. Stormkeep’s Tales of Othertime is a nostalgia soaked venture into late 90’s symphonic and melodic black metal. Think Windir or Dimmu Borgir. All I can really say is this album is a monster. From start to finish, dazzling guitar lines and orchestral keyboards dizzy the listener through their own journey through Othertime. Production is massive, everything sounds huge and dynamic. There’s also some dungeon synth going on here. From the moment I heard the first single, “The Serpent’s Stone” I knew this was going to be a smash of an album, and I was right.
Highlights: The Seer, Journey Through Storms, The Serpent’s Stone, Eternal Majesty Manifest, really all the songs here are heaters.
- Dakhma – Blessings of Amurdad
Here’s a band I have followed for a long time. Since their debut EP Astiwihad-Zohr in 2015 to their newest album, I’ve seen the musical exploration of this band. Their 2018 full-length, Hamkar Atonement, was one of my favorite albums of the year and I’m thrilled to say that 2021’s Blessings of Amurdad has surpassed all of my expectations. This album is absolutely pummeling and brutal death metal while retaining a lot of atmospheric elements from their older releases. The production on this album is massive. Very rarely do I come across a release where the drums are so deep and resonant but cut through so clearly in the mix.
The mixture of death metal with traditional Iranian instrumentation and incantations really adds a whole new depth to the album. The riffs have all the hallmarks of the sludgier Teitanblood found on Hamkar Atonement and prove to be even catchier and groovier than their predecessor. I couldn’t be happier the way this album turned out. Give it a listen, you won’t regret it.
Highlights: The Stench of the Wretched (Forsake Him!), Atash Barham, The Cry of Filth (Agerept) Oath of Purity (Amarhraspand) The Rite of Dominion (Shehrevar)
- Worm – Foreverglade
Well well well, we’ve made it to the end. The one album to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them…or something of that nature. Whatever, it’s Worm’s Foreverglade! I reviewed this album this year as well, so I’ll make this short and to the point. This album has everything I could ever want in an album. Slow death doom passages, black metal atmosphere, spooky synths, wild guitar solos, and a wide range of growls, screams, wails, and the sparingly used clear vocal. I think Foreverglade should go down as one of the best death doom albums, period.
Highlights: Foreverglade, Murk Above the Dark Moor, Cloaked in Nightwinds, Centuries of Ooze
Biography: Rz is the main musician behind New Jersey atmospheric black/doom band Varanak. He formally ran the (now defunct) Iron and Doom music review page Instagram. Aside from writing music and reviews, Rz enjoys finding new music across all genres, working out, exploring the culinary world.