Presenting our round up of the top rock + metal artists of 2021.
As we bring this year down to a close, everyone is grateful that we are all able to go out into the world and attend concerts, gigs, music festivals and all sorts of public events again. But, throughout the half-locked-down 2021, we revisit the music that kept us motivated to look forward to another day, and if not, then at least provided light in times of darkness or foot-tapping groove at the bare minimum.
One of the only bands that puts actions behind their environmentally-themed music. They have always had a conscious angle with their music for more than a decade now. Gojira, with their video for their song ‘Amazonia’, launched a fundraiser campaign to aid infrastructure of the indigenous people of the Amazon Forest. Their 2021 album ‘Fortitude’ was highly appreciated, even though the band sounded much less complex than usual, musically. But, since they wanted the focus to be on the message more than anything, the end result was quite different, but still trademark Gojira!
Leprous is a truly unique progressive band that has transformed beautifully over the past few years. Their 2021 album ‘Aphelion’, which topically dabbles upon mental health, anxiety and depression, a continuation from their previous 2019 album ‘Pitfalls’. Technical and emotional, really the true definition of progressive music. The harmonised vocal performances on the album paired with orchestration supporting rock solid grooves and dramatic changes create an epic soundtrack-like rush. One of the best releases of 2021 for sure!
Nothing But Thieves
Following up on their politically laced 2020 album ‘Moral Panic’, Brit rockers Nothing But Thieves released the EP ‘Moral Panic II’, which, straight up is more direct at what they want to say, lyrically. Unlike the finessed production of ‘Moral Panic’, its sequel is strikingly more raw and clearly resonates a different tone. No more silence. They felt like they left ‘Moral Panic’ incomplete, and wanted to explore some avenues that they might have missed out on with its 2021 follow-up. The first two song ‘Futureproof’ and ‘If I Were You’ just spell out the theme of the 5-song EP.
“We cannot change the past, but we can start today to make a better tomorrow” – The first line of a Limp Bizkit album! WHAT! Exactly! But just seconds later, we get the sticky riff that is trademark Limp Bizkit and Wes Borland. The veteran nu-metallers took a long while, about 8 years to finally release new music. And as we hoped, it’s them alright, but the barrel has aged well! All the hype started when they played a recorded version of ‘Dad Vibes’ at Lolapalooza Festival. ‘STILL SUCKS’ is a typical Bizkit album that’s adapted and accepted that we’re approaching 2022.
Over the years, Mastodon has carved a niche for themselves, combining brash loudness and sweet melody, whether musically or vocally. 2021’s ‘Hushed and Grim’ is the pinnacle of this trademark sound, taking it to new heights, with intricately crafted assaulting drum rolls and syncopated guitar attack. This, their double-sided 8th studio album, also probably one of the more progressive ones and length-wise their longest album yet at 86.30 minutes, serves as a tribute to the band’s late manager Nick John, who passed away in 2018. The album reflects the stages of grief and also reflects the on the soul’s journey after death.
Transformational – the word that describes Whitechapel’s music since the release of their previous album ‘The Valley’ from 2019. Continuing on that very path, but now with a more seasoned and mature approach to song-writing and composition, their latest album ‘Kin’ is the proverbial nirvana of this new amalgamated sound between their old riff-heavy blast-beat assault peppered with monstrous breakdowns and the newfound autobiographical soulful ballad-like clean vocal melodies. Heavy, conceptually and lyrically, ‘Kin’ presents the theme of an alternate world where every choice made is the wrong one and the turmoil felt in the bargain.
Biffy Clyro released probably their most musically mature and cohesive album ‘The Myth Of The Happily Ever After’, named appropriately to suit this half-dystopian age we are going through. The album sees the band amalgamating a plethora of various elements of synth textures, some R&B nuances, and of course the urgent heaviness that we already know them for. It is a thematic follow-up to their 2020 release ‘A Celebration of Endings’, “a sprawling sister album”, according to the band, apparently 15 songs that didn’t make it to the previous one.
One of the few stalwarts of Indian metal who still stands his ground, Sahil Makhija a.k.a. Demonstealer dropped a 4-song EP ‘The Holocene Termination’, featuring musicians from well-known bands across the world. Musicians and musical influences from bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse, Gorgasm, Marduk and more come together with high octane blast beats, slick transitions and heavy riffing to give you exactly what you’ve been looking for. And as deserved, the EP and the Demonstealer himself got great acclaim from the international metal community for this heavy masterpiece.
American metal band Papa Roach dropped 2 fresh singles in 2021 – ‘Swerve’ (with Jason Aalon of FEVER 333 and Sueco) and the more Roach styled ‘Kill The Noise’, building up to an upcoming 2022 album. The former is a more entertaining hip-hop leaning song, but with ‘Kill The Noise’, which is more sonically relative to the band’s more familiar riff-heavy sound combined with emotional lyrics, the song’s anthem-like catchy hook progresses into an intense breakdown, with vocalist Jacoby Shaddix screaming “SHUT UP!!” (Reminiscent of the late Chester Bennington’s scream from Linkin Park song ‘One Step Closer’) With a focus on writing songs that target helping people overcome mental struggles and anxieties, the music video, directed by the vocalist’s brother Brsyon Roatch, signifies escaping the bounds of one’s own mind and letting go of all the static for a moment of peace, which is symbolised by Shaddix just exhaling deeply at the very end.
One of the best metal releases of 2021, Spiritbox really hit home with their album ‘Eternal Blue’. It combines melody, brutality, intense growls, harmonious clean vocals, catchy hooks clubbed with low down-tuned guitars, backing synths and ethereal soundscapes backed by belting drums to create the perfect amalgamation for modern metal listeners. One of the most (already) popular songs on the album – ‘Holy Roller’ – has had its music video up on YouTube since July 2020. It set the expectation and built anticipation for ‘Eternal Blue’.
From the days of Creed to the huge sound of Alter Bridge and critical acclaim with his project Tremonti, the shredding guitarist-vocalist Mark Tremonti has dropped a fresh riff-heavy album titled ‘Marching in Time’ in September 2021. Right from the top, the drums pound away and his down-tuned guitar starts ploughing away riff after riff, relentlessly. At the centre of this heavy sonic signature are beautifully sung anthemic choruses and appropriate displays of Mark’s virtuoso soloing skills. An amazing surprise 6 songs down, a beautiful power ballad ‘The Last One Of Us’ appears and changes the mood to up-lifting. A well-rounded album, sonically, with contemplative lyrics and that wall-of-guitar sound!
Sonically, acquired taste, what can be described as atmospheric technical metal-core with a gritty slime in the overall tonality, Silent Planet’s 2021 album ‘Iridescent’ is a completely unique mixture of textures, taking inspiration from the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot, Deftones and the like. As you listen to the album from start to end, each song keeps you on the edge of your seat, not being able to predict what’s going to go down next, just like the state of this apathetic post-pandemic world. Get yourself started with ‘Panopticon’.
Eskimo Callboy came in with 2 viral singles ‘We Got The Moves’ and ‘Pump It’ in 2021, attempting and succeeding at putting some fun into heavier metal music. Catchy choruses, arena-friendly “Oh-Oh-Ohhs”, up-tempo drums, Rammstein-style chug-heavy riffing, hardstyle synths, intense growled vocals and yes, even metal-core breakdowns somewhere in there, it’s really hard to understand how the band wrapped their heads around such a wide slew on influences and combined them to create an extremely well-produced final product. You will either find yourself grooving in appreciation, or at the extreme other end, completely loathing this fusion of styles.
The Godfather of groovy guitar, the raging revolutionary, the one and only Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine fame released a musically varied collaborative album ‘The Atlas Underground Fire’, with a lot of prominent voices such as – Eddie Vedder, Bruce Sprigsteen, Bring Me The Horizon, Chris Stapleton, Grandson, Damian Marley, and more. As usual, what you would expect from Mr. Morello is what he delivers – woke political messages and some great guitar lines, but to add to that, the production is covered in a buffet of styles and whammy-d solos, making this a rich musical journey from start to end.
2021 gave us SION – a collaborative effort between metal-core legend Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage) and popular metal YouTuber and music producer Jared Dines. Just like the various metal musical inclinations seen in Dines’ videos, he combines all of it into SION’s songs seamlessly well, creating a head-banging wall-breaking and in some parts anthemic, this wall of sound, layered with some jaws-to-the-floor guitar solos and slow breakdowns as well. ‘The Blade’ starts the assault and that continues all throughout the album, accompanied by the brutal growls and angelic singing from Howard Jones.
We hope for more music from these artists and more in 2022! See you on the other side! \m/