Written By Jason Voorhees and Aaron Savage http://www.sportsnmetal.com.
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As 2021 fades into 2022, Jason and Aaron thought there was no better time than now to each give you their Top 5 hard rock/heavy metal albums of the year! 2021 saw a plethora of awesome record releases from metal veterans and newcomers featuring sub-genres such as classic metal, alternative metal, thrash metal, hard rock, nu-metal, and more from acts ranging from Iron Maiden to Limp Bizkit. No matter what style you prefer, there was plenty of new material to tickle your fancy. So, here are Jason and Aaron’s favorites from the previous year without further ado!
AARON SAVAGE’s TOP 5 ALBUMS 2021
5. Foo Fighters, ‘Medicine at Midnight’
Foo Fighters latest release, ‘Medicine at Midnight,’ is unlike any album the band has released previously. Perhaps in response to the pandemic and all the lockdowns, the Foo Fighters came out with what is easily the most fun album of
their career. The opening track “Making a Fire” actually reminds me of something from Poison’s “Native Tongue” album with Richie Kotzen, if that is even possible. The title track, “Medicine at Midnight,” is a cross between “Let’s Dance” era David Bowie and 80’s Rolling Stones. While still recognizable as a Foo Fighters album, “Medicine at Midnight” is unlike anything you’d expect from the Foo Fighters and is a very enjoyable listen.
4. Machine Head, ‘Arrows In Words From The Sky’
Am I allowed to put an EP on this list? I hope so because I just did. Though there are only three songs on the album, ‘Arrows in Words from the Sky’ is chock full of groove metal riffs and thrash guitar solos, and at 54 years old, band leader and lead vocalist Robb Flynn’s voice sounds as powerful as ever. The second track, “Rotten,” harkens back to the band’s Nu Metal days during the verses. The album-closing title track is an epic thrash piece that may be my favorite song by the band since “The Locust.”
3. Ayron Jones, ‘Child of the State’
One of 2021’s breakout acts, Seattle native Ayron Jones‘s third studio album, ‘Child of the State,’ is an eclectic mix of blues, soul, hard rock, and grunge. Discovered in 2012 by none other than Sir Mix-a-Lot, the album was his major-label debut for Big Machine/John Varvatos Records. The lead single “Take Me Away” is punchy, in your face, and full of angst and rage. My favorite track on the album is the power ballad “My Love Remains,” which is easily the best song Lenny Kravitz never wrote. Top to bottom, “Child of the State” is a must listen and one of the best albums of 2021.
2. Limp Bizkit, ‘Stil Sucks’
Perhaps you think I’m crazy putting the latest Limp Bizkit album at #2 for 2021, or even in my top 5 at all, for that matter. I think the past couple of years have been so depressing due to the pandemic, and the slight taste of mindless nostalgia Limp Bizkit brought to the table with “Still Sucks” was just what the doctor ordered. Representing the first full album release for the band since 2011’s “Gold Cobra” after multiple delays and album title changes, “Still Sucks” is precisely the album you’d expect from Limp Bizkit if it were 1999, except with a modern, lyrical take and sense of humor. After a very successful appearance at Lollapalooza where Fred Durst unveiled his new “dad” look, the
band canceled their subsequent tour due to safety concerns, which is a shame because with how the Lollapalooza show went viral, it was clear the world was ready for the return of Limp Bizkit. Highlight tracks in the traditional rap-rock style of the band are “Out of Style” and “Dad Vibes,” but my favorite track is the smooth, acoustic cover of INXS’s “Don’t Change,” which may rank as my favorite song the band has ever recorded and was totally unexpected.
1. Mammoth WVH, ‘Mammoth WVH’
Wolfgang Van Halen released the single “Distance” in 2020 as a beautiful tribute to his late, great father, Eddie Van Halen. The amazing, heartfelt mid-tempo ballad was just a taste of what was to come in 2021. Dubbing his solo album ‘Mammoth WVH’ in tribute to the name of one of his father’s early band names, ‘Mammoth WVH’ is easily THE BEST album of 2021, and in my humble opinion, it isn’t even close. The album is loaded with great hooks and amazing playing from top to bottom, and Wolfie plays every recorded instrument on the record, a tribute to his talent and having come from outstanding musical stock. Wolfie intentionally strays from techniques such as finger tapping to separate himself from his father’s legacy, although the guitar solo on the opening track “Mr. Ed” gives us a little taste that if Wolfie wanted to, he could play guitar like his dad. Tracks such as “Don’t Back Down” and “You’re to Blame” are made for radio. My personal favorite track is the epic album closer, “Stone,” which clocks in at just over six and a half minutes. The song takes you on a musical journey you won’t soon forget and is a great way to close out the best album of 2021.
I hope you get to check these albums out if you haven’t already, and I hope everyone out there has a happy and healthy New Year!
JASON VOORHEES’s TOP 5 ALBUMS 2021
5. Iron Maiden, ‘Senjutsu’
Some would say that putting a new Iron Maiden record amongst the top albums is trendy. In my opinion, that would be blasphemous. That said, ‘Senjutsu’ is not only the band’s heaviest and darkest release since ‘A Matter of Life and Death,’ but it shares the same energy and freshness that 2000’s reset ‘Brave New World’ brought to the table. The opening title track sets the tone with a thunderous tribalistic ensemble before meandering down an all-out assault of Maiden intensity. Meanwhile, “The Writing on the Wall” adds a new twist to the band’s tried and true formula with a country blues style sound and elements never seen before in Maiden’s arsenal. However, the record’s deep cuts elevate it from just a good record to one that can be considered excellent! Tracks like “Days of Future Past” scream old-school anthemic Maiden, while “The Time Machine” shares the same vibes as all-time classic “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” ‘Senjutsu’ is a beast of an album, whether you’re a die-hard Maiden fan or just a casual fan of metal!
4. Black Veil Brides, ‘The Phantom Tomorrow’
Concept albums are no stranger to the Black Veil Brides as “The Phantom Tomorrow” marks number 3 on the ledger. Part of what makes concept albums successful is the ability of the songs to offer a cinematic experience for the listener and those same tracks to provide memorable moments when standing alone. With that being said, the Brides eat the cake with this record! Stellar songwriting, catchy riffs, powerful vocals, ground-shaking rhythm sections, and elite composition. The opening track “Scarlett Cross” is a perfect blend of anthemic energy, headlined by lead singer and band brainchild Andy Biersack’s vocal range! The album even shares heavier moments with “The Wicked One” and “Shadows Rise,” which invoke dark tones and themes. However, my favorite track is “Crimson Skies,” which channels the band’s best imitation of Megadeth and Avenged Sevenfold. “The Phantom Tomorrow” is a rock opera masterpiece and certainly one of the best albums of 2021!
3. Mastodon, ‘Hushed and Grim’
‘Hushed and Grim’ is anything but grim. In fact, Mastodon has again defied the odds by showing they can do anything they put their minds to. The 15 track double album is easily the band’s most musically diverse offering to date, highlighted with elite songwriting and fantastic composition, as well as being a dream scenario for fans of “twist and turn” bridge-laden tracks. “Pain With An Anchor” sets the stage early with an epic drum flurry before heading into a rock opera-inspired onslaught, finally ending with an in-your-face moshpit delight. Meanwhile, “The Crux” provides a mixture of Judas Priest meets Testament flavor. However, my favorite track, “The Beast,” is a country blues-style ballad that morphs into a mid-tempo verse section before spawning a heavy awe-inspiring chorus that has Marcus King showing out his best impression of Chris Cornell. ‘Hushed and Grim’ has it all, folks, a slam dunk masterpiece of metal!
2. Trivium, ‘In The Court of The Dragon’
Trivium is firing on all cylinders as we continue down the road of a new decade. After releasing the smash hit ‘What the Dead Men Say’ during the height of the pandemic, the band told fans to hold their beer as they dropped an even more polished record, ‘In the Court of the Dragon’ in 2021. The band’s latest release has all the bells and whistles you could want in a metal record. Whether you are a fan of thrash, nu-metal, prog metal, or just plain old classic metal, this album will punch you in the throat! Tons of great tracks,, including the title track, “Like a Sword of Damocles,” “Feast of Fire,” and “A Crisis of Revelation.” The bottom half of the album matches the top, which is a true hallmark of great records. My personal favorites are “No Way Back Just Through,” which is thrashy, and the final track, “The Phalanx,” which takes you on an almost 8-minute journey!
1. KK’s Priest, ‘Sermons of The Sinner’
K.K. Downing figured if he couldn’t join Judas Priest, he may as well beat them, and that’s exactly what he did with his latest project, KK’s Priest! “Sermons of the Sinner” provides a carbon copy of classic style Priest that fans have been craving. The first three tracks closely mimic the ‘Painkiller’ era of Priest! Tim “Ripper” Owens is in top form as his Halford-Esque vocal range proves worthy of the task at hand. And just when you think the album is only going to follow the “Painkiller” formula, the band quickly flips the script as “Raise Your Fists” travel back to the “Screaming For Vengeance” era. Then, just when you think the surprises are over, “Metal Through and Through” brings a Priest vs Maiden Vibe! “Brothers of the Road” mirrors early 80’s hits like “Heading Out To The Highway” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” while even channeling elements from “Stained Class.” However, the masterpiece of the album is “Return of The Sentinel,” which is the sequel to the all-time classic, “The Sentinel.” The final track cements “Sermons of The Sinner” as the best overall metal release of 2021!
As always, we hope you enjoyed our list of Top Album releases for this past year! We hope that challenge you to check these stellar records out and know that you will not be disappointed! Happy New Year and Keep on Rocking!!!