Album Of The Year 2021 – Honourable Mentions

I can’t believe it is already that time of year again. Where has 2021 gone? It has been a pretty awful year on a personal level, one that tested my love of music to the limit. Normally my place of solace and comfort, I was disinterested in hearing any music for nearly three months over the summer. I got through it and either side of this blip, I have listened to a huge number of new records released this year. I’ve reviewed nearly 130 albums and EPs over the past 11 months, but have listened to many, many more.

Naturally, there has been some pretty awful albums that have seen the light of day, as is always the case every year. But being the generally positive person that I am, I like to focus on the good stuff – and on that score, I have been spoilt for choice. It meant that this was the most difficult Top 30 to pick, with some truly excellent albums missing out. So much so that this is the first year that I have decided to kick off my Top 30 countdown with a selection of ten records that probably deserved to make it, but didn’t.

This list is unlikely to win me many friends, but here goes nothing…

Dream Theater

“A View From The Top Of The World”

InsideOut Music

It may seem inconceivable to many of you that this record missed out on a spot in my final 30 this year. However, for context, it’s the first time that the progressive metal veterans have ever made it into my end of year list in any shape or form since I began this endeavour in 2012.

“Just when I thought that Dream Theater had ceased to become relevant for me as a true progressive metal fan, they unleash ‘A View From The Top Of The World’, the album that pulls them back from the brink, at least as far as I’m concerned. Not only does the record contain all of the technicality and instrumental dexterity that you want from this supremely talented band, but it has an energy and enthusiasm about it that has arguably been lacking in recent years. “

Read the full review here.

Plaguestorm

“Purifying Fire”

Noble Demon

Had this record featured an organic drummer, it may have ended up higher. As it is, this remains high quality melodic death metal.

“Quite simply, what Plaguestorm and ‘Purifying Fire’ demonstrates is that, in the right hands, melodic death metal can still ignite that fire within me and provide endless hours of enjoyment. “

Read the full review here.

Morrigu

“In Turbulence”

Ghost Sound Media

I’m a little shocked that I could not find a spot within my Top 30 for this record – it’s seriously good and I was convinced it would feature higher. A casualty of an incredibly strong year, but don’t miss out on it.

“Not for the first time this year, a dark horse of a record has stolen my heart and my admiration. Morrigu have battled hard, put their troubles behind them and come out with a knock-out blow in the form of ‘In Turbulence’.”

Read the full review here.

Need

“Norchestrion: A Song For The End”

Ikaros Records

My first review of 2021 and the album remains a favourite in the Mansion Of Much Metal. And why not? What’s not to like about this high quality record?

“‘Norchestrion: A Song For The End’ is a fantastic album, where technicality and complexity have been carefully blended with groove, melody, chops, and well-honed songwriting ability to create music that I just want to listen to over and over again.”

Read the full review here.

Obscura

“A Valediction”

Nuclear Blast Records

A recent discovery (how had I missed them up to now?) but better late than never. Heavy and technical with enough melody to keep me fully invested.

“Aren’t you supposed to become more mellow as you get older? In my case, it seems like the exact opposite. And Obscura have, with ‘A Valediction’, have provided one of the very best examples of the year – technical virtuosity abounds, but not at the expense of the aggression or the song writing, which is out of the top draw. “

Read the full review here.

Fractal Universe

“The Impassable Horizon”

Metal Blade Records

I had to work at it, but with repeated listens, that moment of clarity hits and the whole thing makes a lot of sense. A great record.

“After flashes of promise, Fractal Universe have delivered the album which has finally turned me into a fan. Complex, heavy, multi-faceted, and intelligent, ‘The Impassable Horizon’ is a very fine release indeed.”

Read the full review here.

Orden Ogan

“Final Days”

AFM Records

When melodic metal is done well, it can be a particularly addictive listen, as ‘Final Days’ more than ably demonstrates.

“The German quintet rarely put a foot wrong at any point on this record, delivering track after track of memorable and highly enjoyable melodic heavy metal that’s fully deserving of the ‘metal’ tag within the descriptor. Miss out on this album at your peril.”

Read the full review here.

Ex Deo

“The Thirteen Years Of Nero”

Napalm Records

Thunderous, uncompromising, and incredibly entertaining, this is an album that seriously crushes in every sense of the word.

“…I’m hard pressed to think of another band that truly comes anywhere near Ex Deo if I’m honest when it comes to cinematic death metal. With ‘The Thirteen Years Of Nero’, Maurizio Iacono and friends have once again delivered the goods, crushing me, pulverising me, and drawing me unnervingly into the opulent and violent age of the Roman Empire.”

Read the full review here.

Rivers Of Nihil

“The Work”

Metal Blade Records

Another quality release from a high quality band – I just wish there wasn’t quite so much saxaphone…a little less and a place in my Top 30 may have been achieved!

“Overall, I have to say that Rivers Of Nihil have once again delivered an album that cannot be ignored. Based on the quality of the predecessor, I’m altogether less shocked and surprised by this, but I’m delighted nonetheless that a band with real talent has managed to produce another great album whilst pushing their boundaries a little wider in the process. “

Read the full review here.

Nightland

The Great Nothing

Scarlet Records

One of my most recent discoveries during 2021, I love the amount of melodic intent within this wonderful album.

“Nightland have created an amazing album, full of aggression, depth, and with a massive melodic intent. I’m delighted to be able to shine the spotlight on this talented Italian symphonic death metal band, and I genuinely can’t wait to see what’s next for them.”

Read the full review here.

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