And so it begins…
Welcome, everyone, to my annual labour of love that I refer to as my ‘album of the year’ top 30 countdown. Think of it like the chart countdowns you used to hear every weekend on the radio, but with better music and no annoying DJs that talk over the songs. Oh and as the title suggests, I’m not counting down individual songs, or EPs – this is a round-up of the very best albums that have been released this year.
And what a year it has been. It began incredibly positively, but personal problems threatened to derail manofmuchmetal.com entirely over the summer. I went three months without listening to new music of any kind and since I eventually returned, I have spent a great deal of time playing catch up to ensure I was in the most strong position possible to do this countdown full justice. I think I’m there now and I’m happy with my choices, but it has been the most difficult list to compile over the nine years I’ve been doing this. As a result, it’s also likely to be my most contentious, controversial list too – you have been warned.
On that note, just a reminder of the rules, as I do every year:
My choices are not based on the technical abilities of the artists, although it’s a factor. It is also not a list of the most ground-breaking, original, or mystifying albums of 2020. Again, these may be factors that contribute to my decisions. However, what matters most is how much I enjoy the music. Do I connect with it? Do I want to listen to it? Do I choose to listen to it when I have a million other records to check out and review? Essentially, what albums floated my boat, and what tickled my fancy during a turbulent year?
As always, this list will comprise of my top 30 original studio albums, with artwork, sample tracks, and links to the full review, not to mention a little commentary about why the album deserves a place in my list. What more could you want?
Oh, and from 30-15, the order is relatively arbitrary – so whether you register as number 30 or number 16, it doesn’t really matter. The album deserves a spot in the top 30 and I only number the records to enable a day-by-day countdown.
I started this year’s series with an ‘honourable mentions’ post, highlighting 10 albums worthy of mention, but which have missed out on a spot in the top 30. Read it here if you missed it: Album Of The Year 2021 – Honourable Mentions
Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:
And on that note, let’s get on with the main event…
Bleed The Future
Season Of Mist
Date Of Release: 29 October 2021
Score Of Much Metal: 92%
Those that have read my blog for a while now, will know that one genre of metal that I’m less enamoured with in general is the technical death metal genre. I often find it, along with other types of ‘technical’ music as an exercise in showing off rather than the creation of memorable music. For me, memorable means that there has to be a hook, a melody, a groove, or something that demands my attention; technicality on it’s own rarely interests me, however clever and talented it might be.
With ‘Bleed The Future’, Archspire have genuinely pushed the boundaries of what is technically possible by humans with instruments, of that there is little doubt. But crucially, they have managed to write some proper songs too. And the blend of the two is rather intoxicating.
Who said that the older you get, the more you mellow? If anything, I’m enjoying extreme metal more now than ever before. And Archspire are one of the very best. In fact, with more time, it may have ended up even higher in my list.
What I wrote at the time:
“I’m not sufficiently musically literate to have the faintest idea about the tempos, rhythms and breathtaking techniques deployed on this album, but I do recognise incredible talent when I hear it…The speed, the intensity, the precision, the power; it’s all there on ‘Bleed The Future’, a 31 minute whirlwind of some of the fastest most intense technical death metal that you’ll ever hear.
This kind of music will never feature the kind of gratuitous hooks witnessed within some power metal, melodic hard rock, or even some classic prog. But Archspire have managed to inject their insane barrage of ferocity with just enough melody and subtlety to keep me fully invested time and time again.
I have heard some pretty impressive musicianship from many bands over the years, but I cannot remember a time when I’ve been quite this impressed by the sheer ability of a band. The fact that Archspire can then deliver such a punishing and extreme listening experience without sacrificing musicality is a feat that few of us can even comprehend, let alone dream of executing…
‘Bleed The Future’ is a special record, proving once and for all that technical extreme music doesn’t have to be a monotonous, dour, and indecipherable mess of noise; it can be fleet of foot, fun, and inspired too.”
Read the full review here.