Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 22

Welcome to Day 9 of my ‘Album of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown’. I can’t quite believe that I’m this far through already, it doesn’t seem possible if I’m honest. Maybe it’s because I’m having fun? Surely not!

As I write this series, I’m reminded of what a positive year it has been for new music. Bands might be suffering to keep going and tours have been cancelled left, right, and centre. But the musicians never cease to amaze me, creating fantastic new music whatever hurdles are put in front of them. It’s why my Christmas list to Santa Claus is 100% music-related – we need to support our favourite bands, otherwise we might lose them.

As always, I want to remind newbies to my website that links to the previous posts in this series, as well as links to the entire lists of previous years can be found at the bottom of this post. You might like my choices, you might hate them – but hopefully, regardless, you’ll enjoy reading them. Surely better this, than just a quick one-off list with no explanation or context behind the decisions? Or maybe not!

On that note, I’ll leave you explore my latest pick for 2021:

Number 22

Vola

“Witness”

Mascot Records

Release Date: 21 May 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 93%

Another day, another familiar name to my end of year ‘best of’ series. This time, it’s Danish metal band Vola that find themselves nestled nicely within the top 30. However, like others, they find themselves just a little lower in the list this year than maybe I, and others, would have expected. Let me explain why, if I can.

‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’ came a little out of nowhere for me and knocked me sideways. I love it when that happens because the experience can be rather magical. The problem is that any follow-up has a difficult task to reproduce the magic, and that’s partly where ‘Witness’ suffered – I went in to the album with massively high expectations and whilst they were largely met, a little of that previous magic failed to materialise.

I know this might sound harsh, but I’m just being honest as you expect of me.

Additionally, there are the moments of greater experimentation on ‘Witness’ that must be congratulated, but which only left me feeling disorientated and a little disappointed – ‘Black Claws’ remains a tough listen for example, as I still can’t get to grips with the hip hop/rap element.

Taking everything into account though, ‘Witness’ still offers a great deal of enjoyment and had it been my entry point into the band instead of ‘Applause…’, I’m certain that it would have ended up higher in the list. Nevertheless, ‘Witness’ is quality and is fully deserving of a place on my list this year because when they nail it, they really nail it.

What I wrote at the time:

“…the first thing to hit me when I listened to ‘Witness’, was the increased djent influences. The big chugging riffs of that genre were definitely present throughout ‘Applause…’ but unless I’m mistaken, they are even more prevalent here. 

The vocals on ‘Witness’ are another area where it feels like Vola have opened up somewhat since ‘Applause…’, happy – eager even – to experiment with new ideas in this area. 

A word at this point needs to be made of the production. If their instrumental and songwriting talents weren’t enough, ‘Witness’ has been self-produced, with only the mix and mastering handled by a third party, namely Jacob Hansen. And the final result sounds incredible. Muscular, clear, nuanced, textured, it really does the music full justice.

Witness’ is a heavier album, where the boundaries have been pushed just that little bit more in terms of the different ideas given voice within the album…At the end of the day, I love the riffing, I love the melodies, I love the rich layers, and I have taken many of the songs to my heart. If, like me, you enjoy heavy music with a progressive bent, but with strong, immediate, and irresistible melodies, then ‘Witness’ will be a massive hit with you. But then I guess you already knew that, didn’t you?

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

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