Editor’s pick 2021: Wouter

Wouter’s top 10(ish) of 2021 metal releases

2021 – the year that will go down as one of many a hope fast rising… and just as fast being quelled before coming to sustained fruition. For a while, it looked like the pandemic and the associated social barrier society would be a thing of the past. Although I am personally fortunate in always having more projects and activities than time, seeing concerts in between was ever a part of life. A part that has been stripped away so unceremoniously since 2020. This summer however, it seemed festivals and concerts were back on the Dutch and European agenda. And boy, did I enjoy the ones I was able to attend. With a remote but no less present after glow, I look back on Alcatraz Open Air, Metal Meán, Prophecy Fest, Soul Crusher and Ascension – I feel privileged to have been there. I can only hope 2022 will be an increase in that respect, especially given the bleak outlook.

With respect to releases, 2021 has been more interesting than 2020. If only because I took (significantly) more time to listen to metal music. This was helped a lot by being able to see actual concerts. Personal drama aside, 2021 also brought some very nice releases. Although I struggle to make a full top 10, these are the albums I predict to stick around – even after 2021 has passed well and good.

5. Be’lakor – Coherence

This Australian melo-death ensemble has not disappointed since I first heard The Frial Tide and Stone’s Reach. Coherence is no exception, and actually a tad better (vocals, dynamics of composition) compared to Vessels.

4. Agrypnie – Metamorphis

After the lack luster release Grenzganger, one of Germany’s masters in post-black have released a true earworm, one that sweeps and devours the listener completely. The vocals are a bit rough on the opening track(s), but all else is just a constant hook to listen to.

3. Noctambulist – Elegiëen

With so much music having been released in the vein of (avant-garde) post-black metal, standing out is no easy feat. After hearing them at Soulcrusher, I was pleasantly surprised if not blown away. However, after many spins of Elegiëen, I am. The music is layered and aesthetically very pleasing. The sound and production are very crisp and clear – instead of muddyfying, it brings out the beautiful compositions as intended.

2. Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Noktvrn

One of my personal favorites in (Romantic) post/black metal, ever since first hearing their incredible release Unstille. With Nokturn, they have made an album that might just over-top it. A bit more epic (yes, I said it) and (yes, I daresay) bombastic, these Germans just never seem to stop making enrapturing and amazing music. Nokturn might even be their best yet.

Although Nokturn battled it’s way to the top, one album has had me all year:

1. The Ruins of Beverast – The Thule Grimoires

After Exuvia, I had almost given up on TroB. While I am not necessarily against psychedelic sounds and music, I concluded this album to be proof of the very reason I think experiments should be done but also remain confined to the lab. With The Thule Grimoires, Alex von Meilenwald seems to have taken his music back to more listenable harmonies, while not loosing the intricate, complex layers we know TRoB for. Aside from being a bit (too) accessible at times, the album still engages and surprises after what feels like a million spins. It’s easily the most listened-to release in my playlist(s) and therefore rightfully belongs on top.

With that said, I wish all of you a happy and hopefully concert laden 2022!