THE MISANTHREPORT’s Top Albums of 2021

            The transition to 2022 has arrived, and reflections on the foregoing year show it presented its own challenges as we continue reeling from the occurrences of 2020. While regularly voicing my contempt for the ignorance and other miserable aspects of humanity plaguing our shared existence on this planet, I also wish to express an optimistic side by acknowledging the good that came from 2021. The struggle continues, but there has been progress toward a return to normalcy with the developments surrounding our global burden, and live shows are recommencing, which is great for musicians and fans alike. Some bands chose to utilize extra time during the lockdown periods to compose music, and so I also anticipate many new releases will be reaching the surface in the following months. With all things considered, let’s just hope 2022 will be the year of deliverance from both current and becoming crises, and in the meantime turn to music for a wholesome escape from the bullshit.

            A variety of material has been explored during the first full year of coverage on this blog, which includes works from many illustrious and pioneering bands alongside great new arrivals, and many other surprises were encountered along the way. Whether these were given detailed reviews or appeared in a shorter version from one of the monthly reports, it should be clear that I don’t waste time or effort writing about albums I don’t like. For this reason, narrowing a whole year of music down to a prime selection is difficult, as all of these releases are considered worthy enough to be here, not to mention the many others which unfortunately missed review completely.

            For the sake of balance, I’ve chosen twenty albums from both review types for a total of forty, along with five others I didn’t get a chance to review, since quality time for writing is still in short supply. Five EPs are also included for a grand total of fifty, and the entire list includes different styles from a reasonable proportion of legendary acts together with those who just launched and others somewhere in between. The order is mostly arbitrary, though not completely, and the objective is more about revisiting some of the highlights from 2021 instead of ranking their level of greatness. There is much to cover, but first, I wish to send many thanks to everyone who has supported THE MISANTHREPORT over this last year. I look forward to exploring more new albums in the times ahead, and hope 2022 delivers you all the best it has to offer.

Let’s begin by noting some great EPs from the year…

MAYHEM     Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando

            A brief but potent dose of the classic MAYHEM sound, and its chilling notes supplement 2019’s Daemon while building anticipation for their future opus. The cover songs featuring some of the band’s former vocalists add another interesting aspect to this sidestep between full-length releases.

ENSLAVED     Caravans to the Outer Worlds

            An expansive atmosphere is formulated on this follow-up to one of 2020’s great releases. The synthwork is definitely something to behold, even for ENSLAVED, but the other elements are also notable as arrangements develop and glimpse into territories possibly lying ahead for these progressive Vikings.

GAAHLS WYRD     The Humming Mountain

            The haunting aura of this release carries the spirit from 2019’s GastiR – Ghosts Invited, and it incorporates a variety of riffing styles with other effects to craft an entrancing journey. Gaahl himself shows a range of expressions while also demonstrating what can be achieved solely through clean vocals.

ORDER OF OMEGA     333

            Death and the void reside in the brooding dissonance and chaos that introduce this new embodiment, and the inherent madness intensifies alongside slower grooving rhythms. It’s easy to get lost in the mass of its two central tracks, which are surrounded by ambient pieces to complete the immersive effect, and it raises an allure toward the sound of future conjurations.

ORDINUL NEGRU     A Sojourner Wandering Through the Barren Openness.

            These Romanians have forged a companion to 2020’s Nebuisa, and this latest effort advances their experimental capacity with its single epic track. It progresses like a ritualistic trip into the subconscious with diverse vocals and instrumentation to encircle its primeval core, and the atmospheric potency affirms this Black Order is pursuing an adventurous artistic course.

And now, my top albums of 2021…

PURE     Seeds of Despair

            A dismal aura prevails throughout the latest effort from PURE, and its harsh medium is full of melodic structures radiating agony and malice. Cleaner sections magnify the tormented spirit within, along with other dark ambient notes, and the entirety of this work continues to haunt across time with its vehement and disturbing vibrations.

VOLLMOND     Wolves in Turmoil

               An evocative display of darkness is offered on this third manifestation, with orchestrations that seamlessly drift from brooding eeriness to folk-infused glory and through many other realms in between. Numerous instrumental features are also integrated to form a dynamic and highly immersive venture into ancient times.

AONARACH     I

            The impact of solitude has spawned a new anguished entity, and its debut expresses this along with other tones through detailed compositions. The vocals project grimness and despair alongside riffing with melodies to augment the atmospheric notes, which include various effects to suggest contemplation within a secluded natural setting.

BAXAXAXA     Catacomb Cult

            An incarnation that recently emerged from dormancy has unleashed their first full album, and it carries the wrath of a sound dating back to 1992. Rhythms of Sabbath-infused doom crush with purpose while including mid-paced and blasting variations, which then combine with ambience and other harsh elements for a memorably cold and ancient encounter.

WODE     Burn in Many Mirrors

            The third release from this UK outfit is full of detailed arrangements, and various effects are employed to enhance its arcane atmosphere. They radiate with a first wave blackened essence, along with influences from other metal genres, and a dark vitality is noted in their delivery for a powerful work perceived as both contemporary and classic. 

VALDAUDR     Drapsdalen

            These Norwegians debuted with an effort retaining a true black metal core, but it also incorporates other elements of reinforcing might. Frantic speed drifts into heavy grooving rhythms to reveal numerous influences within the harsh riffing, along with traces of folk to expand its inherent splendor, and the energy matches its stylistic variety to drive enthusiasm for future releases.

SPECTRAL WOUND     A Diabolic Thirst

            The Canadian phantoms have unleashed a third display of ravaging force, and it projects gloom with other epic impressions through melodies that lurk within raw glaring riffs. Acoustics and eerie sampled effects surface throughout their fierce execution, which is also echoed vocally, and the entire work leaves a vicious mark that’s expected to scar. 

1914     Where Fear and Weapons Meet

            This Ukrainian battalion engages a third venture into the depths of WWI’s most gruesome trenches, and its doom element crushes alongside equally imposing orchestral features. The attack broadens with a variety of other songwriting tactics, and their structures integrate wartime recordings to heighten an immersive aspect, which makes for a thoroughly striking experience.

VALAC     Burning Dawn of Vengeance

            The second full affliction from this entity seethes with sickness and suffering, which are both projected through one of the most menacing guitar tones of recent memory, and its malignance also takes the form of mournful ambience and distorted vocal effects. These complement the riffing intensity for a work that engages with its utter grimness.

CANNIBAL CORPSE     Violence Unimagined

            These death metal titans have inflicted their latest slab of brutality, and it demonstrates continued instrumental prowess through compositions amounting to severe and calculated punishment. This release is also the first to feature Erik Rutan as a full-time member, which makes it historically significant for the band while lending a new take on their songwriting style.

VÖLNIIR     All Hope Abandon

            Sinister forces abound on the first full-length creation from these UK necrolords, and the icy presence of death is exalted in its glaring arpeggiated structures. Numerous dynamic passages are traversed by its fierce riffing lifeforce, which often reaches moments of sustained malevolent possession, and the impact from these energies is still notably in effect.

ILDFAR     Som Vinden Farer Vil

            A new glimpse into the 90’s Norwegian scene appears through this debut release, and it effectively captures an atmosphere reminiscent of pioneering works from that timeless period. This aura extends from ambient tracks to the impenetrable darkness of its riffs, and these merge with other expressions for an individual likeness, which raises intrigue toward what awaits on the follow-up release.

COLDCELL     The Greater Evil

            Insanity is elevated during this fourth trip through the asylums of Switzerland, and the disturbed mentality contained within is firmly realized by these orchestrations. Clean notes are strung into melodies conveying a range of torment alongside the vocal delivery, and these combine with the cold from riffing and other atmospheric qualities for an experience that continues to haunt.

TYRANNIC     Mortuus Decadence

            Doom continues bearing down on this sophomore release from TYRANNIC, and it embodies a classic aura along with the unique character formed by integrating raw melodic structures and vocal varieties. These influences are also reflected in lead and soloing effects that induce highly intoxicating moments throughout, which makes this a rapturous work prompting many returns.

VREDENSDAL     Silence is Eternal

            A relentless songwriting capacity is affirmed on the third consecutive album from these US fiends, and its riffs exhibit a potent blend of dissonance with cold thrashing fury. Numerous impressions are invoked by the melodic details rising amid the heaviness, and slower groove passages drive a wretched point that continues piercing through time.

DARKTHRONE     Eternal Hails……

            Norway’s legendary metal explorers pursue doom on their newest undertaking, and they interpret this subgenre by merging its 80’s spirit with their signature organic sound. Numerous developments are encountered within the thick riffing of these five massive tracks, and their culminations endure for a purely epic and heavy voyage.

SARINVOMIT     Awaken Ye Impious Hordes of Shaitan

            The Turkish warmongers spare none on their second unholy assault, which wreaks total havoc through an orchestrated frenzy, and the bombardment of its riffage and blasts is matched by ruthless vocal commands. The savagery also includes some melody and leadwork, along with atmospheric samples to reinforce an infernal presence, and these forces reach inexorable levels of desecration.

CHAMBER OF UNLIGHT     Realm of the Night

            A new Finnish entity has cast its first potent act of enchantment, and various ancient scenes are summoned by the shadowy riffs within. Their essential blackness extends to the gothic aura of certain melodic passages, along with ambient and ritualistic vocal elements to augment an overarching dark majesty, and a remarkable quest is forged from its cold mystical qualities.

CARCASS     Torn Arteries

            The pathological originators return with a successor to the acclaimed Surgical Steel, and its songwriting displays brutal refinement as the focus shifts toward detailed melodic formations and groove, but without abandoning the heavier forces. These dynamic compositions are easily enjoyed and also include some newer elements, which creates a work living up to the high standard set by prior releases.

SUICIDE CIRCLE     Shotgun Prayers

            An exemplar of grimness is realized with the debut from this French outfit, which features Meyhna’ch of MUTIILATION on vocals, and his voice expresses levels of torment mirrored by gloomy arpeggiations and other trudging arrangements. These oppress with a highly satisfying lo-fi sound, and notes of dark psychedelia are infused which gives a new quality to the classic depressive style.

FIAT NOX     The Archive of Nightmares

            This German entity conjures an otherworldly realm on their first album, and haunting passages are weaved by arpeggiations and intricate melodies across the brooding cold of its riffs. These hymns employ a diverse selection of elements and vocals to form striking developments, along with other atmospheric suggestions of horror and splendor that linger beyond the night.

ABSTRACTER     Abominion

            The outcome of human existence is realized in the fallout of this release, and no sympathy is shown throughout its crushing infliction. Nuclear sludge emanates from the riffs, and their oppressive burden persists alongside the percussion blasting like dropped bombs. The ambience evokes a desolate setting, and monstrous vocals compound the ruin as it escalates to extraordinary magnitudes.

CODEX NERO     The Great Harvest of Death

             This Polish Order debuts with a sinister venture into the abyss, where entrancing rhythms proceed through a labyrinth of melodic structures, and these culminate in euphoric moments echoed by the vocal delivery. A ritualistic quality permeates the arrangements, along with spectral and industrial undertones from various ambient complements to seal the haunting impact of their depths.

DJEVEL     Tanker Som Rir Natten

            Solitude and a nocturnal spirit are captured on this latest opus, and its cold riffs possess a thickness to match the mist-shrouded splendor of Norwegian forests. Their melodic and rhythmic flowing qualities progress toward sustained epic potency, which is enhanced by the folk impressions from acoustics and certain vocal features, and this enchanted atmosphere prevails with mighty effect.

PESTILENTIAL SHADOWS     Revenant

            The newest release from this horde unleashes an aural plague to proliferate the undead, and varying notes of despair are encountered within the bleak immensity of its riffs. An underlying malevolence is perceived amid these arrangements, which develop into brooding structures as atmospheric qualities take hold, and their dark energy remains in highly infectious form.

NIHILISM     Cataclysme Vers l’Ascendance

            This Greek embodiment steps firmly into avant-garde territory on their sophomore output, and its instrumental discord is matched by a distinctly rabid vocal possession. Steady passages of gloom are encountered within the frenzy, and ominous tones abound through a range of atmospheric qualities. These form an existential journey with tendencies toward evolution and expansion, which heightens anticipation for the path ahead.

FUNERAL MIST     Deiform

            A supreme ungodliness radiates from this infernal Swedish attack, and it strikes through a mutually scorching riff and percussive bombardment. The orchestrated fury intensifies with frantic notes and other accented points, along with rhythmic fluctuations to broaden their impact, and the tone from several pronounced features also shapes the renowned identity of this release.

GRAVELAND     Hour of Ragnarok

            The notorious pagans return with their next epic quest, and its riffs form a wall of grimness reinforced by the comparable vocal tone. Some clean vocal sections also appear, which enhances this ancient setting alongside beating war drums and other folk elements. These sustain a massive aura with impressions of storming into battle, and the work offers an effective soundtrack for the end times.

ADARRAK     Ex Oriente Lux

            The horns reach new elevated planes on this debut exhibition, and its blasting speed paves the way for a multitude of intricate melodic formations with soaring leadwork. Clean vocals are integrated with the crushing guttural approach, and epic atmospheric notes manifest within the technical fretplay, which ultimately generates a varied and striking death metal incarnation.

HATE     Rugia

            This Polish personification unleashes a ruthless dose of darkness and brutality, which becomes as chilling arpeggiated notes and dissonant layers converge within the heaviness, and a blasting pace persists along with sections of groove for calculated effect. The menacing tone conjured in the progressions is amplified by subtle ambient haunts, along with solos for a fierce output brimming with memorable developments.

MORK     Katedralen

             Thomas Eriksen delivers his newest exercise in riffing power, and its detailed melodic patterns express various tones while traversing icy rhythms with swaggering groove. These progress enough to craft a contemporary sound without sacrificing the raw Norwegian essence, and a creative vitality is discerned from their arrangements, which collectively form a blackened cathedral deserving extensive devotion.

SIDEREAN     Lost on Void’s Horizon

            The great expanse is fully engaged on this first voyage, and dissonant structures infuse its death metal approach with a blackened edge. This unsettling quality permeates regions where intricate melodies and drum patterns unfold, which are then enhanced by leadwork with other harmonic effects. Cosmic synth sections are also encountered, and an alluring sci-fi aura is formulated along with the drive to lose oneself in its vastness.

INFERNO     Paradeigma (Phosphenes of Aphotic Eternity)

            This creation delves further into subconscious mystery with its heavy medium and dark hallucinogenic setting. Its spectral currents intertwine to produce disturbed, but also enlightening effects, which are compounded by multiple incorporeal vocal manifestations throughout, and these influences prompt an imaginative venture through the murkiness underlying our material veil.

PALUS SOMNI     Monarch of Dark Matter

            A new lunar force reflects its first incarnation of infinite blackness, and the cosmos is embodied by its dissonant riffing mass while rhythms of blasting intensity conspire with groove. Dismal notes echo amidst the chaos, where vocals also project from a source merged with the universe, and the desolation of clean passages appears along with ambient elements to craft a striking encounter with the void.

AEON     God Ends Here

            I still remember blasting Aeons Black in the car back in 2012, and now after 9 years we finally witness AEON’s next act of sacrilege. Its bludgeoning force slows for moments of pounding emphasis, and these rhythms coincide with the riffing attack as it culminates in searing leadwork. Atmospheric interlude tracks and effects are utilized to conjure a dark majesty, which interacts effectively with the brutality to deliver a mighty welcomed return.

NECROMANTIA     To the Depths We Descend…

            These legendary mages bow out with a final arcane achievement, and it employs a sound not heard since their earliest recordings. This alteration is channeled through fierce orchestrations that reach grandiose levels, and haunting tones are invoked from their elemental variety, which extends to instrumental passages demonstrating further layers of diversity. Reimagining classic tracks with the current medium brings the band full circle for an epic farewell, and it leaves their name exalted among metal titans.

PORTAL     Avow / Hagbulbia

            There are some who would rather see a band maintain their familiar sound while others prefer experimentation, and this year PORTAL have offered two albums that accomplish both. And yes, I cheated by including them together, since they jointly form a complete venture into realms of warped horror and obscurity. Advancements are shown in the traditional vein while also striving for unlimited nightmarish potential, and their unfathomable depths continue inspiring intrigue and unease.

EXODUS     Persona Non Grata

            The myriad of riffs confined within Gary Holt’s mind have finally been given an outlet as he resumes his role in EXODUS, and their long-awaited return forges ahead with the magnitude of its intricate formations. These dense arrangements groove and strike with noted precision while solos and other elements drive their momentous impact, and the powerful delivery of this classic thrash attack demands complete and prolonged engagement.

HUMAN SERPENT     Heirlooms Eternal

            Misanthropy and nihilism are epitomized by this Hellenic force, and their fourth full effort vomits a ruthless quantity of these energies while expanding their uncompromising breed of metal extremity. The strength of this release makes the tragedy befalling this band even more regretful, and I continue offering my support to the surviving members on whatever they pursue in the future.

KRVNA     Sempinfernus

            My inner vampire enthusiast was fully captivated by this new incarnation, which comes from a genuine Slavic/Romanian perspective, and it incorporates the Wallachian spirit with other vicious qualities to form a compelling vampiric embodiment. The fierce orchestrations perfectly convey its immortal and deathlike presence, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next manifestation as it nears completion.  

RAVENOIR     The Darkest Flame of Eternal Blasphemy

            The debut from these Czech heretics presents an immensely raw, blackened, and heavy sound, which then combines with acoustics and other elements to create an enchantingly dark atmosphere, and the distinct spirit of their style effectively personifies the raven and its surrounding lore. A follow-up is currently underway, and I look forward to being immersed In the Womb of Sin later this year.

ARCHGOAT     Worship the Eternal Darkness

            This Luciferian horde represents a sound that never ceases to captivate, and its timelessness expands with the infernal force of their newest onslaught. A relentless storm of blasts and grooving strikes conjure a chaos to overthrow the righteous, and solos enhance its savagery along with the atmosphere from ambient notes and samples. These rugged textures form a depraved and primeval exercise that raises the Black Flame toward greater glory.

CRADLE OF FILTH     Existence is Futile

            The legends have produced an opus that nears perfection with its complex melodic structures and symphonies, along with the heightened vitality demonstrated in their delivery, and its relevance extends further with themes reflecting our current times. The tracks featuring Doug Bradley, and especially his bonus return as Pinhead, only reinforce the magnificence of a work that’s far beyond doubt.

GRÀB     Zeitlang

            A new entity arrives fully with this enchanted release, which is basically a tie for album of the year, and its orchestrations balance harsher elements with melody while embodying a unique Bavarian spirit. Their visceral presence is matched by other features to craft a highly immersive atmosphere, and the result is a spellbinding and contemplative journey that’s easily regarded as a modern black metal masterpiece.

SATURNIAN MIST     Shamatanic

           The order of these releases may fluctuate with mood, but this newest grimoire from SATURNIAN MIST resonates most as my album of the year. I’ve been anticipating it for a while, as stated in my posts, and its arrival proved worth the wait. Like many bands, they explore topics of personal interest, and when I finally saw the album title and cover art it was like my mind had been read. The music itself displays a lot of diversity within a uniquely natural and primitive sound, with arrangements exercising brutality and grind while others possess an entrancing rhythmic flow, and some truly transcendent moments are captured throughout. I continue looking forward to new conjurations in the future, but Shamatanic is worthy of many focused spins in the meantime.

This concludes my reflections on some of the greatness from 2021. Again, I send many hails as attention shifts to the dark paths awaiting.

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