Ugh. Where do we start? 2021 was a horrible mess, filled with cancelled gigs, political garbage (more so than ever before) and climaxed with one of the worst Christmas number one singles in living memory. Thankfully somehow, somehow, music survived in near-guerrilla format. Bands continued their pushes online, live streams have become as commonplace as podcasts, merch became more imaginative (though watch those delays on vinyl right now…) and thrash acts even started writing books.
Without counting, I think we had more album, EP and single submissions for review than we’ve ever had in a single year before. There’s no lacking creativity and without the live scene, bands had to find some way to unleash it. Of course, we did get some gigs for a brief window – and it was glorious – but we’re back into “uncertainty” now, which seems to be what we have to live with for a while.
I’m going to lead with my high point: Bloodstock. They got lucky with their dates hitting that sweet point where restrictions were relaxed enough for the event to take place where so many other had missed out. The additional day to make up for 2020 was welcome, and the bands were incredible. I loved that we had bands playing on stages they wouldn’t usually play due to the 90% UK lineup filling the spaces left by international acts. The atmosphere was phenomenal, and we spent so much time doing interviews. My throat was knackered by day three, but it was more than worth it. Bloodstock 2021 was a very special event and I have to thank everyone involved for managing to pull it off (as well as our own crew who as ever helped provide brilliant coverage), especially as they were thinking on their feet throughout with last-minute forced cancellations and so forth.
Outside of Bloodstock I only caught a couple of other live shows, but they were well worth the effort. Black Stone Cherry were back on top form at the Barrowlands, and Sodomized Cadaver brought a bunch of local support out of the woodwork for what amounted to a mini-festival at Glasgow’s Audio.
Albums / EPs
So, releases. Bloody hell, there’s a lot to pick from and I have to apologise to the many many bands we didn’t feature. Even without being hamstrung by the limited number of staff we have and the jobs we do in the real world, there is no way on earth we could review everything that came in. On a given day we receive 30-100 (approximately) releases. As I’m writing, on December 26th, this is the first day where we have received no mail this entire year. We even got a couple through yesterday!
In other words, we (and you) are spoiled for choice.
I reviewed 68 albums and EPs this year, listened to a bunch more, and even picking from that list is a challenge. Going through them from January onwards, I’ll pluck out the ones that really stood head and shoulders above the rest. Links are to our reviews.
Tortured Demon‘s In Desperation’s Grip has to get a mention as a brutal thrash album which is even better enjoyed live – we caught them at Bloodstock. It’s no secret that I’ve enjoyed Ricky Warwick‘s material since way back in The Almighty days, so When Life Was Hard & Fast is an easy pick. I said when I reviewed it that Issue 1 by The Middlenight Men would feature in this list, so here it (deservedly) is.
Turbyne returned after 6 years with the excellent Arc, and I discovered Lord (who are pretty big in their native Australia) via their varied and rather enjoyable Undercovers album. Also from Australia, The Rumjacks had me Celtic-rocking with Hestia. The Offspring blew me away with Let The Bad Times Roll, making the nine-year gap since their previous release well worth the wait. I just had to throw Rapscallion into this list as well, with their wonderfully silly (and polite) Maximum Splendid which is well worth a listen.
Many of you won’t have heard of Animal Schoolbus, but you really should grab a copy of Going To Grammy’s House 2021 featuring probably the youngest death metal vocalist we’ve reviewed. Though we do focus on the smaller acts, we’re all fans of the more well-established and I jumped at Fear Factory‘s Aggression Continuum and was definitely not disappointed. The end of an era, being the final release with Burton C Bell on vocals, and a damn fine swansong for him. Showing the breadth of acts we cover, Alexa De Strange impressed with their debut release In Extremis. Very atmospheric and worth checking out.
One album I’d been waiting for was The Thirteen Years Of Nero from Ex Deo. You never quite know if they’re going to come up with another album, but each one seems to have been better than the last. Seething Akira steered their trademark fusion metal in a vaguely new direction with sophomore release Dysfunctional Wonderland, as well as being another act that impressed at Bloodstock. The legendary Carcass returned with Torn Arteries, demonstrating that they’re still capable of producing some of the finest metal known to mankind. Plenty of tricks left in this old dog!
Next up, an album I reviewed… then had to take the review down until the day of release. Ice Nine Kills like to keep fans guessing about the subject of each track, drip-feeding the information with a series of brilliant videos up until the album is out. The Silver Scream 2: Welcome To Horrorwood is deserving sequel to their last album, almost as good as its forebear. I’ve mentioned a couple of bands we knew who played Bloodstock, so now for a band that I (re-)discovered there: Spectral Darkwave. Their new album At Outer Dark is beautifully horrific and full of interesting layers. It’s also superb hearing the songs live if you get the chance once it’s all possible again.
Rounding up with a couple of absolute screamers. Exodus have never let us down and Persona Non Grata continued their impressive decades-long run of quality thrash metal. Last but absolutely definitely hell no way are they least – the mad bastards of Monkey Puzzle who finally got to release their EP Scum. You won’t find an angrier or more enjoyable blast that came out in 2021.
It’s been a difficult year for me personally as well as for all of our friends in the music biz. As a teacher, work has been hell. As a separated parent, emotionally it’s been a struggle – worse at the time of year when I’m writing this. This website, the bands and the PRs we deal with, and the friends who work on the site with me have kept me going more than I think any of them will realise. In previous years I’ve considered junking the site as was getting too much for me. This year, it’s kept me going. How things change.
We’ve helped launch and premiere videos, singles, albums and live dates this year. Many bands have picked us out to do this (and we already have some lined up for 2022) and it’s always a huge buzz when we get those emails and messages. Despite the best efforts of Facebook et al, we always do what we can to promote the music we love.
Next year will be no different. With the launch of Moshville Radio (and all who sail in her), we’re only growing stronger. We have other plans and ideas that only need the time and crew to bring to fruition. So if you’re interested in joining our madcap band, you only need to get in touch.
Also a reminder that you can help support us by joining our Patreon (as we grow in numbers here, we’ll get rid of the annoying Google Ads on the site, and donate a percentage to Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation), or throw us some pennies via Ko-Fi.
I wish you all the best for 2022, safe in the knowledge that although it might not be an easy journey, rock and metal will survive and carry us along with it. And if you do struggle, then there are people to talk to. These haven’t been easy time, but there’s no reason to go through them alone.