Nikita’s Top 10 of 2021

by Nikita Alekseyevich Khrenov 

Wow, what a heavy hitting year. Initially I thought I would have a difficult time coming up with 10 records because I had no idea what was slated to be released. As it turns out, I was spoiled for choice, and deciding on what albums stuck with me the most this year was a battle royale that left me frantically making and remaking this list no less than a dozen times. Nevertheless, here are the albums that really left a major impression on me in 2021.

Honorable Mentions:

  • C R O W N – The End of All Things
  • Gonemage – Sudden Deluge
  • Pupil Slicer – Mirrors
  • Gojira – Fortitude
  • Enslaved – Caravans to the Outer Worlds EP

10. Bodom After Midnight – Pain the Sky with Blood EP

What an amazing EP. The last pieces of music that Alexi Laiho had recorded that proved he had plenty more bangers left in the tank. While we are left pondering what could have been if he had stayed with us, we at least have these wonderful songs left to remember a man who helped shape modern melodic death metal to what it is today.

9. Atvm – Famine, Putrid and Fucking Endless

Holy shit where did this record come from? This is serious technical brilliance in death metal form. Twists and turns galore with the riffs flowing like the finest of wines. Immediately when I heard this I thought of Demilich in terms of the sheer balls-to-the-wall insanity of it, here’s to looking forward to more sick riffs.

8. Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm

Cosmic black metal perfection. Listening to this record is just transporting yourself into a realm of self-reflection and wonder, until the soaring guitar solos hit and catapult you into the land of emotions. Through masterful songwriting and composition, the 10+ minute songs just whizz by, and leave you wanting to go back and listen again.

7. Stortregn – Impermanence

This band was brand new to me and seeing all of the praise and hype, I just had to give this a listen. What I discovered was an outstanding melodic death metal band. Full of pure malice and evil, Stortregn pushes the intensity past 11 and don’t let up for the 45 minute playtime. An album that perfectly balances technicality and melody that’s just bursting with flavor sure to go down as an all-time classic.

6. Stone Healer – Conquistador

How does one mix progressive songwriting with black metal intensity with a rock n’ roll attitude? This writer isn’t sure but Stone Healer are clearly on a whole different level because they managed to nail it. A record full of rockstar shit just dripping with emotion, an masterclass in songwriting.

5. Xenosis – Paralleled Existence

Just when I thought we’d never get another Martyr record, these local lads manage to churn out a fantastic spiritual successor. Equal parts jazz, death metal, and jam band, Xenosis created an incredibly deep and technical record that doesn’t get lost in the sauce of complexity and manages to stay catchy and full of hooks.

4. Cynic – Ascension Codes

One of the most moving albums of the year. All the trappings of the Cynic we know and love are present but with the newest members of the group stamping their signature sounds onto the formula. The heartbreak of the last years’ tragedies weaves through all of the tracks but also present is a glimmer of hope.

3. Amigo the Devil – Born Against

Amigo the Devil is a name that I had seen many times over the past few years and never gave him much of a thought. Yet one fateful day while at a tattoo appointment, I hear this song that I initially assumed was by Tom Waits, until the dulcet, dramatic, tones of Danny Kiranos greeted my ears and I was hooked. Beautiful storytelling created by a well-balanced marriage of music and verse that just infects the listener.

2. Dungeon Serpent – World of Sorrows

Now this a throwback done right. From the artwork, to the song titles, to the typeface on the album, and of course, the songs, Dungeon Serpent perfectly captures the essence of old school 90’s melodic death metal. Minimal synths, raw production, pounding blast beats and roars, one could easily mistake this record for an unknown gem recently discovered from the heyday of death metal innovation.

1. Between the Buried and Me – Colors II

Initially I was skeptical of this album’s title, naming a record as the sequel to what is widely considered your most popular album is a risky move for any band. My worries were quickly displaced as soon as I hit play. This album has many parallels to the first Colors but with improvements that can be traced back to the various records released in the 14 years between. Truly an album that surpasses it’s “original,” this is the definitive BTBAM experience.

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