Quantity-wise, August had the fewest number of new heavy music releases since January. Quality-wise, though, it stacks up well with previous months. Some worthy releases such as Leprous, Danko Jones, Necronautical, Phinehas and Witchcryer just missed the cut. Here are our picks for August 2021’s best heavy metal albums.
I’ve been hooked on Terminus since grabbing their 2018 release Fortune Looming. The Arkansas trio specialize in a very unique amalgamation of doom, stoner, and prog, and do it wonderfully. The Silent Bell Toll is the band’s latest album, recorded a year and a half ago but not released until this month. The wait is worth it.
While Fortune Looming had a somewhat wistful feel to it, on The Silent Bell Toll Terminus turn up the volume and the chunky fuzz – slightly reminiscent of 2016’s “Safe Travels, See You Never.” This album is loaded with riffs, and the charismatic vocals of Sebastian Thomas (think of a cross between Pallbearer and Geddy Lee) make every song ooze with class. From the earworm riffs of “Black Swan” to the epic fuzz-tinged doom of “Oh Madrigal,” songwriting, performances, production, and arrangements are spot on, making it our top album of August.
2. Between The Buried And Me – Colors II (Sumerian)
In 2007, Between The Buried And Me released their fourth album Colors. Nearly 15 years later they decided to do a sequel. While they have established themselves as one of prog’s most successful bands, they say they still struggle with where they belong in the music scene.
Colors II, while sharing musical similarities with the original, is more wide ranging, plus their songwriting and musical chops are better now than they were in 2007. At 78 minutes, it’s a lot to absorb, but BTBAM balance shorter, more accessible songs like “Fix The Error” (which features a drum solo from Mike Portnoy) and the ballad “Stare Into The Abyss” with epics like “Never Seen/Future Shock” and the 15 minute closer “Human Is Hell (Another One With Love).” Progressive forays and clever melodies keep the listener engaged, with constant shifts and surprises.
3. Jinjer – Wallflowers (Napalm)
The Ukrainian band Jinjer have been prolific over the past few years. 2019 saw the release of both the EP Micro and full-length Macro, while in 2020 they issued the live album Alive In Melbourne. Now they are releasing their fourth full-length album Wallflowers.
Pinpointing Jinjer’s sound is challenging because it’s ever-shifting. The overarching term modern metal fits, also incorporating progressive and ‘core influences. The songs shift from technical and intense to melodic and groove laden. Tatiana Shmayluk’s vocal performance is wide ranging, running the gamut from melodic singing to throat shredding screams. “Vortex” and the title track are the more accessible songs, at least most of them are, before the intensity ratchets up toward the end. Other songs tilt that equation, with extremity punctuated by brief melodic parts. Able to shift on a dime, Jinjer still manage to make Wallflowers a cohesive work, one that’s both challenging and engrossing.
4. Wolves In The Throne Room – Primordial Arcana (Relapse)
On the last few releases from Wolves In The Throne Room (save for their move into ambiance with 2014’s Celestite), there has been a humble warmth buried in their earthly tones. If their music was a season, it was a crisp winter day with the sun shining just enough to melt a few icicles off barren tree limbs. That glare is largely missing from Primordial Arcana, as a bitter chill rests over their sound, at times flirting with symphonic black metal with its consistent arrangement of synths providing a cinematic touch. Whatever frost forms over this album coats a solid sheet of ice that’s already there, as the forest has been sapped of life by a belligerent blackened blizzard. For the first time on any of their albums, they only have one track that goes over 10 minutes, a feat that puts their restraint on display.
Wolves In The Throne Room have never tried to make themselves accessible to anyone who doesn’t have the tenacity to embrace their rustic roots, yet Primordial Arcana is the record that could come the closest to being accepted by a wider range of listeners. The shorter songs help, as does the distinct pacing that makes the full-throttled “Mountain Magick” and the delayed explosiveness of “Through Eternal Fields” work well together. They don’t reinvent themselves, but the band does tinker with their sound to make Primordial Arcana a viable addition to their essential discography.
5. Hooded Menace – The Tritonus Bell (Season of Mist)
Finnish death doom crew Hooded Menace return with The Tritonus Bell, their first album in over three years. What has seemingly changed this time around is the band’s heavier emphasis on melody or it could just be plenty of influence from their fellow Finns.
That isn’t to say that they lack their doom-laden plod through your aural canals as evidenced by the glacial pace of “Chime Diabolicus” and “Scattered Into Dark.” The former track draws your attention to the leads several times, adding depth upon each reintroduction to the fray. “Corpus Asunder” blasts out of the gate with the perfect combination of the band’s two styles with tons of melody present, and add in some Celtic Frost bits with the spoken pained words thrown into the mix for even more variety. Classically themed melodic death metal has clearly been an influence on the band this time around, perhaps to drive home the feeling of melancholy. Consistently improving, Hooded Menace have released the doom metal album of the year to this point.
6. Dødsferd – Suicide And The Rest Of Your Kind Will Follow Part II (FYC)
Part II of Suicide And The Rest Of Your Kind Will Follow marks the Greek band’s 20th anniversary. Dødsferd mastermind Wrath wrote the music and lyrics in total solitude. Sticking with misanthropic themes of past efforts, he penned an album of stark melancholy and melody. While the black metal sections recall past DSBM-inspired compositions, this is no mere depressive suicidal black metal album.
The two-track album looks like an EP on the surface, but with a total running time around 35 minutes it’s definitely a long-play recording. Each track is progressive and moody. Both songs are slow and moody, but speed builds as do the dynamics. Instrumentally, the album is diverse with emotive use of cello, flute, acoustic guitar and saxophone. Wrath’s vocals vary too from tortured shrieks to growls and clean narratives. Suicide And The Rest Of Your Kind Will Follow is the most expansive, emotion-driven album of Wrath’s career—his magnum opus in all its glory.
Other 2021 Best Monthly Albums Lists
January 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
February 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
March 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
April 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
May 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
June 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
July 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums