July wasn’t one of the stronger months of 2021 in terms of quality new releases. Still, there were some notable new albums that caught our ear. Here are our picks for July 2021’s best new heavy metal albums.
1. Craven Idol – Forked Tongues (Dark Descent)
Black metal blasphemers Craven Idol return with Forked Tongues, their third album under the Dark Descent banner. As laid out on the title “The Wrath of Typhon,” the Londoners look to dark tales of Greek mythology for lyrical inspiration. Loud and raucous, Forked Tongues presents a variety of influences from the old school thrash of Sodom to second wave black metal in the vein of Immortal, Mayhem, Destroyer 666 and Absu.
While the pace varies, their speed is undeniable. Much like Destroyer 666, they often place careening guitar solos over the speed to give the album an unhinged feel. Shrieks, growls, ancient choirs and high-pitched wails denote a variety of voices. Weighing in at over nine minutes, “Deify the Stormgod” and “The Gods Have Left Us for Dead” exemplify the band’s compositional and story telling chops. Like catching the eyes of Medusa, Forked Tongues is a hard album to turn away from.
2. Drawn And Quartered – Congregation Pestilence (Krucyator)
Brutal death metal legends Drawn And Quartered are unstoppable when it comes to releasing blistering music. Three years after the release of the acclaimed The One Who Lurks, what follows in the continuation of the hideous world of that album is Congregation Pestilence. It’s 38 minutes of bestial death metal; where every spark of light dies.
Drawn And Quartered do not expend a single bit of energy to connect to the modern elements of death metal. This is where the insistence and resistance to the stability of old school death metal comes into play. Congregation Pestilence gloriously and powerfully connects itself to wide ranges of blast beats to slow burning death metal. In the midst of organized chaos of the drums, labyrinthine riffs and melodies are intertwined, and in this complexity, technical death metal emerges. It’s a clear picture of a dark and torturous art, as if you are looking at Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents or Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas. Remarkable songwriting and performances, notable production, and the intimidating voice of Herb Burke all lead Congregation Pestilence to be the band’s best work to date.
3. Lord Of The Lost – Judas (Napalm)
Judas, the latest effort from the German gothic/industrial band Lord Of The Lost is an ambitious double album. The concept revolves around Judas Iscariot and the so-called Gospel Of Judas, a non-canonical Gnostic gospel consisting of conversations between Jesus and Judas.
While it is a compelling concept, it’s a daunting task to maintain interest over 24 songs and nearly two hours. And while there are a few lulls, Lord Of The Lost mostly succeed. There’s a lot of variety, from metallic industrial tracks to emotional gothic songs. Frontman Chris Harms’ baritone voice has a lot of gravitas and versatility. Backing choirs and periodic harsh vocals make the songs even more interesting as do elements such as a violin and organ on the somber “Death Is Just A Kiss Away” and female vocals on “Argent.” Judas is dramatic without devolving into melodramatics and the quality of the songwriting makes it much easier to stay engaged for the entire length of the double album.
4. Cognitive – Malevolent Thoughts Of A Hastened Extinction (Unique Leader)
If that cover art didn’t give it away, prepare yourself for one of 2021’s most brutal albums. Taking sonic cues from the likes of Dying Fetus and Origin, New Jersey death metallers Cognitive‘s fourth album Malevolent Thoughts Of A Hastened Extinction certainly delivers on that front.
Ingredients besides concussion-inducing heaviness are required to maintain interest though, and these folks acknowledge this, meshing groove, speed and most notably, technical prowess with class. Case in point is opener “Eniac,” which proves furious and riff-laden, but also infuses beefy grooves, a quality guitar solo and versatile vocal performance. Other standouts are “To Feed the Worms,” which echoes Despised Icon’s unhinged fury in spots; sickening shrieks of “Malevolent Thoughts” and downright crushing, yet dynamic “Arterial Red.” Already adept at infusing dissonant melodies and abstract time signatures, this tech-friendly crew have honed a few other songwriting tricks to complement their heavier than a bag of spanners on Jupiter approach.
5. Praise The Plague – The Obsidian Gate (Lifeforce)
Praise The Plague have dialed up the black metal on The Obsidian Gate, reaching BPMs they were nowhere near during 2018’s Antagonist. Their Antagonist II EP that followed a year after was the initial hint of this shift, and this pull away from strictly blackened sludge gives these songs a powerful shove.
The group hasn’t abandoned soul-stripping heaviness but have complimented it with flesh-peeling quickness. There’s the added effect of subdued melodies to allow for a brief respite, though the sense of impending dread isn’t shaken away. Whatever zone Praise The Plague land in, The Obsidian Gate never dulls the senses. It’s superior to anything they’ve released to date, as they begin to hit their stride with an unsettling blend of black, sludge and doom metal.
6. Big Big Train – Common Ground (English Electric)
Big Big Train’s 2019 album Grand Tour made our Best Progressive Albums chart that year – the only album of the bunch we didn’t review when it was released. So I was pretty excited to get promo for Common Ground, the English collective’s thirteenth album – thirty years into their career. Big Big Train consistently release top-notch progressive rock albums, and Common Ground is no exception.
Featuring lush production, fabulous musicianship, and expressive vocals, the only downside to Common Ground might be the subject matter. Like many albums coming out this year, the topic du jour is COVID. Lyrics about missing people and being isolated might sound dated in a few years, but the songs Big Big Train have crafted here more than make up for the themes. Once again, the band has shown us what a great progressive rock outfit can and should sound like.
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