Live music is returning across the globe, and though there were fewer new releases than in May, there were plenty of great albums. Here are our choices for June 2021’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Boss Keloid – Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple)
Boss Keloid‘s last album, 2018’s Melted On The Inch, was an honorable mention on our Best of 2018 albums list, so the anticipation for their latest release Family The Smiling Thrush was high. Over the years Boss Keloid’s sound has evolved and expanded from stoner/doom. While that style is still there, they have really expanded their progressive approach, and this is their proggiest album to-date.
They boldly open with the album’s longest track, the 9 minute “Orang Of Noyn.” On songs such as “Gentle Clovis” and “Hats The Mandrill” they display a masterful blend of groovy riffs, progressive forays and memorable melodies. This is album that’s both catchy and creative, immediately accessible but also displaying depth that unfolds more and more upon multiple listens. Family The Smiling Thrush is diverse and dynamic, appealing to fans of numerous genres.
2. Darkthrone – Eternal Hails (Peaceville)
With album number 19, the dynamic Darkthrone duo of Nocturno Culto and Fenriz continue their love affair with the classic metal that helped shape their musical careers. Riffs are the name of the game throughout the entire run time of Eternal Hails, ranging from some tremolo picked sections to slow doom dirges and atmosphere.
Darkthrone have once again managed to craft an album that manages to marry the band’s black metal past with the sounds that helped to make them who they are. Is this heavy black metal or is it black doom metal? I’m not entirely sure, but after 19 albums one thing remains true: this band still rules. Eternal Hails is one of the highlights of the year so far.
3. Helloween – Helloween (Nuclear Blast)
The new (and sixteenth overall) self-titled platter from power metal founders Helloween has to be one of the more compelling and anticipated releases of 2021. Why? Because this is the band’s “reunion” lineup, a seven-piece outfit with three singers and some significant history. That potential is exercised to its fullest in immediate fashion, as the trio of opening songs is Helloween in all their glory. In fact, “Out for Glory,” “Fear of the Fallen,” and “Best Time” would be right at home on any of the band’s classic albums.
This might be an odd statement for a power metal release, but nothing on Helloween seems extravagant or over the top. Weikath, Hansen, and Sascha Gerstner all deliver great riffs and tasty solos, Grosskopf’s bass thrums and growls beneath them, and Löble’s drumming is never a distraction. The band had a tall task but they managed to hold their own with a fun, enthusiastic, and engaging offering of power metal that manages to evoke feelings of yore while still being modern. The band can be proud of Helloween, and I know a number of these songs will still be getting cranked months from now.
4. Thy Catafalque – Vadak (Season of Mist)
Vadak, the tenth album from Thy Catafalque, means “wildlings” in Hungarian, and Tamás Kátai goes wild on this album, delivering a dizzying range of styles across ten songs and over an hour of runtime. Featuring no less than sixteen guest musicians/vocalists and recorded in more than ten countries, Vadak was a monumental undertaking and Kátai’s efforts pay off handsomely.
Vadak is Thy Catafalque’s most metallic release in some years, with plenty of harsh vocals and driving rhythms scattered across the album. Whether it’s the all-out aggression displayed on songs like “Móló” and “Gömböc” or the kitschy countrified flavor of “Kiscsikó (Irénke dala),” Vadak is a vital, enthralling, and aggressive release from a fantastic artist. If you’ve never listened to Thy Catafalque, Vadak is a great place to start.
5. Flotsam and Jetsam – Blood In The Water (AFM)
If any band has seen a career resurgence – no, actually a career resuscitation – it would be Phoenix, AZ’s thrash legends Flotsam and Jetsam. Album number fourteen is Blood In The Water, which may just be what these grizzled veterans are smelling after charging back to the forefront of the thrash movement. The album opens with the title track, which is a relentless rain of blows upon our ears. The energy spewing forth from the speakers is exceedingly impressive for a band of any age, let alone a group of guys who have been at it for four decades.
Steve Conley and Michael Gilbert return on guitar, and of course AK Knutson mans the mic. His voice has a drama to it more akin to some power metal vocalists than thrash, but it serves to set the band apart from the hordes of other thrash acts plying their trade. As always, AK adds another dimension to the songs. His ability to convey rage, futility, desperation, elation, and more is amazing at this juncture of his career. Blood In The Water is the work of a band that still has oodles of vitality.
6. The Absence – Coffinized (M-Theory)
After going eight years without releasing an album, the Florida melodic death band The Absence re-emerged in 2018 with A Gift For The Obsessed and several new members. That lineup is mostly intact for Coffinized, with guitarist Joey Concepcion only on four of the tracks.
The band hits on all cylinders on this album. There’s plenty of crushing death metal with some thrashy moments that’s balanced by melodic moments. Things like the brief acoustic solo in “Choirs Of Sickness” are interesting touches. The Absence bring a lot of creativity to the Gothenburg melodeath template along with well-written songs. As on the previous album, guitarist Taylor Nordberg and drummer Jeramie Kling handled production duties, giving it a more dynamic sound that most albums in the genre.