This is our final monthly “best of” list of 2021. Our best of 2021 list is coming next month. Here are our choices for November 2021’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Khemmis – Deceiver (Nuclear Blast)
Critical doom metal darlings Khemmis are back with their fourth album Deceiver, after the longest gap between releases yet. Desolation saw the band moving slightly away from doom and making more forays into relatively up-tempo epic traditional metal, but on Deceiver there’s plenty of both across the album’s six songs. “Avernal Gate” is almost an encapsulation of everything the band does, and it’s an excellent way to kick off the album. The final song “The Astral Road” is the album highlight, a nine-minute excursion down slightly more up-tempo doom-enshrouded roads, full of mood shifts and perfectly arranged.
As far as production goes, this is a great-sounding record. There’s a ton of punch and crunch in all the instruments, and the vocals continue to show improvement, both clean and harsh. In fact, the vocal performances here are incredibly strong. Deceiver is Khemmis’s most dynamically varied release, and also the one with the least immediate impact. The bookend songs are fantastic and deliver on first listen. The rest of the album takes time to sink in, but if you give it that time you will be rewarded.
2. Converge – Bloodmoon: I (Epitaph)
Converge are a band that needs very little introduction to the heavy music scene. However, with Bloodmoon: I things are very different this time around. That fact is made very evident on the opening track “Bloodmoon,” which sees the band being joined in tandem with Chelsea Wolfe’s haunting vocals. This kind of combination evokes the kind of change in style that Julie Christmas had with Cult of Luna on Mariner.
Think of Bloodmoon: I as something of an experiment from the band, one that showcases their ability to play some styles of music that they had only dabbled in before. Converge fully realize the potential of adding in guest musicians to help with the variety side of things. Bloodmoon: I is a successful experiment that showcases the band’s excellent musicianship accompanied by several other well established performers, adding to the total quality of this album from start to finish.
3. Hypocrisy – Worship (Nuclear Blast)
It has been a while since we’ve heard from Swedish death metal veterans Hypocrisy. Their last album was 2013’s End Of Disclosure. Eight years later they are back with their thirteenth studio album Worship. The lineup of vocalist/guitarist Peter Tagtgren, Mikael Hedlund and drummer Horgh all return.
Hypocrisy have a knack for writing songs that are both brutal and catchy. Memorable riffs and intense parts abound. It’s a diverse record as well. “Another Day” moves at a brisk tempo with galloping riffs, “Bug In The Net” is atmospheric with airy moments, and even the numerous mid-tempo tracks shift tempos and intensities. Thirty years in, there’s no lack of passion in Hypocrisy’s performance, their musicianship is impeccable and the production is excellent. That makes Worship a first-rate death metal album, another consistent entry in a long line of quality Hypocrisy releases.
4. Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers (Century Media)
Moonflowers is a dark and dreadful journey through depressive thought patterns, disappointment and loss that sees Finnish death doom stalwarts Swallow The Sun delve into the heavier side of their sound, all the while exploring an alternate universe of sorrowful chamber music on the accompanying “classical versions” album. There is no respite from the doom, only calmer throughs between the crests of heaviness.
Frontman Jaani Peuhu alternates between brooding baritone and guttural growls, and the guitars follows suit, switching between clean arpeggios, plodding chugs and churning riffs. The production is exquisite, with lush layers of synthesizers, strings and back vocals enriching most songs, and a massive drum and bass sound that fills the space created by the slow tempi. Cammie Gilbert from Oceans of Slumbers guests on “All Hallows’ Grieve” to great effect. This is a perfect album for those early winter nights.
5. Diablo Swing Orchestra – Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole (Spinefarm)
Swedish ensemble Diablo Swing Orchestra did not overly impress with their last album, 2017’s Pacifisticuffs, but they are intent on regaining our trust and love here on their fifth album, Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole. With their unique mash-up of jazz, prog rock, classical music, and groove metal, the DSO have the potential to knock it out of the park when firing on all cylinders.
That’s mostly what happens on Swagger… as the band tears through number after number of quirky, catchy craziness. Thirteen songs stretch over an hour here, and each of them is full of crazy musicianship, theatrical vocals, and an all-around positive vibe that almost reminds one of a cross between Igorrr and the B-52’s. After a dip in quality last time around, DSO are right back doing what they do best: crafting some of the most fervently infectious music of the year.
6. Omnium Gatherum – Origin (Century Media)
The long-running Finnish melodic death metal band Omnium Gatherum have had a couple of lineup changes since their last album, 2018’s The Burning Cold. New to the group are bassist Mikko Kivistö (Pain Confessor) and drummer Atte Pesonen (Anger Cell). The lone original member is guitarist Markus Vanhala.
It has been nearly 20 years since their debut EP, and Omnium Gatherum have established a recognizable sound over the past couple decades. Melodic guitars are augmented by atmospheric keyboards and topped with mostly harsh vocals along with some singing. The songs are engaging, with memorable riffs and a lot of dynamics. They are also remarkably consistent, with minimal filler, even on nearly nine minute songs like “Solemn.” All the original songs are one-word titles this time around, and they close with an interesting cover choice. They put a metal twist on the song “In Front Of Me” from the electronica/psychedelic group Infected Mushroom.
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
August 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
September 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums
October 2021 Best Heavy Metal Albums