A Pox on All Their Houses: The AMG Staff Pick Their Top Ten(ish) Records o’ 2021

The pandemic shifts and mutates, mankind continues to disappoint and AMG Industries, Ltd. LLC, rolls on through it all like an apocalyptic battle wagon with titanium crash bumpers.

And so it all begins. The List Season we all fear and dread, where metal cred is put on the line and the masses provide a thumbs up or thumbs down.  First up as always is the AMG Staff Top Ten(ish), so practice your jeers, and rotten fruit hurling. Get it all out of your system, for AMG Management will brook no such insubordination when their lists arrive in flaming chariots of chrome and imitation leather. Enjoy!


Dr. Wvrm 

#10: Seven Spires // Gods of Debauchery
#9: Abstract Void // Wishdream
#8: VOLA // Witness
#7. Dormant Ordeal // The Grand Scheme of Things
#6. Stormkeep // Tales of Othertime
#5. Archspire // Bleed the Future
#4. First Fragment // Gloire Éternelle
#3. Old Nick // A New Generation of Vampiric Conspiracies
#2. Summoning the Lich // United in Chaos
#1. Ophidian I // Desolate – Far be it from me to have my thunder stolen in my own blurb, but I struggle to come up with a better distillation of what Ophidian I is — and who it plays best for — than the summation provided by one Andrew Synn: Ophidian I is Obscura-meets-DragonForce, and all the excesses that self-indulgent beast has to offer. You won’t find a better combination of absurd technical fireworks and super-catchy melodies this year. For my money — for all my money — that’s all I need to be happy, and goddamn, Desolate makes me happy.

Honorable Mentions:

Thy CatafalqueVadak
InferiVile Genesis

Song o’ the Year: Ophidian I – “Diamonds”

Disappointment o’ the Year: My personal article output. Executive dysfunction is a bitch.


Eldritch Elitist

(ish) Summoning the Lich // United in Chaos
#10. Unto Others // Strength
#9. Inferi // Vile Genesis
#8. Archspire // Bleed the Future
#7. Stortregn // Impermanence
#6. Stormkeep // Tales of Othertime
#5. Edu Falaschi // Vera Cruz
#4. Mega Colossus // Riptime
#3. Duskmourn // Fallen Kings and Rusted Crowns
#2. First Fragment // Gloire Éternelle
#1. Windfaerer // Breaths of Elder Dawns – It’s never easy to assemble my year-end list, with the sole exception of my number one pick. Year after year, my album of the year shines forth in my mind like a beacon in a sea of… well, slightly less bright beacons. Breaths of Elder Dawns is no exception, and even before I was halfway through my first listen of it, I knew in my heart that Windfaerer had just nabbed the top spot. This record represents black metal beholden to no trends. It exists in the name of beauty and aggression, with Windfaerer taking unexpected and often brilliant paths in crafting a record that is as effervescent as it is sobering. Blasty enough for the black metal bros, bouncy enough for the folk metal nerds, and energetic enough for the melodeath fiends, Breaths of Elder Dawns is great fucking metal that requires no pre-existing allegiances in order to attain maximum enjoyment. It is a perfect record, and no other record I’ve heard in years can make such a claim.

Honorable Mentions

DessideriumAria
HelloweenHelloween
AquilusBellum I
AephanemerA Dream of Wilderness
Old NickA New Generation of Vampiric Conspiracies
Seven SpiresGods of Debauchery
Cara NeirPhase Out
Ancient MasteryChapter One: Across the Mountains of the Drämmarskol
Oxygen DestroyerSinister Monstrosities Spawned by the Unfathomable Ignorance of Humankind

Song o’ the Year: Coheed and Cambria – “Rise, Naianasha (Cut the Cord)

Disappointment o’ the Year: Gloryhammer


Akerblogger

#10. Vitrail // Les Pages Oubliées
#9. Inferno // Paradeigma (Phosphenes of Aphotic Eternity)
#8. Sigil // Nether
#7. Cannibal Corpse // Violence Unimagined
#6. Our Place of Worship is Silence // Disavowed, and Left Hopeless
#5. Zao // The Crimson Corridor
#4. Ad Nauseam // Imperative Imperceptible Impulse
#3. The Ruins of Beverast // The Thule Grimoires
#2. Plebeian Grandstand // Rien ne suffit
#1. Portal // Avow – I don’t really know what I like anymore; I don’t know if I like, anymore. I’ve listened to over 600 releases from 2021 – child’s play compared to some others who frequent this swirling vortex of internet misery – and I”ve found myself jumping between new releases with a feeling of brain-dead emptiness. Perhaps this is because Imperial Triumphant and Ulcerate from 2020 still standout and shine. Nonetheless, despite my apathy I’ve found ten records that may stand the test of time (the test: I might listen to these again in the future with a smidgen of positive feeling). Portal‘s Avow is my top release of 2021. It’s a magical journey of electric ungodliness. Its textured cascade of guitar noise and air-sucking vocals, shape-shitftingly demonic, demonstrates limited variety. It bludgeons and blankets and sticks to its path. Yet every time I listen to Avow a peculiar feeling of being sucked into the interior mind of a troubled, agonized deity persists. I find Avow alluring and arresting in a strangely personal manner. There’s something in the dry, cavernous ejections and inhalations of breath from The Curator that sticks to my brain. There’s something in the shimmering, scathing tumult of textured guitars that melds, grotesquely, with the vocal incantations that hypnotizes. There’s just something uneasy here that hooks me intensely. Sometimes you just get a feeling about something and that feeling is difficult to shake. I get a feeling from Avow. I haven’t been the biggest Portal fan in the past, but this one’s different in my eyes. It’s a personal invitation to witness the internal cries of a fallen angel. Pretentious: hell yes. Great: hell yes.

Honorable Mentions:

MØL // Diorama
Wreche // All My Dreams Came True
Skepticisim // Companion
Order // The Gospel
Sadistic Force // Ace’s Wild
Archspire // Bleed The Future
Carcinoma // Labascation

Song o’ the Year: MØL – “Serf“

Disappointment o’ the Year: Emptiness Vide


Emya

#10. Wÿntër Ärvń // Abysses 
#9. Empyrium // Über den Sternen
#8. Wolves in the Throne Room // Primordial Arcana 
#7. Unreqvited // Beautiful Ghosts
#6. Aephanemer // A Dream of Wilderness 
#5. Seven Spires // Gods of Debauchery
#4. Heart Healer // The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson
#3. Thy Catafalque // Vadak
#2. Aquilus // Bellum I
#1. KAUAN // Ice Fleet – Selecting an album to be crowned my #1 album of the year for 2021 was, as in previous years, not a straightforward task. Settling on KAUAN‘s Ice Fleet, however, is a decision I feel wholly at peace with. Since it was released in April, Ice Fleet has not stopped reeling me into its chilling depths. Even though Ice Fleet is a concept album (complete with a tabletop RPG adventure) that chronicles the discovery in the 1930s of a fleet of ships preserved in permafrost in Northern Russia, listening to the album is the opposite of numbing. KAUAN employs simple, unadorned melodies with dense and radiantly sorrowful tones to result in the most emotionally transportive record I’ve spent time with in 2021. For me, Ice Fleet serves as a reminder of why I found a home in the metal sphere.

Honorable Mentions:

Jamie Stillway, Eric Skye // Home on the Midrange


Felagund

#10. Zornheym // The Zornheim Sleep Experiment
#9. Vreid // Wild North West
#8. Miasmata // Unlight: Songs of Earth and Atrophy
#7. King Buffalo // The Burden of Restlessness
#6. Boss Keloid // Family the Smiling Thrush
#5. Crypta // Echos of the Soul
#4. Obscura // A Valediction
#3. Alustrium // A Monument to Silence
#2. Archspire // Bleed the Future
#1. Beyond Grace // Our Kingdom UndoneIn a year full of high-quality tech and progressive death releases, Beyond Grace’s second full-length stood out to good ‘ole Felagund, a newcomer around these parts. And while the Archspires and Obscuras of the world might top many a list,, it was Our Kingdom Undone that truly scratched my death metal itch following its release in September. As the year wound down to its inevitable, booster-dosed conclusion, I found myself spinning Beyond Grace’s sophomore effort again and again, finding new aspects to admire with each listen and reveling in its ability to balance technically with emotive memorability, musical and lyrical nuance with utter brutality. Every track across the board is a certified banger, overflowing with engaging riffs and enough techy twists and turns to keep things fresh without sacrificing cohesiveness. Indeed, Beyond Grace have crafted 47 minutes of quality, hulking death metal, with most songs in the 4 to 5-minute range save for a swirling, 12-minute epic closer that leaves you battered and beaten but wanting more (you know, the way Iron Maiden used to do.) It’s such a shame that Our Kingdom Undone hasn’t appeared on more best of lists, as it has all the makings of a modern classic. Beyond Grace have done something really special here; something I’m proud to place at the head of my first official AMG year-end list.

Honorable mentions:

Cannibal Corpse // Violence Unimagined
VOLA // Witness
Unto Others // Strength
In Mourning // The Bleeding Veil

Song o’ the Year: Archspire – “Drone Corpse Aviator”

Disappointments o’ the Year: Wormwitch – Wolf Hex
Soen Imperial

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