The title says it all, peeps: here’s a list of some killer albums from 2021 that Wall Of Sound didn’t get around to covering. Albums that I feel are unmissable when taking stock of this year’s greatest releases. No need to thank me, fam, I got you…
The Armed – Ultrapop
Who are The Armed? Who cares! The mostly-mysterious collective behind this experimental-hardcore noise-pop Detroit act – some twenty-plus members, eight or nine of whom appear on this LP – turn in a jaw-dropping record to rival their equally bat-shit 2018 outing. Everything on Ultrapop is pushed well past 11, becoming this Maximalist experience about pop music and hardcore subcultures, the toxic tendrils of capitalism infecting art, and whatever other weird inspirations The Armed pulled from to create such wonderful speaker-fucked noise. Cuts like “An Iteration,” “Average Death,” “Bad Selection,” “A Life So Wonderful,” and “Masunaga Vapors” all ensured this was AOTY material right off the bat. I can’t say enough good things about this beauty.
MØL – Diorama
You say Sunbather, I say Jord, we are not the same. The 2018 debut album from these Danes was the new benchmark for post-black-metal, like Neon. once was. On album two, MØL expand their sound in glorious fashion. The highly successful blackgaze that once turned heads in their direction remains, like on the wicked “Serf,” everything has now just been augmented. There’s more solos, more vocal techniques, more instrumental dynamics; a personal biographical slant that examines the idea of losing meaning; the uplifting pop-punk energy of “Vestige”; the ghostly, Danish-sung post-rock of its epic title piece; or how “Photophobic” and “Redacted” hone MØL’s elegant sound to sounding even more evocative and powerful. My favourite cut from this incredible record:
Hail The Sun – New Age Filth
Seriously, I don’t know how this band does it. With each new Hail The Sun record, the band only improves. This was the case from Wake to Culture Scars, from Culture Scars to Mental Knife, and from that solid LP to this year’s most excellent New Age Filth. Threading the needle between volatile post-hardcore aggressiveness, tasteful technicality, personal intimacy, great hooks, sweet riffs, and no-minced lyrical honesty, Hail The Sun’s latest LP is their most streamlined and consistent work yet.
Zao – The Crimson Corridor
Oppressive and bleak, over-bearing yet delicate and dynamic; The Crimson Corridor is Zao displaying zero signs of a band wounded by time’s wear and tear. If anything, one of the most vital metalcore bands to ever exist only sound bigger, louder, heavier and deadlier, exploring cryptic topics of philosophy and ontological cycles, as well as denser textures and doomier moods to fantastic effect. Zao have delivered a worldly dirge of such magnitude with The Crimson Corridor, that even after 12 records and 28 years, they can still put out one of the finest heavy records of any given year.
Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready
Far too many albums are labelled as “crushing,” yet few truly are. But Kristen Hayter’s new album under her Lingua Ignota moniker isn’t a metal album? Correct, and it’s larger, both in overwhelming frequency and musical density than most other heavy groups. A critical examination of evangelicalism, of trying (and failing) to find God within God’s own supposed country, Lingua Ignota creates an instrumentally traditional, gothic-styled Appalachian folk record that is unnervingly personal in what it details. In the process, she puts forward one of the most spell-binding vocal performances of the entire year. The transformative “Sinner Get Ready” earned its win, seeing a real talent reject what made her famous two years ago, off the back of 2019’s immaculate hell-descent “Caligula.” Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to cover this heavenly body of work.
Genghis Tron – Dream Weapon
Leaving behind the intensive cyber-grind of their near-perfect landmark album, Board Up The House (2008), Genghis Tron returned in 2021 for their first album in 13 years, but with a new lineup and a whole new MO. Glittering guitar-work and apocalyptic synth melodies ebb and flow over polyrhythms and motoric rhythm sections, as Tony Wolski (The Armed) sings his damn heart out. The end result is a contemplative, complex yet lush and methodically put-together experience. All from a band that I’m so fucking happy to see back together again. This is the kind of journey you MUST listen to in one sitting; 45 minutes floating on green waves of bliss, baby.
For Your Health – In Spite Of
One of the sassiest and dissonant records this side of new SeeYouSpaceCowboy, and sounding like the ghost of Blood Brothers past, For Your Health are one of the brightest emerging acts in 2021. It’s all in thanks to the charming chaos of In Spite Of, an off-the-wall record that bleeds all manner of shades of post-hardcore, math, metalcore, screamo and alt. This is the sound of a band playing like their fucking lives depended on it. Also gotta love song titles like “Thank You For The Venmo” and “You’re so United Ninety-Three, We’re so Flight One Eighty.”
Turnstile – Glow On
Turnstile’s latest joyride is a timely reminder of the pure fun and expression that can and should exist within hardcore. It’s a bright, phased-out and pastel-colored album full of dizzying energy and risk taking for the group. Sure, not every idea works: “No Surprise” could’ve been longer and better developed, “T.L.C.” doesn’t know what it wants to be, “Lonely Dezires” is an unsatisfying closer, and “Humanoid/Shake Up” was too short to matter. But when there’s such bangers present like “Holiday,” “Fly Again,” “Mystery” and “Blackout” – some of the greatest hardcore anthems of the whole year – songs that are as good and as catchy as they are, it’s impossible to deny Turnstile’s skill and confidence. Even when they branch out into other textures and moods, like on “Underwater Boi,” “New Heart Design,” or “Alien Love Call,” it shows a band in full bloom. Turnstile doesn’t need hardcore, hardcore needs them.
Delta Sleep – Spring Island
Following an album like 2018’s conceptual journey, “Ghost City,” was always going to be tricky. Yet Delta Sleep delivers with Spring Island, furthering their bright, emo-math-pop sound into more dynamic, sometimes even psychedelic realms. Like a pleasant daydream that just won’t quit, Delta Sleep’s fourth album is the pick me up you’ll need as we head into 2022.
Frontierer – Oxidized
When Frontierer announced their last record, the brain-bashing “Unloved,” the band stated “Unloved & Oxidized” via their social media. We received the first half three years ago and this year we finally got the second half. Frontierer’s usual approach of “what if Car Bomb but somehow more wild?” remains intact. Yet it also discovers small bouts of digital electronica and even – gasp! – melodic vocals and dynamic instrumentals to help break up the hemorrhaging sonic violence of caustic screams, Windows-computer crashing sounds, and wild drums that follows the stuttering, heavy as shit sixteenth-note triplet guitas. Another album like their first two would’ve been too much, yet Oxidized saves the band. Feeling familiar but just daring enough for the band’s sound that it bodes well for what’s to come next. While a little long than what was called for, it shows Frontierer can (and will) experiment with their twisted math-metal sound as it hits new extremes.
Rivers Of Nihil – Work
“Work” isn’t on the same planet, let alone in the same galaxy as what came before it, 2018’s “Where Owls Know My Name.” (One of the best metal albums of the 2010s, I said it.) It was never going to be, but what “Work” exists as is a different, dynamic affair from a progressive technical death metal group who exude exceptional musicianship. Every song on the group’s fourth album is different from the last, making for a strong collection of songs, but one that never feels like a real connection of tunes. That being said, almighty compositions like the straight-forward metal attack of “MORE?”, the psychedelic Contortionist-reminding “Clean” and the monstrous “The Void From Which No Sound Escapes” are more than enough reason to familiarize yourself with this imperfect beast.
Lantlôs – Wildhund
Seven years. Seven years I waited for a new Lantlôs album and in 2021, Wildhund came to pass in a beautiful manner. It really is this year’s feel-good metal album; this bright ambient post-metal record that makes you feel all of the things. Like waking up on Christmas morning as a kid, there’s a warm and fuzzy feeling impressed upon you with Lantlôs’ latest due to glorious and saccharine tracks like “Magnolia,” “Lake Fantasy” and “Vertigo.” This German collective are always moving forward, rarely looking back, and that always ensures each new album, as long as they take to come out, feels special. Which is what this album is to me: so very fucking special.
Blindfolded And Led To The Woods – Nightmare Withdrawals
In the unrelentingly heavy vein of death metal bands like Growth and Ulcerate, New Zealand’s Blindfolded And Led To The Woods enact some seriously brutal, traumatic death-grind on their third album. One of the year’s most arresting extreme releases, Nightmare Withdrawals is predicated upon anguish, punishment, and adept musical skill. Coming up just short of mastering this intersection of varying extreme sub-genres, the band went from being New Zealand locales to appearing on a great many end-of-year lists. And rightfully so, this thing absolutely fucks!
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Illusory Walls
Naming your album after a sneaky mechanic from the Dark Souls games is an easy way to get my attention. As is naming songs like “Invading The World Of The Guilty As A Spirit Of Vengeance.” Look, you had me at Dark Souls. Anyway, this U.S. outfit with a name so long people just cut it half for brevity, put forth their best record via Illusory Walls. With dexterity and intelligence, this LP gracefully slides between emo-indie, metal, prog and post-rock, all following an emotional through-line of world-building and personal growth. The World Is A Beautiful Place were a band I’d always known of, a band I never had anything against but also one that I never fawned over. That all changed with this sprawling record. Huge sounds throughout.
Written by Alex Sievers – @AlexJSievers
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