Here are my top-40 most listened-to bands of 2021:
(Ignore the crossed out one, its just children’s music).
Should’ve listened to King Diamond two more times for thematic resonance.
Nice mixture of basic and complex
Nice mixture of heavy and soft, silly and serious, modern and classic.
I guess the bands with the longer songs get less listens, because each listen is longer. I feel like I’ve spent way more time listening to Opeth than Hatebreed, but then some of Opeth’s songs are quite long and a lot of Hatebreed (especially the early stuff) is quite short. I also would have expected Van Halen to be a lot, lot higher. I would’ve expected them to be equal with Kiss. I felt like I alternated between Van Hagar and ’80s Kiss all summer. I guess all the usual non-80s Kiss listening boosted the new yorkers much higher than the LA guys. I guess I wasn’t listening to enough Roth era Van Halen this year. I blame it on listening to Sammy Hagar’s autobiography audiobook right before moving house. If Roth had a biography audiobook available on Audible, then it probably would have made me go more in that direction.
I knew Smashing Pumkins would be number one, I definitely felt like I listened to them the most, but I didn’t realise it would be by litteraly over double the nearest competitor. Afterall, my number one album of the year (discounting children’s music) was Gojira’s Fortitude, and the first Smashing Pumpkins album on my most-listened to albums list doesn’t appear until number ten! (But I guess Smashing Pumpkins have a hell of a lot more albums than Gojira).
I am a bit surprised to see To Ride Shoot Straight And Speak The Truth so high in the list when Entombed themselves don’t even crack the top 40 (they’re 43 in case you were wondering).
It was a strange year, but lets hope we are all healthy and safe enough to be here nerding out about music this time next year. See you then!
Its been a strange old year, but there’s been a lot of good music.
01. Gojira – Fortitude – The album that got me into Gojira at long last, the album I’ve listened to most out of anything this year, the album I knew would be my number one from the very first listen, and yet has still grown on me more with each listen. A straight up masterpiece in my eyes that will go down as an eternal classic album in my head-cannon. Beautifully melodic, deliciously groovy, and still some great heavy moments and masterful musicianship at times. I can’t recommend it enough.
02. Helloween – Self Titled – Well, I was never not going to like this. I love Helloween with Kai, I love Helloween with Kiske, and I love Helloween with Deris. The idea of all three coming together on one super-group-esque album bringing all the eras together (sometimes even within one song) with artwork evoking the band’s peak, but song-writing not too far away from the band’s modern style and not just a rehash of the past but also acknowledging all the progress they’ve made over the years, with tasteful tribute paid to late drummer Ingo, self-referential lyrics and yet the whole thing feeling like a proper album and not just a gimmicky cash-grab. Excellent.
03. Trivium – In The Court Of The Dragon – Trivium have been on such a hot streak in the last half-decade, and this current line-up have released arguably their three best ever albums (or at a minimum, three of the best even if you disagree on the exact placement of the best) and ‘Dragon continues that fine formula of the last two albums while also leaning into the more expansive and technical direction of their Shogun record (one of their all time best records so a very good decision) and even reworking an old Shogun-era demo into an amazing album closer for this one. Great work.
04. Volbeat – Servant Of The Mind – A deliberate course-correct from the slightly disappointing over-polished, overly-commercial previous album. This album leans back into the band’s heavier (in relative terms, its still catchy radio music, its not exactly Alter Of Plagues or something) side, with some deliberate Sabbath tribute, a sneaky death metal riff once hidden in there, a lot more up tempo moments and a lot less bland American-sounding radio rock. They also took some lessons in diversity and stole the best parts from the previous record, making it a sort of best-of-both-worlds situation.
05. Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy – Probably his second or third best album to date, this record is fun, diverse, energised, eclectic, interesting and deeply memorable. They never lose the core sound, but there’s all sorts of fun diversion. Alright, there may be slightly too many interludes, but that’s always been a part of Rob Zombie, especially on the first two albums, and there’s still 11 real songs to sink your teeth into, from the catchy singles ‘King Freak & ‘Howling Man to the dance-able “Shake Your Ass, Smoke your Grass” and the unexpected country-tinged ‘Ghost Train.
06. Powerwolf – Call Of The Wild – Speaking of fun, Powerful are back, and don’t disappoint. This album is such a big-smiles good time barrel of fun. Imagine Sabaton covering Helloween’s Latin-language “Lavadete Dominum” & Type O Negative’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” at the same time and you’re somewhere in the ballpark. Now imagine they’re dressed up as monks and singing about Warewolves.
In terms of stacking up against the rest of their discography, the band are so fiercely consistent that this is as good as any album you care to name in the whole catalogue.
07. Todd La Torre – Rejoice In The Suffering – Current Queensrÿche frontman (and sometimes drummer) releases a solo album with a childhood best friend on guitar, and the results are phenomenal. There’s a mixture of songs that could fit on recent ‘ryche albums, with branching out into more traditional metal territory, as well as branching out the other direction into heavier harsher realms. A brilliant debut from this act, and while I hope he never leaves, if ever Todd were to leave the ‘ryche I would dearly love him to continue releasing albums like this.
08. Exodus – Persona Non Grata – A very strong album, I confess I may not have listened to this album enough to really honestly select the appropriate position on this list, but if its anything like the last three Exodus albums, the fine first impressions it has created in me will stay forever, and only grow more over time. Already the pre-released songs like “Clickbait” and “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” are constantly stuck in my head and raise a huge smile in me whenever they come on, and “Lunatic Liar Lord” is so good it could have been on Tempo Of The Dammed. Last month I called this album “as good as, if not better than” any measure of expectation, and I’m sticking by that!
09. Angelus Apatrida – Self Titled – A new band to me, but this is actually the Spanish Thrash-revivalist’s 7th release. Bludgeoning, pummelling, furious… these are just some of the words to describe this beast of an album. There is also some serious groove on the album to break up the speed, but its thrash through and through. If you like bands like Evile, Dust Bolt or Power Trip, then you really need to get on board. Check out the opener “Indoctrinate” from this album for a Vulgar-Display’ album-cover style punch to the face (in musical form).
10. Accept – Too Mean To Die – Much like Trivium, Accept are on a hot-streak right now (for about a decade this time, since their reformation and the introduction of Mark Tornillo on vocals… that’s Kreator-levels of hot streak!). They have a definite identifiable style and formula, which some people might feel is beginning to get a bit samey by now, but when the formula is this good, I can live with quite a few albums in that style. Alright, its not as good as my favourite, Stalingrad or its very strong follow-up Blind Rage, but I’ve listened to it a lot this year, and have enjoyed it every time.
Salem – Salem II EP – Wasn’t included because it is an EP, not an album, but probably would have been number 2 or 3 on the list if it did count. Really great fun, super catchy, super memorable, and my go-to car record this year.
Weezer – Van Weezer – I’ve only owned this a few days, so can’t objectively rate it against things I’ve had almost a whole year (eg. Todd La Torre and Accept), but I feel very positively towards it and just want to give it a little appreciative nod. Imagine if The Green Album had even better guitar solos and paid deliberate homage to some classic tracks like “Crazy Train,” “Girls Girls Girls” and “Panama.”
I haven’t been blogging with as much regularity as I previously would in previous years, but I have never stopped listening to music.
Here is an overview of my thoughts on some albums that I probably would have blogged about already in previous years (and may still do so in the future) but haven’t had time to go into much detail on yet, a sort of mixture between a blog-digest, a preview of future blogs and a deleted scenes all rolled into one:
1. Iron Maiden – Senjitsu – 2021 – I have tried with this album, but at the end of the day it is just pretty dull, boring and forgettable. I love ’80s Maiden as much as the next guy, and I am partial to Brave New World and half of Dance Of Death (some of their all time best songs are on it, the album as a whole just isn’t as good as the best songs) and a few tracks here and there off every album since. However, this one just bores me. I don’t know why, Bruce is still a good singer, all three guitarists still make pleasant, impressive solos, Nicko is still Nicko. Its just that its incredibly unmemorable. I find myself tuning out. I can barely listen to it in one go, and if a track from it comes on when I’m listening to things on shuffle, its not like I dislike that song, but I would never go out of my way to put it on of my own volition. A perfectly fine album technically, but it just doesn’t excite me in any way.
2. Exodus – Persona Non Grata – 2021- I am an absolute mark for Exodus, always have been. This album is as good as, if not better than the last few. Exodus can just do no wrong in my eyes. That is not to say this is actually crap and I just rep for them blindly, this is a damn good album, as good as if not better than the last few Testament, Death Angel, Kreator and Annihilator albums that I’ve been drooling over. One of the true kings of Thrash, and still as good now, if not better than any ’80s band can reasonobly be expected to be in the modern age. Very much the theme here: “as good as, if not better than” any measure of expectation.
3. Limp Bizkit – Still Sucks – 2021- Fun for the first listen, but no real staying power. I’d advise one or two nostalgia listens, but its not really worth much time otherwise.
4. Mastodon – Hushed & Grim – 2021- A double album from one of my all-time favourite bands? What could go wrong. I usually adore Mastodon (its probably harder to find a picture of me between 2006-2012 without a Mastodon t-shirt than with them) but this album has left me a bit cold. Its a bit repetitive, uninspiring and forgettable. My feelings are very much in line with my feelings on Senjitsu – take any song in isolation and there’s nothing explicitly wrong with it, but the album just doesn’t stir any true excitment in me.
5. Deftones – Ohms – 2020 – Brilliant, but I need to listen to it more to articulate why.
6. Architects – For Those Who Wish To Exist – 20201- Not as good as the last 3 albums, but still pretty good. If I had one criticism, its maybe a bit too long, but unlike Senjitsu or Hushed & Grim it is at least memorable and not too repetitive. Its also a bit emotionally easier to listen to than their previous 2-3 albums as it doesn’t have all the impending death and post bereavement lyrics, so its a bit more cheery (apart from you know, the impending climate disaster) but then also, a lot less affecting. If you are in the mood for a less-grim Architects this is a nice change of pace, even if their emotionally devastating previous albums are technically better art.
7. Powerwolf – Call Of The Wild – 2021- just plain good fun. Silly, easy-going, enjoyable, tounge-in-cheek good-times Power Metal. If you’re having a stressful day, its nice to forget your problems and just sing dopey melodic bombastic nonsense like “Undress To Confess” and “Dancing With The Dead”
8. Hatebreed – Weight Of The False Self – 2020 – Pretty good, but more or less exactly the same as the last two albums. I could see some fans tuning out as its all got a bit formulaic at this point, but what a formula!
9. Korn – The Nothing – 2019 – Born of bereavment, this is probably their most emotional and depressing album to date, and that’s saying something for a band made famous for litterally crying about actual childhood abuse on record. Its certainly a very interesting listen, even if it isn’t fun.
10. Harlott – Detritius Of The Final Age – 2020- an absolutely monsterous record. If you like modern day Kreator, this is essentially a straight up rip off of that sound (in the nicest possible way) but unlike some bands who steal other band’s homework, it isn’t just a pale immitation, this is genuinely great stuff.
I haven’t been blogging much in 2021. What with the pandemic, a new job, parenting a toddler, buying my first home and having another baby on the way, there’s not been much time for writing, only reading on my phone in between other tasks.
Here’s what I’ve been listening to in the past 6 months (and therefore, what I probably would have written about):
Salem, King Diamond, Cradle Of Filth & Helloween – pretty appropriate for halloween.
Never listened to Cinderella before this year, got into them when reading some LA Rock scene books this year.
And here is a bit of a buyer’s roundup for what I’ve bought in the last few months. It mostly been digital, because when I moved house I had too many CDs/DVDs/Vinyl etc and in an effort to make room for my family to also live in my house alongside a mountain of plastic with music on it, I’ve been going mostly digital where possible (unless the price difference is crazy).
Some of em, like Skynyrd, Purple, Kreator, Korn and Kiss I have heard, streamed, or borrowed before but finally got around to getting my own copy. Keep Of Kalesin I bought for someone else a few years ago and accidentally deleted it, so its showing in this list when I riped the disc again when I noticed I’d deleted it.
The rest are either birthday gifts or self-purchased.
I haven’t had much time for blogging recently due to buying my first home, getting a promotion at work, trying to loose weight and parenting a hyperactive toddler. One thing I do have time for though is acquiring music. Since I bought my home instead of renting, I don’t have as much space for physical media anymore, so have been getting music from a mix of Bandcamp, Amazon mp3 and iTunes. Here’s what I’ve been buying lately, mostly filling gaps in my existing collection, but a few new things as well (the live Volbeat album, Aerosmith albums 9-12, several of the Dream Theater albums, and Smashing Pumkins’ Melon Coly’ were already in my collection, but I edited them in iTunes so they jumped forward in the list and it wasn’t worth editing the image):
I know, I know, it is probably two weeks too early, but I’m in the middle of moving home and working 65 hours a week on top of that, so may as well get it in while I have the chance. It’s the tenth year of this blog, and I’d hate to miss out on what is now a yearly tradition.
Last week in part 1, I wrote a round-up of what I’d been buying and listening to this year, and links to reviews of the concerts I had been to prior to lockdown.
Here are my most-listened-to artists of the past 12 months according to LastFM:
Quite a mix there; Classic Metal, Classic Rock, Metalcore, Thrash, Prog, Hair, Power, Groove, Death, even a bit of indie. Old favourites, new discoveries. Nicely balanced, didn’t even mean to.
And finally; since it is December now, here is the Metal-Nerd Blog Album Of The Year List, 2020:
Honourable Mention: Salem – S/T EP. – Creeper went from being a fun pop-punk band with some Halloweeny lyrics to a ‘90s Britrock band tapping into older American sounds. Afterwards, their singer has a side project basically making a fun pop-punk band with Halloweeny lyrics. Highly recommended to fans of early Creeper (or Alkaline Trio).
07. Creeper – Sex, Death & The Infinite Void – Review here.
06. Haken – Virus – (Rhymes with Bacon, not Kraken) British prog metal wizards release a captivating sequel to their previous album and continue to escape comparisons to other bands and forge their own identity. Might have even been higher, but I came to it late and haven’t even fully unpacked all its hidden glories yet.
Leaving aside any talk of the pandemic (you’ve read enough about that this year, this is a light-hearted site, I barely even post bad reviews) 2020 has been an interesting year musically and personally. On a personal level my first and only child celebrated his first ever birthday and my wife and I have just finally bought our first home. I also had a nice break at work at the start of the year where they moved me to an easier job for two months, which was a welcome if brief change. I also managed to loose one stone in weight recently after having put on too much around the pregnancy and new-fatherhood stage.
Musically, before the world turned upside down, I got to go to some fabulous concerts, in the form of Slipknot (childhood favourite but hadn’t seen since I was a teen, wearing the tour t-shirt as I write this), Five Finger Death Punch (better than you’d expect, and Megadeth supported!) and finally Testament, Exodus and Death Angel together (Dream come true line-up, shame a load of the band members and crew caught the virus from this tour).
In terms of new music, some icons like Ozzy released a new album, lots of bands have been releasing short one-off singles or mini-EPs (like Machine Head), some of my favourite bands released albums which obviously made it to my Top-10 list, and some other less-obvious bands surprised me.
In terms of old music; I’ve spent a hell of a lot of the year listening to Def Leppard, (expanding my knowledge of the band beyond just the early NWOBHM days), discovering Danzig, as well as expanding my Motorhead collection. That and as per most years, listening to a bunch of Thrash Metal (just got into Canada’s Sacrifice and LA’s Agent Steel recently, and Hirax earleir this year, there’s always more Thrash to explore).
I’ve also been reading band biographies and music books where I can find the time between work, exercise, parenting and trying to get a house. Max Cavelera and Dee Snider’s books were particularly good. I read Fiver Finger Death Punch’s drummer’s book too, but it’s a bit too simplistic Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll for me, or I should really say erectile dysfunction, alcoholism and metal (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean).
Due to all my Def Leppard listening, I’ve just finished Phil Collen’s book (which is a real easy read, very smoothly written). Most recently I’ve just started fellow blogger 80s Metal Man’s simi-fiction, semi-history of Metal/Rock coming of age novel Rock N Roll Children, and obviously if you’re reading this blog, you should read that book, I’ve not finished it yet but its compelling so far so can still recommend it.
I like a good audiobook too, and have listened to autobiographies on audible by the likes of Sammy Hagar, Phil Collins, Rick Wakeman, Rob Halford, Alice Cooper and Steve Tyler, all of which I’d recommend, (except maybe the Steve Tyler one as it is a bit too lyrical and overwritten at times, but still good a lot of the time).
So that’s the introduction, a round up of the year. Part two will see a list of my most-listened-to artists of the past 12 months and of course the actual AOTY list (gotta be December before I post that, I haven’t even put up the Christmas tree yet!). Stay tuned.
I haven’t had a lot of blogging time recently, with a combination of fatherhood, increased workload due to the pandemic, getting back into exercising again, no concerts available and trying to buy fewer CDs just in case… there hasn’t been as much obvious material to cover (New Releases, Concert Reviews etc) or indeed time to cover it in. Before my next review or opinion piece however, I’d like to just drop a quick blog about what I’ve been getting up to since the new year.
I once heard that classical music can make your child smarter, and while scientific studies eventually disproved this, it is still a nice idea. Now, being a dyed in the wool rock fan who hasn’t willingly listened to classical music since a particularly annoying music teacher killed my love of it at age 15/16, I don’t have a lot of classic music to play to my child. What I do have though, is a nice little collection of progressive rock albums with lots of Jazz, Folk and Classical influences. Hey, my username is Kingcrimsonprogafter all.
I’ve decided for a) child bonding b) getting my money’s worth from current CDs instead of buying new ones (remember Getting Into What You Paid For, my blog series of that nature from a few years ago?) and c) listening to some beloved records that I’ve been ignoring lately to focus on newer acquisitions, that I would initiate a new family tradition. Prog For The Sprog. I play my child a new prog record every day. So far he’s listened to Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, Jethro Tull, Camel, Caravan, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Van Der Graaf Generator, early Rush, early Queen and early Marillion. Out of all of them so far, I think, as far as I can tell with a baby, that he enjoyed Gentle Giant the most… I think the xylophone reminds him of Peppa Pig.
During reacquainting myself with some of my favourite prog (or prog-ish albums, if you want to be strict about some of them) I realised that I had another little nerdy project I could resume…
Several years ago I decided that LastFM, the website which I love for making statistics about what I’m listening to, always makes it look like I don’t listen to these bands as much. I mean, you can listen to about 13 Punk songs for every one prog song. To that end, I decided that a few of my favourite side-long or album-long songs, including ‘Atom Heart Mother’ by Pink Floyd and ‘A Passion Play’ by Jethro Tull, should be counted as several different songs rather than one huge song. That way, If I listen to a whole Prog album, and then a whole Stoner Rock album, it doesn’t look like I listen to the Stoner band 10 times as much as the Prog band. Dorky right? But it made me happy and kept me entertained.
During the lockdown but after work and after the baby is in bed, I’ve decided to expand this. ELP’s ‘Tarkus’ for example, and Caravan’s ‘Nine Feet Underground’ as well as Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ all have parts. The track listing actually lists them with either titled sections (eg. Nine Feet Underground is split into: I. “Nigel Blows a Tune” II. “Love’s a Friend” “Make It 76” IV. “Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies” V. “Hold Grandad by the Nose” VI. “Honest I Did!” VII. “Disassociation” VIII. “100% Proof, and ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ is split into parts I-X).
So I have decided to do similar things using the magic of iTunes:
So that’s part of how I’ve been spending my time. Another thing I’ve been doing, which is equally dorky, is trying to keep some of my favourite bands higher up in the LastFM stats. For example, I’ve been listening to an absolute boatload of Sepultura recently, but I saw them overtake or threaten to overtake bands I consider absolute favourites that I want to listen to most often. To that end, I’ve started listening to much more of my real favourite bands like Manowar, Pantera C.O.C and Helloween, and doing so a heck of a lot more often again, just like I used to when I first got into them.
Now again, as I have said; this is driven by a very nerdy reason, but in fairness, I benefit completely, as I am listening to only the best music. I had embarassingly put on a lot of weight when my wife was pregnant, but a nice fortnight-long norovirus infection (full on pant-shitting, can’t stomach dinner stuff) that I picked up taking the kid home from nursery one day made me lose some weight again, and so when I recovered I decided to jump back on the exercise train with a long term view of eventually getting back in shape.
Anyway, let me tell you, there is no more fun feeling than working out at home with Pantera or Manowar in your ears, or going for you daily government-permitted exercise and walking in the sun with a fat groovy C.O.C playlist keeping your pace up. It sure beats some obscure D-list band I’m checking out just for educational/historical reasons. Its nice to just crank out your favourites.
With that being said, here’s a brief screengrab of the artists I’ve listened to most since joining the site back in 2011, just after my first decade into being a rock fan:
Prior to cottoning on to the fact that Sepultura were getting very high up my listening charts and then chosing to overplay my favourites in response, I was doing something else equally nerdy anyway.
I had decided before the Slipknot concert that some of the bands included on my Patch Jacket maybe weren’t being listened to as much as others. I started feeling weird about maybe not listening to Obituary, Morbid Angel, Deicide and Death as much as other bands that made it onto the jacket, and was really heavily playing those bands at the start of year. Usually at night. Going to bed? Spiritual Healing. Bed the next night? Once Upon The Cross. Bed at the weekend? Cause Of Death and Covenant!
I also have an Iced Earth patch. No death metal, but still, although I love their work with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and Matt Barlow, I decided that it was weird I hadn’t kept up with their new releases, so decided I needed to get the Stu Block era albums. So the most recent CDs I bought, the only ones I dared to buy during all the Covid stuff (just in case…), was Iced Earth’s Plagues Of Babylon (appros pos these days, given that half the record is a concept piece about mankind being destroyed by a plague) and its follow up, Incorruptible. Damn that Stu can sing! I tried to make the baby listen to Iced Earth too, but clearly they don’t use enough Xylophones. Something to think about for the next album maybe?
Also, since I’m on the subject of what I’ve been listening to lately anyway, and its about a quarter of the way through the year already (I’m only a few weeks early) so this is about a good point to do a LastFM screengrab for this part of the year: