John Kerr’s (Noltem, Pyrithe) Top Albums of 2021
These are all in alphabetical order. Albums I have something to say about are in the top ten. None of this is ranked. I'm not saying any of these albums are better than the others.
--John Kerr (Noltem, ex-Ethereal Shroud, ex-Vit)
20. Big Brave– Vital (Southern Lord, Canada)
19. Alora Crucible – Thymiamatascension (House of Mythology, USA)
18. Carcass – Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast, UK)
17. Kaldeket – Vitiate (Big Bovine Industries, USA)
16. Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies (YLYLCYN, USA)
15. Otay:onii – Ming Ming (Independent, USA)
14. Plebeian Grandstand – Rien ne suffit (Debemur Morti Productions, France)
13. Steve Earle – JT (New West, US)
12. White People Killed Them – White People Killed Them (SIGE, USA)
11. Yautja – The Lurch (Relapse, USA)
Alda is a folk metal band in a way that few are. I think a lot of bands have folk influences, but it’s either put on hold when the riffing starts or layered in via endless overdubs on The Computer. Alda, even the black metal parts, always sounds like a group of friends sitting around a campfire.
What the fuck. Where did these people come from? I don't even really know what to call this. I could play genre adlibs and throw out words like prog-death or tech-thrash, but nothing really properly evokes what this record is like. It's bonkers but not even remotely goofy. There are more riffs on this album than most bands write in their entire lifespan with easily one of the best album covers I've ever seen.
Also shoutout to my dear friend, colleague, and Noltem bandmate Max for forcing me to listen to this.
This album really took me by surprise because the Peaceville throwback comparisons don't do it justice at all. This is much more unique and weird, reminding me of something you may have found on The End Records in the early 2000s mixed with some pristine Gilmour-esque melodicism. Honestly a landmark for the genre.
If I were actually "ranking" any of these records, this along with Toby Driver's other project Alora Crucible would be my favorites. To my ears, Driver continues to be the most interesting and exploratory composer in the heavy arts. With Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike specifically, it's great to hear him revisit a riffier and death metallier approach, while Thymiamatascension stretches the sonics of his previous solo records into an ethereal and mostly instrumental experience. Both of these records are fucking brilliant and also I would give an unreasonable amount of money to see a maudlin of the Well reunion.
Panopticon is such an interesting project because Austin's prolific proclivities offer an unusually detailed look into a single artist’s gradual evolution. Disparate influences weave seamlessly in and around a consistent melodic black metal framework, held together by the most ferocious drums in the underground. The addition of Charlie Anderson throughout so much of this album is a big highlight as well. His style mixes perfectly with Lunn’s soaring melodic sensibilities.
I could talk about the snare sound on this record for hours. Steve Schwegler is already one of the most dynamic drummers in death metal and this record shows he’s one of its most dynamic musicians period. Also, more purple metal album covers.
Maybe it’s the dark red cover, but this is the first record that has ever come close to reminding me of Opeth’s Still Life (while also not really sounding like that much at all). It’s deliberate and intricate, but has the same unpredictability that makes Horrendous so engaging but with a more melodic emphasis.
"Dudes in the Living Room" have always been a band that seemed to take themselves real seriously, and of course they still do, but I’m glad they embraced metal’s goofier bombastic tendencies on this one. Dave Lombardo tom fills on an atmospheric black metal record make my heart smile.