20 Best Metalcore Albums of 2021
Metalcore has been having a serious moment lately. The genre, which began in the '90s and exploded in the 2000s, never really went away, but it fizzled out a bit in the early/mid 2010s, until it was reclaimed by a hungry new generation during the latter half of that decade. Many of the best newer metalcore bands have absorbed the genre's entire history, from its rawer, hardcore-adjacent roots to its more accessible mainstream era, and cherry-picked the best aspects from throughout the genre's history, while avoiding the more outdated-sounding elements and applying a brand new perspective. This new wave of bands has been building for the past few years, and 2021 has been one of metalcore's biggest years in a while, with a slew of soon-to-be-landmark releases by several bands across various styles of metalcore. To shine a spotlight on the moment metalcore is currently having, I've put together a list of my picks of the 20 albums that most defined the genre from this year. It includes a couple veteran bands (including one who quite possibly put out their very best work this year), but it's mostly made up of the newer bands who are giving this genre new life.
It’s hard to properly define any subgenre, but I tried to keep this list as strictly metalcore as possible. But I do want to give a shoutout to some other albums I loved that toe the line between metal and hardcore in non-metalcore ways, like Portrayal of Guilt's two albums, Regional Justice Center's Crime and Punishment, Frozen Soul's Crypt of Ice, Full of Hell's Garden of Burning Apparitions, Gatecreeper's An Unexpected Reality, Section H8's Welcome to the Nightmare, and my personal favorite album of 2021, Turnstile's Glow On. Those are also all excellent albums that I do think scratch a similar itch to the ones on this list, so if you don't know 'em already, check 'em out.
Like any list, mine is bound to have left something off, so if your favorite metalcore album of 2021 isn't here, leave it in the comments. Maybe I just haven't heard it yet.
20. Silent Planet - Iridescent (Solid State, USA)
19. Zao - The Crimson Corridor (Observed/Observer, USA)
18. 156/Silence - Don't Hold Your Breath (SharpTone, USA)
17. Living Weapon - Paradise (Closed Casket Activities, USA)
16. Humanity’s Last Breath - Välde (Unique Leader, Sweden)
15. Wanderer - Liberation From a Brutalist Existence (Entelodon, USA)
14. Heriot - 2021 singles (Church Road, UK)
13. Cruelty - There Is No God Where I Am (Church Road, UK)
12. MouthBreather - I'm Sorry Mr. Salesman (Good Fight, USA)
11. Static Dress - Prologue... (self-released, UK)
On their fourth album, Employed To Serve re-assert themselves as leaders of UK metalcore. They incorporate everything from melodic alt-rock to '90s groove metal to '80s thrash, and they do it all within the context of fresh, modern, totally pulverizing metalcore. The album's eerie atmosphere takes things beyond mosh fuel into darker, more hypnotic territory, and Justine Jones and Sammy Urwin's dual vocals are as effective and unpredictable as ever.
fallfiftyfeet's debut LP opens with a slab of melodic sludge metal, but it turns out to be a red herring. From there, the West Virginia band pivot to bone-crushing metalcore, and throughout the remaining 10 tracks, they incorporate progressive post-hardcore, sass, mathcore, melodic emo, and more. Aided by contributions from members of The Callous Daoboys, Greyhaven, Dr. Acula, and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, the record combines elements from all throughout metalcore's history. From the raw production of the late '90s to the big choruses of the mid 2000s to the fresh perspective and DIY ethos that many of today's best bands possess, this sounds like a band on the cusp of something truly great.
Most members of Hazing Over used to be an excellent screamo band called Shin Guard, but they've shifted some people around, picked a new name, and now they're an excellent metalcore/borderline-deathcore band. It's hard not to make comparisons to fellow Pittsburgh band Code Orange, who underwent a similar change circa I Am King, and if you like that band's ambitious metalcore excursions you should definitely be listening to Hazing Over too. With just four songs, Pestilence establishes Hazing Over as a force, capable of connecting the dots between mathcore legends Botch and Myspace deathcore purveyors Job for a Cowboy in ways that feel tasteful and fresh.
Whether or not you think Oxidized is the best metalcore album of 2021, you'll probably agree it's the most purely chaotic. Pulling from mathcore, industrial, nu metal, djent, and more, it sounds like taking a jackhammer to the eardrum and living to tell the tale. It flirts with a lot of heavy subgenres that have crossed over into the mainstream in the past, but there's nothing radio-friendly about Oxidized. It's one of the most physically and emotionally taxing albums that metalcore had to offer in 2021, and I mean that in the best possible way.
UK mathcore trio Pupil Slicer recently did a genuinely killer cover of Converge's Jane Doe opener "Concubine," a song that takes some serious chops to cover, let alone do anything interesting with that Converge didn't already do. That should give you an idea of what kind of band Pupil Slicer are, and if that piques your interest, you need Mirrors in your life. As chaotic as it is devastating, it hearkens back to Jane Doe era metalcore and mathcore without ever feeling like a retread. It's a dark, bleak album musically and lyrically -- with hints of black and death metal and lyrical references to abuse, depression, and oppression -- but it's also crystal clear. When you're this technically proficient and have this much to say, that's the way it should be.
After four years of promising EPs/splits/demos, Portland metalcore band Dying Wish finally released their debut album, and it raises the bar for an already-great band. Like their friends in Knocked Loose (whose Bryan Garris appears on this album and who featured Dying Wish vocalist Emma Boster on their 2019 album A Different Shade of Blue), Dying Wish have absorbed the sounds of all of metalcore's different waves, and they pick their favorite parts and throw out the rest, coming out with an album that feels like a breath of fresh air for the genre. Their songs are in touch with metalcore's hardcore punk roots, but they also deliver some of the catchiest melodic metalcore riffs this side of Poison The Well. When Emma Boster switches to clean singing, Dying Wish sound catchy enough to compete with the current pop punk revival, and when she screams, she's one of the most vicious vocalists in the genre. And with her rage always being pointed at meaningful topics (like gender, racial, sexual, and environmental injustice), Dying Wish only sound more crucial.
When melodic metalcore exploded in the early 2000s, it was often tied right in with emo-pop, but Wristmeetrazor imagine a much darker, gothier version of that genre. Their sophomore LP Replica of a Strange Love is full of infectious riffs that sound like the best parts of the Trustkill/Ferret Records era, but their soaring hooks and creepy industrial sections bring to mind White Pony era Deftones and Downward Spiral era Nine Inch Nails. The ingredients are all familiar, but rarely combined like this, and it's a testament to Wristmeetrazor's power that they're able to offer up such time-tested thrills in a way that genuinely feels innovative. Matching the darkness of the music is that of frontman Justin Fornof's lyrics, which pull equally from personal experience and classical philosophy and use vivid poetic imagery to tap into the depths of human emotion. On all levels, from the bone-crushing breakdowns to the lyrical melodrama, this album is intense.
Getting more accessible after a breakthrough is a common path, but after becoming leaders of metalcore's current wave with 2019's A Different Shade of Blue, Knocked Loose have only gotten heavier and weirder. A Tear in the Fabric of Life, their new EP/short film, further explores the death metal influences that poked through on Blue, and Knocked Loose have figured out how to fuse death metal and metalcore in a way that doesn't sound like "deathcore." They pull from death metal's murky atmosphere and dissonant riffage, and they meld those things seamlessly with the crisp metalcore attack they've been perfecting since day one. Backing vocalist Isaac Hale and guest vocalist Matt King (of Portrayal of Guilt) bring the subterranean filth, and frontman Bryan Garris contrasts it with the piercing, higher-pitched shriek that's made him one of metalcore's most distinct frontmen. This all makes A Tear in the Fabric of Life Knocked Loose's most aggressive release to date, but it's their most experimental too, with industrial-tinged passages and a creepy Beach Boys sample that suggest Knocked Loose have ambitions beyond being one of the heaviest bands on the planet. They aim to be one of the most artistic too.
The metalcore revival is in full swing, and there's no question that SeeYouSpaceCowboy revive a ton of sounds from the early/mid 2000s -- from straight-up metalcore to sass, screamo, emo-pop, post-hardcore and beyond -- but nobody back then ever really sounded like SeeYouSpaceCowboy and nobody now does either. They use familiar tricks in unexpected ways; from harsh screams to clean-sung hooks, shimmering clean guitars to bludgeoning chugs, conventional song structure to chaos, SeeYouSpaceCowboy do it all, and you never really know when something's gonna come in and what they're gonna do next. On their best album yet, The Romance of Affliction, the band sounds tighter than ever, and Connie Sgarbossa's lyrics are at their most devastating. She wrote much of the album about dealing with addiction, and shortly after finishing the album, she suffered a near-fatal overdose. The album captures Connie at a very low point of her life, and it's a brutally honest telling of what she was going through. It's deeply personal, it's as real as it gets, and it's no surprise that people have swiftly latched onto it.
20 years into their career, Every Time I Die have made their most vast, ambitious, and quite possibly best album to date. That's an admittedly big claim to make for a band who helped define an entire wave of metalcore with classics like Hot Damn! and Gutter Phenomenon, but as many of their peers have broken up, plateaued, or faded away, Every Time I Die have kept pushing themselves to get even better. With 16 songs in over 50 minutes, Radical is ETID's longest album, and it earns its running time by offering up the most musically diverse collection of songs this band has ever put out. It has some of the heaviest, most caustic moments of this band's career ("Sly," "A Colossal Wreck," "All This and War"), and it's also full of moments that transcend Every Time I Die's metalcore roots: "Post-Boredom" is one of the catchiest rock songs of the year, "Desperate Pleasures" is as brooding as Swans, and the Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra-featuring "Thing with Feathers" is a clean, soaring song and perhaps the most gorgeous thing ETID have ever written. Matching the musical ambition are some of Keith Buckley's most incisive lyrics, from songs that take on the injustices of the world at large ("Planet Shit") to songs that are more personal, like the aforementioned "Thing with Feathers," a poetic, heart-wrenching ode to Keith's late sister. It has all the makings of a classic, and it feels as definitive of today's metalcore scene as ETID's early records did in the 2000s.