We are, somehow, halfway through this year, which feels, at times impossibly short and still eternally long. Things are better now than they were a full year ago, but also shadows loom over us that we'd never have imagined just eighteen months ago. Well, uh, anyway, here's the music released so far this year that our staff has been digging—most of this is presented unordered and without comment, though there's exceptions to both of those within. Consider it a data dump with which to garnish your "things I need to check out" spreadsheets and an easy reference to shove down the throat of that "there's no good music this year" friend we all presumably have.

...

Ted Nubel

The thing I like the most about being an editor at IO is that I get exposed to tons of great music I probably wouldn't have checked out on my own—many of my picks below I found due to submissions from our writers. I'm not ashamed to admit I scoured all the lists submitted for this feature to see if I'd forgotten anything cool (I had). I've dropped links within everyone's lists to some of the coverage they've done this year on these releases, which is what pointed me towards a lot of quality work.

Cara Neir - Phase Out
Cloak of Altering - Sheathed Swords Drip with Poisonous Honey [related: review/premiere]
Flesh of the Stars - Mirror / Vessels [related: interview]
Gargoyle - Hail to the Necrodoom
Herzel - Le Dernier Rempart
Këkht Aräkh - Pale Swordsman
Koldovstvo - Ни царя, ни бога
Lair - At Our End [related: interview]
Steel Bearing Hand - Slay in Hell
Torvus - The Innate Disease

...

Jon Rosenthal

2021 is a year in which music has been released and music will still be released in said year until it concludes. It's been a good year for music, with a lot of surprising twists and unique entrants, as well as a solidifying of genre bases across the board. Here are my favorite things which have been released thus far (in alphabetical order, you don't get rankings this early in the year).

Bodom After Midnight - Paint the Sky With Blood
Empyrium - Uber den Sternen
Gallows - 66 Black Wings
Grey Aura - Zwart vierkant
Këkht Aräkh - Pale Swordsman
Lamp of Murmuur/dai-ichi - Virgin Womb of Eternal Black Terror
Lugubrum - Bruyne Kroon
Mare Cognitum - Solar Paroxysm
Paysage d'Hiver - Geister
Ungfell - Es grauet [related: interview]

Albums to look forward to:

Fluisteraars - Gegrepen door de Geest der Zielsontluiking
Lamp of Murmuur - Submission and Slavery
Low - HEY WHAT [pre-order clear vinyl]
Nemorensis/MONVMENT split
Noltem - Illusions in the Wake
Sculptured - The Liminal Phase

...

Joe Aprill

What a world of difference, in some ways, since we held this column last year. Back then the world felt like it may well be coming to an end or at least certainly staging the beginning of a dreadful new epoch. Some of the latter may still ring true for while we’re seemingly heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel that is Covid-19, we’ll more than likely be wearing the emotional scars lacerated upon us for the rest of our lives as a reminder of this time. While it is a time to be hopeful for the near future it’s important to remember this still isn’t any sort of finish line or home base. The world as a whole still needs more access to inoculation from the virus and the local idiots with access but refusing it need a nice slap up the backside of their heads. Needless to say, if you have not and yet can, then… FOR FUCK SAKE, GO GET VACCINATED!

And while on that lovely note of brotherly love from me, let's also sing a bit of praise for some most excellent music that’s warmed up at least my bitter soul these past six months. I do feel the second half of the year will perhaps bring a majority of my year end favorites, especially based on currently released singles from bands like Hooded Menace and Carcass, but that doesn’t mean these aren’t some very fine slabs of metallic glory and dark rejuvenation worth checking out if you haven’t yet.

1. Perturbator - Lustful Sacraments [related: interview]
2. Darkthrone - Eternal Hails……
3. Cirith Ungol - Half Past Human
4. Mork - Katedralen [related: this cool one-on-one podcast episode]
5. John Carpenter - Lost Themes III: Alive After Death
6. The Ruins of Beverast - The Thule Grimoires
7. Tribulation - Where The Gloom Becomes Sound
8. Cannibal Corpse - Violence Unimagined
9. Demon Head - Viscera
10. Nightmärr - On Fire

...

Ivan Belcic

A year ago, in the 2020 version of this column, I talked about the nature of escapism as a privilege. I was referring to the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the US—one facet of which is unequal access to healthcare.

COVID has disproportionately plagued nonwhite populations in the US, with this inequality also playing out on a worldwide scale across the global south. Now, as American media and politicians crow about "the end of the pandemic," with sports events in full swing, countries across the world plunge into renewed lockdowns in an attempt to counter a stark lack of vaccines and other necessary equipment.

The trauma of COVID is only beginning to make itself known, from the effects of remote learning on children across the world, to legions of workers having been forced to put themselves in harm's way on a daily basis, to the schism between those who took public health measures seriously and those who did not, to the staggering loss of income for musicians unable to tour.

It's never been more important to materially support the artists whose creations inspire you—especially when they've decided to gift us with new music while being unable to promote and perform it live. If you're at all able, consider picking up at least a handful of the amazing records featured throughout this column.

Backxwash - I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and Dresses
Boss Keloid - Family the Smiling Thrush
Celestial Sanctuary - Soul Diminished
Comatose - A Way Back
Dödsrit - Mortal Coil
Dvne - Etemen Ænka
Kalandra - The Line
Koldovstvo - Ни царя, ни бога
Moral Collapse - Moral Collapse [related: this insane video]
Putrescine - The Fading Flame

...

Chris Rowella

So, things are going a little better since the last time we did this, yeah? No doubt there will be an endless supply of analysis, discussion, and theories on how the last eighteen months affected every crevice of our lives and culture, heavy music included. I will leave that to others. Is there a particular genre dominating this year’s collective output in terms of quality? I can’t tell. Once again, there are standouts from every corner of this little space we occupy. If there is a greater meaning to it all, it’s hard to say I care. Right now, these ten albums have been making my 2021 better, and that’s all I can ask for.

Black Sheep Wall - Songs For The Enamel Queen [related: interview]
Camera Obscura Two - D.O.D.
Cannibal Corpse - Violence Unimagined
Domkraft - Seeds
Intercourse - Rule 36
Panopticon - …And Again Into The Light
Spelljammer - Abyssal Trip [related: interview + video premiere]
Steel Bearing Hand - Slay In Hell
The Devils - Beast Must Regret Nothing
Wheel - Preserved In Time

...

Colin Dempsey

My conversations with friends this year have all circled back to self-awareness, specifically knowing what you like and dislike and being able to articulate why. Basically, we spoke about how to be good music fans. And it's strange to reconcile how frequently we would have these conversations during the past six months that I've contributed to Invisible Oranges. I am forever grateful for the tight ship the editors run, their correspondence and collaborative attitudes, and for how their guidance made me inspect and improve my writing. This overlaps with self-awareness because now, in the year 2021, after listening to heavy metal since I was old enough to get acne (and feel embarrassed about it), I can discuss why the music that sticks with me is the music that gets under my skin. 2021 had plenty of that. It still has six months to deliver even more. These ten albums are the ones that wormed about either in my brain, my ears, or beneath my flesh, enough to make me feel something I couldn't get anywhere else.

Cara Neir - Phase Out [related: interview]
Grey Aura - Zwart vierkant
HIRAKI - Stumbling Through the Walls
Intonate - Severed Within
Panopticon - ...And Again Into the Light [related: an extremely cool interview + review]
Portal - AVOW
Paysage D'Hiver - Geister
Seputus - Phantom Indigo
Spectral Wound - A Diabolic Thirst
The Armed - Ultrapop

...

Brandon Corsair

It’s been a weird year so far with the pandemic delaying albums, but as things start to open up again maybe we’ll start to see some more cool stuff dropping that’s been shelved throughout these last eighteen or so months. For now there’s plenty to dive into as brave bands have dropped albums without any sort of promotional touring or festival dates to play, and here are some of my favorites. Limiting this strictly to full lengths just to help keep it organized. Bands are listed in alphabetical order.

Anthropophagous - Death Fugue [related: Entering the Underground #5]
Primitive and unyielding death metal assault! As ready to play a rotting Impetigo part as an Exodus riff. These guys do primordial ooze better than anyone else on the market right now that wasn’t actually playing death metal shit in the ‘80s!

Dipygus - Bushmeat [related: review + interview.]
Apeman brutish death the right way! Catchy and disgusting without being needlessly reductive, and pleasantly ignorant without sounding like a deathcore band pretending to be Cianide.

Herzel - Le Dernier Rempart [related: Entering the Underground #4]
Triumphant, personal, and melodic heavy metal that really hits home. In a year with a lot of competition this is still my favorite so far.

Malformity - Monumental Ruin [related: Entering the Underground #11]
Untrendy as hell atmospheric death that takes hard goregrind grooves, mashes them together with ethereal leads and melodies, and somehow makes it work. This album is a bit long but is damn near perfect and it’s criminal that it’s not getting more attention.

Nekromantheon - Visions of Trismegistos
The finest thrash band on the planet is back to kill and kill again! These Norwegian maniacs are in a bevy of legitimate all-timers and somehow make the time to just keep slaying year after year despite all of their excellent bands, and Nekromantheon’s newest does not disappoint!

Pharaoh - The Powers that Be [related: interview]
The genuine image of consistency. Pharaoh put out an album every few years and every time it’s the best power metal record that year. This is no exception; technical and aggressive but also catchy and thoughtful, Pharaoh are the kings (see what I did there?) of United States power metal.

StarGazer - Psychic Secretions [related: review]
Another modern legend, StarGazer have been putting out technical and progressive death metal since the ‘90s. It takes them a while for each new album but it’s always worth the wait, and the guys are involved in tons of other high-quality bands to check out while waiting for more spaceprog.

Steel Bearing Hand - Slay in Hell
Hyperspeed death/thrash mania that hits harder and harder with every successive listen. Loved these guys since the first album and it’s great to see them exploding with this one.

Transilvania - Of Sleep and Death [related: Best Black/Thrash from 2021 Q1]
Perhaps the most ambitious band in this style right now. Layered and dense ripping black/thrash with tons of great melodies and amazingly written dual-guitar action.

Tyrann - Djävulens Musik [related: interview]
Raw and classic heavy metal the old way! Don’t make fashion of their heavy metal passion!

...

Thomas Campagna

Reflecting on 2021 in music thus far is an arduous task, so much great music was created in isolation from the world and is now finally hitting store shelves for mass consumption. There is a lot to love from what we have already seen. From gross death metal to the glory of power metal, it is tough to find one sound that properly encapsulates the year to this point. Here are 10 sonic memoirs for our first 6 months.

Cannibal Corpse - Violence Unimagined
Darkthrone -Eternal Hails......
Eisenhand -Fires Within
Enforced -Kill Grid [related: review] [get the vinyl]
Frozen Soul -Crypt of Ice
Gravesend - Methods of Human Disposal [get the colored vinyl]
Helloween - Helloween
Tribulation - Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
Wheel - Preserved In Time
Yautja - The Lurch


Sigh ad
At the Gates variant

...