The Kerrang! staff’s top albums of 2021

There have been plenty of absolutely incredible albums released in 2021. Here are all the records that have rocked our individual years…

The Kerrang! staff’s top albums of 2021
Kerrang! Staff

Last week, we crowned Every Time I Die's Radical the best album of the year, and named the other 49 records that made the biggest, most unique and most compelling splashes over the past 12 months.

But there's more than one brain at Kerrang!. Our team is large, varied and drawn to a huge collection of different things. If our top 50 brought you a reflection of rock in 2021, here we present to you the Kerrang! staff's personal lists for a more close-up look at the music of the year…

Luke Morton, Editor

10. Biffy Clyro – The Myth Of The Happily Ever After
9. Scowl – How Flowers Grow
8. Converge – Bloodmoon: I
7. Gojira – Fortitude
6. Green Lung – Black Harvest
5. Turnstile – GLOW ON
4. Teenage Wrist – Earth Is A Black Hole
3. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
2. SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance Of Affliction

1. Every Time I Die – Radical

One of the greatest bands to ever do it have done it again. Released into a world that feels like someone tried putting out the garbage fire of 2020 with kerosene, Radical is the sound of the rampaging, no-holds-barred brawl that’s been brewing inside humanity for what feels like an age. With pure catharsis pumping through its veins, ETID’s ninth album is a career highlight; led by one of the greatest lyricists in heavy music at the very top of his game, Keith Buckley’s essence and trauma bleeds out for all to hear. Essential listening.

Emily Carter, Deputy Editor

10. Poppy – Flux
9. De’Wayne – STAINS
8. Turnstile – GLOW ON
7. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
6. Teenage Wrist – Earth Is A Black Hole
5. Biffy Clyro – The Myth Of The Happily Ever After
4. twenty one pilots – Scaled And Icy
3. Waterparks – Greatest Hits
2. Weezer – OK Human

1. Every Time I Die – Radical

I’ll be honest: I really, really regret only giving Radical four-out-of-five when I reviewed it back in October. I’d listened to Every Time I Die’s ninth album a hell of a lot before writing about it, obviously, but it truly is a record that gets better with each play – and now, I’d absolutely be awarding it full marks. Emotional, important, witty and somehow constantly surprising, it’s a total masterpiece, made all the more impressive by Keith Buckley’s personal journey during its creation. I won’t be making the mistake of marking ETID down ever again…

Nick Ruskell, Senior Commissioning Editor

10. Thronehammer – Incantation Rites
9. Body Void – Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
8. Steven Wilson – The Future Bites
7. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
6. Noctule – Wretched Abyss
5. Every Time I Die – Radical
4. Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine Of Hell
3. Employed To Serve – Conquering
2. Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments

1. Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

In a year which came with no small amount of gloom and isolation, it was quite the thing to have a record which not only soundtracked the darkness, but made it seem like somewhere you'd actually want to spend some time. Or, possibly, draw strength. With both an aggressive fist and a magical touch with the shadowy side, Sweden's Tribulation have always been a band whose charms work both as a tremendous bolt of live energy, and in darkened solitude. Forced to digest it in the latter, When The Gloom Becomes Sound proved itself to be a record of true brilliance. Which, actually, makes the ongoing wait to see it in the flesh far more enjoyable than one might expect.

Billie Webster, Designer

10. Unto Others – Strength
9. Body Void – Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
8. Grave Miasma – Abyss Of Wrathful Deities
7. WOWOD – Yarost’ I Proshchenie
6. Wolves In The Throne Room – Primordial Arcana
5. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END
4. Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
3. Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments
2. Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

1. Amenra De Doorn

Amenra are one of those truly special bands that exist in a space entirely of their own. It's hard not to feel excited when the Belgium-based outfit release new material, and although De Doorn may be somewhat different from their previous offerings, the album doesn’t suffer for it at all. A well-balanced juxtaposition of oppressive, sludgy heaviness and carefully considered atmospheric minimalism, De Doorn has provided much-needed escapism from yet another chaotic year.

Steve Beebee, Writer

10. Sumo Cyco – Initiation
9. Epica – Omega
8. Architects – For Those That Wish To Exist
7. Starset – Horizons
6. The Rumjacks – Hestia
5. Gojira – Fortitude
4. Green Lung – Black Harvest
3. The Wildhearts – 21st Century Love Songs
2. Beartooth – Below

1. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

‘Frisson’ – a sudden and unexpected moment of excitement, causing a physical shudder or shiver, including piloerection (goosebumps). There are moments too numerous to list on Spiritbox’s beguiling full-length debut that initiate exactly such a reaction – borne from the cornucopia of emotions elicited by these sometimes tempestuous, sometimes delicate and occasionally brutal songs. It’s hard enough to do one thing expertly, but to melt apparently contrasting rock ideas together while making it all sound graceful and unforced – that’s a special skill gifted only to the few. It wasn’t just the way Courtney LaPlante’s celebrated vocals magically kicked through normally unbreakable barriers; it was the fact that the music complimented this, flowing into many an unexpected and frisson-inducing denouement. Music that evinced vulnerability, frustration and everything in between, the songs from Eternal Blue will echo with us for years to come.

Aliya Chaudhry, Writer

10. Beartooth – Below
9. Hayley Williams – FLOWERS for VASES / descansos
8. Holding Absence – The Greatest Mistake of My Life
7. IDLES – Crawler
6. De’Wayne – Stains
5. Waterparks – Greatest Hits
4. Turnstile – GLOW ON
3. Architects – For Those That Wish to Exist
2. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power

1. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
Eternal Blue is an immersive album that challenges what heavy music, or music, can be, pulling from metalcore, nu-metal, emo, hip-hop and new wave – almost any music-lover could find something in there to latch onto. It flows from the swelling heights of songs like Halcyon and The Summit to the unrelenting heaviness of Holy Roller and Silk in the Strings. Spiritbox are as unafraid to be brutal as they are to be gentle. Courtney LaPlante’s ethereal vocals, Mike Stringer’s powerful riffs and their eerie synths combine to create soundscapes so moving that they hit like waves and envelop the listener, the dreamy atmosphere easy to get lost in. Each musical part drips with emotion, whether it’s Sun Killer’s foreboding hooks, the title track’s aching melody or Circle With Me’s breathtaking build and release. And that’s before you get to the lyrics, which are full of intricate metaphor and boldly vulnerable. One of the year’s most anticipated albums, and a debut at that, Eternal Blue more than delivered on the hype, it soared way past it.

Angela Davey, Writer

10. MØL – Diorama
9. Slow Crush – Hush
8. The Body – I've Seen All I Need to See
7. Wode – Burn in Many Mirrors
6. EyeHateGod – A History of Nomadic Behaviour
5. Body Void – Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
4. Full Of Hell – Garden of Burning Apparitions
3. Amenra – De Doorn
2. Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine of Hell

1. Lingua Ignota – SINNER GET READY

Kristin Hayter has one of the most interesting voices in alternative music right now. Her incredible vocal range, coupled with her sinister and emotively charged musical compositions, will never be boring to listen to. She has the type of voice that could recite terms and conditions and make them sound absolutely captivating. Lingua Ignota has mastered the art of channeling pain into beauty, and SINNER GET READY is her most poignant record to date. It's genuinely exciting to anticipate what she'll create next.

George Garner, Writer

10. WILLOW – lately i feel EVERYTHING
9. Mastodon – Hushed And Grim
8. Dinosaur Jr. – Sweep It Into Space
7. Chris Cornell – No One Sings Like You Anymore
6. Biffy Clyro – The Myth Of The Happily Ever After
5. Evanescence – The Bitter Truth
4. Weezer – OK Human
3. Rise Against – Nowhere Generation
2. Halsey – If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power

1. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

The only three certainties in life: death, taxes and Iron Maiden being the Greatest Heavy Metal Band Of All Time™. And didn't Senjutsu just prove the latter all over again in 2021? Hearing Maiden's – *counts fingers furiously* – 17th outing is like setting fire to your imagination for one-hour-and-21-minutes straight. I've enjoyed nothing more than stoking those inextinguishable flames with repeat listens this year.

James Hickie, Writer

10. Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers
9. Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
8. Poppy – Flux
7. Weezer – OK Human
6. Architects – For Those That Wish To Exist
5. Biffy Clyro – The Myth Of The Happily Ever After
4. Every Time I Die – Radical
3. Don Broco – Amazing Things
2. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power

1. Mastodon – Hushed And Grim

If 2020 was like a bout of depressed drinking, then 2021 has been the melancholic hangover. In pain and processing what the hell just happened, we yearned for a sense of normality that never quite arrived, so we set about looking for any victories we could find. Chief among them, of course, was the arrival of Hushed And Grim, Mastodon’s masterful eighth album, which proved that the Atlanta metal titans are at their best when their writing centres around a central theme. This time around that theme was death, a spectre that’s always near us but never more so than in recent years. For the band, personally, it was the death of their longtime manager Nick John from cancer in 2018. A man who was as much a part of the Mastodon operation as any of its members, Hushed And Grim is a wonderful tribute to him. Deep and dark and brimming with ideas, it’s also an exceptional addition to one of the most enviable catalogues in metal. The highlights of this near-90-minute odyssey are plentiful, but the concluding Gigantium, a song as sizeable as its title suggests, is worthy of special mention. In its soaring second half it highlights an intriguing musical future for Mastodon, while reminding us, if a reminder were necessary, how exceptionally powerful love is.

Sam Law, Writer

10. Beartooth – Below
9. Carcass – Torn Arteries
8. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
7. Gojira – Fortitude
6. Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound
5. Teenage Wrist – Earth Is A Black Hole
4. Every Time I Die – Radical
3. Unto Others – Strength
2. Employed To Serve – Conquering

1. Turnstile – GLOW ON

Turnstile are on another level right now. Where 2018’s outstanding second LP Time & Space delivered a burning soundtrack to the 21st century’s rapid social evolution, cementing the Baltimore crew in the uppermost tier of hardcore, GLOW ON changed the game again. Shattering anything left of traditional genre boundaries and cutting loose in a gloriously chaotic swirl of vibrancy, emotion and body-moving beats, these 15 tracks felt like a guarantee of light on the horizon after the long grey of lockdown. Rock’s greatest bands make it look effortless, and these lads have once again proven themselves the best of the best. Next year’s return to UK stages should be utterly insane.

James MacKinnon, Writer

10. Employed To Serve – Conquering
9. Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
8. Teenage Wrist – Earth Is A Black Hole
7. Mogwai – As The Love Continues
6. Dying Wish – Fragments Of A Bitter Memory
5. Lingua Ignota – SINNER GET READY
4. Converge – Bloodmoon: I
3. Every Time I Die – Radical
2. Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine Of Hell

1. Turnstile – Glow On
Few albums encapsulated the elation and optimistic energy of reuniting with the people and places dearest to us – in the pit or elsewhere – than Turnstile’s third long player. If 2018 breakthrough Time & Space viewed the world through a kaleidoscope of pleasure and pressure, Glow On felt like lifting off the goggles, taking a look around and finding that, actually, the world is a beautiful and vibrant place already – but a killer soundtrack doesn’t hurt. Choose life. Choose Glow On.

Mischa Pearlman, Writer

10. Timelost – Gushing Interest
9. Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine Of Hell
8. Tigercub – As Blue As Indigo
7. Drones – Our Hell Is Right Here
6. Thrice – Horizons/East
5. The Muslims – Fuck These Fuckin Fascists
4. A.A. Williams – Songs From Isolation
3. SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance Of Affliction
2. Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks Of God

1. Fiddlehead – Between The Richness

It begins and ends with a recording of the influential late poet E.E Cummings reading his most famous work, and only lasts for about 25 minutes in-between those snippets – but what a 25 minutes. Fiddlehead have crammed all the turbulence of both life and existence into Between The Riches, documenting the emotional ebb and flow we all go through on our journey from the cradle to the grave. It goes without saying, then, that these songs are riddled with sadness. After all, life is sad. But it also manages to capture the exuberance of those moments of joy that punctuate it, that – always – make life worth living. Comprised of members Patrick Flynn and Shawn Costa of Have Heart, Alex Henery of Basement and members of the bands Big Contest and Intent, it would be fair to call Fiddlehead a supergroup, but that also robs them of their own identity. There isn't any other album in 2021 that sounds or makes you feel quite like this. Let it overwhelm you.

Jake Richardson, Writer

10. wars – A Hundred Shivers
9. Dollar Signs – Hearts Of Gold
8. Graduating Life – II
7. Lil Lotus – ERRØR BØY
6. Angels & Airwaves – LIFEFORMS
5. Fightmilk – Contender
4. Drones – Our Hell Is Right Here
3. Architects – For Those That Wish To Exist
2. KennyHoopla – Survivor’s Guilt

1. Holding Absence – The Greatest Mistake Of My Life

A hauntingly beautiful and life-affirming collection of gutsy modern rock, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is a record that sends shivers down the spine as often as it feels like a reassuring arm around the shoulder. Ruminations on lost loves, wasted lives and the everyday humdrum of small-town life are sung with zeal by wickedly talented frontman Lucas Woodland, with his powerhouse vocals backed throughout by the twinkly guitars and booming percussion of Scott Carey and Ashley Green. Holding Absence’s second LP sounds like the band Gerard Way and Robert Smith started in a nondescript British town in another reality; it’s a dark, hopeful and romantic album, and the kind of record that reaffirms one’s faith in rock’s next generation.

Dan Slessor, Writer

10. Trivium – In The Court Of The Dragon
9. Whitechapel – Kin
8. Filth Is Eternal – Love Is A Lie, Filth Is Eternal
7. Quicksand – Distant Populations
6. Gatecreeper – An Unexpected Reality
5. Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
4. Full Of Hell – Garden Of Burning Apparitions
3. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined
2. Genghis Tron – Dream Weapon

1. Mastodon – Hushed And Grim

There’s no such thing as a substandard Mastodon album, but it seems that their evenly numbered releases – Leviathan, Crack The Skye, Once More ’Round The Sun and now Hushed And Grim – are destined to be stone-cold classics. Stretched out over 15 tracks and nearly an hour-and-a-half long, it’s a lot of album, but every sumptuous moment of it counts, exploring a variety of tones and emotions and connecting you with what they were feeling while conjuring it. Just doing what they do they have once more outdone themselves, and it is a record to get more and more lost in with every listen.

Mark Sutherland, Writer

10. Hayley Williams – Flowers For Vases / Descansos
9. The Offspring – Let The Bad Times Roll
8. Foo Fighters – Medicine At Midnight
7. The Pretty Reckless – Death By Rock And Roll
6. Weezer – OK Human
5. Dana Dentata – Pantychrist
4. You Me At Six – SUCKAPUNCH
3. Dropkick Murphys – Turn Up That Dial
2. WILLOW – lately i feel EVERYTHING

1. Weezer – Van Weezer

While the world lay on its sofa bingeing box sets in lockdown, Rivers Cuomo got busy. Very busy. Not content with already releasing one of the finest albums of the year – the lush, orchestrated pop of OK Human – he and his bandmates finally decided to let its long-awaited, long-haired cousin out into the world as well. We may still be waiting for the Hella Mega Tour to rock our worlds, but instant anthems such as Hero, All The Good Ones and 1 More Hit were exactly what a nation of under-employed air guitarists had been waiting for. Ostensibly paying homage to Rivers’ hard rock heroes, Van Weezer ultimately serves as a tribute to his own simple equation for songwriting genius. Massive riffs + even bigger tunes = the most fun to be had in 2021. Even if you never left your front room.

Olly Thomas, Writer

10. Celestial Sanctuary – Soul Diminished
9. ’68 – Give One Take One
8. Architects – For Those That Wish To Exist
7. Bad Waitress – No Taste
6. Underdark – Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry
5. Portrayal Of Guilt – Christfucker
4. Dinosaur Jr. – Sweep It Into Space
3. Lingua Ignota – SINNER GET READY
2. Converge – Bloodmoon: I

1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!

Unique, enigmatic and epic, the widescreen music made by Godspeed You! Black Emperor has long been an unassailable high point in post-rock, a genre tag they would probably resist were they in the habit of doing interviews. And fair enough: as G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END! proved, their ability to move through sections of exploratory blues, art-damaged classical, hypnotic drone rock and movie score intensity genuinely transcends easy classification. Their records have always sounded like the final broadcast beamed through the ether as the apocalypse inexorably takes hold; maybe the feeling of living somewhere close to the end times, in an era of pandemic, climate collapse and political upheaval, lends this one a heightened sense of urgency. It's certainly their best since resuming activities in 2012 after a decade of radio silence, leading to the unlikely occurrence of an album that starts with a 20-minute track called A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) (4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz)/Job's Lament/First of the Last Glaciers/where we break how we shine (Rockets for Mary) making the UK Top 30.

Paul Travers, Writer

10. Powerwolf – Call of the Wild
9. Amyl & The Sniffers – Comfort To Me
8. Me And That Man – New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.2
7. Converge – Bloodmoon: I
6. White Void – Anti
5. Gojira – Fortitude
4. Jess And The Ancient Ones – Vertigo
3. Mastodon – Hushed and Grim
2. Lucifer – Lucifer IV

1. Green Lung – Black Harvest

Green Lung’s cult has been steadily growing for a couple of years now, lurking in dappled forest groves that reek equally of blunts and blood sacrifice. On their second album, they broke out of their mulch-covered catacomb, with an appeal that reached beyond the doomy underground that remains at their roots. There’s something genuinely creepy about their folk-horror tales, but it’s accompanied by a hokey Hammer Horror sense of fun and genuine musical flair. Bursting with melodies and a pulsating organ, the London outfit’s second album shimmers with wonderful songs that make a well-worn musical form sound fresh and exciting again. The Devil, it seems, still has all the best tunes.

Emma Wilkes, Writer

10. Trash Boat – Don't You Feel Amazing?
9. Turnstile – GLOW ON
8. Employed To Serve – Conquering
7. Gojira – Fortitude
6. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
5. Holding Absence – The Greatest Mistake Of My Life
4. Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb
3. Converge – Bloodmoon: I
2. MØL – Diorama

1. Every Time I Die – Radical

Every day of the five-year wait for Every Time I Die's ninth record was worth it. Radical is a fantastic, multi-pronged sonic attack that is relentless from start to finish, yet its heaviness is just one aspect of the record that makes it as exceptional as it is. Where it truly excels is in its range – it creates crushingly heavy moments through being fast and hard one minute, slow and weighty the next, with bursts of sticky melody in the likes of Post-Boredom and Thing With Feathers in between. There aren't many bands who could sustain their momentum this well over 16 tracks, but this is Every Time I Die – there was never going to be any doubt over whether they could make it work. Moreover, with arguably the best mosh call of 2021 – 'Spare only the ones I love, slay the rest' – opening the record, there was never going to be much competition for the coveted title of Album Of The Year.

Ian Winwood, Writer

10. Exodus – Persona Non Grata
9. Trash Boat – Don’t You Feel Amazing?
8. Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb
7. IDLES – Crawler
6. Royal Blood – Typhoons
5. The Bronx – The Bronx VI
4. The Offspring – Let The Bad Times Roll
3. Amyl & The Sniffers – Comfort To Me
2. NOFX – Single Album

1. Biffy Clyro – The Myth Of The Happily Ever After

Despite reaching the point at which popular bands usually begin to decline – and sometimes, even, turn into brands – Biffy Clyro continue to soar. More than a mere companion piece to last year’s parent album, A Celebration Of Endings, The Myth Of Happily Ever After continues the band’s tireless quest to further the boundaries the composition, structure, mood and arrangements of the modern day rock song. By a distance of galaxies, the album of the year from the best band in Britain.

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?