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The Didact’s Best Albums of 2021

by | Dec 31, 2021 | Das Beste Aus | 0 comments

Unlike my rather paltry reading record this year, I managed to listen to quite a lot of great music. This is thanks in large measure to YouTube channels like NWOTHM Full Albums, which allows you to (re)discover some truly great stuff from obscure but highly talented bands. It is comforting to think that, while modren pop music is unbearably stupid, vacuous, and devoid of artistic merit, heavy metal continues to evolve and thrive.

Here are my favourite albums of the past year:

1. Senjutsu by IRON MAIDEN

Senjutsu

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. I am a HUGE fan of IRON MAIDEN, and always will be. I love this band, I love their work, and I will always put their albums front and centre in any year-end compilation, whenever they release one. Since I reviewed this album at length in a separate post, I won’t go too deep into it, but I do think that it is not quite as good as The Book of Souls, which I think will go down in history as a latter-day magnum opus for them.

Killer Kuts: The whole album is great from start to finish, but my favourite tracks are probably “Lost in a Lost World” and “Hell on Earth”

2. Force of Will by POWER THEORY

Force of Will

This is an American band that I had never heard of before this year, but when I came across their work, I was immediately hooked. This is like a faster, amped-up version of late 1990s BRUCE DICKINSON solo work, from roughly the period of Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding. It has that same combination of epic riffing, great lyrics, superb musicianship, and exceptional vocal performances. The band as a whole is simply superb. This is the kind of melodic heavy metal that you can really sink your teeth into – it’s great, essential stuff.

Killer Kuts: “Force of Will”, “Albion”, “Th13teen”, “Bringer of Rain”, and especially “The Hill I Die On”

3. … And Now We Ride by SELLSWORD

...And Now We Ride

Here’s another band, from the UK, that I came across thank to TEH YOOTOBZ, and I have to say, they are really superb. They have a combination of classic and power metal that is really hard to beat, with exceptional songwriting, solid riffing, great lyrics, and superb musicianship. Of their two albums that I listened to this year, this one is my favourite – there is not one single weak track on the whole thing. Every single song is really meaty, and some of the tracks are even just downright fun. This is a great album to listen to while doing a fast-paced workout in the gym – highly recommended.

Killer Kuts: “Crossing the Blades”, “Rise and Take Command”, “Against the Wind”, “Merchants of Menace”, “Hardrada”

4. Helloween by HELLOWEEN

Helloween

This year really did seem to be one in which the Old Guard of the metal world came along to show the young ‘uns how it’s done. We had both an IRON MAIDEN and a HELLOWEEN record in the same year, and that’s just about as good as it gets in terms of the granddaddies showing off their chops. This album sees the entire classic line-up of the band reunited (minus the tragically dead Ingo Schwichtenberg), along with Andi Deris, Dani Loeble, and Sacha Gerstner, to combine the best of all eras of the band into a brand new record. You can tell that the Pumpkings are really having fun with this one – the songwriting is catchy, the musicianship is top-notch as always, and the lyrics to many songs are both hilarious and stupid at times. Kai Hansen’s songwriting, in particular, seems to have benefited significantly from his extended sabbatical from his main gig, GAMMA RAY. This isn’t the best HELLOWEEN album by any stretch of the imagination – I think that title probably goes to The TIme of the Oath, or Keeper of the Seven Keys: Legacy – but it is still very, very good. Special mention here needs to be made of Dani’s drumming, which is full-on BEAST MODE – he really is the best drummer they have ever had, combining the technical brilliance of Uli Kusch with the raw power and balls-out aggression of Mark Cross, Mikkey Dee, and Ingo.

Killer Kuts: “Out for the Glory”, “Fear of the Fallen”, “Skyfall”, “Rise Without Chains”, “Robot King”

5. Legend of the Bone Carver by PYRAMAZE

Legend of the Bone Carver

Now this one goes back quite some way, to 2006, if I’m not mistaken, and it shows, in terms of the sound and quality. Nonetheless, this is a genuinely outstanding concept album with incredible musicianship and songwriting. The concept follows the story of a young child born into a very troubled time, who inherits the mantle of the Bone Carver in a bid to fight back against an overwhelming tide of evil that threatens to destroy his world. The vocal performances, musicianship, lyrics, and power are all top-notch despite the less-than-perfect production job. This is melodic metal at its absolute best.

Killer Kuts: “What Lies Beyond”, “Souls in Pain”, “The Bone Carver”, “Blood Red Skies”, “Tears of Hate”

Honourable Mentions

Call of the Wild by POWERWOLF

Call Of The Wild

I really do love POWERWOLF – they are just the silliest awesome band ever – but this album just wasn’t good enough compared to the others. They will probably never match the sheer brilliance of Preachers of the Night ever again – too much of this album has a “been there, heard that” feel to it – but the epic cover artwork, the pounding drums and bass, and the amazing vocals of Attila Dorn, never really get old. This is a LOT of fun to listen to, if not quite up to the standards of some of their earlier, essential works.

Dark Awakening by SHADOWKILLER

Dark Awakening

This is again a band that I had never heard of before this year, but they are genuinely very good. Their material tends to be a sort of “dark power metal”, kind of like BRAINSTORM, but they focus more on fantasy and fiction themes. This album is quite good, with plenty of great material to keep you listening to it on repeat for months.

Damnation by BLAZON STONE

Damnation

I love RUNNING WILD. So too does Cederic “Ced” Forsberg, the musical genius and multi-instrumentalist behind BLAZON STONE (and about a half-dozen other bands). Which is why he created a band that sounds like RUNNING WILD did 20 years ago, before Rock’n Rolf Kasparek got kind of old and bored with the whole “pirate metal” shtick. This is what pirate metal SHOULD sound like – are you listening, ALESTORM? My only problem with it – and it’s a big one – is that the material sounds, basically, EXACTLY THE SAME as RUNNING WILD, and if I want to listen to RUNNING WILD, I’ll listen to actual RUNNING WILD. Nonetheless, Damnation stands on its own very well, with some very solid musical set-pieces.

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