As we move into the new year, it’s that time when we look back on the highlights of the past 12 months and remember what made them so. With much of the world still emerging from lockdown, many artists have been quietly busy making music off the stage. The heavy scene in particular has had some incredible albums drop this year from both international and local acts either breaking out or staying in.
We’ve compiled a list of some personal favourites that may have dodged your Release Radar for those who like their tunes a little on the heavier side.
Mirrors – The Ego’s Weight
The debut album from the Gippsland metalcore quartet is an ambitious feat but ticks all the boxes and then some. Ethereal falsettos and picked melodies spearheaded by harsh screams and busy breakdowns make this an unsuspecting and impressive achievement. Mirrors will be supporting Polaris on their anticipated Summer Tour, alongside Make Them Suffer and Justice for the Damned.
Best track: ‘Leave Them Behind’
Trash Boat – Don’t You Feel Amazing?
With many artists tackling the social decline through their music, few have done so with such accuracy as these English punk lads. The band’s third album is sharp, emotive and relevant with a pop aesthetic in an almost facetious manner. Its high-energy anthems, infectious hooks and witty commentary will have you feeling amazing from the first listen.
Best track: ‘Synthetic Sympathy’
Capstan – Separate
These Florida post-hardcore underdogs have built a steady following by wearing their hearts on their sleeves and dabbling in a range of styles. Eloquent lyrics over intricate guitarwork blend with electronic elements to deliver their most evolved sound yet – even a signature saxophone solo from collaborator Saxl Rose. It’s brutally honest and fiercely passionate without taking away the fun.
Best track: ‘shades of us’
Holding Absence – The Greatest Mistake of My Life
A mournful break-up concept album, the sophomore record from these Welsh rockers was a triumphant return that garnered praise worldwide. Painfully poignant lyrics, soaring vocals and elegant harmonies sweeten the angsty punk edge of the music for an emotional rollercoaster. It picks at the stitches and kisses the bruises all at once.
Best track: ‘Afterlife’
Onslow – Onslow
Okay, it’s an EP – but once you’ve heard these five stellar tracks, you’ll have them on repeat for weeks. The Perth alt-rock duo consisting of Make Them Suffer’s Sean Harmanis and Voyager’s Scott Kay are strangely familiar yet exceptionally original. It’s both internally and outwardly critical and can equally get you moving or offer comfort in quieter moments.
Best track: ‘Let Me Rust’
Stepson – Help Me, Help You
Perhaps the most anticipated local heavy release of the year, the Brisbane hardcore favourites pulled no punches with their debut album. From softer experimental cuts to brutal trademark hits, the dynamic songwriting and production is a testament to the band’s effort and growth. As the title suggests, they hope to reach someone in need – and their success shows they have done just that.
Best track: ‘Run’
Youth Fountain – Keepsakes & Reminders
Originally a solo project of guitarist/vocalist Tyler Zanon, the Canadian emo pop-punk act offers an achingly reflective and fervent collection of 14 songs straight from a broken heart. Strained vocals and frenetic guitars give an upbeat energy to the dark lyrics that resonate from the bedroom to the stage. A lament of loss and insecurity, there is an underlying assurance that provides solace between the lines.
Best track: ‘Peace Offering’
Deadlights – The Uncanny Valley
This concept album from the Brisbane hardcore outfit addresses the negative impacts of technology and religion in a dystopian not-so-distant future. Recorded by guitarist/vocalist Tynan Reibelt, the captivating performances and production elevate it beyond their 2017 debut. Abrasive screams and haunting falsettos with technical guitar, erratic drums and industrial synths create eerie calm in unpredictable chaos.
Best track: ‘The King of Nowhere’
Of Mice & Men – Echo
A trilogy of conceptual EPs and a Crosby, Stills & Nash cover combine to make one bold album – the band’s third in four years. The California metalcore icons boast powerful vocals, searing riffs and frantic drums with strings and synths in a showcase of anthemic choruses and earthshattering breakdowns. Thematically separated into three parts – denial, depression and acceptance – like stages of grief, this album is their most cohesive yet.
Best track: ‘Obsolete’
Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
If you’ve made it this far into the year and haven’t at least heard of Spiritbox, you’re living under a rock. The Canadian melodic metalcore act have totally dominated with their debut album and proven to be one of the most innovative bands in recent times. Lush vocals and guttural screams over metal and electronic elements make it both intimidating and vulnerable. Plus, the drums are entirely programmed!
Best track: ‘Secret Garden’
If you liked these choices, check out our picks of the 40 best albums of 2021 here.