Words by Paige Cobos
Paige Cobos is an Ohio based freelance writer and content creator. Currently, she is a contributing writer for OffShelf. Prior to that she wrote for The Wright State Guardian covering the lifestyle and music scene around Dayton, Ohio. She is an avid music consumer of the metal variety. Outside writing she is traveling to the next metal show or playing video games in full view of the general public.
Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb (Spinefarm Records)
This band is unlike anything currently in the metal scene right now. From hiding it’s members behind masks and giving cryptic interviews, Sleep Token allows its music to tell the full story of what they are about. Following a stunning debut in 2019 with Sundowning, their sophomore effort clearly marks the English group as one of a kind. This Place Will Become Your Tomb saddles between dirty and heavy riffs and more slower cleaner piano driven ballads. The best tracks that are examples of this combo include the stylish and brutal ‘Hypnosis’ and the lighter but still sinister ‘Like That’. This is an album that will definitely split some listeners but the entrancing effort for uniqueness is something to admire.
Loathe – The Things They Will Believe (Sharptone Records)
An ambient album from a metalcore group? Yes, you read that right. The band Loathe from Liverpool, England were poised to turn heads in February of 2020 with their career changing third album, I Let It in and It Took Everything. But COVID gutted a promising tour. In the midst of this sadness their beautiful ambient creation, The Things They Believe took shape. The album feels like a dreamy soundtrack to a lost 80’s sci-fi film or a more niche dramatic anime of the 90’s. The use of sound and space intertwined with airy strings and saxophones of ‘You Never Came Back’ and ‘The Rain Outside…’ will leave you stunned and awed. Loathe wanted to give fans and the world everything in 2020. But in 2021 they did it in an unexpected but incredible way.
Ghost Feeder – Invited to the Murder (self-released)
The 80’s never die as far as GhostFeeder is concerned. This independent project headed by Derek Walborn from Rochester, New York celebrates the neon joys and darker spaces of the era. GhostFeeder’s third effort, Invited to the Murder slices and dices the air with smooth synth rock beats and self aware attitude. The album is short but clearly defined with its catchy guitars and neon glows. The gamer nostalgia of bygone eras lives in the DNA of GhostFeeder and breathes true in tracks like ‘Fascia’ and ‘Scene Killer’. For the ultimate digital escape from the real world, let GhostFeeder be your gateway there.
Mint Julep – In a Deep and Dreamless Sleep (Western Vinyl)
Mint Julep, helmed by husband and wife duo, the Keniffs, gives a dreamy and wistful fourth album with In a Deep and Dreamless Sleep. Started out with influences of 90’s shoegaze as the bedrock of their early beginnings, Mint Juleps expands with little bits of punk and shades of industrial mixed in. Their fourth album is a refreshing and dreamy collection of guitar beats and catchy drumming rhythms. Hollie Keniff’s vocals add to the ethereal atmosphere of the album. Tracks like ‘Mirage’ and ‘Shores’ serve as standouts showing how Mint Julep perfectly blends certain genres to create a sound that unmistakably leaves you feeling warm in both the mind and heart.
Fire-Toolz – Eternal Home (Hausu Mountain.bandcamp)
One of the most unique releases this year, Fire Toolz sets the internet dreamscapes alight with Eternal Home. The being behind Fire Toolz, Angel Marcloid crafts a perfect fusion of different genres to create a unique album that can only be forged by the consciousness of the digital world. Sparkling but heavy tracks like ‘thick_flowy_glowing_sparkly_stingy_pain.mpeg’ demonstrate a complex control of sound that is heavy, catchy, weird and beautiful all at the same time. This beast of an album is a beautiful piece of incredible creative boundlessness. With its embrace of unique sound blending, Eternal Home is a stunning effort.
Lacuna Coil – Live from the Apocalypse (Century Media)
Originally streamed to fans on Instagram and performed in an empty venue, veteran Italian act Lacuna Coil kept the fire burning in this stellar live performance of their latest album, 2019’s Black Anima. Brutal guitars, catchy heavy drums accompanied by lead singer Cristina Scabbia breathtaking vocals breathe life into this epic live performance. The band has dabbled between different genres over the years, from gothic to metal to alternative. Black Anima is in a way a return to their roots in a refreshing and defiant way. Tracks such as ‘Sword of Anger’ and ‘Reckless’ only demonstrate that Lacuna Coil is more alive than ever. Probably one of the best pandemic era live performances, Live from the Apocalypse does not let the world silence it’s savage roar.
KANGA – You And I Will Never Die (Artoffact)
The dance floor can be a beautiful and dark place sometimes. Electronica musician and remixer, KANGA demonstrates that beauty and darkness in a masterful turn with her third album, You And I Will Never Die. Pulsing with body shaking rhythms and entrancing grooves, KANGA creates a dark vibe coupled with strong songwriting that glows with sincerity and sadness. Tracks such as ‘Home’ and ‘Waiting’ perfectly capture the hidden anxiety and seamless perfection that the dance floor promises in dark times. This stellar darkwave gem is bound to become a classic in due time.
Slow Crush – Hush (Quiet Panic)
Through the darkness, hope still remains. This certainly true for the Belgian shoegaze group, Slow Crush. Having managed to navigate through the uncertainty of the pandemic to create one of their darkest but most bright albums yet. Hush is a writhing album flowing in hazy guitars and dreamy vocals. The strength of the drums and light touches of heavy metal in certain tracks like ‘Blue’ add a compelling effect over the album. In it’s moments of lightness such as ‘Swivel’, Slow Crush shows their mastery of the genre and how they transform sound and feeling. Hush is a vibrant but dark effort by one of the best up and coming bands in the scene right now.
Converge / Chelsea Wolfe – Bloodmoon: I (Epitaph)
One of biggest surprises of this year, Bloodmoon: I, the collaboration between the legendary hardcore band Converge and dark songstress Chelsea Wolfe is a savage beast to behold. Armed with writhing guitars and howling organ composition this album feels like a pack of 1,000 wolves ascending out of hell. Peppered with Wolfe’s vocals throughout, this album is a brilliant fusion of heavy metal with a 70’s edge. One never overpowers the other with both talents complementing each other throughout the album. Stand tracks include the ear shredding ‘Coil’ and the more bluesy and western ‘Crimson Stone’. For those looking for music for the dark months ahead, look no further.
Unreqvited – Beautiful Ghosts (Prophecy Records)
A brutal and beautiful short album, Beautiful Ghosts encapsulates everything that makes the Canadian atmospheric black metal group Unreqvited so special. This album sweeps through highs and lows of brooding emotion. From slow guitars and pianos to choir singing and heavy riffs, Unreqvited crosses landscapes of various kinds of metal to create a unique sound. ‘All is Lost’ is a perfect example of some of the best work by the group in previous albums while the title track ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ see the band becoming something new and powerful. It is a short but lasting impression by one of the best atmospheric black metal groups out there now.