Light, darkness, and all in between…
Well well well, yet another pandemic year behind us and just look at it all, look at the world. We’re still around! Life’s still worth living and there is so much to anticipate and to work towards. As one might have expected, things still don’t seem complete and ‘like they used to be’ but you and me learned how to adapt to these unstable times and here we are, pushing through with ever-greater hope and resilience. Yet no matter the month, the mood or the worry, music was constantly around tending to the timeless needs of the soul.
Here is my top 10 albums and top 5 concerts of 2021 traversing various genres and dimensions!
Mr. Witchfinder Top 10 Albums of 2020
10: Emma Ruth Rundle – Engines of Hell
Emma Ruth Rundle mastered the art of forging darkness into light on her newest album titled Engine of Hell. Bereft of drums, distortion and delay, what we get here is raw emotion and truly heartwarming words pouring straight from the darkest corners of Emma’s soul. Engine of Hell sees the artist refer back to acoustic guitar, piano and fragile vocals to tell us a story of the eternal struggle to combat the natural drag downwards. Ghosts of the past never truly let go and Emma here doesn’t fear communicating with them and shaping the dialogue into 8 touching tracks where the artist skilfully alternates between the two aforementioned instruments. It’s a journey into the heart of the artist who rises above the crushingly heavy past in an effort to grow and proceed forward on the creative path. Eternal respect to ERR for the sincerity and magnificent execution on this album as it’s an emotional experience each time listening to it.
9: Amenra – De Doorn
Behold De Doorn, Amenra’s plunge into waters thicker than tar and darker than vantablack. This album sees the band open a new chapter in their musical journey and is a crowning jewel in their discography. The overall tone of the record is eerie and transcendental, cutting deep and precise. Joined by Caro Tanghe of Oathbreaker, Amenra’s creative mind and leading vocalist Colin Van Eeckhout paints a sonic picture that is audibly different comparing to the previous cycle of Mass albums. Most of the vocals here are clean and introspective, carrying a hefty emotional load while safely guiding the listener through the restless waters. De Doorn is this type of album that takes time to sink in, but when it does, it sinks in deep. The band’s signature repetitive blackened passages are present here but interwoven with spoken Flemish word making the experience all so abstract yet oddly familiar at the same time. An absolute essential for anyone seeking a moment of respite by indulging in the finest of heavy arts.
8: Kanaan – Earthbound
Kanaan was recommended to me by my dear friend Mr. Stone a while back but I only delved into the band deeper with the release of their 4th album titled Earthbound. This sonic work of art is all about the psychedelic fury one pictures when tripping on acid while traversing the universe at light speed. Imploding gas giants, fiery nebulas and a plethora of distorted colours spring to mind when blasting the album. While being completely instrumental, Earthbound is filled to the brim with dynamic passages and grooves allowing the band to craft astral landscapes of boundless magnitude. What makes the experience even more alluring is the band’s ability to juggle with tempos in a way that at times drags one on a daredevil space run, only to later slow down and drop one off on an imaginary beach to relax and catch a breath. In short, Earthbound is a multifaceted mechanism of Nordic origin that only waits for being unraveled and indulged in. Give it a try and I’ll see you high above!
7: Moonstone – 1904
The colossus returned after two years with two tracks forming a menacing EP titled 1904 and it sent quite a shockwave through the Polish underground. Having heard those songs live at Rifffields Festival as a premiere of sorts, I knew the guys were up to something solid. A few months later, the album dropped and I lost myself in those monolithic tones that seemed so organic yet gargantuan at the same time that it was frankly hard to comprehend. The ease with which the band forged their hypnotic riffs and bent them to their wills was something I greatly admired back in 2019 with their debut s/t. Now on 1904, the formula is applied yet again but the focus is placed on crafting lengthier passages with even slower build-ups and scarcer vocals.
6: Blind Tendril – α
One of my favorite discoveries of last year is Blind Tendril’s debut LP modestly titled α. It marks the band’s resurrection after short-lived inception in Greece, a line-up shift and a subsequent move to the UK. What particularly caught my attention here was the adventurous atmosphere of the album combined with some addictive riffs and memorable lyrics, all wrapped in fuzz and melody. I got hooked instantly and devoured song after song on constant repeat for weeks. It resonated hard and fast while having plenty enough to offer that prevented boredom from creeping in. Guitars are ringing, the bass is rumbling and the drums are pounding, all in perfect harmony with the commanding vocals that offer a whole lot of versatility over the course of the 11 tracks. There is room for peaceful reflection as is for rabid obliteration of the mind. Hear for yourself, you might very well get hooked as well!
5: Liquify – Illusionary Reality
Picture this. A starry night where a lonesome doomer smoking through the night sits by the desk and indulges in the act of riff worship when finally something pops up on the screen and catches his attention. Turning his gaze towards the rather weird yet all so alluring album cover, he quickly learns that it was one hell of a lucky strike. Illusionary Reality by Liquify starts playing and there is no return as he’s pulled into the screen and ventures to places distant and unknown. Guided by tingling guitars and one drum machine, he sees green hills rolling underneath as he’s gliding high above. The air is filled with star dust and oddly enough, it’s bright all around but no sun to be seen. The landscape shifts as the doomer flies and out in the distance strange things begin to take shape. A river flowing from a castle atop a nearby hill cuts through the land dividing it into two fronts. One is arid, sandy and coarse. The other is lush with trees, all green and supposedly home to a red dragon… and a robot? What is this sorcery? The doomer thought as he wasn’t sure where he was but enjoyed the ride nevertheless. And so he stayed for as long as the music kept on playing, only to later wake up and repeat the dream time and time again…
4: Kanonenfieber – Menschenmühle
I like to see music I listen to as an escape from reality. In the case of Kanonenfieber, that reality would be the perspective of German soldiers on the brutal trench battles of World War I where air was saturated with gunpowder, blood and death. Not that I long for those days and would see myself in such a scenario but I admit there are some darker corners of my soul that can only find peace when subjected to something equally as menacing. Menschenmühle is a prime example of blackened death/atmospheric metal done right with tracks holding so much power and emotion that I almost imploded the many times I blasted through the album. And while I fell for the brilliant album cover, I stayed for the rich music. Drum blast, tremolo picking and growls are all here yet conjured with such grace and wit that one can discover nuances with each consecutive listen. Oh and did I mention it’s a one-man project?
Fans of Bolt Thrower will definitely indulge in this masterpiece as will fans of YOB because Kanonenfieber blends the various corners of extreme metal into one lethal formula that alternates between rage, sorrow and hope. It’s truly a powerful reminder of The Great War and a promising start of the band’s story.
3: King Buffalo – Burden of Restlessness & Acheron
Perhaps an exception to the rule but there was no way I could pick one album over the other as I feel they are complimentary to each other and both mark a new chapter in King Buffalo’s journey as a band. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that these guys are perhaps one of the most prolific bands in the genre and keep on paving their sonic way in a creative and relentless manner. Both albums offer a leap deep into the cosmos with production being top notch and crispier than ever before. While The Burden of Restlessness and Acheron are of equal length spanning just a tad over the 40 minute mark, they were recorded and cut up differently. The former being recorded in a professional studio setting and placing emphasis on shorter and more diverse tracks, while the latter being recorded in a cave featuring ambient natural sounds found inside and invoking a rather ethereal atmosphere. What is a common denominator in the two releases though is that they are both children of the pandemic and see the band embrace an identity that’s being consistently crystallising since 2013. There is only one king and that is one grazing high up on the cosmic fields. King Buffalo my friend!
2: Turnstile – GLOW ON
Goddamn, have I been living under a rock? Well I guess anytime is a good time for discovering an absolute killer of a band. Turnstile appeared on my radar as soon as cold, depressive vibes crept up and I couldn’t be more thankful for this blessing. GLOW ON is quite literally a bomb that constantly alternates between blowing up your mind and caressing your soul, offering you a peak into the effortless ambition to blend genres and throw a grand, stadium-sized party. The band’s ability to craft songs that are as catchy as they’re uplifting is masterful and commands highest respect. After just a few spins I fell under the spell of Turnstile and ended up singing along and grooving the shit out of my body, which I must tell you doesn’t happen all that often. The composition on GLOW ON is one of its supreme qualities as the opening track sets the mood just right for one to be intrigued, only to later light the world on fire and happily invite everyone to the dance. Hats off, this is the real deal.
1: Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
All hail KEXP and their excellent taste for music! Despite discovering Dry Cleaning some months before they dropped their first New Long Leg, the band only resonated with me after I saw their live session recorded for KEXP. And goddamn they resonated hard. The band’s urban post-punk aesthetic combined with truly unique spoken-word-style vocals made for a combination that both stole my attention and answered any spiritual needs at the time of the release. The album stuck with me for the whole year and I couldn’t get enough of it. The cryptic collection of words mashed up together forming the lyrical side of things allow for plenty of room for personal interpretations and thus become oddly relatable. Simultaneously, the instruments here form a cohesive whole that organically flows between realms of eerie melancholia and elegant ‘no-fucks-given’. The crisp mix and a thoughtful composition of tracks complete the formula and make for an addictive journey that sinks deep and caresses the soul. A must-listen!
By Fat Level
Monolord – Your Time to Shine
Lingua Ignota – SINNER GET READY
KRZTA – ZOLC.ZNISZCZENIE.ZGLISZCZA
Spaceslug – Memorial
By Purple Haze Level
Sunnata – Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth
Temple Fang – Fang Temple
The Fur – Sonntag
The Gluts – Ungrateful Hear
By Temperature Level
Goat – Headsoup
The Limit – Caveman Logic
Snail – Fractal Altar
Ty Segall – Harmonizer
Top 5 concerts of 2021
This year was definitely more bountiful in terms of concerts than 2020 and here’s a list of my favorite ones:
Goat @ Palp Festival, Val de Bagnes, CH
Slomosa @ Desertfest Antwerp, Antwerp, BE
Kikagaku Moyo @ Patronaat, Amsterdam, NL
Moonstone @ Rifffields Festival, Galazki, PL
Red Scalp @ KontenerArt, Poznan, PL
Thanks for reading and Keep it Fuzzy!