A host of veterans returned to the death metal scene in 2021. And they came to conquer.
But just like last year, the output from the genre’s emerging players was simply thrilling, with acts from Kaunas to Florida planting their flags in the slime.
So hold on for dear life, as we bring you Rushonrock’s 10 best death metal albums of 2021…
10. Wharflurch – Psychedelic Realms Of Hell (Gurgling Gore Records)
Lurid, mind bending and pretty damned terrifying… and that’s just the artwork.
Yep, Wharflurch emerged from Florida’s steaming swamps with this mushroom haul of warped OSDM, an intriguing record that, for all its hallucinogenic haze, was anchored in classy death riffs and astute songwriting.
After a string of EPs, singles and splits, Wharflurch truly arrived in the Psychedelic Realms Of Hell.
And then they pulled us down with them.
9. 200 Stab Wounds – Slave To The Scalpel Blade (Maggot Stomp)
Less of a delicate incision, more of a frenzied attack, this debut gave us nine slices of vicious death metal in the vein of Cannibal Corpse and Devourment.
Thrillride riffs erupted like arterial spray from tracks such as Drilling Your Head and Expirated Splatter… and there were plenty of goresome grooves to be found too.
Sick, slick and to the razor-sharp point, Slave To The Scalpel Blade was an assured first album from this Ohio outfit, and deserved its place among our best death metal albums of 2021.
8. Beyond Grace – Our Kingdom Undone (Prosthetic Records)
A bit of subtle tech anyone?
Our Kingdom Undone saw Beyond Grace take a major step up from their debut, 2017’s Seekers, and put the world to rights on Factions Speak Louder Than Herds, Fearmonger and Hive Mind.
The bass popped, the guitarwork was sublime and vocalist Andy Walmsley brought his lyrical dexterity to a cerebral, ambitious piece of UKDM.
No wonder Prosthetic snapped up this Nottingham crew…
7. Baest – Necro Sapiens (Century Media)
It has been a meteoric rise for young Danish outfit Baest, who emerged from Aarhus in 2015 and quickly became one of the most talked about acts in Euro death.
And the quintet nailed their ‘Morbid Bolt Bath’ sound on Necro Sapiens, an opus born in old school DM, yet packing a steely, contemporary punch.
The writing was laser-focused, the riffs struck like tank shells and in the title track, Baest gave us one of 2021’s greatest earworms.
Read our review of Necro Sapiens.
6. Cerebral Rot – Excretion Of Mortality (20 Buck Spin)
Seattle quartet Cerebral Rot followed up their 2019 debut, Odious Descent Into Decay with this grisly slab of putridity.
Catchier and (somehow) even more primitive than its predecessor, Excretion Of Mortality oozed with the pus of early Carcass and Autopsy… and showed that Odious Descent was no flash in the bed pan.
Bowels Of Decreptitude, Retching Innards, Vile Yoke Of Contagion… the stench of decay seeped from every tune.
5. Crypts Of Despair – All Light Swallowed (Transcending Obscurity)
Cloaked in sinister atmospherics, dripping with spectral riffery and laden with soul sucking hooks, All Light Swallowed was a major statement of intent from Crypts Of Despair.
The Lithuanian quartet pushed their extraordinary talents into the global arena on their sophomore album.
And they created a slew of songs – such as Choked By The Void, Condemned To Life and Excruciating Weight – that will fester long in the memory.
4. Memoriam – To The End (Reaper Entertainment)
On their fourth album, Karl Willetts and co. spread their wings.
Sure, there was the magnificent Onwards Into Battle and Vacant Stare – strong nods to Willetts’ past in Bolt Thrower – but Memoriam seemed unwilling to get stuck in a rut.
So we had the Peaceville three death doom of Each Step Closer (To The Grave), the Killing Jokeisms of Mass Psychosis and a descent into Gothic-era Paradise Lost on As My Heart Grows Cold – all coated in Memoriam’s distinctive, crusty spirit.
Brave, exciting and essential.
3. At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media)
The Nightmare Of Being was At The Gates’ most progressive and challenging album to date.
And it was all the better for it.
Garden Of Cyrus’s soaring sax rubbed shoulders with searing riffs, The Fall Of Time’s astral explorations followed the full tilt carnage of Touched By The White Hands Of Death, and the pulsing krautrock of Cosmic Pessimism pushed the band’s sublime writing skills to the fore.
Taking a major evolutionary step, while retaining a band’s core essence?
No mean feat.
But the pioneering Swedes pulled it off.
2. Carcass – Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast)
We had to wait eight years for Torn Arteries, the follow-up to 2013’s stunning comeback album, Surgical Steel.
But after whetting appetites with 2020’s Despicable EP, Carcass followed up with this triumphant opus: a record that cemented their legacy as overlords of UK death metal.
Stripped down to a three-piece of founders Jeff Walker and Bill Steer, plus drummer Daniel Wilding, Carcass dug into their past, brought back those infectious grooves, and balanced melody with brutality like only they can.
Dance of Ixtab (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No. 1 in B), In God We Trust and The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing all took their place among the band’s finest work.
And like the creators of our number one entry, age hasn’t weathered the Carcass…
1. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (Metal Blade)
A savage splatterfest, bristling with rusty barbs and serrated riffery.
A landmark for a band with little left to prove.
Yes, Violence Unimagined – with death metal legend Erik Rutan now on board – was arguably the finest Cannibal Corpse album since 2006’s Kill.
Necrogenic Resurrection and Murderous Rampage slayed with inhuman precision, Rutan’s twisted imagination ran riot on Ritual Annihilation and Condemnation Contagion and ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher unleashed unbridled, primal fury throughout.
Violence Unimagined was a death metal masterclass, make no mistake.
And it marked a bloody new chapter in ‘Corpse history.
Check out our review of Rushonrock’s best death metal album of 2021.
Enjoyed our top 10 best death metal albums of 2021? Check out last year’s list.