Some of the biggest hitters in classic heavy metal returned in 2021. But the upstarts of the NWOTHM movement had their say too, to make this year an intriguing one for trad metal records.
So if demin and leather is in your DNA, check out Rushonrock’s ten best trad metal albums of 2021…
10. Portrait – At One With None (Metal Blade)
Portait’s spectral take on Maiden, Priest and Mercyful Fate has served the band well over 15 years.
They’ve stayed true to their vision and should be applauded for it.
And the Swedes didn’t disappoint their fans with At One With None.
The band’s fifth full-length was a deep, ambitious album which brought us standout performances from frontman Per Lengstedt and guitarist Christian Lindell, plus a slew of future live favourites.
9. Toledo Steel – Heading For The Fire (Dissonance Productions)
Southampton crew Toledo Steel put the pedal to the metal on Heading For The Fire — an explosive blast of fast-paced trad metal par excellence.
A brief but brilliant mini tour with label mates Seven Sisters and Eliminator brought the best of the band’s bruising new album to life.
And Heading For The Fire proved to be a hotbed for scorching riffs and sparky wordplay.
8. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu (Parlophone)
NWOBHM’s greatest export can do no wrong in the eyes of millions of metal fans the world over.
And given the band’s decades of experience and wallet-busting budget Iron Maiden don’t do bad albums.
But Senjutsu wasn’t the best metal record we heard all year.
It was bold, brash and, at times, typically bulldozing as the band’s trademark triple axe threat created an immersive wall of noise.
On the surface Senjutsu seemed to have it all.
And yet there was something missing from one of the most progressive metal albums of 2021.
7. U.D.O. – Game Over (AFM)
Wondering what the most overlooked metal masterpiece of 2021 was? Game Over.
Except it’s not. Not where Accept alumnus Udo Dirkshneider is concerned.
2022 marks the 35th anniversary of U.D.O. and this resilient set of expansive metal suggested the party’s just about to get started.
There are few more ‘metal’ voices on the circuit right now and Game Over allowed Dirkschneider to unleash his remarkably wide vocal range across a soaring 16-song set.
From piano ballad (yes, you read that right) Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye to the euphoric Metal Never Dies, this album reignited our passion for Teutonic trad metal.
6. Bewitcher – Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (Century Media)
With their NWOBHM influences to the fore and more polish on their bulletbelts, Bewitcher cemented their status as heavy metal heroes on Cursed Be Thy Kingdom.
One of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal movement’s standout acts, the Portland trio ditched some of their pace this time around, and swapped speed metal for hard rockin’ anthems such as Mystifier (White Night City) and Valley Of The Ravens.
But there was still room for the Motörvenom ripper of Satanick Magick Attack, and the rapid fire blitz of The Widow’s Blade.
And they helped Cursed Be Thy Kingdom weave its spell across the metal scene.
5. Accept – Too Mean To Die (Nuclear Blast)
Accept have been banging heads and blowing minds for almost half a century.
And Too Mean To Die served as a bone crushing reminder that Solingen’s finest still mean business after five decades at the forefront of the traditional heavy metal scene.
On this humdinger of a record Wolf Hoffman’s wild fretwork worked wonderfully in tandem with howling frontman Mark Tornillo.
And the Priest-meets-Alice Cooper punch of Overnight Sensation laughed in the face of those critics who predicted this brilliant band would be long gone. Accept no substitute.
4. Heavy Sentence – Bang To Rights (Dying Victims Productions)
Manchester mob Heavy Sentence have been through hell in recent years. They were still mourning the death of guitarist Mike Woods when Rushonrock last caught up with the band, back at 2020’s Brofest.
And it’s a tragedy that Woods never got to see his band release their debut.
For Bang To Rights is a hell raising, whiskey downing, riot of a record.
It’s an opus that harks back to NWOBHM shows in spit and sawdust boozers.
And it’s drenched in the sweat of Biff, Lemmy and Lynott.
3. Dread Sovereign – Alchemical Warfare (Metal Blade)
Primordial’s Nemtheanga – aka Alan Averill – has one of the most powerful and distinctive voices in heavy metal. And the Dubliner strode like a colossus across this magnificent record.
Dread Sovereign’s earlier efforts were shrouded in the mists of psych doom.
But Alchemical Warfare saw Nemtheanga, plus guitarist Bones and Conan drummer JK, mine rich seams of pure proto-metal, while still drawing on the magic they’d conjured with All Hell’s Martyrs.
And in the Venom spitting Devil’s Bane and Nature Is The Devil’s Church, they raised a glass to Cronos and co. too.
2. KK’s Priest – Sermons Of The Sinner (EX1 Records)
One of the original metal gods proved there’s life in the old deity yet as KK Downing delivered a thunderous blast of the future past.
Sermons Of The Sinner saw Downing reunite with fellow Priest alumni in the shape of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens.
And if the result was far from the most radical record we heard all year it was one of the most rewarding.
Denim and leather studded standout Metal Through And Through said it best…and loudest.
1. Seven Sisters – Shadow Of A Fallen Start Part 1 (Dissonance Productions)
Seven Sisters had been building up to this moment ever since they emerged from the London underground in 2013.
You could feel it.
And Shadow Of A Fallen Start Part 1 followed 2017’s The Cauldron And The Cross in some style.
Indeed, on Seven Sisters’ third album, Kyle McNeill’s astral vision took flight.
The quartet neatly balanced progressive flourishes with world-conquering choruses. They gifted us stadium level metal in the likes of Wounds Of Design. And the dual axework was scintillating throughout.
If proof was needed of Seven Sisters’ star quality, this was it.
Enjoyed our best trad metal albums of 2021? You might like our ten best thrash metal albums of 2021 – read it here.
And you can view 2020’s best trad metal albums list here.