The top 10 rock and metal albums of the year? As far as the Rushonrock team is concerned they’re right here. And what a line up. Check them out and hit up our socials to add your own favourites to the mix.
10. Unto Others – Strength (Roadrunner Records)
Portland has always been a breeding ground for iconic, cutting edge, essential guitar music.
And Unto Others successfully shed the skin of Idle Hands to unleash one of the most expansive and abrasive metal records of 2021.
Gabriel Franco and his pals packed so much into their Roadrunner Records debut it was difficult to predict this bold band’s future path.
But wherever they lead Rushonrock will follow.
Strength powered its way into this year’s Best Rock and Metal Albums Of 2021 on the back of metal at its most genre fluid.
9. The Blue Stones – Hidden Gems (Entertainment One)
Delivering raw riffs, lush melodies and choruses for days, Hidden Gems was our standout blues album of 2021.
Not content with making you shake your arse to L.A. Afterlife or getting you emotional with Careless, The Blue Stones then had the audacity to deliver a song of the year: One By One is simply breathtaking.
The sparkling Hidden Gems left no stone unturned.
8. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (Metal Blade)
A scintillating splatterfest bristling with serrated riffery.
A landmark for an act with little left to prove.
Yes, Violence Unimagined – with DM legend Erik Rutan now in the fold – was arguably the best Cannibal Corpse album since 2006’s Kill.
Necrogenic Resurrection slayed with inhuman precision, Rutan’s warped imagination ran riot on Condemnation Contagion and George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher unleashed primal fury throughout.
Dripping in gore and gleaming with technical dexterity, Violence Unimagined was a death metal masterclass, make no mistake.
And it marked a bloody new chapter in the Cannibal Corpse story.
7. Jerry Cantrell – Brighten (Double J Music)
Cantrell’s brief but brilliant solo canon was undoubtedly enhanced by the brilliance of Brighten.
The Alice In Chains man fused blues, country and even a touch of soul with more familiar post-grunge tropes to create one of the most immersive soundscapes of 2021.
Black Hearts And Evil Done was a colossus of a tune but there were plenty more where that came from as Brighten shone from start to finish.
Cantrell casually rolled back the years with a focus on the future and it was addictive stuff.
6. Nekromantheon – The Visions of Trismegistos (Indie Recordings/Hells Headbangers)
Nekromantheon scorched the earth with 2010’s Divinity of Death and its incendiary follow-up, 2012’s Rise, Vulcan Spectre.
Since then, we’ve heard very little from the Norwegians, with Sindre Solem, Christian Holm and Arild Myren Torp busy with the likes of Deathhammer and Obliteration.
But Nekromantheon more than made up for their long absence with The Visions of Trismegistos, an album filled with Teutonic thrash riffery, jagged solos and barbed hooks.
From the opening title track to closer Zealot Reign, The Visions of Trismegistos didn’t let up.
And we didn’t want it to. Ever.
5. Boss Keloid – Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music)
Boasting titanic riffery, kaleidoscopic songs and thanks to Alex Hurst, a voice sent from the Gods, Boss Keloid’s fifth album was a revelation.
In Family The Smiling Thrush the Wigan band built a twisted maze of mutant rhythms and prismatic fretwork.
Yet for all its experimentalism and complexity, this was also a soulful, heartfelt record.
And it saw the band move far beyond their stoner metal past… and on to another astral plain.
4. Ashley Monroe – Rosegold (Thirty Tigers)
Perhaps this was more pop than country but it would be a pity if Ashley Monroe’s wonderful voice was overlooked as a result.
The sometime Pistol Annie played on her Nashville roots to dizzying effect on the dreamy Drive and she absolutely bossed the beautiful piano ballad Flying.
Rosegold glittered from start to finish as Monroe’s precious talent cut through the noise to underpin a heartfelt career high.
A who’s who of Nashville glitterati added depth, colour and authenticity to a record rich in country tradition and polished pop sensibility.
In 2021 Rosegold was pure gold.
3. Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town (Nestor Prestor Music Group)
It’s no coincidence that five childhood friends from the Swedish town of Falköping founded Nestor in 1989.
This is an act that bleeds the AOR-tinged pop metal that made the 80s such a special decade for fans of chorus-driven melodic rock.
Produced by singer Tobias Gustavsson and mixed by The Night Flight Orchestra’s Sebastian Forslund, classic songwriting coursed through the colossal Kids In A Ghost Town.
There wasn’t a bad song here, but 1989 and On The Run were the standouts as Nestor made Steel Panther look like washed up wannabes.
Samantha Fox lent her voice to power ballad Tomorrow and she smouldered from start to finish alongside the impressive Gustavsson.
There was nothing else like Nestor in 2021. It looked like The Kids In A Ghost Town were all grown up.
2. Møl – Diorama (Nuclear Blast)
Blackgaze. Post-metal. Blackened alt-rock…
Whatever label you want to attach to Danish crew Møl, one thing is undeniable: they make life-affirming extreme music.
And with Diorama, the follow-up to 2018 breakthrough Jord, the Aarhus outfit moved up a level.
Given the strength of the band’s debut, that’s saying something,
On Photophobic, Møl deftly countered blastbeat-driven aggression with cascading guitar and vocal melodies, while Tvesind saw the band temper their black metal fury with moments of pure euphoria.
They were just two sparkling moments on a record that glowed with confidence.
1. Smith/Kotzen – Smith/Kotzen (BMG)
So what happens when you throw together one third of Iron Maiden’s triple axe attack and a one-time member of Poison and Mr Big?
The most exciting, expansive blues rock explosion of the year.
Adrian Smith and Richie Kotzen have long since paid their dues as two of the most talented six stringers on the planet.
But who knew the best was yet to come as the LA neighbours hooked up to create this tantalising tour de force.
Smith and Kotzen shared everything on their self-titled debut — a passion for classic and blues-based rock as well as vocals, guitar duties, bass lines…the lot!
But, unsurprisingly, it’s the sublime fret work that bests just about everything else.
Check out the haunting and, dare we say it, Bonamassa-esque Scars or the dazzling seven minute-plus You Don’t Know Me for unequivocal proof.
Smith/Kotzen could be the start of something spectacular. Here’s hoping.
Check out our Best Rock and Metal Albums of 2021 – numbers 30-21 here.
Check out our Best Rock and Metal Albums of 2021 – numbers 20-11 here.