We at Revolver already had a tough time narrowing down 20 exemplary albums from the enormous crop of 2021 releases so far, but it's been an even bigger year for songs. Given that many bands are either gearing up to drop a record in the coming months or are just playing the singles game for now, there's been a considerable wealth of banging new tracks — so many that we had to up the number to 30. From burly metalcore and face-smashing hardcore to world-class industrial and out-of-this-world rap-metal, these are our picks for the best songs of 2021 so far.
Amenra's new album, De Doorn, is a subtle departure from the supernatural post-metal they've been manifesting for over two decades. Lead single "De Evenmens" contains more spoken-word vocals and ambient space than outright heaviness, which makes Colin van Eeckhout's tortured screams hit that much harder.
We've heard Andrew W.K. party before, but never like this. "I'm in Heaven" is a shockingly brutal and chuggy new cut from his upcoming fifth full-lengh, God Is Partying, and its accompanying video features considerably more gore than you'll get from a cocaine nosebleed. This is W.K. on beast mode.
On their ambitious new album, For Those Who Wish to Exist, Architects tackled the seemingly futile stagnation of our polarized political climate. "Discourse Is Dead" is a frank and non-partisan look at our "Every man for himself/Let thy neighbor drown" social environment, and the accompanying music personifies how exhausting it is to live like that — simultaneously angry, frustrated and just plain sad.
"All Futures" is a showcase of the Armed's holistic approach to heavy music: an objectively gritty hardcore song with the hookiness of a pop hit. Replete with beaming synths, piercing guitar licks, "ya-ya-ya" yelps and a drum beat that rumbles like 1969 camaro, it'll serve as your morning coffee and linger in the back of your mind until you lay down to sleep.
Last year, the Montreal-based rapper-producer Backxwash received a standing ovation from the metal world for her Sabbath-sampling breakout, God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out Of It. The title track from its just-released follow-up, I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and My Dresses, is an even heavier dose of lacerating horrorcore that features demonic screams from frequent collaborator Ada Rook, formerly of the noise-pop duo Black Dresses.
Nu-metalcore's reigning champs have yet to let us down. Their 2020 Krew De La Mort EP focused on wrath; it's follow-up, Krew D'Amour, on heartbreak, and it's proven to be a compelling muse. The NOLA band's April single, off the latter EP, has got it all: a bouncy riff, a swaggering chorus, a shreddy solo and a choppy breakdown. Bring on part two.
Chelsea Wolfe was lucky enough to be the voice of Wonder Woman in DC's recent Dark Nights: Death Metal Sonic Metalverse series, and "Diana" was directly inspired by that creative experience. Her contribution to the Dark Nights: Death Metal soundtrack was co-produced by frequent collaborator Ben Chisolm and blockbuster composer Tyler Bates, and it's one of the heaviest and most epic songs she's ever sung on.
The Devil Wears Prada's 2010 Zombie EP quickly became an unexpected fan favorite, but their 2021 follow-up isn't just a cheap rehash. See "Forlorn," an uncharacteristically djenty banger that tastefully compiles all of Mike Hranica's many vocal deliveries into a tight Prada package. They've never sounded better.
Released early in 2021, Every Time I Die's "AWOL" sounds like a mental breakdown in real time. Over jerky riffs and harried chugs, frontman Keith Buckley babbles lines like, "No blood and no fingerprints," and, "I owe myself an apology," in paranoid repetition. It's the sound of stretching a rubber band as far as it can go but never letting it snap.
Frank Carter and Idles frontman Joe Talbot are two of England's foremost punk-rock rascals, and their 2021 joint track brings the cartoonishly riled-up energy you'd expect to hear when these two are in the same room. Spit, snarl and swagger abound.
If the cover art for God's Hate — a samurai saying, "Fuck it," and whipping out a couple uzi's to mow down his enemies — didn't tip you off, then the first 15 seconds of "Be Harder" will. The Cali wrecking crew features pro wrestler Brody King as their frontman, and their muscular breed of metallic hardcore is the sonic equivalent of smashing someone through a brick wall. "Life is hard, be harder."
Gojira's Fortitude is stacked with bangers, any of which could have landed here. "Into the Storm" isn't the heaviest or even the catchiest (look to "The Chant" for that), but it brilliantly straddles the line between both contrasting sides of the French progressive metal juggernaut's triumphant sound for five minutes of roar-along epicness that's our lowkey favorite cut on the album.
Gulch frontman Elliot Morrow sounds like if a hardcore vocalist was a cryptid, an inhumanly spasmodic beast with a caterwauling shriek of mystical proportions. Somehow, he resides in this earthly realm, and the standout from his San Jose band's split with Sunami harnesses his powers for this writhing burst of industrial-strength grind.
Most industrial bands could only dream of teaming up with the genre's forefathers Nine Inch Nails, but HEALTH's wish actually came true. The L.A. noise-makers' five-minute track with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross brings out the best in both of their sounds. A brooding, clamorous and oddly beautiful collaboration.
Heriot's second-ever single is like a bulldozer crossed with a train. The U.K. band make blunt-force metalcore that zigzags between the violent racket of Code Orange and Nails, the chunky death metal of Gatecreeper and the blackened hardcore of Portrayal of Guilt and Oathbreaker. Get hip.
When Jinjer told us that their new album was their heaviest yet, they meant it. The Ukrainian quartet are a force of nature on the LP's lead single, "Vortex," which sees frontwoman Tatiana Shmayluk unleash a wall-crumbling roar over Meshuggah-like paroxysms. She sings on here, too, but the word she used to describe the record us — "uneasy" — rings true the whole time.
Lamb of God's B-sides are better than many band's lead singles, so when in February, the Virginian metal stalwarts resurrected a ripper called "Ghost Shaped People" from the cutting-room floor for the deluxe edition of their self-titled album, there was reason to pay attention. The tracks boasts plenty of the group's characteristic groove plus an wide-screen chorus and biting, politically charged lyrics: "All hail the cretin king."
"Become the Firestorm," the first track on Machine Head's new EP, Arrows in Words From the Sky, is a flame-throwing extreme-metal jaunt that's way heavier than what these guys are typically known for. Pay extra close attention to the jaw-dropping drumwork by Navene Koperweiss, who you may recognize from Entheos, Animals as Leaders, Whitechapel and other virtuosic bands from outside the Machine Head neighborhood.
Mastodon have written songs about Moby Dick, White Walkers and cyclopian sasquatches, so Neron — a demon lord of Hell featured in DC's Dark Nights: Death Metal series — is right in their wheelhouse. That much is clear on the song the character inspired: a burly, dynamic throwback rager that bodes well for the Atlantan powerhouse's upcoming full-length.
Sweden's Orbit Culture make no bones about the debt they owe both Metallica and Gojira, and those two influences loom large on the fast-rising band's January single. Hetfield-esque vocals meet Duplantier-ian death-metal pummel in a match made in heavy-metal heaven.
Eschewing the nu-metal eclecticism of I Disagree for skronky guitars and clipped metalcore screams, Poppy's EAT (NXT Soundtrack) EP is by far her heaviest work yet. Its title track is total chaos — sasscore shrieks, strobing guitar riffs and a rhythm section that could reasonably be described as Converge-esque.
Chris Cornell was one of Taylor Momsen's musical hero, so as a way to honor him on the Pretty Reckless album written and recorded after his passing, she enlisted two of his former Soundgarden bandmates for a banger called "Only Love Can Save Me Now." Here, Momsen belts with a distinctly Cornell-like inflection atop crashing, Louder Than Love-harkening riffs and a face-melting solo from Kim Thayil.
Ever since Dillinger Escape Plan called it a day, the question has hung in the air: What band of chaos-worshipping number-crunchers will fill the awful void they left? Enter Pupil Slicer. Led by vocalist-guitarist Kate Davies, the U.K. trio make a mighty case for being the leading contenders — nowhere more so than on this absolutely head-spinning and flesh-rending standout.
The collaborative centerpiece of SeeYouSpaceCowboy and If I Die First's badass new split, A Sure Disaster, is a world of its own. "bloodstainedeyes" boasts panicked mathcore squeals, VFW-ready breakdowns, a red-on-white music video and the type of gaudy emo hooks that used to dot Myspace profiles.
Slaughter to Prevail's "Baba Yaga" feels like a challenge. Not only is it another slice of utterly decimating deathcore from the Russian crew, but they serve it up with a music video that features cannibalism, a bear fight, bazookas and a game of Russian roulette. It's hard to imagine a band (legally) topping this level of intensity.
Led by former iwrestledabearonce singer Courtney Laplante and guitarist Mike Stringer, Spiritbox came into 2021 on fire. Their first offering of the new year turned the heat up even higher, showcasing Laplante's jaw-dropping vocals across their full range while also dropping some of their heaviest riffage yet. The hype is real.
Turnstile's first song since 2018 is their catchiest yet. Frontman Brendan Yates' hardcore bark is still intact, but the pendulum-like groove and gigantic, crunchy riff are straight out of the Nineties grunge and alt-rock playbook. It still sounds like Turnstile, but your parents might like this one, too.
On their sophomore album, Replica of a Strange Love, Wristmeetrazor leveled up from derivative mathcore to a strain of husky metalcore that pulls from numerous eras while also sounding incredibly fresh. The whole thing was produced by Knocked Loose guitarist Isaac Hale, and the song he decided to guest on, "Last Tango in Paris," is a NWOAHM banger with tasty leads, a soaring hook and a chuggy breakdown.
"Burner" is a standout from Youth Code and King Yosef's collaborative album, which seamlessly paired the former's staticky EBM with the latter's beastly metallic trap. It's a blistering onslaught of industrialized hardcore about the siren's call of self-destruction. "How soon comes the last time ever?" asks Youth Code vocalist Sara Taylor, and she only plummets deeper by the song's end.
Inspired by the provocative question, "What if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?," Swiss avant-metal outfit Zeal & Ardor have pushed boundaries ever since their formation in 2013. May single "Run" pushes the boundaries of the group's own sound, taking it in a more aggressive and horror-steeped direction. "Run while you still can," Manuel Gagneux intones. With a song this darkly captivating, there is no escape.