There's no two ways about it: 2021 was a phenomenal year for heavy music. As the pandemic receded enough for some bands to start playing shows again, with that came the confidence to unleash tremendous new albums into the world, and no matter what corner of the heavy-music world you're most fond of, there was surely at least one new release that blew your mind.
We at Revolver published our own 25 Best Albums of 2021 list earlier this week, but since we value our readers' opinions so highly, we asked you to tell us your favorite LP of the past year. Usually, when we tally our fan polls, we only list the top five vote-getters, but this time out, there was such an enthusiastic and wide-ranging response that we had to up the number to 10. See the ranked results below.
Between the Buried Me's 2007 album, Colors, is widely regarded as one of the greatest progressive metalcore albums of all time, and this year they gave fans the gift of a long-awaited sequel. The band have grown a lot in the 14 years since their chromatic breakout, and this record packs all of their ambitious songwriting moves in with the heaviness that made them icons.
With new albums from Rivers of Nihil, Inferi, Obscura and dozens more, 2021 was a good year for technical death metal, but by our readers' count, Archspire were the best of the best in that head-spinning subgenre. The Canadian virtuosos turned ears with their decimating fourth album, Bleed the Future, which features one jaw-dropping blast beat, spitfire vocal growl and neck-snapping riff after the next.
Iron Maiden are still kicking — and kicking hard. The metal pioneers returned with their 17th LP this year, Senjutsu, and with it, Bruce Dickinson and Co. proved that they're not resting on their laurels and letting their legacy do the driving. The 80-minute-plus album's 10 cuts are epic, hard-hitting, compositionally intriguing, technically impressive and downright fun to play loud as fuck.
Sequels usually suck. So when theatrical metalcore outfit Ice Nine Kills announced a conceptual follow-up to their 2018 breakthrough The Silver Scream — each song on which was inspired by a different horror-movie classic — there was reason to be scared. Thankfully, Welcome to Horrorwood's chills were all positive, from the hair-raising pop-metal hooks to the eclectic guest list, deliriously spanning the gamut between Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix and Cannibal Corpse's Corpsegrinder.
Written in the wake of tragedy — the death of a longtime collaborator, producer Kato Khandwala, and the sudden passing of one of frontwoman Taylor Momsen's idols, Chris Cornell — the Pretty Reckless' fourth album is an emotional affair. With standout tracks that feature members of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine, as well as some of Momsen's best vocal performances yet, the band's embrace of reflective catharsis over sonic bombast still hits just as hard.
From its powerfully concise title to its tyrannosaurus-sized riffs to its infectious melodies, Gojira's seventh album arrived as a much-needed inspirational statement amid dark times. It's also an eloquent demonstration of the band's awesome range, from the heavyweight pummel of "Born for One Thing" to the Sepulturan bounce of "Amazonia" to the soulful mantra of "The Chant."
Spiritbox are quite plainly one of the most exciting young bands in metal, and the hype leading up to Eternal Blue hasn't died down a bit since the record arrived in September. Fusing heavy djent, dizzying prog metal, beatific hard rock and more into one neat package, there's truly no other band doing what Spiritbox is, and since they pop up in nearly every Revolver fan poll they qualify for, whatever they're doing is clearly sticking.
Evanescence kept us waiting for The Bitter Truth — Amy Lee and Co.'s first album of original material in 10 long years — but for the gothic-metal chart-toppers' many diehards, the 47-minute LP was worth every nail-biting second. Lee's powerhouse voice is the focal point, as always, and that instrument has only deepened with age, helping to make anthems like "Broken Pieces Shine" and "Yeah Right" instant fan favorites.
Trivium have been consistently putting out proggy, thrashy, catchy heavy metal for two decades, and the fan response to In the Court of the Dragon — their second album in two years — is a testament to their lasting leadership within the metal universe. The band, led by Matt Heafy, have never been tighter, and their songwriting has never been sharper than on songs like "The Phalanx."
It was probably only a matter of time before prog-metal psychonauts Mastodon made a double album, but even fans who saw it coming couldn't have imagined that it would be this majestic, nuanced, daring and heartfelt. On Hushed and Grim, the Atlantan juggernaut truly channeled tragedy (the death of their friend, manager and biggest champion Nick John) into a triumph, one that was the voters' clear choice for Album of the Year.