SBR Top 7 Black Metal Albums of 2021

Black metal in 2021 is becoming harder to define, with many sub-genres drawing inspiration from the cold atmospherics of the classic Norwegian sound and dragging it in new directions. Is it an emotion, an aesthetic, an ideology?

Darkthrone were the big name release of the year, although the black metal artists from the USA are the ones in the ascendancy. Wolves in the Throne Room and Ghost Bath put out strong records and Texan black metallers, Necrofier, produced one of the finest debuts of the last five years on Season of Mist.

In Europe, Austria’s Harakiri for the Sky roared back to life with an ambitious 84-minute double album, while French veterans like Seth and Otargos are now a by-word for consistency. The restless will to experiment inherent in the creativity of black metal should prevent it from becoming stagnant, although, like any genre, it has its many underground imitators.

These are the top seven black metal albums the staff at Scream Blast Repeat enjoyed in 2021…

7. Hulder – Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry

What we said at the time: “Now on her second album, Hulder is just as enigmatic and always looking to push the boundaries of atmospheric black metal with splashes of melancholy folk guitar and analogue keyboards that replicate the sounds of woodwind instruments. Her voice is strong and raspy, sometimes dry enough to conjure images of a sorceress cursing her enemies with blood-gurgling gratification.”

Country: Belgium/USA

Released: 22/01/2021

Label: Iron Bonehead Productions

Read the original SBR review here.

6. Åskog – Varþnaþer

What we said at the time: “You know from the first staccato triad chords of ‘Svält’ that Åskog are here as creator-destructors, aiming to give a new bounce to black metal. Adam Chapman’s imaginative fretwork and sudden tempo changes throughout this record are a notable feature, just as the band are keen to re-define the sound of blackened death metal with a mix of first wave black metal a la Bathory and the proto-death metal sound of early Sodom and Kreator. Yet nothing about this record is predictable or easy to reduce to its component parts.”

Country: Sweden

Released: 12/05/2021

Label: Grind to Death Records / Leviaphonic Records / Corrupted Flesh Records

Read the original SBR review here.

5. Alkerdeel – Slonk

What we said at the time: “As if to prove their dedication to the most confrontational form of performance art, Alkerdeel made the unusual decision to record the four songs on Slonk in one live take. That means none of the musicians took the opportunity to spruce up their playing on top of a ghost track. It’ll get the thumbs up from Fenriz of Darkthrone and those that love the primitive edge of the early Sepultura and Sarcófago records, and it also wins praise here at Scream Blast Repeat. This is a ferocious album of raw intensity and sinister minor key progressions that stand proud and imperious in their Wagnerian prowess.”

Country: Belgium

Released: 05/02/2021

Label: Consouling Sounds

Read the original SBR review here.

4. Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

What we said at the time: “Like Swedish vampiric metallers, Tribulation, Wode conjure many ancient gods and summon the spirits of dead legends. They take the malevolence of black metal and the rhythms of death metal and hark back to an anthemic 80s era of classic Venom. But you’re wide of the mark if you rationalise this as blackened death metal. Opener, ‘Lunar Madness’, is a cacophony of bewitching screams, macabre vocal inflections and subtle guitar trickery that would qualify as tech death if the band didn’t subordinate it all to a Motorhead speed metal aesthetic and curtail the bottom end dynamics in the mix.”

Country: England

Released: 02/04/2021

Label: 20 Buck Spin

Read the original SBR review here.

3. Necrofier – Prophecies of Eternal Darkness

What we said at the time:Prophecies of Eternal Darkness is a black metal record that reminds you how much the genre still has to offer despite the hopeless mass of sterile bands clogging up the scene… Necrofier understand that the main foundation of this art is the proto-thrash metal of Venom and the hostile bite of Bathory. Yes, they play blast beats and strum their riffs in the rapid tremolo style, but they present their sound in a crunchier and thicker shroud of distortion than your average black metal artist.”

Country: USA

Released: 22/10/2021

Label: Season of Mist

Read the original SBR review here.

2. Thundering Hooves – Vestiges

What we said at the time:Vestiges avoids the wanton desecration of the Norwegian pioneers but makes a point of locating black metal within the wider context of extreme music… The famous out-of-body ‘berserker’ experience of the Viking invader receives its resurrection here with noise levels close to popping and a guitar distortion that could bring down the leaning tower of Pisa. Yet underneath it all is a heroic heavy metal melody.”

Country: England

Released: 05/01/2021

Label: F H E D

Read the original SBR review here.

1. Necronautical – Slain in the Spirit

What we said at the time: “Of course, the music is pompous and strident, but the Manchester quartet know how to infuse it with raw death metal and vintage thrash underneath the epic choirs and symphonic keyboards. Opener, ‘Ritual and Recursion’, is worthy of the finest in the Septicflesh back catalogue and as heavy as Emperor in their prime. Few bands can accent the death metal note changes of the guitar with orchestral keyboard hits and get away with it. Even fewer can mix blast beats with female soprano choruses and Tom G. Warrior death grunts. But Necronautical are all about aiming for the impossible… Slain in Spirit is a triumph that will appeal to the navel-gazer and the doomsayer within you. Rise up and find your inner self.”

Country: England

Released: 20/08/2021

Label: Candlelight Records

Read the original SBR review here.

Honourable mentions

Ghost Bath – Self Loather (Label: Nuclear Blast)

Journey into Darkness – Infinite Universe Infinite Death (Label: Spirit Coffin Productions)

Nixil – All Knots Untied (Label: Self-released)

Otargos – Fleshborer Soulflayer (Label: Xenokorp Records)

Wolves in the Throne Room – Primordial Arcana (Label: Century Media)