SBR Top 7 Extreme Albums of 2021

Artists that write extreme and transgressive music are common place in most genres of music, but how do you define it in the world of metal? Is it the speed of the blast beats, or the inhumanity of the vocals, or the brutality of the guitars, or all three? What about the absurd levels of aggression and transcendent fury?

The staff at Scream Blast Repeat like their music heavy, emotive, ugly, intimidating, fragile – so many of the bands we review tick all these boxes. But there are some that leave you open-mouthed and inverting your eyebrows in horror. We shortlisted forty-two records for this accolade, and here are the seven that made our final list…

7. Altarage – Succumb

What we said at the time: “The opening notes of ‘Negative Arrival’ will slam you against the wall like a water cannon with their spectacular velocity and unsettling glitch effects that appear at sporadic intervals. You might call it dissonant death metal were it not for the guitars imitating the deafening engines of WWII fighter planes. Somewhere in the mix are the vocals, morbid and misanthropic, like a man whose demoralisation got the better of him but did not lessen his acute agony.”

Country: Spain

Released: 23/04/2021

Label: Season of Mist

Read the original SBR review here.

6. 30 immolated; 16 returned – The Burial of the Dead

What we said at the time: “It goes without saying that a metal interpretation of an avant-garde [Stravinsky] classic is always going to be a challenge, but the sadistic genius on display here is everything you want from a transgressive record. You can almost taste the salty droplets of blood dripping from your nose as you tense your stomach for the grinding rhythms and disharmonious guitars. We don’t riot when we come face-to-face with our own degeneracy these days, but 30 immolated; 16 returned remind us that some taboos should remain between artist and the listener.”

Country: Canada

Released: 14/05/2021

Label: Self-released

Read the original SBR review here.

5. Lorna Shore – And I Return to Nothingness EP

What we said at the time: “Of course, we must talk about the vocals on this record… Wow! Er, what the hell is happening at the end of ‘To the Hellfire’? Imagine a flu-ridden tyrannosaurus rex giving birth and reacting to contraptions that become more agonising by the second. Canadian black metallers, Revenge, are the nearest comparison, but Ramos’ throat abrasions are like nothing you’ve heard before. ‘Of the Abyss’ shows him demonstrate the whole range of harsh vocals from the ear-piercing screams to the demonic guttural strain of the Adam’s apple. You don’t know what’s coming next at any point in the song, perhaps because Lorna Shore decided that no track on this EP should be formulaic or repetitive in any way.”

Country: USA

Released: 13/08/2021

Label: Century Media

Read the original SBR review here.

4. Chestcrush – Vdelygmia

What we said at the time: “Seldom does a band sound like their name suggests, but Chestcrush are one of the few that do. As the brainchild of Edinburgh-based Greek, Evangelos Vasilakos, their brand of blackened sludge grind makes sure to leave extreme CPR marks on your chest by tuning down the seven-string guitars as far as possible. Indeed, you have the physique and strength of an Olympian if you’re not feeling the bass vibrations and guitar distortion seep into your neck like a parasitic growth after one listen to Vdelygmia.”

Country: Scotland

Released: 14/07/2021

Label: Self-released

Read the original SBR review here.

3. Orphan Donor – Unraveled

What we said at the time: “Take a glass of water and make sure your ears are free from wax before you press the play button for the opening notes of ‘Pendulum Grip’. This song will destroy you if you’re not ready for the scorching volume of the dissonant chords and screamed vocals. The grinding tempo and atonal guitars mimic the malfunctioning sound of the ED-209 droid at the beginning of Robocop. (We’re talking about the intimidating cyborg that massacres a helpless executive in the boardroom if you need reminding.) You won’t even notice the stop-start nature of the music due to its colossal intensity. Imagine Neurosis playing mathcore, and you’re still not even close.”

Country: USA

Released: 11/06/2021

Label: Zegema Beach Records

Read the original SBR review here.

2. Frontierer – Oxidized

What we said at the time: “The key to Frontierer’s murderous aggression is twofold. One, they have one of the best hardcore screamers in the business in Chad Kapper. His voice explodes with the harsh muscular belting of Greg Puciato and has a paradoxical clarity to it that should be impossible at such insane levels of aggression. The way he roars through this album will leave you in awe of his heroic power. Two, chief songwriter, Pedram Valiani, uses the power of the eight-string guitar to great effect and shows a good understanding of frequency range in his compositions. Admittedly, ‘compositions’ might not be the right word to describe a Frontierer song. Sonic destruction is more accurate.”

Country: Scotland

Released: 01/10/2021

Label: Self-released

Read the original SBR review here.

1. Rorcal & Earthflesh – Witch Coven

What we said at the time: “Like New York industrialists, The Body, these Swiss blackened doom torturers write the soundtrack to the extreme suffering and human atrocities that darkened the extraordinary scientific achievements of the twentieth century. Every civilisation has a dark underbelly of oppression and violence. Rorcal are that sound in your head that dares not contemplate the violent revenge fantasies and murderous rage inside you… It doesn’t get much more extreme than this record. Insane levels of rage and inhumane layers of distorted guitars are commonplace in metal, but few descend into the seventh circle of hell where Rorcal find themselves.”

Country: Switzerland

Released: 02/04/2021

Label: Hummus Records

Read the original SBR review here.

Honourable mentions

Gravesend – Methods of Human Disposal (Label: 20 Buck Spin)

Portal – Avow (Label: Profound Lore)

Sanguisugabogg – Tortured Whole (Label: Century Media)

The Amenta – Revelator (Label: Debemur Morti Productions)

Zeit – Betonkrebs (Label: Self-released)