In terms of releases, this year has been quite remarkable. In 2021, we received the most request for reviews that we’ve ever gotten, presumably due to everyone’s pandemic album finally getting released. This year we received thousands of submissions, and it’s been loaded with gems. 2021 has been particularly difficult in almost every category due to the sheer volume and quality of the releases. But below, you will find our annual “Best of the Year” list. Be sure to let us know what your personal favorite albums were as well.
Looking for the best metal albums? Check Folk N Metals The Best Metal Albums Of 2021 list here.
Album of the Year: Wired – Eclipse
The hard rock scene in Sweden is among the best, if not the best, in the world. However, one band that has always stood out and has never let us down has been Stockholm-based outfit, Eclipse. The group puts out one great studio album after another, and this year, they have arguably put out what might be their best album ever, with Wired, which is really saying something. It has the right amount of heaviness fused with melody to please any listener. With so many catchy hooks, bombastic riffs, it’s no surprise that one of the best bands in hard rock has put out yet another album of the year candidate, and this year, they’ve taken the crown.
Best Folk Rock Album: Feuer & Flamme – DartagnanBack in March 2021, the Musketeers made their return with the release of their fourth, long-awaited studio album, ‘Feuer & Flamme’. The new album from the band is a bit more dynamic and goes a bit heavier on the rock side than their previous releases. Though the Dartagnan does stay true to their folk roots, specifically on the Celtic side, it’s essentially a blend of the glory days of big stadium rock, packed with contagious hooks and sing-along chourses. The trio have found their footing on this album, and we love the direction that they’ve taken their sound.
Best Folk Album: II – Those We Don’t Speak Of – AuriTuomas Hopolainen and bandmate Troy Donockley are primarily known for their symphonic metal background with Nightwish. However, the band in recent years has experimented more with a few new elements in Nightwish, including lightly touching what one could say is folk metal. So it shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise when they join forces with Hopolainen’s wife Johanna Kurkela, and deliver a great folk album. Though technically, their music has such a unique style, it’s hard to describe it with just one label. Nevertheless, the group has managed to create something completely different, and it’s going to be exciting to see what they produce in the future, as this is the second time one of their albums has made it on our top list.
Best Rock Album: Child Of The State – Ayron jonesAyron Jones is has brought back the Seattle hard rock/grunge seen in a massive way. His album ‘Child of the State’ brings some original soundscapes with some subtle but notable influences in his music. He’s able to seamlessly mix and infuse various genres to create something truly unique and delivers an intense amount of emotion. From blues to metal to hard rock, it checks all the boxes on the list if you’re looking for an album that’s going to deliver on great riffs. This album features phenomenal guitar work, fantastic lyrics, and some of the most addictive tracks that we’ve heard this year.
Best Debut Album: Tales From Six Feet Under – Charlotte WesselsThis year Charlotte Wessels made her solo debut with her album, ‘Tales From Six Feet Under.’ Wessels has been releasing a new song every month during the global pandemic, and she put together a collection of tracks from various influences and styles. From alt-pop and synth-infused rock, this album was a great treat for us in 2021. It’s remarkable how much Wessels has had to offer. It almost feels like she’s been holding out on us with exploring other genres, and it’s great to see her creative freedom finally run wild as a solo artist.
Best Folk Punk Album: Unholy Hymns – The Bridge City Sinners
When it comes to genre-bending, Portland-based act The Bridge City Sinners are second to none. The band’s music is infused with so many various types of elements it’s hard to label them and put them under one umbrella. But there is no denying that their latest album, ‘Unholy Hymns’, is a bit of a dark Americana concept-driven album that delivers fun sing-alongs and devilishly danceable tunes. The album is split into two different parts. Book I is a bit more playful, focusing primarily on their jazz and folk roots. Book II is sightly on the more somber side, and the band experiments with orchestrations thrown into the mix. Unholy Hymns is an excellent all-around album.
Best Hard Rock Album: Dirty Honey – Dirty HoneyDirty Honey has quite the wild and crazy inspiring back story, and what they’ve managed to do in such a short amount of time in the music industry is nothing short of amazing. Now that they’ve released their debut album, we can say it is exactly what we were expecting. Nearly 30 minutes of meaningful blues-infused hard rock. While the album has eight tracks, there are no fillers, and it’s more than enough to keep you satisfied, yet leaving just enough room to leave you wanting for more. This is one of the most impressive bands we’ve seen in a while, and their self-titled release stands out as one of the best albums in rock that 2021 has given us.
Best Dark Folk Album: One – In the Dark – TvinnaThis year’s spot for the best dark folk album is the debut release from the new international band, Tvinna. Back in March 2019, we got our first experience with this band as they released their first single, ‘The Gore.’ From that point on, for us, this was one of the most highly anticipated releases and a long-anticipated release at that, but it certainly was worth the wait. The album mixes various dark elements, with angelic vocal harmonies, with a bit more modern approach to similar bands within the same genre. Ultimately, this was a fantastic release, and we are definitely looking forward to seeing what more they will bring in the future.
Best Punk Album: Glow On – TurnstileHard-core act Turnstile has been pushing the boundaries and completely flipping rock music on its head with their new style of punk.
The album is massive with 15 songs, and yet it never gets dull or boring for a single moment. It’s quiite possibly one of the most ambitious records we’ve heard this year, which makes us think of that now-famous Jello Biafra quote. In terms of creativity, the bar has now been set in the hard-core scene, and this is going to be one of those albums that is referred to, and compared by music geeks for years to come.
Best Concept Album: Initiation – Sumo CycoSumo Cyco has perfected blending a multitude of genres into one powerful sound. This year, the band released their latest album, Initiation, via Napalm Records. The concept is based around a comic book-esque alternative universe known ass psycho city. What makes this concept album unique is the fact that it has some fan interaction. The band introduced ‘gangs’ or ‘clubs,’ story arc, and while the concept is based around this dystopian city, the lyrical content is based around actual real-life events. For example, ‘Bystander’ was inspired out of frustration during the pandemic. It’s by far the most unique and creative album we’ve gotten our hands on this year, and the songs simply rock.
Best Celtic Punk Album: Hestia – The RumjacksSo we’re just going to flat out say it. Hestia is one of the best, if not the best Celtic punk album released within the past five years. Of course, as many readers know, Celtic Punk has always been a genre near and dear to our hearts, so such a statement is not said lightly. That’s not to say that there haven’t been masterpieces in between, there certainly have been, but Hestia takes us back to the glory days of the genre with compelling storytelling and a mix of pub-style sing-along choruses without falling into over-the-top stereotypes the genre often pigeonholes itself into. This album has been one of the most spun from us this year, and it’s not one to miss, it’s a true masterpiece.
Best Alternative Album: Death By Rock And Roll – The Pretty RecklessBack in February, The Pretty Reckless released their fourth studio album, and the follow-up to 2016s “Who You Are Selling For,’ ‘Death By Rock And Roll.” The album kicks off a new era for the band and is ultimately about transformation and evolution. Something that seems to be a must in the rock scene as bands are always encouraged to embrace new ideas in the studios, and Death By Rock And Roll is undoubtedly a massive embrace of those changes. The band goes beyond alt-rock/hard rock and presents us with something fresh and unexplored.
Best Progressive Rock Album: Aeromantic II – The Night Flight OrchestraSwedish rock act The Night Flight Orchestra released their sixth studio album this year, Aeromantic II. Once again, they have thrown at us a whirlwind of genres with progressive funk, hard rock, and soft pop. The band has quite a few miles under their wings and know how to deliver energetic choruses with retro rock vibs. The album has many moments that stood out to us, and after all these years of taking flight, they still managed to come up with innovative and creative approaches to their music.
Best EP: Chamanes – Lůn
Neofolk/Shamanistic/neoclassical act formed by Lůn released their EP “Chamanes” back in February. This release is one of the most pleasant listening experiences that we’ve had this year, and it said that the album takes influences from various bands such as Dead Can Dance, Wardruna, Björk and Eivor. This EP got more background play from us than any other album that we listen to this year. The songs are incredibly cohesive, and each one offers a unique experience. Hopefully, we will be getting a full LP at some point.
Best Alt Country Album: Room to Dream – Ryan KinderCountry rock artist Ryan Kinder has been pushing the boundaries of several genres on his new release. The album has an abundance of standout songs dancing on the borders of southern country rock, a bit more the aggressive, harder style of rock, and classic pop. Going with a more DIY approach and leaving a label has certainly been the way to go for Ryan and his most recent release. He’s had so much more to offer, and it shows on ‘Room To Dream.’
Best Indie Folk Album: Cold War – Lakely
Lakely are a husband-and-wife duo from Sweden, who drew inspiration for their debut LP during a stay in Nashville. The group manages to conjure up their very own unique style of Swedish Americana, and Cold War has been one of the most pleasant albums to listen to this year, and something we’ve kept going in the background on many days. It features great storytelling aspects, mixed in with wonderful vocals.