You can find the Collective List as well as all our Best of 2021 content including contributors’ individual lists, podcasts and radio DJ shows here: CGCM’s Best of 2021 (Year in Review)
BEST OF 2021
VON MAESTRO 🇨🇦
I love the end-of-year Top Ten. I also hate the end-of-year Top Ten…lol. It’s always such a difficult task, daunting really….yet fun and exciting. I look forward to what the collective best from our entire team ends up being. 2021 was yet another 12 months absolutely loaded with awesome new music.
For my personal best of 2021, I considered well over 500 albums! Yes, over 500! Some made it no more than 3 songs, but that was the requirement I set upon myself. If it didn’t grab me after three, we move on. And in total honesty….a few on the list didn’t get past 1 minute of the first song….just not for Von Maestro! Some of my favourite songs of 2021 don’t come from my favourite albums, and narrowing this collection to ten is near impossible. Let’s roll with my best of the year…literally, ask me again tomorrow and a few of these may be different…maybe not.
The Ghost Of L.A.
In some areas, this album is reported as released on December 23rd, 2020 but it appears this was pushed back for an actual release date of January 31, 2021. Therefore it’s “legal” for the CGCM Top albums! Certainly, this album is not what you’d expect to be in The Meister‘s wheelhouse, normally preferring the harder riffing guitars. But here it sits, a really fun listen filled with driving beats, dripping 80s melodies and engaging vocals. AOR is driven by Frederic Slamma, formed in 2000 and realizes this album as their 20th issued and is delivered via Perris Records.
TOLEDO STEEL 🇬🇧
Heading for the Fire
From the UK comes Toledo Steel. No these guys were not around to be a part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, they are much younger! But not sure you would know that just by hearing the Heading For The Fire album! Everything I want from a NWOBHM/Traditional Metal album from songwriting and riffs to production. Great stuff guys!
A RISING FORCE 🇺🇸
This was one of those albums that hit me from out of nowhere. TBH, I didn’t have a high expectation. Went in totally blind, knowing nothing about the band. They’d released a single I think by the time I was sent the promo from Lori Chavis at High Vol Music, but I’m not so much a singles guy, so I didn’t watch/listen. The lead track “Undertow” really pulled me in like an undertow! I love the super chunky riffs throughout this entire album! I could do without the 55 second “Giza” (yes, even with the riffs) it’s a useless intro thing mid-album that to me just kinda ruins the flow…but hey at least it’s not a ballad!
Tail End Of A Hurricane
Ah yes…my boys from Northern Ireland! I have loved this band since first hearing them. Some may already know the story, but quickly here, during my musical re-birth when I started getting back into music around 2012, I developed (awakened) a voracious appetite for new band discoveries that still guides (controls) me today. At this time I clicked on a promo sent from a record company, again no knowledge, no expectation. The first song was “Red Light On” from Trucker Diablo‘s Songs of Iron album (2013). I swear I even got a hard-on, it was that good.
Been a fan ever since and they were the catalyst in my trip to the UK’s Call Of The Wild Festival in 2019, my first and only time seeing them live on stage. To add to the euphoria, I met the band and they welcomed me into their circle, some amazing humans that I’m so glad to have met. The Tail End Of A Hurricane album (love that title) runs a bit long at 13 tracks, but every song is infectious with the riffs and choruses and harmonies that the band do so well…as I write this I’m confused why it’s #7 and not higher…lol
WIG WAM 🇳🇴
Never Say Die
Another long-player (seems to be a trend these days that I just can’t get behind. I prefer a nice 9-11 song concise album, but that’s me) coming in with 12 tracks. Albeit one is only an intro, but the final song is over 6 minutes so basically double length. Norway’s Wig Wam was one of those bands that existed for me more as a fringe “knowledge of” than anything else. But this album rocks and the riffs and melodies drive the whole collection forward despite being mired with a couple of slower fare. Songs like the title track, “Hypnotized” and “Dirty Little Secret” helped to lift this one into my #6.
CGCM album review by Sparky HERE
Straight up, this band was an early one in my Euro band discoveries. Their Bleed and Scream (2012) release was mind-blowing. But through their last couple of albums, I lost touch with them. Rather I feel they lost touch with Eclipse! Wired comes crashing in to return to the greatness of Bleed & Scream. The edginess, the pump, the melodies, sing-along abilities…it’s all there! Even the slower fare is not totally hated….but let’s face it, I can do without in a heartbeat!
KICKIN VALENTINA 🇺🇸
The Revenge Of Rock
Kickin Valentina has always been a solid band. I’ve seen them before as well as met and talked to various members through events leading up to the Monsters of Rock Cruises. Then again once they were added to the ships’ roster and pre-party. They were always a decent band and a fun time, just not “special” IMO. While adding vocalist D.K. Revelle to the mix may not have been the plan originally, it’s certainly the best move the band could make. When the previous singer vacated the position, the boys turned to D.K. and this to me is what makes this band. He, of course, is not the sum of all parts, but IMO he is what was missing previously and just pulls it all together. And in such a big way it’s not funny! I look forward to future music and just what these guys can do!
Another HUGE element is them personally themselves. Such awesome humans, so humble and engaging with their fans…..they did, however, kidnap our station mascot Beaver, Buzzsaw earlier this year! For his safe return, we surrendered control of our radio station to the KV boys for an entire 24 hours! You can hear most of that here in podcast form on MixCloud.
CGCM album review by Trevor McDougall HERE
WICKED SMILE 🇦🇺
Wait For The Night
Holy monkeys! Guitarist Steve Janevski and friends here have really outdone themselves! After hearing the singles released via the EP last year I was super excited to hear the rest of what Wicked Smile could do. I feared that there may be more slower style fare coming up in the future. Those that know me, know that ballads are basically my enemy and that I live on the harder riffs. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my fears! Wait For The Night opens huge on the song “Date With The Devil” a heavy hard rock explosion that really knocked me off my feet.
Throughout this whole album, the riffs are larger than life and the songs fly by at a breakneck pace. Don’t get me wrong either here, there are tons and tons of melody and sing-along abilities as well contained within. Only one “epically failing ballad” and it comes in later in the collection so that’s at least better…lol. I know folks like that stuff, but it’s just not my jam. The rest of Wait For The Night more than makes up for it, such a ripper of an album!
The camo-clad short-statured gravelly vocaled German frontman has rejuvenated himself here on Game Over. Launching with “Fear Detector” perks up the ears. The “catchy funk” of the beat and guitar work in “Holy Invaders” follows before “Prophecy” completely wins you over during the opening trio. Everything else continues charging on ahead and if you skip track #9 (“Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye“) also reported on my promo download copy as a bonus track….you’ll save yourself from the ballad!
My only real complaint here is in the length. I personally like a nice concise 9-11 song listen for an album. U.D.O.‘s Game Over contains no less than 16 tracks, three of which are identified as bonus tracks, but 13 is still a bit too long IMO.
Too Mean To Die
This ripper has not moved since it first hit my ears! It was #1 then back in January and it held strong all year long. Some heavy competition came at it, but this is such a strong listen. I love this album, even the slower-paced song is tolerable and I really think this is a return to the greatness that is Blood Of The Nations. I feel Accept has slipped a little on the last few releases since Tornillo joined the band. Too Mean To Die comes crashing back into everything that rejuvenated me into their catalogue that took place with BON.
So many great headbangers contained in here like the opening gambit of “Zombie Apocalypse“, “Too Mean To Die” and “Overnight Sensation“. Probably my favourite cut would be “The Undertaker“, I just worship the groove to it. And later on in the release comes “Not My Problem” which has become for me a little bit of a mantra at work lately and I hear this song every time…lol
CGCM album review by Tom Cornell HERE
There we are folks, my faves from well over 500 albums I sampled this year. These may not be your faves and that’s ok too. Hopefully, you found something here that you missed as I hope to find on your lists as well. There were many, many great albums this year and I do encourage you all to get out there and get into new music as much as possible. The old saying “rock is not dead….”.
A quick mention to some that would have sat in a top 20 list of mine:
Alice Cooper – Detroit Stories
Ronnie Atkins – One More Shot
Shades Of Gray – 2021
L.A. Maybe – Dirty Damn Tricks
Hitten – Triumph & Tragedy
Maverick – Ethereality
Steve Whiteman – You’re Welcome
Temple Balls – Pyromide
Red Voodoo – Bring It Back
Crazy Lixx – Street Lethal
And my three biggest disappointment albums of 2021:
Dee Snider -Leave A Scar
Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
K.K.’s Priest – Sermons of The Sinner
RICH “The Meister” DILLON
Find more of my album reviews here: Meister Music
My CGCM Rock Radio Show: Meister Music
Don’t forget to take a look at all our Best of 2021 content including the COLLECTIVE BEST ALBUMS LIST (culminated via the ratings in the individual lists), all our contributors’ individual best lists, podcast episodes and Radio DJ shows CGCM’s Best of 2021 (Year in Review)