Best of 2021: Newcomers

Like last year, we are presenting a list of “newcomers“. We discussed for a long time which bands could be given this label in 2021. Besides the quality factor, the “surprise factor“ is especially important to us. Bands that appear on the scene out of nowhere are therefore particularly interesting for us in this context. Artists like Ezra Brooks, Serpent Rider, Ryghär, Silver Talon, Stormkeep, The Night Eternal, Blazon Rite and Herzel don’t appear on our list because their most recent releases were already quite well-known or present – Ryghär was also one of our top newcomers in 2020. We hope that some of you will still discover one or the other pearl on our current list. Each band definitely deserves your attention!

Starscape

1. Starscape

It was in January this year that André forwarded me a single sent to him by an obscure Swedish Metal duo. Even though they released and instrumental demo back in 2017 and an EP as a teaser last year, we had never heard of them before. At first, we weren’t sure of what to think about it, Starscape have a very distinct sound, with the extremely cranky vocals standing out especially, similarly to early Stratovarius. Nevertheless, the charm of the music never loosened its grip of me. Yet the debut album Colony released in March this year surpassed all expectations. Anton Eriksson, who is the founder of the band, is responsible for his instruments, but the highlight is the superb guitar playing, perfectly setting the tone for the absolutely amazing songwriting. Only rarely have I listened to songs creating such a clear and vivid image inside my mind; the album is telling the story of humanity seeking a new home among the stars and I feel as if I were a passenger on the last existing vessel. Uncertainty and fear are omnipresent yet still the dark is being illuminated by unswerving hope! However, the songs wouldn’t be the same without Per-Olof Göransson’s vocals, they might be obscure, but they brilliantly absorb and radiate the set atmosphere and add tons of emotions to it. The merging of a spacey Prog Rock à la Hällas and obscure Epic Heavy Metal in the likes of The Lord Weird Slough Feg works perfectly and creates a one-of-a-kind sound I’m desperate to hear more of! Concluding, a quote from my review, I wrote in March: “Listening to this album is just as going on an epic adventure through space! It might not appeal to everybody, as it has its very unique style. But isn’t that what makes bands like Manilla RoadThe Lord Weird Slough Feg or Cirith Ungol so great? For me, Colony is a highlight, regarding the music as well as the storytelling, and Starscape might be the «Newcomer of the Year»!” (Aidan)

2. Servants to the Tide

Servants to the Tide literally came out of nowhere. With their self-titled debut album, the Germans immediately showed that they are capable of creating Epic Doom at the highest level. With a song like „North Sea“ they can even compete with their heroes Atlantean Kodex. Our colleague Ansgar wrote in his review in February: “After an unbelievably exciting and rousing 30 minutes, it’s unfortunately over – the repeat button will be glowing! For genre fans and people who generally enjoy sluggish demanding heavy metal, the debut of Servants to the Tide is surely a found food! The international epic doom scene has some extremely strong representatives, but there is still plenty of room for new, exciting newcomers, after all, Solstice, Candlemass and co. won’t be around forever and Atlantean Kodex will remain unmatched forever, but if such greatness is in their wake, all the better!“ (André)

3. (Sol) Anahata

Only a few bands this year embody Epic Metal as much as the Canadian/Australian trio (Sol) Anahata. The three real life barbarians rose out of nowhere this year and made the city walls of Troy tremble, breached Hadrian’s Wall, and finally sacked Rome! One has to imagine Eternal Champion with an extra portion of primal, barbaric force. Pounding riffs meet earth-shattering vocals crowned by sublime soli, while at the same time still being sensitive enough for atmospheric, longing digressions. One should definitely keep an eye out for these guys, yet I’m sure their thundering footsteps will be heard from afar! (Aidan)

4. Gladius Dei

In a small town in Bavaria, in a small home recording studio Chris Blackwood gathered his ideas, vented his emotions and the results were indeed obscure yet without a doubt ingenious. Gladius Dei, derived from a novella by Thomas Mann, is a melting pot of brilliant ideas, beautiful melodies, various atmospheres, and tons of emotions. Gloomy Doom Metal meets a raw, even punky, sound – the EP also feature some folk elements – in a constantly epic frame. The performance is very obscure and peculiar, the guitar work is great, but especially the vocals sound very cranky reminding of Quorthon, yet this project is still taking its first steps and therefore rightfully labels the LP and EP as Demos. Nevertheless, the ideas behind the songs, the atmosphere, the creativity are simply inimitable, thus making me especially exciting for what the future bears! (Aidan)

Check out Gladius Dei

5. Morgul Blade

Regarding Morgul Blade, who play a unique mixture of Epic Heavy Metal and Black Metal, I’ll just quote from my own review: “Conclusion: Morgul Blade is a band of nerds for nerds. Even in the underground, despite all their class, they serve a niche audience looking for exceptional artists. Whoever gets involved with Fell Sorcery Abounds can look forward to an exciting, intense journey with all kinds of surprise moments. Or to put it another way, it’s for musicians like Morgul Blade that Aidan and I started this blog – so it’s no wonder we hit up the vinyl at the No Remorse stall on the sidelines of the Keep It True Rising! festival. This band deserves all the support it can get!“ (André)

6. Gravety

Although Gravety have been around for many years and released their debut back in 2012, they find themselves on our newcomer list. The reason for this: Gravety have recently changed their style significantly and have fully committed themselves to Epic Heavy Metal, which we know from bands like Visigoth, among others. Therefore, one can justifiably speak of a second birth in the year 2021. A few words about their latest output Bow Down from my review: Conclusion: Bow Down is a must-buy for every fan of hard epic sounds. “With the latest releases by Ryghär and Dragonbreath, this record is the best that epic metal has to offer us in the fading year 2021 (I’m leaving epic doom aside). Actually, Gravety should be excellently received in the Deaf Forever cosmos – at the latest with the Mark Shelton homage “Carry on the Flame“, the guys qualify for one of the following Keep it True editions.“ (André)

7. Knight’s Oath

Knight’s Oath immediately caught my attention, when suddenly appearing out of nowhere in August this year. The mysterious band from the UK, only little is known about, has a very retro and medieval vibe to it, which also resonates with the songs themselves. They sound like a fusion of Wytch Hazel and Warlord, beautiful, delicate guitar melodies on the one hand are embraced by sacred-sounding keyboards reminiscent of Lordian Guard and later Warlord releases on the other. Combined with the epic lyrics an overall medieval atmosphere is created that makes yearn for more Knight’s Oath! (Aidan)

8. Tabernacle

One of the most traditional Epic Heavy Metal releases this year comes from a country not really known for its Metal scene, the United Arab Emirates. Yet this couldn’t stop the three true Epic Metal maniacs behind Tabernacle to release a Demo EP that gained quite some attention in the dungeons of the Epic Metal underground. But for a good reason, Tabernacle play raw barbaric Epic Metal in the likes of legends like Manilla RoadOmen and Warlord with especially interesting and sophisticated lyrics. We are looking forward to hearing more from these warriors! (Aidan)

9. Flame, Dear Flame

About Flame, Dear Flame from Brunswick I quote my review again: “Aegis is a total work of art that only makes sense in its entirety. Yes, it consists of two parts: The record starts with the three coherent songs we already know from the aforementioned EP. But the following four “The Wolves and the Prioress“ parts don’t represent a break, everything flows splendidly into each other – without becoming monotonous or predictable at any point, the compositions are all simply far too good for that. The seven melancholic but at the same time life-affirming tracks are bursting with creativity and passion – apart from Maren’s vocals, the acoustic guitars are particularly appealing to me: close your eyes, let yourself be completely captured by the music and transported to another place. After the last sounds you definitely feel better – or you feel again at all, depending on the situation…“ (André)

10. Dragonbreath

If you were looking for strong Epic Heavy Metal releases this year, you couldn’t miss Dragonbreath from Cyprus. That’s why my conclusion in the review was the following: “Dragonbreath score with sophisticated, very well performed epic metal that doesn’t wear out quickly. Their debut offers material for those who like to deal more intensively with historical themes. But first and foremost, The Awakening has what is essential in epic metal: heart and soul. For me, the Cypriots anno 2021 with the Texas boys Ryghär are the highlights in the genre that inspired us to found this blog nearly a year ago. Hopefully album number 2 won’t be so long in coming!“ (André)

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