And then there were two. Phil’s Picks is officially down to two year-ender lists on the music side as the countdown to the year’s end itself continues. The first of this year’s last two music year-ender lists comes today in the form of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
This year’s list is packed with content from so many established and new acts. From up-and-coming hard rock act Antisaint to veteran thrash band Exodus to guitar virtuosos Gus G. and John 5 and more, this year has seen so many great hard rock and metal records. Suffice it to say there has been so much great hard rock and metal this year that it has been extremely difficult to compile this list, but it was created.
As with every list from Phil’s Picks, this collection features the year’s top 10 new releases and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15. Those honorable mention titles are just as deserving of applause as the other featured works. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Hard Rock & Metal Albums list.
PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW HARD ROCK & METAL ALBUMS
1. Accept – Too Mean To Die
2. Atreyu – Baptize
3. Exodus – Persona Non Grata
4. Michael Schenker Group – Immortal
5. U.D.O. – Game Over
6. Artillery – X
7. Gus G. – Quantum Leap
8. John 5 – Sinner
The Three Tremors – Guardians of the Void
Antisaint – Vaticinate
Bullet For My Valentine – Bullet For My Valentine
A Killer’s Confession – Remember
The CEO – Redemption
Tremonti – Marching in Time
Skarlett Riot – Invicta
That’s it for this year’s hard rock and metal albums. While even the hard rock and metal community has wrapped things for this year, things are already gearing up for 2022, with new releases already coming from the likes of up-and-coming hard rock act Bloodywood, veteran acts Hammerfall and Annihilator, and even from Saxon and Stabbing Westward. That’s all just in the first quarter of 2022, too.
In other words, the first half of the new year is already gearing up to be very exciting for all the hard rock and metal fans out there. Until then though, there’s still one more music year-ender list from Phil’s Picks this year before the attention turns over to the best of this year’s new TV and movie releases. Stay tuned!
Independent artists and acts are the backbone of the music industry. There is no denying this truth. Today’s independent artist/group/act could be the next big name, given the right support. Keeping that in mind, it is only fitting that the independent acts out there get just as much attention at year’s end as their more well-known counterparts. That is why Phil’s Picks makes sure to present a list of the year’s top new independent albums each year, including this year.
This year has seen so many wonderful new independent albums, too. Up-and-coming rock act Mason Hill, for instance, is on the verge of breaking out thanks to its new album, Against The Wall. On another note, an act, such as The Grease Traps makes it a presentation that could make it one of the next big names in the realm of neo-soul/funk/R&B with Solid Ground. It is another record that made this critic’s year-ender list, along with Steadfast’s Transmitters. Between these records and so many others, this year saw so many notable new independent albums. They are all compiled in the list featured here.
As with every other list that Phil’s Picks presents annually, the list features the year’s Top 10 new albums and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles. Those honorable mention titles are included because they each offer something enjoyable in their own right and are no less worth hearing than any of the others featured in the list. That should be fully understood now. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Independent Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW INDEPENDENT ALBUMS
Mason Hill – Against The Wall
Ryan Hamilton – 1221
Marc Ribler – The Whole World Awaits You
Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems – Still Dirty
The Grease Traps – Solid Ground
Walking Papers – The Light Below
Grand Royale – Carry On
The Straddlerz – The Straddlerz
Willamena – Broken Songs: A Compilation
Drones – Our Hell Is Right Here
Steadfast – Transmitters
Liar Thief Bandit – Deadlights
The Swaggerlies – The Last of the One and Onlys
Skarlett Riot – Invicta
The Fifth – The Fifth
That is all for this list. It is just a snapshot of the mass of notable new independent albums released this year, too. It collectively serves as another reminder of the importance and place of independent music.
Independent metal band Skarlett Riot has been in existence for approximately 11 years, but in that short span, the band has done quite a bit to build its name and audience base. The band, which formed in 2010, has released a total of six studio recordings – three EPs and three albums – with the latest of the albums – Invicta – released in May through Despotz Records. The band’s latest offering is a positive new record that most metal fans will appreciate. That is due in large part to its featured lyrical themes. They will be discussed shortly. The musical arrangements that accompany the record’s lyrical themes add their own touch to the presentation and will be discussed a little later. The sequencing of that collective content rounds out the most important of the album’s elements. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make Invicta a largely appealing new addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums.
Skarlett Riot’s third full-length studio recording, Invicta, is a positive new offering from the up-and-coming metal outfit. It is a presentation that will appeal to most hard rock and metal fans. That is proven in part through its featured lyrical themes. The themes in question are accessible, touching in various ways on the topic of overcoming life’s obstacles, and in other ways, on dealing with the impact of toxic relationships. Right from the album’s outset, ‘Breaking The Habit,’ one of those noted obstacles is seemingly addressed. In this case, the obstacle in question seems to be that of addiction. This is inferred as front woman Chloe “Skarlett” Drinkwater sings right in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “I am completely obsessed/Can’t stop thinking like this/Can’t resist to feed this darkness in me/I let myself progress/Into nothing but this mess/This is not a life/I can’t take no more/I’m so frustrated/I’ve become so jaded/I’ve lost my self control/I feel so far from home/So alone.” Little if any doubt is left even this early on about the seemingly noted theme here. This comes across as someone who is battling their addiction hard. At the same time, that determination to overcome this obstacle is present in the song’s second verse, in which Drinkwater sings, “I will learn to live again/There must be a way/The only one who can save me is me/I’m my own worst enemy/I will find my voice/This hidden strength in me/Try to get away/I used to feel so free.” Again, what audiences get here is that noted drive to get past the obstacle of addiction. It is a unique way to address the topic that is easily accessible, proving in itself why the album’s lyrical content is so important to its presentation. The matter of overcoming obstacles is presented in a different but equally accessible fashion later in the album’s 48-minute run in the form of ‘To The Flames.’
‘To The Flames’ is a collective call to unity; to unite and basically march on against any of life’s obstacles. This is made one hundred percent clear as Drinkwater sings in the song’s chorus, “We ascend to the top/Give all that we got/If we fall to the flames/We rise up/Come on try me/I’m burning bright/We fight to be heard/We ignite.” She adds in the song’s bridge, “We won’t be ignored/We won’t hear your toxic words/They feed off our misery/Sucking the life outta me/We won’t be ignored.” The calls to unity continue just as clearly throughout the song’s verses. When they are paired with the statements in the song’s chorus and bridge, the overall uplifting message proves that it will resonate with audiences just as much as any of the album’s other noted themes.
Speaking of those other themes, that of a toxic relationship and its impact is addressed in ‘Underwater.’ What is interesting here is the duality in the vulnerability shown here alongside the anger and power expressed alongside that vulnerability. On the one hand, Drinkwater sings so mournfully, “You crushed me/Tore me apart/Ripped my soul/Now I can’t trust no one/So here I am again/Cannot seem to find a way out/I am drowning/Can you hear me/Underwater.” This statement shows that vulnerability; that sadness and pain. On the other side, the anger that stems from whatever happened is made just as clear as Drinkwater screams, “I hope you bleed/’Cause no one will bleed for you/I hope you burn/You will go straight to hell.” She repeats these lines multiple times in the song’s bridge, really illustrating a lot of pent up rage from whatever led to the situation in which the subject is “drowning.” That anger is in itself, a way of overcoming the obstacle that was that toxic relationship/situation. To that end, it is another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. It shows the different topics and ways in which the more common themes are approached and presented. When that is considered in examining the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes clear why the album’s lyrical content is so important to its presentation. It is just one part of what makes the album worth hearing. The musical arrangements that accompany the album’s lyrical themes play their own important part in the album’s presentation.
The musical arrangements that are exhibited in Invicta are important to examine because they all present a similar sound and stylistic approach from one song to the next. The heavy, crunching guitars alongside the equally strong bass line and percussion pair with Drinkwater’s vocals to create a sound and style throughout the record that makes this record comparable to works from the likes of Helion Prime, Unleash The Archers, and even Arch Enemy to a point. The arrangements do boast some subtle variations from one to the next. A close listen reveals those subtle variations. In hearing those variations, audiences will also catch the similarity to Skarlett Riot’s other works, and hear the similarities and variations. Hearing and understanding it all makes for even more appreciation for the album. When the impact of the album’s musical arrangements is paired with that of the album’s lyrical themes, the whole makes the album even more worth hearing. Even with all of this in mind, the album still has one more item to examine, that being the sequencing of said content.
Invicta’s sequencing is important to consider because of its role in keeping audiences engaged and entertained. From beginning to end, the record’s sequencing keeps the album’s energy high throughout. The only point at which the album slows things down comes more than halfway through in ‘Into Pieces.’ Even in this song though, the more subdued approach lasts only a certain amount of time before the band kicks things back into high gear again. From there on, the album keeps the energy high right up until its final bars. That in itself is sure to keep audiences listening. Along with that is the aforementioned constant variation in the arrangements. The variations keep the arrangements unique of one another throughout the album, thus enhancing the listening experience even more. The sequencing also ensures that the album’s lyrical themes change just enough from one to the next. The result of that alongside everything else associated with the sequencing is a presentation that will appeal to audiences just as much as the album’s content. Everything considered together, the album proves itself to be a presentation that will appeal just as much to Skarlett Riot’s fans as to most metal audiences in general.
Skarlett Riot’s latest album, Invicta is a strong new offering from the up-and-coming metal band. It is a record that serves to further etch out a place in the metal community for the band just as much as the band’s existing catalog. That is proven in part through its lyrical themes. The themes in question are mostly uplifting works that encourage listeners to push on through life’s obstacles. They also help people who have gone through or are going through difficult relationships of any kind get through those situations. The musical arrangements work with the lyrical themes to add their own touch to the album. That is because the way in which they balance the band’s power metal and pure metal influences throughout. The variations in the arrangements do well to balance those influences and keep listeners engaged and entertained. The sequencing of that collective content ensures that it works to keep that engagement and entertainment high, too. That is proven through the changes in the themes from one song to the next, the stability in the album’s energy and the changes in the arrangements. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this record. All things considered, they make Invicta a positive new sign for Skarlett Riot’s growing place in the metal community. Invicta is available now. More information on Invicta is available along with all of Skarlett Riot’s latest news at: