It’s hard to believe but 2021 is officially only four weeks from its big finale. One can only hope that moving forward from here into 2022, that sooner rather than later, we’ll finally be rid of this COVID-19 crap and life can finally go back to what it was. Time will tell. In the meantime, this critic has checked over his calendar for the year’s waning weeks, and surprisingly, there are no more new EPs to go through for the year. That means it is finally time to start in on this year’s “best of” year-ender lists. Of course, as in every year past, the very first of those lists comes in the form of the smallest of the music releases noted.
This year’s list of new EPs features new releases from at least one relatively well-known figure and a number of others who are either up-and-coming or semi-established. They run the gamut from family music to pop to rock and metal to even some southern rock/country. These lists are never easy to finalize because even among the EPs there is so much to appreciate musically and lyrically. That was taken into full consideration with this list, too. Those who have followed this critic’s ramblings for years on end, know how the lists work. For everyone else, they work as such: Instead of just 10 new offerings, this list is composed of 15 titles. The top 10 are the best of the best while the following five are honorable mention titles. This is not a stab at those releases or the acts that released them, either. Far from it. The whole purpose is to give those extras their due credit, too.
So without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks Top 10 New EPs of 2021.
PHIL’S PICKS 2021 TOP 10 NEW EPS
SaulPaul – OK To Be Different
Gabriel & The Apocalypse – Alpha Transcendence
Decent Criminal – Decent Criminal
The Mercy Kills – New Rule
Dirkschneider & The Old Gang – Arising
Repentance – Volume 1 – Reborn
All Hail The Yeti – Within The Hollow Earth
Kulick – Sitting in a Quiet Coffeehouse
Blue Eyed Christ – World on Fire Remixes
Zero Theorum – The Killing II
Sydney Sherwood – Headspace
Christopher Shayne – Ten High
20 Watt Tombstone – Year of the Jackalope
Post Death Soundtrack – Pathless Land
Black TarPoon – The Thad
That’s it for this year’s top new EPs. Thanks goes out to all of the firms that sent out this great music and so much more. No offense is meant to any act left out. For instance Of Mice & Men released a trio of new EPs this year, but they ended up as the new album, Echo, so that album is up for consideration among this critic’s top new hard rock/metal albums of the year. Even more year-enders are on their way as the last days of the year start to wind down, so stay tuned!
First impressions are everything. That is common knowledge. They are everything because it is those impressions that determine one’s reputation. Keeping that in mind, The Mercy Kills’ debut EP New Rule is a positive first impression for the up-and-coming rock band. Originally created and produced more than a decade ago in 2010, it was never officially released, that is until now. The 18-minute record is scheduled for release Friday through Golden Robot Records. The first impression that the band’s five-song record will leave listeners feeling that The Mercy Kills is a band that is well-deserving of its own share of attention from any guitar rock purist. That is proven collectively through the record’s musical and lyrical content, beginning with its opener, ‘I Wanna.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Go,’ which closes out the record, is another way in which the EP’s strength is exhibited. It will be discussed a little later. ‘So Many Times,’ which serves as the EP’s midpoint, is yet another positive addition to the record, showing its appeal. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s entries, the record in whole becomes a presentation that is an unquestionably positive first impression from The Mercy Kills.
The Mercy Kills’ debut record New Rule is an interesting new addition to this year’s field of new EPs. It is a work whose musical arrangements combine a variety of influences and whose lyrical content will keep listeners engaged and entertained in its own right. ‘I Wanna,’ the EP’s opener is just one example of how that collective content helps to make the record stand out. The song’s musical arrangement stands on its own merits. It is a guitar-driven work that boasts a modern hard rock approach. At the same time, the song’s verses take a somewhat different approach than the choruses. The verses incorporate some keyboard usage along with front man Mark E.’s vocals to create an intriguing comparison to Nine Inch Nails’ classic hit song ‘Head Like a Hole.’ Yes, putting industrial/electronic rock next to pure guitar rocks like quite the uncomfortable balance, but it actually works here. It makes for so much intrigue that audiences cannot help but listen. The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement builds even more on the song’s interest.
Mark E. sings in the song’s lead verse, “Your eyes follow me/And they go straight down/We try to break away/But we hit the ground/Followed again/And we don’t know why/It’s all a game we play/But to me/It makes me insane.” Some of this could be an incorrect interpretation – primarily toward the end of the verse since no lyrics were available to reference. Though, the majority is certain to have been correctly deciphered. He continues in the song’s chorus, “I wanna tell you, baby/You’re taking me over/I wanna tell you baby/You wanna give in to me/I wanna tell you baby/You’re taking me over.” This lead verse and chorus collectively hint at a story of a couple that is in a dysfunctional relationship of sorts. The story continues in the song’s second verse, which states, “Sometimes I find another way/To take control/Sometimes we shed that skin/But it still takes hold/Under a lectured life/And we fade away/She’s on the other side/But…okay. Again, some of this is tough to decipher without lyrics to decipher. However, just enough can be understood, leaving listeners realizing that this is someone trying to get balance back in life even with the impact of that seeming toxic relationship. That is inferred through that statement about trying to shed that skin, but it “still takes hold.” It’s a metaphor for trying to grow out of that situation, but it keeps its grip on that person. This seeming story, paired with the song’s infectious musical arrangement, makes it a strong start for the EP and an equally strong example of why this EP deserves to be heard. It is just one of the EP’s most notable entries. ‘Go,’ the EP’s closer, is another example of what makes the record stand out.
‘Go’ features a musical arrangement that is the polar opposite of ‘I Wanna.’ Whereas the EP’s opener blended elements of pure guitar rock with some electronic elements, ‘Go’ is a pure guitar rock composition. The heavy, driving guitars echo the sounds of the late 80s and early 90s. That includes music from the band’s Golden Robot Records label mates in L.A. Guns. At the same time, there is also a modern rock touch infused into the arrangement a la Buckcherry. The whole of those influences makes the song’s arrangement a strong starting point for the work, and just one part of what makes the song stand out. The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement adds its own appeal to the song.
This song is slightly more difficult to decipher without a lyrics sheet to reference. However, from what can be deciphered, there is a mention in the song’s second verse referencing “The things you said/Said too late/Just gotta get it straight.” The chorus finds Mark E. making a statement that a person “Just can’t get enough.” As to what the person can’t get enough, that is unknown. However, taking that line into account with the statement about “the things you said/Said too late” perhaps that is referring to the accused being told he/she is one of those types that likes trouble rather than trying to make things right in the relationship. That is of course just this critic’s interpretation from what little lyrical content can be deciphered here without a sheet to reference. Considering that the noted chorus makes up so much of the song’s body (roughly three quarters of the song), one cannot help but make such inference. It also would account for the energy in the song’s musical arrangement. The heaviness and energy in the guitars (and even bass and drums) works in partner with that seeming commentary to make the subject someone who is just fed up with the other person’s apparent unwillingness to do the right thing. It all makes for another interesting addition to New Rule. It is just one more of the songs that makes The Mercy Kills’ new EP notable. ‘So Many Times’ is yet another important piece of this record that makes the EP worth hearing.
‘So Many Times’ is another straight forward guitar rock composition that is sure to appeal to audiences. In the case of this arrangement, it is controlled more by a modern rock sensibility than older influences. What is even more interesting here is that Mark E. vocal delivery here gives the song sort of a garage/pun vibe more than straight guitar rock. Although there is a clear modern guitar rock influence, regardless. The balance of the two elements together makes this record one of the most concrete examples of what makes the EP a success. That musical element is just one aspect of the song worth examining. The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement adds its own interest to the composition.
The song opens with the defiant statement, “You can’t take this away from me/I’ve got…control/Every time/It’s the same/I can feel it all again.” There is a small stretch there that is difficult to decipher without a lyrics sheet to reference. The majority of the lyrics are understood though. Just from this introductory line alone, it would seem that the song’s subject seems to be frustrated about having to go through some situation yet again that apparently has happened many times before. The story continues in the song’s chorus (apparently there is no second verse here), which seems to note dealing with that person “so many times.” What the situation in question is, is anyone’s guess. That aside, the frustration in dealing with that seeming merry-go-round is clear enough here. If in fact this interpretation is right, then it clearly makes the song accessible to a wide range of audiences. Those listeners will appreciate the emotional feeling exuded through the musical and lyrical content in whole. To that end, that appreciation will lead listeners to appreciate even more, the EP in whole. When that appreciation, that of the other songs noted here and for the EP’s other two songs is collected in whole, it leaves no doubt that this EP could be the start of a new, bigger chapter for The Mercy Kills’ career.
The Mercy Kills’ new EP New Rule is a positive first outing for the band, which has spent many years working hard to make a place for itself in the rock community. This record could very well be the culmination of that work and the presentation that finally breaks the band into the mainstream, given the right support. It is the best of rock and hard rock’s past and present while also pointing to the future. That is proven through the record’s musical and lyrical content together. The songs examined here do well to support the noted statements. When they are considered along with the EP’s two remaining songs, the whole makes this record yet another valid entry among this year’s top new EPs. New Rule is scheduled for release Friday through Golden Robot Records. More information on the EP is available along with all of the band’s latest news at: