Alright Duelists, last year I said that there weren’t be any lengthy intro here and I stand by what I said. Flash of the Blade is all about going fast, going loud, swearing, and just venting our aggressions in ways that only music can do. So, like last year, here are just two things before we get started:

  1. Fuck 2021. Seriously, fuck it so fucking hard, god fucking damn it, I hate it, I still hate it, yes it’s just a number, it’s completely arbitrary, 2022 is going to suck as well, capitalism is a prison and that’s not changing, but also fuck 2021. 2021 I will duel you, you coward!
  2. There were a lot of really great albums that went super hard in 2021. Some of them have been written about before on this column and will appear again below. Some of them I didn’t write up for this column. They all rule, regardless.

That’s it, on with the music please.

Swords

Cirith Ungol Half Past Human (21:47 of proto-doom musculature). Probably one of the only good things about the timeline we find ourselves occupying is that Cirith Ungol are fucking back, baby. And when I say back, I mean fully back, expertly showing that their comeback album was anything but a fluke. Half Past Human packs everything that is great about Cirith Ungol into one tight, sword-wielding package, bringing the riffs and then some. Your Tolkien shit? Yeah, it’s got that. Your sword and sorcery stuff? Heaps of that, lads. Powerful vocals, guitars that take no prisoners, drums that beat out death knells, this EP has it all. So what are you waiting for? Draw that sword!

Empty ThroneGlossolalia (22:53 of caustic death metal). There’s only one album on this list that even comes close to competing with Glossolalia in terms of sheer aggression (hint: it’s the fifth one) but even there the race isn’t even that close. Glossolalia is just…fuck, it just goes so hard! Empty Throne have managed to create a true banger with this one, somehow stripping back everything about their death metal sound to bare, iron-clad necessities but also creating music that’s dynamic and engaging. This one is one for the ages, for sure.

GraveRipperRadiated Remains (27:37 of crossover intensity). You know me, reader, you do: I’m not a huge crossover thrash fan. But boy, when it hits right, it hits fucking right and let me tell you, Radiated Remains hits, hits, and then keeps on hitting. The swagger on these riffs! The abrasive rage on the vocals! The thickness of those drums! Everything just collapses into the right place with Radiated Remains, hopefully shooting GraveRipper from relative obscurity and into the center of this currently thriving scene. Let’s fucking go.

WEVPON & Turbo Knight & Dimi KayeCybersmith (24:44 of nuclear bombs from the future). This is the only album on this list that could, and will, fit in both on Flash of the Blade’s and Wave // Breaker’s end of year lists. It’s just that good; it’s dark synthwave, cyberwave, retrowave, whateverwave but not as you know it. It’s all of that but fed through a killer cyborg’s hunter-seeker algorithm, absolutely laying your ears to waste with its chunky synths, unrelenting beats, and knife’s-edge style storytelling. It goes so fucking hard.

TyrannusTyrannus (12:21 of caustic black metal). This is probably the rawest album on this list; Tyrannus play a sort of lo-fi, punk infused style of metal that’s hard to resist. This, and the demo It Taketh which was also released this year, is some of the most blistering music I had the pleasure of listening to this year. The least said about this release, the better to be honest: it has its own sort of straight-forward power that’s hard to deny. Listen to “Demon Under Clay”; that will say things much better than I ever could.

Oxygen DestroyerSinister Monstrosities Spawned By the Unfathomable Ignorance of Humankind (29:16 of Saurian supremacy). GODZILLA FUCKING RULES OK? HE HAS A FUCKING HUGE LASER HE SHOOTS FROM HIS THROAT ALRIGHT? LOOK AT THE COVER ART HE’S SHOOTING HIS FUCKING BIG LASER. WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT. RIFFS? OK. THERE’S RIFFS. AND GODZILLA. AND ANGER, AND NUCLEAR DEATH METAL, AND AAAAAAAHHHHH

Daggers

Denise ChailaIt’s a Mixtape (19:09 of hard hitting, extremely well written rap)

GhostboundExtended Play for My Sweet Mary Thyme (29:56 of art rock melancholy)

Homeboy Sandman Anjelitu (18:47 of hip-hop/rap going hard)

Immortal War Voice of Misery (9:03 of no-prisoners-taken thrash)

InsinneratorHyopthermia (31:55 of more crazy death metal about big lizards burning things)

Kaschalot Zenith (20:21 of intense, groovy post-rock)

LuoConvoluted Mess Machine (19;27 of weird, asymmetric, electronic post-rock)

Perennial QuestPerennial Quest (27:34 of sword-swinging, dragon-slaying, hyper power metal)

Perilaxe OcclusionRaytraces of Death (21:33 of rays. Of death. Tracing you)

Súl ad AstralHeritage (a 20:00 track exploring post-black metal)

Vena CavaOculus (16:11 of awesome adventure-prog)