While 2021 was in many ways a repeat of 2020, there was some normalcy for some. I haven’t been to a show in 23 months, which is insane. I’m hoping to get AudioVein back on track to some degree in 2022. Anyway, I managed to listen to 185 albums from 2021, and 16 EP’s. Here’s all of our staff picks for the year, starting with mine.

Marcus Miller’s Top 100 for 2021

1. Times of Grace – Songs of Loss & Separation
2. Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum
3. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
4. Limp Bizkit – Still Sucks
5. Aborted – Maniacult
6. Trivium – In the Court of the Dragon
7. At The Gates – The Nightmare of Being
8. Nas – Magic
9. Lady Gaga/Tony Bennett – Love for Sale
10. The Pretty Reckless – Death by Rock n Roll

11. Light the Torch – You Will Be the Death of Me
12. Sion – Sion
13. Mire – A New Found Rain
14. Soen – Imperial
15. Lana Del Rey – Blue Banisters
16. Billy Gibbons – Hardware
17. Chevelle – Niratias
18. Steven Wilson – The Future Bites
19. Thrice – Horizons/East
20. Cradle of Filth – Existence is Futile

21. Black Honey – Written and Directed
22. Product of Hate – You Brought This War
23. Poppy – Flux
24. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
25. Emily Kinney – The Supporting Character
26. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined
27. Cynic – Ascension Codes
28. Black Keys – Delta Kream
29. Gary Numan – Intruder
30. Ventana – The Nature of Betrayal

31. Diamante – American Dream
32. Caliban – Zeitgeister
33. Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
34. Beartooth – Below
35. Gojira – Fortitude
36. Gizmachi – Omega Kaleid
37. Royal Blood – Typhoons
38. Born of Osiris – Angel or Alien
39. Ektomorf – Reborn
40. NF – Clouds (The Mixtape)

41. Hacktivist – Hyperdialect
42. Demiser – Through the Gate Eternal
43. Love and Death – Perfectly Preserved
44. Epica – Omega
45. Sirenia – Riddles, Ruins & Revelations
46. Evergrey – Escape of the Phoenix
47. The Crown – Royal Destroyer
48. Tetrarch – Unstable
49. Whitechapel – Kin
50. Of Mice and Men – Echo

51. Dream Theater – A View From the Top of the World
52. Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
53. Vader – De Profundis
54. Witherfall – Curse of Autumn
55. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
56. Eisbrecher – Liebe Macht Monster
57. Rise Against – Nowhere Generation
58. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
59. The Plot in You – Swan Song
60. We Butter the Bread with Butter – Das Album

61. Spiritbox -Eternal Blue
62. If Anything, Suspicious – Offair: Lullabies for the Damned
63. Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under
64. AFI – Bodies
65. Tremonti – Marching in Time
66. Slaughter to Prevail – Kostolom
67. Jerry Cantrell – Brighten
68. Exodus – Persona Non Grata
69. The Browning – End of Existence
70. KK’s Priest – Sermons of the Sinner

71. Epoch of Chirality – Nucleosysnthesis
72. Bullet for my Valentine – Bullet for my Valentine
73. Volumes – Happier?
74. Omnium Gatherum – Origin
75. Garbage – No Gods No Masters
76. Mammoth WVH – Mammoth WVH
77. Robert Plant – Raise the Roof
78. Lorde – Solar Power
79. Phinehas – The Fire Itself
80. Unleashed – No Sign of Life

81. Enforced – Kill Grid
82. Flotsam and Jetsam – Blood in the Water
83. Ministry – Moral Hygiene
84. Massacre – Resurgence
85. Moonspell – Hermitage
86. Pestilence – Exitivm
87. Evile – Hell Unleashed
88. Evanescence – The Bitter Truth
89. Rhapsody of Fire – Glory for Salvation
90. Twenty One Pilots – Scaled and Icy

91. Darkthrone – Eternal Hails
92. Loathe – The Things They Believe
93. Erra – Erra
94. Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight
95. The Bronx – Bronx VI
96. Dee Snider – Leave a Scar
97. Asphyx – Necroceros
98. The Absence – Coffinized
99. The Delirium Effect – Eternal
100. The Darkness – Motorheart


Mike Usenick’s Top 15

1. “Senjutsu” – Iron Maiden
2. “The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy” – Rob Zombie
3. “Sinner” – John 5 & The Creatures
4. “Detroit Stories” – Alice Cooper
5. “Persona Non Grata” – Exodus
6. “Leave A Scar” – Dee Snider
7. “Medicine at Midnight” – Foo Fighters
8. “Death By Rock and Roll” – The Pretty Reckless
9. “Blacktop Mojo” – Blacktop Mojo
10. “Too Mean To Die” – Accept
11. “Working With God” – Melvins
12. “Doom Crew Inc” – Black Label Society
13. “ForWard” – The Stereotypes
14. “God Is Partying” – Andrew WK
15. “OK Human” – Weezer
Bryan Bardes’ top picks
Quicksand- Distant Populations
The Broken View- On The Mend
White Moth Black Butterfly-The Cost of Dreaming
Act of Denial- Negative
Colin Hay- I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
Mammoth WVH- Mammoth WVH
Dream Theater- A View from The Top of the World
Architects- For Those That Wish To Exist
Tori Amos- Ocean to Ocean
Evergrey- Escape of the Phoenix
Morton Gaster Papadopoulos- Burnt Offerings
Times of Grace- Songs of Loss and Separation
Tesseract- Portals
Devin Townsend- Devolution Series#2 Galactic Quarantine
Steve Lukather- I Found The Sun Again
Fear Factory- Aggression Continuum
Smith/Kotzen- Smith/Kotzen
Garbage- No Gods No Masters
A Pale Horse Named Death- Infernum In Terra
Light the Torch- You Will Be the Death of Me
Exodus Persona Non Grata
EP’s of the year – Eyes Set to Kill- Damna
Lorna Shore- And I Return to Nothingness
Bobby Mansfield’s top picks
The Dead Deads – Tell Your Girls It’s Alright
Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
Spiritbox  – Eternal Blue
Chevelle – Niratias
Gojira – Fortitude
Mastodon – Hushed and Grim
The Pretty Reckless – Death by Rock n Roll
Bullet for my Valentine – Bullet for my Valentine
Jinjer – Wallflowers
Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc.
Rise Against – Nowhere Generation
Melvins – Working With God
Weezer – Van Weezer
Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum
Poppy – Flux
Thrice – Horizons/East
Evanescence – The Bitter Truth
Pseudo Mind-Hive – Volume III
David Neff’s Top 10

10. Chvrches “Screen Violence” – Is that a Robert Smith appearance?  Yes! Yes it is!  The Cure frontman trades off with Lauren Mayberry in “How Not to Drown” and it’s definitely a mood.  Possibly Smith’s best appearance since 2003 when he chilled with Blink 182.  But, besides that, what about the rest of the album?  Well, it’s legit, in fact, it’s transparent on messaging.  Something Chvrches has tried to get away from, it’s definitely not “tacky pop crap” that they’ve described writing for Marshmello.  Check it out and endure all of the emotions.

9. Iron Maiden “Senjutsu”  How do you transform a band while still playing your classics?  How do you mature your sound even when you’re already legends?  That’s something Iron Maiden has been pushing for close to six years and it seems this very hard push to prog rock as opposed to “Run to the Hills” and “The Trooper” has given them new energy and sound that welcomes new fans while still paying tribute to the old guard.

8. Silk Sonic “An Evening with Silk Sonic”  The amount of hype this album drummed up for since the Grammy’s definitely led to high expectations.  Impossible expectations really.  And the best way I can say is the three singles this album dropped…are the best this album put out.  That’s not a bad thing, as two of those singles will be played 10 years from now and you’ll bop around to it.  But, six weeks after it’s release, I’ve already moved on.  However, the nostalgic sound definitely will be a hit for more people.  Might even bring back interest in James Brown, Little Richard among others for those young listeners.  But, I can’t help but feel that this album just needed one more showstopper track to really put it higher on this list.

7. Lil Nas X “Montero” – Okay, remember the controversy on this album? It was all over the pandemic news for a good week or two.  Yet, this might be one of the most hyped debut albums to ever come out.  Think about this, you’ve known Lil Nas X for two years with that one country jam and yet, he still hadn’t had an album come out before this.  And the album is eye opening to say the least, it speaks on vulnerabilities of probably the most famous gay person in the industry. Even Elton John lends his piano in a passing of the torch to the superstar.  The album isn’t perfect but it certainly lived up to the hype.

6. Adele “30” – This is an album you get when you want to remember your emotional education ala Joni Mitchell.  There isn’t a bad track on it, in fact, I’m not even sure I’ve heard a bad Adele song.  It proves herself with the ridiculous prices of her concerts. Grab a glass of wine, head to Caesars Palace and see if you can hear her from outside or even the parking lot.  The album kills it, the $800 price tag on the tickets will kill your wallet.

5. Japanese Breakfast “Jubilee” – Look, I’ve tried to get away from sad music this year.  It wasn’t doing anything for me with the drama of the world.  So knowing that Japanese Breakfast writes songs on grief normally wasn’t my cup of tea.  So hearing the joy come out of this album was a welcoming surprise and one you should turn all the way up.

4. Tyler, The Creator “Call Me If You Get Lost” –  Tyler’s most confident album to date.  It ranges from sounds of jazz, bossa nova, and reggae moods.  Everything is short with this album with only five tracks hitting over three minutes. It’s an attempt to revive the mixtape format that was well known in the 2000’s.  In fact, this feels like the self fulfilling prophecy he made in 2011.  A Grammy Award. Check.  Collab with Lil Wayne. Check. A music festival and amusement park?  Check.  2011 Tyler wasn’t laying out his dreams. He laid out his own business plan and you can feel the freedom in his voice on this album.

3. The War on Drugs “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” – Surprised? Me too!  TWOD always lived on simple words to describe their lyrics.  It was conceptually sound but also boring.  Ctrl-f a lyrics sheet and you’ll constantly find the words “dream”, “lost”, “memory” as if they were all part of a Transcendentalist poem.  However, things are a little crisper now while still holding the sound of 1987.  Sounds strange I know but, it just works for me. It’s synth enough to want to put your hair in a pompadour but, mature enough to recognize this won’t need an extra can of Aqua Net.

2. Billie Eilish “Happier Than Ever” – Okay back to regular programming.  Yes this album slaps. Yes, it’s fearless, absolutely fearless.  Eilish comes out swinging, hitting hard on tracks like “Your Power”.  She still shows she’s wanting to experience growth with career anxiety and coming-of-age sound.  She’s what you want from a maturing pop artist that still shows she can find her own ways to relate to fans.  She recognizes her own faults and welcomes them as a part of her.  And you as the listener get to experience every aspect of it.

1. Olivia Rodrigo “Sour”- Who the hell does she think she is?  Who drops a greatest hits album as their first album?  Every time I put on this album, I felt exposed by her. She calls out Gen-Z people over who loved Billy Joel first.  She speaks on driving past ex-boyfriends houses. It’s heartbreaking to hear about her heartbreak. It’s Pat Benatar for whatever the hell this generation is called.  But, it also pays tribute to Paramore and The Kills while holding an ounce to her Disney roots.  Then the album switches from heartbreak to mischief.  Teenage desire to cause trouble and even me being the elder statesman I am, I want it to happen for her.  This album should be something you give to someone trying to find themselves because they’ll likely find a lot of themself here.