Mining Metal is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence writers Joseph Schafer and Langdon Hickman. The focus is on noteworthy new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from small and independent labels — or even releases from unsigned acts. For the December edition, Joseph and Langdon pick their Top 10 Underground Metal Albums of 2021.
We thought this year was going to be the mother lode — and it was. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, we predicted that many bands working on albums would hold onto them for a year, expecting the global crisis to end in time for a celebratory 2021 album drop and profitable summer/fall tour.
Obviously, some of those predictions fell though, though we did get big summer festivals like Psycho Las Vegas returning, and extended fall tours by ascendant bands like Frozen Soul, but for the most part the global metal community remains in COVID’s arctic stranglehold, especially with massive shipping delays transmuting once-prerequisite merchandise drops like vinyl records into vague pipe dreams.
But those albums did indeed drop! Long-awaited underground releases by tech death superstars and black metal monoliths pockmarked the map like craters from an asteroid collision. Maybe better, artists forced indoors seem to have embraced digital collaboration and publishing tools with a new sophistication and vigor, resulting in quirky and esoteric releases from mishmashes of outré songwriters. Neither Great Resignation nor Delta and Omicron variants can stymie metal’s growing diversity in sound.
We cherished all these releases, but in the end were forced to pick our 10 must-listen underground metal albums of the year. We present them for you, as always, unranked and alphabetically oriented. Please don’t interpret this list as a clutch of competition winners – rather think of it as a syllabus, a hyper-representative sampling of what the underground resistance has to offer.