Artemis Sere’s Twenty Best Music Albums of 2021

Artemis Sere's Twenty Best Albums of 2021

This list is not genre or market specific. This list reflects the diversity of my interests. This list is not based on listening to any radio, podcasts, or influencer pundits. My appreciation for music is relatively broad, but you'll find a heavier edge to recent lists - reflective of the seasons of my life.

This list is my 11th attempt to catalog, track, and recommend the best music of the previous year.  If you're interested in what I've ranked in previous years, check out this page where all years are available.

This year features the sweet return of trip-hop greats Sneaker Pimps and Morcheeba. It also includes two artists that inspire me greatly and put out two albums with different projects in the same year. Releasing one record is hard enough - releasing two awesome and individual albums in the same year is truly inspiring. This list features the return of some legends and greats and highlights some brand new discoveries.

Please spread the word and share this guidance with your network, and pay forward these suggestions of high quality, relatively underrated music and musicians. 

Check out my YouTube playlist featuring clips from every album, linked at the end of this list. 

And if you're feeling bold, drop a comment on this blog and let me know what you think. What's on your list of favorite albums for 2021?

I appreciate your interest in my Art and music opinion. Enjoy!

NOTE: I reserve the right to revise this list as necessary. I know I've probably missed some great albums in 2021, and will be sure to update this list to accommodate those next year - as I have done and will do with lists from previous years. Check back for updates!

#yearofSerenity

20

MASTODON
Hushed & Grim

I have a feeling that future spins of this album will drop it closer down my list. Mastodon has great vocals, great guitars, great flows, but for some reason, I'm not completely inspired by their sound. Still, their talent and production are undeniable. They're one heavy, hairy band, not much hushed nor terribly grim. But powerful and great.

19

LACUNA COIL
Live from the Apocalypse

I'm not usually drawn to live albums, but this album has the live feel without the live sound. Well produced and vibrant variations of their original tunes, this is a great album by long-time favorites Lacuna Coil. Cristina Scabbia is always a treat to listen to, and her voice is aging very well. I only wish this live album covered some of their earlier works, such as tunes off of "Unleashed Memories".

18

TRIVIUM
In the Court of the Dragon

I have a soft spot for all things Matt Heafy. Trivium is an awesomely tight and progressive band. I love the sound and fantasy concepts woven throughout this album. In time, I feel like this will end up being my favorite Trivium album, but in a year dotted with other amazing albums, this one will be easily forgot by most.

17

EVILE
Hell Unleashed

This is one diabolical and brutally fast album, a throwback to my early years of metalheadedness and my exploration of dark metal bands like Dark Angel, Helstar and Obituary. 

16

FEAR FACTORY
Aggression Continuum

Fear Factory may be a shadow of the beast they were in the 2000s, but this album proves they can still punch with style and consistency. Evidently, Burton C. Bell left the band after this album, so this will most likely be the last time they make this list. 

15

MORCHEEBA
Blackest Blue

Every Morcheeba album over the last 15 years has made this list. Some albums have soared higher than others, but "Sounds of Blue" reconfirms why this talented band continues to produce some of my favorite music. They're still ethereal, still mesmerizing, still part of the Sea in me. As Sneaker Pimps have proven, trip-hop isn't necessarily dead; it has just matured.

14

VOLBEAT
Servant of the Mind

There are many of my American friends that don't get my appreciation of Volbeat. Having grown up in Europe, I get the beer-hall style sound and harmony. I get some of Volbeat's barfy enthusiasm that comes through in their music. I get their sing-songy sensibilities. I get it. They're still 14th on the list because they can lay down an unforgettable groove and story with rage and fire.

13

SPIRITBOX
Eternal Blue

I found this album consistent on many top album lists of the year and thought I'd give it a try. I'm sure thankful I did, because this is one adventurous and unexpectedly spectacular album. The lead singer and guitarist were formerly in a band named "iwrestledabearonce" (put in quotes because it looks strange without them). I wasn't a fan of that band, but they've sure built something special with Spiritbox.

12

ROB ZOMBIE
The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy

There was once a time that Rob Zombie inspired me endlessly. Growing up with White Zombie, his unique disco-metal style and voice stood out amongst a sea of sleepy rockers and headbangers. Turns out that I haven't liked everything that Rob Zombie does - I haven't really liked much of his Rob Zombie directorial work. I haven't loved a Rob Zombie album since "Educated Horses". And this one isn't perfect. There aren't standout hits like "Blood, Milk & Sky" or "More Human than Human" on this album. But the Conspiracy cranks out consistently entertaining horrorfunk and hellspaces.

11

CHRIS CORNER
IAMX "Machinate" + 
Sneaker Pimps "Squaring the Circle"

The first of two artists in my list that had pushed out awesome works in 2021, Chris Corner shines with both his avant-garde project IAMX and his old-school return to trip-hop with Sneaker Pimps. If you've followed my music blogs for any length of time, you know my love and admiration of the art and artist that is IAMX. While Sneaker Pimps' new album has touching and beautiful music, it sounds more like a new IAMX album than it does an old-school Sneaker Pimps album (either pre- or post-Kelli Ali). With every output, Chris Corner pushes the envelope of activism and I appreciate how he's able to carry a consistent voice and approach, regardless of label he publishes under.

10

FLOTSAM & JETSAM
Blood in the Water

Did you that the band Flotsam & Jetsam is 40 years old this year? They started making music when I was 8. I didn't full start appreciating them until I was 15. At 48, I'm happy to report that their 15th album is some of the best work of their catalog. While not the same revelation that previous album "End of Chaos" was, "Blood in the Water" shows they're still rockers to be reckoned with, even if they're old enough to be your Grandad.

9

PRINCESS GOES TO THE BUTTERFLY MUSEUM
Thanks for Coming

The multitalented Michael C. Hall ("Dexter") fronts this fantastic act. With a very Bowie-esque sound and 80s electronica vibe, Princess is a touching and charming experience. Their cover of Phantogram's "Cruel World" is spectacular, like Dexter's Dark Passenger given resonant voice.

8

BLACKTOP MOJO
Blacktop Mojo

"Wicked Woman" crept into my playlist this year and became one in my regular rotation. A callback to pure rock n' roll with themes of sacrifice and loss with tight production and classic heavy metal sound. Full on fun and rock talent.

7

EVANESCENCE
The Bitter Truth

It's always a pleasure to showcase the work of Amy Lee. I've been an Evanescence fan since their earliest days. While their popularity has waxed and waned throughout the years, their lack of production and talent hasn't. We've faced a few years of bitter truths now that have forced much reflection. Lee said this about the album:  "A lot of this album is about facing the truth, facing the bitter truths of our world and of my life and of heart. Whatever the cost of that might be on the inside. So then we can start talking about climbing out. Then we can start talking about getting to a better place. You can't appreciate the beauty of life, you can't fully experience all the good moments in life if you don't also fully experience the challenging ones, the tough ones, the painful ones."

6

POP EVIL
Versatile

Like Blacktop Mojo, these guys are mainline rockers with sounds straight out of the 90s. From "Let the Chaos Reign" to "Survivor" to "Breathe Again" to "Fire Inside", their rock diversity and ability to inspire are evident. They're another band that have been flying under the main wire for a long time, even though they've been around for two decades. "Versatile" finally displays their dynamic power and punch perfectly. 

5

WHITCHAPEL
Kin

Shoutout to friend Dennis Curran from the band Semtex for turning me on to this brutal and beautiful album. Reminded me of the first time that I listened to "Blackwater Park" with the ominous and horror-oriented tones. This is my first encounter with Whitechapel and am now determined to dig in further, tug at the roots of this bloody family.

4

BLUE STAHLI
Obsidian

 The Dead Channel Trilogy in total is a dreamy mix of rock, dubstep, electronics, guitars, piano, and other adventures across a sonic landscape that stretches three albums with unique hues and moods to each. "Obsidian" is the final work of Stahli's Dead Channel Trilogy (("Quartz"(2020), "Copper"(2020), "Obsidian"(2021)) and is the darkest, most contemplative of the three. 

3

TOM MORELLO
Tom Morello & The Bloody Beetroots - "The Catastrophists EP" +
"The Atlas Underground Fire"

Tom Morello has created a great concept of teaming with other artists to create tunes for his Atlas Underground albums. The first Atlas Underground album was my #4 album of 2018. This time around I'm honoring Tom Morello not just for his work with Atlas Fire, but also his EP with the Bloody Beetroots, which also includes team-ups with other amazing musicians and artists and serves as a brilliant extension of his already-inspiring Underground Fire. Tom Morello is more than just the guy from Rage Against the Machine and Prophets of Rage; he is a master of music.

2

GOJIRA
Fortitude

Grammy-nominated "Amazonia" punctuates the extreme and amazing range capable of these French masters of metal. "Another World" was highlighted on last year's list as tune to watch for in 2021, and it turned out that the whole "Fortitude" album is one of the best in the already amazing catalog of Gojira.

1

CHEVELLE
N.I.R.A.T.I.A.S.
(Nothing is Real and This is a Simulation)

The first time I heard "Remember When" I was blown away. I've discounted Chevelle for a really long time, chalked them up as radio candy for a different audience. But the harmony, the rhythm, and the message all hit me really hard. As someone with solid chronophobia, the questions of legacy and reckoning of the passage of time are core to my existence.

With greater listens, I discovered NIRATIAS is also a concept album connected through sci-fi themes and imagery. There is an interesting interplay between questioning reality and simulations that can pose as real. I also discovered amazing hits across the whole album that expand the story. "Piistol Star (Gravity Heals"), "Peach", "Mars Simula", and "So Long Mother Earth" are some of my favorites, but I could easily include a few more on this list and... would be listing the whole album. 

Throughout 2021, I spent more time going backwards in the Chevelle catalog and found many gems that I missed throughout the years. I'll be updating my previous Best of Lists to include them where appropriate. But the power of one album had me reconsidering a legacy. I can only hope someone interacts with my art someday and feels such inspiration. 

To remember when we were great, lively, vibrant and innocent. To be remembered and honored for creating artistic outputs that rise above the others. I can only hope to create something something as resonant as "NIRATIAS" to be remembered by.

2021 Honorable Mentions

I had a long list of albums to choose from for my 2021 list. Here are ones that were considered, but not chosen for the top 20. They make it there someday. 

Behemoth - In Absentia Dei
Converge - Bloodmoon: 1
Death Angel- The Bastard Tracks
Dee Snider- Leave a Scar
Every Time I Die - Radical
Helstar - Clad in Black
Helloween- Helloween
Swallow the Sun - Moonflowers
Turnstile - Glow On
Starset - Horizons

Artemis Sere's Twenty Best Albums of 2021
YouTube Playlist

Other Annual Best Album Blogs

2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 
2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 
2018 | 2019 | 2020

Artemis Sere's Twenty Best Albums of 2021

Xoterica 37: The Rebirth

Artemis Sere SS-SG-00035 Necromorphosis

“When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.” (Bruce Lee)

Two years ago, I took a leap of faith in myself, jumped from the highest heights in my life to try something new, and crashed every area of my life. I sacrificed everything I owned (outside of my art) for the dream of becoming a Welding/Fabrication Artist and professional. I won't belabor the details of the journey - I've written plenty of content in this blog over the last two years on the subject. I was determined to see my #metalmorphosis through, until it killed me.

Two years ago, I awoke on the Monday morning following my professional departure into my adventure with excitement, anticipation, and a feeling of pure freedom. The potential was palpable; confidence in myself was at an all-time high, even if my mood was at an all-time low after my Dad's death.

Two years ago began a trail of bad luck, mistakes, learnings, and misfortunes that directed this adventurer toward depression, burned through all that I had amassed for the journey, stalled my life momentum, and trashed my map.

I'm now a day away from my professional rebirth with a new company called Deluxe, a new opportunity for greatness, and renewed stability that I haven't felt - literally - in years.

In order to make this change, another sacrifice will be required. "Sacrifice" is really a dramatic label for "focused reprioritization". Unfortunately, I have to shift my personal focus towards doing what I need to do to survive as a human and put art on the backburner. It is a sad acknowledgment that I failed at my #metalmorphosis, failed at launching my Seretic Studios business to the level of successful (or even survivable), and failed at making a living off my art.

Again.

The Shifting Sands of Serenity

Effective immediately, I am shutting down my #yearofSerenity content campaign. This Week 13 post will be my last coordinated experience from my #yearofSerenity content campaign that I mapped out for 2021.

That doesn't mean that I won't be sharing art throughout the year. That also doesn't mean that I'm abandoning the social media spaces that I returned to in 2020. I will still be around - sharing art and continuing to build out the legacy art experience that I'm developing on my website. I still plan on releasing "Echoprism Vol 2" later in 2021. I still hope to finish "Obscurious X: Ten Years of Darkness" this year.

I still have a lot of work to do, and am now getting a metric ton of more work.

I just can't make my art a priority in the face of my new job. This new job will take all the focus, attention, and capacity for learning and evolution that I can muster throughout the rest of the year. Re-entry into a vocation that I left two years ago means some re-education on the current trends in marketing and customer experience. It means putting in more time than less. It means putting my day job in the driver's seat, and working to find calm whenever I can find it - not using every hour I have to race at breakneck speed through 2021 and burning the candle at both ends.

I simply don't have enough time in the hourglass. Working 15-20 hours a week on my #yearofSerenity on top of the 40-50 that will be required for my new job would mean I'd be working around 70 hours a week. That means no days off. That means filling all of my free time with art time outside of breadwinner time.

That means no serenity.

And do you know what I miss the most? Painting and being artistically productive, not just sharing and being digitally effective. Working on developing my art craft. Producing new fine artworks, not just digital copies and remixes of works finished five to ten years ago. For every minute I spend building digital experiences, I lose a minute in creative development of what I care about most.

In the Name of Clicks

The sad truth of four months of running a daily #yearofSerenity campaign: the audience, apart from very specific people, has not engaged. Clickthroughs from social media properties to my website has generated a murmur of traffic, and gained me a small increase in audience, but apart from a passionate core, engagement has been minimal. Sales of "Echoprism Volume 1" remain dismal, and I've sold one print as a result of my clickthrough to DeviantArt. Most of the digital experiences that I've built for my Serenity Gallery have not seen more than 10-20 visits each. Social indicators on primary platforms echoes little growth and consumption, even from people that know me.

Vanity metrics such as impressions don't impress me. Views and impressions are necessary at the top of the funnel, but if few follow through your pre-determined experience path, then you've either built a poor experience or have underperforming content. The experience is the best it has been, stripped down and served for efficiency. The flow is the most consistent it has been in years. The messaging is the most focused it has ever been.

I have learned from two years of direct, focused exposure to my creations and then the sequenced promotion of what I've created.

As a friend of mine suggested over Twitter recently, what I'm doing isn't "good enough". It's not good enough to generate clicks. It's not good enough to expand audience without promotional investment. It's not good enough to sell product (enough to survive off of).

It's simply not "good enough".

As a core believer in "Art for Art's Sake", I shouldn't be so affected by what's "good enough". In a different time for artists, simply expressing your ability and talent was "good enough". If you were "good enough", you surfaced into artistic survival quickly. Now, everyone that can turn a pixel can be "good enough" and be competition for someone that is truly fixed on art that can be created by hand and brush or other implement. NFTs are now the rage for digital art, and a crazy amount of money is thrown around for pixel manipulation. While I too appreciate digital art, I don't "feel" it like I do tangible, textured, expressive pieces that capture your breath and imagination.

And so, the question of "am I good enough?" became rooted in my subconscious. Like a cockroach with thick teeth and an insatiable appetite for confidence, it gnawed at me daily, with each underperforming share, every grand piece that fell on a social media audience disconnected from my efforts.

The answers were right in front of me; once upon a time, I could command over a hundred likes on Instagram for an abstract piece. Once upon a time, I could rely on a circle of engaged and supportive Twitter friends to share my content. Once upon a time, I spent a hundreds of dollars a month to share my art with a Facebook audience to gain connections that seldom engage.

Once upon a time, I had patience with the game.

13

And so I collapse the #metalmorphosis and Seretic Studios dreams back into its impatient, nifty gamebox, and accept a similar professional road as my primary focus, use my talents and skills for a game that I have better odds at.

Is anyone really good enough when the social feeds work against you? When it really is a popularity contest that can turn on you at any moment? I have 10,000 "Likes" on my page on Facebook, but only 60 people regularly watching. I have 37,000 "Followers" on Twitter, but have an average of 100 views per post - unless engagement happens, which is relatively rare (apart from a few friends - thank you, RT!). I talk about these misgivings of metrics quite a bit, but they are telling. They do tell you whether or not you are "good enough" to meet certain goals, to do certain things, to reach certain heights.

I can't grow a business off of ether, just as plants don't grow without sun or water. I produced art products, made them available as seeds to a new artistic future for me, and the blooms were mostly ignored.

I'm not a bitter, angry flower. I accomplished a lot over the last couple of years, and have become stronger as an artist, creator, and marketer through failure. But I'm not done, and I'm not giving up or going away.

I still believe in the buildout of these fine art landing pages, and know they will benefit me down the road as I get past the "legacy" phase of my gallery and start introducing new pieces via this experience process. I will aim to do that throughout 2021 with my new works in order to provide experience consistency. If you're interested in what I shared during the first part of 2021, check out my #yearofSerenity page for all of the summaries. I will continue to build on the Serenity Gallery, and may release an update of the "best-of my additions" throughout the year.

I also want to get back to growing, expressing, and expanding as an artist. Doing what I do best without the guilt of not doing good enough for someone else's (or to a bottom line's) standards. Appreciating the great art that I have created without the disappointment of the clicks. Engaging with other artists that I admire, and reciprocating with those that engage with me.

I don't create art for an audience; I create art for myself and invite the audience to participate and engage. Since the latter didn't happen, I will return to creating art for myself and focusing less on the invitation.

As much as this seems like whining about my path, this isn't. This is acceptance. This is growth. This is redirection. This is rebirth.

This is the #metalmorphosis giving the world a more beautiful, brighter being through the power of the figurative flame.

I have the best years of my art ahead of me. I may now be more limited in my free time to devote to art, but I've developed a personal, professional, and digital framework for my expression, an experience template for years and products to come.

Serenity is about finding calm and balance in your life, not creating a circular tempest of chaos, stress, and lies.

Practice what you preach, right? Seems like a good theme for even this atheist on Easter Sunday.

#xoterica #yearofserenity

Year of Serenity Weekly Recap (Flight 13: 3/29 – 4/3)

Artemis Sere SS-SG-00375 Vulcan Rising

This blog highlights the daily shares from the Serenity Gallery of Artemis Sere during the #yearofSereni9ty. 

Each "Flight of Serenity" contains:

    • The image and link to a piece from "Echoprism Vol 1 (SS-SG-00001 - SS-SG-00300)
    • The image and link to a piece from "Echoprism Vol 2 (SS-SG-00301 - SS-SG-00600)
    • Pieces that were shared Monday - Saturday of the previous week.

Check out the following pieces that were shared between March 29, 2021 and April 3, 2021.

Looking for past #flightsofSerenity? Check out my page for them here.

If you're feeling inspired, drop a comment on this blog and let me know what you think of my work.

If you're feeling generous, share my work to your orbit, buy a print from my DeviantArt profile, or grab a copy of "Echoprism Vol. 1" from Blurb.

If you've missed any of my weekly updates, be sure you're subscribed to my Artrovert blog. You can do that through the interface at the end of this blog. Remember to check your email to validate your subscription!

Thank you very much for following  and engaging with my  #yearofSerenity! 

FLIGHT 13

149/600
"Mechanic of Misery"
SS-SG-00075

Acrylic and resin on 16 x 20 canvas.

150/600
"Vulcan Rising"
SS-SG-00375

Acrylic and gesso on 9 x 12 canvas.

151/600
"Geistkind
SS-SG-00076

Acrylic on 12 x 16 canvas.

152/600
"The Swallowing Abyss"
SS-SG-00376

Acrylic, gesso, and resin on 16 x 20 canvas.

153/600
"State of Disgrace"
SS-SG-00077

Acrylic and resin on 12 x 16 canvas.

.

154/600
"Doom Troupe"
SS-SG-00377

Acrylic on 12 x 24 canvas

155/600
"Blue Wheel"
SS-SG-00078

Acrylic on 16 x 20 canvas.