Best 50 Rock and Metal Songs of 2021


Best Songs of 2021 and Best Albums of 2021 image

Best Rock and Metal Songs and Albums of 2021 – Story by Anne Erickson

From Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge to Metallica, here are Audio Ink Radio’s Top Rock and Metal Songs of 2021

Although last year was a quiet one for live music, many bands and artists spent their downtime working behind-the-scenes on new music. Now, the music community is enjoying the fruits of that labor, as more artists than ever have new music out in 2021.

From Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge to Greta Van Fleet to Metallica, read on for Audio Ink Radio’s Top 50 (okay, it’s 52) Rock and Metal Songs of 2021. The list is in alphabetical order. Listen to a discussion about the tracks via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

The Best 50 Rock and Metal Songs of 2021

AFI, “Begging for Trouble” off “Bodies”

Goth rockers AFI are back with their 11th studio album, “Bodies,” out this summer via Rise Records, and one of the early tracks off the release is the upbeat “Begging for Trouble.” The song features a familiar punk beat with warm, swelling melodies that makes this a perfect summer anthem.

Ayron Jones, “Mercy” off “Ayron Jones”

Once in a while, there’s an artist that breaks through on rock radio from seemingly nowhere. In 2020, Ayron Jones was that artist, thanks to his unique, raw, fiery rock music and the track, “Take Me Away.” Now, Jones is back with another song, the socially reflective “Mercy,” and it features a dollop of twang and blues with his signature, straight-ahead rock sound.

Beartooth, “The Past is Dead” off “Below”

When it comes to newer bands making brutally heavy music, Beartooth is a hot one. The Caleb Shomo-fronted group is known for its dynamic sound, and the guys don’t disappoint on their new album, “Below.” Early tracks “The Past is Dead” and lead single “Devastation” are bangers that help get out some of the angst of the past year.

Black Veil Brides, “Fields of Bone” off “The Phantom Tomorrow”

Black Veil Brides are never boring with their music, and that trend continues with everything that’s been released off their new LP, “The Phantom Tomorrow.” Fans have been given a few tastes of the dramatic concept album, song by song, and “Fields of Bone” really stands out with frontman Andy Biersack’s powerful vocal delivery and lead guitarist Jake Pitts’ dynamic solo.

Charlie Benante, “Teardrop” (Massive Attack cover) off “Silver Linings”

Charlie Benante of Anthrax released his “Silver Linings” album in 2021, featuring songs from his popular quarantine jam video series, which saw the drummer rocking out alongside a bevy of high-profile musicians. While all the tracks have their own, special reason to shine, their cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” is a stand out, featuring Benante, his girlfriend Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies and Ra Diaz.

Buckcherry, “So Hott” off “Hellbound”

Buckcherry are always solid when it comes to their music, and their new album, 2021’s “Hellbound,” is no exception. The album’s single “So Hott” features the classic party-rock that Buckcherry fans love, with a modern vibe that brings the band into 2021.

Bullet for My Valentine, “Knives” off “Bullet for My Valentine”

Welch metal band Bullet for My Valentine is known for its flashy guitars, and that’s all over the band’s new single, “Knives.” The song, which will arrive on the band’s new, self-titled studio album, is bright, aggressive and keeps the listener intrigued throughout.

Chevelle, “Mars Simula” off “NIRATIAS”

Chevelle has been a rock mainstay since the early 2000s, and they’re still one of the most popular acts on modern rock radio, as evidenced by the band’s new album, 2021’s “NIRATIAS.” Their latest single off the set, “Mars Simula,” features heavy-hitting rhythms and theatrical vocals, and it’s climbing up the active rock radio charts.

Cleopatrick, “Hometown”

Much like Ayron Jones appeared in 2020 and caught the ears of rock fans, Cleopatrick is emerging in 2021 as a buzzed-about new name. The indie rock duo of Luke Gruntz and Ian Fraser makes for a refreshing sound on modern rock radio. Their story is endearing- two longtime friends from a small town in Onatrio called Cobourg, population 19,000, living out their rock dreams. “Hometown” is a catchy, campy must-hear track from these guys.

The Dead Daisies, “Like No Other” off “Holy Ground”

The Dead Daisies released a new album, “Holy Ground,” in January, featuring an A-list band lineup headed up by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Glenn Hughes. The track “Like No Other” features Tommy Clufetos on drums and serves up a fun, raw rock ‘n’ roll anthem with lots of character.

Dee Snider, “I Wanna Rock (Again)” off “Leave a Scar”

Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider is back with a new solo album, “Leave a Scar,” out July 30. The lead single off the set, “I Wanna Rock (Again),” is a raging, tuneful metal number, produced by longtime Sister producer Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and mixed and mastered by drummer Nick Bellmore.

The Devil Wears Prada, “Nightfall” off “ZII”

At this point, the Devil Wears Prada have decades of experience bringing their energetic metal-core to the masses. The band’s latest set, the “ZII” EP, features the pummeling “Nightfall,” complete with a thumping beat and sharp guitars.

Dirty Honey, “California Dreamin'” off “Dirty Honey”

Dirty Honey spent much of 2020 working on their debut full-length album, which is a good thing, because the tracks are of the highest quality. “California Dreamin'” was the debut single off the set, and it picks up right where Dirty Honey left off, with melodic, bluesy rock that makes you want to sing along.

Dream Theater, “Answering the Call” off “A View from the Top of the World”

It’s always an event with Dream Theater releases new music, and “A View from the Top of the World” is no exception. The band’s 15th studio album offers more than 70 minutes of prog-metal bliss, with long, lush songs that put the listener in a sort of daze throughout. “Answering the Call” is a highlight.

The End Machine, “Destiny” off “Phase2”

The End Machine returned in 2021 with their sophomore album, “Phase2,” featuring the kind of monstrous rock music one would expect from a lineup featuring A-listers George Lynch, Jeff Pilson, Robert Mason and Steve Brown. The album closes with “Destiny,” a bouncy, jam-infused rock ‘n’ roll rager.

Epica, “Code of Life” off “Omega”

Epica’s music is always, well, epic, and they deliver powerful, dramatic songs on their latest album, “Omega.” The track “Code of Life” is a stand out, with its lush textures and operatic vocals.

Evanescence, “Better Without You” off “The Bitter Truth”

Evanescence emerged with their first album of original music in roughly a decade, “The Bitter Truth.” One of the album’s most popular singles is “Better Without You,” a rebellious, defiant hard rock number featuring dark sonic textures and Amy Lee’s emotive vocals, in which she sings, “It makes me smile to know that I’m better without you.”

Foo Fighters, “Waiting on a War” off “Medicine at Midnight”

If there was a true sign that 2021 would be better than 2020 (how could it not, right?), then that sign was Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters releasing a new album. The triumphant “Medicine at Midnight” feature a more pop-oriented sound than previous Foo Fighters material, but “Waiting on a War” stands out as a true rocker, with big guitars and aggressive rhythms.

Gilby Clarke, “Tightwad” off “The Gospel Truth”

Gilby Clarke unleashed his latest solo set this year, “The Gospel Truth,” and the album plays like a fun jam session between friends. “Tightwad” is especially catchy, with a fun theme about that guy in your friends’ group who never wants to pick up the tab.

Gojira, “Another World” off “Fortitude”

In the world of modern metal, Gojira’s “Fortitude” was one of the most anticipated albums in 2021, coming five years after their previous release, “Magma.” With a powerful blend of death metal and sludge, plus a hint of pop sensibility, Gojira made the record worth the wait. The song “Another World” truly takes one to a different existance.

Green Day, “Pollyanna”

Green Day are gearing up for a big 2021 tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy, and to get fans pumped up for the run, they recently released a new track, “Pollyanna.” The tune is an upbeat, carefree listen, which is refreshing after a very difficult 2020. It also screams “summer anthem” with its sunny feel.

Grey Daze, “Soul Song (Stripped)” off “Amends…Stripped”

Following the release of their special “Amends” album in 2020, Grey Daze returned early this year with a new, acoustic EP, titled “Amends…Stripped,” featuring five reimagined tracks from the album. While all of the offerings show of the late, great Chester Bennington’s vocals, “Soul Song (Stripped)” is extra special, with its intimate feel.

Greta Van Fleet, “Heat Above” of “The Battle at Garden’s Gate”

To say there was lot of anticipation behind Greta Van Fleet’s 2021 album, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate,” is an understatement. After all, the Michigan rockers have been coined the biggest band to rise up over the past few years. The album dropped in April, and lead single “Heat Above” is getting plenty of heat on rock radio, thanks to its cool retro vibe and straight-ahead rock appeal.

H&B, cover of The Zombies’ “Time of the Season”

Alex Grossi of Quiet Riot and Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses have a knack for turning cover songs into something completely unique from their original form. The guys recently took on The Zombies’ “Time of the Season,” and they brought a fresh sound to the song. Reed’s wife, Nadja Reed, sings leads on it, to boot.

Iron Maiden, “Darkest Hour” off “Senjutsu”

Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden returned in 2021 with their highest-charting album in the U.S. yet, the dark “Senjutsu.” Fans looking for a lush, majestic-sounding metal anthem have it in “Darkest Hour,” which features minor chords and Dickinson’s strong vocals as he sings about Winston Churchill and World War II.

Izzy Presley, “Speedin’ Back to My Baby” (Ace Frehley cover)

It’s always refreshing when someone covers a popular rock song but puts their own spin on it. Such is the case with Izzy Presley’s Ace Frehley of “Speedin’ Back to My Baby,” which features strong guitars and a fun, feel-good delivery that really brings the song to life.

James DiGirolamo, “The Girl Who Has Everything”

If you’re looking for something a bit more mellow than most of the picks on this list, then James DiGirolamo is an apt choice. The Nashville multi-instrumentalist shines on his new EP, “Paper Boats,” offering a collection of laid-back, whimsical dream-pop. “The Girl Who Has Everything” recalls James Blunt and Jason Mraz.

Jerry Cantrell, “Brighten” off “Brighten”

Jerry Cantrell may be best known as the lead guitarist and occasional vocalist for Alice in Chains, but he really shines as a solo artist. On “Brighten,” Cantrell’s third solo release, the musician offers some of his finest songwriting to date, with lyrics that take the listener through a tunnel of darkness to, well, the bright.

L.A. Guns, “Cannonball” off “Checkered Past”

L.A. Guns just keep churning out new music, and it’s all solid. On “Cannonball,” the lead track off their new album “Checkered Past,” Tracii Guns, Phil Lewis and company charge ahead with a rollicking rock anthem that gets the album off to a solid start.

Light the Torch, “Let Me Fall Apart” off “You Will Be the Death of Me”

Light the Torch go in a dark, pensive direction on their latest album, “You Will Be the Death of Me,” which is great for the heavy metal genre. “Let Me Fall Apart” is an early winner off the set, with former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones’ vocalist showing through strong and clear, as always, amid heavy backings.

Limp Bizkit, “Dad Vibes” off “Still Sucks”

Just call this the year of Limp Bizkit. (Just for the record, I’ve championed their return for years.) Fred Durst and company headlined Lollapalooza 2021. The set was the most talked-about of the entire festival, thanks partly to Durst’s new “Dad Vibes” look, complete with a gray, mature mop-top and handlebar mustache, red sunglasses and windbreaker. Following Lollapalooza, Limp Bizkit released an official single for “Dad Vibes” and full-length, “Still Sucks.”

The Living, “Two Generation Stand” off “The Living 1982”

The Living’s “1982” record was crafted, well, in the early’-80s, but it saw its official release in 2021 on Loosegroove Records, the label spearheaded by Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam and Regan Hagar of Brad. It’s a good thing The Living’s songs finally saw the light of day, as tracks such as “Two Generation Stand” feature a raw, intoxicating punk rock that could only come from the genesis of a musical movement.

Mammoth WVH, “Don’t Back Down” off “Mammoth WVH”

A ton of anticipation surrounded the debut album from Wolfgang Van Halen’s Mammoth WVH, which dropped in early June. Ahead of the release, Wolfgang dropped the high-octane “Don’t Back Down,” featuring meaty guitars and a catchy, rock-fueled chorus. The song is Mammoth WVH’s second rock radio hit, right behind debut single, “Distance,” which dropped in 2020.

Mark Tremonti, “Marching in Time” off “Marching in Time”

Mark Tremonti has a strong lead singing voice, but fans first got to know him as the lead guitarist in Creed and Alter Bridge. With his solo band, his vocals really shine, and songs such as “Marching in Time” show off Tremonti’s range, power and charisma.

Mastodon, “Sickle and Peace” off “Hushed and Grim”

Mastodon have a reputation for delivering both live and in the studio, and decades into their career, they’re still delivering. “Hushed and Grim,” the band’s eighth studio album, features imaginative instrumentation and personal lyrics about losing the band’s longtime manager and friend, Nick John, to pancreatic cancer. “Sickle and Peace” is a stand-out. The guys are up for a Grammy with the new record, to boot.

Melvins, “Caddy Daddy” off “Working with God”

Melvins never put out the same record twice, and that’s apparent with the band’s latest offering, 2021’s “Working with God.” “Caddy Daddy” is one of the heavier songs off the set, featuring dark, sludgy guitars and moody atmospheres. It proves that Buzz Osborne and Melvins can truly pull off any sound.

Metallica, “Sad but True (Take 36 – February 5th, 1991)” remastered off “The Black Album” reissue

Metallica celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The Black Album” this year. In honor, the band is reissuing the set with a bunch of remastered song versions, demos, covers and more. As the band was recording the version of “Sad But True” that made “The Black Album,” they went through dozens of takes in the studio. They recently released “Take 36” from February 5, 1991, which is available in the deluxe box set. This take has a special, raw character.

Myles Kennedy, “In Stride” off “The Ides of March”

Myles Kennedy returned this year his sophomore solo album, “The Ides of March,” bringing a much more electrified set than on his previous solo set, “Year of the Tiger.” While each song has its own charm, “In Stride” is a standout, thanks to its cool slide guitar, blues tones and feel-good, mid-song jam session.

Night Ranger, “Breakout” off “ATBPO”

Classic rockers Night Ranger have a new album on tap, “ATBPO,” out Aug. 6, and the first song off the set is here. “Breakout” is a tuneful, feel-good rock anthem with catchy riffing and powerful vocals, fitting perfectly in their catalog.

P.O.D., “Alive” off the “Satellite” reissue

P.O.D. celebrate the 20th anniversary of their “Satellite” album this year, the chart-topping set that features seminal rock radio hits such as “Alive” and “Youth of the Nation.” To celebrate, the band is releasing a 27-song reissue package of the album, featuring rarities, remixes and more. An early single off the reissue package is a semi-acoustic version of “Alive” that sings and soars.

The Pretty Reckless, “Standing at the Wall” off “Death by Rock and Roll”

The new year brought a new album for Taylor Momsen and The Pretty Reckless with “Death by Rock and Roll,” a retro-sounding rock record with solid songwriting. “Standing at the Wall” is a lesser-known cut off the set, but we think it should be a single, thanks to its tuneful melody and pop sensibility that recalls an Elton John or even Simon & Garfunkel vibe.

Rob Zombie, “Crow Killer Blues” off “The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy”

It feels good to have Rob Zombie back with new music, “The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy,” and “Crow Killer Blues” is one of the new album’s moments. As expected, the entire album is influenced by horror and terror, and “Crow Killer Blues” caps off the album with a creepy, 5-minute rendition of one of Zombie’s most thrilling pieces.

Serj Tankian, “Elasticity” of the “Elasticity” EP

Serj Tankian’s new EP, “Elasticity,” consists of songs that were fashioned with the idea of being on System of a Down’s next album. Instead, those tunes wound up on Tankian’s solo EP, but that doesn’t’ make them any less thrilling, as especially evidenced in the EP’s title track, an experimental, imaginative rock songs that combines everything from animal noises to random lyrics.

Smith/Kotzen, “Glory Road” off “Smith/Kotzen”

The self-titled debut album from Adrian Smith and Richie Kotzen, “Smith/Kotzen,” arrived in 2021, and as expected, the set delivered with memorizing guitars, raw vocals and a bluesy flair. “Glory Road” is a highlight, with its jam-y, organic feel and strong swing.

Staind, “It’s Been Awhile” (new, acoustic live version) off “Live: It’s Been Awhile”

Staind celebrate the 20th anniversary of their seminal “Break the Cycle” record this year, and in honor, the band released a new live album, “Live: It’s Been Awhile,” filmed during Staind’s seminal 2019 shows at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. One of the live cuts off the set is an emotive version of “It’s Been Awhile,” which gives the song a whole new life.

Styx, “Crash of the Crown” off “Crash of the Crown”

Styx are back with a new album, “Crash of the Crown,” and on it, the longstanding band proves they’re still as imaginative and inspired as they were on day one. The album’s title track features an epic sound, with dynamic keyboards, powerful vocals and towering guitars.

Times of Grace, “Medusa” off “Songs of Loss and Separation”

Time of Grace, featuring Adam Dutkiewicz and Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage, are back with a new album, “Songs of Loss and Separation,” on July 16. The album’s debut single, “Medusa,” is a dark and heavy track that the band says is about a broken and abusive relationship. It’s a topic that, unfortunately, strikes a chord with many, making this a very cathartic song.

Todd La Torre, “Vanguards of the Dawn Wall” off “Rejoice in the Suffering”

Todd La Torre, current vocalist for Queensryche, released his debut solo album this year, “Rejoice in the Suffering.” It was a pleasant surprise for metal-heads, as the record is brutally heavy with pummeling riffs and rhythms. “Vanguards of the Dawn Wall” is especially aggressive and heavy, in the best possible way.

Upon Wings, “Eternal Way” off “Eternal Way”

Upon Wings, the band featuring Audio Ink Radio managing editor Anne Erickson, returned after several years away in 2021 with a new single, “Eternal Way.” The song features nu-metal riffs a la Kevin Jardine amid Erickson’s operatic vocals, with guests appearances from Primal Fear and Gamma Ray frontman Ralf Scheepers and Falling in Reverse lead touring guitarist Max Georgiev.

Within Temptation, “Shed My Skin”

Sharon den Adel and Within Temptation are back with a new single, “Shed My Skin,” and as typical with the band’s music, the track has a unique theme. “Shed My Skin,” which features German metalcore band Annisokay, is about “inevitable changes in life.” The song features den Adel’s strong, soaring melodic vocal lines tucked into a metal anthem.

Weezer, “The End of the Game” off “Van Weezer”

Weezer released not one but two new albums in 2021, the Radiohead-inspired “OK Human” and Van Halen-enthused “Van Weezer.” On the latter, Rivers Cuomo and the crew dish out plugged-in, hard rock tunes, and “The End of the Game” soars with its great melody and riffing.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music, Rock