Astral Noize’s Ones to Watch 2021

The musical landscape of 2021 looks slightly different than the one we started off with in 2020. Usually these Ones To Watch pieces are full of bands who’ve booked lengthy tours or prestigious festival slots, and after months of no concerts and constant government fuck-ups in relation to Covid, it feels tenuous to start getting excited just yet. Nevertheless, music was one of the few areas in which 2020 excelled, even as Rishi Sunak made it clear what those in power think of people working in the creative industries. Despite the lack of gigs and the odd delayed release, livestreams and new releases became something to look forward to in a year otherwise devoid of much in the way of positivity.

So going into 2021, a glimmer of hope for a Covid-less future now gently creeping over the horizon, we’re keeping our expectations low for live music but high for new releases, with countless bands sitting on fresh material and plenty more currently writing and recording. Here are our writers’ picks for the bands to keep an eye on over the next twelve months.

Divide And Dissolve

Drone-doom duo Divide And Dissolve were responsible for one of the standout albums of 2018 in the form of their stunning full-length Abomination, but upcoming record Gas Lit is without a shadow of a doubt set to become one of the albums of not just 2021 but the entire decade ahead. It’s an absolute beast of a record, profound and experimental but with a cohesive atmosphere. And despite a lack of vocals, the band’s aim to decolonise, decentralise and destroy white supremacy through noise hits home due to the immense, overwhelming power of the music. [GP]


In 2020 Congolese-Belgian electronic producer Nkisi inaugurated the launch of her Initiation label with a deliriously humid EP, combining trance-inducing rhythm and fever dream atmospheres for one of the most hypnotic releases of the year. She describes her approach as “exploring the hidden phantasmagorical properties of rhythm”, and it’s evident she’s used the time in isolation to perfect her craft. We hope 2021 will be an even more productive year for her, as the experimentation of traditional African rhythms and interstellar synths in her music captures an ecstasy made haunting as our spatiotemporal experience turns inwards. [JJN]

Grief Ritual

Grief Ritual’s sinister, caustic blackened hardcore hits like a ferocious, streamlined Deafheaven. Their approach is decidedly trimmed of fat, embracing the darkest depths of the genre in a lightning-fast assault. What little light comes in a trickle, pinpricks dancing over a dark, dramatic backdrop, but there is plenty of variation in the undulations of their moods and textures, albeit all different takes on a crushingly bleak aesthetic. We’re all in need of something to burn away the crust that’s formed around our brains over the past year, and Grief Ritual are the band to deliver. [TC]

Alien Weaponry

Since they hail from New Zealand, one of the only countries in existence to not wholly botch their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, thrash upcomers Alien Weaponry have actually been able to tour fairly recently, completing the Level One tour (a reference to NZ’s lowest Covid alert tier) just over a month ago. Now, they’re gearing up to complete album number two, three years after their full-length debut set out their stall as a young band not to be missed. Expect riffs, anti-imperialist tunes and lyrics inspired by Māori folklore. We can’t wait. [GP]

Portrayal Of Guilt 

Arguably one of the hardest working bands in the screamo/blackend hardcore world, Portrayal Of Guilt look set to stamp their mark on 2021 in a huge way. Their sophomore album, We Are Always Alone, looks set to be their heaviest and darkest yet with vocalist/guitarist Matt King digging into his own mental anguish, with the enduring sense that any light at the end of the tunnel always seems to be just out of reach. Alongside the release of the record via Closed Casket Activities, the band will also release a short horror film which accompanies the album, highlighting the extra mile of creativity that Portrayal Of Guilt are willing to go when it comes to making their art. [TB]

Fucked And Bound

When Seattle hardcore ensemble Fucked And Bound announced that the recent reissue of their raging 2018 album Suffrage was fully live, the caption ended with the enticing admission that the band have “SO MUCH new music to share”. It’s enough to have us on the edge of our seats waiting for the band’s next chapter. If the new material in question is anything like their output thus far, expect destructive hardcore with shades of thrash metal and powerviolence, driven by frenetic tempos and a gritty belligerence that’s maintained even on sludgier numbers like ‘Abuse Of Registry’. With the world going to shit, sometimes all you need is cathartic music to focus your anger and make you realise that change is possible. A new Fucked And Bound album couldn’t come sooner. [GP]


The Liverpool gore metal legends were just one of many bands who had their plans scuppered in 2020. They were meant to release their first new album in seven years back in August last year but ended up releasing an EP, Despicable, instead. The one upside of this is that the incendiary four tracks on the EP have well and truly whetted our appetites for what is to come. If the forthcoming Torn Arteries features the same level of melodic death metal excellence as Despicable then it’ll end up being one of the albums of 2021. [DC]


Buffalo, NY trio Starjuice have just the three tracks to their name thus far, all contained within their September demo Reminders, but they’re enough to have us eagerly awaiting more. We’ve got no idea whether to expect any new music in 2021 but the quality of this quarantine-made demo alone could be enough to see them garnering more widespread attention sometime in the near future. The band’s strain of punk is relentlessly infectious from start to finish, whether it’s the driving rhythms of ‘Empty Sheets’, the poignant indie vibes of ‘Old Letters’ or the unassuming sincerity of arguably their strongest track, ‘Spare Keys’. [GP]


Releasing in March, A History Of Nomadic Behaviour will be only the Louisiana sludge metal band’s sixth studio album in a 30-year-plus career that has included spells in jail, drug abuse and some of the most incendiary live shows in history. Inspired by the bleak political situation in America over the last few years, the album is set to be an excruciatingly heavy indictment of the world we live in, and if lead single ‘High Risk Trigger’ is anything to go on it could be one of the band’s best albums yet. [DC]

Genghis Tron

With it having been nearly thirteen years since their last album, the exemplary Board Up The House, Genghis Tron have now teased their return from hiatus and the release of a new album on Relapse Records in 2021. It’s probably best to expect the unexpected from the remaining duo of Hamilton Jordan and Michael Sochynsky but this is sure to be another genre-straddling album of unconventional metal and turbulent electronica. The recently announced inclusion of Tony Wolski (The Armed) on vocals and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists, Sumac) serves only to reinforce that this should be highly anticipated. [JH]

Acid Mammoth

It’s been a good few years for doom and stoner rock, with newer acts like Dopelord, Spaceslug and Wicked Wizzard all releasing fantastic albums. With their third record, due this year, Greece’s Acid Mammoth look set to further add to that list. Caravan, released through Heavy Psych Sounds, should see the band expanding on their heady mix of stoner, doom and space rock to create something totally monolithic, with the single ‘Berzerker’ sounding like they’re on top of their game. If you get your kicks from Sabbath riffs and spaced-out vibes then this is a band you need to check out. [DC]


It’s been a long, challenging process for Bossk since starting work on their follow-up(s) to 2016’s full-length debut, Audio Noir (which ranks among the best that post-metal has to offer), over a year ago but the end is nearly in sight. There’s promise of more details imminent but with a working title of Migration, the addition of new aspects and layers to the band’s already expansive sound, and no doubt some mammoth riffing, there’s much to get excited about. And that’s before considering the prospect that Bossk intend on releasing a mellower album back-to-back with this one. [JH]


In the hardcore world there is a wave of exciting new straigh-edge bands cropping up all across the world. One such band who look set to take 2021 by the balls is Orange County’s Dare. The four-piece bring an eclectic mix of music to the table, and it is these differing personal interests which make Dare much more than your typical Youth Crew hardcore band. Having recently signed to legendary hardcore label Revelation Records and citing influences such as Uniform Choice, Minor Threat and Insted, it seems as if the band’s star in the hardcore scene is set to burn much brighter this year. [TB]

Pupil Slicer

Signing to Prosthetic Records in 2020 on the strength of 2017’s self-titled EP and a couple of splits, London-based trio Pupil Slicer are gearing up to release their full-length debut in 2021. A standalone single from the same sessions, ‘L’Appel Du Vide’ is elevated by a typically uncompromising production from Pedram Valiani and mastering by Brad Boatright, and offers a blindingly intense preview of the mathcore/grindcore hybrid that Pupil Slicer will be letting loose in 2021. Certainly ones to keep an eye out for. [JH]

Fuming Mouth 

When a band releases an absolutely crushing debut album, and then goes on to sign to a bigger label, the mouth salivates at the possibilities of what could be coming next. For New England death metal behemoths Fuming Mouth, teaming up with Nuclear Blast seems like a marriage made in the fiery depths of hell. With the trio having released the absolutely blistering three track EP Beyond The Tomb to mark them joining the record label, this is hopefully just an amuse-bouche of what this partnership can offer up. For their intense sound Fuming Mouth have tapped into death metal’s depraved depths, but influences of bands like Trap Them, Nails and Black Breath still remain to give their music a hardcore tint. [TB]

Serpent Column

The one-person black metal project Serpent Column has released an album every year since 2017, so we are probably (hopefully) right in expecting them to release something again in 2021. While their style of playing may call to mind acts such as D*athspell Omega, or even Botch, every subsequent release they’ve put out has tuned up the aggression to the point the dissonance and frenetic rhythm is almost panic attack inducing. Which is perfect for another year in liminal space, where emotions just about never emerge from their planes of immanence, and the mediated politics of horror and revulsion flow through our passive bodies and psyches. This may be the closest any of us will come to feeling anything for a while. [JJN]


It’s important to note upfront that UK metallic hardcore firebrands Ithaca have implored their fans to exercise patience as they struggle to finalise their latest record during a third national lockdown, but forgive us as we instead get giddy about the prospect of the follow-up to 2019’s immense The Language Of Injury. The band will have their work cut out for them to top (or even match) their previous effort, but we’re confident that they’re more than up to the task. [GP]


Formed out of the ashes of Iwrestledabearonce, Spiritbox offer up a less frenetic but far groovier output compared to their previous project. Their 2020 single ‘Holy Roller’ gave fans a brief insight as to what to expect from the band going forward, and judging by the song any future material will be full of bone-crushing djent-flavoured riffs. This project also seems to give vocalist Courtney LaPlante more freedom to express herself, and it almost feels like she is now free from the shackles of expectations in Iwrestledabearonce. Spiritbox are a band that have got a lot of people in the music industry excited for what is to come next, and it is easy to see why. [TB]


Afro-Portuguese label Príncipe had an exceptional 2020, considering that dancefloors globally were shut. Instead their artists, such as Blacksea Não Maya, turned inwards, sculpting hypnagogic, ethereal electronic weapons for a delirious soundtrack to a year spent in isolation. Where music might have been the only opportunity for communication our readers have had for over a year, every single Príncipe release of 2020 dripped with the personality of their creators, offering vibrantly textured stories punctuated by lucid rhythms and woven in lysergic melody. They were the only bridge between the figments of intimacy in our imagination and the anticipation for a life, social and actualised. [JJN]


Hopefully 2021 gives Príncipe artists like NÍDIA the chance to travel and breath the air of different cultures again, so they can imbue their productions with the latent conviviality characteristic of all their work. The diasporic influences within their music rely on the meeting of bodies, as do we, to give them life, and it is in a world where we can feel the rhythm of people again that their music finds its most appropriate context. Even in their darkest tracks the joyous individuality of their producers take command, reminding us that there is liberation in simple being and that the purest pleasure is in the simple act of expression. [JJN]

Inconcessus Lux Lucis

The second album by Inconcessus Lux Lucis, The Crowning Quietus, was one of the most exciting black metal albums of recent times. Combining trve kvlt darkness with a genuine appreciation for and love of classic metal, it was that rarest of things – a black metal album that sacrificed none of its grimness in pursuit of heavy metal thrills, like a perfect combination of ‘90s Darkthrone and, well, modern Darkthrone. Word is that their next album is in its final stages of creation, so hopefully it will be unleashed in 2021. [SW]

Hundred Year Old Man

In the past Astral Noize Records has teamed up with these Leeds post-metallers for a Cassette Store Day exclusive tape, so it’s safe to say we’re big fans. The band announced back in early December that the recording of their next album was completed, and about to be handed off to Nø Studio’s Joe Clayton for mixing. The band have a knack for expansive tracks encompassing both grimy sludge metal catharsis and gorgeous post-rock crescendos, so expect something big. [GP]


The duo of Ted and Gylve are pretty much everyone’s favourite metal-loving uncles, having disowned their controversial past and settled into a role of going “isn’t metal great?” to anyone who will listen. Having rejuvenated their sound since abandoning ’90s trve kvlt black metal in favour of simply enjoying metal in all its various forms, the news of a new album has been greeted with both excitement, but also curiosity. Will we get the metal-punk of F.O.A.D., the heavy metal heroics of The Underground Resistance, or will they continue their doomier explorations as heard on Arctic Thunder and Old Star? No one knows, but we can be confident that whatever they unleash, it’s gonna rule. [SW]


Undoubtedly one of the most creative and exciting bands in modern metal, it’s perhaps no wonder that sci-fi loving genre-defiers Dvne were snapped up by Metal Blade off the back of their monstrous 2017 LP Asheran. The band originally planned to drop the follow-up in summer 2020, but have subsequently pushed the release back to Spring of this year. If you’re in any doubt, recent EP Omega Severer showcased that they’re still more than capable of delivering the goods. [GP]

Words: George Parr, Dan Cadwallader, John Higham, Tim Birkbeck, Joe-Julian Naitsri, Tom Coles, Stuart Wain

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