The 2021 edition of our Annual Report continues with our list of the Top 30 Metal & Hard Rock Songs of 2021. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.
Another heavy year deserves another heavy soundtrack of standout songs. While we still find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, our favorite acts continue to churn out tunes that stir inspiration, hope, anger, rage, sadness, and all the emotions that go with the uncertain world in which we live.
Music serves as an escape we need during difficult times, briefly diverting our attention from the daily grind or reminding us that there is still beauty in the world, no matter the circumstances. In 2021, we were once again blessed with a wide array of stellar music from metal and hard rock acts that did just that.
The iconic Iron Maiden showed no signs of slowing down, while fellow legends Guns N’ Roses finally released a couple of “new” songs. A number of acts — like Slipknot, Halestorm, Ghost, and Zeal & Ardor — didn’t release new full-lengths this year, but offered us a wonderful taste of what’s to come by unleashing singles in advance of their 2022 albums.
Meanwhile, young guns like Turnstile, Wolfgang Van Halen’s Mammoth WVH, and others proved that the future of heavy music is bright.
Revisit the best tracks that 2021 had to offer in our list of the Top 30 Metal & Hard Rock Songs below.
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence
30. The Body – “Tied Up and Locked In”
What did the members of The Body reveal when they peeled back the layers of their usually dense sound? As proven by this track from the first of two albums the duo released in 2021, a silvery, pulsating core that was emitting the screams of a thousand dying souls and an unceasing rhythm that could very well crack open the nearest fault line. –Robert Ham | Listen on Apple Music
29. Des Rocs – “MMC”
Rising New York solo artist Des Rocs released his full-length debut album, A Real Good Person in a Real Bad Place, in September, and gave us one of the most exhilarating rock singles of 2021 with the anthemic “MMC.” The tune combines heavy riffs, post-punk verses, an infectious chorus, and even a vaudevillian piano break, making for an exciting four minutes of music. –Spencer Kaufman | Listen on Apple Music
28. Danny Elfman – “Happy”
What the heck is a gent best known for his work with new wavers Oingo Boingo and for composing soundtracks for Tim Burton films doing in this countdown? Well, Mr. Danny Elfman is no one-trick pony, as heard by his pleasantly surprising tune, “Happy.” Not to be confused with the Pharrell Williams nor the Rolling Stones tracks of the same name, Elfman’s “Happy” starts out as you might expect… before detouring into a delightfully foul-mouthed freak-out three-quarters of the way through. –Greg Prato | Listen on Apple Music
27. Andrew W.K. – “Everybody Sins”
Party-happy guy Andrew W.K. released the cheeky God Is Partying in 2021, featuring the glam-metal-influenced single “Everybody Sins.” The track has a guitar riff that’s uber-catchy yet brutally heavy, as well as a crazy operatic vocal delivery, which makes it an appropriately wild Andrew W.K. song in the best possible fashion. –Anne Erickson | Listen on Apple Music
26. Thank – “Good Boy”
UK act Thank are dabbling in some truly adventurous noise rock, as evidenced by “Good Boy,” the first single from their forthcoming 2022 full-length. As cacophonous as it is beguiling, the song sounds like a burst of manic energy, and on first encounter, actively affronts the listener with its discordance. As extreme as any song on this list without being sonically harsh or brutal, “Good Boy” is a credit to the artful, uncompromising songcraft this young band is cooking up. –J.H. | Listen on Apple Music
25. Warish – “S.H.M. (Second Hand Misery)”
Warish, fronted by skateboard legend Tony Hawk’s son Riley Hawk, came out swinging with their sophomore album, Next to Pay, powered in part by the fiery single “S.H.M. (Second Hand Misery).” The trio’s brand of street metal is part Stooges, part Nirvana, part Misfits, part Sabbath — matching heavy riffs with a punk-rock intensity. And it’s all juxtaposed with footage of Barney the Dinosaur in the official music video. –S.K. | Listen on Apple Music
24. Cynic – “Mythical Serpents”
The untimely passings of bassist Sean Malone and drummer Sean Reinert in 2020 left many fans wondering how Cynic could carry on. As “Mythical Serpents” demonstrates, the answer is extremely well, with the soaring vocals and biting guitar work of founder Paul Masvidal just as strong as ever. Likewise, new members Dave Mackay and Matt Lynch fill in the rest with perfectly suited soundscapes and percussion, ensuring that the track is another progressive/post-metal triumph. –Jordan Blum | Listen on Apple Music
23. Billy Idol – “Bitter Taste”
More than 30 years after nearly dying in a motorcycle crash in Los Angeles, Billy Idol comes to grips with the accident’s meaning for his life on a track that’s both reflective and redemptive. The lyrics find him vowing that “I’m gonna live so hard these broken wings will lift me up to the sun.” Idol wrote “Bitter Taste” with longtime cohort Steve Stevens and others, while Butch Walker produced it for The Roadside EP, an effort that shows even at 66, Idol is unbowed and still snarling — and just a little bit wiser. –Gary Graff | Listen on Apple Music