The 50 Best Rock Bands Right Now (2021)



Hometown: Brighton, U.K.

Why We Love Them: Britain’s favorite metalcore band has developed an obsession with the end of the world — a worthy cause. The band’s February LP, For Those That Wish to Exist, is a deep dive on humanity’s ultimate demise (see: climate change, big heat death) unless we change something soon (we won’t). The new concept album isn’t as heavy as 2018’s terrific Holy Hell, but it still packs a helluva punch, led by Sam Carter’s propulsive wails and booming guitar chugs, copied by just about every band in the genre. Give these dudes an arena — let’s rage ‘til the end.

Finest Moment: The throttling single “Animals,” a song of human instinct and fear, where Carter asks if he should “just pull the pin” on humanity. Do it, you coward! – Bobby Olivier


Hometown: Yulin, Guanxi province, China. Based in Beijing. 

Why We Love Them: Despite the Mandarin lyrics, it’s easy for anyone to love Beijing’s best band. Ants Corrupt Elephant, Backspace’s 2021 sophomore album, boasts enough kaleidoscope-on-the-fritz guitar tones to enthrall Tame Impala’s earliest fans. And their volatile horn bursts escalate The Stooges’ circa-Fun House punk-jazz. Backspace would rather cite Talking Heads. But such familiarity is just fleeting enough to hook you. Before long, you’ll be swept up by Mao Te’s distinctively gargantuan drumming — as primal rhythmically as the album’s titular animal, yet tonally akin to a jungle Jeep outpacing its stampede. As for the philosophical themes, song titles like “Surveillance Is Like Centipede’s Feet” will make you want to learn Chinese to catch every meaningful lyric. If that won’t, frontman Zheng Dong’s earnest yet swaggering singing will. 

Finest Moment: The skidding tire guitar riffs, warbling distortion, and Bedlam percussion of “Flamingo Bridge.”  – Kyle Mullin


Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

Why We Love Them: “They’ll never give you power/ You have to take the power!” BLK JKS chant on “Yoyo! – The Mandela Effect…” Powerful themes aside, this track from the South African trio’s latest album, Abantu / Before Humans, is clearly a freedom-fighter anthem. Chalk that up to the Molotov cocktail horn flares, while the stop-start rhythm section evokes protestors rushing police barricades. Abantu… otherwise celebrates both the band’s heritage and the region’s, with South African choral singing and scorched earth guitar riffs (the later rivaling acclaimed desert rock counterparts Tinariwen and Bombino) throughout. Local flavor and universal yearnings are rarely so seamlessly teamed. 

Finest Moment: The vast breadth of BLK JKS’ range is on full display as the reedy singing, careening guitars and heart-racing rhythm of “Running / Asibaleki” gives way to the subdued percussion gallops and spindly fingerpicking of “IQ(w)ira – Machine Learning, Vol. 1.” – Kyle Mullin

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