It’s July, which means we’re officially past the halfway mark for 2021. While touring hasn’t fully kicked back in, it’s happening, and with the prospect of more live shows on the horizon, more artists are releasing new music.

Of course, music is a subjective thing and the industry is driven largely by personal opinion and taste. Here in this office, my tastes are what I typically call “musically schizophrenic” — I’m all over the place — but I lean heavily into the rock and metal side of things. With that in mind, I’m sharing my personal Top 5 Rock and Metal Releases of 2021 So Far.

These are the records that I’ve listened to the most and still have on repeat, in no particular order.

Fear FactoryAggression Continuum (Nuclear Blast)

It took Dino Cazares years to see this one through to the finish line. Following false starts, ditched mixes, new sessions to re-record, and a much-publicized legal battle and split with vocalist Burton C. Bell, Aggression Continuum is pure Fear Factory — a fitting swan song for Bell should he never return and a crushing set best played front to back. Rifftastic excellence.

Fun Fact: I worked with Fear Factory in 2012 to craft the album trailer for The Industrialist.

TurnstileTurnstile Love Connection (Roadrunner)

This Maryland-based act has been high up on my radar for several years — a hardcore outfit that reminds me of so many bands I loved from the ’90s, most notably HELMET, Quicksand, Fugazi, The Refused, et al., but they have a sound and groove that is distinctly Turnstile.

Their new EP, Turnstile Love Connection, comes complete with an 11-minute short film shot largely on-location at the abandoned Estadio Luis Rodríguez Olmo in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. It’s a hauntingly fantastic visual accompaniment to one of this year’s best releases.

Product of HateYou Brought This War (POH Metalworks)

Full disclosure: My name appears on the back of this album as an Executive Producer, but I 100% fully believe that this is one of 2021’s best metal albums. Product of Hate has come a long way since its founding in 2007, and the long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s Buried in Violence (Napalm Records) delivers a healthy dose of American metal packed with thrash grooves perfect for your summer soundtrack. The band has been releasing music through its own POH Metalworks imprint since 2018, but You Brought This War is the first full-length since parting ways with Napalm Records.

Fun Fact: I directed the music videos for “Redemption” and “You Brought This War.”

Eve 6Grim Value (Velocity Records)

Over the past year or two, Eve 6 has gained some new notoriety for the band’s Twitter antics paired with frontman Max Collins’ alter-ego, Chevy Mustang (check out “Man in the Middle” feat. Kevin Federline). Now, the band is back with a 5-song EP that rips from front to back. It’s punk. It’s rock. I dig it.

SpiritboxEternal Blue (Rise Records)

Technically, this one isn’t even out yet (Eternal Blue streets on Sept. 17) but Canada’s Spiritbox is off to a ridiculously strong start led by singles, including “Holy Roller” and “Circle With Me.” This music is ferociously crushing, and the seamless transition from guttural vocals to soaring melodies is something to behold. The band is about to hit the road with Limp Bizkit.