10 most surprising collaborations of 2021

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Let’s be honest, we all love it when artists collaborate with each other. And more often than not, we have seen artists from the same scene collaborating. But what happens when musicians from different corners and niches of the rock and metal scene come together and blend their styles? Well, 2021 was the year when a number of such surprising and unexpected collaborations came to be to the delight of many of us. Here’s a list of ten such intriguing team-ups:

snapshot from the video “Afterlife” by AD INFINITUM feat Nils Molin

1. Within Temptation ft. Annisokay – Shed My Skin

Can symphonic metal and post-hardcore merge well together? A quick listen to “Shed My Skin” will have you nodding in agreement (and also possibly headbanging) as WITHIN TEMPTATION‘s brand of modern symphonic metal pairs pretty well with the musical stylings of Germany’s ANNISOKAY, making their collaboration into a real banger. Sharon den Adel’s soaring vocals are balanced by Christoph Wieczorek’s more grounded cleans while the guitar riffs are as wicked as they are thick. The below video is taken from WITHIN TEMPTATION’s virtual concert extravaganza “The Aftermath.”  

Warkings ft. The Lost Lord – Spartacus

WARKINGS and Chris Harms pretty much come from polar opposite genres – power metal and Gothic metal, respectively. Yet their joint effort on “Spartacus” is as surprising as it is intense and powerful. In between The Lost Lord’s harsh vocals and Georg Neuhauser’s cleans, the two balance each other out nicely. This combination also elevates the song from your standard power metal pomp by giving it a gritty edge, fitting to the story of Spartacus. 

Seven Spires feat. Roy Khan – This God is Dead

This is another interesting pairing, as Roy Khan is such an elusive artist that not many get the chance to collaborate with him. But somehow Adrienne Cowan’s music with SEVEN SPIRES convinced him to lend his voice to their 10-minute epic, “This God is Dead,” playing the role of the father. While his vocals are used sporadically throughout the song (making this more of a cameo than a proper featuring), they add a nice touch of warmth and calm whenever they appear.   

Waltari ft. Marko Hietala – Below Zero

After Marko Hietala’s announcement from January that he would not just leave NIGHTWISH but also retire from the public eye, it is both bittersweet and endearing to have a feature with this legendary vocalist. Unsurprisingly, Marko’s vocals match the energy of the guitars in the verses while adding some grittiness to the chorus section, thus elevating the song from your standard heavy metal fare to something epic and robust. The video offers a glimpse into all the hard work that artists put in the studio, and it’s a treat seeing how everything is recorded.

Arion feat. Cyan Kicks – In the Name of Love

Once again different musical styles collide and merge together beautifully as power metal act ARION and Susanna Aleksandra (CYAN KICKS) joined forces on the single “In the Name of Love.” Leaning more towards the electro-pop style of their label mates, this track has a rather simple melody that is backed up by the emotional delivery and delicate harmonization of Susanna Aleksandra and Lassi Vääränen. The dynamic between the two is well balanced and it shows in the strong chorus, making you want to sing along with them.

Twelve Foot Ninja ft. Tatiana Shmayluk – Over and Out

On one side we have an Australian heavy metal band, TWELVE FOOT NINJA and on the other side we have the vocalist of a preeminent European metalcore band… so how would their collaboration sound? Well, it sounds pretty damn groovy, though not as heavy as you’d expect given Tatiana Shmayluk’s menacing growls with JINJER. I would even go so far as to say that her harsh vocals would be out of place here. Instead, the vocal harmonies between her crystal clear voice and Nik “Kin Etik” Barker‘s darker timber are the driving force of the song, especially in the well-balanced chorus.

Ad Infinitum ft. Nils Molin – Afterlife

Symphonic power metal and modern melodic metal are two genres that have gorgeous vocal melodies in the verses and big, anthemic choruses. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that “Afterlife,” the wonderful collaboration between AD INFINITUM and Nils Molin, is such a bombastic single (and my favorite of the year). Adding his imposing vocal range to the mix elevates the song to epic proportions, especially in the bridge and final chorus, as both Nils Molin and Melissa Bonny belt out some impressive highs that counterbalance the low rumble of the instrumentation.

Mercury Circle ft. Cammie Gilbert – Like Matches

MERCURY CIRCLE is a new and mellow addition to the Finnish metal scene, juxtaposing rich atmosphere and ambiance to the usual doom and gloom of most other bands. The collaboration with Cammie Gilbert on the light and poppy Goth anthem, “Like Matches,” is a great indication of what to expect from the rest of the album. Her vocals merge well with Jaani Peuhu’s voice, creating layers of harmony that add to the textured ambiance of the song, making for an immersive daydreaming soundtrack. 

Swallow the Sun ft. Cammie Gilbert – All Hallows Grieve

If the above duet is light and poppy, the feature with SWALLOW THE SUN is a different beast altogether. It’s somber, dark, and deeply emotional, as it deals with loss and grieving. Both Cammie Gilbert and Mikko Kotamäki have a special way of evoking such feelings in the listeners’ hearts; it is nearly impossible that this song won’t resonate with you on some level. Add to that the wonderful storytelling aspect of the music and the subtle instrumentation and orchestration, and what you get is one beautiful piece of music.

The Rasmus ft. Apocalyptica – Venomous Moon

This is probably the least surprising feature on this list as APOCALYPTICA have collaborated with Lauri Ylönen twice before in 2005, on “Bittersweet” and “Life Burns.” It is still great to see these two iconic Finnish bands making music together once again. Even if “Venomous Moon” leans more into THE RASMUS’s pop-rock sensibilities, the added cello melodies elevate the music by giving it an ominous undertone all the while nearly juxtaposing Lauri’s brighter vocal tone. Feelings of nostalgia are almost guaranteed to engulf the listeners, especially older fans of THE RASMUS

Bonus: Charlotte Wessels and Melissa Bonny have collaborated with Dutch DJs Ran-D and Blasterjaxx respectively on two up-beat hardstyle/electro tracks. Watch the videos below:

Besides one-off collaborations on a track from a record, this year artists reached out to other artists to work with on full collaborative albums together. Check out the following titles:

  • Silver Lake (Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen) featuring the likes of Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Håkan Hemlin (Nordman), Einar Solberg (Leprous), Vesa-Matti Loiri, Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis), Björn ‘Speed’ Strid (Soilwork), and Anneke Van Giersbergen (Spotify link)
  • “The Enigma Birth” (Timo Tolki’s Avalon) which has Pellek, Caterina Nix (Chaos Magic), Brittney Slayes (Unleash the Archers), Raphael Mendes (Icon of Sin), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Jake E (Cyhra), Marina LaTorraca (Phantom Elite), Fabio Lione (Angra) as guest singers (Spotify link)
  • “The Major Minor Collective” (The Picturebooks) with the following vocalists Dennis Lyxzén (Refused), Neil Fallon (Clutch), Chris Robertson (Black Stone Cherry), Leah Wellbaum (Slothrust), Jon Harvey (Monster Truck), Elin Larsson (Blues Pills), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Erlend Hjelvik (HJELVIK), Laurent Lacrouts, Mathieu Jourdain (The Inspector Cluzo), Lisa Alley, Ian Graham (The Well) (Spotify link)
  • “New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 2” (Me and that Man) again featured a plethora of guests including Devin Townsend, Myrkur, Randy BlytheAlissa White-GluzOlve Abbath EikemoGary HoltDavid Vincent and many more. (Spotify link)
  • “Missa Cantorem” (Powerwolf) is a bonus album featuring covers by such artists as Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth), Doro Pesch, Matt Heafy (Trivium), Björn ‘Speed’ Strid (Soilwork), Chris Harms (Lord of the Lost), Johannes Eckerström (Avatar), Christopher Bowes (Alestorm), Jari Mäenpää (Wintersun). The album is included with various special formats of “Call of the Wild” (Spotify link 
  • The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson (Heart Healer) which features the vocals of Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires), Netta Laurenne (Smackbound), Youmna Jreissati (Ostura), Ailyn (Her Chariot Awaits), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise), and Anette Olzon (The Dark Element) (Spotify link)
  • “We Are Nøt Okay” (Oceans) is an EP about mental health that features collaborations with Andy Dörner (Caliban), Robb Flynn (Machine Head), Lena Scissorhands (Infected Rain), and Christoph Wieczorek (Annisokay) (Spotify link)
  • The Reckoning (Laurenne/Louhimo) is a joint effort between Finland’s Netta Laurenne (Smackbound) and Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast) (Spotify link)
  • “Smith/Kotzen” (Smith/Kotzen) marks the official collaboration between Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) and Richie Kotzen (The Winery Dogs). (Spotify link)
  • Brother Against Brother” (Brother Against Brother) is another project from Frontiers Records that features two vocalists front and center. This time we have Rena Zonta (Electric Mob) and Nando Fernandes. (Spotify link)

2021 was a rather impressive year for collaborations, wouldn’t you say so?