Ones To Watch: Top 20 Artists Set To Conquer 2021 - Part Two

Photo: Kieran Gallop

2020 is dead, long live 2021. As we enter the mysterious new world of 2021, it's time to look forward to the almost endless amount of new brilliant music set to provide escapism and soundtrack what is set to be a very eventful year. With that in mind, we present the second part of our list on the top artists set to breakthrough this year and make 2021 rightfully theirs. If you've yet to catch the first part, you can do so here!

Meet Me @ The Altar

One would be forgiven in believing Meet Me @ The Altar where a band at least a decade into their career going from their output alone. Such is the sheer quality and passion of the American pop-punk trio. Starting out as a project who worked purely online due to all three members living in different states, Meet Me @ The Altar essentially went from being a digital passion project to being lauded as the modern saviours of American pop punk in the blink of an eyelid. However, it’s nigh on impossible to contest such praise when digging into their sound. Drawing heavy inspiration from the halcyon years of early Paramore, the group offer a blissful respite from the stereotypical perceptions of a genre that many perceive to be filled with questionable white boys lamenting their failed romantic endeavours.

Following on from the release of a string of extended plays and their self-released full length Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind in summer 2017, Meet Me @ The Altar have gone from strength to strength and achievement from achievement due to their full bodied sugar dipped bounce and fresh viewpoint on a genre that has been probed countless times. Despite such accolades, 2021 is the year the band will ascend to stardom. Over the next 12 months the band are set to embark on a marathon run with Hot Mulligan, appear at Riot Fest alongside My Chemical Romance and release their second long play via Fuelled By Ramen. Regardless of your position on pop punk, it's impossible not to fall in love with the spirit and joy of Meet Me @ The Altar.

FFO: Paramore, The Story So Far, Stand Atlantic

TL;DR: Catchy sugar laced pop-punk void of toxic stereotypes that's simply impossible not to adore.

The Hyena Kill

The alt-metal troupe The Hyena Kill have been bubbling beneath the metropolitan streets of Manchester for a fair few years now, but this is set to be year where they burst forth from the subterranean rooms they inhabit. Originally starting out as a two piece making putrid noises in the vein of Deftones, Helmet and a particularly filthy Queens Of The Stone Age, the tail end of last year saw the group enter an exciting new chapter with the inclusion of two new members and the announcement of their forthcoming new record. Releasing in March via APF Records, the recently announced A Disconnect is set to showcase The Hyena Kill doing what they do best; creating an utter maelstrom of diesel coated noise.

As proven with their latest single ‘Bleached’, the unit offer metal at its most nasty, with elements of Chelsea Wolfe and the full frontal obnoxiousness of Nirvana bubbling alongside thoughts of God Damn and The St Pierre Snake Invasion. Following on from shows with the likes of Arcane Roots, Employed To Serve and even Bo Ningen, 2021 is set to see the underground sounds of The Hyena Kill level entire city blocks.

FFO: Helmet, The Saint Pierre Snake Invasion, God Damn

TL;DR: Ignorantly dense noise caked alt-metal from the inner hollows of Manchester


Potentially one of the biggest success stories of last year, even with the collapse of live music 2020 still saw the Canadian progressive metal trio Spiritbox smash through the glass ceiling before reaching heights many can only dream of. Harkening thoughts of Northlane and TesseracT at their most emotive, expressive and approachable, the three piece achieved near global acclaim last year with a hat trick of spell binding singles that premiered the group’s effortless take on melodic technicality.

However, it was the release of their most recent single ‘Constance’ that truly cemented their place within the annuls of modern metal. Documenting the deeply personal matter of grief in the wake of a loved one's passing, the intimate single is a heart wrenching exploration of an interpersonal concept articulated with elegance and composure. With a full length debut tentatively pencilled in and a contract with Rise Records signed, one can only imagine what stratospheric heights Spiritbox will ascend to before the dawn of 2022.

FFO: Northlane, TesseracT, Dream State

TL;DR: Hauntingly emotive and powerful progressive metal that sees the genre being moved into new light

Pupil Slicer

To be put simply, Pupil Slicer are an extreme proposition for extreme times. A highly mercurial entity spawned from the UK’s mathcore scene, the London trio present a serrating sound that’s composed of equal parts mathcore, grindcore and brutalising powerviolence. There’s absolutely nothing cordial about the group’s output; it lacerates the skin rapidly prior to brutally fracturing the bones that lie beneath.

Such a description may sound hyperbolic, but the group's recent debut single ‘L’appel Du Vide’ established their finesse in crafting intimidatingly ruthless aural hurt perfectly. Featuring guest vocals from Carson Pace of the notorious mathcore unit The Callous Daoboys, the single authentically documents the call of the void that lies beyond and the disturbing anxiety intrusive thoughts leave in their wake. An expertly crafted stream of tormented conscious that presents the tangled nature of the mind in its most violent form, the release stands as the group’s first outing after singing to the decorated Prosthetic Records and a mere suggestion of the things set to come very soon. Intimidating, uncompromising and uninhabited, Pupil Slicer are aural savagery at it’s most mutilating.

FFO: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Vein, Ithaca

TL;DR: The sonic equivalent of aggressively flossing your brain with electrified razor wire.

Last Hyena

Anyone immersed in Bristol’s underground contemporary rock scene will most likely acknowledge this band’s namesake with a knowing grin. For others, a new prospect haplessly lovable awaits. Emerging from the pool of volatile creative ooze that is the UK’s instrumental math and post scene, Last Hyena take the old reliable post tinged math rock formula and revitalise it with ample creative abandon, delicate interweaved textures, expressive emotion and snaring riffs aplenty.

With their take on the genre being met with applause and pundits all across the national math-rock and post-rock scene, it’s no surprise Last Hyena have already enjoyed a range of well deserving spoils. Following on from the release of their I Remember The Future and self-titled extended plays, Last Hyena have found themselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of Thank You Scientist, Tides From Nebula, Delta Sleep, Hypophora and Phoxjaw on the live stage. Major feats for a band with only a handful of tracks to their name, but with a major release set to see the light of the day later this year via their new home Stereo Brain Records, Last Hyena are on the road to perfectly capturing the zeitgeist of the modern instrumental flexibility.

FFO: Cleft, Alpha Male Tea Party, Delta Sleep

TL;DR: Too post to be called math, too math to be called post. Textured instrumental splendour from the West Country.


Collectively sharing a love for socially progressive punk icons such as Rancid, Anti-Flag and Rage Against The Machine all whilst taking inspiration from recent breakthrough case examples Trash Boat, State Champs and Counterfeit, what Drones specialise in is firing punk bombardments from every angle. As attested by countless followers and fans, 2018 saw the band establish themselves with steadfast determinism with the release of Exiled, a concept record on the ongoing European refugee crisis and the societal response to such a humanitarian emergency.

With their name established, 2021 is set to see the band look inwards whilst projecting righteousness rage outwards. The group’s forthcoming record Our Hell Is Right Here is set to showcase the band exploring how the current state of the world can affect one’s mental health and the challenge that comes with self-preservation whilst living in a world actively trying to self-destruct. A grandiose subject for any emerging band, but with the group’s penchant for articulating struggle with visceral detail established, there’s no doubt that Drones will resonate with thousands this year. The name Drones has been coasting through the airspace of the ether for some time now, but this is the year the London alt-punk outfit will deliver a jolting blow to national punk as a whole.

FFO: Anti-Flag, A Wilhelm Scream, Counterfeit

TL;DR: Bombastic new blood punk that's personal as it is broad in scope.

Straight Girl

It’s pretty hard to encapsulate the overall sound of Straight Girl, but their self-confession of being a grave rave succubus is all you need to know essentially. The solo project of one Holly Readman, Straight Girl are the sound of energised queer youth expressed via strobing dark synth, harsh electronics and an unapologetic personality reminiscent of a unique mashup of Gallops and Zand. Raging and quite frankly borderline mad, normal times caught them turning whatever subterranean venues they found themselves in into events of total sensory overload that made that blood rave scene from Blade look like a quaint evening with the grandparents.

Whilst the events of last year forced Straight Girl to put a hopefully short lived stop to their live shows, the project still reigned supreme in the minds of their followers. Towards the end of last year, they released their latest single in the form of ‘Limón’, their most accomplished and arresting offering to date. Laying bare to the inner mechanisms of personal depression and recovery, the track was a deeply intimate look into mental health expressed via highly knit combustible energy. Much like their previous tracks, ‘Limón’ gripped the attention of all that experienced it and stands as a statement of intent for the coming year. With an appearance at this year’s ArcTanGent already booked in, Straight Girl is a total overload of pounding sound that’s as personal as it is contortive.

FFO: Gallops, CLT DRP, Zand

TL;DR: Deeply personal and vivid dark synth pop that laughs at the notion of convention.


Confused, unashamedly loud in every aspect possible and devoted to jarring juxtaposition, Bicurious are a Dublin based instrumental two piece that have left their erratic output ringing in the ears of many continent wide. Offering up a jarring sound that’s born from the entangled and palatable chemistry of members Taran Plouzane and Gavin Purcell, the duo’s jittery and left-field approach to mathy riff madness is consciously composed yet unpredictable in nature. Think the turbo-prog of Cleft being fused with the nonsense-math of Giraffes? Giraffes.

Following on from their 2018 I'm So Confused EP and their recent ‘B-Sides and Bangers’ stream, Bicurious are now teasing their biggest year to date. Confined to the claustrophobia of indoors, the duo have been channelling the itchy cabin fever of perpetual lockdown into what is set to their calculated slap of a full length. Whilst we might have to wait some time before the intensity of the band’s live presence is felt again, with a full length soon to be under their belts, it’s natural many will be very inquiring about Bicurious this year.

FFO: Giraffes? Giraffes!, Tera Melos, Cleft

TL;DR; Mad and reckless instrumental noise to ponder life and break your skull open to. Loud, manic and madly fun.


A product of the festering musical underbelly beneath the historic architecture of St. Petersburg, Wowod have garnered themselves an impressive level of quiet reverence from those devoted to the sounds of post-metal expressionism in recent years. Forming in 2017, the group have become renowned both far and wide due to their utmost devotion to creating music that pendulums from majestic grandiosity to putrid filth in a moments notice. Sometimes basking in the light of progressive post-metal glory and at other times contorting themselves in the dark wrath of d-beat bile, the sound of Wowod is much akin to pocketed flesh stretching taunt and loose against muscle in a fashion that’s grossly memorising.

The band’s 2018 album Nutro stood as a record that cemented their future legacy with finesse, but in comparison to it’s successor, it was only a polite introduction. Their upcoming release Yarost I Proshchenie will present their darkly paramagnetic sound with uneasy yet skull splintering density. Released at the end of this month globally via Church Road Records, like an unstoppable corruption, the forthcoming record from Wowod is set to see the band paint the world in their vision using the vicious contents of their theoretically impossible musical palette.

FFO: Respire, Amenra, Cult Of Luna

TL;DR: The sound of blackened wrath juxtaposed with post-metal expansiveness.

Kill The Ideal

Hailing from Boston (The quaint Lincolnshire market town that is), alt-rockers Kill The Ideal present that a sound that’s ambitious yet authentically exciting. Drawing influence from early 2010s UK alt-rock in the key of Young Guns and Lower Than Atlantis alongside stadium slaying American anthemic rock, the upstart’s work is the sound of a band absolutely gunning for the big leagues.

Displaying just the right amount of conscious swagger and attitude, Kill The Ideal’s initial work thus far has been met with grins across the board, especially with the vocal work of Ash Wilson harkening thoughts of Madina Lake's Nathan Leone in his prime. Still, even with such concrete groundwork laid out, the band are poised to attack the year with zeal. This February will see the band finally release their eagerly anticipated EP Against The World, and if the reception of their early work was anything to go by, it’s guaranteed to find a place in the hearts of many. Swaggering, colossal and composed with care, Kill The Ideal are flying the flag for modern UK rock with confidence.

FFO: Young Guns, Madina Lake, Normandie

TL;DR: Swaggering and attitude filled modern rock unafraid bridging the gap between the States and the UK.


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