The first half of 2021 had little to offer as far as new music arrivals. The release schedule was slow, but as the pandemic pushed on, more artists unveiled what they had been up to over the course of lockdown, making for an influx of new material during the back half of the year.

For some artists, 2021 was a year of firsts: KK's Priest, Mammoth WVH and Dirty Honey released debut albums. Others dug into others' catalogs, with artists such as Chrissie Hynde, Peter Frampton, the Black Keys and Jason Isbell releasing albums of cover songs. Some - like Iron Maiden, Yes and the esteemed duo of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - released their first new work in years, much to the delight of eagerly waiting fans.

Another highlight of the year arrived in the form of collaborative endeavors: Paul McCartney's 2020 release McCartney III was refashioned as McCartney III Imagined, which featured reworked cover versions of the album's songs. Metallica indulged in a similar project, inviting younger artists like Weezer, St. Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers and dozens more to cover their favorite songs from the band's classic Black Album.

Elton John also teamed up with friends - including Stevie Nicks, Dua Lipa and Eddie Vedder - for an album whose title, The Lockdown Sessions, perhaps most accurately described the working reality of 2021 for most artists.

While the pandemic may have thwarted most touring plans and ended up reworking how records were made, there was a lot to listen to this past year, as you'll see in the below list of the Top 40 Rock Albums of 2021.

Top 40 Rock Albums of 2021

In spite of the ongoing pandemic, music soldiered on.