Wow! What a suck-fest 2016 was, huh? Lemmy goes and dies in the waning moments of 2015 and it’s all gone to hell since then. Bowie, Brexit, Prince, Trump, Mohammad Ali, ISIS, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frye, Harambe, Keith Emerson AND Greg Lake, Standing Rock… the list of death, destruction, and atrocities goes on. Hell, The Cubs even won the World Series, so you know the end must be near! Thankfully though, we metalheads had a treasure-trove of great new music in which to drown our sorrows. There were so many great albums released that it was more difficult than ever for me to work up my year-end best-of list! Who would’ve though that Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, and Darkthrone would all drop their greatest albums in decades? Perhaps another seal of the apocalypse breaking? I’ll let you decide that one for yourself. And as for the younger bands, there seem to be great ones crawling out of the woodwork everywhere.
So, without further ado, I present to you my favorite metal albums of 2016 from across all of the myriad subgenres. Keep in mind please, that this is exactly that… my favorite albums of the year. Yours are undoubtedly different. You probably even strongly disagree with some or all of my selections. Which is perfectly fine. Go write your own damn column!
I’m just kidding. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below and, as always let me know if I missed one of your favorites. I love discovering amazing new bands and albums. My sincere hope is that maybe, by reading this list, some of you will discover your new favorite band or record. Let me know if that happens as well. I love turning people on to new metal and promoting great bands.
So, happy freakin’ holidays to you and may 2017 bring more killer metal and less overall suckyness.
20) Architects All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
What should have been these British metalcore masters’ finest moment may actually prove to be their swan song. Three months after the release of this, their brilliant seventh album, founding guitarist and principle songwriter Tom Searle succumbed to skin cancer at the age of 28. Dan Searle, Tom’s twin brother and the band’s drummer has stated that it is unclear to whether the band will continue on. They wish to do so only if they feel that they are creating something that would make their fallen comrade proud. If it is to be the end, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us will stand as a fiery and eclectic epitaph for both Searle and Architects.
19) Darkthrone Arctic Thunder
The Norwegian godfathers of black metal surprised everyone by returning to their roots after having strayed so far over the years that their previous album was considered crust punk! Arctic Thunder lives up to its name, proclaiming thunderously the return of the kings to their dark throne.
18) Anthrax For All Kings
Scott Ian and company were another band that had kind of been a bit off track for a number of years. You’re never know it by listing to For All Kings. This album ranks right up there with any of the thrash pioneers’ classic records.
17) Dark Funeral Where Shadows Forever Reign
Lord Ahriman and his Satanic legion welcome new vocalist Heljarmadr for their sixth studio album and the first since 2009. The black metal veterans cranked out one hell of a catchy record that, at moments, borders on (dare I say) black-n-roll.
16) Messhugah The Violent Sleep of Reason
Perhaps the most important band in extreme metal this century, The Swedes continue to out djent nearly every one of their contemporaries. The Violent Sleep of Reason absolutely pummels the listener with crushing heaviness and odd time signatures shifting fluidly throughout.
15) The Dillinger Escape Plan Dissociation
After nearly two decades of scaring the living hell out of parents, neighbors and the mainstream with their unique blend of dissonance, math rock and hardcore, the Mighty DEP are hanging it up. But make no mistake, Dissociation is no polite parting; it’s a sucker punch straight to the jaw. We will truly miss you, you glorious bastards!
14) Chthe’ilist Le Dernier Crepuscule
Chthe’ilist hails from Quebec and includes Beyond Creation drummer Philippe Boucher. Prepare to be buried under a suffocating landslide of some of the heaviest death metal that we’ve seen in the last decade.
13) Moonsorrow Jumalten Aika
“Epic heathen metal” is how Moonsorrow describe their sound. One listen to Jumalten Aika and you’ll be inclined to agree. Drawing from sources as diverse as black metal and the folk music of their native Finland, Moonsorrow somehow manages to transcend any specific genre. Not always heavy in the pummeling sense , but none the less extremely great stuff.
12) WODE WODE
The most impressive debut album of the year comes to us courtesy of Manchester, England’s own WODE. Old school black metal has been run into the ground in recent years, but this quartet manages to infuse its own brand of madness into the mix with some serious powerhouse drumming, uniquely menacing riffs and, of course, great songs. The whole records rips but be sure to check out “Spectral Sun.” if nothing else. You won’t be sorry!
11) Inquisition Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Alter Beyond the Celestial Zenith
The Columbian black metal duo continue to show growth nearly 30 years into their career. “Bloodshed…” is the band’s seventh full-length album and, perhaps, it’s most cohesive. Guitarist Dagon and drummer Incubus deliver their Satanic onslaught in an almost hypnotic, otherworldly fashion. It’s hard to believe that that wall of sound is being created by only two people!
10) Charred Walls of the Damned Creatures Watching Over the Dead
CWOTD is a supergroup consisting of ex Judas Priest & Iced Earth singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, former Death Drummer Richard Christy, legendary bassist Steve DiGiorgio and producer/guitaist Jason Seucof. This, their third album is, by far, their best effort to date. One listen to Creatures Watching Over the Dead and you’ll have these tunes stuck in your head, I promise. If only every “supergroup” was actually this super!
9) Metallica Hardwired to Self-Destruct
What can I say? If you had told me back on January 1 that Metallica would release their best album in 28 years, I would have laughed myself silly. Well, it’s the metal legends who are having the last laugh because “Hardwired to Self-Destuct” is a masterpiece that could have easily been released in the period between …And Justice For All and the Black Album. Don’t believe me? Check out the album’s bookends, the opening title track and the ferocious closer “Spit Out the Bone.” Let’s hope that they’ve got more like this in them!
8) Abbath Abbath
Abbath either quit or got fired (depending on who you believe) from Immortal, the pioneering Norwegian black metal unit that he fronted for over two decades. Whatever happened, the man quieted any and all naysayers by up creating a solo debut that crushes anything Immortal had done in years. This is driving black metal with a sense of swagger. Go listen to “Ashes of the Damned” right now. Go on… I’ll wait.
7) Killswitch Engage Incarnate
The band that pretty much invented metalcore continue to rule the roost on their seventh album and the second since the return of original vocalist Jesse Leach. Just a hair less solid than their previous album, the towering Disarm The Descent, but still greater than anything their legions of imitators could ever conceive of. Check out the radio hit “Just Let Go” as well as the steamroller track “The Great Deceit.”
6) Be’lakor Vessels
Aussies Be’lakor have seen their stock rising steadily over the band’s dozen year history. Each of the quintet’s four albums have seen a further refinement of their Gothenburg-worshiping brand of melodic death metal. Vessels captures a band very much at the top of their game. Damn near perfection!
5) Oathbreaker Rheia
Rheia starts out in a most un-metal fashion with singer Caro Tanghe delivering a haunting, A cappella, torch song. But beware, because the Belgian chanteuse can go from a whispering siren’s call to hurricane force, sometimes in the same breath. The three guys behind are also equally adept at turning on a dime, in the process delivering a harrowing ride from hardcore to post-metal to black metal and all points between. With Rheia, Oathbreaker have delivered a master-work that is, at once, tortured and beautiful.
4) Vektor Terminal Redux
Vektor frontman David DiSanto’s vocal delivery is a bit of an acquired taste, but that makes little difference when coupled with the riff-fest that Vektor wind their way through on their third album Terminal Redux. The concept album spans over 70 minutes in length but manages to keep the listener riveted with the aforementioned bonanza of riffs and the compelling tale that the lyrics tell. It’s basically about an astronaut who finds the key to immortality and uses it to gain immense power. Spoiler alert: he eventually grows bored and makes himself mortal again. Never has artsy-ness been coupled with such headbanging!
3) Nails You Will Never Be One of Us
You will never be one of them… they may not even be one of them anymore! Immediately upon the release of this generation’s answer to “Reign In Blood” Nails seemed to collapse under the weight of their own hype. Being catapulted overnight from underground darlings to a “next big thing” status would probably fuck with the best of us. Nails’ solution to the problem was to go on indefinite hiatus, cancelling a scheduled tour and pissing a lot of people off in the process. I, myself was very much looking forward to seeing them at Knotfest this year, but that was one of the scrapped dates. Just within the last week of this writing the band has announced that they are back together and embarking on a tour with Toxic Halocaust and Gatecreeper this winter, so perhaps they were just waiting for the hype to blow over. As for the album itself, the 21 minute run time is just enough to beat the hell out of you and leave you wanting more. Absolute metallic hardcore bliss!
2) Allegaeon Proponent for Sentience
Colorado’s Allegaeon have been one of the brightest stars in the technical death metal universe over the last several years, so fans were obviously concerned by the departure of original vocalist Ezra Haynes in 2015. They need not have worried though. Allegaeon have bounced back with new singer Riley McShane, not missing a beat. Their fourth album is an absolute tech-death, shred-fest with killer songs that loosely form a concept album. They even close it all out with a suprisingly awesome cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions.” I was absolutely certain right up until the last month that this was going to be my album of the year, and then I heard…
1) Khemmis Hunted
Despite being named after an ancient city in Egypt, Khemmis also hail from Colorado (something in the air up there… just kidding… it’s the legal weed, of course). They are only two albums into their career but you would never know it by listening to Hunted. This record is a tour-de-force of doom metal that completely transcends it’s own genre. Never has a doom band sounded so alive and vital. Khemmis are a monolithic riff wellspring flowing into an ocean of awesome tunes. By the time the final notes of the closing title track rang out, I was nearly in tears of joy. This right here is a window back to the time when I first fell in love with the power and majesty of metal but also a declaration of our genre’s future! Not only is Hunted the album of the year, but it may very well go down as one of the all-time greats. If rock is actually dead, then this is the sound of it’s spirit ascending. Go buy this record. Now. Seriously!
Testament Brotherhood of the Snake
Black Crown Initiate Selves We Cannot Forgive
Superjoint Caught Up In the Gears of Application
Rotting Christ Rituals
Inter Arma Paradise Gallows
Serpentine Dominion Serpentine Dominion
Deathspell Omega The Synarchy of Molten Bones
Vader The Empire
Amon Amarth Jomsviking
Skeletonwitch The Apothic Gloom
Anaal Nathrakh The Whole of the Law
Fleshgod Apocalypse King
Downfall of Gaia Atrophy