Oh, the time has come once more! It is once again the beginning of a brand fucking new year and unlike many of my fellow internet fiends who like to talk about the metals and the rocks, I actually wait to present my Top Albums of the year list until the actual new year. Just a thing I prefer to do out of me being a fucking weirdo, but I digress. This last year, disregarding all the tragic losses that are simply too many to name, has been one that was nothing less than fucking phenomenal for us metalheads. All styles across the entire board had something stunning to offer from the unrelenting realm of black metal to the wonderful domain of stoner rock. And while I may love more than 30 albums from this year, I found once again thirty to be the proper amount as it’s not too much and not too little.
And I understand not anyone, if anyone, is going to agree with the albums I’ve chosen and particularly their order. To those people – good on you for having an opinion. Truly, the world is better knowing that you think my shit is an absolute crock of steaming shit. Very nice.
Either way, please go ahead and see what I’ve chosen as my Top 30 Albums of 2016, and please investigate all of these records if you already haven’t. The bands and I would very much appreciate it.
Note: click the band and album name for a link to either a stream of the album or a single off it, and click the cover art for a direct link to my review for the albums where you can find links to various social media, streaming locations, and/or places where you can purchase the music.
No band before Inter Arma has dared to do what they have done on a scale like this. Mixing together so many different styles into one cohesive sound that only gets better with each album, “Paradise Gallows” shows what this band can truly do. Unspeakable mastery and absolutely beautiful musicianship are but two things one can find with “Paradise Gallows”, and Inter Arma has made it clear that they are the band to know about and to be heard by one and all.
When so many have taken death metal to so many different places, what’s left for the newer generations? Whispered has a grandiose answer for you: samurai metal. These Finnish geniuses have taken their special blend of death/power/etc. metal to new heights with “Metustan – Songs of the Void”. A magnificently stunning and epic album that keeps on giving from each sexy solo to every gorgeous symphony, Whispered has shown that they’re truly a cut above the rest with this album.
It’s not uncommon for a stoner rock band to put out a good album, but it’s rare to see one that’s this infectious. Greenleaf’s latest epic of “Rise Above the Meadow” is a wonderland of psychedelia and riffs the likes of which one can only find from the glorious realm of stoner rock. Should you want catchy hooks to keep you sitting in place or hypnotic rhythms, Greenleaf truly has it all here.
If the phrase “top-tier Indian death metal” doesn’t really incite the thought of any bands, that’s alright because right here is the only answer you need: Primitiv. With their debut of “Immortal & Vile”, these gentlemen have shown how simplicity can be the best thing ever with their crunchy as fuck riffs and overwhelming presence that doesn’t ever go away. Smashing together undeniable heaviness with a little bit of fucking haunting atmosphere, Primitiv does not disappoint with this slab.
Oh, yes, the modern king of Swedish melo-death have returned once more! And with their first concept album, no less! Amon Amarth has always shown that they’re a formidable force in every aspect, but it’s with “Jomsviking” that they’ve reached a new level of awesomeness. Unwavering badassery and unbridled intensity, albeit less than previous efforts, mark this entire album from start to finish. Amon Amarth has not let us down before this, and “Jomsviking” sure as hell isn’t the start.
If there was a band to be the embodiment of what the current state of thrash metal is in, it’d be Dust Bolt without a doubt. As what is easily their best record to date, “Mass Confusion” is a piece that cannot be ignored, and it’s easy to see why. Everything that’s great about thrash adorns every second of “Mass Confusion”, and Dust Bolt has proved themselves to be a band that must not be taken lightly.
When people think of modern innovation of metal, I want people to think of Rudra at one point or another. These Indian masters have taken the traditional music and ideals of their culture and thrown it together with a black metal sound to create something they call “Vedic metal”, and it comes to a peak with “Enemy of Duality”. As their most ambitious and pleasing album they’ve yet to release, Rudra is the irrefutable kings of metal in their land and all they need is this album as proof of why they will stay that way.
To throw catchy as fuck riffs in with doom metal is something that an innumerable amount of bands have done, but The Order of Israfel seems to have taken that concept to a whole new level. “Red Robes” is an excellent example of how one band can make stoner doom a phenomenal idea, and every single track is a brilliant reason as to the greatness of this band. And as only this band’s second record at all, The Order of Israfel still has plenty to be heard of that I’m sure.
Imagine technical death metal made by the gods themselves. The result would be something similar to what Azooma has created here with their first full-length of “The Act of Eye”. A record of truly titanic proportions straight out of the unlikely land of Iran, these gentlemen do not let you down for even a microsecond as they constantly switch from satisfying death metal to haunting symphonies to chants straight from the next dimension.
Not only does the legend of Mark Riddick do phenomenal artwork, he’s also the mastermind behind Fetid Zombie who’s always been a force to be reckoned with. But it’s with “Epicedia” that Riddick’s brainchild has reached its peak. Holding a scant four tracks but plenty of run time, this record contains stunning death metal that you won’t be able to find anywhere else, and once you hear even one track you’ll only be begging for more once it’s over.
To improve upon your debut EP in every single way is something that not every band can do, but that’s precisely what XII Boar has done. “Beyond the Valley of the Triclops” is a fantastic fucking ride that is both fun and satisfying beyond belief as one who enjoys doom taken and stretched in ways no one else has. This album could’ve only happened with XII Boar, and I’m extremely happy they pulled it off in the first go.
12. Zaum – Eidolon
The idea of introducing atmosphere into metal is one that has been around for ages, but only a few have taken it to the level of Zaum and their 2-track stunner of “Eidolon”. Finding the perfect balance of super psychedelic doom and very hypnotic atmosphere, Zaum has created not just an album but an experience with “Eidolon”, and it’s one that no one should be allowed to miss.
The whole concept of “true Norweigan black metal” may not be one that I fully understand, but if that style is filled with bands like Mork then holy fuck do I want more like them and albums like “Den Vandrende Skygge”! An album that’s simply overflowing with icy riffs and an unforgettable screeching voice, Mork has proved with this sophomore effort that they aren’t playing around. If Mork can say that they’ve more shit up their sleeves like this record, then just fucking take my money now.
14. Abbath – Abbath
All eyes were on ol’ Mr. Abbath when he announced his solo project that was named after himself, and I think it’s safe to say he didn’t let us down one bit. While I won’t compare this to his work in Immortal, Abbath may have very well outdone himself with this album as it’s everything we could’ve come to expect out of the man. Simply, a great black metal record that’s nothing short of essential for any fan of the genre.
While some may detest this band to no end, I just want the men in this band to have fun however they can, and they seem to finally be doing just that with “Unden!able”. With plenty of diversity packed with both profound emotion and blazing rage to be found all throughout the record, Hellyeah has made their heaviest record, and it fucking rips!
These gentlemen have made a name for themselves making music about war stories and all that good stuff, but its all come to a peak with “The Last Stand”. With topics from samurais to Spartan warriors refusing to surrender to their more familiar Great War and WWII tales, Sabaton truly left no stone unturned with this intoxicating album. They’ve done it before, but I’d be lying if I said I expected an album like this to be up their sleeves.
To make the soundtrack to the very essence of chaos itself: that’s what the mission of Howls of Ebb seems to be. Their latest maddening sample of “Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows” is something that has to be heard to believe. This record is a constantly shifting and endlessly entertaining slab of metal for those who want the most extreme of metal while still having a form and shape to call its own.
If someone in the world had wished for a split that would showcase two absolutely brilliant black metal bands, then look no further than “Le Puits des Morts”. The Canadian act of Sorcier des Glaces and the French band of Ende have joined forces to create a wondrously undeniable and chaotic record that only black metal could contain, and it’s an endlessly delicious piece to listen to.
Any band can say that they’re one of the best rock bands of today just to be assholes, but when your band is The Temperance Movement that statement is all but accurate. “White Bear” is a magnificent roller-coaster of an album that truly shows how rock from the soul should be done. Both catchy and filled with emotion to really get you going, The Temperance Movement know exactly how to please their listeners with seemingly utmost ease.
Suicidal Angels have always been a name in thrash that I’ve liked to keep tabs on because I’ve always felt they’ve had greatness in their sound, but it wasn’t until “Division of Blood” that they found it. Speedy riffs from hell and an overall ferocity that doesn’t relent for anything, Suicidal Angels have found the sound that compliments them perfectly, and it’s so fucking tasty on each and every listen.
You don’t really hear anyone anymore calling any sort of “-core” vein of metal something that has to be heard. However, most people haven’t heard Aktaion who weren’t much in their beginning, but with “The Parade of Nature” they made the huge jump into becoming a band that has to be heard. With a theme that was pulled off flawlessly and a stunning sound to match, “The Parade of Nature” doesn’t let down one bit.
“Pop cock rock” doesn’t exactly sound enticing at first, I know, but when I say that Mother Feather did a superb job at defying my initial doubts I mean they made a massively fun record! Every single track off their self-titled debut is a joy ride that does not end as the fun keeps going into the next track and so on, and it’s the flashy, over the top presentation of Mother Feather itself that makes it even more fun for anyone willing to join the party.
Not often do we get a band like Allegaeon, and it’s even less often that we get an album like “Proponent for Sentience”. This is a record that truly covers a good chunk of the table that is metal music, and Allegaeon pulled off every twist and turn with nothing like less than beautiful mastery. Should you want an ever changing sound that’s never once boring, “Proponent for Sentience” has got everything you want and so much more.
Ireland is slowly coming up with a better and better metal scene as the years go on, but the most standout group undoubtedly is Soothsayer who’s potent atmospheric doom has come together to create “At This Great Depth”. Two tracks of ominous and terrifying atmosphere mixed with a power that can’t be ignored are what make up this album, and it’s something that should not be skipped for anything.
Naming your band after a Be’lakor song seems like you might try to lean on the success of that band, but that’s not what Countless Skies is for even a second. And with their debut album of “New Dawn”, Countless Skies showed that they aren’t pushovers one bit, and that should you be aware of any death metal to come out of Britain this band better be the first you investigate. A melodic death metal sound unlike anything I’ve heard anywhere else, “New Dawn” is simply mind blowing.
Epic death metal with a Roman theme to it? Don’t mind if I do! Ade has taken the idea of epic death metal and increased the power and badassery of it all by ten million with “Carthago Delenda Est”. The soundtrack of war itself and each song being a testament as to why the enemies of ancient Rome should be buried for all eternity, Ade does nothing but deliver with this fucking brutal record.
War is by far not an uncommon topic for metal bands to sing about, but I feel safe in saying that no band can pull of an American civil war theme better than Civil War themselves, and it’s with “The Last Full Measure” that they’ve shown their true brilliance. Every song is a glorious tale of battle, redemption, and freedom the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and it’s a fantastic ride the entire way each and every time.
HammerFall has always been at or near the top of the heavy and power metal world, and it’s with this record that they’ve proven that they’re still the kings with “Built to Last”. It is, admittedly, nothing new and plenty of what we’ve already heard from this band, yet this is one of those groups that can do the same thing over and over and still sound fucking awesome! That rings true for HammerFall with “Built to Last” as it’s an ever entertaining album that is nothing less than two thumbs up.
Sometimes even the biggest of legends need a break to refuel their brains, and that definitely seems to be the case with Metallica. While they may be as polarizing as ever with “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”, these guys seemed to have found their heaviness once again to my ears and it’s no less than applause worthy. Miles away from “perfection”, Metallica have still proven once more that there’s a reason they remain so successful.