My Best Metal Albums of 2016

So OK, I’m no music journalist and I’m not exactly poetic with my descriptions of music. Putting sounds into words isn’t a skill I possess. And it’s not like I’m even a true muso, with my finger on the musical pulse with knowledge of bootlegs and rare demos from old bands, as well as the hottest new acts that are emerging onto the scene.

But I know what I like. Every year I contribute to a small online group where we share our Top 5s of the previous twelve months. Well I thought I’d share my top 5, as well as a few ‘also-rans’ and a few disappointments, here. This is my 2016 in music, stuff I’ve heard or bought, and not necessarily the big releases. I’m sure there may be a few other compilation lists on the internet somewhere, especially at this time of year. Check them out (but after mine!).

So here goes.

Devin Townsend Project- Transcendence

dev

Ziltoid 2 aside, the last few efforts from Dev, to me have been a bit, meh. On this one he’s apparently co-written some of the songs with his bandmates and not that this shows exactly, but the songs sound a bit more, I dunno, harder. Not that it’s SYL, it’s still Dev’s solo sound, but without some of the mincey filler he’s done a bit too much of in recent years.

Witchcraft- Nucleus

witchcraft

Sometimes they’re prog, sometimes they’re doom, sometimes they’re rockin’ out, at all times they’re Swedish! There’s songs that are 3 minutes, there’s ones that are 8, 9, or 12 minutes. There’s melodious acoustic guitars that build up with awesomely doomy riffs and haunting epic vocals. I only found these guys this year and since then the back catalogue has been checked out, but I still prefer this album.

Meshuggah- The Violent Sleep of Reason

meshuggah

I love the ‘Shuggah. Whilst this isn’t anything monumentally different, it does sound less ‘computery’ than their last album, Koloss. This one was recorded ‘properly’ and not using all pro-tools and computers and drum programmes and shit. This is Meshuggah at their very best. Plus on vinyl the guitars sound like they want to eat you! And the cover is brutal.

Darkthrone- Arctic Thunder

darkthrone

Darkthrone went from a black metal band to more of a blackened punk band after their first few records. I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, as I’m not the biggest punk fan in the world, but I was really impressed. The sound is raw and under-produced and a bit 80s sounding, which is intentional, of course. It’s not full of the blasts of my favourite of their albums, Transylvanian Hunger, but the songs groove along with an evil twinge to the guitars and vocals. Think pre-Painkiller Judas Priest who have sold their souls to the devil.

Gojira- Magma

gojira

The ‘Jira go proggy with actual singing as opposed to tuneful growling. It still sounds like them but is more (can I say it?) mature and stripped back. It’s not as heavy as From Mars to Sirius, but this is a good thing. They’ve never been able to match that album in my opinion, so this change in style is very welcome. It’s awesome!

Some other mentions;

Metallica- Hardwired to blah blah blah. I grew up on Metallica so I can’t really say bad stuff about them as it feels like I’m dissing my childhood heroes. I even liked Load and St Anger, believe it or not (I won’t stretch to ReLoad though). OK, it follows on well from Death Magnetic, but they’re starting to sound old now and manage to put a crap riff or vocal tune into nearly every song. Plus the lyrics are proper cringey at times. But it’s still worthy of a listen or two!

Schammasch- Triangle. If The Pre Cambrian-era Ocean decided to play black metal because they had listened to lots of Enslaved, it would sound like this. It’s good apart from the last few ‘atmospheric’ songs that build up to something that never quite comes. Maybe I need to listen to this in the right conditions, ie. In the frozen woods on vinyl with candles and fog surrounding me, and maybe a blackened alter and some naked bitches.

Anima Tempo- Caged in Memories. Imagine a djenty Dream Theater without the cheese and a few death growls. Certainly not the best album this year but definitely one of the most interesting.

And now for some disappointments.

Nails- You Will Never Be One Of Us. Everyone’s raving about this band’s latest power violence/grindcore album, but to me it’s just not as good as previous releases. The songs, although paint-strippingly brutal, just aren’t that catchy. It seems it’s only me that thinks this, though. Just listen to Unsilent Death instead.

Opeth- Sorceress. OK, I know they’re not heavy anymore and I just need to accept it. But even so, this ain’t as good as their previous, Pale Communion. Comparing the recent to Opeth albums to Damnation shows how much they miss Peter Lindgren. Come on Mike, do something heavy again, pleeeaaase??

Anthrax- For All Kings. I was hoping for so much more. There’s the odd good riff and a couple of pretty decent songs, but it all sounds a bit too cheesy to me. Get John Bush back!

So what did I miss?

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