This is my third time posting about my favourite albums of the year on this here blog. It’s got to the stage now where I’m thinking about this list whenever a new album or a new band tickles me in my metal spot. It’s been difficult to pick just ten, and some of the ones left off the main list could well make it in if I had to do it again.
So sit back, put some Sabbath on the stereo, and check out what you should have been listening to over these last twelve months.
The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir
Wow, talk about album covers summing up the music perfectly. This slab of post metal with hints of Devin Townsend-esque melodies and guitar passages is as beautiful as it is brutal. I’m yet to fully appreciate this as there are so many levels to it and I’m sure I’ll love it even more in the months to come, so the fact it’s in the top 10 already says something.
Dead Wretch – Hug Division Dead Wretch
It’s not often an album comes along that makes you chuckle while it ferociously and incessantly beats your eardrums to a pulp. This extremely short album is just fun. It’s grindcore, but there’s also elements of black metal, thrash, and punk thrown into the mix, as well as some great song titles. And the most impressive part? It’s all done by one man.
Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog
I was always skeptical of the ‘Chains without Layne Staley. But when they finally returned with Black Gives Way to Blue I was mightily impressed and wondered what I was ever worried about. Of their three ‘new’ releases I’d say this is probably the weakest, but a bad AIC album is better than most good stuff out there anyway. Jerry Cantrell can just write amazing riffs and melodies, what a dude!
Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
Blast Tyrant was the pinnacle of Clutch’s career, in my opinion and many others’. The last few albums have been good but unlike BL there were too many sub-standard songs here and there. Now I wouldn’t go as far to say this is better than Blast Tyrant but it’s their best release since. The songs groove, as Clutch do so well, but the sound of this one is just more kind of dirty, and fits the vibe of these excellent and catchy songs perfectly.
Lychgate – The Contagion in Nine Steps
I wasn’t sure whether I was going to include this in the top 10, but as the weeks have gone on it has insisted I keep listening to it. This Avante-Garde, gothic, death, spooky kind-of-Opethish album is dark. There’s syncopated rhythms, cult-like chanting, and throaty growls covering the at times melodic and at times monstrously heavy guitars. This is definitely worth checking out if you have the time to really get into it.
Kaiser – 1stSound
I’d imagine this sounds great on vinyl. Think Dozer/Kyuss-inspired rock and roll with a punishingly heavy guitar sound and some real groove and you’re pretty much there. It’s an album to listen to with sunglasses on your face and a smile on your lips.
Marduk – Viktoria
After the first couple of listens, I wasn’t certain I was really digging this. But now I know; it’s bloody great. When Marduk go for it, they really bloody do. The blasts are pant-soilingly blistering, the vocals terrifying, and the riffs are just so catchy and evil. The slower songs do plod a bit but don’t outstay their welcome, and I’m not a fan of the Stop, 2,3,4 moments (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it), but I can’t get mad about those because the rest of it more than makes up for them.
Cane Hill – Too Far Gone
Back in the early 00s I listened to a lot of Nu Metal, lots of people did. Since then my tastes have turned much darker and heavier and I rarely look into bands influenced by those bands I used to listen to all the time. But this offering from Cane Hill is great. It could have been released 15 years ago but still sounds fresh with a pummelling attitude and not only that, when the melodies soar home, they’re just really, well, good. If you miss Nothingface and early Slipknot then this is worth a look at.
Earthless – Black Heaven
The cover drew me towards this and I didn’t know what to expect. But this is such a fun album. Party rock n’ roll would do it a disservice, but I’m saying it anyway. There’s a real Zeppelin vibe to this, but it’s as though the band are just jamming, such is the relaxed nature of the whole thing.
Zeal and Ardor – Stranger Fruit
My favourite album by far last year was Devil Is Fine, and this follow up is just what I was waiting for. The debut offering, with its blend of black metal and soul music, was so originally and damn catchy that it blew me away. And that was a one man effort. This new release follows in the same vibe but now there’s a real drummer which gives the music a whole new level of awesomeness. Blistering black metal one moment, chilled reflection time the next. To quote Shakin’ Stevens; ‘Lovely stuff!’
Ghost – Prequelle
OK, I couldn’t pick just ten. I’ve loved Ghost since they first blew me away with Opus Eponymous. I worried that this new one, now that they’re getting really popular, would shatter my illusions. But I was wrong. Very wrong. Yeah it’s ‘softer’ and the songs are more (I don’t want to say it) radio friendly, but they’re just great songs. This is another album that just improves on every listen. And although they’ve chilled their sound, it still reeks of evil, and they still know when to be heavy.
Here a few others I’ve really enjoyed over the last 12 months;
Legend of the Seagullmen
Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror
Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Ektomorf – Fury
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
Gra – Vasen
Dopethrone – Transcanadian Anger
Black Moth – Anatomical Venus
Now I have to finish things off with a few disappointments, just to end on a downer. I know, how depressing?
The Ocean – Phanerozoic I : Palaeozoic
It seems a bit mean to mention this album here as it’s well constructed and well played. But for me this band have been on the slide over their last few albums. Aeolian is one of my favourite albums ever, but they’ve never matched it in terms of heaviness and utter brutality. I know they’ve matured, but I haven’t!
Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
I was so excited for this album but there’s just something lacking here that I can’t put my finger on. There’s some great moments of ball-busting grind, but the songs don’t seem to carry the necessary punch of their previous efforts.
Ministry – AmeriKKKant
Psalm 69, all those years ago now, still finds it onto my stereo at regular intervals. I’ve been following Ministry’s career since and although, in my opinion, they’ve never topped that album, they’ve still kept me interested. And as Donald Trump is now in command I expected an even more hate-filled political release from them. Yeah, they don’t like Trump, but considering the rage against Bush that influenced former albums I expected so much more. It’s not bad, but it’s not as great as I hoped for.
The Sword – Used Future
The Sword have ‘done an Opeth’. I hoped that their last album, High Country, where they mellowed out significantly, was something they just had to get out of their system. I loved that album even though it was so different. But it seems that this is the way they’re going now, and that’s fine. But the songs on here just lack the catchiness and groove from their previous release. But I’ll give them one more chance for the next one.
Corrosion of Conformity – No Cross No Crown
The was another album I was highly anticipating. Even though it sounds like CoC, the songs just aren’t that great. I can’t say that it’s bad per se, it just doesn’t excite me in the way they have done for so many years.
So that’s my list. What have I forgotten?
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