2016. One of those years that remind you of the need to celebrate the here and now, and to listen to metal. Lots and lots of metal. So without further ado, here are the 10 best metal albums of 2016 that have been keeping my jukebox busy this year.
But hang on a sec. One little piece of further ado before the main event, and that’s to celebrate two magnificent albums that I’m not putting on this list ‘cos they ain’t metal. They are fantastic though, and were I doing a simple, genreless top 10 list, they’d both be there.
New Model Army – Winter. NMA just keep getting better, and better in a way that’s sort of not fair. Winter is 58 minutes of beautiful vitriol about corporate power, refugees and the devil. Leaves you wanting more.
Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos. I swear this should be a metal album. It really should. The title’s right, and the cover looks like something by Nuclear Assault. But it’s not. And you should ignore whatever genre tags your favourite music provider gives this and go treat yourself to it. It’s simply brilliant.
Ok, now let’s have some metal…
Ah, Metallica. C’mon, we all grew up with them, and we all have either Lightning, Puppets or Justice in our “top 10 of all time” list, eh? And we love to knock them because they’ve never remade one of those classics, don’t we? Well, that can stop as of 2016. Granted there’s opinion that the album contains one or two songs too many, but “Hardwired…”, “Atlas Rise!”, “Moth Into Flame”, “Dream No More”, “Revenge”, and the utter monster that is “Spit Out The Bone” prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they remain not only significantly relevant but utterly able to raise goosebumps in a way that the best metal always should. (Official site)
There’s no messing about with this Brazilian 3-piece. The artwork, the attitude and the sound is pure thrash delight. They’re an absolute force of nature live too. I saw them this year at The Cave in Amsterdam, a venue just about the size of your average living room, and my ears still bear the scars. 😉 (Official site)
A big, warm blanket of doom. Well, I say blanket, but really I mean a mammoth fur. Freshly skinned. With blood and gristle. And warm? Well, it needs to be to keep out the howling winds that tear over the treetops and into the shallow mountain crevice that you’re wedged into, MP3 player in hand, desperately hoping the batteries last through the night. Catch them live if you can – only Disaster Area from HHGTTG have more amplification per cubic metre of venue space than Conan. (Official site)
Wrong. Just wrong. Discordant, jarring, twitchy and frankly a magnificent return to form after a few years of silence from these French chaps. It’s the aural equivalent of a bowl of soup that contains pretty much everything you like, but infused with scotch bonnet chillis and served up at boiling point. Out of a volcano. On Mars. I don’t know how they write tunes like this, but I’m ever so glad that they do. (Official site)
This monster debut from my UKEM label mates’ Wretched Soul has torn its way onto review blogs and “best of 2016” lists like a gang of adjectives riding a raging metaphor. Superlatives tumble forth as reviewers try to work out what decade they are in, confused by how something that must surely be from 1983 can sound so shiny and polished. This is followed by the inevitable conclusion in which a 9 out of 10 is given so that the typing can stop and the whirligig headbanging can begin again. All together now: “Necromancer!!!” (Official site)
Too many grindcore albums are over before you’ve really got to grips with them but, at 49 minutes, Kick Me Silly – VCIII just… Doesn’t. Let. Go. These blokes (Embury, Lilker, Herrera, Sharp & Cooke) have a history and pedigree that gives them a blank cheque to do whatever the hell they like with our ears and the result is 21 tracks of absolutely burning, bilious grind, with, at the halfway point, a wonderful nod to SOD with the 11-second blast of “Cheeseburger”. (Official site)
Bleak, majestic and mystical blackened death metal from Norway. This kinda stuff is right up my street. If you liked Behemoth’s The Satanist then my money’s on you really rather falling for this record too. (Official site)
Floaty French post-metal. Helps me calm down. Helps me breathe. Helps me make better PowerPoint designs at work. Oh, hang on, that’s not very metal, is it?
Eddie Izzard has a sketch about asking a gang of moles if they know what ice cream is (it’s a long story…). “No, we don’t know what ice cream is,“ say the moles. “Well, do you know soup?” asks our protagonist. “Oh, yes! We know soup!” reply the moles. “Well, it’s the opposite of soup.”
And so it is with Alcest and Deathspell Omega. (Official site)
Back when this came out, I tweeted “Blimey, just 3 weeks into January and I might already have my album of the year sorted.” Well, I was nearly right… And that it’s held on, over the course of the last 11 months, to such a high spot in my annual round-up is testament to what an immensely catchy beast of an album it is. I figure it’s gonna keep my head nodding and feet tapping for a good while to come. (Official site)
If musical genres were like countries and needed national anthems, then Ihsahn’s “Mass Darkness”, the 2nd track from Arktis, is what should be played every time extreme metal wins a medal at the Olympics. Wow. There’s an odd thought. Makes me wonder who’d compete in each event… Dani Filth and Erik Danielsson in synchronized swimming? Ghaal in the triple jump? Every member of Megadeth, apart from Mustaine, in the, er, 21x400m relay?
But I digress. Ihsahn writes riffs that grab my ears and just won’t let go. The depth of his songwriting seems to know no bounds on this album, as he skips from pure Emperor-esque BM through territory occupied by the likes of Van Halen and Massive Attack and finally ending with some dark spoken-word Norwegian that makes me want to go hide in a forest. Scarily good, and without a doubt my album of the year. (Official site)