While 2016 was not the best year in a social or geopolitical sense, there were a lot of great metal albums released. Many classic bands (and personal favorites), such as Anthrax, Meshuggah, and Killswitch Engage, released excellent additions to their discography, but I was far more impressed with some of the younger acts this time around. Well without further ado, here are the 10 albums that never left my iPod in 2016.
10. Entheos – The Infinite Nothing
Containing former members of established bands can largely impact the results of a new project. Entheos’ debut album “The Infinite Nothing” demonstrates the same level of technical musicianship, and experimental yet cohesive compositions of a band already well into their career.
9. Death Angel – The Evil Divide
While some of the Bay Area thrash bands have been treading water for the past few decades, others sound as good, if not better than they did during the scene’s heyday. Death Angel’s new release has all of the ferocity, speed metal riffing and classic punk attitude while utilizing the best of modern production.
8. Fallujah – Dreamless
The funny thing about Fallujah is that if the layer of atmospheric chords in their music were to be removed completely, they would still be an exceptional band. “Dreamless” shows them upping the intensity and tightness of their unique death metal brand, while expanding upon their melodic leads and atmospheric components.
7. Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
I think I originally gravitated toward Omnium Gatherum due to the massive void left by In Flames’ continued stylistic change (lol). All jokes aside, “Grey Heavens” is a phenomenal exhibition of interwoven dual guitar and keyboard soundscapes, that while nostalgic in sound, is displayed in a uniquely progressive way; thus gives a refreshing take on modern melodeath.
6. ERRA – Drift
It’s been fun watching Erra grow over the years, both in terms of popularity and musicianship, and “Drift” definitely represents growth in the latter. By downplaying much of the heavy deathcore traits of their past material, they were able to create a more mature album, with focused song-structures containing better vocal melodies and guitar solos.
5. Black Crown Initiate – Selves We Cannot Forgive
One of the strongest attributes of Black Crown Initiate’s new album was its pacing. “Selves We Cannot Forgive” took a mid-tempo approach, allowing each pummeling riff to settle for a while before transitioning into another one. Taking that approach and coupling it with the band’s avant-garde style and keen sense for atmospheric breaks makes this album one hell of a gloomy and intense experience. Perfect for overcast days.
4. Textures – Phenotype
Textures have been releasing quality metal for well over a decade now, and yet “Phenotype” sounds just as captivating as any other part of their discography. It’s even heavier than their most recent efforts, with the return of more thrashing and blast beat drumming giving songs a greater sense of urgency and aggression. They never neglect to experiment and their groove is always on lock. Can’t wait for “Genotype” this year!
3. Vektor – Terminal Redux
Vektor is fast. Vektor is complex. Vektor is exactly what thrash metal needed in 2016. “Terminal Redux” is a fantastic example of modern metal featuring diverse riffing styles, ridiculously fast and frequent tempo changes, and elongated song-structures that make it nearly impossible to digest everything in one sitting. Occasionally, music should challenge the listener. I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Terminal Redux” become one of the landmark albums of the decade.
2. Toothgrinder – Nocturnal Masquerade
I’ve been talking this album up ever since it was released in the beginning of this year; hell I even wrote a band review for Toothgrinder on this site. Part of what makes “Nocturnal Masquerade” such an impressive album is the band’s ability to blend so many contrasting elements into each song and display the final product in a way that is not only cohesive, but also incredibly catchy. It’s even more impressive when you consider that this is their debut! I’m excited to hear what these guys have in store for us next time.
1. Ihsahn– Arktis
Every few years Ihsahn likes to remind us of why he is one of the best composers in the modern heavy metal scene. “Arktis” shows him experimenting even further with a variety of genres, including but not limited to thrash, 70’s prog rock, symphonic metal, and even jazz, all while staying true to his signature blackened extreme metal roots. The constant change in styles keeps the album unpredictable, but the overall tone keeps the experience grounded in a unified sense of frigidity and darkness. What more can be said, this album is flawless!