2016 saw the tragic passing of many legendary artists… David Bowie, Prince, and George Michael being several notable ones. But the year was also greeted with an influx of good music, particularly in the metal genre. So without further ado, here are my picks for the best albums of 2016.
- Testament, The Brotherhood of the Snake
The past year and a half has been good for old school thrash fans, as we’ve gotten new releases from Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Yet while all of those albums range in quality from good enough (For All Kings) to crude (Dystopia) to just completely messy (Repentless), Testament has easily been making music more exciting than anything the Big Four have released in years. While the departure of Greg Christian is tough to swallow, there is no better replacement than Steve DiGiorgio and the songs are remarkably consistent and solid.
- Vektor, Terminal Redux
Just a few days ago, all of Vektor’s members except vocalist David DiSanto quit the band. That’s a real shame, as Vektor’s latest offering, Terminal Redux, has been in the oven for five years and was well worth the wait. Terminal Redux epitomizes the perfect blend of thrash, black metal, and prog Vektor has cultivated over the years. While the band’s immediate future remains to be seen, Terminal Redux is a fine way to go out.
- Ghoul, Dungeon Bastards
I discovered Ghoul for the first time over the summer when I saw them open for Carcass and Crowbar where they played Dungeon Bastards in its entirety. The day after the show, I immediately streamed the whole album and was instantly hooked. The band’s GWAR-esque style of humor is razor sharp and their live show is an absolute blast.
- Nails, You Will Never Be One of Us
The stereotype of Nails’ music being meatheaded isn’t incorrect and I understand why some people may not like their style. But You Will Never Be One of Us is one of 2016’s most compulsively listenable albums and is brutally aggressive powerviolence. Try not headbanging to the title track; it’s impossible for me.
- Weekend Nachos, Apology
Unfortunately, earlier this year, Weekend Nachos have decided to call it quits, with Apology being their final record. If this is their last offering, Weekend Nachos have ended on a high note, as Apology makes no excuses for being fast, loud, and just straight up heavy.
- Opeth, Sorceress
Depending on who you are, Opeth have completely given up on its death metal roots or transcended the genre by focusing on prog. Admittedly until Sorceress I stood in the middle, having found Heritage disappointing but Pale Communion enchanting. Sorceress confirms that Mikael Åkerfeldt and co. are still as inspired as ever and I’d make the argument that this is the band’s best album since Ghost Reveries.
- Devin Townsend Project, Transcendence
There is no such thing as a bad Devin Townsend album, and with Transcendence, Hevy Devy proves he’s as good as ever. Devin’s mix of prog and symphonic metal is at the top of its form, and listening the songs live makes them sound even better, with “Higher” being an absolute highlight (pun intended).
- Gojira, Magma
Compared to past Gojira albums, Magma is a little punchier and a bit more straightforward, which is why it alienated some fans. But Magma grew on me after repeated listens, and I’m convinced that the Duplantier brothers know exactly what they’re doing. This is a perfect album to get into Gojira’s discography and is one of their best records yet.
- Khemmis, Hunted
I actually listened to Hunted only a couple weeks ago, having seen it on top of many “Best of” lists. How could I have not been following Khemmis before? Hunted is doom metal at its peak: ominous, spooky, and flat-out sludgy yet perfectly harmonic and always gripping.
- Kvelertak, Nattesferd
No album this past year was more catchy, addictive, and entertaining as Kvelertak’s Nattesferd. The band’s style of black n’ roll has never been as raw and engrossing as it has been on Nattesferd and is an album you can instantly party to.
Cobalt, Slow Forever
Exmortus, Ride Forth
Meshuggah, The Violent Sleep of Reason
Metallica, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct*
Skeletonwitch, The Apothic Gloom**
The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dissociation***
*Yeah, you heard me. Like most people, I’ve been disenchanted with Metallica’s recent output, with Death Magnetic feeling like an unfocused attempt to return to the band’s glory days and Lulu being an utter disaster. But Hardwired is really, really good, featuring the band’s best, most solid work in over twenty years. It’s not perfect, as the album limps into filler in its second half and the title track’s lyrics are especially dumb. But still, this is better than I could have ever expected and I liked it a lot more than the recent albums by Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax.
**Okay, technically an EP, but I still really love this. I get why some fans have some gripes with Gloom because of the absence of Chance Garnette, but Adam Clemans is a remarkable replacement. I saw the band twice over this past year and both times they killed.
***Another final album. I’m a huge Dillinger fan and am sad to see them go (and even more depressed that I wasn’t able to catch them on tour this year) but had struggled initially to grasp onto Dissociation as much as every else did, as it failed to instantly grab me like Miss Machine or Ire Works did. But after a while I’ve come to really appreciate this album and though it may not be my favorite Dillinger record, that final haunting title track is something I won’t be able to get out of my head.