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01.09.17 Top 30 Metal Albums of 2016 12.03.15 Metal of 2015 + Give me Recs
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09.18.12 Bands With The Coolest Evolution \m/! 08.27.12 The Faceless Ranked
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03.01.12 Got Band Teas?02.16.12 Death Metal Vs. Black Metal
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Top 30 Metal Albums of 2016

Year in year out, I continue to be amazed by the quality of the metal scene as a whole. It continues to expand in all directions in every conceivable subgenre with many albums breaking new ground all together making new subgenres yet to come. At the same time landmark albums are somehow still being released by new and old bands in well-established genres showing the vitality in many of the classic metal scenes and styles that are too somehow still growing. If this year-end list leaves you dear reader with any impression, it is that metal as a whole is bigger and more dynamic than ever and that anything you desire from this genre can more than likely be found with a little bit of digging and research. There are hardworking bands carrying the torches of metal everywhere and more emerge every year. The point of this introduction is that it’s a wonderful time to be a metal head and that 2016 was not just a good year for the genre we all love but a landmark one with many soon to be considered classic albums strewn across its 365 days. So sit back and enjoy this too short list I was able to compile about the albums that I considered to be the most stunning, brutal, crushing, and my personal favorites of the year. -L First, here are some honorable mentions: Asphyx – Incoming Death Bolzer – Hero Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts Lycus – Chasms Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
30Cult Of Fire
Life, Sex & Death

At first I felt like kick starting this list off with an only 20 minute EP was a bold move until I considered how much actually takes place over the 4 songs that are found on this absolutely gorgeous slab of black metal. Cult of Fire expertly intertwined haunting melodies with an at time savage pacing for the two black metal songs, “Life” and “Death”, with “Death’s” ending being an absolute emotive final stroke to the black metal material found on here. While this section of the album is definitely top notch atmospheric black metal, the real reason “Life, Sex, and Death” makes it on this list is because of the dualism found on the other two almost interlude tracks. They combine electric guitar with a folk sound that perfectly suits the subject matter that is on display here. Believe me, there are, many reasons why this superb little EP sits on a list with albums that are anywhere from twice to five times as long as it. Rating: 4.0
Still They Pray

“Still They Prey” slowly drags you down into a pit of despair and suffering that could be confused for hell. It’s not just doomy dirges of depression such as “Dead among the Roses” and “Shadow of the Torturer” with this album though. Some of the strongest moments of “Still They Prey” come when Cough add just a little extra to their established sound. For instance the dynamics found on the opening of “Let It Bleed” and closing outro “Still They Prey” serve as a respite from the battering riffs. The strongest moment however is on almost closing track “The Wounding Hours” where Cough goes absolutely full funeral doom and enter a dirge with which it’s hard to return. Rating: 4.0

Abbath’s self-titled debut is quite the black metal statement from the former Immortal front man. Its savage to the point style of black metal does more than showcase just how capable this black metal legend is fully writing on his own. With amazing frigid anthems such as “Winter Bane”, “Count the Dead”, and “To War” I feel it’s safe to say Abbath will be more than fine in his solo career. In fact the superbly crafted dynamics and song writing found on “Root of the Mountain” and “Ocean of Wounds” indicate that Immortal themselves might be the ones who suffered the loss with the departure of their former front man. It appears though we’ll find out quite shortly as Immortal gears up to release an album later in 2017. I of course am hoping that we get superb albums from both, it just feels good to say that Abbath has more than delivered on his end. Rating: 4.1

The best description I can give Skaphe's music is that it’s as if the most dissonant aspects of Gorguts music hung out with some of the more off the wall aspects of Deathspell Omega’s already off the wall version of black metal. Then to make the music even harsher on the ears, add a whole vat of raw and abrasive noise to the mix, this is really the only way to explain the chaos that is Skaphe2. Something new stands out on every repeat listen with the albums ever shifting dynamics, for instance I just finished up a listen while writing this and became aware of an intense almost anthemic section of track “III” which sounds new to my ears even though this is probably at least my 10th listen to this album. Its little treasures and gems scattered across the 35 minutes of chaos that make this album completely worthwhile for those who enjoy a challenging listen. Rating: 4.1
26Imperium Dekadenz
Dis Manibvs

Imperium Dekadenz firmly fall into the subcategory of atmospheric black metal though I feel that this term might be too limiting for this release whose beautiful landscapes bring to mind the absolutely chilling and never ending beauty of space versus arctic forests that genre is usually known for. Something does have to be said about the utterly gorgeous atmosphere that spans most this mammoth of an album’s tracks. It feels as if you are basking in the glowing warmth of a freshly conceived star. This can be best represented by the album’s best track “Still I Rise” whose triumphant riffs serve as the perfect centerpiece of the album. Let the fact that I consider this to be one of the strongest black metal songs of the year further persuade you to give this album a listen. Rating: 4.1
You Will Never Be One of Us

Nails’ third effort was probably one of the most talked about and hyped albums of the year with their signing to Nuclear Blast and the landmark album that preceded it, “Abandon All Life” perfectly setting the stage for what could be one of the biggest albums of the year. Did they deliver on the destructive promises found in Nuclear Blast press releases? I know everyone will have a different answer to this question, but for me it’s certain that has soon as the crushing end of “Life is a Death Sentence’ comes around that they have delivered the very moshable goods. While I do find the album to be overproduced in places and not as organic sounding as the previous release this criticism is more of a compliment to just how good the sophomore effort was than a knock at the quality of “You Will Never be One of Us”. Rating: 4.1
Distance | Collapsed

Inverloch’s “Distance l Collapsed” is the perfect release to show just how beautifully dynamic a death doom album can be when executed perfectly, and believe me this release was executed to near perfection. Through its 40 minute run time, this album slowly marches us through a musical journey which I can best compare as the muical equivalent of Charon slowly transporting some unfortunate soul to the afterlife. But as I mentioned above this album is all about the shifting tempos and dynamics of death doom, so this journey is not always a slow one. This is the albums high point, its ability to shift from extremely ambient unnervingly beautiful sections to face ripping death metal not only from song to song, but within the same song. Rating: 4.2
Arctic Thunder

Darkthrone's 17th album, Arctic Thunder sounds raw and absolutely frigid. Just listen to the opening of “Boreal Fields”, specifically the production of the drums and tell me it doesn’t sound like the band is playing live right in front of you. The release also just features extremely memorable riffs that guide the songs expertly through the frozen soundscape the rest of the music creates. It’s this riff oriented approach to songwriting that makes songs such as ‘Tundra Leech”, “Inbred Vermin”, and “Deep Lake Trespass” so much fun. There are also some truly amazing guitar solos that will surely catch the listener by surprise that help to keep the albums pace relatively fast. Like I said with Abbath above, this release proves that these living legends still easily have things covered. Rating: 4.2
22Obscure Sphinx

“Epitaphs” attempts to lay new groundwork in Obscure Sphinx’s progressive post metal onslaught and doesn’t attempt to recreate the savage intensity of “Void Mother”. It does this by expanding the dynamics of each song, creating a myriad of different sounding sections which the band expertly uses to make each song interesting. Just look at the acoustic portion and beautifully clean sung portions that separate out the mammoth riffs of spine crushing opener “Nothing Left”. This is even better perfected on “Memories of Falling Down” which sounds like it could be two entirely separate songs brilliantly meshed into one. In the end Obscure Sphinx are still decidedly able to hold the title of best most underrated band in all of metal. Seriously dear reader, listen! Rating: 4.2
21Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Arc is singer Kat Katz’s contribution to the bands ambitious EP trilogy and it’s probably one of the most emotionally triggering albums to be released this year. It directly deals with the loss of Kat’s mother and the loss and anger from this event take front and center stage over the three songs that make up this release. With lyrics such as “My face, empty. Empty as your eyes when you asked me to end you” from opener “Not a Daughter” these themes easily worm their way inside the listener by the end of the album which is pretty impressive considering this release is only 27 minutes in length. What’s just as impressive however are the insanely headbangable riffs found strewn across this EP. Middle track “Deathbed” expertly showcases this with a riff that is filled with what I can only call southern swagger making up the whole second part of this song. Rating: 4.2
Fires Within Fires

Neurosis really caught me off guard with this release. Leading up to “Fires within Fires” the previous two Neurosis albums “Honor Found in Decay” and “Given to the Rising”, while both being respectable in their own right, I found to be a little on the long winded side of things with both of their run times equaling more than an hour. This is why the short and concise nature of this full length was a pleasant surprise making this the easiest to digest and immediate Neurosis album I’ve ever listened to. Take into account that I feel like the song writing has improved on this album and you can see why this album is the perfect release to kick off my top 20. With superbly crafted songs and moments such as when that mammoth of a riff comes in halfway through A Shadow Memory and the whole buildup that is the beautiful Broken Ground, Neurosis sound as energized as they were 20 years ago on such landmarks such as Through Silver in Blood and Enemy of the Sun. Rating: 4.2
19Howls of Ebb
Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows

In spite of being new on the scene, Howls of Ebb have already made more progress and broken more exciting ground than most bands triple their age. This is mainly due to their utterly fascinating take on old school death metal. It’s murky and swampy like albums of old but at the same time it’s an entirely different monster thanks to the inclusion of psychedelic and drone elements that are somehow expertly woven into this death metal backbone. The results are what I’d classify has truly horrifying and could send a shiver down the most experienced death metal fan’s spine. It’s Lovecraftian in feel and probably the closest any of us insignificant humans will ever come to connecting to the raw powers of the ancient unsleeping ones. Basically thanks to bands like Howls of Ebb, the future of death metal is in safe yet demented hands. Rating: 4.2
Pleiades' Dust

Pleiadies Dust's concept and the music found within are both engaging and impressive in their own right. The concept behind “Pleiadies Dust” like their previous master piece of a full length “Colored Sands” is historical in nature and deals with one of the largest libraries of the ancient world, a home of scientific inquiry and knowledge found in Saudi Arabia. That is until the crusades rendered it to dust and a memory. The music used to tell this story is similar to the dissonant abrasive death metal found on Gorguts previous release, except this time the progressive nature of the song writing is expanded upon leading to the creation of one crushing song. There are plenty of hills and valleys in this track though with plenty of dynamic almost ambient sections separating out the death metal onslaught. Also have to give a shout out to one of my favorite guitar solos of the year that occurs towards the tail end of this monster of a track. Rating: 4.2
Winter's Gate

Insomnium opted to be extremely ambitious this year. By taking a page out of Edge of Sanity’s book, the Finnish masterminds have released a one track 40 minute release simply titled “Winter’s Gate”. Over seven parts, this one song takes the listener on an epic journey consisting of Vikings, treacherous waters, and even more treacherous weather patterns. This conceptual journey is echoed by the feel of the music itself with many gorgeous motifs that follow the classic doomy melodeath style of Insomnium being interwoven throughout the albums 40 minute run time. When this release gets the most exciting however is when more progressive elements take center stage adding some nice variety from the usual wall of sound approach Insomnium usually opts for. In total, Insomnium have created a conceptual piece of art which can set the perfect mood for either vicious headbanging or introspective walks through a snowy landscape, a rare feat for a melodic death metal album. Rating: 4.2

Gojira fully strip everything away from their technically impressive incredibly heavy sound of previous releases and charge straight ahead with simpler bare bones approach focusing more on songwriting, atmosphere, and dynamics than spine crushing riffs. And in this I have to begrudgingly admit that they succeed. Songs like “Shooting Star” “Magma”, and “Lowlands” are truly unique in the bands discography and I feel like in time will be just as widely accepted as the heavier hits off of previous releases.The fact that I am a diehard fan of the heavier Gojira of hold while still having to admit that these modern metal pioneers succeeded on “Magma” hopefully shows you how good this album is. Rating: 4.3
15Mare Cognitum
Luminiferous Aether

“Luminiferous Aether” excels the most, in creating a truly captivating atmosphere for its full 50 minute run time that simply feels alien in the most beautiful way possible. This release is the aural equivalent of witnessing the birth of a new star or the formation of a nebula unbounded in beauty and scope. In some songs such as opener “Heliacal Rising” it feels triumphant while at the same time still retains the savagery that is well known with black metal thanks to songs such as “Occulted Temporal Dimensions”. In total this dichotomy of the albums sound fits perfectly with the themes of this release, space can be both beautiful and savage after all. Rating: 4.3
Devoid of Light

Surprise, surprise, more black metal! This time, this release abandons the more spacey feel of atmospheric black metal in favor of a more face ripping and riff oriented style. And boy did Uada’s “Devoid of Light” succeed in this format in every way. The riffs here are razor sharp while at the same time feature enough melody and craftsmanship to allow them to get stuck in your head for days. Uada are able to differentiate their sound from these previously mentioned bands allowing their debut to stand firmly on its on as a testament to what well executed melodic black metal could be. This is in large part thanks to the exceptional and varied vocal performance on display here. The Uada’s vocalist has such a range, able to produce all kinds of screams, from the traditional black metal snarl, to a more unhinged shout, to finally a most impressive howl which truly does not sound human. Rating: 4.3

“Rheia” is one of those albums I’d point people towards if they were spouting the opinion of metal being stagnant and unexciting in recent years (Believe me, there are tons of albums I’d point people towards, I admit that few are as exciting as this one though). At an hour run time, “Rheia” truly does have a lot of tricks up her sleeve with every song offering something unique. The initial shock of “Second Son of R” where you get introduced to the dynamic of frenzied black metal mixed with absolutely mesmerizing cleanly sung post metal like sections will stick with you for the whole album, while beautiful ethereal acoustic tracks “Stay Here / Accroche-Moi” and “Begeerte” effectively leave the listener with chills. Rating: 4.3
12Harakiri for the Sky
III: Trauma

. “III: Trauma” is a beautifully honest and emotive record making comparisons to legends such as Agalloch and Falls of Rauros quite easy. Harakiri for the Sky is able to stand on their own however by veering away from the worship nature concept relying more on human suffering and loss as the central themes for the records. This plus the almost meditative post metal approach to riff writing creates a fully immersive experience that will no doubt engage the listener for the full hour and fifteen minutes of music. This is an impressive feat in its own right but when you factor in how many adrenaline pumping moments there are on each song this release becomes a must hear for any metal fan this year. Rating: 4.4
11Black Fucking Cancer
Black Fucking Cancer

Utterly hellish is the first description that comes to mind when I think about the self-titled debut album from San Francisco’s aptly named Black Fucking Cancer. This album was created with one purpose in mind: to eviscerate all comers with a sound so soaked in hatred every sing second of this album makes your blood boil in sacrilegious rage. This is quite impressive, considering that a fair amount of sections of this release is just pure noisy distortion, look at the middle section of “Acid Ocean” and the tense opening of “SinnRitualVoid”. These sections just build tension until the full vicious black metal assault takes place, descending on the listener like an onslaught of hellish flying demons equipped with hot pokers. It’s when the music speeds up to an almost inhuman pace that the demented individuals behind this project truly shine. Just look at any song on here for these destructive riffs I speak of. Rating: 4.4
Terminal Redux

Upon listening to Vektor's latest, I found Ambition beyond the likes that I have seen in the thrash genre in many years. One must only listen to opening track and one of the best thrash songs I’ve ever heard “Charging the Void” to see what I mean. The tremolo picked riffs that fly by at the speed of light weave catchy melodies and create a spacey sci-fi landscape that makes me think of the grand space battles from the classic Star Wars films. When the track finally climaxes at the end of its 9 minute run time, it will truly take your breath away. This fast paced technically mindboggling riffing continues across this brilliant concept album’s hour and fifteen minute run time. Interlude “Mountains Above the Sun” and other album highlight “Collapse” offer perfect respites from the rapid pacing. Rating: 4.4
Slow Forever

Slow Forever is some kind of weird combination of riffy sludge metal and absolutely savage black metal the final product is an absolutely animalistic release that simply hammers the listener into oblivion. It does so in such an exciting way however that the beating seems extremely varied over the full run time. In the opening tracks of the album “Hunt the Buffalo” and “Beast Whip” progressive almost Tool like sections take center stage to add an extra layer to the riff heavy assault. Later on the album when they stick with the riffs and only the riffs on songs like “Cold Breaker” and “Elephant Graveyard” Cobalt creates some of the best most vicious metal albums I’ve heard all year. The unsung hero of this release though would have to be the newly acquired vocalist Charlie Fell, whose insane screeches tear at your sanity like talons slowly peeling away evolved human inhibitions. Rating: 4.5
Winter Thrice

Saying that Borknagar’s latest album “Winter Thrice” caught me by surprise would be an understatement. I’m not saying that I had written of the bands 10th release but least to say I wasn’t expecting it to end up in my top 10 when I first listened to it way back in January. Needless to say I was proven wrong within the first minutes of opener “The Rhymes of the Mountain” and its absolutely captivating take on folkish black metal. It was the fast paced soaring black metal elements that first gripped me thanks to songs like the opener and epic closer “Terminus” but then it was the truly beautiful progressive elements that made me continually come back for more. I probably sought out that keyboard solo on “Panorama” well over a dozen times. The complete package of black metal, folk, and progressive instrumentation made this release the most grandiose to come out last winter and the soundtrack for the first beautiful frigid months of the year. Rating: 4.6
7Destroyer 666

Destroyer 666 definitely make their mark with this release by successfully creating the most badass and fun album of 2016 no questions asked. By wearing their influences on their sleeves, Judas Priest and Motorhead chief among them, Destroyer 666 create absolutely fantastic blackened thrash with a fair share of classic heavy metal anthems thrown in for good measure. While at times blisteringly fast, “Wildfire” does slow down for some truly epic heavy metal moments. Just look at the chorus of album highlight Hounds at Ya Back. Somehow though, even when the tracks are roaring by at the speed of jet breaking the sound wave barrier the songs are just as catchy as the ones geared more towards an actual chorus. Live and Burn and White Line Fever being the main culprits. The biggest surprise though is the closing track Tanum Shud which is actually quite beautiful in its minimalistic approach serving as one of the best closing tracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year. Rating: 4.6

The true king for most ambitious album of 2016 without a doubt would have to be this magnum opus of musical endeavor by relatively new band Schammasch. Triangle from the very beginning of its concept was meant to turn heads, it is a triple album made up of three parts all totaling 33 minutes and 33 seconds for a grand total of a very intentional 100 minutes. Over this 100 minute run time, Schammasch seemingly become three separate bands for each album. The most impressive aspect of this album is that while all three of these separate albums work absolutely stupendously on their own, it’s only when they are joined together to create the full piece of art that each album achieves its most power allowing a feeling of completion to set in. Rating: 4.6
5Deathspell Omega
The Synarchy of Molten Bones

Deathspell Omega’s sound can be best summed up as chaos, and the unity that could arise from such chaos. Their latest magnum opus put this concept to the test even more so than previous releases from the band. With a kind of early Slayer like approach in term of album length, Deathspell Omega releases and absolutely eviscerating super storm of pure noise and madness on any unsuspecting listener willing to challenge themselves. This is where the joy comes from listening to an album like “The Synarchy of Molten Bones”. Each song must be dissected like a puzzle to unearth the hidden motifs buried underneath layer upon layer of razor sharp riffing, snarling vocals, and frenzied drums. Hidden gems there are aplenty though, on the opening title track along there are many cohesive elements waiting to be uncovered and worm their way into your earhole. The same goes for every track on this surprisingly varied album. Rating: 4.7

Vessels is a beautiful and epic triumph whose scope cannot be understated. Due to the immense song writing talent on display here, Vessels might just be the best melodic death metal album since Be’lakor’s previous release Stone’s Reach. I’d even wager that it is a more complete and full bodied version of the aforementioned album. Every song has a purpose and forwards the flow of the album creating multiple valleys and high lofty peaks across the albums 55 minute run time. The first peak comes in the form of the first two opening tracks An Ember’s Arc and Withering Strands with the latter track being one Be’lakor’s strongest tracks to date possibly only usurped by the sure to be classic Countless Skies. The band of Australians do this by focusing on more than just simple riffs to guide along the song but instead opt for quite adventurous song writing which keeps the listener on their toes. Every section of this somber yet epic track is unique and breathtaking in its own way. Rating: 4.7

Khemmis’s sound can be bust summed up by the phrase “something new, something used”. Truly though, this phrase does not do this group of Coloradans justice since they have taken the well-established epic doom styling and made it something all their own putting them miles ahead of the ever growing pack of American doom metal acts. The credit for the bands achievements (which there are plenty, considering this is only the bands sophomore effort) can be equally shared by every member who in their own way play a key role in “Hunted’s” success. The dual vocal technique of soaring cleans and gruff growls creates an impressive dynamic from song to song and aids brilliantly in the albums pacing. The guitars are also top notch laying down some crushing riffs such as on “Three Gates” and “Hunted”. Where they truly excel however is during the solos with each track having a memorable solo in its own right, “Candlelight’s” being chief among them. Rating: 4.8

Alcest’s “Kodama” is probably one of the most beautiful and breathtaking albums I’ve heard ever, let alone in 2016. “Kodama” is one of those unique albums in that it seems to be an entity all its own, with its own personality and will. The concept behind this album and one of the many reasons that this release works so well, is a look into the Japanese belief of tree spirits also known as Kodama. This myth combined with some of the aesthetics of one of my all-time favorite director’s Hayao Miyazaki brings out the nature of this album. An ethereal entity, caring in some ways a spirit of vengeance in others, the music fully embodies the concept so well and completely that it comes to life over the 40 minute run time. The absolutely dreamy and captivating guitar tones and vocals act as the spirits caring nature while the black metal portions of the album continue to arise out of nowhere signifying the anger Mother Nature possesses. Rating: 5.0
1Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas

One of the bigger themes found on this list, besides the presence of a black metal album every other pick is the central idea of the unknown, the undiscovered country that lays beyond our planets tiny insignificant horizon. And while many releases tackled this theme throughout the year, no release did it quite as flawlessly as Cult of Luna’s collaboration with Julie Christmas, simply titled “Mariner”. Over its five tracks, “Mariner” gracefully at times and savagely at others tackles all of the issues with the next step forward in human evolution that leap beyond the event horizon. The music itself, serves as the perfect back drop for these themes with Cult of Luna’s abrasive yet polished post metal serving as the transportation for this tale. Julie Christmas’ vocals delivering an almost unearthly alien feeling to the songs she’s in, maybe she serves as insanity slowly creeping into these new settlers peripherals. Rating: 5.0
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