It’s been more than adequately publicised elsewhere, but 2016 has been a fabulous year for heavy music.
Various niches have found a satisfying groove, from goth-flavoured post-punk to the very edges of extreme metal. Few of my favourite twenty albums of 2015 would’ve made this list. Arguably only one would’ve made the top ten. Here they are.
Click here for numbers 20 to 11 and for Dave Musson’s picks.
10. Monoliths – Monoliths (Crown And Throne Ltd)
Super-slow doom metal. Super. Slow. Doom. Metal. Super… Slow… Doom… Metal. Monoliths by Monoliths is a two-track masterclass of the art, and I’ve been digging the hell out of it since it came out on July 1st. A beautiful, clean canvas destroyed by some right nasty bastards. [Spotify]
9. Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage (Avenged Sevenfold Partnership)
The Stage is a themed album about space and artificial intelligence, and it’s extraordinary. Since its surprise release, this proggy beast has transitioned from impressive to genuinely enjoyable, a fine return to form for a band that had so much more to offer than the previous album. Listen to this in one go or you’ll be missing out. [Spotify]
8. Frozen Gate – Behind The Dark Ice (Olivier König)
A late entry to my top 20, Behind The Dark Ice is a sizzling debut from Switzerland’s Frozen Gate. It marries symphonic black metal with the kind of spiky riffs that made The Satanist stand out a few years ago. It’s at once expansive and punchy, and any album that makes me shout the choruses as loudly as this one is likely to be something a bit special. [Spotify]
7. Milk Teeth – Vile Child (Hopeless Records)
I’d been looking forward to this album having heard Milk Teeth’s previous recorded output, and it’s to my eternal shame that it took a while to settle with me. Vile Child oozes genius. It’s a 90s-inspired rock record with a razor-sharp punk edge and a female vocal to die for. These guys should be huge. [Spotify]
6. Narrow Head – Satisfaction (Floodlight Records)
Released in July to little or no fanfare, Texan alt-rockers Narrow Head have completely won me over with Satisfaction. Blissfully fuzzy and subtly dark, it matches a slew of great songs with an overall mood that’s just gloriously bleak. With the exception of the next album on this list, it’s probably the one I’ve listened to the most. [Spotify]
5. The Black Queen – Fever Daydream (The Black Queen)
Greg Puciato is an unbelievable singer and Fever Daydream is an unbelievable album. 80s-inspired electropop can turn out pretty badly, but there’s an added darkness to The Black Queen’s world and it’s magnificent. ‘Ice To Never’, ‘Secret Scream’ and ‘The End Where We Start’ are all-time alt-pop classics, but the depth of the other songs makes this a totally rounded album. [Spotify]
4. Oathbreaker – Rheia (Deathwish Inc.)
I’d be amazed if any of our regular readers don’t already know about Rheia, a true artistic triumph. Oppressively heavy in places and yet totally raw and unguarded in others, the new Oathbreaker album is a step forward for extreme metal. It demands the listener’s attention and then tricks the mind into drifting off into a universe of Oathbreaker’s making. [Spotify]
3. letlive. – If I’m The Devil… (Epitaph)
There are probably letlive. fans out there who don’t really like If I’m The Devil… but the things that might alienate the die-hards have pulled me in. This record is mature and worldly wise, drawing from social justice and political awareness and smashing out a message with some meaning. The world needed this album. I needed this album. And so do you. [Spotify]
2. KING 810 – La Petite Mort Or A Conversation With God (Roadrunner Records)
I love KING 810. Their music is modern-day storytelling so powerful and raw it hurts almost physically to listen to it. I had no idea what to expect after the explosiveness of the first album, but its successor is even harder, even more gloriously ugly. Furthermore, it’s also smarter and sharper, and it might be even better. It reveals new dimensions with every listen. [Spotify]
And my Album of the Year for 2016 is…
1. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation (Party Smasher Inc)
The simple truth of the matter is that Dissociation was my Album of the Year within three listens and nothing is close to it. It’s rekindled my interest in a band I lost touch with, and it’s a phenomenal work of art, never mind a great album. Puciato is sensational again, and he’s not alone. An all-time classic album. [Spotify]