Well, what a year 2016 has been! By June I already had 30 albums on my end-of-year shortlist, and that’s without considering the vast amount of brilliant EPs I’ve listened to and reviewed for Dave’s World Podcast this year.
In the end I decided not to include EPs in my final countdown, but rest assured that there are some gems out there. Creeper, Dead Hands and Black Coast are all worthy of your time.
I’d also like to give an honourable mention to those brilliant releases that in another year would surely have made this list. But, given the crazy nature of 2016, there is no room for Weezer, Nails, Korn, KING 810, Against Me!, Gojira, Knocked Loose, Oceans Of Slumber, Pup or others I’ve forgotten.
Anyway, on with the show…
20. Toothgrinder – Nocturnal Masquerade (Spinefarm Records)
This album was a very late re-entry into my top 20; I loved it when it came out back in January but then simply stopped listening to it as I was distracted by all the other shiny new things that have come since. However, their name popped up on my Twitter feed a few days ago and I revisited this wonderful record. The riffs are massive, it’s as heavy as the woolly mammoth on its artwork, and there are some big melodies here too. [Spotify]
19. Laptop Philharmonic – Craniotomy (Laptop Philharmonic)
I didn’t see this one coming and I didn’t see how much I would fall for it either. This progressive electro concept album about its creator’s real-life survival of ten-hour brain surgery has echoes of Radiohead and Portishead all over it, and still captivates me on every listen. The fact that it was made by someone I work with makes it even more extraordinary – someone with this much talent shouldn’t be stuck in the same office as me with their nose to the grind! [Bandcamp]
18. Night Verses – Into The Vanishing Light (Equal Vision Records)
I remember first coming across Night Verses a couple of years ago when they supported Norma Jean with a terrific set in the small room of Birmingham’s Academy. I’ve kept track of them since and was thrilled was this marvellous album arrived. It is proggy, furiously heavy and littered with post-rock noodling that will appeal to a wide range of music lovers. This is an album you can completely lose yourself in, something I highly recommend doing. [Spotify]
17. Oathbreaker – Rheia (Deathwish Inc)
With a couple more months to live with this record it would easily have made my top ten, but I’ve simply not had enough opportunities to delve into this as deeply as I want to. That said, on the handful of listens I’ve managed I’ve heard enough to understand what a ground-breaking, masterpiece of an album this is, and will be always be remembered as. The shifts from light to shade are magnificent and it is one of the most rewarding releases of 2016 in terms of consuming it as a full album. Easily good enough to make my list with a few listens, and I’m looking forward to continuing to fall in love with it. [Spotify]
16. The Dirty Nil – Higher Power (The Dirty Nil)
In terms of albums that give you that satisfying blast of noise, angst and riffs that sound like chainsaws, few from this year compare to this stunner from The Dirty Nil. This is not a record you simply listen to, this is one you blast. I love everything about it – the huge sound, the 90s marinade that has seeped into every single track, and the sheer, raw power of it. Marvellous. [Spotify]
15. Cane Hill – Smile (Rise Records)
Being someone whose formative years were during nu-metal’s peak, I was probably predisposed to fall for Cane Hill. Their EP a couple of years ago suggested good things, and good things were delivered. It deserves a place in my top 20 purely for its guitar tone, which was the sort of thing that made want to play the instrument in the early noughties, and it sits where it does because it includes a smorgasbord of bangers and a wholly believable and impressive vocal performance. Just a shame they didn’t include ‘Time Bomb’ – that alone would have been worth another two places! [Spotify]
14. Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct (Blackened Recordings)
If any album on my list proves how ridiculous this year has been, it has to be the first studio album in eight years from our world’s biggest ever band. I was not ready to be this impressed by a new Metallica record, especially a double album, but this is everything I could have wanted from the biggest of the big four in 2016. The songs are almost all brilliant, the riffing is on point and the production is the best and beefiest they’ve had since Garage Inc. The best Metallica album in two decades. Who’d have thought it? [Spotify]
13. Deftones – Gore (Reprise Records)
No other album has been in and out of my list as many times as Gore, so I’ve almost surprised myself with how high it has ended up. Let’s be sensible, this is not their best record, not by a long way. But comparing Deftones albums is hardly a fair benchmark – the standard is too high. Gore is still a rewarding listen and a cracking piece of art and – having seen them deliver the goods at Download in June – it works exceptionally well in the live environment. Ask me again next week and it might well have slipped into the 20s, but as I write these words it is worthy of its place right here. [Spotify]
12. Magrudergrind – II (Relapse Records)
Sometimes you just need a furious splurge of bone-shattering aggression and noise, and this album gives you that in spades. For a record so short and made up of rapid-fire songs, it packs in so much. The musicianship is outrageous and it is an incredibly satisfying listen. Also, if you ever find yourself on a minibus with work colleagues and you don’t feel like conversing, it does a great job of blocking everything else out. Or so I’ve heard! [Spotify]
11. A Day To Remember – Bad Vibrations (ADTR Records)
As much as I love the songwriting of A Day to Remember, sometimes their production can be a little too glossy for my liking, their previous album, Common Courtesy, in particular. So imagine my delight when Bad Vibrations turned up sounding dirtier, thicker and looser than anything they’ve done. This record has some of the best riffs of the year and sounds like a band that has fully regained its confidence and swagger. Enough melody to stick in your head after one listen and enough grit to start circle-pitting to. Lovely. [Spotify]