Since we are only in the infancy of 2017, I thought I’d post a list of my top 10 favorite metal albums of 2016. While many of these also appeared on the Top 40 Albums of 2016 list and the Top 10 Favorite Songs of 2016 podcast, I wanted to give metal its due in a year where we saw the boundaries of the genre continue to widen. For some of these posts I used excerpts from past write-ups (I hope you don’t mind!).
10. Inter Arma
The album art to Inter Arma’s Paradise Gallows is a perfect match to a 70-minute odyssey that journeys across the metal landscape, moving from prog to stoner to death metal, all the while crushing its listener with unexpected twists and turns.
For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
SubRosa’s For This We Fought the Battle of Ages has no interest in playing nice. Instead, it challenges the parameters of doom metal by infusing their gloomy riffs with strings and a ghostly chamber choir. This unsettling mix makes for one of the most groundbreaking metal albums of 2016.
What One Becomes
For the second year in a row, Aaron Taylor, of Isis fame, released an album for his new project Sumac, and it’s just as complex, unpredictable, and brutal as the band’s first effort. If you’re interested in subjecting yourself to a blistering listen, let Sumac’s What One Becomes sear your sense.
“Image of Control”:
Still They Pray
In a time where more and more music is polished and overproduced, Cough stand as an antithesis – turbid riffs, murky production, and unyielding cacophony sucking the listener into its untamed atmospheres. Still They Pray may dabble with a psychedelic sound at times, but don’t be fooled – this is as straight-forward and crushing as doom metal gets. Give yourself up to the oncoming, sludgy flood.
“Haunter of the Dark”:
6. Russian Circles
Guidance is another post metal powerhouse from the Chicago trio known as Russian Circles. It’s easy to get lost in the band’s emotional grooves, jumping from sadness to elation all within one bruising riff.
5. Aluk Todolo
When listening to the rough-edged guitars of French trio Aluk Todolo, I’m often reminded of indie stalwarts Fugazi, Comets on Fire, and Sonic Youth more than anything metal. It’s clear from one listen that Voix is an album that refuses to stay in its lane. It’s an album that can be ferocious and hypnotic at the same time, resulting in one euphoric listen.
4. The Body
No One Deserves Happiness
Rather than softening their signature assault, Chip King and Lee Buford built an even more strident and terrifying tapestry to loom over the proceedings on No One Deserves Happiness. King’s voice has never sounded so petrifying, shrill and unrestrained. Buford’s drums pound down furiously, like a claw hammer into the skull of an unsuspecting bystander. The dominant duo may be whipping up a dreadful storm throughout, but Chrissy Wolpert brings serenity to the unavoidable tragedy.
On Nattesferd, Kvelertak dust off classic metal sounds, ranging from Van Halen to Thin Lizzy, and add their own audacious flourishes of breakneck drums and screeching vocals to the mix. Nattesferd is the ultimate party album for the corpse paint community, providing anthems that will have you pumping your fist and screaming along to the lyrics (note: you might want to brush up on your Norwegian).
Often a roster change means a decline in quality for bands, but with 2016’s Slow Forever, this shake-up of Cobalt has resulted in an album that is more invigorating and intense than anything written by Erik Wunder in the past. Breaking the shackles of the past has given Wunder more freedom to stray from the band’s signature chaos. Black metal elements are still present, but these moments are given more power by the album’s multiplicity, moving from doom intros to acoustic interludes to break speed madness as the tracks unravel like one great metal menagerie.
“Hunt the Buffalo”:
1. Oranssi Pazuzu
From thrash metal to interstellar psych-rock to murky doom metal, Värähtelijä has no interest in staying tethered to the tenets of black metal. Often times the album reminds me more of noise-rock legends Swans than anything Burzum ever created. Songs slowly build off echoing guitar riffs or a plopping xylophone, eventually spilling over into exaltant, chaotic bliss. Aranssi Pazuzu are masters of manipulation throughout the 70-minute journey, taking the listeners seamlessly through moments of beauty and bedlam. The destination is never clear, but it’s for certain that Oranssi Pazuzu’s only interest is in exploring the unknown.