I won’t lie when I say that I was nearly overwhelmed by the amount of material that came out of the metal scene this year. Veteran bands still blowing fans away with new material, while newcomers set out to make their mark as well. This years top list was a struggle to make, shifting through countless amazing albums by countless amazing bands. But despite it all, I present the Top 10 Metal Albums of 2016.
1. Alcest – Kodama (Prophecy Productions)
This album takes the cake as my number one album of 2016. A fantastic return to their original sound that they deviated from on their previous album Shelter, Kodamahas one of the most calming and beautiful sounds, while still implementing the traditional harsh vocals of the black metal scene. An incredibly complex and imaginative piece of art, inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, this album brings forth an air of calming mystique and wonder.
2. Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows (Relapse Records)
I didn’t hear about Inter Arma until this past summer when they released Paradise Gallows. I was immediately hooked by the opening track “Nomini”, and held captive by the ferocity of the album until the very end. Paradise Gallows is an incredibly diverse album, refusing to by pigeonholed into any one specific genre of metal, something that bands of all aspects of metal should aspire to. If you’re a fan of rock or metal, then this album is for you.
3. Nucleus – Sentient (Unspeakable Axe Records)
Representing Chicago, the boys from Nucleus were abducted by aliens and returned with an amazing album. Inspired by Dan Simmons’ Hyperion series, Sentient manages to bring forth sounds of previous death metal acts, while maintaining an original sound with a more modern production that makes it completely accessible. Not to mention the amazing artwork by Dan Seagraves, known for his artwork on albums like Entombed’s Left Hand Path and Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness.
4. Rotting Christ – Rituals (Season of Mist)
Possibly one of the darkest albums I picked up this year, Rotting Christ’s Rituals is a malevolent work of art. Much like its namesake, the tracks off of this album sound like they were pulled from a dark book of rituals you would see in a horror movie, with fitting riffs and solos for each one. Rituals is also a continuation with their exploration of sound, different from their earlier releases and it works out brilliantly. Definitely a must listen for any fans of blackened death metal.
5. Gojira – Magma (Roadrunner Records)
A solid follow up to 2012’s Le’Enfant Sauvage, Gojira bears their soft side with Magma, considered to be one of the most anticipated releases of 2016. While it does lack the heaviness of some of their previous albums, this album still manages to hit the spot with catchy riffs and emotional solos. Each song is full of passion and conviction, making this release another excellent addition to Gojira’s legacy.
6. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct
I had been waiting since Death Magnetic for the promised release of Metallica’s next album. When they finally dropped the music video for their opener Hardwired, I knew it would describe my feelings towards 2016. Hardwired…To Self-Destruct had me banging my head and reminiscing of their earlier material. Another solid release from these metal veterans, I look forward to hearing news of an upcoming US tour this year.
7. Khemmis – Hunted (20 Buck Spin)
I was incredibly impressed by the sophomore release of Denver doom metal act, Khemmis. This album is a beast of itself, paying tribute to no specific doom metal acts that have come before them. This release amazed me from start to finish with its satisfying riffs and melodic solos, as well as its amazing vocals. Hunted is a solid follow-up to their previous release, Absolution, and continues to promise a bright future for the band.
8. Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas – Mariner (Indie Recordings)
One of the most interesting collaborations I’ve seen this year, doom metal dudes Cult of Luna and the symphonic Julie Christmas. At first, this album was difficult to listen to, and I found it hard to digest. However, when it finally managed to click with me, it latched on. The artists manage to complement each other incredibly, making this an amazing collaboration.
9. Skuggsjá – Skuggsjá (Season of Mist)
The only way I can describe this album is a heavy metal Wardruna. Skuggsjá is a collaboration between Einar Selvik, composer of the Vikings and the frontman of Wardruna, and Ivar Bjørnson, guitarist of Enslaved. For those with an appreciation of the ancient world, Skuggsjá was created as part of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution back in 2014. Skuggsjá manages to successfully combine the naturalistic elements of Selvik’s Wardruna and the metal styling of Enslaved, managing to blend ambient guitar riffs with the occasional black metal vocals. In the end, it’ll leave a lasting impression of the ancient Vikings on the imagination of the listener.
10. Ihsahn – Arktis (Candlelight Records)
Another experimental piece from the legend known as Ihsahn. Arktis manages to prove that Ihsahn has more in common with Devin Townsend and Opeth than he does with his original black metal act, Emperor. This release is certainly an impressive feat as Ihsahn manages to communicate with different genres, yet maintain his metal orbit. Along with his compelling lyrics, Ihsahn has another excellent release to show that he isn’t afraid to continue experimenting with his music.