AOTY 2016 as chosen by our CELEBRITY GUESTS
We’ve got the top 10 picks for albums of the year from our very metal guest stars Turbid North, Wastëland Riders, Barshasketh, Lachlan from Art of Catharsis, and Eric from Unspeakable Axe!
Jono – Turbid North
10. Zippo – After Us Apocalyptic Witchcraft
9. Venomous Concept – Kick Me Silly Season of Mist
8. Gadget – The Great Destroyer Relapse Records
7. Mos Generator– Abyssinia Listenable Records
6. Brujeria – Pocho Aztlan Nuclear Blast
5. Kaliya – MMXVI Burning Dogma Records
4. Ancient Warlocks – II STB
3. Sourvein – Aquatic Occult Metal Blade
2. Sumac – What One Becomes Thrill Jockey
1. Motorpyscho – Here be The Monsters Rune Grammofon
Nick Forkel – Turbid North
5. Khemmis – Hunted 20 Buck Spin
Caught wind of this band and album recently. Riffs are solid. Vocal melodies are catchy as hell. Hope to catch ’em live.
4. Sumac – What One Becomes Thrill Jockey
Straight up riff pummeling. A true album in terms of flow. Very cinematic. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to get heavier than this.
3. Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows Relapse Records
Hadn’t heard these guys until this album. Another well thought out record that flows from start to finish. Vocalist has a hint of Jim Morrison at times, I dig it.
2. Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us Nuclear Blast
Songs are short and absolutely crushing. This one hit me right away. The sheer aggression of it is something I haven’t heard in a while and badly needed to hear this year.
1. Motorpyscho – Here be The Monsters Rune Grammofon
If you’ve never heard this band before, take a breather from all things metal and listen to these guys. This one has everything for me. Amazing vocals, (those goddamn harmonies!) and stellar musicianship. This is a quality fucking band and album. Jam it while driving late at night.
10. Cruz – Culto Abismal Independent
9. Ravencult – Force of Profanation Metal Blade Records
8. Vektor – Terminal Redux Earache Records
7. Manzer – Beyond The Iron Portal Armee De La Mort Records
6. Hexecutor – Poison, Lust and Damnation Armee De La Mort Records
5. Hellbringer – Awakened From The Abyss High Roller Records
4. Vulture – Victim To The Blade High Roller Records
3. Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith Season of Mist
2. Urfaust – Empty Space Meditation Ván Records
1. Whipstriker – Only Filth Will Prevail PRC Music
Zhrine – Unortheta
Season of Mist | April 8th, 2016
This album probably constitutes the most successful fusion of post rock and black/death metal to date in my estimation. Unortheta presents an unusually large dynamic range and includes a wide and diverse set of elements, which Zhrine combine together with a laudable focus on tight songwriting and memorable passages. (TovH review here)
Antaeus – Condemnation
Norma Evangelium Diaboli | November 18th, 2016
Antaeus are probably one of the first names that come to mind when thinking of fast and aggressive black metal for any fan of underground black metal. Few bands manage to convey such a visceral sense of aggression and hatred. Condemnation was a welcome surprise, since I was under the impression that the band had split late last year. Collaborating with Menthor (Nightbringer, Lvcifyre) this time around, this album does not really deviate from the established sonic hallmarks of the band, but that’s no bad thing when the result is this good.
Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Dark Descent | August 19th, 2016
Dark Descent is known for putting out quality ‘old school’ death metal, what this usually equates to is death metal in the vein of Incantation, Immolation or early Morbid Angel, however, with Starspawn, we have an album that is closer to the earlier tech death pioneers of the 90s, such as Atheist, Pestilence or Nocturnus. It’s quite refreshing to hear this style revisited and reimagined in 2016, especially when it’s done with such aplomb! Superb. (TovH review here)
Urfaust – Empty Space Meditation
Ván Records | October 28th, 2016
This latest offering from Urfaust might well be their best to date, in my humble estimation. Empty Space Meditation is full of captivating riffs, well incorporated atmospheric elements and perfectly crafted songs. There really isn’t a dull moment on this album- highly recommended!
Irkallian Oracle – Apollyon
Nuclear War Now! Productions | February 22nd, 2016
Sweden’s Irkallian Oracle have really hit it out of the park with their latest full-length. While Grave Ekstasis was an interesting proposition, Apollyon shows a marked progression. The songwriting is more dynamic and memorable and is well complimented by a cavernous production that feels truly suffocating. (TovH mini-review here)
Convulsing – Errata
Independent | November 26th, 2016
This one man project by an Australian multi-instrumentalist called Brendan Sloan (Dumbsaint) came out of nowhere to offer up one of the very best albums of the year. Errata boasts an impressible range of sounds, which run the gamut from abyssal Portal-influenced riffing to ominous and haunting down tempo post-rock. There’s even a Porcupine Tree cover in there! Convulsing may be the least well-known name of this selection, but Errata is not a lesser album for it and I would loosely place it in the top half of the list.
Defeated Sanity – Disposal of the Dead/Dharmata
Willowtip | July 22nd, 2016
Defeated Sanity are a band that have always set themselves apart from other brutal death metal bands with their unique signature sound that fuses the brutality of early Suffocation and Disgorge with a very pronounced jazz influence. The result is death metal that sounds highly structured, but also feels on the verge of collapsing in on itself due to an unusual rhythmic emphasis. With this release, they took a different approach, separating their two main stylistic influences into two halves of a split release (with themselves). This is quite a novel approach and I can’t say I can think of any comparable examples. What you are left with is the best EP that Cynic never made and the best EP that Disgorge never made, with an even-more over the top and abrasive production. Result!
Chthe’ilist – Le Dernier Crépuscule
Profound Lore | January 29th, 2016
After the well-received Amechth’ntaas’m’rriacht demo, I was more than just a little curious to check out Chthe’ilist’s debut album. What we have here is a continuation of the aesthetic first presented on the demo, but more fleshed out and with a higher production value. I personally can’t get enough of this Demilich/Demigod influenced death metal, so this was probably the album that I listened to the most in 2016. (TovH review here)
Behexen – The Poisonous Path
Debemur Morti Productions | May 27th, 2016
Every Behexen album is a little different, and The Poisonous Path was no exception. This album features quite an abrasive production, combined with the melodic riffing which Shatraug (Horna, Sargeist) is known for. Combining more primitive, almost punkish ideas with some more triumphant moments, there is enough variation to keep us interested from start to finish on this well balanced full-length.
Void Meditation Cult – Utter the Tongue of the Dead
Hells Headbangers | October 31st, 2016
Featuring what is probably the most disturbing vocal performance of 2016, Utter the Tongue of the Dead is a relatively straightforward (and short) album whose strength is built upon simple, but effective riffs and an exceptional atmosphere, helped along with a production that is just on the right side of raw. Recommended to fans of black metal in the style of Demoncy, Beherit, Archgoat etc… It isn’t the most refined release, but it does offer up a palpable sense of evil and menace!
Adaestuo – Tacent Simitae
W.T.C Productions | November 11th, 2016
Fantastic dark and atmospheric MLP from Adaestuo, which is a side project of VJS (Nightbringer, Sargeist). Not a million miles away from Nightbringer stylistically, but incorporating some interesting and genuinely haunting clean female vocals. I’ve been addicted to this little release since it was put out not long ago and I look forward to hearing more from the band. (TovH mini-Review here)
Almyrkvi – Pupil of the Searing Maelstrom
Ván Records | May 18th, 2016
I first found out about Almyrkvi at Oration Festival in Iceland in February, where they performed as part of a rare live appearance. Their approach to black metal could be said to incorporate some industrial elements, with the inclusion of a conspicuous and unapologetic drum machine sound. Pupil of the Searing Maelstrom harkens back to some of the first Blut Aus Nord releases, which is no bad thing. It’s a style that is hard to get right, but Almyrkvi have nailed it with ease here. (TovH review here)
ÚIR – Tein-Eigen
Eldritch Lunar Miasma | December 1st, 2016
Úir is a new atmospheric black metal project, and Tein Eigen is their very first release. While atmospheric black metal is not a style that’s particularly in vogue at present, Úir have produced one of the best releases in this style for quite some time. Their style is juxtaposes a more romantic, melancholic style of riffing with a glacial atmosphere that communicates a real sense of dread and foreboding. One to watch for the future!
Lachlan (Art As Catharsis)
Another local group. Tangents have taken the hypnotic improvisation of The Necks’ more uptempo work like Hanging Gardens to a new level, incorporating washes of reverb-drenched live sampling alongside glitchy electronica. Stateless is a beautiful marriage of acoustic jazz and electronica. I look forward to the next stage of their development.
This debut record from Julia Jacklin has been on high rotation this year. Raw, melancholic alt-country that sinks into your heart and stays there.
Solange – A Seat at the Table
Columbia | September 30th, 2016
Beautiful, organic hip hop and soul with powerful themes.
Animals As Leaders– The Madness Of Many
Sumerian Records | November 11th, 20Y16
While Animals As Leaders are near-untouchable live, I’ve never quite been convinced of their compositional skills. The Madness Of Many changes all of that. They’re drawing from a broader sonic palette than ever before, and piecing together songs that escape the feeling that they’re just a collection of disjointed and highly technical riffs.
Look, I didn’t love To Pimp A Butterfly. I thought it was interesting and ambitious, but patchy. good kid, m.A.A.d city on the other hand is still on regular rotation. For me, untitled unmastered nicely straddles Kendrick’s more classic Compton rap and his increasingly experimental live hip hop influence.
This makes the list for the title track alone. For Bowie to reinvent himself so perfectly in his final years is astounding. Drawing on experimental hiphop, electro jazz, ambience and ‘art rock’ – and featuring the excellent Donny McCaslin and Mark Guiliana in his backing band – Blackstar is an awesome final effort.
I need more time with this record, but the few listens I’ve had have been captivating. Psychedelic black metal with delicious noise rock and post-metal influences. Värähtelijä is bound to echo through anything I write in 2017.
3. Radiohead – Moon Shaped Pool
XL | May 8th, 2016
While hardly ostentatious – or even a departure from their previous work – Radiohead’s latest slowly grew on me. Their attention to detail in both composition and sonic texturing is masterful.
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Bad Seed Ltd. | September 9th, 2016
It would be fair to say this release shares some similarities with Frank Ocean. Skeleton Tree is a psychic mess, brimming with fragility and trauma. In lieu of an clearly articulated structure, the songs swirl and pulse and lurch, almost collapsing under their own weight. It’s a powerful aesthetic achievement that could have easily gone awry.
For me, no other record comes even close. The breadth and depth of emotion expressed is simply unapproachable. On Blonde, Frank Ocean deconstructs hip hop and soul, leaving the elements to float by on an ethereal stream of consciousness. The result is an album that is somehow both fragmented and unified; druggy yet intensely articulate.
Eric (Unspeakable Axe Records)
I’ll preface this list by saying that a lot of my time and cash these days goes into stuff I’m releasing myself, so I have less of both to spend on anything else. Not to mention I get Dark Descent releases for free, and I’m leaving them all off of this list! But I still managed to hear a decent pile of other good music in 2016, so here is some of it:
Wretch – Wretch
The last album from Gates of Slumber was one of my favorite modern doom records, full of big fat riffs and smoky vocals, and above all memorable songs. They’re from the same city (Indianapolis) that I lived in for many years too. I was crushed to hear about the tragedy that hit the band and ended the band. So their quasi-return as Wretch – a more personal, darker take on the same core musical ideas as Gates – was welcome. Great album, stays in my rotation.
Voivod – Post Society
Voivod’s comeback was a shock to me. I love their early records – especially the three starting with Killing Technology and ending with Nothingface, all are classics. After that… eh. Angel Rat is OK, Outer Limits pushed the outer limits of my patience, and then there were all those years without Snake, or without Blacky, and they just made a lot of records that didn’t scratch that itch for assorted reasons. After Piggy died I assumed they were done. Then Target Earth happened and against all odds, Chewy was the perfect fill-in and seemed to even revitalize the band. Post Society continued the good work started with Target Earth, and now I hope they keep plugging away as long as they can.
Chthe’ilist – Le Dernier Crepuscule
This feels slightly dodgy since Dark Descent (UAR’s parent label) released the vinyl, but I seem to recall that Profound Lore signed them first and put out the CD, so I’m rolling with it. This is just great, weird death metal in the never-trendy style pioneered by Timeghoul, Demilich, etc. Between this and a couple of other releases I am leaving off this list for conflict-of-interest reasons (parenthetical plug: they’re “Sentient” by Nucleus and “Starspawn” by Blood Incantation), this was a good year for metal from other worlds. Or other dimensions.
Degial – Savage Mutiny
More cheating, since Metal Archives tells me this came out at the very end of 2015 (actually on Christmas day – thanks, Jesus!). But, you know, fuck it. Degial’s label Sepulchral Voice has a stunning batting average; you can basically buy everything they put out blind. They don’t release very much or very often but you can’t argue with the results. And this band is one of the best going, just nasty and evil death metal as it was meant to be played.
Parasit – A Proud Tradition of Stupidity
Not metal but d-beat crust punk from Sweden. I have a huge weakness for this style (other favorites being Hellshock, Driller Killer, and Instinct of Survival), and Parasit did it exactly right on this album.
Sauron – Conquest Through Attrition
This will fly under most radars since it was more or less self-released by the band, but these dudes continue making raging underground black/thrash at their own pace – which on the one hand means “many years between releases,” but on the other hand means “so fast it will melt your fucking head.”
Cultes des Ghoules – Coven
This band has gained some serious underground buzz somehow, which I’m not complaining about – they absolutely deserve it. I was on the fence about their beloved-in-some-circles debut Haxan, which was very raw and barbaric. Since then they have refined their approach without losing their dark atmosphere and it just works for me. One of those bands I just blind-buy their releases now.
Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust
This will be on a lot of lists and I imagine I don’t need to say much about it. So I won’t.
Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
This feels like it needs to come right after Gorguts, doesn’t it? These guys clearly have listened to Luc Lemay’s string-warping dissonance and tried to make it their own. It’s curious given the kind of metal I usually listen to, but I really enjoy this shit. The Voidspawn EP released in mid-2016 probably was the first time I let my interest in this style spill over to the label. Anyway, Ulcerate is great, this album is great.
Bestial Raids – Master Satan’s Witchery
I have not kept up as much in the last couple years with Nuclear War Now’s stable of intense black/death metal, and truthfully it’s not my go-to style – I tend to like discernible riffs and songs too much to fully submit to formless chaos. But as purveyors of chaos go, Bestial Raids is one of the best and this album is another black stab in the gut from them. I think this is one of the best bands (along with the defunct Blasphemophagher and Prosanctus Inferi) that I identify solely with Nuclear War Now.