(KevinP returns to NCS after being missing in action for a while, bringing us his list of the Top 10 releases of 2016 — and manages to include some names that haven’t appeared in LISTMANIA so far this year.)
Hey it’s me. Yeah, I’ve been pretty much absent from the site since March (besides some behind the scenes stuff here and there). Combo of busy with work, life, other hobbies (yes, they do exist) and the crush of trying to listen to 30+ releases every month for the past 2+ years leads to a bit of burnout (#RoughLifeAlert). But I figured I’d stick my head in here and give my two cents. I normally do a Top 25, plus various other things, but I’m sticking with 10 releases, nothing more, nothing less.
Onward and upward in 2017 (no promises).
10. Altarage – NIHL
Wet-blanket foggy death metal from Spain. A record that will melt your insides. I adore the guitar tone and everything about it. Maybe the most evil and viscous album this entire year!
9. Mussorgski – Creatio Cosmicam Bestiae
This one really defies genre classification; not sure what to call it: ambient, industrial, church organ, vocal spoken word/chant, black metal? You tell me, as I’m thoroughly confused. But it’s a fascinating listen and requires multiple play-throughs to really get it. This is a one-man band from Khorzon, of the Polish black metal band Arkona.
8. Aenaon – Hypnosophy
Having to follow up 2014’s Extance was always going to be a daunting feat. So as opposed to just churning out another album in the same vein, they’ve gone with a somwewhat streamlined approach. Songs have more memorable choruses, the production (while at first sounding cleaner) is more audible (allowing you to hear all the little nuances), and it’s littered with more clean vocals (courtesy of guest Giorgos Papagiannakis). No worries though, as the saxophone is still an integral part of their sound.
7. Bölzer – Hero
One of the most anticipated albums of the year. Was there really any way this could live up to the hype and expectations the band garnered over 2 EP’s in the past 3 years? Probably not, but they got as close as you could have hoped for. Bölzer in long form. It’s still Bölzer, but a few new ideas sprinkled into the mix to expand their sound and give themselves some breathing room moving forward.
6. Mithras – On Strange Loops
Nine bloody years. Yes, nine years in the making this sucker was. The end result? A pretty damn impressive dense death metal album that’s progressive, brutal, and spacey. These blokes weren’t just sitting around drinking tea and eating crumpets all that time (well, maybe at least a few of those years they were, what do I really know). Overall, it did not disappoint.
5. Oranssi Pazuzu – Varahtelija
Their 2013 album, Valonielu, was met with almost universal praise, so what seems to be a running theme here is “how do they top that?” Psychedelic black metal that doesn’t restrict itself to any particular style or form. Dare I say they have now normalized the idea of being “out there”. They have struck such a chord of being different and unique by doing it so long, you actually feel comfortable listening to it.
4. Fifth to Infinity – Omnipotent Transdimensional Soulfire
I can already see the eyes rolling into the back of some of your heads based on the band name, album title, and label releasing it. It probably doesn’t help matters that I’m gonna tell you this is atmospheric dark metal with elements of melodic black and death metal to it. Oh, and Martin Lopez (Soen, ex-Opeth/Amon Amarth) is the drummer. Are you still with me? .
Scrap any preconceived notion you may have about anything I’ve said and give the album a listen. It’s fresh, heavy, dark, and one of the best things released in 2016.
3. Madder Mortem – Red in Tooth and Claw
The first new material by the band in 7 years. Red in Tooth and Claw is more akin to a collection of Madder Mortem songs this time around. There is no unifying plot or specific vision/purpose like on All Flesh is Grass, Deadlands, Desiderata. You get a taste of the many styles and emotions the band is so good at delivering, from heavy groove riffs to controlled chaos to tenderness, back to rock and roll and progressive jazz. While this may sound like the band has a case of musical Tourette’s, it never comes across as disjointed or an attempt to simply smash a bunch of things together for the sake of being different.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention vocalist Agnete M. Kirkevaag. I make no secret that I feel she has no equal (male/female/etc.) regardless of the music genre. Once again she puts in an expected tour de force performance. No matter where the music takes you, she’s there to give you chills. Highs, lows, in-betweens, always oozing with power and emotion.
2. Hail Spirit Noir – Mayhem in Blue
I almost hate doing this. This album is one of those masterful records without a single wasted note. It’s a band continung to refine and perfect their sound while still sounding fresh and interesting. Progressive/psychedelic black/rock horror. Yeah they are hard to pin down, which is part of their beauty. I couldn’t ask anything more from them, yet it’s only my 2nd favorite album of the year. But hey, at least they lost out to a fellow countrymate.
1. Universe 217 – Change
Here’s my review over at Metal Bandcamp:
What more can I say? It’s amazing, another perfect album, and something that held up against all comers throughout the year.