Every year our LISTMANIA series of posts includes not only lists of the year’s best releases as compiled by our staff, invited guests, and our esteemed readers, but also lists assembled by what we call “big platform” web sites and selected print magazines. And every year, it seems that DECIBEL magazine provides the launch for LISTMANIA by coming out with the first of the lists we see from that category of web sites and print zines — and they’ve done it again this year.
I’m a long-time DECIBEL subscriber, but my hard copy of the January edition, which includes the YE list, hasn’t hit my mailbox yet. However, today DECIBEL provided an on-line teaser for the issue that included their ranking of the year’s Top 40 albums.
For the first time in 7 years, I can re-publish their list without stealing their thunder (and I actually feel better about that). Apparently, someone else besides me jumped the gun this year, and DECIBEL decided to just go ahead and post the list themselves.
But before getting to that, I’ll share again the thoughts that I share every year at this time about the phenomenon of year-end lists in metal.
They continue to serve several useful purposes. One, of course, is to introduce fans to albums they may have overlooked. I also know people who don’t buy much music during the year and actually wait to read year-end rankings before preparing their shopping lists. And, perhaps most obviously, they give us something to discuss and argue about. Because, duh, we don’t have enough to argue about already.
And it’s easy to argue over year-end lists. No matter who compiles them, they’re going to leave out albums you think should be included, they’re going to include albums you don’t think belong, and they’re going to screw up the rankings. I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? The only list that could possibly satisfy any individual fan from start to finish is the one they make for themselves.
I usually try to hold my own comments to a minimum when I post these year-end lists, mainly because I can’t manage to make a list of my own. But here are a few observations about this one, just to et the conversation started, which I must preface by saying that I managed to miss listening to an unusually high number of albums that are on the DECIBEL list this year.
First, I’m delighted to see the new album by our friends in Khemmis ranked so highly. It’s an excellent album, and of course it’s always refreshing to see nice guys finish first — because how often does that happen?
Second, although I’m not surprised to see Blood Incantation’s new one in the Top 5, and although it will likely be ranked highly in many other lists like this one, given the amount of buzz it received this year, I’m now convinced the recognition is well-deserved. I was made a true believer by seeing their live performance at California Deathfest this fall.
Third, I’m again disappointed, as I was last year, that the list is so light on black metal, with only Abbath and Deströyer 666 in the Top 20 and very few in the second 20 (yes, I do see Oranssi Pazuzu up there at No. 4, but I’m not sure a genre definition has yet been invented for what they’re doing). And although I think both of those albums are very good, I wouldn’t have picked them as the two best black metal albums of the year.
Fourth, as often seems to be the case, there are more of my favorites at the bottom end of the list than at the top, with the likes of Inverloch, Inquisition, Cult of Luna + Julie Christmas, Chthe’ilist, and Phobocosm all lurking in the bottom third. Still, I’m glad they’re on the list somewhere.
There are other albums on the list that I enjoyed a lot, but perhaps more than in most years, this list is missing a big percentage of my favorites, and conversely it includes a larger than usual number of albums I never heard all the way through, in part because what I did hear failed to really grab me. Maybe I should have dived deeper. Maybe I will.
And finally, I’ll say it before you do: The DECIBEL list is necessarily missing a big chunk of contenders whose albums weren’t even released before press time on the January issue, which was probably at least 30 days ago. That’s not a criticism, but rather the result of the lead time that print publications must live with. But this year in particular it leads to the omission of some real gems that have appeared only recently or haven’t yet been released.
Anyway, I’ll stop there and let you guys pick up the conversation below. And to pick up a copy of the DECIBEL issue that includes this list (and of course a lot of other goodies), go HERE.
40. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
39. Eternal Champion – The Armor of Ire
38. Venomous Concept – Kick Me Silly VC III
37. Aluk Todolo – Voix
36. Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed
35. Eerie – Eerie
34. Sumac – What One Becomes
33. Child Bite – Negative Noise
32. Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith
31. Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner
30. Graves at Sea – The Curse that Is
29. Chthe’ilist – Le Dernier Crépuscule
28. Phobocosm – Bringer of Drought
27. Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake
26. SubRosa – For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
25. Bölzer – Hero
24. Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
23. Mizmor – Yodh
22. Wretch – Wretch
21. Virus – Memento Collider
20. Oathbreaker – Rheia
19. Ghoul – Dungeon Bastards
18. Diamond Head – Diamond Head
17. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
16. Destroyer 666 – Wildfire
15. Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies
14. Funeral Moth – Transience
13. Blood Ceremony – Lord of Misrule
12. Asphyx – Incoming Death
11. Trap Them – Crown Feral
10. Cobalt – Slow Forever
9. Gorguts – Pleiades Dust
8. Hammers of Misfortune – Dead Revolution
7. Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
6. Gehennah – Too Loud to Live, Too Drunk to Die
5. Abbath – Abbath
4. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
3. Blood Incantation – Starspawn
2. Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
1. Khemmis – Hunted
Definitely some good picks here, but I’m shocked that Vektor isn’t on here.
Seconded. The total absence of Vektor is really weird.
Fourded, easily a top 5 album this year. Amazed at the absence.
I’m sure it’s been brought up before, but doesn’t it seem like these lists should be compiled and released in January, not November? They’re being kind of dismissive of the rest of the year’s releases.
End of rant.
Being a print mag, Decibel may have a two-month plus lead in time for most albums so they’ve likely heard everything they plan to hear this year. Given that this is popping up dead center of November, maybe this is meant for their December issue, so the year’s end as far as newsstand readers may be concerned?
I gave it a quick glance, looks like a decent list, even spread amongst all of this years discs. I think they rated Nails too high in a year that has Rotten Sound, Gadget, Teethgrinder and a handful of other releases of the hyper-blasty grind territory but a lot of people seem to really like the hXc aspect of the band’s sound.
I’m again talking out of my ass, but although DECIBEL and other print mags get their promos far ahead of even the biggest online sites, I still doubt they had already heard everything they would have wanted to hear from 2016 before going to press, considering that they probably put this list to bed by early-to-mid October. I’m also not sure whether they have a policy about including albums on the list that they’ve never written about, but if so, surely there were some albums they had heard with December release dates before finishing this list that hadn’t been reviewed previously and aren’t reviewed in this “January” issue.
Never having been involved in the publication of a magazine, I don’t know all the considerations, nor do I know how it is that DECIBEL’s January issue (which by the name of the month would be a logical one for a year-end list) comes to be released in November. I’ve noticed other monthlies that have that a similar disconnect between the cover date and the actual publication date. Unless you were to do something to try to fix that disconnect, in order to get a year-end list that really covered all the releases in a year they’d be publishing their Top 40 in the March 2017 issue (published in January) or possibly the April issue (published in February), given the lead time between putting the content to bed and getting it printed and distributed.
I did find the following explanation at Wikipedia, though I have no idea whether it explains the situation DECIBEL is in (and they’re more than a month out of whack on the cover date anyway):
“In the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the standard practice is to display on magazine covers a date which is some weeks or months in the future from the actual publishing/release date. There are two reasons for this discrepancy: first, to allow magazines to continue appearing “current” to consumers even after they have been on sale for some time (since not all magazines will be sold immediately), and second, to inform newsstands when an unsold magazine can be removed from the stands and returned to the publisher or be destroyed (in this case, the cover date is also the pull date).”
Anyway, yes, I guess the effect is to be dismissive of at least two months worth of releases, but I’m sure that’s not their purpose..
Since they’re obviously not the only magazine to publish year end lists you would think they would at least adapt a policy of including the November and December releases from the previous year in consideration for their lists. This would at least give every artist a fair shot.
Who knows, maybe some of them already do it?
I’m following you on this one. Publishing on new years eve or early January would be optimal, but if not, at least include a whole years worth: “Best of Nov 2015 – Nov 2016”.
This “best of 10 months” feels rather random, like “best releases of the past 37.84 odd numbered weeks with release dates on days that were sunny in Wichita, Kansas”
No Mithras? No Vektor? Wow. I don’t understand that.
This list makes me realize how little music i have been listening to this year.. Still stuck on Exercises in Futility and Batushka FFS.
Allright, time to sit down and actively listen to the ones that look interesting, Starting with Bölzer. Completely forgot that one game out.
I’ve been meaning to write about that Bölzer album for a while, but will probably never get around to it. It has drawn some conflicting opinions among friends at this site and elsewhere. I like it.
I am quite enjoying it on the first listen, A bit more varied than i remember them being, but the riffs are definitely still there! Doubt it will top Zeal and Ardor tho.
I’m still waiting for it to actually come out, dammit.
Re: Bolzer – Finally got to hear it all. I wasn’t taken with it on my first time through. I found some (but not all) of the clean vox off-putting. Some good riffs and some duds. “I Am III” is a killer track, but it’s the high point IMO. I will have to give it a chance to grow on me.
Honestly, neither Nails or Abbath should be top five anything….both releases were completely middle of the road
We rarely agree, but thank you…. we definitely agree this time! I try not to trash bands, but seriously…there’s a lot better stuff out there than Nails within the type of sound that they play. No comment on the Abbath, though I always did enjoy Immortal.
We’re usually good for one agreement per year 🙂
…and I dont mind that Abbath album, Im a big Immortal fan myself, I just dont find it especially notable
nice to see Inverloch and Blood Incantation
Man, I wasn’t particularly prolific in getting new releases this year, but usually there’s at least ONE album I bought that appears on the list… of the few releases I did buy I really enjoyed the new Grand Magus, Opeth, and Witherscape, and the latter I think is likely a contender for a top 20 (or even 10) list somewhere. Phenomenal record. Maybe too melodeath for Decibel?
I really try not to complain about other people’s lists. Everyone has their own tastes and opinions and that’s fine and all but seeing Nails all the way at number two kind of irks me a bit. I didn’t want to say it it before, because I do enjoy their new album and past releases, but that band is waaaaaay overrated.
Where is Mithras, Ulcerate or Vektor?
Like others, I have to agree that there are some nice and interesting picks on this list. (Inverloch, Inter Arma, Eternal Champion and a few more..) Also like others, there are some glaring place shenanigans and lackluster choices overall. (choices with big names, though, so it sort of makes sense to some degree, COUGHnailsCOUGH!)
What about Obscura, Mithras, Hyperion, Plebeian Grandstand, Furia, Schammasch, Mistur, Profanatica, Thrawsunblat, Anagnorisis, Anaal Nathrakh and Jassa. Saor, Ulcerate and VRTRA. Profanatica! Marsh Dweller.
Motherfucking Palace of Worms. Did no one like that?? Press is scant about that album on the internet.
These and more in a detailed list coming to you January 2017.
Anagnorisis is from my town! Hailz.
That Hyperion album…wow. I’m not a black metal fan – I’ve never listened to Dissection, who I’ve gathered is Hyperion’s touchstone – but Seraphical Euphony is devastating. It’s easily in my Top 10 or 15 of the year.
I hear the Dissection comparison a lot, and while its somewhat apt, and I do indeed love Dissection, I don’t entirely think this is just a Dissection style band. They weave a number of elements into the sound that really take the album places. Easily one of the best of the year.
That said, you should hear Dissection’s ‘Storm of the Lights Bane’ and ‘The Somgerlain’. Fierce and wonderfully textured metal albums, both of them!
I just recently heard about the Hyperion album and I like it. I’ve been going back through my mid-late 90s black/melodeath collection lately, and it fits in well. But it’s not covering any new ground – the melodies are pretty stock standard. I’ll be more interested in them if they develop their own voice instead of just doing a good job with the genre.
I’m surprised there’s so many “wellknown” bands on the list. I was under the impression that Decibel had a fairly good finger on the pulse of the underground?
What’s quite amusing to me is that even though I feel overwhelmed with selections for this years lists, there are SO many albums on this one that I haven’t heard at all.
Partially because clearly my tastes don’t necessarily run parallel to Decibel’s, but also because there’s simply SO much music out there these days.
Here’s some stuff I still haven’t heard that likely won’t be on any of my lists, simply because I haven’t gotten round to them:
Asphyx (though I’m hoping to get round to hearing this one asap)
There are 23 albums on that list of 40 I haven’t heard all the way through, or at all. Granted, I tend to focus on releases that don’t get much attention from more high profile sites and zines, but still, that’s a lot of misses.
“Khemmis? Gorguts put out the best METAL album this year – don’t deny it. Stop trying to be different – you’re only appealing to hipsters. Have fun with that. I thought I’d found a credible metal music site to frequent. Apparently not – laters!”
OH SHIT. I can’t believe I forgot this.
Don’t worry… I won’t let you forget again.
Thank you for clarifying why they released their top 40 album list before the end of the year. I always wondered why someone would do this, after all there are still one and a half month left of this year and who knows what good albums might be released before the end of the year. Albums that won’t make it in this list at least, that is for sure. What I am not so sure about is the fact that I only know 16 bands from this list and if I need to listen to the other 24 albums or if it is just a waste of my time.
There’s a big range of styles in this list, which is typical for lists that are compilations of what a big staff of writers thought were the best. So, hard to know if it would be a waste of time to explore all 24 of the ones you haven’t heard, but at least some of them would be a waste of time unless your tastes are as eclectic as this list. Another strategy (that you’ve probably thought of already) would be to wait for more lists and see what names continue to appear consistently.
Well actually I was overwhelmed with all the lists that you guys proposed to us last year. But I checked out many of those lists and bands and I regretted that I had already bought my top 10 albums of 2015 just to discover a shitload music that were so much more to my liking. I would call myself open minded for new music, but I have experienced that – for example – Stoner (Doom / Sludge) Metal isn’t exactly what I usually listen to and although I say that I still can enjoy Khemmis. Yes I guess I will do that and wait until your list mania gets started. I might come up with my own list even if it’s not finished by the time you are collecting them from your fans and members.
Ive listened to a good portion of the album in that list. What kind of metal really grabs you?
Maybe I can help steer you towards ones that will floor you or maybe even suggest ones that haven’t made the list but have really blown me away. No press, just a thought. It can be hard to wade through a zillion releases of some many different sub-genres…
I’m gonna agree with those wondering where Vektor is. I think it’s their best album so far, and they’re one of the best metal bands of this era. It’s not like they’re too obscure.
Otherwise, there are some good picks here. Hammers of Misfortune, Subrosa, Inquisition would likely make my own list.
Um, Darkthrone? I’ve been spinning the fuck out of Arctic Thunder. And I totally agree that the omission of Terminal redux is baffling. Inquisition would mos def be in my top ten.