(We’re happy that for another year Neill Jameson (Krieg) succumbed to our entreaties to share with us a year-end list of metal.)
2016 has been a strange year. Not just in terms of the cultural shifts that occurred, or the copious amounts of deaths in the arts community, or even Antifa stepping over the line and using violence towards bystanders. It’s also been an unusually shitty year for a lot of our private lives as well, it seems. We weren’t able to make it a week without news that our friends were burying someone or worse, we were planning a funeral ourselves. But this time of the year is one bound by tradition so I’m back for my yearly review of music released in 2016 that you need to check out.
For me personally I didn’t buy a lot of new records this year. I don’t have any excuse, really, I just spent more time digging into older records or following some of my favorites without really checking out anything truly new this year. Did I miss out? Probably, but I don’t really care. I also tried to use only Bandcamp links where I could so that you actually buy some of this, instead of putting it on a YouTube playlist, which’ll lose its atmosphere when you can’t skip ads for Valtrex.
This is definitely split of the year for me, mostly because it did the trick that I over-philosophize in splits: introduce the audience of one band (me, Gehenna) to another band I’d never checked out. Both sides of this split are fucking nasty, with Gehenna laying out two of the sleaziest tracks I’ve ever heard them release, and Bleach Everything being fast, nasty and corrosive — definitely winning me over as a fan and making me want to seek out more.
As stated this is really just a remastered/”retooling” of two of these bands’ previous releases. But when it’s two excellent bands presented in such a manner, then there’s really no reason to complain. This record also serves as a good place to start if you’ve been interested in either band.
I was shocked that Hades Almighty was still around as well. I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever enjoyed their Alone Walkyng demo, which is still worth a listen, so I didn’t have much emotional investment in their side. It’s honestly a lot more interesting than I expected, and the vocals sound more like Dwid from Integrity than anything related to black metal. Drudkh’s side is perfection, as to be expected from this long-running group. This is one band which consistently gets better and better with each release.
By far my favorite black metal release of 2016. Urfaust have always stood out, first in a sea of corpse-paint and spikes and now in a sea of witch hats and fencing masks, as something special and beyond black metal’s sometimes stale horizon. Empty Space Meditation from start to finish feels fresh and uniquely spiritual with intensity so genuine that you just cannot manufacture a clone.
My album of the year goes to Withdrawal’s debut full-length Never, which manages to create a punch that reminds me of The Banner but with a wool hat (they’re Canadian, that’s my joke). Culling not only from a background of bands like Integrity and other Holy Terror-associated acts, Withdrawal also capture some Killing Joke and black metal, merging together into the most emotionally complex hardcore record of 2016 and my favorite record of said awful year.
Like every year, I know I missed a few. I didn’t hear the new Matyrdöd or those few Poison Idea records that slipped through the crack throughout the year. The Martröð EP should have made this list but I hate the idea of Alex Poole getting an ego. I only heard bits of the other Drudkh split, new Darkthrone, and various other things I probably should have paid attention to. Like I said, it’s been a rough year.
And finally, it should be noted that Organized Crime Records needs recognition for two excellent Integrity reissues, Seasons in the Size of Days and Humanity Is the Devil, which were both done with obvious love and care, which I wish more labels would put into their work.
I wanted to say something clever to end the year, but really, it’s been a dumpster fire. We’ve watched the worst of us be rewarded for behavior unbecoming of an intelligent society. Not just in politics but within the music scene as well. We’re told constantly to give these pieces of shit a chance, and if (when) they shit the bed we’re again told to give them another chance. They tell us to our faces to fuck ourselves and yet we shovel money and attention to them like a furnace.
2017 isn’t going to be this magical cure-all. More beloved friends and musicians will die, some of them because they did stupid shit. More pieces of shit will be given opportunities and platforms when they should be given mockery. It’s only going to get better if you make it better. So I’m going to make your New Year’s resolution for you: Stop being complacent. That one was free, you’re welcome.