(Andy Synn’s week-long series of year-end lists continues with his personal list of 2016’s Good Albums. Yesterday’s list dealt with Disappointments.)
So now we’re really starting to get into the meat of things.
Unlike tomorrow’s list of “Great” albums, the list of “Good” albums covers a bit of a wider range in terms of overall quality.
Some of these albums are ones I consider to be so good as to be almost “Great”, but which are perhaps held back from true greatness by one or two inescapable flaws.
Some of them are undeniably “Good” in the sense that we’ll all doubtless be coming back to them for a long time, but probably (if we’re being honest with ourselves) with some understanding that they don’t quite hit the highest possible standards.
And some of them… are just “good enough”. They’re certainly not bad albums and are more than enjoyable enough, but they’re probably not going to be winning any awards (apart from Revolver awards, but those don’t really count).
Of course your mileage may vary. Some of these albums you may think are the bee’s bollocks (that’s the phrase, right?) and deserve to be considered “Great” albums in their own right. And some of these albums you might actively despise and not understand why anyone could consider them to be “Good”. But I hope you know that I’ve tried to be as objective as possible here, and feel like I’ve given all these releases a fair hearing.
So why not click onwards, brave traveller, and see if anything in this list strikes your fancy?
Where shall we start? How about we kick off with three albums of rib-tickling brutality —Condemnation by Antaeus, Union of Flesh and Machine by Blood Red Throne, and In His Infernal Majesty’s Service by Witchery –which only barely missed the cut for tomorrow’s “Great” albums list?
Keeping things nice and brutal, but edging away from the Black/Death/Thrash triangle, resurgent Tech/Core titans Car Bomb and Ion Dissonance left eardrums ringing with their latest slabs of sonic punishment, both of which were also very much in the running for inclusion on the “Great” list.
On top of this both Bossk and Luna’s Call released their debut albums this year, and both albums were definitely considered for tomorrow’s list, as was the second album by Polish decapitators Dormant Ordeal and the third (and slightly overhyped) album by the awfully-named, but awfully-talented, Thrawsunblat.
This year also saw several of the most well-respected acts in the underground (or, at least, non-mainstream) Metal scene – Caïna, Oranssi Pazuzu, and Ulcerate – put out albums that were borderline “Great”, but perhaps not quite as good as their best work(s), as did several more well-known names, including Dark Tranquillity, Entombed, and Testament.
And then of course there’s this little band called Meshuggah, whose new album has some absolutely breathtaking tracks on it, but also a handful that I’d call merely “Good”, rather than truly “Great”.
Living legends Ihsahn and Devin Townsend both delivered impressive albums this year that were borderline “Great”, but which fell ever so slightly short of either artist’s best, as did the Prog-Metal minstrels in Nocte Obducta and Thy Carafalque, though their similarly unconventional brethren in Barishi seemed to stumble a little with the cantankerous chaos of their second album, Blood From the Lion’s Mouth.
On the heavier and more aggressive end of things, Aborted, Vader, and Heaven Shall Burn (my personal pick of the bunch) all produced new albums peppered with multiple “Great” songs but which were slightly hamstrung by a few more lacklustre moments, with the Belgian brutes in particular suffering a notable (though nowhere near-fatal) drop in quality when compared to their last two rampaging releases.
Speaking of “Great” songs, let me ask you something – what do Magma (Gojira), Winter (Oceans of Slumber), and Rituals (Rotting Christ) all have in common? No, not just one word titles. They’re all packed with “Great” material… just not quite enough to fill a full album.
In the bloodstained arena of Blackened Death Metal the ever-more-extreme Noctem and the always esoteric Rudra continued to produce some of their best work, while both The Wretched End and Against the Plagues continued to establish themselves as names that need to be known by more people.
On the more Technical/Brutal side of things, the infamous Fleshgod Apocalypse continued to challenge the statement that “less is more” with their fourth album King, and Massachusetts murder-metallers Abnormality only reinforced the perception of themselves as a force to be reckoned with on their second album, Mechanisms of Omniscience.
Special mention, though, has to go to the ambitious double-EP/split-album by Defeated Sanity, which saw the German crushers showcasing a surprising (even shocking) amount of variety and versatility to their sound.
Keeping to the Death Metal side of things, both Gomorrah and Murder Made God made huge strides this year with their sophomore albums, while infamous Synn Report alumni Insision returned after a lengthy pause with one of their best albums yet, and killer debuts by Our Place of Worship Is Silence and Syrinx proved that there’s always new blood waiting to be shed.
On the more Core-friendly side of things, the returning Despised Icon proved that they haven’t lost a step with their comeback album Beast (though, unfortunately, they also haven’t lost the monotonous, and entirely superfluous, “ree-ree” vocals either), and unrepentant NCS-favourites Carnifex continued to blacken and sharpen their sound with the malevolent Slow Death.
A triptych of British bands also demonstrated that it’s possible to mix Death and Core elements without pandering to the breakdowns and bad tattoos crowd, and I’d recommend A Night In The Abyss, Jonestown, and From Sorrow To Serenity to anyone interested in giving their eardrums a solid pummeling.
This year was also a fantastic year for Tech Death in my opinion, with a number of albums – Illuminance by Virvum, Persistence of Thought by Burial In The Sky, and II by Vale of Pnath – coming very close to making it onto the “Great” list.
On top of this, impressive second albums by The Binary Code (or just “Binary Code” as apparently they’re now calling themselves) and Bushwhacker made a serious impression on me this year, as did the rather blistering debut from Sacramento’s Wastewalker, whilst Brit Tech-tykes Invocation showed a lot of promise on their debut Atlas.
On the Black Metal side of things the long-awaited and star-studded Aeons In Sodom from Norwegian legends Urgehal scored some major points with me, and was certainly a fitting tribute to the band’s now deceased frontman Trondr Nefas.
I’d also highly recommend checking out From The Vastland’s latest effort, Chamrosh, as well as Bahrrect’s L’aube glacée, and Black Sun Unbound, the third album by Australia’s darkling lords Denouncement Pyre.
Also hailing from the barren plains of Australia, the ever-prolific Mesarthim gave us the enigmatically-titled .- -… … . -. -.-. . (aka, Absence), which is quite possibly their best yet (and was a serious contender for the “Great” list), while their countrymen in Spire went for a more ambient, but no less dark, approach with Entropy.
Oh, and Mare Cognitum continued to both amaze and astound with Luminiferous Aether, albeit not quite as amazingly or astoundingly as on Phobos Monolith or An Extraconscious Lucidity.
The British Black Metal scene was well-represented this year, with new releases from Terra, Old Corpse Road, and Eastern Front rattling the most cages (though the latter was definitely the weakest of the three), while both Trivax and Burial delivered some slightly more Death-tinged goods in their own inimitable way.
Germanic grimsters Ultha put their best foot forwards with their debut Converging Sins, while their countrymen in Imperium Dekadenz delivered yet another slab of epic darkness with the brilliant (if slightly bloated) Dis Manibvs.
And while we’re in Germany I can’t fail to mention just how good both King Apathy by Thränenkind and Rooms by Todgelichter are, as both albums have become firm favourites of mine. Though I will still disagree with anyone who tries to call either of them “Black Metal”.
Speaking of albums that arguably aren’t really Black Metal, this year also saw yet another release from the always fertile minds behind An Autumn For Crippled Children, who remain as oblique and divisive as ever on their sixth album, Eternal.
If you were looking for some doomy delights, then the UK really delivered some gems this year, with the latest releases from the NCS-approved Eye of Solitude, The Drowning, and The Wounded Kings all producing some of their best work (though Cenotaph isn’t quite the revelation that Canto III was).
Their countrymen in Garganjua also put out a killer album in the shape of the burly, moodily melodic A Voyage in Solitude, as did Finnish fatalists Kyrck, and it would be a mistake to forget about the sorrowful Swedes in October Tide and Apathy Noir, as both Winged Waltz and Across Dark Waters provided a hefty dose of metallic melancholy to soothe even the most savage of souls.
However, my personal favourite of this year’s crop of doom-laden dirges was the crushing, crawling horror of Innsmouth by Obed Marsh, which is the sort of album that makes you afraid to be alone in the dark…
From Doom we move towards Sludge, where we find the nasty boys in Allfather and Seven Sisters of Sleep cranking out another batch of bloodsoaked metallic moonshine with Bless The Earth With Fire and Ezekiel’s Hags, whilst somewhere between Post- and Sludge Metal we find the manifest density of Octopus Kraft and their second album, Through A Thousand Woods.
Picking up the pace a little, the groovetastic XII Boar brought the swagger with Beyond the Valley of the Triclops, while Rotten Sound and Hierophant brought the venom with their violent injections of Grindcore adrenaline.
On the proggier side of things, Prog-Thrash quintet Shatter Messiah continue to prove themselves to be one of the most underrated acts on the scene today with the rather epic Orphans of Chaos, while the sheer extravagance of The Roads Leading North found our old friend Brett Windnagle of Lascaille’s Shroud spreading his wings even more (though occasionally flying a little too close to the sun).
Moving into the home stretch now, debut albums by Blackened Death-Groove duo Yliaster, shameless Dissection-disciples Hyperion, and nuanced New York nihilists Anicon caused something of a stir in all the right circles, and if you elected to pick any of these albums as “Great” I wouldn’t necessarily argue against that too hard, even if they didn’t quite make the cut for me.
And I feel like special consideration needs to be given to Ancst, Fyrnask, and Ast — each of whom put a singular spin on their own particular brand of German Black Metal — British metal-monsters The King Is Blind, and French Post-Metal/Post-Hardcore troubadours Lessen, as each of these bands stood out from the pack for me this year.
Oh, and also some band called Metallica released a new album that was actually, for the most part, pretty good. Quelle surprise…
Coming tomorrow is my list of what I consider the truly “Great” albums of 2016, the ones that went above and beyond the call of duty.
In the meantime however here’s the full list of “Good” albums, with bandcamp links where available, alphabetised for your pleasure.
Abnormality – Mechanisms of Omniscience
Aborted – Retrogore
Against the Plagues – Purified Through Devastation
Allfather – Blessing The Earth With Fire
An Autumn For Crippled Children – Eternal
A Night In The Abyss – Necropolis
Apathy Noir – Across Dark Waters
Bahrrecht – L’aube glacée
Barishi – Blood From The Lion’s Mouth
(The) Binary Code – Moonsblood
Blood Red Throne – Union of Flesh and Machine
Burial In The Sky – Persistence of Thought
Bushwhacker – The False Dilemma
Caïna – Christ Clad In White Phosphorus
Carnifex – Slow Death
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Defeated Sanity – Disposal of the Dead / Dharmata
Denouncement Pyre – Black Sun Unbound
Despised Icon – Beast
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
Dormant Ordeal – We Had It Coming
The Drowning – Senescent Signs
Eastern Front – Empire
Entombed – Dead Dawn
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
From Sorrow to Serenity – Remnant of Humanity
Garganjua – A Voyage in Solitude
Gojira – Magma
Heaven Shall Burn – Wanderer
Ihsahn – Arktis
Imperium Dekadenz – Dis Manibvs
Ion Dissonance – Cast the First Stone
The King Is Blind – Our Father
Lascaille’s Shroud – The Roads Leading North
Luna’s Call – Divinity
Mare Cognitum – Luminiferous Aether
Mesarthim – .- -… … . -. -.-. .
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct
Murder Made God – Enslaved
Nocte Obducta – Mogontiacum (Nachdem Die Nacht Herabgesunken)
Oceans of Slumber – Winter
Octopus Kraft – Through A Thousand Woods
Old Corpse Road – Of Campfires and Evening Mists
Our Place of Worship Is Silence – The Embodiment of Hate
Rotten Sound – Abuse to Suffer
Seven Sisters of Sleep – Ezekiel’s Hags
Shatter Messiah – Orphans of Chaos
Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake
Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service
The Wounded Kings – Visions In Bone
The Wretched End – In These Woods, From These Mountains
XII Boar – Beyond The Valley of the Triclops
I was actually a bit underwhelmed by that Ulcerate record, and think Setentia did a far better job at expanding the sound into something a bit more varied. The Ulcerate record was “another Ulcerate record” really.
I’m glad to see a mention of Setentia. I really like the album, I think it’s less derivative than some people have said, and it gets stronger as it goes along. Definitely would be high on my “good” list if I was breaking it down like that. But “Shrines Of Paralysis” is totally captivating to me, it may be Ulcerate’s best IMO. It does demand my full attention to enjoy though, I basically have to sit in my room with my headphones on or I’ll lose the thread of the song.
The Setentia album was certainly more varied, and for a first album it’s astonishingly well put together. But they’re juggling an awful lot of influences, and I think there’s still room for them to work on making sure that they all gel together in a really coherent and organic way. It’s a really excellent album, and I think their ability to write songs that are simultaneously heavy and also sombre and atmospheric is their strongest suit. It’ll probably at least be in my runners up list for best of 2016, and I’m looking forward to my CD arriving.
That said, I don’t think it’s better than Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis, which for me is one of the defining metal albums of 2016. And that’s no slight to Setentia, who are a young band, and Ulcerate are veterans by this point. Put to paper by many lesser bands, an album like SoP would usually be a jumbled mess of sterile, masturbatory technicality, but what continually astounds me is their ability to inject life and vigour into their sound. The title track is one of the most powerful, even moving tracks I’ve heard this year.
Sorry for the self-promotion, but I’ve actually published reviews of both of these albums (my Ulcerate review is quite detailed, RYM users seem to have enjoyed it rather a lot) as well as an interview with Setentia yesterday. If you click on my username it’ll take you to my blog and you can have a read.
Setentia was definitely on my radar, but unfortunately I ran out of time before I could give it a proper listen. Glad to see it’s getting such a positive response though.
There needs to be a word to describe the emotion when you become simultaneously excited, overwhelmed and a little defeated by the realisation that there’s still a metric fuckton of quality metal to catch up on from the preceding calendar year. Whatever that emotion is, I always feel it at this time of year when I read these lists (NCS in particular). I also have limited time to actually listen to stuff, what with my fucking day job and recently becoming a parent. So, much like how Gollum feels about a certain ring, I both love and hate you at the same time.
…and there are lists still to come. Argh? Yay?
I’m sure the Germans have a word for it.
You’ve also persuaded me to give the Old Corpse Road album another spin. I wasn’t too taken in by it the first time despite being a fan after having seen them live a few times. Speaking of live acts, I caught Wode and Venom Prison the other weekend (both exceeded my high expectations, incidentally) and they’re both conspicuously absent here. Will they be on the Great list? I’m all tingly with anticipation.
Right, I’ll just throw this in the mix:
Jährlicher Metallerfahrung angstverlangen
The yearly longing mixed with angst of wanting to experience all that metal. Sure, some native speaker hanging around these part may say it’s not be grammatically correct, but if you scream it over some black metal samples it will sound uber kvlt. More kvlt than Gestalt.
Dude.. this a thousand times. I just had a baby girl this May. And my office closed down in July.
So Im basically Mr Mom at this point and though I test the waters with certain metal, I feel like I can’t really sit down and listen to as much as I was listening to the first half of the year. And if I do play metal around my daughter it tends to be atmospheric black metal with the vocals buried like Aureole or something with clean vocals like Eternal Champion. Death metal has taken a specific dive because I think its too jarring for her.
EH! Metal, you are a cruel mistress!!!
I sympathize with this. I’ve been home with my son a whole lot lately as well – he’s four – and I don’t have much time to listen to the really dense stuff because of it. Thankfully he digs most death and black metal, so I rarely have a problem playing something around him as long as it doesn’t require my full concentration. “Shrines Of Paralysis” gets saved for late night headphone sessions…
Would “ambivalently overwhelmed”, “rendered ambiguously overexposed” or “conflictingly drowned” do the trick?
Depends. Can you translate it into German?
I could pretend, as in “yes, the word you are searching for is Leitfähigkeits”, but than some German kid would come along and blow my cover as an unsympathetic charlatan.
To answer your question way back up there, which was probably rhetorical but I’ll cautiously assume wasn’t, yes there are more lists coming. A metric fuckton of more lists, to be scientifically precise.
Great list but Shrines of Paralysis only ‘good’? Fight me.
Nah but I enjoyed reading this, lots of good albums this year. Hyperion’s album is one that I always enjoy when I listen to it, but rarely find myself longing to listen to it, if you know what I mean? It’s good, but not great, so I agree with you. I’m probably going to get myself a copy of that shiny new jewelcase edition anyway though, and I think they have a huge amount of potential. They’re very ambitious and very capable musicians.
I was really impressed with TERRA’s album ‘Mors Secunda’ as well. They’re practically local to me – I live half an hour away from Cambridge, so I was delighted to learn we finally have a good metal band! – so I’m looking forward to publishing my review and interview with them soon. I felt like they managed to take the established WITTR-esque ‘Cascadian’ black metal style and put their own spin on it, with looser, more exploratory long-form song-structures and incredible drumming.
The Oranssi Pazuzu album is one that I really wish I enjoyed as much as other people seem to. I love psychedelia-infused black metal – Wormlust’s ‘The Feral Wisdom’ is one of my favourite albums – but this one just seemed sort of confused and meandering. There was a lack of hooks and too little meat on the bone, too many extended passages of strange synths and not enough trippy mayhem for my tastes. But this may be one of those albums where I come back to it in the future and end up loving it.
Very little in this world is as good as The Feral Wisdom. I agree though, the Oranssi Pazuzu record was serviceable but outclassed by lots of other psychedelic-laden / ish black metal (ish) this year, such as Arizmenda (the good digital version anyway), Pogavranjen, Aluk Todolo and probably quite a few others that escape me.
I suppose I COULD fight you, but we really try to keep our rate of commenter attrition down these days, plus I’m running out of places to bury the bodies.
Terra was really good, to the extent where I considered it for the “Great” list, but, ultimately, there were a few tiny things nagging at me still, and in those circumstances I prefer to round down to “Good”, rather than round up to “Great”.
OK, that was funny. Your holiday bonus will be increased to 15% of your annual NCS salary.
I think you guys missed the new Megadeth album… I thought it was really good, I’ve been enjoying it better than Metallica’s. But still, pretty good list.
Nice shout-out for Virvum and Burial In The Sky, “Illuminance” in particular has become one of my most enjoyed tech DM records in the past few months. Engaging songwriting and a great ear for melody, maybe dragged down a bit by the super-slick production and cookie-cutter DM vocals. Another album along those lines is Australis’ “Spaces Of Hope”.
Oh yeah that Hyperion record totally deserves to be in the great column. Can’t wait to see what made your cut tho.
Metallica? That’s laughable………..
🙂 You’re getting the hang of it.
Would personally put Aborted, Meshuggah on the great side. Do feel that new Ulcerate wears off a bit especially in the second half. A very enjoyable and informative read as always.
Why thank you.
In all honesty Retrogore came quite close to appearing on the “Disappointing” list, as I feel it’s a real step down from Global Flatline and The Necrotic Manifesto, with only a few real “stand-out” songs.
However in the end I decided that even the less-good songs were still worthwhile, so it got put in the “Good” pile, even though my personal feelings towards it are pretty ambivalent.
I am bit sad that there are no links to any of those afore mentioned good albums. I know it is time consuming, but heck I gave half way up, too many unknown names, too little time to search for all of them.
Barishi – Blood From The Lion’s Mouth
Mare Cognitum – Luminiferous Aether
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Veilburner – The Obscene Rite
These four albums had a greater impact on me, so in my point of view they are better than good, I can deal with the rest of those albums (at least the ones I have heard until now)
Ask, and ye shall receive…
Holy Shit, thank you very much. I hope that didn’t take too much time for you. Doom, Sludge and Groove Death Metal section still needs a look at, but this should be faster with the links now 🙂
No worries. It did take me a little while tbh, but it was a good idea, and one I should have thought of myself well before now.
I’ve already incorporated it into tomorrow’s list too.
Also (spoiler alert) Veilburner was MEANT to be on tomorrow’s list, I wrote it down in the wrong place, so I’ve had Islander remove it.
Ulcerate has a good sound, and I can take a couple of songs and enjoy them, but overall all their stuff sounds exactly the same to me. I get bored part of the way through their albums. When I’m done listening to it, I can’t remember much about it because nothing sticks out. I’ve even seen them live twice and enjoyed their set, but I felt the same way afterwards.
Nail / Head
Anyway I personally prefer lists with less entries and with a thumbnail of the album art. Also, a short description of the album and an embedded link to their bandcamp / youtube if possible. The list from Lunn on the other article was almost perfectly formatted for my tastes for example. Just my 2 cents.
I just saw you are editing it, so I retire everything. Anyway there is a lot of very good stuff I have to check out here too, I’ll end up making at least 15 more top ten lists this year.
Bandcamp links now added in the alphabetical list at the end. Andy did the spade work for that. Most of our guest writers whose lists we post don’t do that, and it becomes an immense task on the longer lists for your humble editor, so it’s not always going to happen. Finding and adding album art can also be very time-consuming if we don’t already have the covers in our image library, but I do try to do that.
I’m doing it for tomorrow’s list as we… type.
It’s a good idea, not sure why I didn’t think of hyperlinking them before now, but c’est la via.
It IS a good idea, and I WILL copy it for my own list whence ever it’ll appear. (Lest ye’we copyrighted it.)
Thanks guys, I really appreciate your incredible for this website. I understand that it takes a massive amount of time to make these lists adding all the details, so obviously don’t take my opinion too seriously. I was saying that because I noticed sometimes the artwork (and maybe some quickly available infos about similar bands, sonority or simply reactions of the reviewer like “DAMN!” 🙂 ) play a big role for me when I am trying to find new music.
edit : *incredible effort
I agree about Hyperion…I kind of understood why so many people were high on it, but it just seemed like overly melodic Dissection to me.
Entombed hasnt deserved to be anywhere near a list of good albums in almost 25 years
“Morning Star” makes that statement immediately invalid.
“Morning Star” proves my point
Everyone has the right to their own opinion. But your opinion is wrong. Morning Star is awesome!
Its cute that you think that
A lot of actually very good albums on this list. Even Mare Cognitum. I was disappointed it wasn’t as good as the previous two, but by no means is it bad. I love that guy and his one man band.
Hyperion is on my great list though. I really loved the shit out of that record more and more with each listen.
And though it pays definite homage to Dissection at times, I never feel that its such a clone.
Ulcerate is exactly where it belongs. Im seeing a lot of high marks for it, but I only just thought it was good. Though I like it ever more the more I listen. Who knows what the shelf life of some of this stuff is.
Some stuff is like fine wine, only getting better and better.
Thrawsunblat is another great one to me. 😛
Thrawsunblat has great energy to it, but I find some of the folksy melodies they choose to be rather cheesy, and when they employ them in that semi sing-song, almost nursery-rhyming fashion it really puts me off. Those bits really stood out like a sore thumb to my ears.
I still thought the album was good (obviously), but some of the melodic choices they made definitely sounded like the soundtrack to a weekend’s LARPing to me.
Hell of a list. If these are all good, one shudders at the thought of the overwhelming of amount of great metal I missed/ forgot about, and am that much more grateful for the reminder to check out all of these bands. Well done!
Random aside, for me personally Thrawsunblat fell on the great side this year, and I just discovered by chance that Metachthonia is now available from Broken Limbs on vinyl, in case any fellow collector nerds care.
Thanks Andy and Islander for putting the links in. You made my workday a fuckton better.
It’s all worth it in the end.
Disapointed Clouds is not on the list, but at least you got Fyrnask.
Thanks for making me listen to From Sorrow to Serenity, it’s like new In Flames meets Atreyu but worse.
And yes, I also said that on Austin’s list by accident! Listening to such atrocious music made my brain stop functioning.
Also Blood Incantation, maybe this is just albums you liked though, and them and Clouds are in your top ten? That would make more sense…
Okay, the Wretched End is definitely the surprise of the year! How come I completely missed this one!? Might be the best thing Samoth has done since the first Zyklon album.
Gojira belongs on the garbage heap. What a piece of audio trash that effort turned out to be.
I bet you’re a popular guy at parties.