(This is the third part of Austin Weber’s four-part year-end list series. To check out Part 1, which focused on variants of death metal, go here, and to see the lists focusing on black metal and grind, click this.)
As 2016 comes to an end, I remain quite thankful to Islander for allowing me to contribute here over the last few years. I really believe in this site and our mission of sharing more of what’s out there than most other sites. So with that in mind, if anyone about to intake this hasn’t seen my prior year-end lists here at NCS, I try to do something different than most people.
My goal is to bring you a massive alternative list of my favorite lesser-known releases of the year, divided into several parts. Which means I won’t post a lot of releases that you see on other lists. Not because I didn’t dig a lot of them, but because you already know about them and will be seeing a lot of the same names being repeated elsewhere.
Undoubtedly some of the releases will be ones you’ll know or heard mentioned in passing, but hopefully you’ll find more new bands and music you were unaware of overall. Quotes that appear below the following releases were pulled from my reviews, multi-band articles, and song premieres from music covered here at NCS and my 2016 posts from Metal-Injection. You’ll also find some new mini write-ups for releases I didn’t get a chance to cover anywhere this year, but loved as well.
Mathcore and Math-Rock Mania
Michel Anoia – Plethora
“Michel Anoia are a highly impressive group who are incredibly difficult to neatly categorize. They don’t reside comfortably within one metal genre, instead they take a deconstructionist sledgehammer to death metal, grindcore, black metal, and mathcore and create a hyperactive tornado out of the shattered pieces. The easiest way to describe Plethora would be to mention that if you’re a fan of Pyrrhon, you’ll almost surely love all that this album has to offer.”
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Noise Trail Immersion – Womb
“While their self-titled release often brought to mind Ion Dissonance, it lacked that special spark of brilliance that their obvious key influence has in spades. This time around, the group have integrated a lot of elements from ultra-dissonant black metal, taken the death metal elements of their sound into further prominence, and worked in some withdrawn, calmer reverb-led moments and songs, all while furthering themselves as songwriters.”
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Save Us From The Archon – L’Eclisse
“Now we move things to a (somewhat) more soothing and proggy note with Save Us From The Archon, a group I’ve covered quite a few times now at NCS. For those who missed my prior posts about them, they play a math-rock gone super-technical form of instrumental prog metal full of fun riffs and gorgeous melodies. So, if you dig stuff like Chon and Sea Monkey Sea, and don’t know Save Us From The Archon, be sure to jam this one.”
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Autocatalytica – Vicissitudes
Toronto-based weirdos Autocatalytica have been on my radar for a few years now, although I ran out of time to cover their fantastic self-titled album from 2014. While the music on Vicissitudes is mathcore through and through, it’s also frequently buttressed by a lot of outside styles such as death metal, prog-rock, and prog-metal, with loads of clean singing infused in the madness here, as well as bluesy rock moments, djent, grind, slight jazz influences, and more.
And while Autocatalytica aren’t alone in bringing in so many outsides elements into a mathcore-focused sound, they are definitely one of the most ambitious and grandest groups I’ve heard do so to date. If you ever heard the sadly defunct group Hunab Ku (featuring Luke Jaeger from Sleep Terror) or fellow New York based experimentalists Torrential Downpour, the music on Vicissitudes will feel right at home to you.
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Teramobil – Magnitude of Thoughts
“Each of the 7 songs on here is its own brain-scrambling hive of god-tier instrumental metal that has been melting my brain with each and every listen…. Magnitude of Thoughts is yet another infinitely dense and insanely complex exercise in instrumental metal from a band who defy any simple categorization.”
“Even Luc Lemay gets in on the experience, playing some incredible stuff on second guitar on all of ‘Thanatonaut’”.
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Joseph A. Peragine – Diagnosis: Schizophrenia
This could fit comfortably within the mathcore column above, as that’s largely the focus throughout Diagnosis: Schizophrenia, but since it’s completely instrumental, and also delves into math-rock, minimalist atmospheric ambient flourishes, skin-crawling doses of dissonance, djent-inspired chaotic rhythms, as well as channeling an Animals As Leaders feeling at times, it seemed better to put it here with the instrumental metal.
Joseph A. Peragine is a new musician to me who plays 9-string guitar and wrote this whole album. But the man he has chosen to partner with for this record is a fucking legend you all will know, and it’s none other than drummer Chris Pennie (ex-Dillinger Escape Plan, ex-Coheed And Cambria) returning to play mathcore music for the first time since his departure from Dillinger Escape Plan many years ago.
I stumbled onto this album when Joseph A. Peragine shared it in a Facebook music group and I happened to be at the right place at the right time and caught the debut single before it came out, which was opener “Concentrating At 333 Beats Per Minute”. I was instantly blown away and baffled all at once, and after hearing the full album plenty of times now, still feel pretty much the same way about it — save for having committed to memory a bit more of these zany twisted tunes.
While it may be an instrumental album, Diagnosis: Schizophrenic still tells a potent tale without words, relating to the mindset and emotional swings of Joseph A. Peragine, who is a legitimate paranoid schizophrenic. I understand he’s also written a book on the experience, and as a bi-polar individual myself, I find his public owning and sharing of his own mental illness and experience with it to be a highly moving thing that adds its own value to the music beyond all it already has to offer.
And as a music fan of the opinion that Chris Pennie’s work during his time in Dillinger Escape Plan is some of the best drumming over metal music ever, getting to hear him return to somewhat similar sonic waters is a fucking jaw-dropping treat on top of the ridiculously talented guitar playing Joseph brings to the table. Don’t miss out on this one.
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Behold The Arctopus – Cognitive Emancipation
Behold The Arctopus return, and kick major ass as always. Not much more needs to be said about Cognitive Emancipation than that. This is must-listen madness that boggles my mind!
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Mammoth – Deviation
“What really sucks you into Deviation is its mix of depth and experimental tendencies — covering a range of sounds that blend prog rock with prog metal, math-rock, orchestral elements, and a lot of jaw-dropping shredding that would make Ron Jarzombek and Tosin Abasi proud, with layered touches of jazz, pop, fusion, and groove blended together to create a dense swirling tapestry of joyous sonic diversity. Deviation is a lot of fun to listen to, with so much going on that makes it a great album to enjoy over repeat listens. The secret here is insane complexity that geniusly comes across very smooth and fluid.”
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Thoren – Brennenburg
“..bringing up Dysrhythmia (and Gorguts) is probably the closest I can get to giving you comparisons that might help you decide whether you’ll dig this or not — although, hard as it may sound, Thoren seem to be coming from an even more alien and discordant place than the off-the-wall realm where Dysrhythmia comfortably reside.”
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Octexosis – Triangular Transmissions
“If any band truly deserves the hard-to-quantify ‘Post’ tag as a major component of their sound, the Vancouver-based avant-garde one-man band of Brendan Campbell does. I’ve been following this instrumental outfit for a number of years now, but I’ve failed to cover it until now, an error on my part.
“The project seems to change its sound quite a bit on a dime from release to release, but overall resides in the realm of a Gorguts meets Krallice, Deathspell Omega, and Ion Dissonance, plus a smidgen of Meshuggah in both the overall sound and the complexity of the many single-song, long-form compositions released as stand-alone releases thus far by Octexosis.”
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Octexosis – Emanations
If you find yourself enjoying Triangular Transmissions, Octexosis just dropped another impressive fourteen and a half minute long single composition on November 28th called Emanations that you’d likely also dig.
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Körbl – Demo 2016
“Recent groups such as Geryon have quickly proven that bass-guitar-driven metal devoid of guitar not only works, but delivers a unique experience well worth seeking out on its own merits…”
“Körbl is the solo outfit of absurdly skilled bassist Brent Glover, who has spent time playing live for Psyopus, as well as performing in his own technical death metal group, Bellicist, who I’m very fond of and have covered here at NCS before. The music is somewhat in the vein of AAL, mixed with other Meshuggah-esque grooves, light electronica elements, and prog influences to create its own sound.”
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An Endless Sporadic – Magic Machine
While adventurous instrumental prog metal unit An Endless Sporadic may have gotten their biggest visibility boost from being featured in the video-game series Guitar Hero some time ago, the band has never ceased to continue delivering standout prog. After a pause in new music for a bit of time, the band released a killer new album this year called Magic Machine.”
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Dysrhythmia- The Veil Of Control
It’s crazy to think that Dysrhythmia first started way back in 1998, even more so to realize that their popularity has only grown over the years. While it could be a mere coincidence, Dysrhythmia members Kevin Hufnagal and Colin Marston’s time playing death metal in Gorguts seems to have rubbed off on the sound of the material present on The Veil of Control in a really cool way. I love this album a pretty ridiculous amount!
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Odyssey – Voids
“Voids is an over 50-minute prog odyssey (potential pun intended?) that shreds, soars, grooves, and celestially infects you with all manner of wondrous feelings. While many bands are content to continue creating material within the vein of their pre-established sound, Odyssey have always eschewed that trend in favor of expanding their sound with each release.”
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Omnea – Omnea
“Omnea deliver some truly wild stuff, creating music that comes across like a mix of both deathly skronk and hyperactive experimental prog metal delivered in an instrumental death metal format.”
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Wanzwa – IV
“So this is where things get weird and unpredictable, because Wanzwa doesn’t give a fuck what you think. Wanzwa – IV is polyrhythmic heavy psychedelic experimental insanity, and loves to pull the rug out of from under you as soon as you try to pigeonhole it into one sound or style. Weird jams for weird times.”
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Divine Realm – Tectum Argenti
“While Tectum Argenti will certainly appeal to the djent crowd with its plentiful grooves and cybernetic stomp, I’d say it sonically has more in common with riffing and lead playing styles more in line with the likes of Between The Buried And Me and Pomegranate Tiger. From experimental electronic interludes and lush samples, to soaring solos and a penchant for diving into lightning-fast tempos on certain songs, Divine Realm have made sure that this release is quite eclectic.”
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Jeff Hughell – Trinidad Scorpion Hallucinations
“While to many Jeff is known for his playing with Six Feet Under and others such as Reciprocal and formerly Brain Drill, he has also been releasing a stream of fantastic solo material the past few years as well. His last solo record, Chaos Labyrinth, saw him accompanied by numerous talented guest players in order to bring his vision to life. And he has followed a similar approach with Trinidad Scorpion Hallucinations, having somehow amassed talented guest performances on it by lauded musicians such as Hannes Grossmann, Dominic “Forest” Lapointe, Per Nilsson, former Archspire bassist Jaron Evil, and several others.”
“For those unfamiliar with his solo work, the music is a mix of aggressive songs and moments akin to his warp-speed playing in Brain Drill, but also just as often likely to take on a subdued prog-oriented vision. With Trinidad Scorpion Hallucinations, the balance is tipped further towards prog, and the results are fantastic and musically adventurous.”
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Gross Ex Machina – voice of an inaudible hum
“If you like your metal weird and unorthodox, never quite sure of what will happen next, you’ll be quite pleased with all that voice of an inaudible hum has to offer. It’s one of the most challenging slabs of instrumental metal I’ve heard all year, and fans of Dysrhythmia in particular would probably really dig this stuff.”
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