(For the 6th year in a row, I asked our old pal SurgicalBrute to weigh in with his year-end list of favorite albums and EPs. As expected, he names a lot of underground releases that haven’t appeared before in our 2016 Listmania series.)
When I was asked once again to do my year-end list (something I’m growing to suspect, more and more, is a way for Islander to get back at me for being a loudmouth in the comment section the other eleven months of the year), I honestly wasn’t sure if I would have anything to contribute. When I write a list, I don’t want it to be just about which albums I liked, I like for it to be interesting, to hopefully show people a bunch of stuff they either forgot about or haven’t heard before.
Now, for whatever reason, my interests have been all over the place this year, and it seemed to me like I wasn’t giving metal my usual level of attention… until I sat down to really look over the music I discovered this year. At this point I can only conclude that, even distracted, I’m still more metal than 99% of the planet, because the amount of music I ended up wading through was beyond ridiculous. The act of narrowing down this list would have sent the untrve among you running for the nearest door, but fear not… I’m a professional.
So, now that we’ve gotten that rambling bit of egotistical back-patting out of the way… here’s my list of the best metal albums for 2016… enjoy \m/
Altarage – NIHL (black/death)
You’ve probably heard this album by now, and you either loved it or found it completely lacking. The fact is, though, it was released very early in 2016, and almost a year later we’re still talking about it. That says more than I ever could about the quality of this release.
Bestial Raids – Master Satan’s Witchery (black/death)
War metal is one of those genres that, if you aren’t doing something to stand out, then you’re going to quickly fall to the wayside. Bestial Raids have more than earned their ranking among that select few as one of the most devestating bands going today, and this is probably their strongest album to date.
Cultes Des Ghoules – Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love (black)
This is objectively the best black metal release of the year. Yes, I said objectively, because anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. What makes it even more impressive is that it comes on the heels of a bona-fide classic like Henbane. I’m honestly starting to wonder if they’re even capable of writing a bad album
Deiquisitor – Deiquisitor (death)
If youre a fan of truly chaotic death metal, than this is the album for you. Fast and brutal with a genuinely nasty atmosphere
Demon Bitch – Hellfriends (heavy)
The first thing people will probably notice is that this is not the production you’d typically expect for this type of metal… it’s much rougher… but that’s the point. It’s meant to sound like a throwback to an old cassette dub, because that murk blends so perfectly with the old-school heavy metal riffs that it just takes you back to the early days of the genre
Gespenst – Forfald (black)
Even for lovers of the darker side of music, this one will probably disturb your peace of mind. The haunting atmosphere and cold melodies will linger long after the album stops.
Krypts – Remnants of Expansion (death/doom)
Their debut album, Unending Degradation, was a bit of a let-down for me, but the addition of a second guitarist has allowed them to expand on their sound, increasing the doom elements as well as the atmosphere, making for a much stronger release.
Lihhamon – Doctrine (black/death)
Not a lot of background on this one, as this is the band’s first release, but it’s a half hour of harsh, abrasive, blackened death of the best kind
Mentor – Guts, Graves, and Blasphemy (Black/Thrash/Punk)
Not the black ‘n’ roll style I was expecting, this is more of a hardcore band with a bit of thrash thrown in for good measure. The riffs are undeniable, and they’ll have you banging your head and stomping your foot almost instantly.
Mortem – Deinós Nekrómantis (death)
Mortem can trace their sound directly from the foundations laid by bands like Slayer and Possessed, and are quite likely the best South American band you’ve never heard of. I’ve been waiting eleven years for this one, and I am happy to say, they are still total masters of death metal.
Saor – Guardians (folk/black)
As someone who genuinely loves folk music, I’m always going to have a soft spot for this style of metal, and this is among the best. The smoothness with which the folk influences are incorporated gives an epicness to these songs that only the top folk metal albums ever seem to achieve.
Scum – Garden of Shadows (Death)
Scum is one of the forgotten death metal bands of the ’90s Finnish scene. They actually did better than most at the time, managing to release two full-lengths, including their stellar sophomore release Purple Dreams & Magic Poems, before disappearing. Recorded as a follow up, Garden of Shadows sat on the shelf for 20 years, but shows all the strengths that made the previous album so outstanding.
Seax – Speed Metal Mania (speed)
No real surprises here, just straight-forward, lets get drunk, punk-inspired speed metal made like it’s supposed to be.
Skáphe – Skáphe² (black)
Chaotic and dissonant, this is an incredibly dense album that’s extremely difficult to penetrate even after repeated listenings… and that’s what makes it so great. For those who give it a chance, it’s the type of album that will continuously draw you back, always looking for a deeper understanding of what you’re hearing
Stillborn – Testimonio de Bautismo (black/death)
After nearly two decades of existence Stillborn are hardly newcomers, but all that time has allowed them to perfect what they do best — play blistering, raw, blackened death metal. Which is not to say the album is a repetitive blast fest, on the contrary each song has its own nuance that keeps the album moving nicely from start to finish.
Solothus – No King Reigns Eternal (Death/Doom)
I was a huge fan of this band’s debut full-length. They came out of the gate swinging as far as I was concerned, so I had high hopes for this release… and truthfully they surpassed them at every turn. The leads are tighter, the riffs are stronger, and the songs are just all around better. It’s clear now that Solothus are just hitting their stride
Uškumgallu – Rotten Limbs in Dreams of Blood (black)
It doesn’t matter whether it’s death metal, black metal, or a combination of the two, the guys from Triumvir Foul seem to do no wrong. Not the most accessible project they’ve released, this is raw and deranged black metal meant to inspire nightmares.
White Medal – Lyke Wake (black)
They take a unique approach to their lyrics by focusing on the history of Northern England, specifically Yorkshire. The raw production will probably turn a lot of people off, but there’s a surprising bit of melody to be found on this album.
Wode – Wode (black)
When it comes to, well, just about anything, I rarely buy into hype. It’s actually one of the quickest ways to make me ignore something. So I went into Wode with lowered expectations… and was completely blown away. Really great slab of true-to-its-roots black metal
Zhrine – Unortheta (black/death)
I was aware of Zhrine when their album came out. They were another name on the long list of bands I keep meaning to listen to, but usually never do. Then a last-minute set as a fill-in at MDF 2016 proceeded to drop my jaw on the floor. Everyone talks about their sound…”its heavy, its discordant”… but the thing that really just blows my mind is, at times, how delicate it can be. Forget about Blood Incantation, forget about Chthe’ilist, as good as those albums were, Zhrine owns them all.
A.M.S.G. – Hostis Universi Generis (black)
Asphyx – Incoming Death (death/doom)
Death Fortress – Deathless March of the Unyielding (black)
Hostium – The Bloodwine of Satan (black)
Temple Nightside – The Hecatomb (black/death)
Best EP’s 2016
Cadaveric Fumes – Dimensions Obscure (Death)
It’s getting harder and harder for death metal bands to carve out a new path for themselves, but that’s exactly what Cadaveric Fumes seem to be doing. While still firmly grounded in the old-school style, the strong influence of ’70s psychadelic rock has put them on a truly unique path. They’re more than worth keeping an eye on.
Kosmokrator – First Step Towards Supremacy (black/death)
Honestly, all I’m going to say here is that this is the album I wish Bölzer had released this year.
Qrixkuor – Three Devils Dance (death)
While we’ve been almost overdosed on this style of cavernous metal recently, I for one never get tired of it… and with a release like this, I’m more than happy to make room for Qrixkuor. Powerful and disturbing, this album puts them in a league of their own.
Tortorum – Rotten. Dead. Forgotten. (black)
Absolutely relentless Norwegian black metal. The band are doing nothing revolutionary, but the songs are enjoyably dark and bleak.
Vircolac – The Cursed Travails of the Demeter (Death)
Debut EP by this Irish five-piece. Vircolac place the emphasis firmly where it belongs, on great songs and strong atmosphere.