(Andy Synn makes amends for a year-end 2016 oversight — and gives us a good excuse to revisit some of last year’s highlight tracks..)
I recently made a terrifying discovery… I never actually finished my regular series of End of Year lists!
That’s right, somehow, through negligence or indolence on my part, I completely forgot to publish my list of my Top 10 Songs of 2016.
Thankfully it turned out that I’d already made a shortlist – which I’ve now whittled down to the ten items below – so this egregious wrong can finally be made right!
Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – “The Wreck of S. S. Needle” (from the album Mariner)
Where better to start, than with a completely obvious, utterly predictable, yet undeniably phenomenal choice?
My love for this album, and this song in particular (which I am on record as calling “a potential song of the year contender”) is well-documented, and I still stand by every word. It really is that good, with everyone involved in this collaboration firing on all cylinders throughout every single second of the track’s nine-and-a-half minute run-time.
Plus, the visceral, cathartic vocals of Julie Christmas and Johannes Persson seem to have a direct line to my adrenaline glands.
Martyrdöd – “List” (from the album List)
More than any other track here, this one gets my blood boiling and makes me want to start rocking out (not necessarily with my cock out) and breaking stuff. It’s just so fucking primal and so much goddamn fun!
The band’s latest (and greatest?) album really does epitomise exactly why I love them, sounding like At The Gates playing D-Beat covers of Iron Maiden tracks at double speed, with the title-track being my absolute and undisputed favourite. Give it a listen and I guarantee you’ll be hooked.
Mantar – “The Hint” (from the album Ode To The Flame)
For my third choice I’ve decided to throw you a bit of a curveball.
You see, whereas I don’t doubt that most people would probably have gone for the catchy-as-chlamydia stomp-along that is “Era Borealis” (and with good reason), it’s “The Hint”, in all its massive, menacing glory, which has stolen my affections the most.
Just listen to those humongous riffs, those snarling, spit-and-venom vocals, that swaggering sense of groove, that huge, explosive chorus. What more could you ask for?
Phantom Winter – “Bombing the Witches” (from the album Sundown Pleasures)
As gloriously and unrepentantly filthy as the previous song is/was, though, “Bombing the Witches” (from an album which I once referred to as “a swamp of psychic sewage”, in a good way) is on a whole other level of nastiness.
Harsher, heavier, and hookier than it has any right to be, this is the sort of song that will burrow its way under your skin, whether you want it to or not, and then proceed to eat you alive from the inside out.
Ruins – “Rites of Spring” (from the album Undercurrent)
Some of you probably know by now that Ruins are one of my favourite Black Metal bands in existence today. And mostly that’s due to their keen grasp of something known as “THE RIFF”.
Yes, Alex Pope and his cohorts seem to understand what makes a riff truly rifftastic on an almost unconscious level, and “Rites of Spring” is absolutely packed with them, front-to-back, end-to-end, top-to-bottom.
Gojira – “The Shooting Star” (from the album Magma)
Gojira’s sixth album certainly proved to be a divisive one. On the one hand there are those who lavished praise upon the band for streamlining their sound in order to explore new creative spaces, while on the other are those who feel like the French foursome have dumbed things down and smoothed off all their edges purely to appeal to a more mainstream audience.
Personally I find myself somewhere in the middle. The album as a whole definitely has moments of greatness, but also more than its fair share of filler that doesn’t come anywhere near reaching the heights we know the band are capable of.
But I still believe that opener “The Shooting Star” is right up there with the best of them.
Yes, it may be more melodic and more accessible, but that doesn’t in itself make a song bad. In fact I’d say that, on this one song, Gojira do “melodic” and “accessible” better than 99% of their peers.
Syrinx – “Anthill” (from the album Black Spring)
Of course if you’re one of those who aren’t on-board with the “new era” of Gojira (which you have every right not to be) then you may want to check out France’s Syrinx, whose debut album I had the pleasure of discovering and reviewing early last year.
In particular I’d like to draw your attention to the track “Anthill”, which has been stuck in my head on a seemingly endless loop ever since I heard it, and which I once described as:
“…six-and-a-half minutes of crushing, mechanised grooves and cybernetic hooks, accentuated by a series of skin-flaying blasts of metallic extremity and an impressive array of clever rhythmic tricks and structural shifts…”
Dormant Ordeal – “A Dim Reminder” (from the album We Had It Coming)
In a similar manner to the last entry, if you’re not a fan of latter-day Decapitated (which is fine, honestly, I’m not judging you) then you might consider giving Dormant Ordeal a bit of your time and money, because We Had It Coming could well be the post-Organic Hallucinosis blast of Technical Death Metal dissonance that you’ve been looking for.
And nothing, in my opinion, exemplifies this better than the album’s third track, “A Dim Reminder”. What an absolute monster.
Gomorrah – “Crowns of Flesh” (from the album The Haruspex)
Speaking of monsters, “Crowns of Flesh” is the sort of bloodsoaked behemoth that lives only to crush bones and crack skulls, and should be perfect for anyone with a hankering for some pure, punishing brutality in the vein of Origin/Carnifex/Blood Red Throne.
Though I still contend that vocalist Jeff Bryan does a mean Nathan Explosion impersonation…
Oak Pantheon – “Enormity” (from the album In Pieces)
To finish I’d like to draw attention to this unappreciated gem from this similarly unappreciated album.
At almost twelve minutes long it’s certainly an investment of time, but the wide array of majestic guitars (a scintillating mix of sombre acoustic string work and dramatic distortion), powerful, passionate vocals, and epic, proggy melodies contained within are all well worth the price of admission.