Chris’ Top albums of 2016

Nordahl’s List of Essential Metal From 2016

Let me be extremely late almost to the point of uncomfortable awkwardness for wishing you a Happy New Year. Hey – it’s still January and you might still be thinking you can keep one or more of your resolutions for 2017, so we’re good! What is being presented here is a list of my favorite metal releases from the past year.
In reviewing 2016 and working on compiling my list, let me just point out that there was a LOT of metal released this past year. So many bands that I have been a fan of put out new music and it’s basically impossible to keep up with all of it and still maintain a job (or 2) and some semblance of a life. So my resolution for 2017 is to cut out everything except for listening to music. And then when I die in the next few days from exhaustion and starvation, hopefully I’ll truly be happy. But seriously, just look at some of the bands that graced us with new music in 2016: Anthrax, Allegaeon, Amon Amarth, Death Angel, In Flames, Epica, Gojira, Megadeth, Metallica, Metal Church, Testament, Flotsam & Jetsam, Be’Lakor, Omnium Gatherum, Brainstorm – I could go on for paragraphs here but you get the idea. There was a ton of heavy stuff, and I’m just scratching the surface. Several albums I was really looking forward too didn’t live up to my expectations, but many were still quite enjoyable even if they didn’t make my list. But this is the story every year. So let’s see what bands got my head moving and made my ears the most happy in 2016.

Helion PrimeS/T The top album of the year should be the one you can listen to countless times and never grow tired of it and anytime you hear one song from the disc, you want to hear the rest because it’s that amazing. That sums up this fantastic debut release from this power metal band hailing from Sacramento, California. This album has everything I want in a metal cd. Killer guitar tone and tons of riffs – check. Memorable songs and catchy as hell choruses – check. An awesome female vocalist that doesn’t sound like any other singer – check. And an entire album based on sci-fi and space – winner! I love every song on this record and I cannot recommend a better slab of metal for you to check out if you are not familiar with this band. Now I just need to wait and see if these guys and gal will tour the US so I can witness them live. Please please please!!! And go listen to this record now if you haven’t heard it.

KhemmisHunted – Most times when I hear the term “doom metal”, I think very slow and honestly kind of boring. Khemmis definitely has plenty of doom characteristics, but they absolutely are anything but slow and boring. This is the band’s sophomore release and it is quite remarkable. I love the haunting yet enchanting vocal melodies and the Solitude Aeturnus vibe that is all over this record – one of my favorite bands from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Yeah – I’m old – deal with it. This album was a complete surprise to me and I’m glad it caught my attention. Khemmis is welcome to hunt in my neighborhood anytime. Play this sucker again!!!

Mistur In Memoriam – Hands down this is the black metal release of 2016 for me. The opening track Downfall just instantly stuck its hooks in me and the rest of the album continued to make sure there was no escape. Not that I’m complaining because this kicks some serious ass.

VargDas Ende Aller Lugen – Awesome modern metal from Germany. What would you get if you combined Rammstein, Disturbed, Eluvietie and Ensiferum? Besides a very crowded tour bus, I’m not really sure but Varg combine elements from all of these bands into a very powerful and interesting musical expression. Plus the album is a 2 disc set – the first disc all in German and then the 2nd disc is the entire record in English. And both sound amazing – quite a treat and very well-done.

MeshiaakAlliance Of Thieves – We had lots of excellent thrash records released in 2016 from some of the true veterans of the scene – Testament, Death Angel, Megadeth, Anthrax and Metallica. I honestly think this record outshines all of them. Great guitar work, loads of aggression and excellent song writing are on full display here. If you don’t know this band, make it a point to change that immediately.

Dark TranquillityAtoma – The Gothenburg melodeath veterans are back with their strongest album in years. Doesn’t hurt that the band played a killer live show in St Louis this past November that featured several of these new tracks.

SunburstFragments of Creation – One of the bands I am most looking forward to seeing live @ Prog Power in Atlanta this coming September. Fantastic progressive power metal with a singer that at times sounds eerily similar to former Kamelot singer Khan. This is a good thing in my book.

The MorningsideYellow – Another band I discovered this past year. These guys hail from Russia and feature a lot of melancholy and power like older Opeth and Scandanvian melodeath.

Killswitch EngageIncarnate – Straight-up metalcore but when it’s done on a level like this, I have no qualms about it. Previous releases by these guys never held my interest like this record. Lots of riffs, lots of memorable choruses and lots of headbanging.

Lacuna CoilDelirium – The heaviest and most vocally aggressive album this band has released and it all works perfectly in my book. Very strong album from this Italian band.

InsomniumWinter’s Gate – A 40 minute one-song album is not the easiest thing in the world to market these days. But Insomnium are masters at melodic aggression and this record is a gift to anyone willing to put in the time and effort. Plus they are one of my absolute favorite bands;)

Holy GrailTimes of Pride and Peril – Full disclosure – I’m friends with the guys from Holy Grail so my opinion about their releases might be a bit biased. It’s not like we hang out on a regular basis or swap bodily fluids, but there is a bit of a relationship between us (as they instantly unfriend me on Facebook) so you might want to take what I say here with the consideration that I’m chummy with the HG boys. But that being stated, I would let you know if this record sucks, and it most definitely does not. I love all 3 of their albums and this one is just as strong as their previous two outings.

Here are a few other albums from 2016 that are worth a listen:

MeridianBreaking the Surface
BetrayalInfinite Circles
HyperionSeraphical Euphony
Metal ChurchXI
MegadethDystopia
Heaven BelowGood Morning Apocalypse
MetallicaHardwired To Self Destruct
Abbath S/T
VredehammerViolator
ThrawsunblatMetachthonia
AlmanacTsar
Far BeyondA Frozen Flame Of Ice
Eternal IdolThe Unrevealed Secret
Amon AmarthJomsviking
Death AngelThe Evil Divide
TestamentBrotherhood Of The Snake
Devin Townsend ProjectTranscendence
In MourningAfterglow
SpellcasterNight Hides The World
RimfrostS/T

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