2016 has been an eventful year, to say the slightest. Between all the celebrity deaths and political strife, an onslaught of albums were released by metal bands old and new alike.
As soon as we were informed that we were to create a “top 5 albums of the year” list back in the autumn, I began creating a list of the albums I heard and needed to hear. It was difficult to keep up with the constant slew of new releases. It was even more difficult to narrow all those albums down to a number I could count on one hand. For that reason, I cheated slightly and added some “honorable mentions” at the bottom.
I highly recommend all the albums mentioned in this article. So now, without further ado, are my top metal albums of 2016.
5. Exmortus – ‘Ride Forth’
Genre: Neoclassical thrash metal
Release date: January 8, 2016
California thrashers Exmortus returned with the follow-up to 2014’s highly acclaimed ‘Slave to the Sword’. ‘Ride Forth’ continues the band’s foray into neoclassical shred metal, complete with a face-melting, bass-heavy version of Beethoven‘s ‘Apassionata’. Guitar licks are likely to be replaying in your head long after the final note of “Fire and Ice”. A must-have for any fans of shredding.
4. Amon Amarth – ‘Jomsviking’
Genre: Melodic death metal
Release date: March 25, 2016
Label: Metal Blade
Amon Amarth‘s 10th album tells the story of a Viking mercenary who falls in love with a girl who is being married off. As singer Johann Hegg told Blabbermouth, “He feels that he’s been wronged and can not let go of the past. The way that the story evolves is not a happy story.” Jomsviking is filled with catchy, anthemic choruses that will have listeners “Rais[ing] Their Horns” up to the sky, but it does not sacrifice any heaviness or brutality. The Queen of Metal herself Doro Pesch (Doro, ex-Warlock) makes a guest appearance in the song “A Dream That Cannot Be”. This album even cracked the top 20 in the U.S. Billboard Charts.
3. Fleshgod Apocalypse – ‘King’
Genre: Symphonic death metal
Release date: February 5, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast
‘King’ sees Italian death metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse at their heaviest, most diverse, and arguably, their best. Like ‘Jomsviking,’ this is also a concept album. However, this concept is more abstract than that of ‘Jomsviking’ and deals with various aspects of the human psyche. The King character represents the strong, positive parts of ourselves, while the other figures in the court represent fears and negative emotions that affect the King. In order to convey this, the album delves into various moods and styles, sometimes different genres. It even has an aria (“Paramour”) sung by soprano Veronica Bordacchini, accompanied solely by pianist/arranger Francesco Ferrini. ‘King‘ is a roller coaster of musical textures, emotions, and atmospheres that will leave listeners wanting more.
2. Vektor – ‘Terminal Redux’
Genre: Progressive thrash metal
Release date: May 6, 2016
Arizona-born Vektor‘s ‘Terminal Redux’ is perhaps the band’s greatest effort to date and is nothing short of a masterpiece. This album transports the listener to space and envelops them in an ethereal cloud of brutality, tension, melody, and occasional choirs. It is thrash-meets black metal-meets world music at times. Other times, the guitars sound like ray guns shooting at enemy spaceships. Unlike many thrash releases (some from this year alone), each song on this album is distinct and still fits into the cohesive whole. Quite simply, ‘Terminal Redux’ is an aural experience. If possible, set aside time to listen to this with no distractions. You will be glad you did.
Yesterday, the band announced the entire lineup had left except for singer/guitarist David DiSanto. But hopefully DiSanto‘s future works will continue in the same vein.
1. Megadeth – ‘Dystopia’
Genre: Thrash metal
Release Date: January 22, 2016
In arguably the band’s greatest album since ‘Countdown to Extinction’ (1992), singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson are joined by a new lineup that breathed much-needed life into the legendary thrash band. Guitarist Kiko Loureiro (Angra) and drummer Chris Adler (Lamb of God) kicked the band up several notches, into a heaviness that was not seen since ‘Endgame’ (2009). Loureiro‘s input, in particular, brought new colors into Megadeth’s palette, like the Spanish-sounding “Conquer…or Die!” and the Middle Eastern vibes and moody pianos on “Poisonous Shadows”. Musically, the best of the recent Big Four releases. It is no wonder that Mustaine and Loureiro won the Revolver Dimebag Darrell Best Guitarist Award this year.
Flotsam & Jetsam – ‘Flotsam & Jetsam’
Testament – ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’
Ghoul – ‘Dungeon Bastards’
Holy Grail – ‘Times of Pride and Peril’