It is universally accepted that 2016 has been good to music (although this is an unashamed understatement) and plenty has been promised to make for a highly anticipated 2017 of bowel-clenching proportions. The new and the old guard both produced releases that saw consistency for some, unprecedented talent for several, and a return to form for others. For fans it meant a buffet; and for those with a sharp sense of taste, it was an exquisite sampling.
Below is a brief list (in no particular order) of musicians who made their mark on the year and each brings a certain element that exudes why they deservedly stood out.
- Deftones – ‘Gore’
Released: 8 April 2016
Genre: Alternative metal, space rock
Deftones have proven why they still remain relevant and ‘Gore’ sums up to be a powerful result of their malleable talent. This album marks a certain progression through recent years with these elements melted down into a raw energy that does not dissipate. ‘Gore’ slowly creeps between Moreno’s whispers before capriciously slamming you into a head-splitting screamed chorus that doesn’t let up until the last track fades out. An emotionally-stirring example of how post-metal still continues to push boundaries.
- Metallica – ‘Hardwired…to Self-Destruct’
Released: 18 November 2016
Genre: Thrash metal
Metallica have been in and (mostly) out character for a number of recent years, and for those of us with a certain sentiment, they have been more of a band that did metal by the numbers rather than playing metal that proved why their name is revered.
‘Hardwired…to Self-Destruct’ shows a lauded return to form for a band that tends to be an entry-level band for many. The album strikes on several nostalgic chords that are familiar with recent albums but the true power comes from the improved quality of musicianship that somewhat harks back to their late 80’s period.
- Insomnium – ‘Winter’s Gate’
Released: 23 September 2016
Label: Century Media
Genre: Melodic death metal, progressive black metal
The lads from Finland know how to craft a well-instrumented tale of yore and they have woven several of these tales over the years, winning legions of fans along the way as proof of their intrinsic talent for playing epic melodic death metal.
‘Winter’s Gate’ is not so much an album as it is a 40-minute long epic that easily fills your imagination not unlike a film when you close your eyes and listen. The seamless blend of progressive, melodic death, folk, and doom metal make for an ebb and flow that matches the black sea on the album artwork.
- Anaal Nathrakth – ‘The Whole of the law’
Released: 28 October 2016
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Black metal; industrial metal; grindcore
If there is anything that Birmingham band Anaal Nathrakth have proven, it is that they know how to make an album that encourages you to flail about in appreciation, and their recent output may prove to be one of their greatest yet. ‘The Whole of the Law’ stands out because of the dramatic overtones it exhibits: Grindcore albums revolve around sheer chaos but this album connected effortlessly with its black and industrial parts into a whole that can only be described as serene chaos.
- David Bowie – ‘Blackstar’
Released: 8 January 2016
Label: Columbia, Sony
Genre: Art rock, Avant-garde jazz
Few artists have had such a universally eclectic effect on music, fashion and showmanship as David Bowie did.
2016 will be a woeful memory for many, but small comfort lay in that Bowie had the foresight to do what few artists get the chance to do: he wrote his own epitaph; ‘Blackstar’ was a nod that the world missed until the Starman had passed. The Jazz-rock track “Lazarus” is arguably the wry smile Ziggy Stardust gave as he departed this world.
Lordi – ‘Monstereophonic (Theaterror vs. Demonarchy)’
Testament – ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’
KidneyThieves – ‘The Mend’
Mortillery – ‘Shapeshifter’
Rotting Christ – ‘Rituals’
Music has always provided a stable catharsis for many as it is one of the few things in life that is truly universal and for the year that was 2016, it has never been more plainly true, in spite of all the death and insanity around us all.
Here’s to a promising 2017, to the music that will be.