Whatever way you look at it 2016 has hardly been a bundle of laughs. It’s been a year full of fear, loathing and paranoia with a healthy side dish of total chaos running through it. The political climate became stupefying and unbelievable both here and abroad with Trump and Brexit. The far right have gained strength with the rise of international fascism and terrorism has become increasingly prevalent and deadly and ever more a fact of life. As the last week has shown us the year has been particularly deadly and dramatic as far as the grim reaper is concerned and it feels like his culling shows absolutely no bounds or mercy. There’s probably not many people not looking forward to this year slithering down the sewer it came from and keeping fingers crossed that 2017 will bring some hope and indeed sanity.
One of the few things that have kept many of us going is the music, helping us through hard times and there is no denying that 2016 has been a strong year with plenty of great albums delivered. As others have mentioned it has been incredibly tough just choosing a list of 20 and all our choices seem quite diverse rather than showing any clear winners or a definitive grouping of albums that you cannot do without. Anyway, enough of me blabbering on about all the doom and gloom in the world (although there is a fair amount to be found in the music here) let’s get to it with our picks of the year.
PETE WOODS (EDITOR) Top 20
1: ROTTING CHRIST – ‘Rituals’ (Season Of Mist)
Like a recreation of a famous historical battle this Greek Satanic legion continue to stomp onwards crushing all in their path. What a glorious sound their victorious rally is as these destructive ‘Rituals’ take hold.
2: INQUISITION – ‘Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith’ (Season Of Mist)
Preposterous title, toad-croaking and goat-bleating aside Dagon and Inferno have stirred their cauldron and composed a malevolent and maleficious album here. Backing up their infernal orations live has only helped consolidate its position.
3: ORANSSI PAZUZU – ‘Värähtelijä’ (Svart)
A pitch black psychedelic plummet into the abyss of chaos. These Finnish psychonauts drag you hopelessly through space on a 70 minute journey to the far realms of consciousness and beyond. It’s a sweet ride mama, just make sure you buckle up tight!
4: NEW MODEL ARMY – ‘Winter’ (Attack Attack)
Burning castles, dancing with devils and caressing us with the cold touch of winter; 36 years down the line Bradford’s finest prove still utterly relevant and remarkable song-writers and story tellers. A fine collection of songs for all seasons!
5: DARKHER – ‘Realms’ (Prophecy)
Dark, gorgeous, haunting and sublime ‘Realms’ is an album that transports to far off places. Brimming with emotion and atmosphere, just one sweet caress of Jayn H. Wissenberg’s delicious voice will have you hooked forevermore.
6: DESTROYER 666 – ‘Wildfire’ (Season Of Mist)
Thunder from down under. With a dizzying array of riffs and chops D666 have proved to be the ‘Hounds At Ya Back’ with one of the most addictive and compulsive metal albums of the year
7: SURGICAL METH MACHINE – ‘S/T’ (Nuclear Blast)
Released from Ministerial duties Uncle Al decided to bombast us with his most destructive thermonuclear mass yet. From volatile BPM’s through to psychotic and psychedelic lunacy this one proved an absolutely abrasive and bonkers head-fucker!
8: KAWIR – ‘Father Sun Mother Moon’ (Iron Bonehead)
A historic and ageless journey to far off places, these Greek elders truly delivered an absolute masterpiece of an album that really should have devotees of classic black metal lapping it up.
9: GERM – ‘Escape’ (Prophecy)
Shimmering grandiosity is counterpoised with tortured cries as Tim Yatras spellbinds with yet another glorious album. No pretenders to the already worn-out shoegaze / post whatever crown Germ are the undisputed kings of their realm.
10: IMPERIUM DEKADENZ – ‘Dis Manibvs’ (Season Of Mist)
A musical tribute to the spirits of the dead, brimming with maturity and passion. Steadfast and flowing with might this is black metal from the Black Forest and an album with the feel of mighty empires falling within its wonderfully composed framework.
11: DARKTHRONE – ‘Arctic Thunder’ (Peaceville)
12: ANAAL NATHRAKH – ‘The Whole Of The Law’ (Metal Blade)
13: MOURNING BELOVETH – ‘Rust & Bone’ (Van)
14: MADDER MORTEM – ‘Red In Tooth And Claw’ (Dark Essence)
15: BORKNAGAR – ‘Winter Thrice’ (Century Media)
16: COLDWORLD – ‘Autumn’ (Cold Dimensions)
17: BLOOD CEREMONY – ‘Lord Of Misrule’ (Rise Above)
18: VIRUS – ‘Memento Collider’ (Karisma)
19: SLEEP OF MONSTERS – ‘II Poison Garden’ (Svart)
20: DISCHARGE – ‘End Of Days’ (Nuclear Blast)
ANDY BARKER – TOP 20
1: BORKNAGAR – ‘Winter Thrice’ (Century Media)
Progressive Metal Masterwork from a unique former Extreme/Progressive Metal band that aren’t afraid to push boundaries.
2: GRIMNER – ‘Frost Mot Eld’ (Despotz)
The first of many albums that I’m sure no other Ave scribe will have in their top 20! Fabulous Folk Metal that totally got under my skin.
3: SIRENIA – ‘Dark Days Of Dolor’ (Napalm)
Aggressive Symphonic Gothic Metal from a band that have been doing this for years…and getting better with each release.
4: SKILTRON – ‘Legacy Of Blood’ (Trollzorn)
An album with Scottish bagpipes as a lead instrument in my top 20? What the hell is the world coming to…
5: THE VISION BLEAK – ‘The Unknown’ (Prophecy)
The glowering Godfathers of modern Gothic Metal grind out a grandiose gluttony of gargantuan gorgeousness.
6: NEMESEA – ‘Uprise’ (Napalm)
If you’re looking for straight-edged catchy Metal with a female singer look no further than this lot…and maybe Beyond The Black.
7: EQUILIBRIUM- ‘Armageddon’ (Nuclear Blast)
Track 5 is simply called “Born To Be Epic”. Say no more…
8: CROBOT – ‘Welcome To Fat City’ (Nuclear Blast)
Nailing that Retro/psyche vibe right between its big fat eyes!
9: BEYOND THE BLACK – ‘Lost In Forever’ (Airforce1)
If you’re looking for straight-edged catchy Metal with a female singer look no further than this lot…and maybe Nemesea.
10: EVERGREY – ‘The Storm Within’ (AFM)
The band with it’s very own Power Metal sub-genre throw out another belter.
11: METAL CHURCH – ‘XI’ (Rat Pak)
12: SINBREED – ‘Master Creator’ (AFM)
13: AVANTASIA – ‘Ghostlights’ (Nuclear Blast)
14: DELAIN – ‘Moonbathers’ (Napalm)
15: INGLORIOUS – ‘Inglorious’ (Frontiers)
16: IN THE WOODS – ‘Pure’ (Debemur Morti)
17: EDEN’S CURSE – ‘Cardinal’ (AFM)
18 VANDALLUS – ‘On The High Side’ (High Roller)
19 WORSHIPPER – ‘Shadow Hymns’ (Tee Pee)
20: OPETH – ‘Sorceress’ (Moderbogalet)
Just Missed out but wanted to give an honourable mention to;
Running Wild – Rapid Foray (Steamhammer)
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary (Century Media)
King Company – One For The Road (Frontiers)
Visionatica – Force Of Luna (Dr. Music)
FRANK ALLAIN – TOP 10
1: KLIMT 1918 – ‘Sentimentale Jugend’ (Prophecy Productions)
In which Slowdive’s ‘Souvlaki’, Verve’s ‘A Storm in Heaven’ and the Pet Shop Boys collide in a billowing, blissful outpouring of shoegaze ambience. Utterly un-kult, certainly, but all the same a mammoth and immersive release with a real penchant for affecting melody.
2: DEATHSPELL OMEGA – ‘The Synarchy of Molten Bone’ (Noevdia)
They’re back. Seemingly out of nowhere, the French masters of dissonant intensity see fit to unleash this monstrosity upon an unsuspecting public. Four track, 29 minutes – it’s enough to once again underline their supremacy at forging controlled chaos.
3: ETERNAL CHAMPION – ‘The Armour of Ire’ (No Remorse)
A rollicking, fist-raising salute to the sound of classic US early-80s heavy metal. Warlord, Manilla Road and Manowar collide in this brace of epic, sublimely-composed anthems.
4: ANTAEUS – ‘Condemned’ (Noevdia)
The second of two seemingly out-of-the-blue releases from Noevdia in this list, Antaeus’s assault is less intricate than their countrymen but compensates from an almost inhuman sense of unbridled ferocity. The murky production adds a conviction to the relentlessness that is at once both claustrophobic and exhilarating.
5: ALCEST – ‘Kodoma’ (Prophecy Productions)
After the rather flat ‘Shelter’, Neige returns and very much gets back to what he does best – blending soaring, pastoral atmospheric cleanliness with shimmering black metal. Shot through with his trademark blend of the uplifting and the haunting, ‘Kodoma’ is a real return to form.
6: KRATER – ‘Urere’ (Eisenwald)
This slipped under the radar a little which is a shame. Blisteringly fast and with just the right level of intricacy, Krater clearly take their cues from countrymen Ascension but up the aggression even further. ‘Urere’ is a tight and focussed blast of scything black metal that commands attention.
7: RUSSIAN CIRCLES – ‘Guidance’ (Sargent House)
Occupying the ‘meatier’ end of the post-rock spectrum for some time now, Russian Circles deliver a concise, considered dose of their acclaimed instrumental prowess on ‘Guidance’. Kurt Ballou’s splendidly organic production allows this dynamic material to breathe, being at once stridently powerful and gently caressing when required.
8: IGGY POP – ‘Post Pop Depression’ (Loma Vista)
Teaming up with the ubiquitous Josh Homme – far from riding the coat-tails of US rock’s nom de jour – has allowed Iggy’s creative vision to unfurl even more fully. Bleak, craggy and sprawling anecdotes play out across wistful desert rock and almost playful soundscapes but never quite disguising the undercurrent of weary ennui at the heart of this record.
9: SUMERLAND – ‘Sumerland’ (Relapse)
Connected as they are to Eternal Champion, there was no way this was going to be anything less than good – and good it certainly is. Presenting a darker, more introspective take on the US power metal sound, ‘Sumerland’ is a fat-free experience that reveals increasing depths and hooks with each listen.
10: PANPHAGE – ‘Drenskapr’ (Nordvis)A one man project from the depths of Sweden, Panpage’s somophore outing is a captivating record indeed. Resolutely low-fi, the uncompromising production values lend a distinctive ambience to this textured journey across a variety of black metal soundscapes that demonstrate an innate connection to the essence of the genre. Cold stuff indeed.
Cultes des Ghoules ‘Coven’, Worm of Ouroboros ‘What Graceless Dawn’ & Ash Borer ‘The Irrepassable Gate’ (just haven’t been able to give them enough time before having to make this list, otherwise may well have been in there!)
SubRosa ‘For This We Fought the Battle of Ages’
Darkher – ‘Realms’
Deftones – ‘Gore’
REVEREND DARKSTANLEY – TOP 20
1: ROTTING CHRIST – ‘Rituals’ (Season Of Mist)
More like a force of nature than a heavy metal band. Rituals takes everything from the previous two albums Aealo and Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού and distils it into a mighty blast of Athenian power. Letting this sink in took longer than usual but perhaps this truth is that this, finally, this helped me get over the sheer glory of 2007’s Theogonia. What’s more, seeing some of these tracks played live last month brought it all home – Rituals indeed. I am in awe. My world would not be the same without Rotting Christ.
2: ORANSSI PAZUZU – ‘Värähtelijä’ (Svart)
Hold on tight to your senses, Oranssi Pazuzu are back to challenge your fragile sanity. Provides new meaning to my favourite hackneyed phrase ‘down the rabbit hole’. And it’s Finnish so it must be completely mental.
3: MOONSORROW – ‘Jumalten Aika’ (Century Media)
This could be Moonsorrow’s best album to date – and that’s saying something. It’s certainly the album we’ve all been waiting for them to produce Verisäkeet and combines the band’s black metal heaviness with their glassy-eyed pastoral visions. The word ‘epic’ was invented for Moonsorrow.
4: THY CATAFALQUE – ‘Meta’ (Season Of Mist)
If last year’s Sgùrr was like a shot in the arm – a rush of experimental trippy black(ish) metal – this is more like an overdose. Few things I heard this year hit me like the 21 minutes of Malmok Járnak. Heavy, weird and wonderful.
5: URFAUST – ‘Empty Space Meditation’ (Ván)
A career defining moment for the shape shifting black metal band from Holland. Forget the trip to the hash cafe – stay at home with Empty Space Meditation instead.
6: GLORIOR BELLI – ‘Sundown: The Flock That Welcomes’ (Agonia)
Somehow, after a few missteps, Glorior Belli have come back fighting in a big way. A tribute to the power of Southern bayou darkness and breathed into leathery life by the demonic soul of French black metal.
7: DEATHSPELL OMEGA – ‘The Synarchy of Molten Bones’ (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
You might have thought that Deathspell Omega would be feeling a little threatened by the competition for their aggressive discord but Synarchy proves them once again the champions of their jaw-dropping art.
8: ANTEAUS – ‘Condemnation’ (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
The Antaeus / Aosoth / VI collective bring the crowning moment of utter blackness to the annual year-end list yet again. Makes Marduk feel like a trip to the local flower arranging club.
9: ASTEROID – ‘III’ (Fuzzorama)
And relax…. I put this in purely for my own blood pressure. I swear those guitars are talking to me. Everything I want from a brooding, psychedelic stoner album which the Swedes seem to be so good at. ‘It’s time to lay down your gun…’ – the opening line, is the perfect response to a fucking stupid year back in the outside world.
10: SCHAMMASCH – ‘Triangle’ (Prosthetic Records)
Ambitious occult-driven black metal at its best. Part ambient, drone, doom and black metal across three discs and 100 minutes. It’s one for the long winter evenings but well worth the effort.
11: MORROW – ‘Covenant of Teeth’ (Alerta Antifascista)
12: GREENLEAF – ‘Rise Above The Meadow’ (Napalm)
13: SOL SISTERE – ‘Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum’ (Hammerheart)
14: NEIGE ET NOIRCEUR – ‘Ténèbres Modernes’ (Sepulchral)
15: DARKESTRAH – ‘Turan’ (Osmose)
16: MUSSORGSKI – ‘Creatio Cosmicam Bestiae’ (Godz ov War)
17: HEIMDALLS WACHT – ‘Geisterseher’ (Trollzorn)
18: VIDIGANGR – ‘A World That Has To Be Opposed’ (War Anthem)
19: TEMPLE OF GNOSIS – ‘De Secretis Naturae Alchymica’ (ATMF)
20: URGEHAL – ‘Aeons In Sodom’ (SoM)
ANGELA DAVEY – TOP 20
1: CULT OF LUNA AND JULIE CHRISTMAS – ‘Mariner’ (Indie Recordings)
Holy shit. Dream album status. I’ve loved Julie since I was 15 and own everything she’s ever been involved with musically. I knew this would be my album of the year long before I heard it and it surpassed all of my expectations. I cried when I saw this performed live at Damnation Festival.
2: KING DUDE – ‘Sex’ (Van Records)
I challenge anyone to listen to this record and dislike it. King Dude is a dark, creative genius and has managed to craft a record where every track sounds different. ‘I Wanna Die at 69’ is ridiculously catchy, and even the ballad-style songs still manage to drip with sleaze.
3: THE BODY – ‘No One Deserves Happiness’ (Thrill Jockey)
‘Starving Deserter’ is definitely on my list of favourite songs of all time. This record is a perfect blend of brutal ugliness that gives nods to the likes of Godflesh and Neurosis, as it works its way through horrifyingly heavy psyched out guitars and electronic rhythms.
4: THE BODY AND FULL OF HELL – ‘One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache’ (Thrill Jockey)
There’s a motherfucking Leonard Cohen cover on this album. Just let that sink in for a second – The Body and Full of Hell collaborated and made a truly horrifying version of ‘The Butcher’. Insane. And this album is named after a line from a Hole song. I love The Body.
5: WINTERFYYLETH – ‘The Dark Hereafter’ (Candlelight)
This album is far too short, but whatever, all the more reason to play it twice as much. Huge Bathory vibes on this release, making it perfect for winter listening. Winterfylleth are making British black metal truly great at the moment and have yet to release a bad record.
6: ESBEN AND THE WITCH – ‘Older Terrors’ (Season of Mist)
My favourite goth-pop band getting signed to a major record label is a pretty huge deal, an even bigger deal is this album. It’s a huge step forward for Esben & The Witch, and some of their most captivating work to date. If you’ve yet to check this out, rectify that immediately.
7: OKKULTOKRATI – ‘Raspberry Dawn’ (Southern Lord)
Post-punk meets black metal meets nu wave 80s goth. What’s not to love? This album is huge amounts of fun from start to finish and is even more entertaining to see performed live. If you’re a fan of Grave Pleasures or Oranssi Pazuzu then give this a listen.
8: OATHBREAKER – ‘Rheia’ (Deathwish)
The best hardcore record of this year, if not the last 10 years. ‘Rheia’ is devastatingly beautiful – ferocious, yet enchanting, an absolute masterpiece of an album. Really looking forward to finally seeing this played live.
9: MORROW – ‘Covenant of Teeth’ (Alerta Antifascista/Halo of Flies/Chaos Ritual)
You know what crust punk needs more of? Cellos. Morrow provide that in spades. It was love at first listen for me with this album, as it incorporates members of some of my favourite bands (Fall of Efrafa, Anopheli, Light Bearer, etc.). Flawless.
10: TRAP THEM – ‘Crown Feral’ (Prosthetic Records)
This is super fucking heavy. This album just goes from start to finish, as you’d expect from a Trap Them release. Simple chords erupt forth into sludge laden riffs, making for a record that’s explosively epic.
11: SUBROSA – ‘For This We Fought The Battle of Ages’ (Profound Lore)
12: DARKTHRONE – ‘Arctic Thunder’ (Peaceville)
13: CAINA – ‘Christ Clad in White Phosphorous’ (Apocalyptic Witchcraft)
14: MANTAR – ‘Ode to the Flame’ (Nuclear Blast)
15: CROWHURST – ‘II’ (Broken Limbs)
16: 40 WATT SUN– ‘Wider Than the Sky’ (Radiance Records)
17: MoE – ‘Examination of the Eye of a Horse’ (Conrad Sound/Wallace Records)
18: GHOLD – ‘Pyr’ (Ritual Productions)
19: DIE ANTWOORD – ‘Mount Ninji & Da Nice Time Kid’ (Zef Records)
20: NEUROSIS – ‘Fires Within Fires’ (Neurot)
STUART CARROLL – TOP 10
1: NEW MODEL ARMY – ‘Winter’ (Attack Attack Records)
Although, maybe not as sonically majestic as 2013’s ‘Between Dog And Wolf’, this is still NMA doing what they do best, writing fucking excellent songs.
2: DEXYS – ‘Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul’ (100% Records)
A record of cover versions that are as touching as they are bat-shit bonkers. Featuring some of Kevin Rowland’s best vocal work to date.
3: ARCANA 13 – ‘Danza Macabra’ (Aural Music)
Occult doom rock that celebrates the influence and obsession of Italian horror movies. An utter joy from beginning to end.
4: SYLVAINE– ‘Wistful’ (Season of Mist)
Delicate and melodic black-gaze with an edge, delivered by uber-talented multi-instrumentalist Katherine Shepard.
5: JESUS CHRUSLER SUPERCAR – ‘35 Supersonic’ (Rodeostar/SPV)
Down and dirty, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll, that comes barging through your door, stealing your beer, and pissing all over your carpet.
6: MYSTONS – ‘Destination Death’ (V.R. Label)
This fuzzy/doomy 2-piece make a huge fuckin’ sea-obsessed racket and draw you in hook, line and sinker.
7: KING – ‘Reclaim The Darkness’ (Indie Recordings)
Big riffs aplenty in this powerful ode to the wonders of nature. Sheer dynamic awesomeness.
8: NECRONAUTICAL– ‘The Endurance At Night’ (Cacophonous)
A treasure-trove of misanthropic musical adventure. Batten down the hatches, it’s gonna be a stormy ride.
9: OATH – ‘Mustan Liekin Veljeskunta’ (Immortal Frost)
“Orthodox” and “True”, this delivers in spades the kind of black metal that many bands don’t have the balls to play any more.
10: PRAG 83 – ‘Metamorphoses’ (Nordvis)
If you only buy one Kafka inspired folk album this year, make it this one
CHRIS DAVISON – TOP 20
Yegads, this was a really difficult year to narrow down to the last twenty. I’d kept a running list throughout the year, with the now customary “out of ten” scale running alongside. In prior years, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for there to have been at least a couple of the entries scoring a 7.5 or a 7 out of 10, but this year, the scale started at 8 (and then only a couple of those), with the lion’s share being 8.5, and the top numbers all clocking in with hefty nines.
Conspicuously missing this year are some of the heavyweight’s: no Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica or Testament entries for me, as although they all produced some worthy platters, none of them could hold a candle to some of the sheer quality from lesser well known bands.
1: WYTCH HAZEL – ‘Prelude’ (Bad Omen)
Gods, how catchy is this album? A hazy, warm slab of modern proto-metal with a hefty dose of UFO inspired hard rock, this Lancastrian crew slew my ears all year with the likes of “Mighty King” and the brilliant “More Than Conquerors”. With a fair wind, this band could, and should, be huge.
2: KHEMMIS – ‘Hunted’ (20 Buck Spin)
Simply brilliant, this sludge-laden five-tracker saw hitherto mostly unknown crew Khemmis prove to metal alchemists, blending doom, sludge and traditional metal together with some of the most listenable clean vocals of the year. A true classic.
3: SPIRITUS MORTIS – ‘The Year is One’ (Svart)
A huge, monolithic slab of traditional doom that stands as unashamedly behind the times as it does with a sound so immense that it generates it’s own gravity. Those that think that traditional doom is dead should be introduced to this treasure.
4: OLD CORPSE ROAD – ‘Of Campfires and Evening Mists’ (Cacophonous)
Like the perfect distillation of all that has been black metal in Britain since the 90’s, this is a brilliant, atmospheric gem that somehow seems to have slipped under the radar. The likes of “The Whispers of Long Meg” are as brilliant as they are bombastic.
5: GHOUL – ‘Dungeon Bastards’ (Tank Crimes)
Despite all the evidence to the contrary by lesser bands, Ghoul once again proved it is possible to be a great band and successfully have an amusing gimmic. The Ghouls of Creepsylvania dialled up the Thrash here, and produced the genre album of the year.
6: WITCHERY – ‘In His Infernal Majesty’s Service’ (Century Media)
With a rasped tongue firmly in cheek, the Hammer Horror loving crew from Witchery came and blew all the cobwebs (and rival bands) away, with a true return to form.
7: THE WAKEDEAD GATHERING – ‘Fuscus: Strings of the Black Lyre’ (I, Voidhanger)
Murky, mysterious and artful. No, not yours truly, moreover this cracker of an album, which holds depth and mystery aplenty and straddles genres with effortless aplomb.
8: NETHERBIRD – ‘The Grander Voyage’ (Black Lodge Records)
Ferocious, icy, articulate and possessed with the kind of brittle strength that Dissection used to own. By far the best blackened death metal of the year.
9: STANGALA – ‘Klav’ (Finisterian Dead End)
Weird French clarinet and fuzzed our purveyors of progressive celtic/folk infused rock spliced with the drugged out stupor of Electric Wizard. One of the most impressive left-field releases of the year.
10: THE WOLVES OF AVALON – ‘Across Corpses Grey’ (Godreah)
Just three songs, but entrance is paid for by the title track alone. A dizzying, psychadelic ride into mediaeval oddness, channelling The Meads through Bathory and all intervening stops.
11: DESTROYER 666 – ‘Wildfire’ (Season of Mist)
12: ENTOMBED A.D. – ‘Dead Dawn’ (Century Media)
13: PAGANIZER – ‘On the Outskirts of Hades’ (Transcending Obscurity)
14: INTERNMENT – ‘Scent of the Buried’ (Pulverised)
15: ROTTEN SOUND – ‘Abuse to Suffer’ (Season of Mist)
16: GRAND MAGUS – ‘Sword Songs’ (Nuclear Blast)
17: WINTERFYLLETH – ‘The Dark Hereafter’ (Candlelight)
18: VADER – ‘The Empire’ (Nuclear Blast)
19: DENNER / SHERMAN – ‘Masters of Evil’ (Metal Blade)
20: GEHENNAH – ‘Too Loud to Live, Too Drunk to Die’ (Metal Blade)
ANDREW DOHERTY – TOP 20
1: ROTTING CHRIST – ‘Rituals’ (Season of Mist)
A global tour of tribal and punishing black metal, “Rituals” is total atmosphere, menace and majesty. It is Rotting Christ at their darkest and best.
2: RUDRA – ‘Enemy of Duality’ (Transcending Obscurity Asia)
A fusion of fiery blackened metal and Hindu musical influences is the vehicle for the latest mystical journey into the Singaporean band’s Vedic ancestry. “Enemy of Duality” is extreme and compelling.
3: ARKAN – ‘Kelem’ (Overpowered Records)
“Melodic Death Metal with Middle Eastern influences” is the prosaic description of this Parisian band. “Kelem” is the opposite of prosaic. It’s more adventurous and moody than the band’s previous albums. The fusion of original melodies and influences give each track passages and structures of overwhelming strength, richness, power and magnetism. Smell the metal, smell the mysticism, smell the melancholy, smell Arabia.
4: TEXTURES – ‘Phenotype’ (Nuclear Blast)
The well-established Dutch band have put their all into this work, and have succeeded in creating an album of multi-layered modern progressive metal songs in different styles and ambiences with great structures and hooks.
5: WINTERHORDE – ‘Maestro’ (ViciSolum Records)
This album from Israel’s Winterhorde is complete drama. There’s black metal, symphony, melancholy, sensitivity, movement and sheer originality as all the elements are skillfully packaged together to form a totally absorbing epic and majestic work.
6: HAKEN – ‘Affinity’ (Inside Out Records)
I’ve probably listened to this album more than any other this year. Haken’s playful and progressive style has become more focused with each album. Over its 15 minutes, “The Architect” is a masterpiece of atmosphere and musical creativity.
7: WOLVERINE – ‘Machina Viva’ (Sensory Records)
This album has crept up and grown on me in a big way. It’s so laced with subtle movements that it took me a few listens to appreciate fully the sophistication of this melancholically and at times epically progressive work. It is full of, as the band’s drummer described it, sonic diversity.
8: MOONSORROW – ‘Jumalten Aika’ (Century Media)
A spiritual, grandiose and evocative of warriors at camp fires in forests, this dark yet inspiring work is typical of Finland’s Moonsorrow. There is fire, calm reflection and melancholy. Nature, tradition and heroism are brought together to create a majestic atmosphere and transcend everyday existence.
9: OWT KRI – ‘Pilgrimage’ (Erototox Decodings)
Prepare to be transported to another world. This ambient work from Finland’s Kenneth is shadowy, dark and strange. Its music and progressions connect to my brain and create vivid outer-worldly images and mental experiences.
10: FALLUJAH – Dreamless (Nuclear Blast)
Thunderously dark technical metal from San Francisco barely does this album justice as a description, as it spreads its wings in such a way that every one of its movement is like a human breathing.
11: CREMATORY – ‘Monument’ (SPV)
12: DARK TRANQUILLITY – ‘Atoma’ (Nuclear Blast)
13: OBSIDIAN KINGDOM – ‘A Year With No Summer’ (Season of Mist)
14: WORMED – ‘Krighsu’ (Season of Mist)
15: TRIPLE SUN – ‘The City Lies in Ruins’ (Consouling Sounds)
16: BARISHI – ‘Blood from the Lion’s Mouth’ (Season of Mist)
17: TERRA TENEBROSA – ‘The Reverses’ (Debemur Morti)
18: THE MAN AND HIS MACHINE (TMHM) – ‘Stage Names’ (Self-Released)
19: NECRONOMICON – ‘Advent of the Human God’ (Season of Mist)
20: PERIPHERY – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’ (Sumerian Records)
SPENNY BULLEN – TOP 10
2016 is drawing to an end, or has drawn to an end, depending on when you read this, so it is time for another top 10 list for Ave Noctum. For some, the year has been a bit of a let down, but for me, if the only albums I’d bought had been my top ten, well, firstly I’d have a lot more money in the bank, and secondly, I’d have still considered it a good year. But hey, enough of my yacking!
1: GOATESS – ‘Purgatory Under New Management’ (Svart)
This is simply a stunner of an album, and nothing less could be expected from genre legend Chritus Linderson. Add it to your collection, now.
2: BLUES PILLS – ‘Lady In Gold’ (Nuclear Blast)
Far more soulful than their rocking debut, with vocals to die for, a rock solid rhythm section, and blues guitar hero in waiting, it can only be a matter of time before the mainstream snap up this collection of intercontinental wonders.
3: WRETCH – ‘Wretch’ (Bad Omen Records)
On the rebound from the tragic ending of The Gates of Slumber, Karl Simon moulds his anger and loss into a simply stunning album.
4: SCORPION CHILD – ‘Acid Roulette’ (Nuclear Blast)
The addition of some classic Hammond organ licks into the mix lifts the band to a new level on this, their second album. With a stable line up, fantastic product, and the ability to bring the goods live, surely fame awaits.
5: BEELZEFUZZ – ‘The Righteous Bloom’ (The Church Within)
After a split and the inevitable online spats and name changes sorted, the band got down to producing a fantastic LP with some classy and authentic sounding retro rock. Enjoy.
6: BLOOD CEREMONY – ‘Lord of Misrule’ (Rise Above)
Bewitching vocals, occult lyrics, haunting flute, and a sense of British mysticism combined with solid hard rock, all performed fantastically live make this the band’s best album to date.
7: ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDSLEY SHOVELL – ‘Keep It Greasy!’ (Rise Above)
Dirty rocking that reeks of sweaty denim, battered leather, and beer stained rock clubs, these horrible sods deliver the goods with shameless joy. Crack your cans of Harp lager and rock out.
8: CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC – ‘Dawn of the Satanic Age’ (Kinda Like Music)
Underground instrumental music that could grace the soundtrack of a John Carpenter film with style, these Brooklyn doomsters deserve your attention.
9: MOS GENERATOR – ‘Abyssinia’ (Listenable)
Combining a host of classic influences from blues, rock, prog and metal, Tony Reed and cohorts have produced a fantastic album worth adding to any good collection.
10: PURSON – ‘Desire’s Magic Theatre’ (Spinefarm)
With Rosalie Cunningham firmly at the helm, writing the lyrics and music, as well as doing most of the album work, this album is a stiff middle finger to those fuds who say women have no place in rock. The finest British prog album of the year.
Many more could easily have made the list, with honourable mentions to Prong, Dee Calhoun, Lava Goat, Dö, Church of Misery, Bloody Hammers and even the mighty Grand Magus which any other year would have been guaranteed a top slot not quite making the top ten. Now, I must send this to the editor before my mood changes again, and I end up swapping them all around again!
MARK EVE – TOP 20
What a fucking weird year that was! Leaving aside the political stuff (All Hail The Donald), some of the biggest bands in METAL released some killer records. Now let’s keep it real, a new album by one of the Big 4 of thrash is always gonna be a bigger event than your favourite ‘insert name of random female fronted vegan occult black doom prog project here’. That’s reality…. deal with it buttercups…..and on that note
1: METALLICA – ‘Hardwired….To Self Destruct’ (Blackened)
Of course you could just jump on the oh so trendy ‘Metallica are shit’ bandwagon that seems to have collected a large portion of metal fans on social media this year. Or you could make your own mind up and actually listen to the record. This is quite simply the best thing they’ve released since ‘…And Justice For All’ and pisses all over ‘Death Magnetic’. No it’s not as good as ‘Ride’ or ‘Master’ but is a massive record in its own right. You want aggression? Check Out the title track. You want swagger & groove? ‘Now That We’re Dead’ delivers. Forget the hate, this is the most important and best record of the year!
2: ECHELON – ‘The Brimstone Aggrandizement’ (Transcending Obscurity)
Rogga you busy bastard. Along with ex-Benediction ex-Bolt Thrower and new Hail Of Bullets front man, David Ingram, supplying his ungodly bellows to this, Echelon’s second album, the lads deliver old school proper death metal with crushing riffs, Swedish melody and groove and that voice!!! Do not overlook this album.
3: HOBBS ANGEL OF DEATH – ‘Heaven Bled’ (Hells Headbangers)
Thrash. Thrash. Thrash. One of my most played records this year and deservedly so. Peter Hobbs comeback record hit’s all the thrash nostalgia buttons and at the same time maintains a relevance and a viciousness lacking in 99% of modern metal. Brilliant!
4: JOHANSSON / SPECKMANN – ‘Edge Of The Abyss’ (Soulseller Records)
Death metal album of the year and the second entry in this list for non stop riff generator Rogga Johannson. Chunky, groovy, catchy as herpes death metal with those unmistakable ‘angry tramp’ vocals from Paul Speckmann. There’s no school like the old school.
5:WRETCHED SOUL – ‘The Ghost Road’ (UKEM)
This album distils the very essence of heavy metal into an albums worth of traditional, hook laden, evil-centric fun. Brilliant British thrash from a band destined to be huge.
6: ASPHYX – ‘Incoming Death’ (Century Media)
The Dutch death / doom masters return and nail it down with their death-hammer!
7: WITCHERY – ‘In His Infernal Majesty’s Service’ (Century Media)
More black clad spikey thrashy satanic nonsense from this awesome Swedish supergroup who have never put a foot wrong. New vocalist Angus Norder takes over from Legion (ex-Marduk) and is a great fit. Riffs!
8: GRAND MAGUS – ‘Sword Songs’ (Nuclear Blast)
Epic battle metal from these Swedes who possess in JB probably the finest vocalist in heavy metal. Another band that do no wrong in my book.
9: WINTERFYLLETH – ‘The Dark Hereafter’ (Candlelight)
The northern monkey heritage metallers released their 5th album which is a stunningly beautiful effort that transcends their black metal origins. Epic in every sense.
10: EASTERN FRONT – ‘EmpirE’ (Cacophonous)
The war torn Ipswich badgers (or definite fox in the case of new front woman Marder) charged forth in their battered panzer and steamrollered us with their best album yet. Atmospheric, savage and possessed of a malevolence missing on their previous outings. Marder’s inhuman vocals are nasty as you like and Blitz, Destroyer, Holocaust and Trench-Foot play out of their skins.
11: BAT – ‘Wings Of Chains’ (Hells Headbangers)
12: ACE FREHLEY – ‘Origins Vol 1’ (SPV / Steamhammer)
13: SODOM – ‘Decision Day’ (Nuclear Blast)
14: TESTAMENT – ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ (Nuclear Blast)
15: METAL CHURCH – ‘XI’ (Nuclear Blast)
16: FLOTSAM AND JETSAM – ‘Flotsam & Jetsam’ (AFM)
17: WORMROT – ‘Voices’ (Earache)
18: DENNER / SHERMANN – ‘Masters Of Evil’ (Metal Blade)
19: ENTOMBED AD – ‘Dead Dawn’ (Century Media)
20 BRUJERIA – ‘Pocho Aztlan’ (Nuclear Blast)
FRAGGLE – TOP 20
2015 was strong year with plenty of heavyweights releasing albums, giving us some fine musical offerings to jump into, some of which I’ve been listening to a fair bit this year and some, had I had more time with them would have no doubt placed higher or replaced others in the list.. But enough sidetracking. If 2015 was the year Heavy Metal had its time to shine, then 2016 is undoubtedly the year of the riff… Be it stoner, doom, thrash, death or groove… The riff reigns supreme… Coincidence that it is the 30th anniversary of Reign in Blood? Again, another sidetrack… So whilst the grim reaper continues to work his way through 2016 with no fucks given, let’s see what 20 albums made my musical year:
1: GOATESS – ‘Purgatory Under New Management’ (Svart)
Sabbathian doom tops this year. Eight tracks of hypnotic, mind melting music which has the ability to mesmerise with or without green related substances. From Moth to Flame’s mind melting riff drop in its extended intro to the wonderful Wrath of God which is just sheer majesty in musical form, this album stood out a clear head and shoulders above its nearest competition.
2: BRANT BJORK AND THE LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – ‘Tao Of The Devil’ (Napalm)
Sticking in the world of stoner and doom, Brant Bjork, one of the godfathers of stoner rock and metal brings some real grit and rawness, again, going from Sabbathian to Kyussian to bluesy goodness, this album has it all, packed into a sub 40 minute slice of smoke hazed music.
3: RAGING SPEEDHORN – ‘Lost Ritual’ (Self Released/Pledge Music)
The soundtrack to many a disenchanted youth’s life in the early 2000’s, the hate mob from Corby crash back from the studio, having done things the way they wanted to instead of the way the labels wanted them to. Calling us back to the classic style of their first two albums, the band who influenced a generation are back to remind those they influenced how shit is done right!
4: WORMROT – ‘Voices’ (Earache)
The most extreme album of the year in my book. A full on explosion of intense anger and hate after a rather long absence sees one of the most impressive grind bands out there showing us how its done. The guys have really outdone their first two albums with this one, and if Voices is any indication, then expect even harder hitting things to come at breakneck speed!
5: NERVOSA – ‘Agony’ (Napalm)
The big ask this year was which thrash band would produce an album which would crack my top 5 given how since April, I knew what my album of the year was. MegaDave and Flotsam pushed it close but ultimately it was the lovely ladies from Brazil who clinched it. Hard hitting, politically charged and angry as fuck, Nervosa show us the way thrash should sound. Take note ” unimpressive band who stopped being thrash in ’89 “.
6: REVOCATION – ‘Great Is Our Sin’ (Metal Blade)
With a sound which in my humble opinion is bordering on that of the all mighty Death, Revocation really pull no punches on this ferocious display of technically charged, thrash and death musical monster. 48 minutes of evil which includes gratuitous blasts, thunderous low end, scythe like riffery which all climaxes with a stunning rendition of Slayer’s Altar of Sacrifice really says enough… Oh, did I say it sounds like Death?
7: BOSS KELOID – ‘Herb Your Enthusiasm’ (Black Bow)
The Sludge colossus from the North west who sit atop their lung mountain and view things in a thick haze of enlightenment deliver some serious noise. Featuring some phenomenally low-end heavy riffs which are as fat and juicy as they come, guest appearances from Conan and all the eccentricity and insanity you would expect from the band who were one of the show stealers at this year’s Bloodstock, the musical assault on all your senses will have you doing just as this album title says.
8: ABORTED – ‘Retrogore’ (Century Media)
Belgian Brutal Bastards Aborted bring blast back. Everything about this album was, is and will still be fantastic. The marketing campaign, recreating iconic film promotional posters with caricatures of the band, the EP to get us ready (Termination Redux) and the tour with Kataklysm and Septic Flesh in the first part of the year all resulted in a fantastic slice of brutal death metal, delivered with the confidence and talent we have come to know from Aborted over the years. Growls, riffs, blasts and more blasts, this five piece certainly do bring the slaughter on Retrogore.
9: THEM – ‘Sweet Hollow’ (Empire Records)
Storytelling at its finest from this superb ensemble of musicians blending multiple genres to create a true, modern day heavy metal opera which the likes of King Diamond would be proud of! Follow the tale of K.K Fossor as he pits himself against the evils of Sweet Hollow, a New England hotspot for the supernatural and be caught in the clutches of this dynamic tale.
10: FOETAL JUICE – ‘Masters Of Absurdity’ (Grindscene)
The seriously talented, not so serious in every other aspect four piece with a reputation for brutal sounding live performances and some of the best song titles ever release one hell of a debut album. With topics about urinating nuns, killing your partner with farts and Corpsegrinder (The magnificent specimen himself!), you’ll be torn between pissing yourself with laughter or in fear of some blinding death metal! They’re also pretty fucking special live too, if in doubt, look for some footage from Bloodstock this year and see why exactly.
11: CHEAP TRICK – ‘Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello’ (Big Machine)
12: NAILS – ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ (Nuclear Blast)
13: TRUCKFIGHTERS – ‘V’ (Century Media)
14: INSOMNIUM – ‘Winters Gate’ (Century Media)
15: DUEL – ‘Fears Of The Dead’ (Heavy Psych Sounds)
16: SYBERIA – ‘Resiliency’ (Dembur Morti)
17: SWITCHTENSE – ‘Flesh & Bones’ (Rastilho)
18: MEGADETH – ‘Dystopia’ (Universal)
19: FLOTSAM AND JETSAM –‘Flotsam & Jetsam’ (AFM)
20: KROH – ‘Altars’ (Devizes)
Honourable mentions: Katalepsy (gravenous hour), El Caco (‘7’), Peace Killers (S/T), Surgical Meth Machine (S/T), In Mourning (Afterglow), Poem (Skein Syndrome), Babymetal (Metal Resistence)
Dishonourable mentions: Dream Theater (The Astonishing), In Flames (Battles), The Lars Ulrich cashcow extravaganza (Hardwired to Self-Destruct)
GIZMO – TOP 20
1: FORTERESSE – ‘Thèmes Pour La Rébellion’ (Sepulchral Productions)
Adversarial, chaotic and explosive: This is all fire, righteous anger and the volatile sounds of rebellion. It has a heat and a heart that blazes without fear of consequence.
2: HYPNOPAZUZU – ‘Create Christ, Sailor Boy’ (House Of Mythology)
Whatever music you like, this is something you should at least try. Weird, accessible and yet so layered I will never penetrate to that core. Still from where I stand on the dock it is sailing towards a magnificent sunset.
3: KHEMMIS – ‘Hunted’ (20 Buck Spin)
How they combine an Electric Wizard fuzzed out heaviness but play true doom like early While Heaven Wept with Thin Lizzy-esque lead breaks and High Spirits melody I don’t know. The epic thirteen minute title track is just about my song of 2016.
4: DESTROYER 666 – ‘Wildfire’ (Season Of Mist)
Leaning towards a looser feel and a NWOBHM sound to their blackthrash it is simply feral and the writing stunning. From the rat-bike snarl of ‘Hounds At Ya Back’ to the haunting closer ‘Tamam Shud’, a tribute to Selim Lemouchi, it is possibly even better than In Defiance. Never thought I’d say that.
5: IVAR BJORNSON & EINAR SELVIK – ‘Skuggsjá’ (Season Of Mist)
An inspired and intricate design woven into a warm cloth with deft fingers and more than a little magic whispered between the threads. The kind of art that deserves a warm fire and a dark beer to set yourself adrift in.
6: WINTERFYLLETH – ‘The Dark Hereafter’ (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
A band at ease with itself but not perhaps with the world. Intelligent, emotional, mastercrafted English black metal reaching out to the world.
7: SONS OF BALAUR – ‘Tenebris Deos’ (Season Of Mist)
I have to say that this is one of the best, most enthusiastic and goddamned seriously enjoyable black metal albums I’ve heard this year. Sorry
8: EASTERN FRONT – ‘EmpirE’ (Cacophonous)
With a fierce new vocalist and the best songs they have ever written I found myself finally and fully conscripted. Cold, brutal but somehow still a blazing heart. Superb.
9: BLACK HOLE GENERATOR – ‘A Requiem For Terra’ (Dark Essence)
Embrace the nuclear chaos, bid farewell to Terra
10: SLEEP OF MONSTERS – ‘II Poison Garden’ (Svart)
They are the dissolute lovers, the heavy lidded prince tired, wasted but eyes and mind and lips full of the smouldering fire of life and of the shadow world. Simply it is, again, beautiful.
11: Amon Amarth – ‘Jomsviking’ (Century Media)
12: NEUROSIS – ‘Fires Within Fires’ (Neurot)
13: GREENLEAF – ‘Rise Above The Meadow’ (Napalm Records)
14: EIVOR – ‘Slør’ (Tutl)
15: CRYO CHAMBER COLLABORATION – ‘Nyarlathotep’ (Cryo Chamber)
16: SLEGEST – ‘Vidsyn’ (Dark Essence)
17: ABBATH – ‘Abbath’ (Nuclear Blast)
18: UNCOFFINED – ‘Ceremonies Of Morbidity’ (Momento Mori).
19: OLD CORPSE ROAD – ‘Of Campfires And Evening Mist’ (Cacophonous)
20: CONAN – ‘Revengeance’ (Napalm)
Best EP: ‘Lightning Wheel’ the extraordinary debut by UK black metal band RID, ‘The Cursed Travails Of The Demeter’ by Vircolac second.
Best gig: Meek Is Murder/Svalbard/Employed To Serve @ The Gryphon, Bristol (Capacity 50).
Best festival set: Can’t choose between Akercocke’s glorious Damnation return and Solstice redefining ‘epic’ at Warhorns.
MARTIN HARRIS – TOP 20
As the light wanes on another blockbuster year in metal I have sat mulling over this top 20 list for some time in my head. Like last year I could have listed a top 200 and indeed I compiled a top 365 releases of 2015 and submitted one per day on facebook and is still in the countdown process towards the end of this year. The standard and quality threshold has been incredibly high and some notable names have failed to make my top 20 though most would be in my top 50. So, after much swapping, deletions this is my top 20 of 2016 though as I’ve typed I’ve switched a couple around and probably have done as I’m typing in the summaries.
1: IMPERIUM DEKADENZ – ‘Dis Manibvs’ (Season Of Mist)
None can compare to this German bands knack of writing powerful and utterly mesmerising black metal. Their skills in song writing and arrangements are flawless injecting so much emotion with a palpable atmosphere that it almost drives me to tears… almost. Nothing that this band has released is generic, every release is unique and this fifth album is completely breath-taking.
2: SACRAMENTAL BLOOD – ‘Ternion Demonarchy’ (Ghastly Music)
A band that will be unfamiliar to most is Sacramental Blood from Serbia whose album is a staggering death metal demolition that situates itself in the Floridian death metal style of the late 80s and early 90s. The production and outright ferocity has been unparalleled, and I have listened to nigh on 150 death metal releases this year, making this release an unholy sonic disembowelment.
3: HEIMDALLS WACHT – ‘Geisterseher’ (Trollzorn)
This prolific German black metal act crossed my path a couple of years ago, and this seventh album of purist unholy blackened art is massively epic. Capturing the essence of the black metal perfectly they distil it into seven songs of stunning magnitude via a bleak production that ebbs and flows like a grinding glacier amongst the obsidian vitriol that exudes from this bands playing.
4: RHAPSODY OF FIRE – ‘Into The Legend’ (AFM)
Whether you consider this version of Rhapsody as the evil twin of Luca Turilli’s version is down to preference as this version of the band has recorded an album that is completely over the top, bombastic, grandiose and even a little tacky in places which is fine in power metal. The song compositions and arrangements are flawless, with mind boggling guitar work, ambitious vocals and stunning musicianship.
5: DEMONBREED – ‘Where Gods Come To Die’ (Testimony Records)
All the guys in this band have been around in the death metal scene a while but this project is nothing short of seismic, death metal destruction that has a warmongering and absolutely pulverising listen. If ever there was a sound track to planetary devastation, then this is it.
6: ORACLES – ‘Miserycorde’ (Deadlight Entertainment)
A late arrival on my top 20 even though it was released mid year is this supergroup of sorts that comprises ex-members of Belgian band System Divide with Sven of aborted at the helm but also the alluring and beguiling vocals of Sanna Salou. Classed as melodic death metal this album offers so much more than that with symphonic like arrangements balanced against a thundering death metal backbone the album is thoroughly absorbing. The vocal variations aside the music is as punishing in death metal as it gets but tempered by the ambitious song writing and completely adroit musicianship.
7: BAPHOMET’S BLOOD – ‘In Satan We Trust’ (Iron Bonehead)
With band pseudonyms like Necrovomiterror and Bestial Hammer you probably have an idea what this is like. Italy has some fine speed metal bands and this one is close to top of the bullet belt pile as they shred their way through eight songs of razoring riffs, blurring double kick and an attitude of not giving a fuck at all.
8: DARK FUNERAL – ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’ (Century Media)
This sixth album by these Swedish black metallers is immense and a massive return to form. The opening song the album has been my favourite track of 2016. The whole ethos and aura that pours from the speakers is a masterclass in black metal artistry. Brimming with virulent venom the album is a sonically explosive possessing ebonised shroud of atmosphere and dripping with terror.
9: COBALT- ‘Slow Forever’ (Profound Lore)
I was aware of this bands discography but was completely overwhelmed by this fourth album, which brings about black metal and links it with progressive overtones with devastating results. At nearly 90 minutes of music you are immersed in a cauldron of scalding riffs, embittered vocals and an aura of polar desolation. An astounding album in every respect.
10: MERCYLESS – ‘Pathetic Divinity’ (Kaotoxin)
I didn’t expect much from this French bands sixth album but once you hit play this album blasts out of the speakers in a torrent of unmitigated nihilism. The production is bodily implosive, as the album rockets through ten songs of sonic Armageddon with the accelerator firmly stamped on for a hyperblasting apocalypse.
11: LONG DISTANCE CALLING – ‘Trips’ (Insideout Music)
12: BEGRIME EXEMIOUS – ‘The Enslavement Conquest’ (Dark Descent)
13: GADGET – ‘The Great Destroyer’ (Relapse)
14: IN THE WOODS – ‘Pure’ (Debemur Morti Productions)
15: WODE – ‘Wode’ (Sell Your Soul Records)
16: EXUMER – ‘The Raging Tides’ (Metal Blade)
17: VREDEHAMMER – ‘Violator’ (Indie)
18: DESASTER – ‘The Oath Of An Iron Ritual’ (Metal Blade)
19: ANCIIENTS – ‘Voice Of The Void’ (Season Of Mist)
20: ALLEGAEON – ‘Proponent Of Sentience’ (Metal Blade)
Other notable entries that in any other year would have made it into this list are:
Vader – The Empire, Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder, Blood Red Throne – Union Of Flesh And Machine,
An Autumn For Crippled Children – Eternal, Bombs Of Hades – Death Mask Replica, Denouncement Pyre – Black Sun Unbound, Delain – Moonbathers, Accu§er – The Forlorn Divide, Abbath – Abbath
I could go on forever listing releases!!!!
PAUL MADDISON – TOP 20
1: DARK FOREST – ‘Beyond the Veil’ (Cruz Del Sur)
England’s Black Country warriors return with their greatest album to date. Bestowing folklore and traditional metal and with a top notch vocal performance, made this an essential listening experience since its release. Dark Forest have found their niche, they have developed and produced one of the most outstanding releases I have heard, it works, own it!
2: THEM – ‘Sweet Hollow’ (Empire)
Starting life as a tribute act to King Diamond, it’s not hard to understand the major influence of this album. ‘Sweet Hollow’ is an album filled with so many levels of music, obvious falsetto mixed vocals go hand in hand with other styles of metal mixed in.
3: SEVEN SISTERS – ‘Seven Sisters’ (High Roller)
A long awaited debut album from London. Mixing traditional metal with NWOBHM references, this is a cool release that flows effortlessly. With a much improved stage show, Seven Sisters should see a marked leg up in 2017, here’s hoping so as they put in the groundwork and the miles.
4: WIDOW – ‘Carved in Stone’ (Pure Steel)
North Carolina’s Widow return after accumulating many air miles in support of their previous release ‘Life’s Blood’. Melody is key, with many major metal influences, truly an album that is so memorable and plays loud as hell! ‘Carved in Stone’ is a great album and I feel quite rightly puts Widow at the top of the tree for musical accomplishment.
5: CASTLE – ‘Welcome to the Graveyard’ (Van)
Ever since their debut, Castle have brandished their mix of heavy metal and doom with a true seal of quality. There’s simply something about this bands albums. ‘Welcome to the Graveyard’ is no different. Every track is momentous, the production is perfect, Castle don’t do sub-standard. Another awesome album.
6: TYFONS DOOM – ‘Yeth Hound’ (Gates of Hell)
This was simply the best combination of metal music. Take a splash of pre-Melissa Mercyful Fate, some classic Iron Maiden of the DiAnno and Dickinson (1st stint!) era’s and you have heavy metal that’s both uplifting, evil, and effortless, this simply has everything for underground metal fans.
7: DARKNESS – ‘The Gasoline Solution’ (High Roller)
If you are looking for an original German thrash release, then this has all the hallmarks of the style, with high octane delivery and a vocal style in the extreme range. Adrenaline junkies will adore this. Darkness should have been credited with much more influence in the German thrash scene, but with ‘The Gasoline Solution’ they are truly igniting this aging thrasher’s passion, understated yes, overrated, no chance. This is how to thrash your nuts off.
8: RUST – ‘Raw Shredding Death’ (Plague Island)
Raw, shredding death…a perfect description for Sweden’s Rust. This is their latest release and is truly evil to the bone. If you like the punk attitude of some Darkthrone and the ancient sounds of Sweden’s forefathers, and general black thrash mastery, then raise your fist to this gem. Most releases are available freely on their bandcamp site, but support the band, buy a shirt, pay for the music, then the world will be a much better place!
9: FLOTSAM AND JETSAM – ‘Flotsam & Jetsam’ (AFM)
This legendary thrash band are truly reborn with this album. Flotsam and Jetsam are deserving of credit, not only for their longevity and constant involvement in the scene when other bands tended to hide away. The energy and prowess of this album was truly spectacular, probably my favourite to date (apart from the obvious albums).
10: BEWITCHER – ‘Bewitcher’ (Diabolic Might)
I found this band whilst playing around on bandcamp, sometimes those “you may also like” references actually work! This is Blackened speed metal from the US, this is how to make an impact. The album adds a lot of tracks from their previous demos and cassette releases, whilst adding some new tracks that are fist clenching and divine. A band with impact and ones to watch.
11: EVIL REBORN – ‘Throne of Insanity’ (Evils Records)
12: RUNNING WILD – ‘Rapid Foray’ (SPV)
13 LUCIFER’S HAMMER – ‘Beyond the Omens’ (Shadow Kingdom)
14: HELLBRINGER – ‘Awakened From The Abyss’ (High Roller)
15: ECHELON – ‘The Brimstone Aggrandizement’ (Transcending Obscurity)
16: MEGADETH – ‘Dystopia’ (UMC)
17: POSEYDON – ‘Masterpiece’ (Independent)
18: POLTERGEIST – ‘Back to Haunt’ (AFM)
19: RAVENSIRE – ‘The Cycle Never Ends’ (Cruz Del Sur)
20: BODE PRETO – ‘Mystic Massacre’ (Iron Tyrant)
MATT MASON – TOP 10
2016 – Album of the Year? What? You gotta be kidding. How the Trump did we get to this stage so soon? Lotta great stuff this year. Lotta hype. Lotta disappointments . I’m looking at you Abbath!
The stuff that rocked my world this year was varied and provided a fitting soundtrack to a turbulent year. Much has been said about 2016 being a particularly awful year for dead celebs. Oh well.
Here is my run down for what it’s worth.
1: ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL – ‘Keep It Greasy’ (Rise Above)
I always fear I am going to be disappointed . That there is no way they can keep the quality up. I need to not fear it and hear it as they said a couple of years ago. Awesome!
2: SUNS OF THYME – ‘Cascades’ (Napalm)
“Suns of Thyme” blend together decades of influence with a heavy dose of the seventies to create “Cascades” delightfully dreamy 14 tracks. When I say the Seventies we are not talking the Sweet or Abba. This is Velvet Underground meets Bauhaus via Pink Floyd and Hawkwind with dashes of early Smiths and Ride for good measure. If you enjoyed Publicist UK or Beastmilk I reckon you should give these Berliners a go. They add a little more riffage in as well which is always good for the rock diet. This is one of those near perfect albums that balances out of body psychedelia , heads down rock and roll and gothic atmospheres with a scrumptious sense of melody and great songwriting. I can’t give it 10/10 as they may release something even better in the future.
3: AN AUTUMN FOR CRIPPLED CHILDREN – ‘Eternal’ (WICKERMAN)
There is an overwhelming positivity to the music even when it appears vocalist MXM is on the verge of a breakdown (the nervous kind not the hardcore kind). There is a track entitled “This small space you occupied is so empty now” . Pretentious hey? Bloody hipsters etc etc. No. The title itself is a poem and describes loss beautifully and heartbreakingly . An Autumn For Crippled Children offer angst and heartache for adults without the need to package it in Hot Topic/ Attitude Clothes and give it a subculture. They help me get through bad days and add extra texture to good ones. Can you ask any more of any artist?
4: THE WONDER STUFF – ‘30 Goes Around the Sun’ (IRL)
I last bought a Wonder Stuff album in 1990. It was called Never Loved Elvis and it felt like a disappointment after the bright punky indie of Hup and the Eight Legged Groove Machine. Still I devoured it and travelled to Wallsall from North London to watch them play. Then pretty much ignored them for 20 years. Then , wallowing in nostalgia I watched a re-energised Stuffies with new Fiddeler Eric support the Levellers. That was it I was a 17 year old Indie Metaller again. Still didn’t buy an album though. Then this bastard came out. It stayed in my car , on my MP3 player and in my bathroom for months. Just beautiful heartfelt choons. Cheers Miles!
5: VENOMOUS CONCEPT – ‘Kick Me Silly’ (Season of Mist)
I am not a huge Grindcore fan but this album ticks every fucking box whatever label it has. So punk it hurts. So much spiky riffage . So much attitude. The energy is infectious. Never try to drive while listening to this unless you are in Germany or in the Northern Territory of Oz.
6: MORTIIS – ‘The Great Deceiver’ (Omnipresence)
It reminds me of the first time I bought Sigue Sigue Sputniks album and heard those buzzsaw guitars over the top of synths for the first time. This is an album that needs to be played loud. In a dark room. With a smoke machine. And strobe lights. With “The Great Deceiver” Mortiis has not reinvented the wheel . What he and his band have done is crammed big beats, big riffs and big choruses into a twisted mannequin , dressed it in leather and rubber, added a fluorescent hair fall then flicked the on switch . The ensuing mass of electrified cyber goth metal will cause the most repressed wallflower to shake their crimped tail-feather. Familiar enough to prick your ears but original enough to keep you coming back for more.
7: TEETHGRINDER – ‘Nihilism’ (Lifeforce)
These guys chew up grindcore, crust and hardcore , gargle black and death and then pick their teeth with sludge and drone to create a sound akin to being blasted with broken pieces of seaside rock. Painfully joyous, a delicious bruise inducing experience that sticks around way after the last note fades. Teethgrinder are what I was expecting when I first heard Nails , a tumultuous mixture of extreme music that twists and turns smacking you in the face with its flailing limbs as it leaps maniacally about. In my opinion Nails didin’t quite deliver. These guys do.
8: RAGING SPEEDHORN – ‘Lost Ritual’ (Pledgemusic)
From the opening riff of Bring Out Your Dead this is heaviness personified. Swaggeringly sludgy with a punky undertone this album bursts out of the speakers , demands a pint and then swings you into the mosh pit. I saw the band the week this came out and I went nuts – on crutches. Better than painkillers!
9: Suicidal Tendencies – ‘World Gone Mad’ (Suicidal Records)
Cyco Myco still got it. Clap Like Ozzy is one infectious groove and the rest of the album follows suit. Fighting fit see you in the pit for Persistance.
10: DANNY BROWN – ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ (Warp)
Hip Hop filtered through Grime, dirty beats , lo-fi industrial and madness. It squirms and twists and gets so dark you look behind you and then drops a dance floor filler like “ Dance in the Water” . This ain’t chart hip hop. Motor City Madness baby!
Honourable mentions to Devilment and Raw. This should be a top twelve!
JOHN SKIBEAT – TOP 20
1: OVTRENOIR – ‘Eroded’ (ConSouling Sounds)
Ave Noctum’s own Reverend described this as being as “heavy as a constipated elephant turd wrapped in chainmail”. He wasn’t kidding. And yet, this isn’t brazen. It’s not brash. The music is full of dark omen; a maelstrom of portent. Basically, it tears up your expectations of what post-metal was and could be. Folks, the crossbar just went up a notch.
2: CULT OF LUNA & JULIE CHRISTMAS – ‘Mariner’ (Indie)
This intense collaboration is like discovering the joy of rubbing salt into caramel’s wounds. It shouldn’t work so a debt is owed to COL’s Johannes Persson for initiating the vision. This is an album that glows with portent and purpose. Mariner’s UK live performance this year (thankyou Damnation Festival organisers) found yet another level. Happy Christmas, indeed!
3: BLACK CROWN INITIATE – ‘Selves We Cannot Forgive’ (SPV)
Imaginative progressive death metal that employs a variety of vocal techniques and splashes them across a canvas of technical heaviosity loaded with richly-layered atmospherics – beware this one cuts deep and true.
4: IF THESE TREES COULD TALK – ‘The Bones Of A Dying World’ (Metal Blade)
From its eloquent, delicate, instrumental exploration of its subject this utterly beguiling album eventually bursts into life, yawning with theatrical flourishes, echoing on and on, spreading its light into even the darkest of recesses.
5: ALLAGAEON – ‘Proponent For Sentience’ (Metal Blade)
A real jack in the box this one. It lurches from death metal to thrash to flamenco to folk metal, yet this vast range of genres are welded together by beautifully-crafted segues, imperious stringwork and a bold sci-fi theme. Unmissable.
6: KETZER – ‘Starless’ (Metal Blade)
Claustrophobic, propulsive, ground-breaking? A resounding yes to all. Post-everything, Ketzer take blackened crush and throw it at you from as many angles as they possibly can. Chaotic at times, slyly persuasive at others, Ketzer have been both brave and brash and are to be applauded.
7: dALEK – ‘Asphalt For Eden’ (Profound Lore)
This came at me from way out in left-field. What we have here is subversive hip-hop with a political bent. It’s aim is to change formulaic perception by proposing an augmented, divisive reality. In turns, abrasive and ambient its emotive electronica pulses with passion.
8: RIVERSIDE – ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ (Inside Out)
A journey through the Polish band’s history inspired by the sad passing of bandmate Piotr, this is an elegant reminder of the true genius that has lain dormant for so long. Resplendent with bright colours and purity of sound, here is a timeless slice of Floydian-inspired beauty.
9: JIM BREUER & THE LOUD AND ROWDY – ‘Songs From The Garage’ (Metal Blade)
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Brash American humour all round as this US comedian / radio host / actor gets behind a mic and gives us the very definition of brash. Bright, bold, crass rock n’ roll that isn’t afraid to shout at you until your ears bleed. I don’t really understand why I like it, but I do. Perhaps it’s the day-glo confidence of it. Everywhere I look, it’s there in the corner of my vision. I would apologise unreservedly for even mentioning this in my Top 10 but, hey, just this once – fuck you.
10: MONKEY3 – Astra Symmetry (Napalm)
Full of Eastern promise, this drifts, ebbing and flowing through your trip. Echoing, ethnic instrumentation drone elegantly into moments where emotions like bliss, solitude, enchantment and glory dominate. Self-reflection is key to the Monkey3 experience and this one appears to inspire moments such as these more often than most.
11: SUPERSUCKERS – ‘Holdin’ The Bag’ (SPV)
12: MONDO DRAG – ‘The Occultation Of Light’ (RidingEasy Records)
13: GREENLEAF – ‘Rise Above The Meadow’ (Napalm)
14: HOLY GROVE – ‘Holy Grove’ (Heavy Psych Sounds)
15: GOOD TIGER – ‘Head Full Of Moonlight’ (Metal Blade)
16: RAB- ‘RAB2’ (Klonosphere)
17: NADJA– ‘Sv’ (Gizeh)
18: EARTH SHIP – ‘Hollowed’ (Napalm)
19: ASTRAY – ‘Beyond The Heights Of Lust’ (S/R)
20: THE ANSWER – ‘Solas’ (Napalm)
Extra special mention: I can’t let this end of year list without giving a shout-out to All Them Witches and their madly inventive and wholly original album Dying Surfer Meets His Maker on New West Records. I reviewed them back in February of this year but essentially it was a re-issued 2015 album, so not quite eligible. Know this, it would have topped my 20.