This will be my 7th year end list and I can say without a doubt it has been my hardest to put together. 2016 saw some of the biggest names in metal release albums, while at the same time, future bands stepped forward to get their piece of the pie. How do you condense 12 months of metal into 15 albums?
Normally it’s really not that big of a deal because the cream always rises to the top. This year however was a year of diversity and talent we haven’t seen in metal in a decade or more. I normally look through my playlists and see what I returned to time and time again. The truth is in the numbers… I thought.
Turns out when it comes to 2016 the truth is in the music. The bands in this Top 15 did exceedingly well in bringing a product forward that spoke to me and the readers of We Love Metal. In fact, there was so many I am going to do honorable mentions for the first time in a year end list.
Honorable mentions go out to: Delain – Moonbathers, Fleshgod Apocalypse – King, Sabaton – The Last Stand, Holy Grail – Times of Pride and Peril, and Epica – The Holographic Principle. Make sure to check out these incredible albums along with the top 15.
The top 15 albums of 2016:
15. Lordi – Monstereophonic: how much fun is this album? It’s actually two albums “Theaterror vs Demonarchy” based on a theme of dueling sides of Lordi. It made the list simply because I played it so much. The hard rock is a head banging good time we don’t experience much in this day and age. For me this is the best work Lordi has put out and shows they aren’t going away anytime soon.
14. Carnifex – Slow Death: the lyrics alone of this deathcore masterpiece put it on my year end, but the bludgeoning instrumentals sealed the deal. To think a group of musicians can put together a work that could save lives is breath-taking in itself. Combine that with the brutality of heavy metal and you have a true piece of art.
13. Vektor – Terminal Redux: the look, feel, and normally the sound of a band like Vektor isn’t my thing, but Terminal Redux is as close to progressive perfection as you can get. Song after song is thought provoking and so well instrumentally written you can’t help but admire the musicians who created it. If not for Harley, Vektor wouldn’t be here, but after Terminal Redux I’m a lifelong fan.
12. Flotsam & Jetsam – S/T: where did Flotsam & Jetsam come from on this self titled release? The last few have been exactly what you expect from the legendary name, but this album rose them to a new level and made them very relevant on the metal scene again. After pounding through hard thrasher after hard thrasher I wanted nothing more to see the guys live. Biggest surprise of the year for me.
11. Revocation – Great Is Our Sin: I’m going to take this quote directly from my review because it sums up this game changing album: “Revocation uses some cleans and doom on Cleaving Giants of Ice that make you realize the band hasn’t made a follow up to Deathless, they have turned the page and started an entirely new chapter that speaks to the future.”
10. Allegaeon – Proponents of Sentience: we said when the album was reviewed in September that it was an instant contender for album of year and it turns out they cracked the Top 10. A mixture of heavy, prog, and just old fashion metal mark the work of master musicians telling us a sci-fy story that rivals anything released on the big screen this year.
9. SIXX A.M. – Prayers for the Damned Vol 1: this was the first part of the duel albums with the other titled “Prayers for the Blessed Vol 2. I’ve had a lot more time with Damned and the more upbeat nature and storytelling seem to speak more to me, however both are an evolution of SIXX A.M. I couldn’t be more pleased with. We had the chance to see the band live this year and it was well worth the wait.
8. Anthrax – For All Kings: this is labelled an Anthrax album, but Belladonna steals the entire show. Song after song plays to his voice. Anthrax is one of my all time favorite bands and it shows what an incredible year in music it was to have them in the 8 spot. For All Kings is a cross genre album that shows a maturity in Anthrax that excites me.
7. Vader – Empire: WLM never received as much feedback for coverage as we did with Vader this year. Empire was released along with a teaser EP. Readers couldn’t get enough and we gladly complied. The sheer heaviness of Empire draws you in, but the complexity and diversity keeps you. Vader is the best death metal band in the world right now. I stand behind that.
6. Amon Amarth – Jomsviking: I could feel myself getting tired of Amon Amarth and what I considered a gimmick that had limited shelf life. Then I heard Jomsviking. Amon Amarth actually went further into what I thought was a gimmick and pulled music out that was heavy, fun, and imaginative. I have always loved the band for what they were, but now I love them for the musicians and songwriters they have become. Amon Amarth is not a gimmick, Jomsviking proved they are the real deal.
5. Metallica – Hardwired to Self Destruct: entering the Top 5 things get sketchy. All of these albums have been played back to back, front to back, and nonstop. The supposed “return” of Metallica suffers only from the fact I haven’t had much time with it compared to the others. I say “supposed” return because Metallica still sold out arenas all over the world and continuously dominate the metal conversations. Hardwired continues the legacy of Metallica with a thrash flavor that has me put this double album on and relive my musical youth with adult sensibilities. It’s just kickass.
4. Death Angel – The Evil Divide: if Flotsam & Jetsam surprised me, Death Angel shocked me. They never went away and have become legends, but I thought I always knew what I would get. Sensible heavy metal that follows a formula. The Evil Divide doesn’t follow any formula I know in thrash. For a band around since 1982 to take their sound in a new direction is unheard of; for that change to be this good may have never been done.
3. Whitechapel – Mark of the Blade: from my review, “For me personally Mark of the Blade is defined by the softer moments, but I want to make it clear that Whitechapel brings it song after song.” You could easily call this “grown up deathcore.” I call it incredible heavy metal that could easily be the best album of year in any other year.
2. Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake: while most bands try to turn down the intensity and heaviness so they can get mainstream attention, Testament did the opposite and went heavier than ever. I couldn’t be happier with this album, song after song is just Testament at it’s absolute best. Gene Hoglan might be the real hero on this album, but the entire band deserves cudos. I agonized over this not being in the #1 spot.
1. Megadeth – Dystopia: the perfect storm is what Dystopia is. Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler came in and seemed to light a fire under Mustaine. Along with Ellefson they created an album that is the best Megadeth in over a decade. The aggressiveness, the headbanging, and the fact that you can hear the snarl of Mustaine makes this my number one album. As a huge Megadeth fan throughout my life there was no way I couldn’t reward the band for this incredible effort.
Try and top this 2017. ~ Martell
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