Best of 2016

40. Hortlak – Hortlak

39. Striker – Stand In The Fire

38. Skuggsjá – A Piece for Mind and Mirror

37. Predatory Light – Predatory Light

36. Taken – Taken

35. Metal Church – XI

34. Nucleus – Sentient

33. Garroted – In The Court of Nyarlathotep

32. Pariah – One

31. Hail Spirit Noir – Mayhem in Blue

30. Void Omnia – Dying Light

29. Grotesque Deity – At The Blackest Way to Death

28. Éohum – Ealdfaeder

27. Wode – Wode

26. Bewitcher – Bewitcher

25. Schammasch – Triangle

24. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones

23. Agatus – The Eternalist

22. Eternal Champion – The Amore of Ire

21. Mesarthim – .- -​.​.​. .​.​. . -. -​.​-​. .

20. High Spirits – Motivator

Sometimes you need metal to make you smile and feel good about yourself. Fresh off the last-ever Dawnbringer release, Professor Black brings his melodic ear to the best High Spirits album yet. Stripped down, short, and to-the-point, Motivator is the best kind of self-esteem boost.

19. Sentient Horror – Ungodly Forms

This is how you revisit the glory days of early 90s Swedish Death Metal. Better than the most recent Bloodbath album, Sentient Horror received the seal of approval from Dan Swanö himself, who handled the mastering on this no-frills barrage of pounding riffery.

18. Nordjevel – Nordjevel

Nordjevel is a collective of unknown scene veterans, but what they lake in fame they make up for with experience. The debut came out of nowhere and instantly became of my favorite no-frill second wave albums in years. The production is massive, and the riffs icy as Abbath’s heart.

17. Denouncement Pyre – Black Sun Unbound

I never really got into Watain. Their power seemed to be in their image and stage spectacle, rather than their Dissection-light approach to songwriting. Thankfully, many realized their flaws that after first hailing them as the second coming, but their celebrity might never have faded if their music was as powerful as Denouncement Pyre’s. Their brand of epic black/death metal is monstrous, massive and worthy of a much larger stage.

16. Nocturne – Nocturne

Hot on Mgła’s heels is Austria’s Nocturne with their brand of melodic, riff-heavy exhortations. While much of the album is forgettable, it earns its keep with a few choice moments – not least of which is the major key, pop-punk inspired “Ama Lilith”. Green Day gone grim sounds like.

15. Phazm – Scornful of Icons

Phazm, whose early albums showcased a forward-thinking blend of tech death and doom, could have kept along that same path and made a name for themselves. Instead, they called it quits in 2009 and didn’t resurface until March’s Scornful of Icons. The band has reinvented themselves as a death n’ roll force to be reckoned with by using ever-changing, yet constantly catchy riffs complemented by a rollicking, always present bass. And it’s all held together by some intense throat singing and deep sense of groove.

14. Bölzer- Hero

After exploding onto the scene a few years back, Bölzer managed to entrance the metal world and tour relentlessly on the strength of just a handful of songs. Their sound is so singular, so powerful, that they represented something truly new in extreme metal. Much to everyone’s surprise, their debut full-length doesn’t showcase any of what made them such scene darlings. Showcasing vastly different vocal styles than before, the Swiss duo explore some unholy bastardization of stoner-tinged death metal. It’s ethereal and enchanting, but gone of the epic riffs on which they built their following. The atmosphere is world-class, though, and after a few listens it becomes clear that Bölzer are here to stay no matter what they sound like.

13. Convulse- Cycle of Revenge

A slowed-down, groovier, and downright catchy sharp turn from one of Finland’s first DM giants might just be the first true example of a progressive death n’ roll album. The light guitar tone dances nicely with bowl-rumbling deep growls which in turns mixes splendidly with 60s-style psychedelic guitar solos. Their take on Wolverine Blues by way of Amorphis is one of the best experiments of the year.

12. Vindland – Hanter Savet

Within seconds of this album starting it’s clear Vindland are something special. Aggressive folkiness can only be mixed with black metal by the most accomplished musicians, and these Frenchmen are just that. With an unreal ear for melody Vinland infuse a rich, layered sound into their hymns and ended up with a debut for the ages.

11. Blood Incantation – Starspawn

Taking cues from 90s underground stalwarts Timeghoul but stretching it to its logical extreme, Blood Incantation somehow managed to take an old idea and make it entirely new. With absolutely gorgeous production and serpentine song structures, this is easily the year’s most enthralling slab of death metal.

10. Hammers of Misfortune – Dead Revolution

Beefing up their sound again after 2011’s stripped-down 17th Street, the Bay Area heroes are back in top form after a long hiatus. Cobbett’s riffs are as glorious as ever and the rest of the band fire on all cylinder’s to create yet another entrancing collection of proggy heavy metal.

9. Sarcoptes – Songs and Dances of Death

Quite possibly the best Emperor worshipping album in history, Sacramento’s Sarctoptes debut with this unbelievable piece of 90s throwback. Gorgeous keys, deadly riffs, and not a second of respite, Songs and Dances of Death is just that – and endless black assault without peers.

8. Serious Black – Mirrorworld

Lean power metal is a rare breed in Europe. The continent’s style is for the most part overly grandiose and verbose with massive orchestral sounds, double-albums, and endless run times. Serious Black, on the other hand, take all that makes the style shine but without any of the cruft. Their songs are lean, picked to the bone and devoid of fat. Standard song structures, simple, catchy choruses, and coming it at just 35 minute runtime, Mirrorworld is a perfect escape for any power metal fans sick of bloat.

7. Eternity’s End – The Fire Within

Taking the exact opposite approach is Eternity’s End, the new supergroup from Christian Münzner. Neoclassical solos, massive choruses, and a collection of some of the best musicians of any super group, this is power metal taken to whole new level. Everything epic all the time.

6. Hyperion – Seraphical Euphony

Hyperion exploded into the collective consciousness this year, and it’s hard not to see why. Their triple-guitar attack is as intense as it is catchy as they worship their forefathers and do them the utmost justice by improving on the old style in just about every way.

5. Spellcaster – Night Hides The World

Portland’s Spellcaster are above description. Their heavy 80s sound somehow never comes close to throwback anything, as they take their spirit from the days when heavy, power, and speed metal were one-in-the-same. Soaring, powerful vocals are at the forefront of emotional yet swaggering sound, and they win the award for best Mad Max-themed song in history.

4. Thrawsunblat – Metachthonia

I’ve gushed plenty about Thrawsunblat over the years, and somehow Joel Violette’s pet project just keeps getting better. Upping the ante with a more massive sound and a risky format (every track close to the ten minute mark), Metachthonia is an ode to the power of nature, music, and storytelling. It’s an instant classic, but takes months of dedication to sink in and reveal itself in all of its complex, emotional glory.

3. Vektor – Terminal Redux

Thrash is, for the most part, a stale genre. There are a handful of original stalwarts still going strong, but even the most consistant bands in the style aren’t really innovating. It’s not entirely their fault, either, as this tried-and-true sound simply doesn’t leave much room for experimentation. Vektor on the other hand, are one of the few innovators on the planet. Injecting their hyper-technical, nonstop barrage of riffage they’re able to take thrash to space and beyond. It’s a shame the lineup that recorded this masterpiece has already imploded, but even without anything more Vektor have solidified their place in metal history with Terminal Redux.

2. Take Over and Destroy – Take Over and Destroy

True chameleons, TOAD were able to fuse just about every metal genre into their new sound with a result that’s endlessly listenable, and stupidly fun. Harmonious leads, goth vocals and group chants aren’t things that usually work together, but the Arizona crew are masters at their craft and able to take something that shouldn’t work at all while turning it into a masterpiece of American music.

1. Anagnorisis – Peripeteia

Black metal can be extremely emotional at times, but this autobiographical epic from Kentucky’s Anagnorisis takes those feelings to a new, hyper-personal level. A massive step forward from their previous releases, this is a powerful, engaging work of art. Even without the heart wrenching theme and lyrics (I implore you to discover them for yourself) the music is gripping and powerful, but the meaning behind it turns Peripeteia into something truly masterful. It’s proof that even the ugliest, most intense music can be transformative expressions of the highest order and simultaneously contains hints of hate, hope, and beauty.

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