Chris Luedtke's Top 15 Albums Of 2016
Gods, I love the end of the year lists. It’s a blast going through a veritable fuck-ton of material only to be told by a bunch of people that your list is wrong or that “you missed [insert name here]” and therefore your list isn’t up to snuff. Because, you know, we need to consult with you because your opinion is the most important one in the world.
Granted previous paragraph really only applies to a small number an inconsequential amount of people. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that the internet can actually manage become more petty and hostile (see above paragraph). So don’t you dare have an opinion about anything, you unsolicited asshole.
In part, I’m done slapping people across the face. The rest of these paragraphs will be a little more civilized. Maybe.
This year sucked. Too many good actors and musicians died this year. The worst losses of which being Leonard Cohen and David Bowie. Whether you like them or not, their contributions to art will forever outshine your criticism. Still too many shitty politicians alive on all sides, in all places. Here’s to hoping that when this gets posted that Mike IX is still alive and well, and not on the fringe of death.
And as I write this I’m reading that Micky Fitz of The Business was reported dead three hours ago. Fuck you once more, 2016.
A lot of people I talk to say this year had some really great music, but I disagree. There was a lot of decent music (see my Other Albums Worth Checking Out section). A lot of records were good, but I couldn’t even start imagining a top ten until July/August hit. Even following that, it was a struggle until October to consider fifteen albums. Like I said last year, it’s hard to gauge the lasting effect of an album that came out two months ago.
It should also be noted that this is the first year us contributors have been asked to score albums. It’s not something I personally like, but it’s not something that I have any say in. I managed to avoid it for about two-and-a-half years. I think it gives everyone something to hang on and cheapens the review itself. I actually had a short conversation about this with Dan Harrington of Fistula earlier this year concerning a review score he got. The review wasn’t actually that bad word-wise, but the score was lower on the scale. I ask that you consider the words before the score. But I also understand that it’s hard to separate one from the other when you’ve seen both.
Yes, I actually just asked the internet to attempt being reasonable. I must live in a gumdrop, lollipop, fairy land.
That said, here’s my favorite fifteen albums of the year.
And furthermore, I’d like to dedicate them to my friend Pinky, who was a better person than I’ll ever be. And he was a cat, whose life was unfortunately cut short this previous year. I miss you, buddy, and I’m sorry you died alone and cold. Thanks for helping me score the new roommates. My award winning personality couldn’t have done it without you.
15. Psychonaut 4 – Neurasthenia
It’s been a shitty year. And depressive/suicidal black metal (DSBM) is a pretty good route to go when you’re feeling like crap most of the time. Tbilisi, Georgia’s Psychonaut 4 is one of the bands that does the genre best, but also don’t play to it exclusively. DSBM is commonly known for their longs songs and shrill screams. Neurasthenia captures the melancholy and desperation so well. They’ve got their own thing going on. And it’s very, very dark.
14. Fistula – Longing For Infection
I’m pretty much over the doom craze of the last three/four years. Fistula, however, I will probably never be over. Sparing us the amp worship, hyper slow, fuzzed out Black Sabbath worship that saturated many speakers, the band opts to hit you like a bad batch of acid handed to you by Lucio Fulci. You could call it Eyehategod worship and a tribute to the 80s. I say good.
This also isn’t the only record Fistula put out this year. The Shape of Doom to Cumm))) hit earlier this month. Both contain seven tracks and both are like two halves of a whole. Still, if the band wants them counted as two separate albums, it shall be.
13. Vermin Womb – Decline
An album I unfortunately didn’t get to cover here, Vermin Womb are a deathgrind beast. If you’re already familiar with Primitive Man, well, imagine if that went grindcore. Their Permanence EP from 2014 was only a taste of things to come. With Decline the album is even more stripped and devoid of reason. It’s one of the rawest, murkiest releases this year.
12. Coldworld – Autumn
I know three bands named “Cold World” and they all have one thing in common: they all take their sweet time releasing albums. However, the ambient/depressive black metal powerhouse Georg Börner has finally put out a follow up to Melancholie² and it did not disappoint. A gorgeous, crushing experience that is best experienced on a gray, cold day. Autumn is the sound of the season.
11. The Dog – The Devil Comes at Night
I’m behind on hardcore/punk by three or four years now. I still know a few of the bands playing, but not a ton. The Dog reminds me of why I fell in love the genre in the first place. The band plays some ugly, raw, break-neck powerviolence infused hardcore spread over fifteen songs. It’s an infectious banger that’s never short on rage.
10. Gevurah – Hallelujah!
An epic and incredible offering. Luciferian black metallers Gevurah put out an epic, meditative and aggressive album earlier in June. It’s the kind of album that demands you listen to it in the dark, when the stars are out and you’re at peace of mind. Hallelujah! is meant to be taken in as a whole, not on separate chunks. The raw black metal and moody ambience strewn throughout is a near perfect meld.
9. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
Usually once I read the word “psychedelic” in my email, it’s immediately followed by me hitting the trash icon. Psych bores me to no end. I don’t honestly remember why I tried Oranssi Pazuzu, but I’m glad I did. Värähtelijä is weird, twisting and trippy as hell. Positively evil at times, and like a total acid trip at others. If you’ve never heard the band before, it’s time you did.
8. Trap Them – Crown Feral
Crust. Grind. D-beat. Hardcore/punk. Death metal. Trap Them can do it all and have been doing it for long enough now that it feels like reflex. And not much has changed over the course of nine years; they just hit harder. Crown Feral is a culmination of fevered vocals and some of the tastiest guitar riffs. It’s the kind of album that puts holes in your walls and makes you want to slam the first person you see to open up the damn pit.
7. Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
I don’t know exactly what to make of this album yet. I’m still processing it. Every time I hear it, it becomes more intense. It’s unusual, unhinged, unexpected and captivating. But it also unfortunately came out late in the year. It’s still being dissected. It’s excellent and possibly the most fitting closing chapter for any band ever. That may be the case. For now, Dissociation is what we’re left with. It’s brilliant and disarming.
6. Plebeian Grandstand – False Highs, True Lows
False Highs, True Lows is the album I listened to the most this year by quite a stretch. It’s intensity never dies. The mathcore/avant-garde black metal/whatever-you-want-to-call-them unit brought out one of the ugliest, most evil sounding records this year. False Highs, True Lows is constantly under a state of distress. Whether it’s brooding or sounding like they’re losing their damn minds, Plebeian Grandstand have crafted an incredible offering. Oh, and it was recorded in a live setting.
5. Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith
A lot of folks are going to blow loads on the new Deathspell Omega and good on them, the band definitely delivered something solid. But for me, black metal didn’t get any better or intense than the latest Inquisition offering. The formula is simply straightforward black metal. No frills or anything, just thirteen tracks of incredible black metal. Sometimes simplicity is best.
4. Blood Incantation – Starspawn
The best slice of old school death metal that you’ll come by this year. Blood Incantation is like Gorguts firing through space towards Yuggoth. Starspawn is epic and bleak. One of the most captivating listens this year. I don’t want to say much more on it. You should really just listen to it. It’s worth going into it knowing very little.
3. The Body – No One Deserves Happiness
Some people might argue that The Body aren’t really a metal band. And I can’t really disagree with that sentiment, but they still fit here. They’re very heavy, they’re often lumped in with doom, but you could just write them off as an experimental unit more focused on creating ugly but cohesive songs. No One Deserves Happiness is certainly something. It’s catchy, poppy, heavy, harsh, depressing, and violent. And it’s a damned fine album.
I should note that the Full of Hell and The Body collaboration album One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache would have made this list, but I only allow one album per band. So I picked the album I liked better.
2. Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law
Weirdly, this was the catchiest album of the year to me. The amount of times I found myself humming “We Will Fucking Kill You” or “Depravity Favours the Bold” out loud at work should’ve been enough to get me red listed. The Whole of the Law is a summation of Anaal Nathrakh’s mission statement: depravity and mercilessness. And the album went above and beyond. It’s one of the most intense albums in Nathrakh’s history. The more you listen to it, the deeper it cuts.
1. Wormrot – Voices
I didn’t know what to expect out of a new Wormrot album. Another relentless blaster? We got a lot more than that. Voices is the most focused and pissed off Wormrot has ever been. Simultaneously, it’s also the most varied album they’ve ever done. Track after track ignites and the ire continues to build. It’s exhausting, cathartic and violent. It’s a reminder of how the years can grind us all down.
FAVORITE EPs OF 2016
Voidspawn – Pyrrhic
G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge
Infernal Coil – Burning Prayer of Infinite Hatred
Ljáin – Endasálmar
Gendo Ikari – Unit One
Other Albums Worth Checking Out (no order)
Massgrave – Absurdity of Humanity
Unreqvited – Disquiet
Artifact of Skulls – IV: Brutalization of the Christ
Nerve Grind – Years of Shit
Ground – Squalor
Rotten Sound – Abuse to Suffer
Mist of Misery – Absence
Car Bomb – Meta
Rotting Christ – Rituals
Grave Miasma – Endless Pilgrimage EP
Unyielding Love – The Sweat of Augury
Noisear – Utopian Armageddon/Submission Accomplished
LVTHN – Eradication of Nescience
Gorguts – Pleiades' Dust EP
Martröð – Transmutation of Wounds EP
Weekend Nachos – Apology
Gnaw Their Tongues – Hymns For the Broken, Swollen and Silent
Abbath – Abbath
Senior Fellows – The Christened Remains of an Evolutionary Catastrophe
Negative Thought Process – Methylene Butterfly
Art of Burning Water – Between Life and Nowhere
Mizmor – Yodh
Baptism – V: The Devil’s Fire
Wound Man – Perimiter
Livet Som Insats – Check Your Grind
Gadget – The Great Destroyer
Happy Days – Save Yourself
Death Fetishist – Clandestine Sacrament
Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder
Auroch – Mute Books
Horrible Earth – Typical Human Behavior
Deathspell Omega – Synarchy of Molten Bones
Ash Borer – Irrepassable Gates
Your Enemy – Eradication of the Parasitic Hoards Through Force That Cannot Be Overcome By Force
Abandoned by Light – Broken Mirror to the Stars
Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
Venomous Concept – Kick Me Silly – VC III
Gatecreeper – Sonoran Depravation
Morrow – Covenant of Teeth
Funeral Chic – Hatred Swarm
God’s America – Merge With the Infinite
Tides of Sulfur – Extinction Curse
Brujeria – Pocho Aztlan
Antaeus – Condemnation
Vorvaň – Once Love Was Lost
Wormed – Krighsu
Wake – Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow
Non-Metal Related Albums I Liked (no order)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Skeleton Tree
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
Conor Oberst – Ruminations
David Bowie – Black Star
Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked For Death
Pg. Lost – Versus
Swans – The Glowing Man
M. Ward – More Rain
If 2017 is taking notes from 2016, it’s my hope that it’s a lesson in how to not do a year. Then again, 2017 is already looking like it’s going to be something else. I don’t know. I’m not going to pretend that I’m looking forward to it when frankly, I’m not. Maybe yours will be better. And if it is, good. I’m happy for you.
I can at least say thanks that Metal Injection is letting me do Grindcore Mondays. And if you don’t read them, hopefully you listen to the music. That’s the more important part anyway.
See you soon.