Daniel's Top 15 Albums of 2016
You know that dad joke where someone says a price that sorta sounds like a year, and someone says “good year”? (“$19.78. Good year!”) I feel like when it’s all said and done and someone says, “Your total will be $20.16,” no dad joke will be made. 2016 Was a bummer. Lots of cool people died, lots of bad shit happened, and will lots of bad shit will continue to happen in the wake of this year. However! I am an optimist, but not one of those “Let’s give Trump a chance, maybe it won’t be that bad” people. Because fuck that guy. Still, I was able to make my own good and find good in this year.
I personally felt like 2016 was one of the best years for metal in a long time. 2016 will be hard to beat in the sheer volume of great releases. I could listed “Honorary mentions” endlessly, but won’t. Hell, while not all tremendous, nor totally standing up to their legendary previous releases, the fact that three of the “Big 4” of thrash band dropped a record this year is pretty rad (where you at Slayer?).
Like I said, I also made my own good. I finally launched the podcast that I’ve wanted to do for years, Far Beyond Metal (subscribe on iTunes and here. Shameless plug: check). I saw many of my favorite bands like Black Sabbath (Twice. And cried both times. Fuck off.), Devin Townsend Project, BtBaM, Steven Wilson, Opeth, Coheed & Cambria, The Dear Hunter, The Ocean, and so many more. I finally went to SimpsonsLand and ate a Lard Lad Donut and a Krusty Burger. Most importantly, I got engage to the woman I love.
So much of 2016 sucked, but I made it work, and I sincerely hope you did too.
Quite the preamble to a top albums list, huh? Let’s get to it officially then. Here are my top 15 albums (and some other silly mini-lists). Enjoy, or again, fuck off. <3
15. Opeth – Sorceress
Initially, I thought this one was a fine record, but nothing amazing. However, like all Opeth records of the last decade or so (and this may just be for me), the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. The title track and “The Wilde Flowers” really clicked with me hearing them live, but “Strange Brew” has been my go to since the release. Damn you Mikael. Just when I think I’m out, you pull me back in with your sly proggy ways.
14. Dunsmuir – Dunsmuir
This debut from the supergroup of Neil Fallon (Clutch), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath and more), Brad Davis (Fu Manchu), and Dave Bone (Company Band) basically sounds like a Clutch record. As a die hard Clutch fan, I can tell there are different drum fills and a different guitar solo style, but other than that it’s straight up Neil Fallon led rock n roll. God damn, is it awesome though.
13. Helms Alee – Stillicide
This sludge/experimental trio has been churning out great records for a while now. This is easily their most diverse and interesting yet. I’m really surprised they aren’t bigger in the sludge/doom/etc scene.
12. Black Crown Initiate – Selves We Cannot Forgive
This band is so great. Their vocal dynamics are unparalleled, musicianship is phenomenal, and they have a compelling rhythm section that is able to shine. Selves is the band at the peak of their powers. Also, see this band if you get a chance.
11. Fallujah – Dreamless
On The Flesh Prevails and the Nomad EP, Fallujah altered their sound for the better. On Dreamless, they perfected it. The epic (and ironic) dreaminess, the beautiful atmosphere, the more prevalent female vocals, and the technicality throughout made for their best yet. I could see how one could say that this album is just more of the same, but it feels like the ultimate version of what they've been doing.
10. Haken – Affinity
A hold-over from my best of so far list. It’s grown of me over the year too. Their ability to push boundaries and still pay homage to 80’s cheese is impressive and enjoyable.
9. Serpentine Dominion – Serpentine Dominion
This album really blindsided me. I grew up loving Adam D’s guitar playing, and I never imagined hearing it in a death metal setting. It works. It really fucking works. That coupled with his vocal back-and-forth with Corpsegrinder over Shannon Lucas’s amazing percussion made for a fantastic, but all too brief, journey.
8. Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner
This record brought one of my favorite vocalists, Julie Christmas, out of slumber. Golly, did I miss that unique voice. Her coupled with Cult of Luna is a match made in hell (if I’m to play into metal cliches). I’m so jealous that it looks like we’ll never see the live performances Europe got of this collaboration. However, Johannes told me himself that those wouldn’t even happen, so I’m holding onto hope still.
7. Gojira – Magma
I wrote a very, very brief bit of praise for this album when we had out best of so far post earlier this year, and I can’t really sum it up any other way. “This is an album by Gojira. That pretty much sums up my love for it”.
6. Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked For Death
Considering the fact that I have a “Non-metal” section of my list below, this album could be controversial in that way something that doesn’t really matter can piss annoying people off. Rundle’s solo material has grown from her and some ambiance into a full band sound on Marked For Death. The result is occasionally heavy with a post-metal/post-rock vibe, but ultimately devastatingly heavy emotionally.
5. Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
My enjoyment of this album surprised me. I was in a quiet minority that was sad Howard Jones was replaced by Jesse, and that may be why I never gave Disarm The Descent a fair chance. I like their early material with Jesse, but saw them many times with Howard and that version became MY Killswitch Engage. I don’t even know why I gave Incarnate a go, but I’m glad I did. The band was able to tap into what made me fall in love with them in my late teens while growing in a way that appealed to me long after my metalcore phase. I’m happy to have this band back in my life.
4. Cyborg Octopus – Learning To Breathe
We here at Metal Injection love this band. I premiered their first video and another author premiered the full record. I’m sure I’m not the only one including this album in their lists. So they must be doing something right. This is prog gold.
3. Allegaeon – Proponent For Sentience
I griped a few years ago while reviewing Allegaeon’s third album (arguably their finest up to that point) that while very good, I felt the band was on the verge of stagnating. With their new vocalist in tow, It’s almost as if they then wrote this as a fuck you to me. Everything I already loved, but was afraid would become recycled, was turned to 11. They then doubled down on melody, they brought in guest musicians, and even clean vocals. THIS is their finest work, and welcomed “Fuck you.”
2. Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence
It’s not even fair when Devin drops a new record. Each time I basically wonder, “How high will this rank for me this year?” before it even drops. Fanboy-ness aside, I can admit that this album isn’t perfect, but it is pretty close to exactly what I want in a Devin Townsend album. “Failure,” “Stormbending,” “Stars,” “Secret Sciences,” and “Transcendence” could all stand among Dev’s best solo material. Then everything else, including the b-sides on the deluxe second disc, also ranges from good to very good.
1. Astronoid – Air
I’ve never heard anything like this album. It really was neck and neck with Dev for the one spot, but the fact that this album is 100% fresh to me while being this great secured it in the one spot. These guys blend black metal blasting, dreampop atmosphere, math rock technicality, and so much more. I slept on this when it first dropped, but since I found it, this album has ruled my world.
Honorary Mentions in no particular order
O’Brother – Endless Light
Daniel Lioneye – Vol III
John Wesley – a way you’ll never be
Alcest – Kodama
Polyphia – Renaissance
Lotus Thief – Gramarye
Vipassi – Sonyata
Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
Metallica – Hardwired…To Self Destruct
Favorite Non-Metal Albums
- Foxtails Brigade – Foxtails Brigade
Despite Air being my favorite metal album of the year, THIS is my favorite overall album of the year. On her third album, Laura Weinbach (aka Foxtails Brigade) perfected her unique blend of catchy pop-ish melodies and dark baroque pop. Her finger picking guitar playing is equal parts hypnotic, creepy, impressive, and gorgeous. This is a masterpiece. Also, just as a bonus tie-in to metal, the violin work on the album is by Anton Patzner the mastermind of Oakland's guitarless string metal band Judgement Day. Give it a listen here, and thank me later.
- The Dear Hunter – Act V: Hymns with the Devil In Confessional
- Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
- Bon Iver – 22, A Million
- Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis
- The Black Queen – Fever Daydream
- All Tvvins – IIVV
- William Fitzsimmons – Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Vol. 2
- MC Chris – MC Chris is Dreaming
- Autolux – Pussy's Dead
See y'all in 2017.