James' Top 15 Albums of 2016
Are we in agreement that 2016 was complete and utter garbage? Like, worst year in recent memory? Thank Iommi we had a ton of stellar metal/hardcore/loud ass music releases this year to ease our collective woes.
This list is a brief rundown of some of my favorite releases from 2016, not necessarily the best of their class or genre, just the ones I cranked the loudest all year. 2016, I hated you with a passion…but loved the following albums:
15. Anthrax – For All Kings
I loved We've Come For You All like nobody's business, and yeah Joey's big comeback record Worship Music was cool too…but For All Kings is the first time since, well the first time I heard "Caught In a Mosh" that I got goosebumps listening to Anthrax. The songwriting, production and 'how are they still shredding like this' performances guaranteed this one a spot on the list.
14. Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder
Darkthrone spent the last decade on a crust punk, NWOBHM inspired retro trip. Cranking out gnarly, attitude filled albums that I dug but really, there's nothing like getting that frosty black metal vibe when spinning some Darkthrone. That's where Arctic Thunder comes in. Not exactly a return to form [because the band never truly went off the rails], but just damn nice to be in quasi old school Darkthrone territory again.
13. Withered – Grief Relic
Is there a more criminally underrated metal band around than Withered? Their three previous studio albums were all ragers, and now after a six year absence the band has returned with the hulk like monstrosity that is Grief Relic. I've previously described Grief Relic as "Blessed Are The Sick era Morbid Angel fighting the discordant riff benders in Immolation, during a True Norwegian Black Metal snowstorm." Six months later and I stand by that statement now more than ever. Check this record out.
12. Wormrot – Voices
For all the bullshit 2016 has taken from and unleashed upon us, at least this sorry excuse for a year brought the mighty Wormrot back from purgatory. Five years after their last record and boasting a wild new drummer, Wormrot's Voices delivers big time in the chaotic spazzy grindcore department.
11. Ghostlimb – Difficult Loves
Ghostlimb aren't exactly metal, but their intellectual and hella pissed off take on hardcore is amazing. It's been four years since their last killer album, Confluence, blessed my speakers and I was starting to fear the worst. Thankfully the band continues mixing punk, rock, blast beats and tortured vocals in the best way possible on Difficult Loves.
10. Trap Them – Crown Feral
Trap Them do two things, and they do them amazingly well. First, they consistently release some of the most exciting and royally pissed off music around. Second, they put on a killer live show. Sadly, their days of extensive touring, are behind them, so left coast fiends like me are stuck having to rock the fuck out to frenzied anthems like "Luster Pendulums" via speakers. Not too shabby I suppose.
9. Gatecreeper – Sonoran Deprivation
There's heavy, then there's heeeeeeeavy. Gatecreeper fall into the latter category. These relative newcomers have been raising hell in the Southwestern United States for the last few years and have now finally unleashed their absolutely pulverizing debut full length album upon the masses. Very few bands do the belligerent cave man metal thing as well as Gatecreeper. Overall, amazing debut album.
8. Abbath – Abbath
We all love and miss Immortal. None perhaps more so than former Immortal frontman Abbath Doom Occulta himself. Abbath's debut solo album contain his contributions for the lost Immortal album that never was, fleshed out by a new team of supporting players and of course, a manic performance from the man himself. Abbath's song writing chops and legendary, unique vocals helps prove that Immortal's legacy is alive and well, even if Abbath is carrying the flag himself these days.
7. Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake
Thrash vets like Anthrax, Megadeth, even Metallica, all put out awesome return to form records in 2016. But you know what? Testament has been consistently killing it since their big return in 2008. Brotherhood of the Snake finds Testament still pushing the boundaries of their old school Bay Area Thrash moniker into just all around awesome metal. Hearing glorious Alex Skolnick solos this year helped make the downer that was 2016 manageable.
6. Whores – Gold
I'm a sucker for jangly, amped up noise rock, which means I've been enjoying the shit out of Whores debut album, Gold. This record is like a literal shot of adrenaline to the heart. I don't mean exclusively fast tempos either. Even the slower, moody numbers bring the chaos. Every song is heavy but swings loose and manic enough to feel pretty unpredictable. Deeply regret missing these guys on their recent tour with Red Fang and Torche.
5. Sumac – What One Becomes
It took me a few spins to fully process how phenomenal Sumac's new album truly is. What One Becomes is a masterclass in extremity. Heavy, not in a headbanging way, but oh wow I'm really just an insignificant speck in this vast cruel universe, kind of way. It's perplexing and kind of terrifying at 3 AM, and boasts some of the tightest performances of any record this year. Aaron Turner's voice should be studied by NASA as a potential weapon against hostile alien forces because it's straight up world shattering.
4. Every Time I Die – Low Teens
From Parts Unknown was my favorite Every Time I Die record in years. I'm glad to announce that Low Teens keeps the streak going. There's only one other band on my radar that melds slam your brains out chaos with infectious, borderline pop hooks as well as Every Time I Die [they're next on the list BTW]. Given the shittiness of 2016, outside of metal, this song "Awful Lot" has become my mantra of sorts; with the lyrics: "I want to live in the year two thousand. When I was dumb enough to truly believe" making all sorts of sense.
3. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
Full disclosure: The Dillinger Escape Plan is my favorite band. They've been my favorite band since 2004 when I first wondered into one of their gigs as a sheltered unsuspecting teen and almost got my face kicked in by Ben Weinman. I was hooked. I was crushed like no other when Dillinger announced that they were breaking up and that Dissociation would be their swan song. It's a great record, but still kind of stings every time I get to the final, mind-blowing, heart tugging title track. As much as it sucks, glad to see the band going out on top, on their own terms.
2. Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us
Abandon All Life was my favorite album of 2013. If the next album on the list hadn't magically appeared out of the ether, Nails' third full length, You Will Never Be One Of Us would have definitely taken the top spot once again. This record finds Nails hitting a career high point, cranking out some of the nastiest and catchiest extreme music in recent memory. Their vicious blend of hardcore, death metal and grind, has never sounded better. Nobody seems to know if the band is going on hiatus or just scaling things back with even fewer shows per year but whatever happens, Nails have put out one of the best albums of 2016.
1. Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner
Album of the year in two words/one name: Julie Christmas. Had Cult of Luna put out some rad, spacey post-metal record independently I'm sure they would have wound up on my best of list regardless, but this collaboration that brought Ex-Made Out of Babies frontwoman Julie Christmas back from the unknown wilderness she's been inhabiting since her 2010 solo record, bumped Mariner straight to the top. Hearing Julie's voice/roar again has been an unexpected but deeply welcomed high point of the year. Bask in the glory folks.