Michael's Top 10 of 2016
Hey all! I joined the Metal Injection team just a few months ago and it has been one hell of a blast. 2016 has been an incredible year for music. I thought about the specific records that really stuck out to me: ones I kept coming back to, ones that struck an emotional chord, and ones that displayed strong musicianship. There's a mix from all styles of metal, from that which contain intricate and delicate composition, to the pure pummeling brutal. The records here are the ones that I'll remember and listen to well beyond 2016, and if you haven't listened to them yet, I'd strongly encourage you too. Hope you enjoy!
10. Beastwars – The Death Of All Things
What a mix of some sludge to be found here. Tracks go from slow churning to hazy grooves in The Death Of All Things. Beastwars is one of the best sludge bands to get into for their kick to the face heaviness. That atmosphere of thick muck lingers throughout the entire album regardless of tempo. After my first listen through I went right back to the beginning because this is easily a phenomenal jam record reeking of that late night bar vibe of solid rockin' hits.
9. Khemmis – Hunted
There's something truly epic and triumphant in Hunted. Like the energy of entering a battlefield, Khemmis takes the stoner sound to new levels and spins it into a mystical powerhouse. From start to finish the record puts you in a trance (one of the best kinds). It isn't hypnotic in the sense where the music becomes spacey, but more in the moment with terrific distortion and powerful vocals. It's stoner metal meets elements of power metal that make for one of the year's best releases.
8. Zeal and Ardor – Devil Is Fine
What an amazing combination this record is. It takes the atmosphere of black metal, and mixes it with bits of electronic and American blues. Devil Is Fine was all at once: somber, powerful, and chilling. The first time listening to this record felt unreal and out of this world; like the music was something immensely unique, and captured a new essence in feeling. It was my first time checking out Zeal and Ardor, and after this phenomenal release, I am in desperate need of more of their work. Devil Is Fine is an experience from beginning to end that all must check out.
7. Oathbreaker – Rheia
I had heard of Oathbreaker before and checked out their previous record a long time ago (but wasn't blown away with it). Rheia is actually the first record I ever wrote about for Metal Injection, requesting it because I was in love from the very first second. Of all the sub-genres of metal there is such a strong mass of bands mixing "blackened" styles of music, and it all sounds so generic. Oathbreaker stands out among them for their twists and surprises in instrumentation, that is at once nightmarish, beautiful, and haunting (not to mention the excellent vocals and poetic lyricism). I still get chills and welled up eyes with "Second Son of R.". It is from there that the album feels like a dream. Rheia is an album that really embodies what I love about music: the atmosphere, energy, and emotional bond that is ethereal and digs deep into the soul.
6. Wormrot – Voices
I read a review for this record before even listening to it. Being given a 10/10 I thought "What the hell?" and checked it out. This is grind unlike anything I had ever heard before. While my experience with the genre was pure unrelenting noise and slamming, Wormrot proved to incorporate that same savagery, but with moments of melody and emotional weight. Songs that build up like "Oblivious Mess", or that start with pure groove and beatdowns such as "Fallen Into Disuse", carry auras of a repulsive and destructive sense. Voices does have some brief pauses (and I mean brief), but they are used so effectively to make for some of the most outstanding heavy and violent grind music around.
5. Boreworm – Entomophobia EP
Out of this entire list this is easily one of the biggest surprises to have come my way. I was sent the EP so to review it, and HOLY SHIT. This is pure excellent technical death metal meets atmospheric death metal. Michigan's Boreworm is a devastating act that delivers hit after hit as to precisely nail adrenaline and emotion. Entomophobia captures horror and melancholy, making for a stunningly dark work of art. "Esoteric" begins brutal and lifts off into a beautiful airy piece, just to plummet into the shadows with a relentless savagery in "Vile Husk". It is very rarely that the elements of serenity and heavy can meet together to create something unique and downright terrific. The only thing I wanted more out of this EP was for it to be longer. Boreworm is absolutely an act to keep an eye out for; their technicality, emotionally driven material, and supreme heaviness all make for a devastating force.
4. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc EP
This was an incredible switch up for Agoraphobic Nosebleed! Opening track "Not A Daughter" grabbed me by the throat and never fucking let go until the end of Arc. Letting vocalist Katherine Katz take over the lead for this EP proved to be tremendous success. Her poetic lyricism and powerful vocals make for an insane combo with the clashing and groove strong instrumentals. As a storyteller Katz absolutely kills the game. Instrumentally this has to be the band's best work; in just three songs there is such a mix of slow depths to whiplashing beats. It never once loses its dirty core, and obtains a new depth of darkness and heavy in the band's sound. Strong hopes to see more elements like this to make it into the band's future work!
3. Amon Amarth – Jomsviking
I've been a fan of Amon Amarth since Twilight of the Thunder God, and in 2016, Jomsviking has to be the "funnest" record to have come out. Listening to "On a Sea of Blood" and "Raise Your Horns" is so fucking enjoyable; the album is rife with pure head banging and body thrashing glory. Throughout the year this is what I kept coming back to for good times. Of all the thrash/melodic moments of 2016, this record proved to deliver on such a great speed and excitement. It embodies the fun and power that Amon Amarth is known for in their music; this is easily a record that will make any metal head proud to raise their horns.
2. Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
I had never heard of Nails up until this year, and friends kept pushing and pushing for me to listen to their new record You Will Never Be One of Us. And FUCK. I mean HOLY SHIT I LOVED THIS. The opening track was a ridiculous, loud, and vicious beat down. Relentless! There is this dark and violent aura that surrounds every aspect to the music, and makes for one of the most devastating releases to come out in the year. This was honestly the first time of the year (and one of the few times) where I couldn't get over the endless energy track after track. My first exploration into powerviolence, and a solid recommendation for anyone looking for ear splitting, shit-ripped and pissed music. Favorite tracks are easily the self-titled opener, "Life Is A Death Sentence", and "Violence Is Forever".
1. Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
Incarnate is not only a wonderful work of art, but a sincerely personal work to myself. Like so much Killswitch Engage music, it became the soundtrack for important parts of my life during the year. Jesse Leach is one of the best vocalist/lyricist in heavy music right now, and all his music taps into the beautiful, primal, sad, and uplifting. Accompanied by Leach's powerful voice comes the excellent mix of thrash, speedy melody, and gentle moments of the whole band. When listening to Incarnate, it's tough to pick a favorite song, since each of them has such depth and story to them. There is the desperation in "Cut Me Loose", the somber declare in "It Falls On Me", the determination in "Alone I Stand", and so much more. As we come to the end of 2016 with everything that has happened, I find myself listening to Incarnate more and more; in each listen I find beautiful music, but also a beautiful message. It is that message that made me fall in love with music, and with the inspiration and love to be found on this record, it is why Killswitch Engage gets my number one spot.
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