Our Picks For The Top Metal Albums Of 2016 (So Far)
Matt's Top 5 of 2016 (So Far)
Man, there's been a ton of great metal releases so far this year. In fact, when I was initially asked to write this piece I had twenty-odd albums in mind. Cutting it down to five though was surprisingly easy task. I think as you get more used to these kinds of things you start to realize which albums you will be coming back to for years or even decades to come and which albums, while great when they came out, will not end up in regular rotation. Every album here is of the sort which I feel everyone should be listening to on a regular basis just because they are all so damn good and all have a very real shot at hitting my top 10 of 2016.
Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner
Oooh boy, this one is an absolute doozy. Massive in scale and the perfect balance of dark and light, there is so much to love about what this pair of artists has done on this record. A (sort of?) doom metal album that uses both harsh monochromatic soundscapes as well as absolutely stunning female clean vocals and delicate compositions Mariner is a primer on all the great things that have happened in doom, sludge and post metal in the last few years. The two acts themselves have never sounded better and though I had a cursory familiarity with both before this record came out, Mariner encouraged me to delve much deeper and discover how great these bands truly are. It's rare that you find an album that can define a scene, but Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas have used Mariner in order to do exactly that.
Mothership – Live Over Freak Valley
It has been years since a live album hit me as hard as Live Over Freak Valley. I've always had a bit of difficulty with Mothership's recorded material but also always adored their live shows. Live Over Freak Valley has the potential to be their Alive! moment. I feel like this album has been largely overlooked as 'just a live album' but it stands as a perfect representation of all that the band is, flaws, glorious guitar solos and fast women all flowing together in one badass piece of rock and roll. It's a ballsy thing to put out a largely unedited live album in 2016, but Mothership did it anyway because they are rock and roll heroes of their generation.
Gorguts – Pleiades Dust
Now we break out the big guns. This album was dense, punishing and all around furious. There are moments where it pulls back and others where it surges ahead, and it remains hyper intelligent. Luc Lemay is one of the most fascinating men in metal to me, simply because of how much shit he must read every day. Pleiades Dust is more than just a great album though, it's an indication of all that metal can be. Sure there are siqq riffs and brutal vocals, but it has a much more powerful end goal that is going to keep you coming back and staying in love for years to come. All it makes me want is more.
Sylvaine – Wistful
I'm a huge Alcest fanboy, but when Neige cut out the growls the band lost something. Sure they are a passable post rock group but I was kind of hoping for more from one of my favorite bands. Sylvaine has stepped up to take over where Alcest left off. The brainchild of the brilliant French multi-instrumentalist, Wistful builds on the tradition of bands like Amesoeurs and reminds us exactly why we fell in love with this type of music in the first place. Sylvaine perfectly understands where post black metal is going and is years ahead of the game. The best part is that this is only her first release and I have the distinct impression that we have no idea how far down the rabbit hole she is going to be willing to go.
Eight Bells – Landless
This band is ridiculously underrated, I don't understand why more attention hasn't been given to the Portland black metal masters. Landless is transcendent, layering in elements from across the metal sphere into one of the most all encompassing and potent albums I have heard all year. It's an album that allows you to soar. It takes you on a soul searching journey and forces you to embrace a tomorrow that you didn't even know existed. With multi-part harmonies and heart wrenching melodies, Landless might be about to run away as black metal album of the year. Eight Bells are creating a whole new breed of metal, and I'm not sure enough people are realizing this.