Friday, January 1, 2016

Top However Many Albums of 2016

This is going to be kind of an ambitious post from someone who has barely posted in the last year and a half.  Because of that, I feel like I need to cover all of the albums I have picked up over the last year.  So there will be some less than good albums covered, don't take this to be a top albums list so much as ranking all of the albums I have bought over the year.  This is going to be a long one.  Even though I have not been picking up nearly as many albums this last year, there is still a pretty hefty stack sitting on my desk.

So, without further ado, abandon all hope ye who enter:

In recent years I have become a big fan of W.A.S.P.'s material from the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's but I have never really checked out their more recent stuff.  Unfortunately this was probably not the best one to start with.  The songs sound just uninspired.  It is a far cry from the energetic metal that the band put out in its heyday.  It is possible that this is a grower, after all I was not overly enamored with the first album I picked up from them several years ago.  But for right now, this one is a disappointment.

I don't know why I keep doing this to myself.  I loved this band when Christian Alvestam was the singer, but since he left and the band hired two singers to replace him, the magic is gone.  There are some decent moments here and there, and even some decent songs (and some moments that would not be out of place on a fucking Def Leppard album), but the band is trying way too hard to recapture the glory of their first three albums.  I guess I keep hoping for the same thing.  This album finds the band closer than ever, but still just not quite there.  It is decent, but nothing more.  I would much rather listen to their earlier works.

18.  MYRKUR: M
I wanted to be blown away by this album, but it just did not really work out that well.  I loved the cover art as soon as I saw it and I figured it would be a really interesting atmospheric black metal album.  The music is sometimes compelling and haunting but oftentimes plods on and on with no real direction.  That is probably the idea, but it just does not really capture attention for long enough.  There are definitely some great moments but they are not frequent enough to save the album.  The atmosphere is definitely dark and the musicianship by this one-woman (with session musicians) black metal band is terrific.  The album just fell a little short.

Gimmicky bands never really last all that long, at least they shouldn't.  Gwar is one exception.  Ghost is most likely a gimmick band unless they can turn things around.  Their 70's-inspired rock/metal is impressive typically, but at this point it is becoming kind of stale.  There are definitely some damn good songs on this album, but they are not as impressive as the last album, which was not as impressive as the first album.  The artwork in this thing is fantastic though.

Okay, this one is a live double album.  I probably should have guessed that right away but I was blinded by a new Rotting Christ album sitting on the shelves.  Nevertheless, the album sounds great and includes many of my favorite Rotting Christ songs and encompasses a wide range of the band's releases.  "Threnody" is missing though, so points off for that one.  This is mostly a bit of a teaser for the new album in 2016.  Since it is a live release, it will not likely be subject to being played too often.  And thus the lower placement on this list.

I'm not sure "Repentless" is really a word.  By now, we pretty much know what to expect from latter-day Slayer.  The relentless speed is gone, replaced by much groovier riffs, but the band still sounds like Slayer, that is to say they still play loud, take-no-prisoners thrash metal with gruff, screaming vocals.  And they still hate religion, so there is that.  There really is not much difference between this album and their last several releases, but it's still Slayer.

Enslaved put out yet another terrific album full of their trademarked progressive black metal sound.  I have strongly enjoyed each of their albums since getting into them with Below the Lights.  This album finds them doing more clean-singing sections and those parts shine.  Enslaved is in general more melodic this time around, but they pack a punch when it counts.  This band is nothing if not consistent.  Each album is strong, and this one is no different.

I am a sucker for a really good stoner/doom metal album.  High on Fire has not disappointed me in years and this album is no exception.  Now, High on Fire is not your typical stoner/doom metal band, they use way too many thrash metal-inspired riffs and are much more aggressive than your average band from the genre.  But that is what makes them stand out from the pack.  They are certainly different than frontman Matt Pike's other band Sleep.  This is raw, brutal, unrelenting pure fucking metal.

Panzer is a side project of Schmier, vocalist/guitarist of Destruction, and two members of Accept.  That is probably the best way to describe the band as well: a combination of Destruction and Accept.  Being a big fan of German thrash as well as German heavy metal, this was an album I snatched up as soon as I saw the description.  The music is unrelenting, powerful, and damn catchy.  Plus it has one hell of a cover.

Napalm Death releases a new album like clockwork every three years.  And I have been picking up each new release the last several times.  They are quickly becoming one of my favorite groups.  Their trademarked combination of death metal and grindcore never declines in quality and the band keeps finding ways to top their last release.  This one features some more experimental moments and some sort of post-punk influences but the death/grind foundation is still there and Napalm Death sound as pissed off as ever.

Iron Maiden's songs were so long on this one that they had to be split into two CDs.  After their somewhat lackluster release in 2010, this one is a breath of fresh air.  It is still not nearly as fast as their earlier material, but the riffs are a little edgier and Bruce sounds a lot better.  Age has definitely crept into his voice and he is not as capable of the full range that he had when he was younger, but he is still a great singer.  The rest of the typical Iron Maiden elements are all present here in full force.  This is easily Maiden's best album since Brave New World.  That is not really saying all that much, but this is a very good album.

Cradle of Filth has been getting even better over the last few albums.  Their songs are tighter, less rambling, and the guitar riffs have been edgier and meaner.  Of course the typical requirements for a good Cradle of Filth album continue to be present, those being Dani Filth's identifiable vocal style and his dark and twisted fantasy lyrics.  Filth has toned down the higher-end screeching, which is a plus.  It does tend to be a bit grating at times.  But this is likely the best Cradle of Filth album in years, which is really saying something given the last few.

This one is just a ton of fun.  Gruesome is made up of members of Possessed, Dekapitator, Exhumed, and a myriad of other bands.  This is pure Death worship, capturing the spirit and feel of the seminal band's earliest material.  And they do a damn fine job of it too.  Every instrument, riff, solo, and vocal sounds authentic.  So for those of you out there who miss the early works of Chuck Schuldiner, check out Gruesome.  It is as if he never died.

A folk metal album has to be really special for me to really do more than a cursory listen.  I like a lot of folk metal bands, but there are just too many that are a little too much the same for me to really get into many more, for some reason.  Well Furor Gallico is definitely special.  The folk elements are more pronounced in the music of Furor Gallico than in some other bands.  It sounds as if Furor Gallico crafted their songs around the folk elements, rather than the other way around.  Despite being from Italy, the band's music leans more towards Celtic folk than anything.  This album was played heavily during the long car ride to Las Vegas this Fall.

I have been an Enforcer fan since the first time I heard them.  Their 1980's-inspired heavy metal has a strong melody with enough aggression to keep the fans of true heavy metal happy.  The band is maybe a little too retro-sounding for the black and death metal fans out there, but there are still a ton of people looking for straightforward heavy metal that can find something enjoyable here.  I don't think Enforcer will ever beat their Diamonds album, but they come damn close here.

Amorphis is probably on the short list of bands that I would have to consider my favorites.  Every two years or so they come out with a new album and it is a must-have for me.  Every year they come out with a new album, it rates highly in my annual top album countdown.  They seemed to be in a bit of a creative funk for a little while, but changed drastically with their last album Circle, incorporating a heavier, more aggressive sound, and that fresh sound continued on this release.  And yet again, they find themselves high on my list in 2015.

Cattle Decapitation is probably one of the best pure death metal bands currently going.  For some reason I did not check them out for a long time.  I suspect a lot of that had to deal with their politics and their veganism.  I am only half kidding.  But seriously their brand of death metal is terrific, with blazing guitar solos threading their way through the pounding riffs and deep, roaring vocals.  The best parts though are the higher-pitched, feral vocals when they appear.  The dual vocal style adds a lot of dynamics to the otherwise incredible riffwork.  I may have missed out on a few early albums, but you can bet I will be checking this band out for years to come.

Technically, this is two separate albums, but because there is no real difference in quality between them and the fact that they are meant to be put together into one dual album, I have chosen to give them one spot together.  I also won't show both album covers because they are basically the same.  Satan's Host continues their late-career resurgence since reuniting with Jag Panzer vocalist Harry Conklin, who was their original vocalist.  Their brand of blackened power metal has yet to be matched by any other band.  Ever since Conklin's return, this band has been absolutely terrific and that is continued here.

I somehow missed Symphony X's last album, so this is the first album by them I have checked out since their take on Paradise Lost.  I have always preferred Symphony X's brand of melodic, progressive metal to that of the band they are frequently compared to, Dream Theater.  Their blazing fast riffs and solos far surpass their contemporaries.  This album is dark and heavy, but retains the melodicism that drew me to the band when they released Odyssey.  If anything, this one is an improvement.  "Without You" is one of the best metal songs of the year.  And that is fitting because this is one of the best albums of the year.

When I last heard Tribulation, they were more of an Old School Swedish Death Metal band, more in the vein of late 80's/early 90's Nihilist, Dismember, or Hypocrisy, with some thrash metal thrown in for good measure.  I have no idea what happened in the intervening years, but now they are more of a progressive black/death metal band.  And I must say, the new sound is amazing.  They are darkly melodic, haunting, and compelling.  Their songwriting has improved exponentially as well.  This is a terrific album that a lot more people should be aware of.

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