Time for the second part of my highlights of 2016, the metal edition. This part was much harder to write than the first because it took me a long time to chose my top ten metal of albums and even longer to decide on the winner. So here are my top ten favourite metal releases of 2016:
1. Vader – The Empire
Genre: Death Metal
This year, Vader strikes back with ‘The Empire’… Let’s face it, they were kind of asking for comments like this with that kind of an album title. Star Wars jokes aside, this is a really good piece of work. If you’re looking for some new death metal to check out, I would strongly recommend this album. Unlike their previous work, the masterpiece that was ‘Tibi et Igni’, ‘The Empire’ shows a back to basics approach. No complex structures or atmospheric intros, just good, old-school thrashy death metal. Best tracks: ‘Iron Reign’, ‘No Gravity’ and ‘Army-Geddon’.
2. Rob Zombie – The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser
Genre: Hard Rock/Industrial Metal
This year’s runner up deserves an award for coming up with the one of the longest album titles in years. I tend to refer to it simply as ‘The Electric Warlock’… Whilst still no match for his first two albums, ‘The Electric Warlock’ is Rob Zombie’s best work in years. Favourite tracks ‘The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore’, ‘In the Age of the Consecrated Vampire We All Get High’ and the ultra cheesy but super catchy ‘The Life and Times of a Teenage Rock God’.
3. Devilment – II- The Mephisto Waltzes
Symphonic Gothic Metal/ Groove Metal
For those of you who read my highlights of 2015, you might remember my comments on the latest Cradle of Filth album. This year their vocalist Dani Filth has been busy working on the second album for his other band Devilment. ‘II- The Mephisto Waltzes’ is a delightful opus which happily mixes a variety of metal genres including Gothic, symphonic and groove metal. There’s even a touch of humour in the lyrics and several references to horror movies, modern horror literature and art – most notably Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. Best tracks are ‘Hitchcock Blonde’, ‘Dea Della Morte’ and ‘Full, Dark No Stars’.
4. Mortiis – The Great Deceiver
Genre: Industrial Metal
Ever since the Norwegian musician Mortiis started his own band in the mid ’90s, there has been some debate as to what category their music fits into. The older works are very much dark ambient, followed by the synth-pop period of ‘Smell of Rain, turning into the latest era of industrial rock. Their latest effort, the ultra creepy -sounding ‘The Great Deceiver’ is undoubtedly their heaviest and most complex album to date which is why I chose to include it in my metal top 10. Best tracks: ‘Doppelganger’, ‘Demons are Back’ and ‘Shining Lamp of God’.
5. Moonsorrow – Jumalten aika
Genre: Pagan Black Metal
Moonsorrow caught my attention after I saw them live at Tampere Metal Meeting Festival in the summer. I like some of their older material and after hearing some of the new songs live I decided to check out their newest album ‘Jumalten aika’. This is one of those releases where there are no real outstanding tracks, but rather the whole album is worth listening to in full. It’s one of the best pieces of pagan black metal that I’ve heard in a long while.
6. The Vision Bleak – The Unknown
Genre: Gothic Horror Metal
German Gothic horror metal duo The Vision Bleak are back with a new album. ‘The Unknown’ struck me as being somewhat “Lovecraftian”, both in the visual concept of the cover art and the the lyrical themes. Musically it is in every bit that you can expect from a Vision Bleak album; eerie Gothic horror metal with some doom influences added creating the soundtrack to your worst nightmare. Best tracks ‘The Kindred of The Sunset’ and ‘Into the Unknown’.
7. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct
Genre: Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal
Just in case anyone is wondering why the new Metallica is so low down on this list, the truth is that I expected it to be better than it turned out to be. After all, it’s been eight years since their last studio album. Needless to say that the expectations were high. I wasn’t expecting this to be another ‘Master of Puppets’ or ‘Ride the Lightning’ but I was hoping for something along the lines of ‘Death Magnetic’ which I really enjoyed. Luckily ‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ isn’t as bad as ‘St. Anger’ but it’s hardly a masterpiece. To be honest I think that it would be have been better off as an EP with just four or five tracks instead of the 12 songs and 13 music videos. I definitely like the first disc more than the second one and my favourites include: ‘Moth To The Flame’, ‘Dream No More’ and ‘Spit Out The Bone’.
8. Sabaton – The Last Stand
Genre: Power Metal
Sabaton are one of the very few power metal bands that I like. I’ve always enjoyed their live shows and I’m very fond of the concept album ‘Carolus Rex’. As with all Sabaton albums, their latest piece of work doesn’t disappoint as far as the historical themes go. This one tells the stories of eleven defensive “last stand” battles. Each song focuses on a different battle from various historical events ranging from ancient Greece, medieval Scotland, the two World Wars to Japan at the time of the samurais. That sounds awesome in principal, if only the actual music was that good. Sadly it isn’t. It’s ok but not great and most of the time Sabaton are just recycling old ideas, changing the themes but making similar music. The only tracks that I liked are: ‘Shiroyama’, ‘The Last Battalion’ and ‘Blood at Bannockburn’.
Trust No One
Genre: Groove Metal
The only real groove metal entry on this list, ‘Trust No One’ is DevilDriver’s best work in years. It is an aggressive beast of guitar-driven groove metal made all the more powerful thanks to Dez Fafara’s vicious growls. Best tracks: ‘Trust No One’ and ‘Daybreak’.
10. Theatres des Vampires – Candyland
Genre: Gothic Metal
It’s been a while since the Italian Gothic metal band Theatres des Vampires have released anything new. I’ve been a fan of their music for many years and so I was keen to get my hands on a copy of their latest piece of work. ‘Candyland’ is somewhat more metal-sounding than its predecessor ‘Moonlight Waltz’. There are notably less vampire themes on here compared to the previous album but other than that not much has changed. Sonya Scarlet is still the key figure in Theatres des Vampires. Whilst I still prefer their older works, back when Lord Vampyr was still a member of the band, I did enjoy this album. Best tracks ‘The Morgana Effect’ and ‘Resurrection Mary’.
Biggest New Discovery: Powerwolf
Best live show of 2016: Powerwolf live in Tampere
Most anticipated albums of 2017:
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
New albums from Cradle of Filth and (hopefully) Behemoth.
That’s all from me for now. Happy New Year!