Welcome back to our ongoing series of best-of lists for 2016, where we give some of the bands we covered (or just adored) in 2016 a chance to publish their own lists regarding their favorite albums of this past year. It may be officially 2017, but we’ve got one more list from one of my favorite bands from the year, UK post-metal group Latitudes. It’s weird to think about, but the band’s phenomenal third album, Old Sunlight, came out almost a year ago now, and it still holds up magnificently. Combining classic post-metal instrumental ferocity with absolutely heartbreaking emotionally-taught vocals, it’s a whirlwind of an album that’s likely to leave you catching your breath by the end in between sobs. The band collectively put together their own top 10 albums and top 5 EPs from 2016 with individual contributions from each member. It’s a great collection of music and reminder of just how incredible 2016 was for metal and music in general.
Top 10 Albums
10. Planes Mistaken For Stars – Prey
I’m not a violent man but Prey makes me want to drink my own weight in bourbon and hard wrestle grown men to the floor.
It is sweaty, dirty music, for late nights and bad choices. It is the raucous sound of the world collapsing in the most celebratory way. No words of wisdom, no charm, just a pile of drunken, messy fun.
I like it a lot.
9. Eternal Champion – The Armor of Ire
The epic metal string to Arthur Rizk’s bow. A fantastical album of sterling trad songcraft, aided by genre and production developments since the glory years. Riffs forged from iron, lovingly assimilated arrangements, commanding vocals and an impeccable lyrical dreamworld.
Obsessing over this and the Sumerlands record gave a long-awaited credence to all my ‘guilty pleasure’ listening and threw me into a perpetual wormhole of Crimson Glory, White Lion, Dokken, Savatage, Motley Crüe, Skid Row, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Manilla Road, Malmsteen, Fates Warning and of course far too much vintage Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
8. Alcest – Kodoma
The shoegaze, alt-rock and post-rock elements are all as enjoyably dreamy as you’d like but it’s the reintegration of harsh vocals in tandem with some beautiful climatic arrangements that elevate this record into one of the year’s most emotive.
7. Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
Ulcerate have harnessed a sound so precise and technically advanced, while still maintaining an earthy, organic feel. Initially taking their lead from the likes of Immolation and DsO, Ulcerate have successfully topped previous album Vermis with a sound that is completely their own.
6. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead don’t make bad albums—that’s a stone cold fact. Sure, King of Limbs wasn’t their most inspiring work, but not many groups can muster the same strength with their back catalogue.
There is a great warmth and fragility to A Moon Shaped Pool. The production work, as always, is faultless and full of clever, subtle nuances that slowly reveal themselves over multiple listens. And the music? Whilst having great depth, it is also some of the most immediate work they’ve produced. But goddamn, it’s a sad record. In a good way.
5. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones
In the first instance I wasn’t sure what to make of this, and in some ways – after listening while going to sleep for the past few months – I’m still trying to get my head round it. Initially it appeared to be a return to the unpredictable Fas… album, embellished with some of the discordant melodic flourishes of Paracletus. However repeated listens are still revealing the full chaotic nature of this monster.
4. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
An album that requires full immersion more than most. It’s very difficult to isolate a single track for a quick fix, when each song is such an important part of the overall headspinning journey. I can’t think of many other bands evoking the spirit of bands as diverse as Tangerine Dream, Neurosis and even Deep Purple to such psychedelic, devastating effect.
3. Lycus – Chasms
A faultless slab of classic doom/death melding the formative work of the Peaceville 3 with perfect additional influences including raw black metal, early goth and darkest psychedelia. The dreamlike aura is bolstered by an organic, ultra-atmospheric production from Jack Shirley and a reverent band at one in their complete aesthetic focus.
2. Sumerlands – Sumerlands
This is an exception to many of the albums I’ve enjoyed this year, being a debut album from a new band. Although I had passing knowledge of guitarist Arthur Rizk’s production work with Inquisition among others and awareness of Phil Swanson’s work with Hour of 13, I wasn’t expecting this. The guitars originally put me in mind of Randy Rhoads, and Swanson’s vocals are in places reminiscent of Ozzy, but this is no rehash of any former glories; this sounds fresh and relevant, and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
In a year that forced myself and many others to clutch the headphones for dear life seeking refuge in childhood classics and dark metallic netherworlds, this album was a moving reminder that the true power of music stems from mortality.
The tragic back-story to this record is well known and as a father myself, it hit hard. The last 5 minutes of the accompanying film left me devastated. This was the most beautifully arranged, most lyrically perfect and most heartbreakingly real album of the year.
Top 5 EPs
- Krallice – Hyperion
- Fluisteraars – Gelderland
- Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom
- Martrod – Transmutation of Wounds
- Vatican Shadow – Media In The Service of Terror
Virus, Aluk Todolo, Tardigrada, Death Fetishist, Andy Stott, Zhrine, Deftones, Bolzer, Demdike Stare, Zomby, SubRosa, Carla Dal Forno, Soft Kill, Ash Borer, Terra Tenebrosa, Void Mediation Cult, Worm Ouroboros, Raime, Cantique Lepreux, Howls of Ebb, Solange, Inter Arma, Meshuggah, Furia, Blut Aus Nord/Aevangelist, Martyrdod, Plebian Grandstand, Gorguts, Pantha du Prince, Mare Cognitum, Lisa Hannigan, Chthe’ilist, Blood Incantation, Equiknoxx, Krypts, Dysrhythmia, Skaphe, Nels Cline, Autechre, Every Time I Die, Touche Amore, Forteresse, Nadra, Mammifer, Sun Worship, Obscura, Fange, Khemmis, Neurosis, Oathbreaker, Vanhelgd, DJ Shadow, Phobocosm, Hammers of Misfortune, Ben Lukas Boysen, Nothing, David Bowie