Welcome back to our Heavy Blog Guest List feature where we give some of the bands we covered (or just adored) in 2016 a chance to publish their own Top 10 Albums of 2016. Brutai, after having released their debut album Born, are set to rock the mainstream prog world with their catchy, compact progressive jams. Without the lengthy nuisance other progressive brands court, Brutai offer straightforward songs with all the flavor of modern progressive music from the riffs to the production. We’re pleased to offer a Top 10 list from three members of Brutai: Felix Lawrie, Alex Lorimer, and Christian Sturgess.
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10. Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
I must have spun this record in its entirety over 30 times now. The emotion that was poured into this album shines through in its sensational mix, likely making it their best album since The Here And Now. “Memento Mori” is a stand out track, written with such meaning and purpose that it brings me to tears every time the intro chords ring out. In terms of composition, the album has enough variety in its breakdowns, riffs, big choruses, and ambient sections to please any fan, but the album really stands out above the rest as a pinnacle in songwriting. All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us will stand as a testament to Tom [Searle]’s immense talent as a writer.
9. Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
Back with a bang, Killswitch Engage have absolutely nailed it this time around. Incarnate is exactly what you’d expect from them—riff upon riff that gets your head nodding and choruses you can’t help but sing along with. It’s this formula that has had me hooked on this band since I first got into metal many years ago. Jesse Leach puts in a very strong vocal performance, even better than his first since his return. He’s so powerful in both his cleans and screams and has always been someone that connects with me on an emotional level. You can really feel every word on this album. My favourite track is definitely “We Carry On”—that’s how you write a chorus and why Killswitch Engage are the giant that they are.
8. Textures – Phenotype
We had the honor of sharing a stage with these guys earlier in 2016 and, boy, was it a treat to hear some of their new tracks live. Textures have really launched themselves into the wider eye of the public with this release and it’s easy to see why. Another combination of brutal riffs and really well-written choruses makes for a great listen. The final two tracks, “Zman,” a beautiful piano piece that leads into “Timeless,” could be an album on their own. I’ve listened to them hundreds of times—epic is an understatement. You have to listen to the piano intro to really appreciate the brilliance and diversity of their songwriting. No stone was left unturned on this release and I would heavily recommend checking both the album and catching them live. Absolutely flawless and tight beyond belief.
7. Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage
I understand that quite a lot of people do not like Avenged Sevenfold, but that is simply not the case for me and most of the guys in Brutai. They are a huge influence and played a big part of my growth as a musician. I believe this is their best work since their self-titled, as I haven’t enjoyed much of their work between then and now. Loving the fact that they’re taking a slightly more progressive approach in songwriting. The recruitment of Brook Wackerman is a master stroke, as he’s such a talented drummer and really shines through on this record. The old A7X are back!
6. Fire from the Gods – Narrative
This band kind of swung out of left field for me—came out of nowhere like a sucker punch! I remember reading about them briefly and then decided to watch their video for “End transmission”—loved it! I decided to give their album a spin soon after. I was hooked.
AJ is a great vocalist, mixing aggressive vocals and smooth cleans. I hear a lot of Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust) in his voice. In fact, I love a lot of the nu-metal vibes Fire from the Gods offers, mixing a bit of rap that brings you back to the good ol’ days of Linkin Park and POD. When this band hits aggressively, you can definitely hear some early Slipknot as well, but their lyrics are wonderfully deep, having a message you can connect with.
5. Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty
My love for Periphery has returned with this Periphery III: Select Difficulty. It’s great to see the band trying new styles and instrumentation. I was always a fan of their original releases above anything else, but that was due to it being something that stood out from what was being done in metal a few years back. “Lune” is quite possibly their greatest achievement in songwriting, but tracks like “Catch Fire” and “Flat Line” slowing down a fairly heavy release to keep it interesting. The mix is fantastic, with every ambient layer and guitar tone being used effectively to change the tone of each track.
4. Haken – Affinity
This is one of the more experimental albums that could still sit in a mainstream market. Haken aren’t afraid to explore and challenge the listener. What really makes this album for me is the use of synths. It truly amazes me where you can take a song by adding layers of synths. A personal favourite is “1985”—so proggy, so ’80s, but at the same time they’ve managed to completely modernise a sound that very disappointingly left popular music for some time. It’s absolute bangers like this song that rejuvenate one of my favourite eras for music. “Earthrise” is just a brilliantly-written song, you’d really have to go out your way not to love it. Then there’s the 15-minute epic in “The Architect.” This really is just an all-out showcase of the technical prowess of Haken, showing off everything they have and it comes together to make for a complete epic. Beautiful composition, stunning vocals, cool as hell synths, Haken have really done the prog genre proud here and managed to make a record accessible to a much larger market at the same time. There are so many people that can be persuaded to a heavier brand, but just need the this sort of record for a push in the right direction.
3. Wovenwar – Honor is Dead
In terms of what I look for in a metal album, this is about as complete as it gets. There’s a huge amount of variety in the tracks, but they all have that selling point that just grabs you. More importantly, everything pulls together to make a really well-rounded modern metal record that resonates beautifully to the ear. I’m not personally the biggest fan of the most brutal songs, but Wovenwar manage to do it in a way that still drives melody, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do. As a vocalist, Shane Blay absolutely nails both the cleans and the heavier vocals. Every chorus sticks in your head that it’s hard to find anything wrong with this record. “Honor is Dead” takes me back a little to some of the stuff I listened to in my mid-to-late teens such as Bullet for My Valentine and Atreyu, but brings a more modern feel. All in all, a very complete and accomplished album—would definitely recommend!
2. Gojira – Magma
I’ve heard this album come up in debates a lot and it seems to be a ‘love it or hate it’ album. I do love this record, but I couldn’t call it my favorite Gojira record. I think the band have set the bar high with previous releases, but what Magma hits home with a certain emotional impact that records like From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh simply do not carry. There’s still a lot of aggression in the music, but the album has a massive injection of pain that you can hear well throughout from start to finish
1. VOLA – Inmazes
This album has everything you would want from a progressive metal record. Everything about it is just beautiful and every member of Brutai would agree, which is why it holds top spot on our list of Albums of the Year. We love the use of electronics and how a lot of the time you’ll hear the keyboards right at the forefront, something that can be so easily underutilized. Listen the song “Gutter Moon” for a perfect example. Asger [Mygind]’s vocals are gentle and suit the music so well, complementing the flawless compositions with original ideas. Massive vocal hooks with gorgeous harmonies, large soundscapes and big riffs make for a truly amazing piece of art. VOLA are an absolutely incredible band.