So, here is list #6. Now we’re down the BIG BOYS, The Top 30 Metal and Top 30 Hard Rock. I debated both of these lists tremendously among my friends as there was just so much great stuff released this year. Due to so much great music this year, I actually expanded what would normally be a Top 20 to include 30 releases this time.
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30) Anthrax – For All Kings
Anthrax has released a ton of great music over the years and this one fits nicely with the early stuff. It’s a return to the Persistence of Time style with thrashing guitars, Joey’s classic vocals, and the huge bottom end.
29) Dead End Finland – Slaves To The Greed
28) Grimner – Frost Mot Eld
Folk metal done exactly right. It’s heavy as hell while still being super singable. If there was an award for best Vinyl package, they would win hands down. Their double, blue/orange, vinyl package is absolutely gorgeous. Had a chance to interview the band earlier this year about this one.
27) Lords of Black – II
26) Amon Amarth – Jomsviking
25) Serious Black – Mirrorworld
24) Non Human Era – Non Human Era
Heavy thrash from Montreal with lots of progressive touches. The band manages to create a pretty original sound that holds plenty of surprises throughout.
23) Imminent Sonic Destruction – Triumphia
Imminent Sonic Destruction hail from the Detroit area and are a band I discovered through a friend last year. Playing what can only accurately described as EPIC Progressive metal, the band takes a page from the Opeth playbook in their ability to write incredibly long songs while still being totally engrossing.
22) Avatar – Feathers & Flesh
Avatar is a band you have to hear for their unique abilty to mix heavy thrash music with almost System of a Down vocal antics in places. Avatar will be one of those bands you will TRY not to like…but end up losing that fight!
21) Pain – Coming Home
20) Megadeth – Dystopia
After a series of less than stellar releases the last few years, I was shocked just how great this record is. The addition of guitarist Kiko Loureiro was a brilliant move and brings new life to the band. His playing on this is inspired to say the least.
19) Nervosa – Agony
18) Ihsahn – Arktis
An artist that is constantly reinventing what he does musically. The only thing that is ever guaranteed on an Ihsahn record is that is will be brilliantly done and extremely diverse. With that idea in mind, he achieved it 200%!
17) Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Melodic death metal of the highest order. If only more bands could write stuff this well, the world would be a better place. Mixing classical passages with blast beats and ripping guitars, this is a monster sounding record.
16) Dynazty – Titanic Mass
I spent a lot of time debating if this one should be in the metal or hard rock category. In the end, I decided to place it here as it just seemed far too heavy for the later one. With that said, Dynazty deliver a massive sounding record of super heavy songs that are super melodic in nature.
15) Metal Church – XI
14) Crossing Rubicon – No Less Than Everything
13) Dream Theater – The Astonishing
Dream Theater pull off a near miracle here. 30+ songs and over 2 hours of music without sounding pretentious or losing the listener along the way. An epic concept record that is really something special. It would have been in my Top 5 if they’d used some guest vocalists to break up the characters better.
12) ToxicRose – Total Tranquility
This is the other CD that I debated whether it was hard rock or metal. Again, I ultimately decided that is just too heavy to be in the hard rock category and put it here. It’s a big, bombastic record with songs that will have you air drumming along. Helloween meets Pretty Maids in style.
11) Evergrey – The Storm Within
Evergrey never fail to disappoint and this is no exception. This record is everything the band is known for and more. With guest vocals from Floor Jansen on two songs and the hit song Passing Through, this record is the definition of what prog metal should be.
10) Eden’s Curse – Cardinal
Another record that probably could be in the hard rock category but I put here because it simply was just pretty damn heavy. The addition of vocalist NIKOLA MIJIC was an inspired choice and the band has benefited from it. I absolutely love his singing and the grit that he adds to the songs. This is a solid as rock CD that doesn’t have a bad note on it.
9) The Reticent – On The Eve Of a Goodbye
A project that I discovered while searching for something else, I fell in love with this record almost immediately. It’s got a lot of the qualities that make Opeth so great. With lots of time signature changes, a mix of clean/death style vocals, and flawless technical playing, This is a record that constantly keeps you on your toes. The production is also done perfectly in the sense that there’s just enough shine to make this sound great but without losing the raw energy that band has.
8) Ringworm – Snake Church
For many of the same reasons that make me love bands like The Haunted and At The Gates, this record became one of my early favorites this year. This is as uncompromising as metal gets. This one is guaranteed to make the neighbors run in fear!
7) Candiria – While They Were Sleeping
Candiria return from their long hiatus with a masterpiece concept album that exemplifies everything that is great about this band. With the ability to flawlessly change music direction on a dime, you never really know where the song will lead. Much like a roller coaster, you just strap yourself in and scream the entire length of the ride!
6) Zephyra – As The World Collapses
A massive sounding record from this Swedish band featuring the vocals of powerhouse Asa Netterbrant. Combining solid metal playing with electronic elements, you get a sound that is positive to have you slam dancing around the room with reckless abandon.
5) Monte Pittman – Inverted Grasp Of Power
This one came as a bit of a surprise to me this year but most definitely is one of the CD’s that I’ve listened to the most. This CD also features the drumming of Richard Christy and the bass playing of Billy Sheehan. While Pittman is best known for his roles with Madonna, Prong, and Adam Lambert, he proves here that he is more than capable of fronting his own thing. He’s an incredible vocalist to go with his guitar prowess and this CD is full of songs that will grab you by the throat.
4) Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
3) Helhorse – Helhorse
With big, heavy grooves similar to Corrosion of Conformity, Helhorse have far more depth as a band and a singer that just demands that you pay attention. This is a CD that demands to be played at maximum volume. “Among The Wolves”, “Hell of a Ride”, and “No Fucks Given” are standout tracks here.
2) Stuck Mojo – Here Come The Infidels
From the opening notes, the band steps on the gas and doesn’t let up. The addition of singer Robbie J as singer really cranks up the intensity on this as well. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this band sound meaner and leaner. On songs like “The Business of Hate”, you find the band in an almost full thrash mode. On the song “Verbal Combat”, you find Robby name checking a ton of legends including a classic Pantera riff courtesy of guitarist Rich Ward. This is easily one of the most aggressive CD’s I received this year.
And now, for the NUMBER ONE METAL CD of 2016...according to me!
1) Heaven Below – Good Morning Apocalypse
When I finally received the finished product, there weren’t enough words to describe how it made me feel. A concept record of the first order, it runs the gamut from all out traditional metal to sweeping, epic progressive passages. This record is absolutely sonic on every level with mastering that make it sound like a hurricane of sound. Featuring guess appearances from Jason McMasters, UDO, Lita Ford, and Kobra Paige, they all add their unique voices to the record.
Singer Patrick Kennison absolutely crushes his performance here as vocalist and guitarist. What really sets this record apart though is the rhythm section of Shad Wilhelm (drums) and John Younger (bass). There’s a ferocity to their playing that just propels this thing through the speakers at a 1000 mph. The best way I can sum this up is: Imagine if Avenged Sevenfold and Savatage got together in the studio to record Operation Mindcrime…on Steroids!
A crazy image, I know, but it’s really THAT huge sounding. If this doesn’t propel this band into the stratosphere of rock stardom than I will know there is NO justice in the world. Of all the records released this year, this is my ABSOLUTE #1 record of them all.