As this giant dumpster fire of a year comes to a close, in which I know I’m not the only person who will be fucking glad to give it the middle finger as we all collectively see it disappear in the rear view mirror, I must say….it had some rather kick-ass jamz to occasionally distract us from the seriousness of everything. And that’s really what I like to focus on primarily with this blog is basically just the music itself. Yeah there are those series of unfortunate events that flooded my newsfeed in 2016 and there was that most recent thing that I have been hammering at for years, but that’s in the past. Let us at least get through the remaining handful of weeks of 2016 without slitting each other’s necks to the bone and let’s talk about those jamz….:does his best David Letterman impression:
Here are the Top 20 Albums of 2016 starting with:
1. Blood Incantation – Starspawn (Dark Descent Records)
I’m sure some of you were expecting Nails to be the top one on this list (Spoiler: there are on the list though), but really when it comes down to it, this album just not only blew me, but every music fan who has been wishing and wanting for an album to come out that would basically make Morbid Angel sound modern-day, innovative, and above all FRESH again. Not a single boring moment on the entire damn album. I mean, “Starspawn” really takes all the material that Morbid Angel did when they were worth a damn and amps it up in 2016 with some major psychedelic guitar noodling. If Trey of Morbid Angel tried to summon Cthulhu yet succumbed to madness for reading the wrong fucking invocation rite(not a pun btw) with that last album they did, then Blood Incantation properly pick-up the Necronomicon and summon forth something rather beautiful yet terrifying. The stygian abyss is opened up again for gazing into. Be afraid, be very afraid.
2. Nails – You Will Never be One Of Us (Nuclear Blast Records)
This album. That Jef Whitehead artwork. What a shit-storm of controversy, accusations, ridicule and above all….memes from Facebook pages such as I Heart Powerviolence. Nails delivered their ultimate statement with an album title that truly pissed off a lot of people. It’s sheer level of aggression. The density of it’s absolute hatred. The blood-soaked message it delivered. The main reason why I loved it so much was that it took the ethos and ideas of the old guard of black metal’s mindframe (’91-’94) but delivered it with the chaotic looseness of Hardcore/Grindcore/Powerviolence. Thus bringing back the spirit of the old days and tossing the flaming garbage can into the politically-correct hivemind of 2016. And for that move which some people will call either “stupid“, “insane“, “cringe-worthy“, or whatever else they scrape off the bottom of their brains, I give them major fucking hails.
3. Gatecreeper – Sonoran Depravation (Relapse Records)
OUGH! That’s really how I can easily sum this amazing LP up. Either that or don’t entry because you’ll get burned and died. Total Boss HM2 guitar-pedal Entombed/Dismember guitar tones, Bolt Thrower grooves, Obituary/Asphyx death metal-worship and even some doomy early Paradise Lost feedback/riffs make an appearance. Combined with some serious mosh-y parts, this shit is seriously reeks of a combo of Redbull, old-school Death Metal, and overall dankness. Overall just a fun album you would want to mosh and head bang to. If you are a false, do not entry.
4. A.M.S.G. – Hostis Universi Generis (Profound Lore Records)
Oooo, lookee here, more Jef Whitehead artwork. Never a bad thing. Past that, this is just a really weird black metal album. And I say that in the most respectful and best way possible. It’s a really unorthodox type in the fact of some of the instruments used on the LP (saxophones and didgeridoos) and it reminds me a lot of Celtic Frost‘s “Into The Pandemonium” as far as making an honest attempt to push boundaries while still having one foot designated in the Ross Bay Cult sound. Which to me is not a combo you hear everyday.
5. Youth Code – Commitment To Complications (Dais Records)
Break out the cowboy hats, black sunglasses, drum machines and old Wax Trax vinyl LPs; it’s old-school Industrial/EBM music the way it was always meant to be played: loud, aggressive, layered, and just as cold-natured as any black metal band on the face of the planet. This duo from L.A. have been hammering away and taking necessary pains and lengths to bring back the spirit of Ministry/Front Line Assembly/Front 242/Nitzer Ebb, and with this album it finally seems like they are finally getting recognition and exposing people who might have missed the Industrial ball the first time around. This album just speaks to my inner rivothead.
6. VRTRA – My Bones Hold A Stillness (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
Hands down the sickest fucking debut of 2016. Imagine some universal black hole where the planets of Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and Neurosis were to be devoured and on the other side of where that black hole spits the remaining parts out, are all assimilated into a blackened planet orbiting a dying sun at a impending doom-like speed. And from the vastness of space surrounding it, you can hear the ghostly spectral moans and wails of whatever lived on those planets, all formed together in a hellish limbo where no hope exists. In space, no one can hear you scream.
7. Mare Cognitum – Luminiferous Aether (I, Voidhanger Records)
Speaking of the outer reaches of space, stygian abysses, and the creeping crawling chaos that exists beyond what we may know….where other albums dwell on the fears of the summit man’s knowledge, Mare Cognitum is the welcoming elder sign to kick-start the end of it all and make us feel thankful to witness the beauty and destruction of all live in this universe. The sounding trumpet that sounds like an angelic voice to keep our heads from exploding from the sheer voice of some ancient one that our ears were not made to hear and listen to. Like the moon shattering and cosmic debris falling onto earth from that one kick-ass scene in “The Time Machine” re-make, it’s destructive and beautiful at the same time.
8. Howls Of Ebb – Curses Impasse (I, Voidhanger Records)
Continuing with the Lovecraftian references(they never get old for me), we come to the slimy, dripping, tentacled THING that was unthawed from the ice earlier in the spring of this year. Basically if you were to take Portal and mix it with Gorguts and blacken it up a bit, that’s the closest thing thing that I can come to describing the constant morphing monolith that is Howls of Ebb. There’s parts where you expect one thing and then in comes some really off-the-wall dissonant chord that prepares you for some really disgustingly fleshed-out riff that doesn’t seem very human-like. Whatever you do, do NOT let yourself be alone with this album for more than an hour. Also ditto on that disturbing artwork as well. While it may look like the Curator or Portal itself, look closer and you’ll see the image of hellish void that will send chills up your digested spine.
9. Survive – RR739 (Relapse Records)
Taking a break from the horror of this year’s jamz, we take a left turn and find ourself with the synthwave work of “Stranger Things“-famous artist Survive. Anyone who watched that Netflix show this year knows that godly synth soundtrack. Well shortly after the demand from the fans of the show, Relapse Records picked-up Survive and made them label buddies with proto-Synthwave originators Zombi who were doing this sound a good 10 years before Synthwave became the big thing to do. “RR739” isn’t so much John Carpenter, or Goblin…..they are more what you would get if Tangerine Dream did the soundtrack to the Ryan Gosling 2011 film “Drive.” There are some moments that would remind one of John Carpenter, but it doesn’t become another half-assed attempt at trying to create a soundtrack for a film that just got released on blu-ray on Scream Factory or some really shitty zombie film. Luscious in synth and ambiance, Survive are definitely going to be around and being the sole score creators for “Stranger Things” doesn’t hurt that’s for damn sure.
10. Mystik – both “Dunkla Klangor…” and “Af Herrens Mystik…” Kapitel Compilations (Ancient Records)
Ancient Records, whatever it is that you are doing….fucking keep doing so. These two particular releases, both of which are demo compilations, both of which were released at the same time, are a complete throwback to the days of Painiac Records and Sombre Records. Extremely limited. Hard to get a hold of. Both released under the flag of obscurity, this to me is like a trip down memory lane whenever I would get some random release or ask Jon of Full Moon Productions to order something for me or how he would tell me how long he would be waiting for a certain package from some third world country. And the quality of these demo compilations are really good considering this easily falls into the “cult” category. Next to Mare Cognitum, and Palace Of Worms, some of the best melodies I have heard in 2016.
11. Palace Of Worms – The Ladder (Broken Limbs Records)
See what I did there? Yeah ok I’ll stop with the spoilers on this list. I tell ya….fucking California has been releasing so many killer black metal offerings, a lot of them being one man acts, that I don’t know where this well of creativity comes from (Oh ok, may be I do know. I know that gentleman is lurking in the shadows on Instagram somewhere if you know where to find him) but main man and multi-instrumented Balan is another fortunate soul that is drinking from that river of creativity that runs through the Golden State. In an interview he gave The Sound Not The Word, he listed his influences and two albums which he spoke highly of which would be Tiamat‘s “Wildhoney” and Celtic Frost‘s “Into The Pandemonium” to which you can easily hear those two being worn proudly on his sleeve.
12. Altar de Fey – Echoes In The Corridor (Mass Media Records)
Oh man, it’s starting to get spOOky in here. If 2013 belonged to Finnland’s now defunct Beastmilk as far as Post-Punk/Goth/Death Rock jamz go with their “Climax” LP, well then 2016 belongs to Altar de Fey. This is their only LP and it’s a total throwback to West Coast Death Rock of Christian Death, 45 Grave, mid-era TSOL. A complete blast from the past. If you’re like me and you can’t get enough spOOky jamz, then head on over to their Bandcamp and order their limited edition red vinyl of this LP. Totally worth it.
13. Our Place Of Silence Is Worship – The Embodiment (Broken Limbs Records)
NY’s Broken Limbs Records has put out quite a few of my favorite releases this year, but this particular offering….holy fuck. If the 3rd Nails LP didn’t completely satisfy and quench your thirst for bloodlust, then roll up your sleeve and slam that mainline of pure rage with Our Place Of Silence Is Worship‘s “The Embodiment.” It’s the sound of the angry rage-filled reanimated corpse of Harambe’s (dicks out) body come back to life to completely hate-fuck the skulls of his executioners and to devour that stupid fucking kid. Complete with a Clandestine Blaze cover and one of the most sickening song titles in 2016 which is vegnefully named “Murdered While Praying.” The sound of the pure primal aggression.
14. Anatomy of Habit – Ciphers + Axioms (Relapse Records)
Taking another left turn we come to Chicago’s very own twisted take on the likes of Swans/Neurosis/Death In June. Very bleak, down-beat, oppressive, and sombre-sounding. A full-length LP with only 2 very long songs, AoH plummel and completely fuck-up the listener’s brain chemistry with their endurance in entropy. Highly recommended.
15. Antaeus – Condemnation (Norma Evangellicum Diaboli Records)
With such a shitty year practically having humanity pray for a giant asteroid to collide with the earth, it’s no surprise that French filth-masters Antaeus carpet-bomb the last remaining weeks of 2016. “Condemnation” is nothing more than a rusty razor blade slicing your wrists open wide and leaving your bluing body ready to finally expire but not before you pledge your allegiance to the infernal one himself. Completely and total savagery.
16. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy Of Molten Bones (Norma Evangellicum Diaboli Records)
You didn’t think I wouldn’t include this list without putting these guys on there did you? What? You weren’t paying attention the the albums before this where I mentioned their name with VRTRA‘s “My Bones Hold A Sickness“? Well that’s ok. I’m still battling a nasty upper respiratory infection and I’m here with cough syrup in my system so I won’t hold you to the lack of paying attention to detail. Let’s just put it this way: this is better than both their previous LP “Paracletus” and their “Drought” EP combined. Welcome back you leaders of the French legions. It’s been too long that you have grace us with your blackened light.
17. Vermin Womb – Decline (Throatruiner Records)
FUCKING UGLY. Two words to sum this up. If Nails is for beginners, and Our Place Of Worship Is Silence is for high school students, then Vermin Womb is that dude that dropped-out of college and is dealing with a nasty opiate addiction going from one dead-end job to another. That’s all you really need to know about this side-project with members of Primitive Man and Withered. If this album doesn’t cause you to start shooting up a mall during the holidays or bombing a church during Easter, your brain’s wiring needs to be looked at my friend.
18. Hands of Thieves – Feasting On Dark Intentions (Transilvanian Tapes)
This has in common with VRTRA‘s “My Bones Hold A Sickness” release. Black Metal mixed with healthy doses of death and doom and it just constantly twist and turns and contorts into something completely unique. Now comparing this to something else on said same list might scratch that “unique” quality out, but fear not because this isn’t the same Deathspell Omega/Blut Aus Nord/Neurosis mix. This is something completely different. I honestly can’t put my finger on the direct influences which is something I always love looking forward to listening to from any band what-so-ever.
19. Ecferus – Shadow Projection (Children of The Night)
Black Metal that deals with evolutionary, anthropological, scientific and mythological themes? Ok you got my attention. One of the first demos to grab my attention this year for the most part, I have to give this demo credit for getting me back into actually purchasing cassette demos just based on the reviews it was being given. That and there is a sweet-as-fuck Dave Mustaine-ish guitar work/solo in the first song that will have you wanting to dig out your copy of “Rust In Peace.”
20. Deftones – Gore (Reprise Records)
At this point, it’s no secret to anyone that knows me to be a major mark for the Deftones. The ONLY band from that wretched period of 1996-2003 where Nu-Metal crept into the social conscious of the mainstream and basically gave everyone the worst impression of metal. Out of all of those bands, Deftones were the only band to transcend the boundaries and carry on into 2016 making excellent fucking music. “Gore” itself is just another example of their ability to continue in making the rest of that particular genre look like amateurs scrambling for their dusty-old baggy Jncos for their bullshit re-unions while Deftones keep pushing themselves and taking risks. I could give a fuck less if this deducts “points” from my “metal cred“….Stephen Carpenter will forever be within my top favorite guitarists of all time next to Jerry Cantrell(Alice In Chains), Greg McKintosh (Paradise Lost), Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Jef Whitehead (Leviathan), and Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath).
And last but not least, the honorable mentions of 2016. In no way shape or form are these bad, but they are still worthy of mentioning and you as the reader to do yourself the favor, seek them out and listen to them:
Sumerlands – self-titled
Grave Miasma – Endless Pilgramage
Ill Omen – Ae. Thy. Rift.
Void Meditation Cult – Utter The Tongue Of The Dead
Uada – Devoid of Light
Ancient Meat Revived: A Cold Meat Industry Tribute
Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies
Neurosis – Fire Within Fires
Temple Nightside – The Hecatomb
Withdrawal – Never
Ustalost – The Spoor Of Vipers
Inculcator – Void Abecedary
Spitting Image – Icon Alive
Spectres – Utopia
And that’s roughly it folks. If I may have forgotten anything, leave a comment, talk about your favorite releases, tell me I suck at this blogging thing. Either way, I’ll see everyone in 2017. I don’t know what 2017 holds for mankind, but I will definitely be looking forward to it’s jamz that’s for damn sure. But for now, I’ll leave you with this last reference to mah boi H.P. Lovecraft;
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”