As 2016 draws to a close, SAMUEL BAUERMEISTER takes a look at the year that completely redefined metal as a genre, naming the 10 heaviest albums of the year that you need to listen to before you say g’day to 2017.
Let me just say it straight away, we’re all going to be looking back on 2016 as the moment that metal made a massive leap forward in evolution. We saw some impressive releases from a few of the godfathers of metal, such as Metallica, Meshuggah and Testament who can still clearly hold their own, but most interestingly, it was the year that the new faces of the genre were given centre stage. These are the 10 best metal albums of the year, the records that will want to make you punch holes in the wall with your head.
Making some serious splashes in the local scene in 2013 with their EP Pestilence, it was hard to imagine how the Wollongong chiefs of doom, Graves, would be able to top it. Fast forward three years and we have their heaviest release yet. Monster is the living embodiment of all things metal. Through a combination of the guitars sounding like they’re in drop-Z and Vocalist Rhys Benn’s gut-wrenchingly personal lyrics and unique voice, the album serves as a message of what to expect for Australian metal.
Album highlight: While ‘Kyden’ serves as the perfect interlude from the chaos of the album, ‘Decay’ takes you all the way to Riff City.
Now in their thirteenth year as a band, The Amity Affliction have become a household name in Australian music. ‘This Could Be Heartbreak’ serves as the perfect combination of the old meets the new. Songs on the album such as ‘Note to Self’ and ‘Fight My Regret’ throwback to their heavier ‘Severed Ties’ days while ‘This Could Be Heartbreak’ and ‘Tearing Me Apart’ manage to brighten their sounds similar to ‘Chasing Ghosts’. It’s this meeting of the two stages of The Amity Affliction’s career that really make this one memorable.
Album highlight: The blending of both vocalists, Joel Birch and Ahren Stringer, in ‘All Fucked Up’ provides one of their most emotionally powerful songs to date.
There’s so much to be said about the year that has passed for Architects. All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us served as the final album to feature founding member of the band Tom Searle after his tragic passing earlier this year. The opening track ‘Nihilist’ serves as the perfect introduction to what listeners were about to experience, a heavy no holds barred study at the state of the world we live in, with the songs refusing to let you go from their grip until the very end. As always, Sam Carter maintains his title as one of the best vocalists in the genre and Searle’s unique songwriting skills are something to be in awe of. With the album being the band’s highest charting release, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us serves as the perfect farewell to a legend that has influenced countless musicians around the world.
Album highlight: ‘A Match Made In Heaven’ finds the band exploring their unique sound even further with it’s violent breakdowns juxtaposed with Carter’s high ranged vocals.
In their nineteen years together, The Dillinger Escape Plan have always been a band that demand your attention. Their sixth and final record Dissociation is no exception, as they maintain their unique chaotic and experimental and turn it up to 11. Drummer Billy Rymer proves that he’s one of the best in the game in the jazz-infused ‘Low Feels Blvd’ while vocalist Greg Puciato brings out some of his heaviest vocals since Ire Works. The entire records takes you by its firm hands and shakes you violently until the end, making sure that The Dillinger Escape Plan really go out with a bang.
Album highlight: The band going full Dillinger in ‘Manufacturing Discontent’. How they managed to be so in sync will forever remain a mystery to me.
Album highlight: While the beat down in ‘//’ is something to be in awe of, ‘Enslaved’ will have you circle pitting in your living room for months.
‘Sorceress’ is the 12th studio album written by Opeth, and they show no slows of slowing any time soon. Hypnotic and enchanting, the album is a testament to what it means to be an iconic heavy metal band. As per usual, Vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt is someone to be in awe of while there are also some of the best guitar solos you’re going to listen to for a long time.
Album highlight: The solo in ‘Chrysalis’ will take you right back to the bands earliest days.
Each time that Every Time I Die releases an album, I found it truly unbelievable that they’re able to top their last. Low Teens has some of the band’s heaviest and most manic songs in their extensive catalogue. As per usual, Keith Buckley is able to find the perfect blend between heavy screams and classic rock vocals while he writes some of his most personal and poetic lyrics while guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams continue to be the perfect team in writing the perfect thrash solo.
Album highlight: While the introduction track ‘Fear and Trembling’ features one of the most evil sounding guitar tones ever produced, the epic ‘Religion Of Speed’ has one of the catchiest choruses that will be stuck in your head for a long time.
French metal outfit Gojira have solidified themselves as the true leaders of modern day progressive metal with Magma. While their signature obscure time signatures and riffs are still present, vocalist Joe Duplantier departed from his primarily heavy screams to lean more towards his hypnotic clean vocals, resulting in the bands most enchanting record in their growing catalogue. It’s this meeting of their Pantera-influenced guitars and tech-metal drumming along with Duplantier’s vocal experimentation that make this one of the best progressive metal albums of the decade so far.
Album highlight: I can guarantee you that you haven’t heard anything like ‘The Cell’.
If there’s one album that left me completely speechless this year, it would hands down be Oathbreaker’s ‘Rheia’. The albums themes explore the frailty of the human mind and this is perfectly resonated in Frontwoman Caro Tanghe’s devastatingly haunting vocals. Instrumentally, each song completely contrasts with the last, you’ll be banging your head furiously to the fast-paced ‘Being Able To Feel Nothing’ and then the album leaves you desperately isolated in ‘Stay Here/Accroche-Moi’. It’s the way that Oathbreaker are able to play with your own personal emotions in such unique ways that truly make this record one of the most fascinating records of the year.
Album highlight: The transition between the slow and melancholic introduction track ’10:56’ straight into the chaotic and evil ‘Second Son of R.’ is something that needs to be witnessed.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. Nails’ third studio album You Will Never Be One Of Us is the embodiment of Heavy music. Feelin’ real pissed off about something? This should be the soundtrack to your day. Consistently fast-paced and never letting go, frontman Todd Jones barks each line of the song with such admirable anger and resentment while absolutely nailing a solo that would make Kirk Hammett weep. The record is Nails’ longest release, clocking in at about 21 minutes, with the final song running for eight minutes. You Will Never Be One Of Us sounds like how I imagine the apocalypse would sound, it’s just that epic.
Album highlight: The albums epic finale ‘They Come Crawling Back’ is a mix of chaotic instrumentation and satanic-like vocals that will stick with you for a long time.