For the most part, 2016 felt like a bit of a slow year, as far as music goes but there was a big wave of releases in October that certainly made me feel like I was suddenly drowning in releases that wanted to be heard. Looking back, I found some really great bands this year and heard some impressive debuts that certainly managed to outweigh the big disappointments that some of the more well-known bands ended up delivering. So, without further ado, let’s dive into my top 10 albums of 2016!
10. SPRGM – SPRGM
The first item on this list is the self-titled debut album by SPRGM. These four finns delivered a very powerful debut and channel High on Fire, Kvelertak and Entombed influences into a wild ride of sludge and death metal with punk influences. Lots of blistering and catchy riffing along punk drumming and blastbeats build the foundation on which raw and shouty vocals ride. If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned bands, this album is a must-listen for you.
09. Wyrding – Wyrding
Continuing on, we have another self-titled debut album by american Wyrding. Despite being released in March of this year, it took me until very recently to finally finish my first full listen of this album and I’m glad that I got around to it within this year. Wyrding play an incredibly creative take on funeral doom and delivered one of the softest and most textured albums to be found in this genre. Distant, wailing guitars along summery, lush keyboards and choir-like vocal arrangements make this album a comforting and gentle listen with a certain melancholic atmosphere and an occasional underlying, subtle uneasiness.
08. Cantique Lépreux – Cendres Célestes
I was generally impressed by a lot of french canadian bands this year, but especially this debut album by a trio from Québec stood out to me. Cantique Lépreux play an icy, stormy variety of black metal and dropped one of the coldest releases of 2016. The foreboding, dark cloudfronts of guitars, the catchy melodies and passionate vocals made Cendres Célestes one of the most noteworthy black metal albums of this year for me.
07. Thrawsunblat – Metachthonia
Featuring ex-Woods of Ypres members, Thrawsunblat has always been a special project for me and I was completely unaware that the band was working on a new album until it dropped. The band made a huge step forward with this release and delivered a bundle of powerful and memorable tracks of fun, captivating and life-confirming black metal with lots of clean vocals and occasional additional string instrumentation.
06. SUMAC – What One Becomes
On place six, we have the sophomore album by american sludge metal trio SUMAC, consisting of Aaron Turner (ex-Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mamiffer), Bryan Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (ex-Baptists). Considering the line-up, I was excited for this project as soon as it was announced and I loved their debut album The Deal. On What One Becomes the band delivered a more primal and somehow even heavier variety of their sound and came out with a handful of massive, hulking songs that were much more minimalistic and single-minded than the compositions on their debut. Admittedly, it took some getting used to after such an eclectic debut, but What One Becomes ultimately constitutes another strong entry to this project’s discography.
05. 40 Watt Sun – Wider than the Sky
Entering the top 5, we have another sophomore album and it’s by one of my favorite doom metal outfits, british 40 Watt Sun. Almost completely consisting of ex-Warning members, this band delivers a naturally intimate and captivating take on doom metal. The vast and melancholic songs fronted by Patrick Walker’s unique and passionate voice were a memorable, atmospheric and gentle experience and made the perfect soundtrack for the onset of winter when the album was released in October.
04. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Next up we have the only non-metal album to make this list and it’s by legendary british art rock band Radiohead. The highly anticipated “LP9” was released rather suddenly and though it had to grow on me at first, it became one of my favorite albums of this year. Radiohead delivered a very soft, intimate and melancholic album that enchants the listener with its reserved and diverse compositions.
03. Mithras – On Strange Loops
Making their return almost ten years after their last album, british technical death metal duo Mithras came out with an overwhelming and incredible fourth full-length album. On Strange Loops is not only a ridiculously technical record, it’s also one of the most atmospheric releases of 2016, dealing with astral themes of space and the metaphysical. Featuring outstanding performances by both of Mithras’ members, this album easily made my top three of 2016.
02. Bethlehem – Bethlehem
The second place on this list goes to the german creators of dark metal, Bethlehem. Known for their eccentric approach to metal, Bethlehem stuck to their virtues and delivered one of the most twisted and insane albums of this year. Featuring Onielar of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult on vocals, this album is fronted by one of the most disturbing, memorable and impressive voices metal has to offer. The band delivered a bundle of incredibly diverse songs that range from dark ecstasy to sombre sadness delivered through the band’s abstract and surreal sound. The cryptic and eloquent lyrics were one of the big highlights of this album for me and one of the reasons to come back to it repeatedly.
01. Conjuror – Fight or Yield
My favorite album of 2016 couldn’t have been any more unexpected than it was. Initially drawn in by its cover, Fight or Yield turned out to be the most enchanting debut of this year for me. This american trio delivered a black metal album with some pagan influences that is memorable in every aspect. The very simple and minimalistic yet captivating songwriting featuring catchy guitars, diverse drumming and absolutely wonderful screaming, shrieking, growling vocals that eloquently present the fantasy and battle themes on this record, made for an album that I absolutely couldn’t put down. Conjuror delivered impressive proof that simple songs can be highly effective and dropped a debut that instantly became and stayed my album of 2016. I’m very excited to see where the band takes this project and I’m looking forward to new material.
Wormed – Krighsu
Waldgeflüster – Ruinen
AST – Fraktale
Car Bomb – Meta
Vektor – Terminal Redux