As the strange and morbid 2016 comes to a close, several of Alternative Nation’s writers reflect on what a great year it was for metal. 2016 saw several classic bands showing the world that they still had it as well as some stunning releases from some relative newcomers that quickly became firm favourites. So many great albums came out this that it took a legion of Alternative Nation writers, Anthony Carioscia, Birdman, and Joe Hughes as well as editor Paul Carr to cover them all. Here in no order are the 25 best metal albums of 2016.
Brujeria – Pocho Aztlan
This has been an active year for the Mexican metal powerhouse. From their anti-Trump sentiments, to their tour of the U.S. with Cattle Decapitation, as well as their first studio album in 16 years. Pocho Aztlan has production elements similar to later Napalm Death albums. The album’s blend of death metal and grindcore is topped off with a cover of the Dead Kennedy’s classic “California Uber Alles”.
Car Bomb – Meta
Co-produced by Joseph Duplantier, Meta proves to be Car Bomb’s heaviest, most complex record yet. It features guest vocals by Joseph Duplantier and fellow Long Island citizen Frank Mullen (Suffocation). This mathcore unit recently joined The Dillinger Escape Plan for a leg of their farewell tour.
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Frontman Mikhael Stanne recently discussed with AltNation how this album rejuvenated the band after parting with founding member Martin Henriksson. It is the first album to feature fellow Gothenburg musician and In Flames founder Anders Iwers on bass. Atoma reaffirms that Dark Tranquillity are the most consistent of the big 3 of Gothenburg, Sweden. It is a continuation of melodic riffs and atmosphere, restructured to still give the most loyal fan something different.
Despised Icon – Beast
The official comeback album from the Montreal deathcore giants. Beast is loaded with breakdowns and beatdowns to satisfy their hardcore fanbase. The album also has some powerful riffs and a solo here and there to please metal heads in general. The shrediest of tracks on this beast of an album is Drapeau Noir.
DevilDriver – Trust No One
After taking some time to bring us a Coal Chamber comeback album and rebuild the DevilDriver line-up, frontman Dez Fafara and company deliver Trust No One. While maintaining the grooves prevalent on the last two albums, more emphasis has been placed on melody. It is reminiscent of the band’s 3rd album The Last Kind Words where their riffs and melodic choruses earned the band a larger audience.
Eden’s Curse – Cardinal
Cardinal sees the power metal group from the UK moving from their traditional blend of classic hard rock and power metal, to a more melodic power metal driven by keyboards. Newest keyboardist Christian Pulkkinen likely contributed to this more melody-driven style. While displaying a style similar to Edguy/Avantasia, occasionally new elements are explored such as the funk rhythm of the track “Kingdom Of Solitude”.
Moon Tooth – Chromaparagon
You may have encountered this band on tour with Intronaut, Godmaker, Toothgrinder, and/or Thank You Scientist. The band has been aggressively promoting their debut album from last winter. Cromaparagon delivers a plethora of unique hard rock and progressive riffs and guitar solos. Vocals are clean with an occasional spoken word thrown in on some tracks. Overall there is a psychedelic feel to this album brought by the many pedal effects thrown in.
Sabaton – The Last Stand
While The Last Stand isn’t too different from Heroes or any of it’s predecessors, it’s really irrelevant given the band’s unique style of power metal, complemented with lyrics pertaining to wars throughout human history. In short, this album will not disappoint the veteran Sabaton fan. Nice surprises on this record include the use of bagpipes on “Blood of Bannockburn” and a Judas Priest cover on the limted edition. And no, the band is not done anytime soon just because their tour has been dubbed “The Last Tour”.
Shokran – Exodus
The Russian groove/progressive outfit’s debut album was populated with shorter songs. Exodus however, showcases a more progressive story-telling album. From the album’s getgo the virtuoso guitar work is maintained as well as the Egyptian elements in the samples. Overall, the musicianship has improved vastly. Guitarists, take note.
Sodom – Decision Day
Unlike most Sodom fans, my interest in this band was sparked by their later releases after their crossover era in late 90s. Production is still as raw as their early teutonic thrash records. As with most of their later records, this is a thrash album, more percussive than most. In 2016, Sodom continue to pulverize us with war-driven lyrics and instrumentation.
Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith
These black metal masters are back with yet another classic.Vocalist/guitarist, Dagon’s change in vocals is pretty sweet and the band’s riffs and song writing are just as great as always. This is one of several great releases from Season of Mist this year.
Zhrine – Urotheta
Another impressive release from Season of Mist, Urotheta is the debut album by Icelandic, prog death band, Zhrine. Beautiful, haunting music layers this new release by an act that is bound to become tomorrows metal legends.
Asphyx – Incoming Death
Asphyx is a band that can do no wrong and this newest entry proves this right. Bringing the riffs, tones, and brutality people love from this band, no fan of this band should miss out.
Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
The previous album, Verminis was disappointing, but this new release brings them back on track. Like always, Ulcerate mix their brand of tech-death with other genres, this time adding many elements of black and doom metal. These guys are bound to be remembered as modern death metal legends.
Blood Ceremony – Lord of Misrule
Occult themed doom band, Blood Ceremony are back with their signature Jethro Tull Black Sabbath sound. Keeping their common style while still sounding fresh.
Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Dark Descent Records have been proving to be one of today’s best metal labels. Blood Incantation is a prime cut from them. This record brings us some spacey, tech death with lots of atmosphere and an old school feel.
Nucleus – Sentient
Speaking of spacey tech-death, Chicago’s Nucleus are another great example of this style. Coming from Dark Descent’s side label, Unspeakable Axe Records, this first outing by the band shows their various influences including Timeghoul, Demilich and Gorguts. They put these influences to good use making one of this year’s most memorable albums.
Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder
After several crust punk albums and one old school heavy metal album, Darkthrone returns to playing black metal. Elements of their crust punk stuff can still be heard but this is a welcome return to their roots.
Alcest – Kodama
Speaking of bands returning to their signature sound, French black metal/shoegaze masters return to the their more black metal influenced sound after following a full on shoegaze path. This is an album one should listen to from front to back as it brings on a dreamy feeling of being transported to another universe.
Destroyer 666 – Wildfire
2016 saw several great thrash releases from acts such as Megadeth, Testament, and Vektor, but none are as good as Destroyer 666’s newest outing. After a 7 year gap, these thrash titans return with Wildfire.This album is all killer, no filler and gives a feeling of excitement that is very uncommon in todays music.
Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct
Metallica defied time and age in 2016 with their tenth album, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Thrashy, aggressive and loud. Despite the eight year gap in between albums, Hardwired managed to debut at number one on the Billboard Top 200; their sixth straight studio album to do so. This modern metal masterpiece is no doubt a “new” classic in the eyes of Metallica fans.
Giraffe Tongu Orchestra – Broken Lines
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra exploded onto the metal scene in a big way in 2016. Featuring members of Alice in Chains and Mastodon, GTO proves to be one of the few “supergroups” who created a fresh, exciting sound rather than just a blender version of their members’ day jobs. While GTO won’t make you want to forget about the bands these members have cut their teeth in, they certainly have done a good job of providing metal fans with 2016’s craziest debut.
Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies
While, the doomy, crushing riffs are reassuringly familiar, Crowbar sound re-invigorated and re-energised on this monolithic beast of an album. The band has produced a stellar set of songs that allow the band to do what they do best but still push at the edges of their sound. This is a mature Crowbar album but only in the way that they seem totally sure of themselves. An album that clearly demonstrates why Crowbar are seated at the top table of doom metal.
Phobocosm – Bringer Of Drought
Montreal’s Phobocosm expand on their old school death metal sound on this, their second album. The band mix doom and post metal with healthy (unhealthy?!) amounts of visceral death metal thrown in to create a riotous metal storm. The band has succeeded in the admirable task of looking back at the beginnings of death metal to mix in enough new elements to make this more than your average death metal album. This is certainly no immediate sugar rush of an record. It requires you to spend time with it. To run head long into the black mist. It begs for commitment and if you give it, the rewards are there. Just hope you can still find your way back.
Switchtense – Flesh & Bone
Portugal’s Switchtense offers up a merciless, rapid and fierce slab of thrash metal that will tick all the right boxes for thrash metal fans. Although, it doesn’t have the same genre expanding reach of Sepultura’s finest work, there are certainly similarities. The band’s sound has clearly developed over the years and while one would stop short of saying this is a mature album, their sound has certainly evolved. It’s a monolithic, barely contained thrash beast. A suitably nihilistic take on thrash metal that gets the pulse racing. If you want an aggressive and well constructed thrash metal album, this for you