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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Rich's Top 20 Of 2016

2016 has been a shitty year in general but thankfully has been an exceptionally good year for heavy music with a plethora of jaw-dropping releases. With so many impressive albums released a top 10 list would have been a very tough call but thankfully I was allowed to do a top 20 list which was a much easier yet still daunting task. Here goes..

20. Epica - The Holographic Principle

Epica released one of the best albums of their career with 2014's The Quantum Enigma but with The Holographic Principle they just about surpassed it with both the symphonic and metal elements cranked into overdrive. Epic in every sense of the word and one of the best albums the band has released.

19. Rotting Christ - Ritual's

Rotting Christ have been on a roll since the release of Theogonia in 2007 with a batch of incredible albums. 'Rituals' is no exception with the Greek's brand of melodic black metal taking a more atmospheric yet epic direction.

18. Vektor - Terminal Redux

Vektor are one of the most exciting young thrash bands to emerge in recent years. With two fantastic albums already under their belts 'Terminal Redux' takes the formula previously laid and ramps up the songwriting and compositions to unleash a devastating technical thrash metal attack.

17. Dark Tranquillity - Atoma

Dark Tranquillity are one of Sweden's most influential melodic death metal bands and after a couple of disappointing releases they upped their game with Atoma releasing easily their best album since 2007's Fiction. Brilliantly atmospheric and melancholic melodic death metal.

16. Anthrax - For All Kings

Their second album with Joey Belladonna back behind the mic and easily the best album they have released since 1990's Persistence Of Time. A mix of old school thrash and modern heavy metal 'For All Kings' is anthemic and melodic yet hard and thrashing.

15. DGM - The Passage

DGM are a band I have heard odds and ends by but never really given the time of day to but this album absolutely blew me away. Progressive power metal which is soaringly melodic and catchy but at the same time brutally heavy and intense. A must hear album for any fans of melodic metal.

14. Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake

The Bay Area thrash veterans released one of their most eye wateringly intense albums with Brotherhood Of The Snake taking some cues from modern thrash and extreme metal and adding to their classic thrash sound. Brutally heavy and also insanely catchy. Another fine addition to the Testament discography.

13. Evergrey - The Storm Within

Evergrey released one of the finest albums of their long career with 2014's Hymns For The Broken but have somehow managed to top that with The Storm Within. The album takes the bands signature sound of dark melancholic melodic metal and gives it a modern twist. A fine album in an already incredible discography.

12. Solitude - Reach For The Sky

This album really took me by surprise as it was the first thing I had ever heard by this band and it blew my socks off. Hailing from Japan, Solitude play a devastating combination of traditional heavy metal and speed metal but with a passion and intensity I haven't heard in a long time. If this doesn't get your blood pumping not much will.

11. Death Angel - The Evil Divide

Another Bay Area thrash veteran and another stunning thrash album. Like Testament, Death Angel take their classic thrash and mix it with a modern metal sound to create an album that is fast and pummeling but equally melodic and anthemic plus a career best performance from vocalist Mark Osegueda. The finest thrash release of 2016.

10. In The Woods... - Pure

After an absence of sixteen years, In The Woods... returned with their fourth album and a mighty fine comeback it was. Straying from the avant-garde progressive metal sounds of their last album In The Woods... took a more atmospheric, doomy and melancholic route. A fantastic return.

9. Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika

Moonsorrow with their seventh album built upon their established epic folk sound but this time around added in a bit of a more raw black metal sound. At times more epic sounding than they ever have and also more grim and evil. A fantastic album.

8. Katatonia - The Fall Of Hearts

Sweden's masters of gloom returned with another spellbinding addition to their discography. Taking their dark melancholic sound and adding more progressive elements than previously this album sounded like classic Katatonia mixed with a bit of Opeth, Steven Wilson and Tool. An absolutely beautiful and mesmerising release.

7. Insomnium - Winter's Gate

Insomnium released their most ambitious album to date - a concept album made up of one song split into seven parts. A bit of a bold move but one that ultimately paid off as this is probably the finest release by the band. Taking their already established melancholic melodic death metal sound and incorporating more progressive elements this is one of the must hear metal albums of 2016.

6. Ihsahn - Arktis

Ihsahn has been releasing some of the finest progressive metal albums of recent years in my opinion. After the oddball more avant-garde leaning Das Seelenbrechen album in 2013, Ihsahn released a slightly more straight forward but also increasingly diverse album with some of his finest songwriting to date.

5. Oathbreaker - Rheia

Oathbreaker turned heads with the release of Rheia. Previously known for their blackened strain of hardcore Oathbreaker went in a different direction and produced a masterpiece of atmospheric black metal highly influenced by shoegaze but with also a few touches of hardcore. An absolutely breathtaking and intense album.

4. Anaal Nathrakh - The Whole Of The Law

Anaal Nathrakh are one of the most terrifyingly intense sounding bands in extreme metal and with The Whole Of The Law they seemed to push their sound into further depths of intensity and terror. A mix of black metal, grindcore and industrial that absolutely destroys everything in its path.

3. Alcest - Kodama

After 2014's stripped back and metal free album Shelter, Alcest have returned to their established sound mixing together atmospheric black metal, shoegaze and dream pop in their own unique style whilst taking influence from Japanese culture. A true return to form and one of their finest releases.

2. 40 Watt Sun - Wider Than The Sky

40 Watt Sun took a different approach with this album by removing the dense distorted guitars of their debut album The Inside Room resulting in a very natural stripped back sound. This works gloriously and the result is one of the most heartfelt, melancholic and emotionally charged albums I have heard since the last Anathema release. Although not doom in sound this album is doom in spirit. Essential listening.

1. Devin Townsend Project - Transcendance

I will fully admit that I am a massive fan of all things Devin Townsend very rarely being let down by his music. Unfortunately with the Z2 double album I was very underwhelmed so went into this new album with a bit of trepidation. I needn't have worried as Devin has released one of the absolute finest albums of his career. A very spiritual and emotional sounding record with Devin's trademark wall of sound I literally had goosebumps from the moment this album started to its end. A may be a bit biased as a Hevy Devy megafan but this was clearly the album of the year for me.

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