2016 has been a strong year for metal with some big releases spanning all the metal sub-genres. Even in January and February the albums were flying with Megadeth‘s thrash fest Dystopia and Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s symphonic juggernaut King. With so many musicians creating great music it’s been hard to pick a top few.
Before we go into this year’s top metal album a few honourable mentions. To kick off is Transcendence, the latest creation to come from The Devin Townsend Project. The album is a mixture of all the elements heard on previous albums from The Devin Townsend Project, featuring sections of slow, hard hitting riffs, epic long progressive songs, and effervescent melodies and harmonies. It’s a must for any Devin Townsend fans, and while not the heaviest of albums, it’s an album that requires several listens to appreciate fully.
The next honourable mention goes to Magma by Gojira. This is an album that was eagerly awaited by Metal fans as it had been four long years since Gojira’s previous release, L’Enfant Savage. Some people were unsure when they first heard the new tracks as they were slowly drip fed to us before the release of the album. There were more clean vocals compared to Gojira’s previous releases. When the album was finally released it became clear that Gojira were once again evolving into a more refined version of their former selves. While the heavier vocal style had been reigned in and used in a more reserved style, the overall sound had taken a more brooding and melancholic turn, with lots of musical intricacies buried in the songs writing and production.
Our last honourable mention goes to Babymetal with their second release, Metal Resistance. While Babymetal divide opinion within the Metal community for being considered manufactured, there is no denying that within camp Babymetal there is some truly talent musicians at work. The vast variety of musical styles explored on Metal Resistance is admirable, ranging from fast paced power metal in the opening track ‘Road of Resistance‘, which was co-written by Dragonforce members, Herman Li and Sam Totman, to the electronically infused ‘From Dusk Till Dawn‘, culminating in the feel good ballad ‘The One‘. Credit must also be given to the Kami Band who play all the music during the live performances and are so incredibly spot on that they puts some other much bigger acts to shame.
Finally we move onto the top metal album for 2016. As previously mentioned there have been so many great releases this year it has been hard to choose just one, but 2016 saw Meshuggah release new music for the first time in four years and in true Meshuggah style, it was a mind bending masterclass in musical complexity, featuring all of the trademark musical elements one comes to expect from the band. This is by far the least accessible album on the list but once you start peeling back the layers of polyrhythms, polymeters, chromatic riffs, and unusual hypermeters, it is an extremely rewarding listening experience. What makes this record even more impressive is that rather than each instrument being tracked individually, as is common practise these days, the band were all recorded at the same time to capture the essence of playing together. Considering the sheer complexity of the music, being able to play so tightly and in sync with each other is an achievement in itself. The album doesn’t rely just on high speed playing to impress. One song may start off with a high paced riff, but a slow, sludgy, chromatic riff won’t be far behind. ‘Nosturm‘ contains a notable drum performance from Tomas Hakke, containing more snare hits in a 5 minute track than most pop artists have on an entire album. For those interested a drum playthrough of ‘Nostrum‘ can be found on YouTube.
2016 hasn’t been the easiest of years for many, but the metal genre is still alive and kicking and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.