Best-of 2016 Musician Picks

Tuesday, 3rd January 2017

In addition to our own staff picks this year, we thought it might be fun to reach out to some members of the metal community and get their thoughts on the best releases of 2016. Check them out, as well as their own projects! We’ve provided a link to a song from each act who contributed a list to us.

Chris Roy (vocalist of Vermithrax)
1. Flotsam & Jetsam – Flotsam & Jetsam
2. Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
3. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
4. Evergrey – The Storm Within
5. Ghost – Meliora

Michael Bastholm Dahl (vocalist of Artillery)
1. Airbourne – Breakin’ Outta Hell
2. Motörhead – Clean Your Clock
3. Ulver – Atgclvlsscap
4. Megadeth – Dystopia
5. Abbath – Abbath

Katie Thompson (vocalist of Chiasma)
1. Bent Knee – Say So
2. Fallujah – Dreamless
3. Animals as Leaders – Madness of Many
4. Shokran – Exodus
5. Symbion Project – Arcadian

Jelena Dobric (vocalist of Persona)
1. Dream Theater – The Astonishing
2. Rotting Christ – Rituals
3. Myrath – Legacy
4. Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
5. Delain – Moonbathers

Marco Pastorino (guitarist of Secret Sphere, Temperance, Light & Shade)
1. Opeth – Sorceress
2. Glenn Hughes – Resonate
3. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
4. Tesseract – Errai
5. Evergrey – The Storm Within

Todd Farnham (bassist of Amiensus, Invidiosus)
1. Ihsahn – Arktis: I was first introduced to Ihsahn’s music in college by a friend of mine, since I had not heard much Emperor yet at the time. He pulled up the track “Unhealer,” knowing how much I like Mikael Akerfeldt, and it blew my mind. A duel between death growls and black metal shrieks, and by two of the most iconic vocalists of their genres? Genius. Since then, every album Ihsahn has released has ended up on my year end list, although never this high. On Arktis, Ihsahn took everything that I love about his solo albums, minus the experimentation of Das Seelenbrechen, and added pop song structures and melodic, catchy hooks.

2. Haken – Infinity: While I had come across Haken before in passing, I did not take the time to actually listen to them in depth until a friend who knew that I liked Leprous showed them to me. When she showed me The Mountain, it was an instant classic, and I listened to it on repeat innumerous times while playing Dark Souls. I should preface that in talking about Affinity, that I missed out on the Restoration EP, but judging from The Mountain, it seems as though Haken took what they perfected on that album and blended it with hints of pop and 80’s nostalgia. A perfect example of this is the track “1985,” a favorite of fans from what I have seen, a nine minute that is very evocative of a Rocky training montage. If “1985” is not a track that makes you grin from the ironic cheesiness and the feel good mood, something may be wrong with you.

3. Obscura – Akroasis: Obscura is a band that had fallen off the radar for me in recent years, despite the fact that their song “Anticosmic Overload” almost single-handedly introduced me to technical death metal. The band caught my attention again when they announced Sebastian Lanser as their new drummer, whose work with Panzerballett I had been following for years. From that announcement alone, I knew that their next album would be formidable, but I did not know that my favorite part of Akroasis would be guitarist Tom Geldschläger, whom I had never heard of prior to the album. Geldschläger’s guitar leads, both fretted and fretless, lent a new and unique melodic sense to the band’s sound, and his contributions stood out to me over the already amazing performances by the rest of the band, particularly Lanser and bassist Linus Klausenitzer. I am curious to see where the band will go from here without Geldschläger, who was let go after internal disputes, as this album will be a hard one to top.

4. öOoOoOoOoOo (Chenille) – Samen: Earlier this year, I came across the band öOoOoOoOoOo, also called Chenille, when they were first signed by Apathia Records, who my band Amiensus is signed to. Shortly after the signing announcement, the first single was released, and I was hooked to say the least. After the band UneXpect, a favorite of mine, officially dissolved in 2015, I was left with a hole in my heart that only a special type of avant-garde music could fill. Chenille’s debut album, Samen, happens to be exactly what I was looking for.

A perfect blend of structure and chaos, Samen is a collection of meticulously crafted avantgarde pop songs with a heavy sprinkling of metal, amongst other influences. The album features fantastic songwriting by multi-instrumentalist Baptiste Bertrand, complimented by the drumming of
Aymeric Thomas (Pryapisme), but the real highlight of this album for me is the vocal performance by vocalist Asphodel. Asphodel showcases her amazing versatility as a vocalist across the length of Samen, a toolbox of voices and styles that comes very close to Mike Patton in my humble opinion. I would highly recommend this album to anyone interested in the final result of mashing Florence + the Machine, Mr. Bungle, Die Antwoord, and Diablo Swing Orchestra together in a cooking pot.

5. Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts: Katatonia’s new album, The Fall of Hearts, is an album that I did not initially foresee adding to my year end list. As the follow up to Dead End Kings, an album that I still count amongst my very favorite of all time, I was very disappointed when I first heard the album. Gone was the cohesiveness of Dead End Kings, the short but focused songs, the melodies that I had committed to memory with such ease. Instead, The Fall of Hearts is an album that took me a lot of time to digest, but one that I am glad I stuck with. In part, I believe it is due to Katatonia experimenting with the sound that they developed on Dead End Kings. With new band members, and a continuing shift from their roots, I think that was to be expected. Overall, besides a few ideas that missed their mark for me, I think that Katatonia nailed the sound they were looking for, an excellent showcase of how they continue to evolve.

Connor McNamee (clean vocalist, guitarist, main songwriter of Minarchist)
1. The Dear Hunter – Act V: Hymns With The Devil in Confessional: The Dear Hunter is my all-time favorite band, so this was kind of a shoe-in to be my record of the year. That said, Act V absolutely exceeded all expectations. It actually sort of made writing this list hard, as pulling myself away from this record long enough to give anything else my full attention was pretty challenging most of the time. This album is full of catchy hooks, over-the-top orchestration and tons of subtle references to other songs, both within the album and across the other four Acts. The songwriting and musicianship downright exceptional, Casey’s voice shines as always, and the storyline of the series continues in heart-wrenching and beautiful fashion. If you haven’t heard it yet, this album is definitely worth a listen.

2. John Paul White – Beulah: As a long-time fan of JP’s previous work as part of The Civil Wars, I was really excited to hear that he was finally releasing some solo material. The music is simple and straightforward, but it’s also brutally honest and emotionally raw. These songs touch on love and loss in ways that are genuinely touching. Definitely an album capable of bringing a tear to your eye.

3. Aborted – Retrogore: This album is just pure, fun, catchy death metal at its absolute finest. I checked these guys out on the recommendation of Jerry Martin, the vocalist from Minarchist, and was absolutely stunned. Aborted doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means – they’re playing fast and brutal deathgrind – but man, do they do it better than anyone I’ve ever heard. Perfectly executed and brutal from beginning to end.

4. Daughter – Not To Disappear: Daughter is another new discovery for me this year, and one I’m really excited about. They play this slow, deep post-rock full of incredibly sad lyrics delivered by Elena Tonra’s gorgeous voice and it absolutely cuts to the soul. Pretty minimalistic in terms of instrumentation, but overall it hits you right in the feels and ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

5. Fallujah – Dreamless: Fallujah is one of the most talked-about bands in modern death metal, and it’s because they’ve crafted a sound that is completely their own. It seems to me that they placed a conscious focus on creating groovier, more restrained vibes on this record compared to previous releases and I think they do so to great success. And, while it’s not a perfect 10 for me, it does feature “The Void Alone,” a song so good it would have earned the album a spot on my list all by itself.