J. Coleman Best-of 2016

Wednesday, 21st December 2016

Picking my top songs of the year turned out to be a bit more difficult than I imagined it would be. I firmly believe in creating albums with the concept in mind the songs should work together as a whole to create and experience together, but as I was tasked to make this list I sat down and tried to pick tracks that I thought were great representations from albums I enjoyed this year.

Most of the songs are of course from favorite releases of the year, which just makes sense, while others were stand out tunes that caught my attention (*cough Metallica *cough). So, fire up your Spotify playlists and enjoy.

1. Harakiri for the Sky – “Funeral Dreams” (from III: Trauma)
I dare you to listen to this song once and NOT replay the damn thing. It’s got some of the most memorable guitar melodies I’ve heard in a long time and even in it’s overwhelming melancholy it still gleans that light is at the end of the tunnel. Flat out: fucking brilliant.

2. Destroyer 666 – “Hounds at ya back” (from Wildfire)
Need a fist pumping anthem? K.K.’s got ya’ covered and “Hounds at ya back” is a middle finger salvo to anyone that would try to keep you down.

3. Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate Pt. 1” (from Winter’s Gate)
Basically this album is one long song, but holy shit if this number didn’t totally take me by surprise. This song brought back memories In the Halls of Awaiting all over again, and I was certainly ready to enjoy the journey.

4. Saor – “Tears of a Nation” (from Guardians)
What a way to end an album. Epic as if James Horner himself descended back to earth and wrote a metal song. If this doesn’t make you want to don blue war paint and fight for freedom, I don’t know what will.

5. Katatonia – “The Night Subscriber” (from The Fall of Hearts)
I love Katatonia and think the new album is great, but this song in particular stood out. Sure it doesn’t have the wow factor of “Pale Flag”, but it’s got a great Cure style riff that just won’t quit.

6. Be’lakor – “An Embers Arc” from Vessels)
These guys manage to cram tons of riffs into each song, reminding me of Edge of Sanity (riff o rama’s if you will) and I love it. This track in particular just draws me in and that ending solo bit that comes out of nowhere, amazing.

7. Khemmis – “Three Gates” taken (from Hunted)
Khemmis channeled their inner High on Fire for this hesher and it pays big. Starting with sludged out riffs and D beat fury this one unfolds into a memorable anthem that is as pummeling as it is reflective.

8. Wayfarer – “Catcher” (from Old Souls)
It’s got a great opening riff, catch verses and sticks in your head. For a black metal song to do that, I consider it a win.

9. Thrawsunblat – “Fires That Light the Earth” (from Metachthonia)
A ripping combination of folk violin, soaring vocals and frantic guitar work that all collides together to make one hell of an epic tune. The wayt this song just effortlessly shifts and flows makes it near 11 minute run time seem like nothing at all. A testament to how well-crafted this and every song on the album is.

10. Metallica – “Spit Out the Bone” (from Hardwired to Self-Destruct)
I had to include this, but why you ask (or don’t)? I was expecting absolutely nothing from Metallica, and frankly they don’t owe the metal world shit, but this song recalls some of their best work that could sit alongside any cut from …And Justice for All. Hardwired is average at best, but this song show the elder metal men can still bash it out.

Biggest surprise of the year: Akercocke
No question, the return of Akercocke. Akercocke are one of my all-time favorite artists. They have a brilliant discography and their last release prior to ressurction, The Antichrist, felt like and unfinished chapter in their book. A welcome return the metal world actually needed.

Best newcomer: Sojourner
A relatively new band who released their debut, Empires of Ash (Avante Garde), earlier this year, Sojourner manage to capture moments of Summoning, Nokturnal Mortum into an interesting mix of black metal with folk tendencies. Empires shows a young band with a ton of talent and creativity, it only barley missed out on my top picks for the year.

Biggest Disappointment: Agalloch
Only second to the massive amount of musicians passing away is the fracturing of Agalloch. It was not only a huge disappointment because we will never get new music (from Agalloch as we knew it), but how the break up played out via social media and became a mess. It was very disheartening and was a disservice to the hard work all of the members had put into making the band name what it was.

Thrawsunblat Larger Saor Larger
Best cover art: Thrawsunblat’s Metacthonia and Saor’s Guardians
Sure I cheated and included both, but because they are both amazing pictures and are worth your time to at least peak a glance at. Nature at its finest.

Best concert: Migration Fest 2016
I could write a huge article on how great this fest was, from the amazing fest lineup that included Nightfell, Panopticon, Khemmis, Obsequiae, Magic Circle, False just to name a few…but I’ll leave it up to you, the reader to just go next year and enjoy this experience for yourself. It was like a three-day metal camp where everyone was your friend and there wasn’t a care in the world other than trying to catch the next band playing on stage.

Most anticipated album of 2017: Akercocke
2016 was an amazing year, but 2017 is gearing up to be equally fantastic and I’ll have to go with the obvious pick if you’ve been reading this, Akercocke. The teased with new track “Inner Sanctum”, so I know there’s a new album coming and I for one cannot wait. I think Akercocke have created milestones albums in the past with The Goat of Mendes and Words that go Unspoken, Deeds that go Undone, so there is no doubt what they have in store will decimate my expectations.

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