Matt Coe Best-of 2016

Sunday, 18th December 2016

An easy method for choosing songs of the year would be to look at my favorite albums and pick a song from ten of them. Alas, the manner of choice for 2016 would be to spotlight different bands who were unable to make my top twelve on the album front, yet still have importance because their material also moved me.

These songs work for various reasons: catchiness, intensity, shock and awe, or just genuine emotional connectivity. It’s hard to create the next “Heaven and Hell” or “The Trooper” in today’s quick fix music consumption model, but these are tracks that will stay with me far beyond the end of the year list.

1. Serious Black – Castor Skies (from Mirrorworld)
Quickly issuing a strong second album, Serious Black deliver a potent European melodic power metal offering. You can’t go wrong with the keyboard/ guitar syncopation action here, as well as the stellar melodies from Urban Breed.

2. My Missing Half- The Cell I Call Home (from A Proper Hangman’s Knot)
One of my favorite young bands in the melodic death metal genre, My Missing Half hail from Massachusetts. Sending chills due to their mixture of aggressive riffing, Bijan’s harsh vocals, and the melodic twists especially during the instrumental sections in the guitar department make this a constant, adrenaline-fueled go to track.

3. Gojira – Silvera (from Magma)
An act certain to ensure metal’s vitality for the current scene, Gojira time and again astound due to their rhythmic propensity and other worldly vibe, beyond being environmentally conscious on the lyric front. This song features a great main hook and alternate, ethereal chorus parts, beyond the tapping break.

4. Trick or Treat- The Great Escape (from Rabbits Hill Part 2)
Italian power metal that brings us back to the prime time Helloween Keepers era with a bit of Sonata Arctica in terms of active riffing, double bass drumming, and soaring vocals. Who says this sub-genre is dead and buried? Not these gentlemen…

5. Revocation – Arbiters of the Apocalypse (from Great Is Our Sin)
Fusing progressive thrash and death with intricacy, technicality, and taste – Boston’s Revocation continue to amaze this deep into their career. This album opener swirls about in malevolent matrimony, the growls and clean melodies building against the intensity of the riffs and tempos. Little surprise they were one of the Summer Slaughter tour hits this season.

6. Death Angel – Lost (from The Evil Divide)
The Bay Area thrash scene has come back full circle- Death Angel being one of the benefactors of renewed interest. This is probably the most commercial track on their latest album, but the smart transitions and Mark’s stellar choice of delivery keeps this top of mind. They’ve come a long way since their teen start – proving that persistence pays.

7. Heaven’s Cry – The Human Factor (from Outcast)
A lot time supporter of this Canadian progressive metal act since their debut album Food For Thought Substitute, their ability to deliver strong vocal harmonies due to multiple singers gives Heaven’s Cry that added difference advantage. This eight-minute cut contains circular repetition as well as a killer narrative midway through, while also keeping the musicianship on high stun mode.

8. Avantasia – Mystery of a Blood Red Rose (from Ghost Lights)
Tobias Sammet has two headline status acts in Edguy and Avantasia – this track bringing out his Meatloaf / Jim Steinman bombast affinities. Finally hitting North America for a special show earlier this year in New York City, it’s always exciting to see what Tobias and his merry guests will cook up release after release.

9. Exmortus – Let Us Roam (from Ride Forth)
California’s Exmortus get a lot of air guitar mavens dancing due to the shredding chops and neo-classical arpeggio action going on from Jardan ‘Conan’ Gonzalez and David Rivera. This cut has the shape shifting traditional air with plenty of double bass bursts and weaving lead breaks to become an anthem for today’s generation.

10. Be’lakor – An Ember’s Arc (from Vessels)
Melodic, dark, and progressive death metal – Australia’s Be’lakor slide into facets very welcome to the tastes of our webzine. “An Ember’s Arc” in its 8:43 timeframe touches all bases – tranquil at first, epic and cultural nuances keep the aural anticipation on high, as well as the sudden blast beats and flurry of growls. Only a matter of time before critical acclaim translates into a wider reaching audience.

Biggest Surprise of the Year: Helloween Reunion Announcement
Those who’ve read a lot about the animosity regarding ex-vocalist Michael Kiske and guitarist Michael Weikath that has always put a unification on hold probably seem stunned by the turnabout of events – but we can look forward to a reunion tour with Kiske, guitarist Kai Hansen, and the current Helloween lineup for 2017-18. A full three hour plus show is in the works to cover all eras of the band’s three decade plus discography – including some US tour dates. You can bet many Dead Rhetoric writers will be in attendance for the legendary pumpkin men.

Best Newcomer of the Year: Goldenhall
Given my love of the New England metal scene, it’s surprising to hear a band these days willing to fuse epic power metal with melodic death/extreme overtones, rounding things out with a classically-trained baritone singer. That’s what we have though in Goldenhall, who issued a potent self-titled EP this past summer while beginning to play out live to spread their wares. If names like Falconer, Orden Ogan, Sabaton, In Flames, Insomnium, and Ensiferum mean the world to you, prepare to keep a close on this Rhode Island quintet.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year: Q5
Steel the Light is one of the US metal legacy records from this Washington outfit. 30 years later, New World Order attempts to deliver those similar classic hooks and riffs, but suffers from monotonous choruses and lackluster songwriting that should have more bite. We’ll see if the long-timers give Q5 another chance.

View larger image HERE
Best Cover Art: Spellcaster
In the pre-internet period of music consumption, you often had to hope that a record would be good based solely on the cover art. In the case of Portland, Oregon’s Spellcaster – the darkened sky as well as an alluring opening into a skull horizon would have me hooked right away, beyond the fact that their traditional heavy metal stance keeps the flame alive as a younger generation band to uphold.

Best Concert: Metal Church – April 8, 2016 – The Chance, Poughkeepsie, NY
Seems to be a reunion theme going on this year, but Metal Church brought Mike Howe back in the fold for another go-around, recording a new studio album XI and then touring all across the globe to prove he still has the melodic range and chops that made Blessing in Disguise another mainstay in the band’s catalog. The band exceeded expectations – showcasing the late 80’s/early 90’s work many never got to witness live the first time around, while also capturing David Wayne classics “Watch the Children Prey” and “Beyond the Black”.

Most Anticipated Album of 2017: Saxon
If there is any NWOBHM band able to establish as strong of a presence today due to the balance between modern production values and creatively developing new albums worthy of playback as they educate the young on the classics, it’s Saxon. Will they be able to top Battering Ram? Who knows… but it’s exciting and exhilarating to root for Biff and the boys, as they still know how to deliver on stages small and large.

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