Παρασκευή, 6 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The metal albums we enjoyed most in 2016

2016 was a great year for metal music. When you are working in music industry and being part of a record label, store, magazine and website, you are associated with musicians, labels, promoters and editors daily, so metal besides of music, is your reality. One more year, I had the opportunity to listen to many new albums, but still, no one can say that listened everything. Everyone who claims that, is wrong. Also, you need to check the physical format to have the complete experience of an album, and not just have a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. There are also the unlucky ones (the albums that released during December) that haven't got all the proper attention, since a few plays are not enough.



Below you will find (for start) 10 albums that I enjoyed most in 2016, and some of them (like 'The Eternalist') will follow me for the years to come, as pure classics.

1. AGATUS - The Eternalist
14 years have passed since the last Agatus album ('The Weaving Fates', 2002) but this long wait worth’s every single day, because with this release we witness history in the making. 'The Eternalist' is a genre-breaking album that captures the soul and passion of metal music through the visionary mind of its creator, Eskarth The Dark One. The Dark is without doubt a pure artist, a multi-instrumentalist, a creator with original ideas and vision. With the precious help and creative input of Vorskaath (Zemial), The Dark is offering to the metal universe an artistic creation that combines elements like the passion of Bathory, Warlord and ’70s-inspired prog melodies (in the vein of Eloy); epic majesty and pure metal that through the eyes and heart of The Dark transcends to a unique soundscape of dark heavy metal.


2. ETERNAL CHAMPION - The Armor Of Ire
Hammers, balls, guts and epic metal. One of the underground metal highlights of 2016 inspired by the Legends.


3. SUMERLANDS - Sumerlands
Genuine 80s metal worship and Phil Swanson on mic. Catchy, inspired, riff-driven and passionate, this is the kind of heavy metal we are looking (and praying) for, in the years to come.


4. FATES WARNING - Theories Of Flight
A great album by an old 80s established band. This is not something you see very often but Fates is not an ordinary band. 'Theories Of Flight' is the band's best album since 'A Pleasant SHade Of Gray' and it is filled with melody, their "regular" top notch songwriting, the best Ray Alder since ages and the heavy presence of Bobby Jarzombek. 


5. TAROT - Reflections
Do you miss Pagan Altar? 'Reflections' is the first full-length album of Tarot from Australia, after 'The Warrior's Spell', that was actually a compilation of the band's EPs. Nostalgic and beautiful, 'Reflections' is made of dreams, eerie landscapes and poetry, transformed in pure artistic music.


6. ASSASSIN'S BLADE - Agents Of Mystification
Another great debut album for 2016. A Swedish mob join forces with singer Jacques Belanger (ex-Exciter) and deliver us a pure metal offering inspired by Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, Manilla Road and the spirit of Heavy Metal.


7. KHEMMIS - Hunted
Just a year after their debut full-length album ('Absolution'), the doomsters from Denver, Colorado, return with the perfect follow-up keeping their momentum strong. Once again, a great cover catches your eye before you even listen to the five songs herein. 'Hunted' is dominated by melody, the emotional vocal performance and along with gigantic riffs and the menhir-solid rhythm section it is irritant bizarre and defies the borders of traditional doom metal. 


8. THE TEMPLE - Forevermourn
Doom metal is perhaps the hardest sub-genre of our precious music sphere to get right. It really needs spirit and true passion to achieve the right result. All the songs on 'Forevermourn' seem to be forged and conceived from sorrow, regret and struggle, inspired by bands like Solstice, Warning and Isole. This is true doom metal indeed and so few new bands can truly claim that heavy crown.


9. SPELLCASTER - Night Hides The World
These guys, from Oregon, USA, have a great evolution and you won’t believe how good their third (and best so far) album is. 'Night Hides The World' is diverse and full of catchy, feel-good melodies. It might bring you in mind to a few of the (real) greats in metal, from bits of the Alder-era Fates Warning to Queensryche and Iron Maiden.


10. SACRED STEEL - Heavy Metal Sacrifice
Well, if you want to experience Heavy Metal in its purest form, you can't go wrong with Sacred Steel. Every time I listen an album by this German metal armada, I pray to transferred in their live shows at once.



 

Top 5 + 1 EPs / singles

1. SOLSTICE - To Sol A Thane
Loud uncompromised epic metal. Not for cunts.


2. WATCHTOWER - Concepts Of Math: Book One
Decades in the making, the line-up of 'Control And Resistance' cannot fail.


3. THE DOOMSDAY KINGDOM - Never Machine
The Doomfather (Leif Edling) with Niklas Stalvind (Wolf) on vocals, deliver us 4 tracks from the Sabbath catacombs. 


4. ASCALON - Reflections
UK vigilantes and probably the best newcomers of the so called "new wave of traditional heavy metal"


5. MAUSOLEUM GATE - Metal And The Might
A unique blend of 70s sounds, obscure metal and personality.


+ BLACK SABBATH - The End
Available only during their first live shows of the final tour, this is a special edition that contains 4 new studio tracks and 4 live recordings. Those 4 new tracks are in the usual Sabbath standards. Meaning, best of the best.




2016 was a great year for metal music. After many many years, QUICKSAND DREAM released their second album 'Beheading Tyrants' and that was a really nice surprise for 2016! Doomy epic metal with beautiful melodies and a great aura surrounding the songs. Portoguese metal warriors RAVENSIRE released their best effort yet, 'The Cycle Never Ends', in the beginning of 2016 and this is what you need before the battle in order to destroy your enemies and drink blood from their skulls.

DANG 'Monstrum Ex Machina' is the absolute outsider of 2016. A great multi dimensional album with 70s rock and prog elements, doom metal, heavy atmosphere and monsters from the underworld. Completely "outside of the box" is also the latest artistic creation of ZEMIAL 'The Repairer Of Reputations' that is available only digital at the moment, but you need to check it yourself.


Two classic US power metal acts had a killer comeback. HELSTAR with 'Vampiro' and METAL CHURCH with 'XI'. The latest album of METAL CHURCH was marked by the return of vocalist Mike Howe and even if few of the previous albums with Ronny Munroe on vocals were really good, it seems that this album was what fans wanted. On the other hand, the latest HELSTAR albums were not really good and had a more aggressive edge, that wasn't welcome by many of their fans, but 'Vampiro' is their best effort since their golden years in the 80s.


From older bands, the line-up change in German power metal legends RAGE was a relief for captain Peavey and 'The Devil Strikes Again' was indeed a strike we were looking for, from this great band. However, the real captain Rock n' Rolf returned with RUNNING WILD and 'Rapid Foray', and even if there are some strongs ideas and songs in the album, he really needs to consider again the band's line-up. I think that a call to Jorg Michael (drums) will be something that fans will really appreciate.


New (or close to "new") bands had also their share in 2016 with cool and enjoyable albums like MONUMENT ('Hair Of The Dog'), DEXTER WARD ('Rendezvous With Destiny'), HIGH SPIRITS ('Motivator') BLAZON STONE ('War Of The Roses'), HITTEN ('State Of Shock'), MONASTERIUM ('Monasterium') and WYTCH HAZEL ('Prelude') but few other not so new bands like SPIRITUS MORTIS ('The Year Is One') and WIDOW ('Carved In Stone') were nearly to the very best.


Besides what I really liked in 2016, there were many more albums and bands that must be mentioned if you want to have a right and correct retrospect, but this is not the point here. However, it is always important for the metal universe when a brand name like METALLICA or MEGADETH has a new album out there, but let's keep this for other sites.


What should we expect in 2017? A new album from the other few brand names is needed. Let's say that in my dreams I am expecting an album from OZZY in the vein of 'Bark At The Moon' and 'The Ultimate Sin' but let's stay on earth, where we are waiting for new albums from HEIR APPARENT, SOLSTICE, PAINFUL PRIDE and SAXON.


News are expected on the MANILLA ROAD family, too. Three albums are ready and scheduled for release during 2017. The new MANILLA ROAD album, the new HELLWELL album where Mark Shelton is working again with Randy 'Thrasher' Foxe on drums, and also a project where Mark Shelton is working with Rick Fisher on drums.


While BLACK SABBATH is coming to an end, Tony Iommi will probably compose music easier and according to some rumors he will might write few songs with Tony Martin that probably will be part in the future (?) reissues of albums like 'Headless Cross' and 'Tyr'. Meanwhile, since he already wrote a song like 'How Good It Is', we are expecting more surprises.


Have a great, healthy and lucky 2017.


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