Many people will look back on 2016 as the year that the Chicago Cubs defeated Hillary Clinton in the Presidential World Series, or something to that effect. However, those of you who engage in other subjects besides politics and sports might have found pleasure in what the metal world offered in 2016.
Although the genre’s golden years are long gone, metal as a whole is in a healthy state. Some albums disappoint, others completely surprise, but fans of all different styles of metal have at least a few albums that will give them something great to remember 2016 by as they transcend into the next year. If you have not found any at all this year, here are five excellent releases that I would recommend:
5. Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper "Walking in the Shadows"
Frontman Steve Grimmett ensures fans that his new musical comrades have mastered and perfected the Grim Reaper songwriting formula. Much of the material on Walking is fast, ambitious, memorable, refreshed, and—most of all—sounds like vintage Grim Reaper. “I’m Coming For You” proves that the Reaper can always finds a use for cowbell in metal. Additionally, “Reach Out”, “Wings of Angels”, “Call Me in the Morning”, and “Walking in the Shadows”, are some songs that exemplify their sound and are just as entertaining on record as
they are at their live shows. Grimmett’s pipes are still just as important to the Reaper sound as
ever, and thankfully, have held up very well.
4. Hobbs Angel of Death "Heaven Bled"
With a new Italian rhythm section from Violentor and Swedish shredder accompanying him, Australian guitarist/vocalist Peter Hobbs has finally issued his first new studio album in over two decades. Hobbs’s Slayer-inspired sound is still very recognizable, but now there are some black
metal tendencies incorporated into the mix. There are plenty of slower and even cleaner parts
on the album from a musical level. As the title might indicate, Peter’s dry, aging growl barks the
most crude and blasphemous lyrics that have crossed his mind. Simon Wizen’s prolific solos
blend sweeping, tapping, harmony, and the tremolo bar wonderfully and help this line-up stand
out. Peter Hobbs and Co. deliver exactly the kind of harsh, vile music that we always rely on
Australian metal bands to release.
3. Mortem "Deinos Necromantis"
Though the song “Liquified Blood of the Saints” was released as a single a few years ago, this is
the first full-length album Lima, Peru’s Mortem has issued in over a decade. I did not know
about it until a few weeks after its release date. After random whammy bar dives layered
under incomprehensible belching for the first nineteen seconds, the wild, heavy riffing that
follows may not be as fast as you would like. However, the pre-chorus speeds things up, then
finally bursts into an intense chorus full of blast beats. Deinos Necromantis is best summarized
as pure, old-school death metal bliss in the vein of early Morbid Angel. The Trey Azagthoth
influence has an important role in the catalogue of riffs, but is also a vital reason why the lead
work is one of the best things about the album. Sure, there is a lot of whammy bar reliance, but
Fernan Nebiros and Christian Jhon always make sure to demonstrate that creating an intense
solo involves a lot more than just excessive dives. By the same token, they know that death
metal is not exclusively made up of ultra-fast tempos, and they are just as heavy and creative
during the album’s many slower moments. However, apart from one Venom cover, this 36-
minute encyclopedia of death metal riffage is so unwavering that it may take a few listens to find
highlights. On the other hand, there may not be a stand-out track because the whole album is
so consistently great. It is difficult to even place this gem at #3.
2. Exumer "The Raging Tides"
These cult German thrash heroes seem to be developing a pattern of using fire in one album
title, and mentioning a current or body of water on the next one. Don’t take that to mean that
they’ve watered down their sound; fans of 2012’s Fire and Damnation will be enthralled by
Exumer’s fourth outing. Vocalist Mem von Stein is still notably recognizable, and the anger Mem
expresses compensates viciously for the fading of his teenage falsetto. There has been a huge
leap forward in the guitar solo department with the assistance of new six-stringer Marc Brutus
(also from Everflow and Jitterbug). Furthermore, all of the musicians sound tighter than ever,
demonstrating that proper execution is more persuasive than trying to make this album faster
than the predecessor. “Shadow Walker” is one highlight worth mentioning due to the strong
vocal performance in the chorus and stomping mid-tempo riffs.
1. Testament "The Brotherhood of the Snake"
The same bands that would have my vote for best releases of 2012 top my list again in 2016,
but what can I say? These are two bands that I am always anxious to hear new releases from
due to their brilliant consistency and aggression. When a band is this far into their career,
chances are their audience is looking for an album that captures their identity without showing
signs of writer’s block. Testament holds the top spot here because that’s exactly what they’ve
accomplished with The Brotherhood, and that is certainly not a task any band can achieve.
However, the five musicians that comprise Testament’s current line-up have the talent to pull it off. Furthermore, with all of this talk about impressive guitar solos being an important factor in
ranking these albums, how could Testament not be on the list? Yet it is not just the fact that this
album is so full of talent and true to the Testament sound that makes it great; it’s arguably one of
the most brutal albums they’ve ever released. Faster blast beats and fewer clean guitar parts
are to be expected on this one, as you can find out for yourself with one listen to the opening
track. Choosing favorites is a difficult task because the whole album is excellent from start to
Re-issue of the year:
Persecution "Tortured Existence"
You might think that the idea of ranking a super-obscure four-song demo by a band that never
released a full-length album as the re-issue of the year is inane or frivolous. If you’ve heard this
particular demo, you would not think that for a second. Originally called No Remorse, the band’s
1988 demo Stroke of Death (also included in this re-release), was not as fast as one would
hope and is watered down through its punkish vocals. The 1989 demo that followed with their
name change, however, gave this Melbourne, Victoria act the honorary citation of best unsigned
band by Metal Forces the following year. Persecution bloomed with a generous catalogue of
frantic thrash riffs in the vein of Kreator and Sepultura, but they had some death metal leanings
in the vocal department. Even during the slower moments, the band refused to yield the sheer
tension and build-up of the material. Tortured Existence was recently re-issued on CD, with a
very limited pressing of 500 copies, by Dark Symphonies Records. This is one violent and
bestial demo that left me wishing this band had recorded a few full-length albums!