CastilloScientists all agree that 2016 is the worst year of anyone’s life who has ever lived, including mine. We lost a lot of musical heroes this year (both metal and otherwise), and the current political climate has brought unprecedented levels of stupidity to my doorstep. Worse yet, I am often surrounded by terrible music made by dickheads.

I’m not sure I even want to live in a world where Lemmy Kilmister is dead while Ted Nugent, David Draiman, and all five members of Aerosmith still walk the earth somehow. However, the albums below are helping me deal with it. And as always, if you disagree with this list, too bad.

Ihsahn - Arktis(ish) Ihsahn // Arktis. — To my relief and gratitude, Arktis finds Ihsahn retreating somewhat from the more avant garde/improvisational approach (read: saxophone solos) of his last couple albums, rediscovering his songwriting chops in the process. Arktis pulls influence from traditional metal (“Mass Darkness”), electronic music (“South Winds,” “Frail”), and even jazz (“Crooked Red Line”). Ihsahn is a musician of incredibly diverse tastes and abilities, and Arktis attempts to pull all of it together.

#10.  Bob Mould // Patch The Sky — Rather than waste this spot on some shit pile of 9-string guitars and AutoTune, I’m gonna educate a few of you here. In the late ’70s, Bob Mould co-founded hardcore pioneers Hüsker Du, who eventually influenced metal bands like Anthrax and Entombed. Oh, and he also wrote this little tune which some of you may recognize. Mr. Mould has been enjoying somewhat of a creative renaissance lately, leading up to Patch The Sky this year. It’s a little slower and more introspective than its recent predecessors, but still clearly the work of a master songwriter.

Abbath - Abbath#9. Abbath // Abbath — Ex-Immortal frontman and living meme, Abbath debuts his eponymous new band. Not surprisingly, the sound is a direct continuation of Immortal‘s later, riffier style, with just a hint of the more organic vibe of Abbath’s I project. The new band also allows for some new angles on Abbath‘s signature style — check out those trumpets on “Ashes Of The Damned,” or the folk guitar on “Winter Bane.” Extra old-school points are given for the ridiculous cover of Judas Priest‘s “Riding On The Wind” on the deluxe edition.

#8. Metallica // Hardwired…To Self Destruct — By the time you read this sentence, dozens of AMG readers will be tearing me a new butthole in the comments section for this pick. Don’t care. Yes, 2016 produced albums that were performed with more instrumental skill, written more effectively, and mixed with greater fidelity. However, for a span of about a half hour, 14-year-old me gets his favorite band back on Hardwired, and you can’t really argue with that feeling. Metallica‘s many flaws remain, but are often transcended through the sheer force of meathead James Hetfield riffage. Hate all you want, but Hardwired is easily the best thing that Metallica has produced in the last 25 years.

#7. Gojira // Magma — Stricken with grief and perhaps bored of chug riffs, the brothers Duplantier return from family tragedy with the hypnotic, oddly soothing Magma. The band’s usual mosh fodder is still there in smaller doses, surrounded by instances where they push outward into more trance-like, Gojira-as-Killing Joke scenarios. Most of the band’s trademarks remain (two-handed guitar tapping, atonal breakdowns), and work surprisingly well within this new framework. I still consider From Mars To Sirius the essential Gojira record, but I commend the band for trying new things and generally succeeding at them.

#6. John Wesley // A Way You’ll Never Be — John Wesley is probably best known to AMG readers as the longtime touring guitarist for Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson, but he has a deep solo catalog as well. Wesley writes progressive yet deceptively simple songs, and delivers them with a soulful voice and some fearsome Dave Gilmour guitar chops. He’s backed by an ace rhythm section, including Cynic bassist Sean Malone, which ups the prog factor considerably. The resulting songs range from Rush-like virtuoso rock to singer-songwriter introspection.  A Way You’ll Never Be feels languid and laid-back, but with an intensity boiling just below the surface.

Opeth - Sorceress#5. Opeth // Sorceress — The third album of Opeth‘s seemingly-permanent psychedelic/prog rock phase, Sorceress lacks both the shock value of Heritage and the consistency of Pale Communion. It breaks little new ground musically, instead refining and consolidating ideas explored on the previous two records. Yes, there’s a big mushy spot of filler in the middle of the record, and the sonics pale in comparison to Steven Wilson’s mixes on Communion. However, tracks like “Will O The Wisp,” “Chrysalis” and “Era” are satisfying chunks of retro goodness. Sorceress may not be quite up to Opeth‘s high standards, but it’s a fun record if taken at face value.

#4. Sumerlands // Sumerlands — Nothing makes a person feel older than seeing styles from their youth suddenly becoming “retro.” Sumerlands celebrates my exit from the target demographic with a spirited homage to late-1980s commercial-grade heavy metal. There are plenty of nods to Queensryche, Savatage, and especially Jake E. Lee-era Ozzy, wrapped in a thick atmosphere of doom. The band’s marquee name is singer Phil Swanson (Hour of 13) but for my money, the star of the show is guitarist Arthur Rizk, who delivers blistering, non-ironic performances on both lead and rhythms.  “The Guardian,” “Timelash,” and opening cut “Seventh Seal” are all winners.

Steven Wilson - 4½#3. Steven Wilson // 4 1/2 — Despite its status as an EP, 4 1/2 would be a full-length by most standards, and offers a wealth of prog-rock goodness. The opening track alone, “My Book Of Regrets,” is a 9-minute tour de force that single-handedly justifies this EP’s existence. There are some fine instrumental jams as well, and the upbeat-by-Wilson-standards “Happiness III.” The album ends with a re-imagining of Porcupine Tree oldie “Don’t Hate Me,” with incredibly dynamic vocalist Ninet Tayib at the mic. Wilson is currently the reigning king of progressive music, and 4 1/2 proves that even his so-called “leftovers” are easily on par with anything else the genre has to offer.

#2. Fates Warning // Theories of Flight — If 2013’s Darkness In A Different Light was a comeback, then Theories is the next leap forward for Fates Warning. The veteran band sounds energetic and rejuvenated, as evidenced by the surprising ratio of heavy, complex riffs and musical ideas here. When those elements are combined with the emotional weight of their more recent output, the results are effective on multiple levels. Vocalist Ray Alder sounds better than he has in years, and guitarist/mastermind Jim Matheos is in peak songwriting form.

#1. Hammers of Misfortune // Dead Revolution — Returning from a longer-than-usual absence, John Cobbett and his Hammers Of Misfortune remind me why I even bother listening to music in the first place. Great songwriting. Fantastic fucking riffs. Real drums. Real vocals, of the male, female and co-ed variety. This album takes almost everything I enjoy about rock/metal music and gives it a big-ass bear hug. Hammers of Misfortune have made great records before, but Dead Revolution is their crowning achievement so far. Let’s hope it doesn’t take them another five years to release the follow-up.

Honorable Mentions

  • Dawnbringer // XX
  • Lybria // Apogee
  • Vektor // Terminal Redux
  • Moon Tooth // Chromaparagon
  • Charles Bradley // Changes



Share →
  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    so uhhh…

    bad year?

  • AndySynn

    No Flashdance?

    • Grymm

      king flashdance apocalypse?

  • Bold list, Fisting.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      In every sense of the word.

      • I think your brain exploded when you saw Gojira and Metallica on the same year end list ABF! :-)

        @Fisting: I too think very highly of that Metallica record as well. We can start a support group.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          The whole list got me in a twist. A Steve Wilson demo, a 4.0 AOTY, Fates Warnings coming in at #2, Sorceress being in the list rather than being a brief mention, Arktis being a brief mention rather than in the list, Abbath making an appearance at all, a Bob Mould introductory lesson… The only two that didn’t completely surprise me were Summerlands and John Wesley.

          • The Jimmies have been rustled.

          • I think Fisting is trolling you dude!

          • Dr_Fisting

            I’m here to entertain as well as educate.
            Also, Hammers taking the #1 spot should come as no surprise to anyone.

        • Dr_Fisting

          I’m in. Maybe we can get the therapist guy from “Some Kind Of Monster” to lead the group.

  • Why not enough king fleshgod apocalypse?

    • Kelli Caltabiano

      king is the besttttt of the year

  • Dr_Fisting

    Good stuff. I also hear the new Fleshgod Apocalypse album is pretty decent.

    • Joshua Walker

      In all seriousness, I enjoyed the Hammers of Misfortune album as well. It was a good change of pace album for me (as it was not quite normally what I listen to). Ihsahn and Gojira where also some of my favorites on the year. I am looking forward to checking out the Bob Mould and John Wesley albums, as I have never heard of either of them. Thanks!

      • Dr_Fisting

        Please do. Also check out that Lybria album — there wasn’t enough time for me to do a full review, but it’s good stuff.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I tried liking it, but it really didn’t click. Maybe I just need to play it more to let it grow on me or something.

  • razerwolf

    Pleasant surprise to see John Wesley on an end of year list here. Had seen him as the touring guitar for PT in years past but caught him again as a solo support act for Marillion last month. Stuff he played was pretty cracking.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    I wholeheartedly object to the individuality reflected in this list. How dare you expose the masses to such an obscenely unique ranking!

    • Dr_Fisting

      Yeah, what a dick!

  • Niviss

    Clearly Abbath is there to throw us out of the loop

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    What about King – Fleshgod Apocalypse though?

    • Kelli Caltabiano

      i m thinking the same thing, why not?

  • [not a Dr]

    Disappointments: not King by Fleshgod Apocalypse.

  • Kelli Caltabiano

    i agree

    • Name’s Dalton


  • Flake

    Now that you mention it, has King actually been on any of the lists so far? I can’t remember seeing it. I’m not even a huge fan of FA but that record was f*cking impressive.

    • gus rodrigues

      Jokes aside, I wholly agree with your statement. I think that king is a beast of an album. But now, due to the crazy lady, i hope that no one chooses it as top ten so we can continue enjoying the ongoing meme!

    • JimminySnakeTits

      It was on Zephyrus’ list and Dr. Wvrm had The Fool as his song of the year, but that’s all I’ve seen so far.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    No Three Fleshgods of the Apocalypse?

  • GardensTale


  • MelbCro

    I’m here to tear your butthole in the comments section!

  • Prostidude

    Dr Fisting – if you are even a real doctor, we have yet to see credentials – this list is bad and you should feel bad!

    I might be one of the biggest Opeth fanboys, but Sorceress did nothing for me (either on disc or live). That Gojira album is a major snooze-fest. No mention of Vektor at all? And don’t even get me started on that overbloated piece of crap Metallica barfed out! What were you thinking?!

    Anyway, what I actually came to say: Black Sites – In Monochrome – AOTY 2017 – calling it now.

    • Dr_Fisting

      Dude, that’s easily the best Zoidberg quote ever. Also, Vektor WAS mentioned. (and they were on everyone else’s list too, what more do you want?)

      As far as Black Sites…we’ll see about that.

      • Prostidude

        OK, I might have missed your honourable mentions, but who reads those anyway?

    • GrandmasterB

      Don’t rag on the good doctor! His metal cred is cemented by the music he creates rather than just some inane critiquing. I too have high hopes for Black Sites.

  • AgonMcDuck

    I was gonna post but I see everyone clamoring for their Freshcut Asparagus. Moving on.

  • RuySan

    I enjoyed, more or less, every Opeth record to date, but i can’t seem to get into Sorceress. I wonder if i’m the only one.

    • Nag Dammit

      Nope, you aren’t alone. Seems Opeth don’t even like their new album enough to play more than two songs off it in a 2 hr show (read: Wembley Arena). Was good to see them though. They’re still awesome.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Metallica?!? Seriously METALLICA?!!!!!!?

  • Frost15

    So Dr.Fisting took the most disappointing albums (judging by most lists, not mine) and trolled everyone putting them in his top 10. Very nice. In a serious note though, I loved Hammers of Misfortune’s (they are always good!) and Gojira’s as well.

    • Dr_Fisting

      Different strokes for different folks, etc.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    Hammers of Misfortune was the best album I barely listened to last year. Can’t argue with that as #1, good choice. The rest of it, well, ;)

  • gus rodrigues

    Good list (finally some ihsahn and opeth love!!). I also enjoyed the new gojira (although it seems that the consensus is negative). the new metallica is not on my top ten list, but is an interesting album nonetheless (better than death magnetic in my opinion). Never was a huge fan of fates warning, but i will give this one a listen. Haven’t listened to hammers of misfortune yet, but will also give it a try.

  • Owlswald

    Curious how Moon Tooth missed out on your top 10?

    • Dr_Fisting

      Because I found 11 albums I liked better. Nick Lee’s an awesome guitarist, but I don’t think MT writes very good songs, and I can’t stand their singer (his vocals, not him as a person).

      • Owlswald

        Fair enough. I love the album but the vocals seem to be the common gripe (which I totally understand). They are even a little much for me in places as well. I’m more curious how they follow this one up.

  • Diego Molero

    Finally some love for Ihsahn!!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      One of my favourites this year

      • Diego Molero

        Is really great indeed.

  • beurbs

    The Sumerlands record could be just the rhythm guitar track and still be pretty sweet

    • Dr_Fisting

      I’d be OK with that. Ditto for Moon Tooth, come to think of it.

  • Norfair Legend

    Thank you, I thought I was the only one who could hear Killing Joke with the new Gojira. I also agree with the new Metallica, get’s my head nodding in the car and that’s something Metallica has not done in some time.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Not enough Death on this list

    • Dr_Fisting


  • De2013

    Ms De2013: “What’s the matter dear?”

    De2013: “I’m not sure I even want to live in a world where Lemmy Kilmister is dead while Ted Nugent, David Draiman, and all five members of Aerosmith still walk the earth somehow.”

    So true.

    Thanks for your list Dr. Fisting, great items on there: Abbath, Sumerlands. Will check out the others.

  • Dymanic

    Y no Ring Fleshlight Prolapsalypse

  • By-tor

    I may be the only one, but I wish Steven Wilson would either a) go back to the “Deadwing” or “Fear of a Blank Planet” era Porcupine Tree sound/heaviness or b) stick to producing. With the exception of TRWWNS, everything he’s done in the past 7-8 years has been boring as hell.

    I could say much the same about Opeth. I know they will never make another Blackwater Park, much less anything pre-BP, but nothing since Reveries has had any staying power. Both are unimaginably talented, I would think that something over the past several albums would appeal to me. Especially considering how unfuckwithable every thing they both put out prior to 2005 is/was.

  • jersey devil

    Some good ones on the list for me, like Fates Warning and Abbath. And Bob Mould! I will check that one out. Used to listen to Husker Du and Sugar a lot. I always liked him but haven’t listened to anything Bob-related in a long time. Ihsahn and Hammers of Misfortune were huge disappointments for me this year and are nowhere near my personal year-end list. I followed this year’s effusive recommendations to listen to these but couldn’t get into them. Ihsahn actually mixes in electronica or something, which I despise. This ruins the album for me. As for Hammers, I can’t deal with the vocals and other elements. And Metallica? Well I just lost interest so long ago.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yeah I loved seeing the Bob Mould album here, I had no idea he had an album out.
      I heard that after Sugar he became a ring announcer for WWF.

      • Dr_Fisting

        Close — he was a script writer for WCW in the late ’90s. His last 3 solo albums are all really good.

        • Matt Vogt

          Yeah, he also started DJing at some point, which coincided with a general downturn in the quality of his output, at least, if you liked what he was doing prior to that. I reckon you can skip everything after ‘Last Dog and Pony Show’ and before ‘Silver Age’, but the rest are all great.

          I think he just got bored of guitars and drums and rock’n’roll along the way, but he has definitely rediscovered his form. Bob is one of the few artists I’ve listened to for decades that I’d actually like to meet one day.

          • Dr_Fisting

            I’m a big fan, and I think he’d be an interesting dude to meet. And pretty much all his albums are good, other than that gap you mentioned.

  • Flyingguillotine

    I find Hardwired to be an interesting synthesis of pre- and post-Black Album Metallica.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    I put Metallica on my list for the same reasons. Sure there are tons of objectively better albums that were released this year, but I got to hear my favorite band put out some really great tracks (albeit also some not so great ones) for the first time in awhile, and that means a lot to me.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I feel like I’m on crazy pills … Hardwired… is a bloated sack O brain farts from a bunch of mega rich douches.
    I need Metallica trigger warnings

    • SegaGenitals

      Shit album. Shit.

  • Innit Bartender

    Great list, Doc. I am still fighting with the new Hammers, which is quite odd since I immediately took to 17th Street or Fields (my favourite HoM album, yes I know). Maybe it’s the overall lack of female counterparts, maybe it’s the songwriting… The only song that stood out for me was the traditional.

  • Phantom667

    The only normy-list on AMG this year ;)
    Interesting that you ranked Mr.Wilson so high – I am really frustrated with him since the Raven… Everything starting with that album bores me to death and it pisses me off because I really LOVE PT and especially the first two solo albums. I went to 10+ concerts but the last time I thought about leaving early :/

    • Dr_Fisting

      As much as I liked PT, I think I enjoy the solo stuff even more. The musicianship and songwriting feel more timeless to me, I guess.

      What’s “normy”?

      • Phantom667

        As in normal – which ofc is exaggerated, but sometimes AMG comes aross a bit edgy (to me) ;) Then again my top5 would probably look very unfit for this site, so what the hell do I know.

        1. Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
        2. Ritual Howls – Into The Water
        3. Cult Of Luna / Julie Christmas – Mariner
        4. Perturbator – The Uncanny Valley
        5. Neurosis – Fires Within Fires

        Cheers and lets hope that 2017 will be as good as 2016 for music.

        • Dr_Fisting

          I was really surprised at Katatonia’s absence from most of these lists. And I didn’t see Neurosis ranked ANYWHERE, which is weird considering that critics usually favor them heavily.

  • Kryopsis

    I’m surprised that you’re the only one so far to place Ihsahn’s album in your end-of-year list. As far as I’m concerned, ‘Arktis.’ is one of 2016’s surprises and the passion and creativity that went into its making is unmistakable. It’s definitely a highlight of this year.

  • Requiem

    Seeing the consistent praise for magma may have infuriated (and guilted- I feel bad ragging this hard on an album created out of family tragedy) me into giving it another try. So… Well done I suppose..?

    Oh, also:
    Wyh no fishglub?

  • Christopher

    The troll level of this list is incredible

    • Dr_Fisting

      I’m not trolling anyone. This is actually what I’ve been listening to all year.

  • Basil Nolan

    My dear sir, I bestow upon you, the crown of the Internet, and a metal staff.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Damn, Dr., that Bob Mould is gold. Finally got around to giving it a spin. I was a big fan of Hüsker Dü in the day. I lost track of what Mould’s been up to. It’s amazing how a lot of this sounds like New Day Rising outtakes. I didn’t realize how much I missed his shimmering guitar tone.

    It was bands like Hüsker Dü, 7 Seconds, and Social Distortion that made me realize that, in the right hands, hardcore music is capable of reaching great artistic heights.

    • Dr_Fisting

      Check out another recent Mould album called “Silver Age,” that one RULES.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Will do for sure! Thanks!

  • Jón Aldará

    That Hammers of Misfortune album is a revelation. How did I not know of this band?!
    Thanks, Doc!

  • motobyte

    Glad you mentioned Moon Tooth. That album took me by surprise and rocked my world. Saw them live not too long ago. Sadly, it was not as impressive as I hoped (too much hype?).