I’ve been hitting the backspace key a lot as I’m writing my Top Ten(ish). Not because of a lack of anything witty to say, or a sheepishness of my selections. No, rather it’s because I’m of two minds as I type this. At this very moment, it’s Christmas time in the Grymm household. Stockings are hung up on the chimney all kvlt and tr00ish. All the radio stations are playing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in unison, or they have some agreement where one station will play it, and then they’ll call up one of the other radio stations to let them know, “Hey, your turn.” And me? I’m in a much happier place than I was last year at this time (translated: no one close to me died, for once). I’m mixed in saying that little tidbit because, although this year was a vast personal improvement over 2015 by a colossal landslide, the world around me easily went to shit and back this year. If one train of thought can be levied at 2016, it would be this one.

That said, musically 2016 knocked it out of the park. Although I couldn’t get to all the releases I wanted due to a busy work schedule, what I did get a hold of kicked my ass in various happy ways. I know some of my selections will raise a few eyebrows and the blood pressure of some of you, but overall I’m sure you will find something to your liking. And like all lists, I’m sure I’ll kick myself for not discovering a band until after mine was completed for the year (*cough*Voices*cough*).

Above all, I wish everyone of you readers a happy, safe, and awesome holiday season, and thank you all, once again, for the comments, suggestions, and your engagements and continued readership. Y’all make this worth it for each and one of us here, so thank you, guys and gals.

Onward…


Gygax - Critical Hits(ish) Gygax // Critical Hits — When you mix the classic sounds of Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple with lyrics about questing, casting magic spells, and various other RPG tropes, and you’re named after the Godfather of Role-Playing Games, that all adds up to a “win” in my book. Easily one of the most fun records I listened to all year, and one of the most infectious, too.

#10. Vredehammer // Violator — Sure, Abbath may get a lot of camera, magazine, and meme time, but his former live guitarist Per Valla wrote the better album this year. Some of it is epic, other parts are brutal and rage-y, but all of it is hook-filled, icy, and awesome. “Cyclone” and “Ursus” make the album worth it all by themselves.

#9. Clouds // Departe — A funeral-doom supergroup, featuring members of Eye of SolitudeMy Dying Bride, and Shape of Despair, among many others, Clouds snuck up on me last-minute and grabbed me by the throat for the last month or so. While a bit long in the tooth, Departe rewards with a dense, beautiful atmosphere, and some breath-taking songcraft.

#8. Zao // The Well-Intentioned Virus — After seven long years (and 2009’s Awake? leaving me a little cold), Zao came back from the dead with one of their strongest albums to date. All the key ingredients were in place (atonal riffing, chaotic drumming, Dan Weyandt’s acid-washed vocal cords), but the songwriting improved tenfold. Welcome back, guys.

Vektor - Terminal Redux#7. Vektor // Terminal Redux — I never want to picture a world without Voivod, but if it were to happen, Pennsylvania’s Vektor would make great incumbent champions to the captains’ space thrones. Mixing Canada’s favorite weird sons with the sounds of classic speed metal and touches of latter-day DeathTerminal Redux throttled Vektor into the limelight of many a listener. Great live band, too.

#6. The Reticent // On the Eve of a Goodbye — I’m not a big prog fan, but Chris Hathcock’s The Reticent delivered one of the most honestly heartbreaking albums with On The Eve of a Goodbye. Musically heavy when necessary, yet lyrically heavy all the time, On the Eve of a Goodbye paid beautiful tribute to a friend who committed suicide. A must-hear for prog fans, or those who want their progressive metal mixed with some splashes of death metal and A Perfect Circle. Just don’t listen to “Funeral for a Firefly” in public. Trust me here.

Gomorrah - The Haruspex#5. Gomorrah // The Haruspex — Mixing the best parts of groove metal with some of Anaal Nathrakh‘s industrial noise, Canada’s Gomorrah quietly dropped a massive bomb with their second album, The Haruspex. Toss in some absolutely disgusting modular bends by guitarist Bowen Matheson, and you’ve got a recipe for some tasty, groovy tech-death of the highest caliber. Watch these guys.

#4. Inter Arma // Paradise Gallows — From the opening strains of “Nomini” to the final choir of “Where the Earth Meets the Sky,” Virginia’s Inter Arma deftly switched styles and moods, holding my attention in place throughout the album’s 70-minute duration. Also, “An Archer in the Emptiness” is just fucking massive in a live setting.

#3. Anaal Nathrakh // The Whole of the Law — Nice Version: Anaal Nathrakh broke out of a self-imposed cage with one of their best albums since In the Constellation of the Black Widow. Honest Version: Anaal Nathrakh broke out of a self-imposed cage with one of their best albums period. Vicious, unrelenting, and somewhat uplifting in all of its nihilistic glory.

Darkher - Realms#2. Darkher // Realms — Many of you will scoff at this making a year-end list of a metal blog, and that’s your loss. Jayn H. Wissenberg crafted some amazing doom music, perfect for a stroll in a meadow, a long walk in the middle of a December night, or drinking a beer in front of a cozy fireplace. The atmosphere conjured from such a minimalist structure is immense, to put it mildly. And “Lament” has to be heard to be believed. Speaking of doom…

 

#1. Vainaja // Verenvalaja — Just daaaamn, son. Finland’s blasphemous chimera narrowly missed the top spot of my 2014 list with their debut, Kadotetut. No such problem landing that spot this year, as this beast of an album straight-up dwarfed everything else this time. It’s almost unfair, to be honest. The heft of riffs, the odd singing and gurgling in Finnish, the well-played leads, the gorgeous Dan Swanö production… all of it added up to Vainaja leveling the playing field. This is the soundtrack to your impending miserable, hopeless demise. Dig in, kids.

Vainaja Verenvalaja


Honorable Mentions

  • Spirit Adrift // Chained to Oblivion — Nate Garrett’s one-man doom machine, and one hell of an impressive debut album.
  • Blood Incantation // Starspawn — Morbid Angel meets Gorguts… *booming voice* IN SPAAAAAAAACE. */booming voice*
  • Adaestuo // Tacent Semitae — Short-yet-cool EP of the blackest variety, with some absolutely frightening moments provided by vocalist Hekte Zaren.

Disappointments of 2016

  • Rotting Christ // Rituals — Maybe it’s age, but Rituals was one of the worst cases of self-plagiarism I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a shame too, because when they’re firing on all cylinders, Sakis and company deliver that epic, battle-ready “come at me, fucker” feeling that few bands can successfully conjure. What hurts more is that “Elthe Kyrie” showed so much promise.
  • Metallica // Hardwired… To Self-Destruct — While Hardwired is easily the best album Metallica put out in almost two decades, that’s not saying much. There’s 40 minutes of new, solid self-titled-era Metallica, but the problem is Hardwired is almost 80 minutes long. “Spit Out the Bone” jams, though.
  • 2016 // Seriously, fuck this year — Even with leaving out the overall dumpster fire that is American politics, any year where we lose our music heroes, such as former Megadeth drummer Nick Menza, Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, and Lemmy (granted, that was late last year, but still…) isn’t going to be a great year. But combined with all the absolutely horrifying events around the world, from global warming to Orlando to Aleppo, 2016 needs to quickly (and quietly) fuck off and die already.

Song o’ the Year

Gomorrah – “Dismantling the Throne” — There were so many damn good songs this year, but Gomorrah said more in just under three minutes than most bands do with three times that length. Between Jeff Bryan’s growls and screeches, Casey Long-Read’s frenetic drumming, and Bowen Matheson’s shredding, sick chord bends, and that sweet chorus riff, “Dismantling the Throne” did what the song title says it would do. All Hail the New Large Intestine.

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  • Innit Bartender

    I am reading all the Mighty Staff’s picks and lists. So far, Cobalt – my personal AOTY – hasn’t made it to one list (though some honorable mention) but it’s all right: more often than not I read this blog to be challenged and taken out of my comfort zone.
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the writers and reviewers for their time and effort. It’s really appreciated.

    • Joshua Walker

      I am about to check out Cobalt right now. Thanks for mentioning it. I have not seen my AOTY on any list either (not even honorable). Maybe I have bad taste in music?

      • lennymccall

        Oh man are you in for a treat! My 2nd fave record this year for sure.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Mines only been on one list too which has really surprised me.

  • AndySynn

    Huzzah for Gomorrah. I was saddened I couldn’t quite find space in my top ten for that one as it was still one of my favourite new discoveries of the year.

    Also, no Fleshgod? ;-)

    • El_Cuervo

      But we actually had Clouds, re-direct your guy here!

      • AndySynn

        I don’t think he likes me anymore. Though apparently he does think I’m one of “the cool kids”. So that’s something.

        • He’s wrong.

          • AndySynn

            Why must you break my heart?

  • Good to see The Reticent getting some props. That thing was something unique. Nice job, Grymmsical!

    • Grymm

      Not everyday listening by a long shot, but a very beautiful, if heartbreaking, album.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Indeed, and also some nice guitar work.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I’m very interested to see your list Mr Banhammer. Feels like it’s been a big year for denin doom.

    • dedseed1

      Gave this a spin for my 9 year old boy today and also explained the back story to it. Little guy was almost in tears after hearing Funeral For a Firefly. Powerful music is powerful. Became my album of the year after a few days of listening.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    y u no felshgod

    • Grymm

      Felchgod Apocalypse needs to be a thing.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Belchgod Apocalypse sounds like a fun time.

        • El_Cuervo

          AMG Himself suggested Fleshlight Apocalypse.

      • Kronos

        I’m starting a bathroom themed cover band called The Flushgod Apoocalypse.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          After all that spicy chili I have to Apoocalypse…. NOW!!

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Haha

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Tip for anyone who likes jumping in on the list/gratitude bandwagon, you will get more Disqus upvotes if you wait until AMG drops his list.

    Oh and Grymm, I really love you for featuring Vredehammer, Zao, Darkher, Vainaja, and Dismantling the Throne as SOTY on this list. Didn’t expect your list to look anything remotely similar to what it has become, and it was a pleasant surprise.

    • Grymm

      If that Zao album came out a bit earlier, I think it would have placed higher. It STILL gets played a lot here, front to back.

      I lucked out with good music this year.

    • Diego Molero

      Do people really care for Disqus upvotes?…

    • Innit Bartender

      Just speaking my mind, man…

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        Haha knew it’d come across extra cheeky seeing as you were the only person who had made a gratitude post on this list. I’m just being a troll.

        • Innit Bartender

          It’s alright mate, it’s just that my internet presence during the holidays is gonna be spotty at best so I decided to give a much deserved thank you to the boys before 2017 kicks in….

  • Ed Howard-Jones

    were fogpoclipse is?
    keng good ablmu? i thunked so
    :((

  • gus rodrigues

    several of my favorite albums this year didn’t make the top ten lists (some are on the “ish” lists):

    Fleshgod Apocalypse (seriously! i’m not mentioning this here because of the crazy lady… or perhaps I am. Who knows?)
    Deathspell Omega
    Ihsahn
    Opeth
    Hail Spirit Noir
    Meshuggah
    Subrosa
    Messa

    but i’m happy to see Anaal Nathrakh receiving a well deserved praise (their previous 2 albums were lackluster, but this one is stellar)

    it is also fair to say that I didn’t listen to a lot of new stuff this year and these lists will help me correct that: will definitely check out vektor, the new devin townsend (it has been a long time since I was impressed by anything he has created), khemmis, ulcerate and mithras… tried to like the new dark tranquility album, but failed to do so (as has been the case with their previous albums).

    favorite song: Onward where Most with Ravin I may meet

    my best non-metal album would be Elza Soares new effort (who would say that i would like a samba album? but i guess this could be referred as progressive/experimental samba… I don’t know, but it is amazing).

    • AgonMcDuck

      I’m sure I saw Hail Spirit Noir on a staff member’s top ten. It was definitely on my personal list. Same with Messa.

    • Joshua Walker

      This is my favorite Devin Townsend album since Synchestra.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      HSN is definetly on my list as are a few of those.

  • Kelli Caltabiano

    Darkher is not good in brazil in dezember

    • Grymm

      king fleshgod apocalypse to you as well.

  • Kelli Caltabiano

    Prefer king fleshgod apocalypse

    • El_Cuervo

      Good for you.

      • gus rodrigues

        laughing so hard right now!!! her persistence is mesmerizing

        • AndySynn

          This IS gold.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Wow…

    • AgonMcDuck

      Jesus fucking Christ, you’re persistent

      • Grymm

        She is so close to becoming a meme, if she hasn’t already.

    • Grymm

      Surely, you must know other phrases.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      Big X-Men fan, eh?

  • Kronos

    Our lists have just a bit of overlap this year, but I have to say you make a pretty compelling collection here. Gomorrah fucking slays, your SOTY is on point.

    • Grymm

      That song is so beastly.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Great list, Grymm. I almost forgot about Gygax amongst all the musical manna raining down on us. A great album, and one I think that shares a lot in common with the La Chinga and Bombus releases.

    As for 2016, I would add on the death of Princess Leia and Earth’s CO2 level surpassing the 400 PPM threshold. Truly, eat shit and die 2016.

    • Grymm

      I cried yesterday when I found out Carrie Fisher died. Not only because of her characterization of Princess Leia, but also because she helped quell the stigma of mental illness.

      That, and she was a rather cool woman. RIP

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yep, just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse. I grew up with the “original” trilogy, and it feels like I’ve lost a good friend.

        • Hulksteraus

          I echo that sentiment.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    That Turneresque Paradise Gallows cover art continues to mesmerize me. I only recently noticed the fellow hanging from the main mast.

  • Like #1 was in any doubt for this year’s Grymmoire.

    • Grymm

      Verenvalaja is a monster.

      Sooooooo good.

  • Daniel Ritson

    Totally forgot the Vredehammer came out this year – that has appeared nowhere else of which I’m aware, and should’ve.
    That said, that was really mean re: Voices. Thinking I’d missed a new release somehow, I ran to Google as fast as my thumbs could carry me…damn you!

    • Grymm

      I missed it in 2014, and I think I listen to London more than Pallbearer now. So damn good.

      Speaking of Voices, I believe they’re working on new music as we speak.

      • Daniel Ritson

        That is glorious news, particularly since Akercocke apparently also is doing so (I think being released relatively soon). I’d like to see the various members concentrate on those two bands, both of which are IMO top 10 acts. I don’t think The Antichrist Imperium is even half as good; not worth concentrating on.

      • Requiem

        I’m excited to hear this! I adored London.

      • By-tor

        Never really got into Voices, but Akercocke is one of my favorite metal bands and top 10 favorite bands period. The world needs more Akercocke.

  • Hulksteraus

    Where’s My Dying Bride in your list Grymm? It was an amazing return to form, genuinely crushing and you gave it a 4.0 as well… mind you, cant argue much with your list…

    • Grymm

      That was on last year’s list. No new MDB this year.

      • Hulksteraus

        Damn, has 2016 disappeared that quickly?!!! I could have sworn it was earlier this year… oh well, here’s me sheepishly exiting stage left…

        I had half your list in mine but added Khemmis, Insomnium and Dark Tranquility…

        • Grymm

          I know, right? Feel the Misery was a great return to form, but I’m excited to hear what Andrew and Calvin bring to the table, riff-wise, with the next one.

          • Hulksteraus

            That duo really was the basis of the best MDB albums.

          • Hulksteraus

            Just went back and re-read your best of 2015 post and realised that I did comment about MDB in that post….. this year definitely has really, really, really flown past…

  • The Unicorn

    Fuck 2016 in the ass. Nice list my friend.

  • Owlswald

    The decision by Metallica to put out a double album was dumb. Take the handful of solid songs and give us that sans all the filler.

  • Martin Duhaime

    The best list of lists for 2016.

  • Luke_22

    Nice list Grymm. You’ve given me a couple more things to check out. And thanks for steering me onto the mighty Vainaja.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Thanks Grymm, hope to see some more Grymm speaks pieces next year, always appreciate your observations. You seem me to me to have an interesting take on music appreciation and l always enjoy your list. I’ve only listened to 2 from it, Inter A and Vektor. Vainaja has been in my BC wish list since your review…I need to sort that. A few others there like Vredehammer, Darkher and Cyjax are now on my to do list.

  • Frost15

    I must say that after all the Vainaja praise I saw in the lists and comments in the forum I finally listened to Verenvalaja and I’ve been amazed. Definitely would made into my top 10 list. F**** hell of an album and concept by the way! I will buy it for sure.

  • Unfathomable Procrastination

    Great list, and great to see Clouds on here. That album has engulfed me completely.

  • Diego Molero

    Really nice list, Grymm. Couldn’t get into Vainaja unfortunately, it’s not my jam. But overall, really solid. Totally forgot about Gomorrah even though I really like the album back when it came out, gonna fix that now.
    Really appreciate your job over the year, Grymm.

  • Dudeguy Jones

    I really need to sit down and make more time for that Vainaja. Just as it was getting me all hot and bothered I moved on to something else and then fall came and my mind went and thats that.

    I have a lot of catching up to do, in fact.

  • dedseed1

    Gave the Reticent a spin today after reading about it in your list. Damn. Good find!

  • Flyingguillotine

    Very much agree on the new Anaal Nathrakh, though I also thoroughly enjoyed Desideratum; “Monstrum in Animo” is the jam.

  • Kryopsis

    It seems that as I get older I gravitate towards more and more extreme Metal. I’m beginning to suspect that 10 years from now, the only thing I’ll listen to is Gabber remixes of Cattle Decapitation with randomly inserted road construction sounds. Anyway, as of a few years ago Anaal Nathrakh became one of my favourite bands and this year’s album quickly became my constant companion. The band has so much creative energy and talent! The duo also comes across as ridiculously down to earth (and British) in all interviews, always finding something insightful or witty to say.

    • Grymm

      Funny you should say all this, because it’s *exactly* why I love this band so much. As I’ve grown older (just turned 40 this week, in fact), I’ve mellowed out considerably since my teens and twenties. But when I hear bands just going all-out in the most visceral of fashions (i.e., Anaal Nathrakh, Voices, Cattle Decapitation, Slugdge), it hits a primal nerve in me like few can. Hell, even people who aren’t normally what they consider to be metalheads flock to these bands because, in their minds, that’s what metal *should* sound like (to them, at least).

      • Kryopsis

        A big part of Anaal Nathrakh’s appeal is that their output, aggressive-sounding that it is, happens to be a direct result of a genuine creative effort rather than the band trying to be ‘extreme’ for the sake of just being extreme. The other bands you listed, Voices in particular, have the same legitimacy about them and it’s impossible not to respect a band that really is all about the music, especially if the music happens to be fucking amazing!

  • jersey devil

    Some great stuff on this list. A comment about Anaal Nathrakh–my only problem with them, though its a big one, is they don’t have a real human drummer (I think). This is something that repels me from a band, when they use a computer instead of a drummer. (I mean, that’s what rave music and other garbage is made of). It just doesn’t feel authentic. If they had a real drummer I would dig it a LOT more.

    • Grymm

      They do have a live drummer.

      On record, yes, they use programmed beats, but you would be amazed at how many bands actually do that. Samael have done it for years, and no one bats an eye.

      • jersey devil

        Could you give some examples of other bands that do that?

        • Grymm

          Off the top of my head… Samael, Blut Aus Nord, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Patrons of the Rotting Gate, Godflesh, Darkspace, Fear Factory (on The Industrialist), Killing Joke (various tracks)…

    • My problem with them is the rotten production. DR 4 and the likes of, negates any good they’re doing.

  • Kronos Sr.

    The Cat-Dude at Angry Metal Guy is playing the wrong instrument here. He should be behind a kit ala Peter Criss.

    • Grymm

      Full disclosure: I’m an absolutely shit drummer.