Top Ten Heavy Albums of 2016

 

Let's get stuck into it shall we?

Architects – “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us” 

If there’s one band for me who have raised the bar with every record they’ve made, it is undoubtedly Architects. From their grimier, breakdown-laden early releases through to the soaring landscapes of Lost Forever… and All Our Gods…, the Brighton metalcore quintet have never once failed to impress. 

Since the release of All Our Gods… the band have faced unimaginable challenges, none more so than coming to the terms with the tragic passing of guitarist Tom Searle in August last year. Searle’s song writing talent was beyond exceptional, and following his death, the band and their fans were forced into a state of flux and indecision about which direction they would go in without him.  

As much as this record would’ve probably topped my list in any case, the fact it now stands as Searle’s final work truly defines it as the year’s most important and awe-inspiring. Looking back, the themes of love, loss and retribution are clear and strike a certain chord that many may have missed if it wasn’t for the loss of Tom. 

There isn’t much more you can say about this album other than if you haven’t heard it, go grab yourself a copy and immerse yourself. You won’t regret it. (9.5/10)

For Fans of: Northlane, Bring Me the Horizon, Cancer Bats, In Hearts Wake

Norma Jean – “Polar Similar” 

This one came as somewhat of a surprise to me. I’ve always enjoyed their brand of (albeit ever-changing) abrasive, metallic hardcore, but they have never captured me quite like they did on their seventh long player Polar Similar

From the outset, the album lays waste to its listener with opener I. The Planet acting as a living, breathing introduction to the destruction ahead as front man Corey Brandan Putman delivers what might be his most powerful performance to date. The record heaves through some of the chunkiest riffs Norma Jean have ever written, with standout bangers 1,000,000 Watts, Synthetic Sun and Reaction all displaying the incredible growth this band has embraced throughout its many years. 

Recorded in the wilderness at Minnesota’s Pachyderm Studios, the feeling of total abandonment in this album is evident, and the ensuing concepts touched on in the lyricism throughout ring true. The spine-tingling bluegrass, interlude III. The Nebula sounds like it was written at a funeral in an old western movie, or a swamp in Mississippi. It comes out of nowhere but it just works and adds to the overall darkness of the album.

It’s classic Norma Jean, but heavier, darker and more brooding than ever before. To me, this is the album the band was born to make and it is a clear standout atop the pile of 2016’s heavy albums. (9/10) 

For Fans of: Converge, Misery Signals, Evergreen Terrace, Poison the Well

Every Time I Die – “Low Teens”

What can you say about the Buffalo, NY legends that hasn’t already been said? Keith Buckley and co. have delivered yet another thrash-infused, beatdown hardcore epic in the form of Low Teens and seemingly without even trying, have added to their extensive catalogue of incredible albums. 

This is Every Time I Die in their prime, and an ode to the back catalogue that came before it, 15 years in the making. It’s unrelenting in ferocity with opening jam Fear and Trembling exposing us to the staggered, unaccustomed riffage for which the band has become known, and it doesn’t slow down for a second. 

The album captures a little bit of everything Every Time I Die are so good at. From the heavier tracks like Glitches, Awful Lot, I Didn’t Want to Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway to the more melodic C++ (Love Will Get you Killed and It Remembers the album has it all. The latter calling to mind ETID’s ability to write sludgy southern grunge hooks that would make Kyuss and Maylene proud. 

In short, if you’re hoping to see Every Time I Die turn a corner and break new ground this isn’t the album for you. Its chock full of what drew long-time fans to the band in the first place (and kept them there), and it remains just as fucking cool. (9/10)

For Fans of: Maylene & the Sons of Disaster, Stray From the Path, The Chariot, The Damned Things

Touché Amore – “Stage Four”

This album, while staying the same course as much of Touche’s previous recordings, is undoubtedly their finest work to date. A concept album conceived in large part by vocalist Jeremy Bolm, Stage Four is a tribute to his late mother’s battle with, and eventual passing from cancer. Some people deal with grief differently, and in this case Stage Four is an autobiographical journey through a thousand memories and acts as an outlet for Bolm whose vocals are the clear flagbearer here.  

From the outset Flowers and You calls to arms an emotional roller coaster ride throughout his relationship with his best friend, and an outpouring of grief following her death. Standout track Displacement is a dead set tearjerker, as Bolm’s overwhelming vocals cast an emotional shadow over the listener, while second-to-last Skyscraper culminates with the last voicemail his mother ever left him. 

This album is as much about closure as it is about love, loss, guilt and forgiveness. It’s therapy on tape, and it totally bares its soul for anyone willing to listen. 

Sheesh… it’s a bit dusty in here. (9/10)

For Fans of: Defeater, Title Fight, Being As an Ocean, Counterparts

Korn – The Serenity of Suffering

What the shit is a Korn album doing in someone’s top 10 in 2016 you might ask? I would’ve said the exact same thing a year ago, but the fact is the Bakersfield nu-metal icons have delivered their finest work since 1999’s Issues.

Lets make one thing clear – I have been a Korn fan for many years but like so many others, had given up on a band that I believed would never return to the scattered, tattered and torn riffage that made them so fucking great throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. 2016’s The Serenity of Suffering sees the band take a nostalgic trip back through time, with so many elements of Korn’s career highlighted in emphatic form. 

From crushing opener Insane we’re made aware of the band’s intentions, and immediately taken on a trip down memory lane to a place where we never thought they’d go again. Rotting in Vain is surely the album’s hero and Jonathon Davis’ vocals are tortured and angst-ridden as ever, even reminding us of what he was capable of during the band’s early years, and fan favourite Twist from sophomore LP Life is Peachy.

It’s not perfect, but for me, this record deserves every bit of praise it gets. After 26 years, Korn are still able to write an incredibly catchy album which is just as heavy and bitter-tasting as anything they spewed forth over two decades ago. (8.5/10)

For Fans of: Coal Chamber, Deftones, Sevendust, Rob Zombie.

Thrice – To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere 

Californian four-piece Thrice have come a long way since the release of their landmark album The Artist in The Ambulance in 2003. Their sound has evolved so much that the band is basically unrecognisable from what they were, but for the most part, it’s very much for the better. 

The album’s stoic opener Hurricane is a cathartic slow burner which defines much of the material that follows. It’s a beautiful opening opus to an album which gives new life to a band that this writer feels had maybe been forgotten about in recent times. 

Standout tracks Black Honey, Wake Up, Blood on the Sand and Stay with Me display impeccable musicianship from a group which has grown and grown throughout every release since its inception and culminated in what may just be their defining masterpiece. Such is the powerful execution with which TBEITBN is delivered. 

Here, you’ll find everything from Radiohead, to Alice in Chains and more. It’s far from Thrice’s heaviest effort but the more like-minded will still find something to enjoy.  (8/10)

For Fans of: Thursday, Emery, Finch, Glassjaw 

Deftones – Gore

Look, Gore could very well be higher on this list – there is plenty to love throughout this album by the Sacramento alternative metal legends, but it’s also probably my second-to-least favourite in their catalogue. That’s saying quite a lot for a band that is arguably my favourite ever.

Occasionally, Deftones have displayed a desire to surprise their fans with an unexpectedly experimentally driven album, and that’s where we have arrived with Gore. 

Not unlike 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist, (by this stage you’ve probably guessed which of Deftones’ styles I respond best to) the band have broken new ground, replacing the abrasive heaviness for which they’ve become known, and opting instead for a more atmospheric approach to album number 8.

Chino Moreno’s performance is the album’s true constant, as he unmistakably wails and shrieks his way throughout, at some points saving Gore from falling into obscurity (at this juncture I’ll remind you that I love this band, so any criticism can be taken with a huge fucking grain of salt).

It isn’t without its moments however, with Doomed User, Hearts / Wires (which is a stunningly beautiful, spine tingling moment) and title track Gore all reminding us that regardless of Deftones current direction, they’re never too far from what made us fall in love with them in the first place.

Stephen Carpenter’s chugging riffs throughout the album are also the highlight, with Acid Hologram, Xenon and Phantom Bride giving the album a much darker edge that really does improve things tenfold. 

In summary this isn’t Around the Fur or White Pony, but if you like Deftones and keep an open mind, you’ll enjoy Gore. (7.5/10)

For Fans of: Tool, A Perfect Circle, Incubus, Crosses, Nine Inch Nails 

Beartooth – “Aggressive”

Ex-Attack Attack! Front man Caleb Shomo’s new band Beartooth have been on the scene for a little while now, releasing their first album Disgusting in 2015 and following it up with their breakthrough album Aggressive mid last year, and it’s one of 2016’s catchiest.

Beartooth have started off on the right foot with fans, doing the small things well enough to peak interest in the scene and while some may see them as a poor man’s Every Time I Die, new age hardcore punk fans will undoubtedly find something to love here.

Aggressive is as much a foray into rock ‘n roll as it is a hardcore record. It twists and turns in ways you wouldn’t really expect and while it remains heavy, there is an element of pop throughout, which makes it incredibly accessible.

More commercial spatterings like Hated, Sick of Me and However You Want It Said tie together perfectly the heavier elements of this record, which is forthright in its conviction and conveys such an attitude it’s kinda hard to ignore its message. It’s highlighted perfectly throughout standout track Rock Is Dead with Shomo proclaiming “I’d rather be dead than bored out of my mind/If rock n roll’s dead you can kill me right now!”).

Not the most profound lyricism, but hell, its fucking fun and it’s nothing short of the goddamn truth. (7/10)

For Fans of: Every Time I Die, Of Mice and Men, Memphis May Fire

Trap Them – Crown Feral

The thing is with Trap Them’s music, is that you really have to be in the mood. It’s abrasive, and vulgar and violent in nature and they’re almost always an uncomfortable listen. Blackened death notes lace the contents of its crust-punk exterior, and while the band has certainly never identified themselves as such, their music is almost always similarly confronting. 

Crown Feral is the band’s latest effort, and is as ridiculously erratic as anything from each of their past four albums. It’s not so far removed from 2014's Blissfucker, but still manages to provide something new for long-time fans. If you’ve ever been into bands like Converge, Nails or the mighty Dillinger Escape Plan, then Crown Feral might just be the album for you. 

Similarly, the same could be said about artists like Entombed and Pig Destroyer. Such is the diversity of this band. A heavy, grinding hardcore juggernaut at heart, there has always been something more brutal about Trap Them, but it feels like they’ve never really been keen to admit it, even though it’s glaringly evident.

Always struggled with them? This probably won’t change anything for you. They’re incredibly hard to pin down, but this record is definitely my favourite of their catalogue so far and is absolutely worth your time if you’ve ever been partial to them. (7/10). 

For Fans of: Converge, Nails, Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan. 

Trophy Eyes – Chemical Miracle 

Trophy Eyes have the makeup to eventually be one of this country’s most well-loved post hardcore bands. The music isn’t overly accessible (which is totally fine), but it’s emotional, and enthralling and for the thousands of fans who have flocked to see them in the wake of this album’s release, they’re certainly going places. 

Chemical Miracle, with the exception of opening jam Chlorine, didn’t entirely kick me in the face until about the midway point of the record – Sure, there a musical gems prior, but with the pop-punk driven anthem Breathe You In came a realisation that there was much more to be found here, and the album continues to provide the deeper you dig, and with every listen. 

This album has growth factor and the longer you perceiver with it, the more rewarding it is.  

Killer artwork, too. (6.5/10)

For Fans of: Basement, Such Gold, Endless Heights, Title Fight 

Honorable Mentions:

Killswitch Engage – Incarnate 

Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct 

Gojira – Magma 

Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason 

 

So there ya have it. Cheers for having a read.

- NC

 

 

 

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