Best of 2016: Lord of the Wasteland

January 9th, 2017
by Metal Rules

LORD OF THE WASTELAND’S BEST OF 2016

TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2016

  1. Evergrey – THE STORM WITHIN

The progressive-leaning Swedes have done it again as THE STORM WITHIN continues Evergrey’s unblemished track record of delivering album after album of stunningly-arranged, gorgeously-executed songs balanced by flawless musicianship fans have come to expect from the band.  Tom S. Englund possesses one of the best voices in metal and with his wife/secret weapon, Carina Englund, as well as Nightwish’s Floor Jansen backing him here, the vocals are both powerful and emotional.  The band is tight musically and the production is simply out of this world.  Topping THE STORM WITHIN will be difficult but Evergrey shows no signs of slowing down even after eighteen years.

  1. Abbath – ABBATH

After an acrimonious split with Immortal, the songs meant for that band’s next album were not going to be left unheard, so Abbath released them as his first true solo album.  Surprising no one, the icy black metal and epic musical landscapes Abbath was known for in Immortal remain but easing up on the throttle and allowing some melody to creep in is a bit of a shock.  Mixing things up after nearly 25 years and starting a new band is not an easy decision but ABBATH displays a solid framework for the next chapter in the storied frontman’s career.

  1. The Devin Townsend Project – TRANSCENDENCE

The ever-prolific Hevy Devy continues his attack with his most progressive-leaning album to date.  Dense, complex and multi-layered, TRANSCENDENCE takes a few spins to really sink in with all that is going on sonically but the reward is a rich payoff.  TRANSCENDENCE is yet another bar-raising release from the quirky genius who refuses to be pigeonholed.

  1. Zakk Wylde – BOOK OF SHADOWS II

Released 20 years after the first album, BOOK OF SHADOWS II is a gorgeous masterpiece from one of metal’s greatest guitarists.  Wylde has never been shy about showcasing all of his influences.  The fifteen 70s/southern rock-inspired tunes found here are flawlessly executed and dripping with fiery leads and beautiful arrangements from start to finish.

  1. Killswitch Engage – INCARNATE

The shaky return of original vocalist Jesse Leach on 2013’s DISARM THE DESCENT left me totally unimpressed which made INCARNATE seem that much better.  Even though this one was released way back in March, INCARNATE still received repeated spins throughout the year and never got forgotten about, which is the true test of a great album.

  1. Metallica – HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT
  2. Heaven Shall Burn – WANDERER
  3. Anaal Nathrakh – THE WHOLE OF THE LAW
  4. Metal Church – XI
  5. Dark Tranquillity – ATOMA
  6. Testament – BROTHERHOOD OF THE SNAKE
  7. Anthrax – FOR ALL KINGS
  8. Amon Amarth – JOMSVIKING
  9. Dream Theater – THE ASTONISHING
  10. Anvil – ANVIL IS ANVIL
  11. Despised Icon – BEAST
  12. Nails – YOU WILL NEVER BE ONE OF US
  13. Megadeth – DYSTOPIA
  14. Gojira – MAGMA
  15. Winterfylleth – THE DARK HEREAFTER

***HONORABLE MENTIONS: Primal Fear (RULEBREAKER), Meshuggah (THE VIOLENT SLEEP OF REASON), Opeth (SORCERESS), Borknagar (WINTER THRICE), Inquisition (BLOODSHED ACROSS THE EMPYREAN ALTAR BEYOND THE CELESTIAL ZENITH), Rotting Christ (RITUALS), Ihsahn (ARKTIS), Whitechapel (MARK OF THE BLADE)

 

BEST NEW BAND OF 2016

Serpentine Dominion

Most likely a one-off project, this long-brewing collaboration features George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse), Adam D (Killswitch Engage) and Shannon Lucas (The Black Dahlia Murder).  The result is a solid slab of melodic technical death metal showcasing the talents of all involved.

BEST LIVE ALBUM OF 2016

Dirkschneider – LIVE: BACK TO THE ROOTS

Original Accept vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, agreed to perform the classic songs of his former band one last time for a short tour and this double album documents one of those shows.  To call these songs timeless is an understatement and one must respect the man’s decision to close this chapter of his recording career for good.  Still, it’s sad to think Udo’s unmistakable vocals will never be heard belting out “Fast As A Shark,” “Restless And Wild,” “Balls To The Wall” again.

BEST EP OF 2016

Scour – SCOUR

It has been a tough year for Philip Anselmo in the press but the one bright spot few seemed to pick up on was the indie release of his latest project, Scour.  Featuring Anselmo on vocals along with current and former members of Pig Destroyer, Cattle Decapitation and Decrepit Birth, the self-titled EP is a brutal dose of blackened death metal not unlike that of newer Marduk.

BEST COMPILATION/COLLECTION OF 2016

Metallica – KILL ‘EM ALL & RIDE THE LIGHTNING DELUXE REISSUES

Not much needs to be said here.  Two of the most influential and important heavy metal albums of all time remastered and reissued on both CD and vinyl with loads of extra goodies.  The price tag was pretty steep but for true collectors, these were a no-brainer.

BEST COVERS ALBUM OF 2016

Jorn – HEAVY ROCK RADIO

Jorn Lande pulls out all the stops here and takes his turn covering classic tunes from bands as diverse as Iron Maiden, Journey, Dio, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, Queen, Kate Bush and others.  Lande sticks pretty true to the heavy metal originals but his vocal take on non-metal standards “Hotel California,” “Running Up That Hill” and “You’re The Voice” are the real draw here.

BEST METAL-RELATED BOOK OF 2016

Martin Popoff – METAL HEART: AIMING HIGH WITH ACCEPT

Metal’s greatest scribe (and Canadian!) delivers the goods once again with his all-encompassing biography of the Teutonic Terrors, Accept.  Fans of Popoff have grown to expect a high level of quality from the author’s books coupled with his own insight and exhausting interviews.  This first proper bio of the band is top-tier on all accounts.

BEST DISCOVERY OF 2016

Khemmis

This Denver-based band got a lot of buzz in 2016 with its second album, HUNTED.  Combining equal parts Trouble, Ghost and YOB, Khemmis puts its spin on classic doom metal and mixes in fuzz-drenched guitar and an epic feel to form a package with a bright future ahead.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2016

Six Feet Under – GRAVEYARD CLASSICS IV: THE NUMBER OF THE PRIEST

If he has any mercy whatsoever, Chris Barnes’ latest entry into his long-standing GRAVEYARD CLASSICS series will be the last.  Notching half of the record to Judas Priest and the other half to Iron Maiden, listeners will know exactly what to expect going in: Six Feet Under’s down-tuned sludge and Barnes’ garbled vocals ruining the classics we all know and love.  The series has always been a curious novelty at best and laughable at its worst (“The Evil That Men Do” has to be heard to be believed) but this one is best forgotten.

In Flames – BATTLES

Bands mature and life’s circumstances inevitably change the direction of the music but no band has disillusioned its older fans more over the past ten years than In Flames.  While one cannot fault the band for ignoring its critics and delivering the music in their collective hearts, BATTLES is another frustrating entry filled with largely forgettable songs that does little more than distance long-time fans in an effort to modernize its sound.

Operation: Mindcrime – RESURRECTION

Not even guest vocals from Blaze Bayley and Tim “Ripper” Owens can save this directionless mess of a concept from former Queensrÿche vocalist, Geoff Tate.  The fact that it takes a full five tracks to even get to a proper song is bizarre in and of itself but at no point is there a memorable moment to heard, even after repeated listens.  The phoned-in vocals of Bayley and Owens can’t even save this one.

GREATEST HOPES FOR 2017

  1. Another year of promising new CDs from Jag Panzer, Sepultura, Kreator, Rudra, Overkill and Steel Panther among others.
  2. King Diamond/Mercyful Fate DVDs (still waiting for the umpteenth year in a row!)
  3. Once again: more time available to devote to writing and contributing to the mighty Metal-Rules.com!!!!!!!

 

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