Remembering The Forgotten in 2016.
I’ve often commented that music industry folks rush to get their ‘year-end lists’ generated and on-line much to the detriment of the bands. In their zeal, many albums, especially from the first half of the year get missed because the albums are not ‘top of mind’ in November in the stampede to be the first. Conversely some late year albums got missed as many people generate their albums prematurely, before the year is even over. Every year quality albums are coming out until Dec 31 but these late releases always get the shaft by the mainstream media (who claim to support Metal) by clinging to some arbitrary deadline and because those inconvenient releases do not fit into their neat little boxes, driven largely by commerce. Shame.
I believe some sober reflection would help provide a broader representation of what really happened in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal in 2017. I’ve enjoyed a few quiet days looking back at various releases from 2016 and I’ve cobbled together a little list of albums, EP’s, reissues, covers albums etc, that I felt deserved more attention than they got. Admittedly, many of these are not ‘brand new, full-length studio albums of all new material’, so they get left in the dust.
My friend and colleague Adrian Begrand has so eloquently pointed out, ‘Metal fans love their lists!’. I’m no different so here is one of my lists. I tried to think outside the Metallica / Voi-vod / Anciients / Meshuggah / Darkthrone group-think box. A fun little exercise of no consequence other than maybe someone might check out one of these releases. Enjoy!
JP’s Top 25 list of releases that coulda, shoulda, woulda got more attention in 2016.
ALMANAC-Tsar (Nuclear Blast) Released: March 18th
The return of guitar god Victor Smolski after 16 years in Rage. Exploring his heritage, his new project (his debut) is a conceptual piece about Russian history.
BLAZE BAYLEY- Infinite Entanglement (Indie) Released: March 18th
Blazes four solo album sees him staying in Sci-fi territory with his first full concept album about time travel. His heaviest and fastest album ever, with tons of guests playing the various characters.
CAULDRON-In Ruin (The End) Released: January 8th
I believe Jason Decay (Goat Horn etc) singlehanded spearheaded the Canadian retro scene spawning/inspiring Skullfist, Midnight Malice, Diemonds, Vicious and so many more. It’s a shame that people passed over Cauldron’s excellent fourth album.
CRADLE OF FILTH-Dusk And Her Embrace-The Original Sin (Cacophonous) Released: July 8th
The long-lost unreleased album from 1996 finally sees the light of day after the 20-year legal dispute with the label ends. Deluxe re-packaging treatment, new lyrics, superb for die-hard fans who have waited years to hear this first version.
DREAM THEATER-The Astonishing (Roadrunner) Released: January 29th.
The bands tour-de-force, their own 2112, got missed by many. The same people who will willingly sit and watch The Hobbit trilogy for nine hours, or binge-watch an entire season of Game Of Thrones in one weekend said the album, at over two hours, was too long!
EMBALMER-Emanations From The Crypt (Hell’s Headbangers) Released: April 1st
One of the original early 90’s Death-Gore bands come back with only their second album in 25 years, after a 10-year gap since the last one. Brutal, guttural, unrelenting and sick. Very old school Death from this early Relapse band.
ENUFF Z’ NUFF-Clowns Lounge (Frontiers) Released: December 2nd
Album #14 from these perennial Beatle worshiping stoners is a compilation of old demos and rarities, a real groovy treat for the true fan.
GRIM REAPER-Walking In The Shadows (Dissonance) Released: Sept 23rd
29 years between albums and it was worth the weight. Carrying on where Rock You To Hell left off. Not many know that this line-up also recorded the little known Steve Grimmett solo album back in 2007. Grimmett’s voice is bullet proof.
HOBB’S ANGEL OF DEATH-Heaven Bled (Hell’s Headbangers) Released: October 14th
Didn’t see this one coming! Australia’s answer to Canada’s Gord Kirchin (Piledriver) or America’s Bill Lindsay (Impaler), puts out his third album in 30 years. No one noticed, no one cared although Down Under he is still a bit of an eccentric hero. Popoff would call this pig-iron, rust-belt Metal.
MYRATH-Legacy (Verycords) Released: February 19th
These exotic guys had such huge buzz and did not capitalize. Perhaps the uninspired album art and album title had pundits pass this one over. Perhaps being on small French labels doesn’t help either. Their 4th album is good or better than anything they have ever done. Don’t let the publicists fool ya, they are from France, not Tunisa. Sadly, most folks missed this early year release. Fun fact: Myrath means ‘Legacy’ hence the title.
NARNIA-Narnia (Indie) Released: September 16th
Arguably, after Styper, the worlds biggest and best White Metal band sees a comeback after seven years and the return of original vocalist CJ Grimmark. A flawless example from the surprisingly quite large but very underground Swedish Christian Speed Metal scene.
NECRONOMICON-Advent Of The Human God (Season Of Mist) Released: March 18th
The next Dimmu / Cradle band. These French Canadian journeymen had a re-think between 2003 and 2010 and reinvented themselves as Canada’s best epic, symphonic, progressive blah, blah, blah Metal band. Third album in the second phase of their career is stellar. The swarthy Italians in Fleshgod Apocalypse get the girls but Necronomicon is the real dirty deal.
OCTOBER 31-Metal Massacre 31 (Hell’s Headbangers) Released: November 25th
An album made entirely of cover tunes that appeared on Metal Blade’s Metal Massacre compilation series. Probably the coolest, least trendy, album of the year… for those in the know. King Fowley is more Metal than I will ever live to be.
PAIN-Coming Home (Nuclear Blast) Released: Sept 9th
Peter Tagtgren, (Europe’s Devin Townsend?) puts out album number 9, the first in five years. Quirky industrial, electronic, death with humorous weirdness goes over the heads of most. Flawless in production, execution and design, but perhaps not cool enough for many peoples lists.
POLTERGEIST-Back To Haunt (Pure Steel Records) Released: October 21st
Nice comeback 24 years in the making from these veteran German thrashers. Two solid early 90’s album on Century Media mean a few of us old dogs remember the band but after a quarter of a century, this album didn’t even make a dent in the awareness of thrash fans who were too busy lapping up the 2016 albums by Assassin, Artillery, Sodom and Destruction, despite Poltergeist being from the same alma mater.
Q5-New World Order (Frontiers) Released: July 8th
I have a soft spot for old 80’s Metal bands that reform just for the love of making music because every knows deep down, that no one remembers them from the first time around and no one will care anymore. But I care…and more and more often kids who are digging up their Dad’s obscure cassettes are paying to go to ‘retro’ festivals to see Q5, Fist and Jaguar etc for the first time. This Seattle band took 30 years off between albums and never missed a beat. They should tour with Saxon.
SPIRITUAL BEGGARS-Sunrise To Sundown (Insideout) Released: March 18th
One of the earlier European Stoner rock bands released their ninth album featuring a line-up that boasts membership (past or present) in the following bands; Arch Enemy, Candlemass, Carcass, Dismember, Firewind, Grand Magus, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Opeth, Witchery and more. Ridiculously talented and spot-on, how did no one notice this album?
STEVE VAI-Modern Primitive (Epic) Released: June 24th
The 9th solo album from Vai is a blast from the past. He wrote and recorded an entire album between 1984 and 1990 when he was busy being a rock god and touring the world with the two David’s (Roth and Coverdale). It sat in the vaults for decades and finally gets dusted off and this holy grail for Vai fans meets expectations; the cross of quirkiness and shred. Bonus, backed with the 25th Anniversary reissue of Passion and Warfare with bonus tracks!
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES-World Gone Mad (Indie) Released: Sept 30th.
Despite being the only band that sounds like this or does this anymore, and despite a high profile tour with Megadeth, and despite the fact that they have ‘DAVE FREAKING LOMBARDO’ drumming on the album, most folks forgot that ST put out their 11th full-length album this year. Old man Muir hasn’t lost any of the fire.
THUNDERSTONE-Apocalyspe Now (AFM) Released: April 1st
First album in seven years sees the return of original vocalist Pasi Rantanen and a return to their original sound. A small North America tour sees one of the early Finnish Power Metal bands finally making headway into the North American market with a strong album of classic Metal.
TRICK OR TREAT-Rabbit’s Hill Part II (Frontiers) Released: July 8th
This former Italian Helloween tribute band (!), now on album #4, jump to the big leagues, bigger label, and they finish their two-part conceptual re-telling of Watership Down. More Helloween than Hellowen themselves, loaded with Power Metal elite guest stars, this album is all the more poignant since Richard Adams died this year.
WATCHTOWER-Concepts Of Math: Book One (Prosthetic) Released: October 7th
The band that everyone says they like, but nobody really likes, released their first new material in 27 years, an EP named after your high school math textbook. The original Math Metal band deserves more respect but they are probably a bit long in the tooth now for the kids who like the current crop of tech-death-thrash.
WICKED MARAYA-Lifetime In Hell (Massacre) Released: March 18th
An album that sat in the vaults for over a quarter of a century finally sees the light of day. Crunchy, early 90’s Power Metal from the US, a fine example of the form.
WOLF HOFFMANN-Headbangers Symphony (Nuclear Blast) Released: July 1st
The Accept main-man releases his second (!) solo album of classical music re-interpretations. Mixing Classic and Metal is nothing new but he does is with flair and style. Elegant. If you wanted a cool covers album you could have easily substitute JORN’S Heavy Rock Radio here.
YNGWIE MALMSTEEN-World On Fire (King Records) Released: June 1st
The man everyone loves to hate, but begrudgingly admits (at least secretly) is the best guitarist in the world, puts out album #20 in Japan only. The production problems that some critics say marred the past few albums are gone.