Top 20 Albums
1. Sabaton – The Last Stand
Sabaton’s historical war metal machine just keeps on grinding forward. Bigger shows, bigger tours, more fans; these guys keep working hard. I know a lot of critics were down on this album but discerning ears will find Sabaton attempting to stretch their song writing skills. Besides which, this is my list and I love this band. This is, by far, the album I’ve played the most this year.
2. Nordic Union – Nordic Union
Take the song writing talents of Eclipse’s Erik Martensson and add in the powerful vocals of Pretty Maids’ Ronnie Atkins and you have a potential recipe for hard rock heaven. Sure enough, their first collaboration under the name Nordic Union delivered in spades with a flawless record of powerful music. This was one was this close to being my #1 of the year.
3. Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
Speaking of Ronnie Atkins, here he is again with his main gig, Pretty Maids. KINGMAKER is arguably the heaviest, angriest, record of their career and Atkins’ vocals are the highlight. Just great music here.
4. Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
I’m guessing a lot of people will have forgotten this album on their year-end lists as it was released way back in January of the year, but I am not one of them. Brainstorm roared back into my ears after a lengthy absence and impressed the heck out of me with superbly-written power metal.
5. Megadeth – Dystopia
Angry Mustaine redeemed himself in fans’ eyes with this thrashing return to form, probably his best effort in nearly a decade. Hopefully Kiko Loureiro finds time to continue in both Megadeth and Angra.
6. Almanac – Tsar
Another album that surprised me this year, Victor Smolski’s first post-Rage effort is a thunderous, symphonic power metal record that impressed me.
7. Final Chapter – Legions of the Sun
Dormant for over ten years, these speed merchant Italians knocked me on my butt this year with what is probably the most energetic power metal album of the year, outdoing their better-known forebears.
8. Amon Amarth – Jomsviking
Ten albums into their career, and Amon Amarth continue to stake their claim as the biggest melodic death metal band in the world. JOMSVIKING is another winner in a catalogue full of great albums.
9. Primal Fear – Rulebreaker
Not only did Primal Fear deliver my favorite live performance this year, they also provided yet another slab of killer Teutonic metal. Long live!
10. Avantasia – Ghostlights
Tobi and his vagabond band of minstrels knocked out what could be their heaviest album in a bulging discography, showing that spectacular song writing is still alive and well.
- Blaze Bayley – Infinite Entanglement
12. Anthrax – For All Kings
13. Running Wild – Rapid Foray
14. Michael Sweet – One Sided War
15. Insomnium – Winter’s Gate
16. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
17. Aftershok – Detonate
18. Metallica – Hardwired To Self-Destruct
19. Great Master – Lion & Queen
20. Iron Savior – Titancraft
Best New Band:
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Both Nordic Union and Almanac could have easily taken this spot, but I though I’d highlight a truly NEW band that released their debut album this year. Shredding, crunchy power metal with ballsy vocals and sci-fi lyrics, this album kicks ass.
Martin Popoff – Metal Heart: Aiming High With Accept
Canadian metal scholar Popoff always delivers the goods with his books, and no band deserves the attention more. AIMING HIGH WITH ACCEPT leaves no stone unturned in the band’s career, right up into the BLIND RAGE album. An enjoyable, informative read.
Best Live Album:
Crazy Lixx – Sound Of The Live Minority
There were a ton of excellent live albums released this year, but the pure ‘80s metal joy of this record could not be beat. Crazy Lixx is a band built for kicking ass live.
Fangorn – Inferno
Heavy, nature-focused folk metal from Russia, INFERNO is four blissful songs that you won’t soon forget.
Sabaton – Heroes On Tour
Yeah, they are going to the live well a little too often now, but hey, when you have possibly the best live show in metal, keep at it.
Disappointments of the Year:
It’s now a massive cliché that 2016 was a terrible year for celebrity deaths (it was), but here are just some of the metal musicians we lost this year. R.I.P. to all:
- Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio)
- Greg Lake (ELP, Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
- Keith Emerson (ELP, Ayreon)
- Sandy Pearlman (manager/producer of Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath and many others)
- Mike Taylor (Quartz)
- Aleah (Swallow the Sun, Amorphis)
- Stuart Rose (Pentagram)
- Herve “Marquis” (ADX)
- Norman Killeen (Threat Signal)
AC/DC and their shoddy treatment of Brian Johnson and his hearing problems. You would have hoped for more respect shown for a guy who’s been your singer for 30+ years.
Leaves Eyes’ split with Liv Kristine…enough with the drama. Sad for everyone involved.
Operation: Mindcrime – Resurrection Just…ugh.
Greatest Hopes for 2017:
W.A.S.P. Retrospective / Historical Set: As JP and I have said in the past, Blackie needs to get off his duff and put out the definitive historical W.A.S.P. set. This band’s history is as interesting (and sordid) as they come and it would be a fascinating listen/viewing.
I’m also looking forward to new releases from the likes of: Accept, King Diamond, Primal Fear, Iced Earth, Stephen Pearcy, and many more. Also, I can’t wait to FINALLY see Hammerfall live, and have a third go-round with the mighty Sabaton on stage.