The yearly tradition of year-end lists is sort of impossible to get round. From a purely practical standpoint, it serves to give us an extra chance to remind you of fantastic things you may have missed.
2016 has been a particularly fantastic year, and so this time it’s extra difficult; there have been some exceptional records released, and I could have made a list just from the output of months like April and September; the likes of Bossk, Mamiffer and Black Peaks in the former and Norma Jean, Carcer City and Trap Them in the latter have all ‘just’ missed out on my personal final ten, although you’ll see several of them in the other staff’s lists.
Which brings me neatly to said list – my ten favourite records of the year. I hope you find something you enjoy!
10. The Black Queen – Fever Daydream
The main draw here was always Greg Puciato – although not as you know him – but the sheer synth-drenched elegance of The Black Queen‘s debut record is cinematic in both scope and execution. Catchy leads soar over menacing bass, and there’s evocative, cathartic pleasure to be found throughout this Fever Daydream.
9. Every Time I Die – Low Teens
One of the most startlingly consistent bands in metal, Every Time I Die‘s eighth breaks the mould of earlier releases by upping the runtime, and cutting the whimsy; Low Teens is the traditionally party-conscious quintet’s most thought-provoking work to date, sparked by enigmatic frontman Keith Buckley becoming a father and quitting the drink. Of course, they still go harder than bands half their age, and this record is another direct hit as far as
8. Arms – Blackout
That all of this…thing…comes from one man is impressive, and Paul Hundeby’s Arms has deservedly earned a spot at next year’s Complexity Fest in the Netherlands next year next to the likes of Ihsahn and Gorod. Debut Blackout pays homage to mathcore greats while speaking – or bellowing – in it’s own distinct voice. Squalling, dissonant and supremely disharmonious, it spends thirty flaring its nostrils and sounding incredibly pissed off in the process, and it’s nothing short of invigorating.
7. Exist Immortal – Breathe
Marked progression – yet again – from on of the UK’s outstanding young talents, Exist Immortal bring their remarkable individual and collective talents to bear in meshing the rhythmic tendencies of modern progressive metal with a shrewd eye for actual songwriting. Breathe indeed; each of these tracks is a refreshing gulp of clean air.
6. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
The Dillinger Escape Plan will go down in history as one of the greats. Dissociation, their disconnecting swansong, does them no disservice, and sees them go out with a bang rather than a whimper, as they had intended. Mission accomplished; good luck to anyone who tries to follow in their footsteps.
5. Oathbreaker - Rheia
Post-black metal has established itself well in recent years, particularly as the artsy metal-lover’s style of choice. To call Rheia artsy almost does Oathbreaker a disservice, but its bleak squalls are incredibly thought-provoking; Caro Tanghe’s exposed, brittle vocal aspect brushes against a fiery, groove-laden masterpiece of blastbeats, driving post-metal and cathartic finesse. It’s high-concept but also very, very real.
4. letlive. – If I’m The Devil…
If I’m The Devil… is one of the most important punk albums of the last ten years. Taking Refused‘s concept of new noise and running with it. letlive.‘s mix of soul and savagery is potent in delivering their core message, benefitting from being wholly atypical of the genre. Every facet comes across honest, sincere, and you can’t help but fall in love with it because of this.
3. Visions - Shake The Earth
Released just in time for the summer, Shake The Earth saw Visions ditch some of the more oblique qualities of their tech-metal in favour of writing nine absolute bangers. It just feels good to listen to, start to finish; catchiness, melodies, and massive, Thricey payoffs are the order of the day.
2. Watsky – x Infinity
Approaching his 30th year, poet and rapper Watsky‘s fourth album x Infinity exudes sophistication, infusing 18 (!) new cuts with his trademark humour, wit and lightning-fast tongue – but with it comes more extensive consummation of his artistic vision, and a freedom of expression unconstrained by worrying about people who don’t get his unique style.
1. Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
Somewhat divisive on release, the follow-up to Architects‘ ‘return to form’ – 2014′s Lost Forever // Lost Together – was considered by some to be a bit too close to its predecessor.
The popularity of All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us has undoubtedly skyrocketed in the wake of the tragic death of its primary composer, guitarist Tom Searle. His passing has acutely crystallised much of the lyrical content of the record; mid-album pair “Gone With The Wind” and “The Empty Hourglass” in particular are so very poignant in retrospect, coming from a young man who knew he likely didn’t have much time left. Moving.
But emotional resonance aside, it’s just an astonishingly consistent piece of work. Sonically it packs as much punch as they ever have, with the composition nailed on and the sound just gargantuan. It’s thematically unified, and just an incredibly complete record; undoubtedly their best yet.
Will they go on without Tom? No-one knows, least of all them. But if this does turn out to be the last Architects album, what a note to go out on.
Stay tuned for lists from the remainder of my talented and opinionated staff; they’ve made some excellent choices. At the end of the week we’ll let you know the overall, official top records of the site as a whole, calculated via complicated maths, silent contemplation and Satanic rituals.