Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but I took a bit of a step back from regular writing during 2016 to focus on Other Things. As a result, I’ve listed to quite a lot less new music than I have in the past. My Media Player library tells me I have 25 hours less music from 2016 than I do from 2015, and it’s also the least amount to have hit my hard drive in a year since 2010.
But even with a reduced selection to contend with, narrowing this list down to just ten albums was a bit of a challenge, and one which has left me with some fairly notable exclusions from my final list. The top three, though, are ultimately what happens when being patient pays off. We also have to bid farewell to one of my favourite bands of all time, witness some young bands that we’ve followed for some time come of age and chuck in a couple of curveballs for good measure. Normal service will be resumed in 2017.
10. Osiah – Terror Firma
Every year, I hope to find one album I really like that’s heavy enough to level a football stadium, and 2016 was clearly Osiah‘s year. Almost capturing the thrillingly brutal sound they spit out when playing live, Terror Firma is a proper bone-crusher of beatdowns, breakdowns and brees. Don’t play it to your nan.
9. Toska – Ode To The Author
Reviewing Toska‘s debut mini-album back in March, I described their sound as ‘stunt grunge’, and I still can’t think of a better way to describe it. Despite being stuffed full of Very Clever Things, they’re never deployed at the expense of the groove. When not operating as three quarters of Dorje, Toska is how these three enormously talented musicians let their hair down (or out, as the case may be).
8. Black Peaks – Statues
Black Peaks have had a truly remarkable year that has catapulted them into the ears of a tremendous number of people and presented them with some amazing opportunities, like supporting Deftones at Wembley. Statues is a distinctive and immediately gratifying jaunt through most points on the British alt-metal spectrum.
7. Brutai – Born
Full Review coming soon
For a number of bands that we’ve known and loved over the last few years, 2016 has been a year of getting their shit together and stepping up their game. I’ve been happily watching Brutai steadily develop since their debut EP was released back in 2013. They have unashamedly embraced their love of pop sensibilities while retaining the bite of their earlier material, and in the process produced a collection of stomping tracks including “Deep“, which is the most persistent earworm I’ve heard all year.
6. Exist Immortal – Breathe
Exist Immortal have also been on my radar since…well, since before The Monolith existed. Their second full album is an exceptionally well-honed slice of modern progressive metal that really delivers on the considerable promise they’ve shown over the years.
5. Wakrat – Wakrat
Rage Against The Machine’s bass hero Tim Commerford’s ‘jazz-punk’ side project is an angry beast. Released, somewhat presciently, on US election day, it is a taut ball of angular, stop-start riffs and more righteous fury than you normally find in bands half the age of Wakrat‘s musicians.
4. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
A momentous, yet bittersweet moment. As it stands, Dissociation will be the last album from The Dillinger Escape Plan - but it’s better to go out with a bang than a whimper, and there couldn’t be a more fitting final chapter for such an explosive band. God damn, I’m going to miss them.
3. Bossk – Audio Noir
Post-stoner-doom-sludge, anyone? Bossk take the listener on a voyage through blissed-out, dreamy soundscapes into low-slung, neolithic riffing and back again, Audio Noir is the ideal soundtrack for late nights in smoky rooms.
2. Candiria – While They Were Sleeping
Some eight years after their last album, New York tech pioneers Candiria have returned to show the youngsters how it’s done. Coming across like a bit of a musical tour of their home city, their sonic cocktail includes jazz, hip-hop and some NYHC style crunch. Whilst they might have slightly mellowed with age, While They Were Sleeping still packs a hefty punch and pushes a few boundaries in the process. A most welcome return.
1. Aliases – Derangeable
We might have had to wait two full years between stumping up our pennies for Derangeable‘s crowdfunding campaign and actually hearing the damn thing, but by God was it worth the wait. Aliases‘ genuinely progressive adventure effortlessly brings together head-melting technicality, big singalong choruses and chunky riffing, all while wearing a big, daft grin and clutching a bottle of Jägermeister. We get the stadium-worthy anthemics of “Back To The Start” and “Above The Sky” , the Mr. Bungle-esque insanity of “Callous” and “Untangled Mind“, a dubstep break, a sax solo and more great ideas than you can shake a very expensive guitar collection at.
All of this adds up to make Derangeable the most complete, and probably the best, tech-metal album I’ve heard in a very, very long time indeed.
Stay tuned for further lists from The Monolith staff, including our overall Best of 2016 list!