What a great year it has been in the wonderful world of heavy metal. There have been some exceptional releases from new and more experienced bands. Of course, there have also been plenty of less than memorable albums but that isn’t what we are here for. These are the cream of the crop, in my opinion, the band’s to take notice of and the top ten albums of this year.
10 – The Last Stand by Sabaton (Nuclear Blast)
I know a lot of people were a little disappointed by Sabaton’s release, The Last Stand. It wasn’t that they didn’t like it, it was just that they expected a lot more but I guess I am a little lucky in that regard. See I have never listened to them before this album. I have never seen them live. This album was, for me, a first glance into a band that I have been hearing a lot of noise about. With that clear mind and unexpectant view, I found an album I really like. It sounds big and ballsy to me. I love the epic, going to war feel. I love the style of singing and the power metal vibe I get off it. Songs like Winged Hussars and The Last Stand feel huge but it is the song Sparta that sucked me in completely. It is the sort of song you listen to when you need to get your adrenaline going.
Recommended track – Sparta
9 – Rheia by Oathbreaker (Deathwish)
This album was a bit of a revelation to me this year. See, I like black metal and I love it when black metal manages to pull in atmosphere and feeling but I can be turned off a little by black metal that is just too sombre. I want to feel it and I want to be engaged but I don’t want to be depressed. Rheia manages to be sombre, really sombre at times, but still hugely entertaining. In fact it is quite an all encompassing album really, pulling you through different sets of emotions as it moves through brooding, atmospheric sequences followed by brutally heavy sections. It has clean vocals followed by furiously heavy vocals, beautiful melody followed by furious shredding – Rheia is nothing short of a wonderful journey through everything that is great about black metal, and everything that is great about heavy metal in general.
Recommended track – Seventh Son of R
8 – Trust No One by Devildriver (Napalm)
Devildriver’s 7th studio album was released way back in May. It came after a time of real uncertainty in 2015 with the band first being on hiatus while Dez Fafara focused on a reunion tour with the unnecessary Coal Chamber and then suffered the loss of their drummer and lead guitarist. Thankfully, with new members in place, Trust No One came out and proved that despite it all Devildriver were still Devildriver. There is no real invention on this album, it is just a hard-hitting, circle pit creator with many good songs and a few exceptional ones. I didn’t actually like it that much, thinking it a little too safe, when it first came out but it has grown on me a lot throughout the year.
Recommended track – Daybreak
7 – The Mirror’s Principle by With Heavy Hearts (Self Released)
Okay so we all know by now that I love a bit of melodic death metal. I mean, really love it. I listen to it and cannot understand why these bands are not being heralded as the present and future saviours of heavy metal, not that it needs saving. I listen to a lot of it and, yes, there are lots of pretty average releases but there are also really exceptional ones and that is where With Heavy Hearts album, The Mirror’s Principle, sits. It is brutally heavy, packed full of thumping riffs and the vocalist has a really strong voice. As a debut album, there is so much promise here and I will be eagerly watching and following this band. I think they have enough about them to step up and achieve bigger things in the future.
Recommended track – Drifter
6 – Dystopia by Megadeth (Tradecraft/Universal)
Packing the album, Dystopia, full of cynical lyrics and a doom and gloom version of our world, it’s politics and the path we seem to be treading could have made this album and uncomfortable listen but instead, with Dave Mustaine focusing on subjects he is known to be passionate about, we get a hard hitting, aggressive beast of an album. It is heavy, definitely Megadeth at their angriest, jam packed full of infectious riffs and great lead guitars. I am not even that much of a fan of Megadeth but this album hooked me and I really enjoyed, and still enjoy, it.
Recommended track – Poisonous Shadows
5 – Jomsviking by Amon Amarth (Metalblade)
Amon Amarth’s 10th studio album is their first concept album and they pulled it off brilliantly. It sounds more polished at times, even finding a song to fit in female vocals from Doro Pesch, and is packed full of melody so while it’s shine may be a little odd to long term fans, it is perfectly suited to the concept the album pit forward. I love the swirling melodies and crunching riffs over Johan Hegg’s gruff vocals. Jomsviking just works.
Recommended track – Vengeance is My Name
4 – Magma by Gojira (Roadrunner)
Magma is a significant release. Coming off the back of the exceptional L’Enfant Savauge, it was important for metal, and the band, that Gojira could back it up with more quality. Hailed by many as the next big festival headliner, Magma backed that up easily proving Gojira to be one of the most capable and creative metal bands in existence. While I don’t personally think it hits the heights of their previous album, it is still an album of real quality and packed full of inventiveness and feeling. Coming off the back of the death of Joe and Mario Duplantier’s mother, it feels raw and angry at times and any album that has that much heart and soul in it is going to be poignant and it is.
Recommended track – Silvera
3 – Hardwired to Self Destruct by Metallica (Blackened Records)
Being a life long fan of Metallica it was actually quite difficult to have a new album from them and not have it as my number 1 album. They made it particularly hard for me this year by making a bloody good album that invokes memories of all their previous work. I hear elements of Kill ’em All, And Justice, Death Magnetic and even Load and Reload in here and I love that. I love how they tapped into all of their roots and pulled together an album of real quality but more than that, I love that it is actually a very heavy album packed with killer solos, great drumming and heavy riffs. It isn’t all plain sailing as there are a couple songs I don’t like as much as others but there is so much quality on offer they are easy to bypass. Hardwired…..to Self-Destruct is a really great album and Metallica once again show the world exactly how relevant and important they are.
Recommended track – Spit Out the Bone
2 – Atoma by Dark Tranquility (Century Media Records)
I spent a lot of time trying to decide if this album should be number one or number two in my list. I love this album. It is brilliant. I was completely hooked after hearing the first couple singles, Atoma and Forward Momentum, and it just got even better for me when I bought the album and heard the rest of it. It is the perfect blend of darkness and tranquillity and everything just works. There are one or two very good songs that don’t quite hit the heights of the other exceptional ones and for that alone it comes in at number 2, just.
Recommended track – Faithless By Default
1 – Degradead by Degradead (Dockyard1 Records)
Released way back in January the 28th, this album still features prominently in my playlists today. It is no secret that I am a fan of melodic death metal but I really do believe this band are bigger than that. This album, the self titled Degradead, showcases their immense talent with some really heavy stuff, the first seconds of the first song, Afterlife, tells you all you need to know. Great guitar solos and riffs and bass lines, amazing drum beats and a singer who has one of the strongest voices in metal coupled with solid production and clever song structures make this the best release of the year for me.
Recommended track – Morphosis