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The Best Albums of 2016

#15 Haunted - Khemmis

#14 Atoma - Dark Tranquility

#13 For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages - SubRosa

#12 Shadow Sleep - Starkill

#11 The Arcane Session - Morphinist

 

#10

Album: Higher Times
Artist: Electric Citizen
Genre: Psychedelic Metal
Origin: USA

Listen to Natural Law

This album pairs well with Spaten Optimator.

This 4 piece band is a reminder that there are a few core ingredients required for greatness.  Sometimes it is worth going back to your roots to remember what it is that defines you.  I am the first to criticize boring metal and simple beers, but it is impossible to improve on a genre or style if you don't first understand the origins.   Spaten Optimator and Electric Citizen serve as homages to the sturdy shoulders thousands of others have stood on to reach the heights of our brave new world.

 

Album: Jomsviking
Artist: Amon Amarth
Genre: Viking Metal
Origin: Sweden

Listen to One Thousand Burning Arrows


This album pairs well with Revolver Blood and Honey

#9

Raise your horns!  What could possibly satisfy your inner viking more than a cup filled with blood and honey to accompany an epic metal album?  There is no greater honor for a viking or metalhead than the promise of one day being surrounded by all your friends in Valhalla, and that's what Amon Amarth are all about.  There are those who write off Amon Amarth as a cheesy viking metal band that is played out, but these are the same people who never fantasize about staring down their enemies on the battlefield.  It's healthy to get lost in dreams of blood and visions of death and gore, from time to time.

 

#8

Album: Grey Heavens
Artist: Omnium Gatherum
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Origin: Finland

Listen to Majesty and Silence

This album pairs well with 5BEANS by Sixpoint.

Sometimes you just need feel good music.  This is the perfect album to listen to when you need to raise your spirits.  Crack open a 5BEANS and play this album loud enough to make your heart start beating with the melody.  When everything in the world is trying its hardest to drag you down, a few 5BEANS and Grey Heavens will lift your spirits and make you realize there is no power or principality strong enough to break you.

 

Album: Jumalten Aika
Artist: Moonsorrow
Genre: Folk Metal
Origin: Finland

Listen to Ruttolehto sis. Päivättömän Päivän Kansa

This album pairs well with Obsidian Stout by Deschutes.


  #7

Moonsorrow always bring a somber and reflective mood to their work.  This can be a challenge for other folk metal bands, but Moonsorrow has no problem taking their craft seriously.  Deschutes has the same mindset with the Obsidian Stout.  When it is time to put childish things aside, pour an Obsidian Stout and listen to Jumalten Aika.

 

#6

Album: Seraphical Euphony
Artist: Hyperion
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Origin: Sweden

Listen to Novus Ordo Seclorum

This album pairs well with Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA by New Belgium.

What do Voodoo Ranger and Hyperion have in common?  They are both amazing and new to 2016.  With their first full length album, Hyperion is reminding everyone how to make a truly great Melodic Death Metal album, and  New Belgium is raising the bar with their latest take on the imperial IPA.  They both do an amazing job of introducing a fresh level of complexity to an already loved and cherished style that will have you thirsty for more.

 

Album: Guardians
Artist: Saor
Genre: Atmospheric Folk Metal
Origin: Scotland

Listen to The Declaration

This album pairs well with Rapture by Rabbit Hole.

#5


 

I have to admit that it was a tough battle between the Saor, Panopticon, Waldgeflüste, and the Panopticon / Waldgeflüster split album that came out this year.  All of these albums evoke beautiful mountain imagery that is capable of transporting you to a place and time when nature was viewed with reverence.  In the end Guardians won me over. 

Just as I was going to delve into the intricate details of what sets this album apart, my wife walked into the house and commented, "This reminds me of the soundtrack to Pocahontas."  I still don't know if that was supposed to be a criticism or a compliment.  Maybe listening experiences are subjective.  Maybe.  No, that can't be right.  Put this album on and drink a Rapture or brown ale of your choice.  You will feel the chill as a cold mountain wind washes over you with all its colors.  Fuck!  It's ruined forever now!

 

#4

Album: The Cycle Never Ends
Artist: Ravensire
Genre: Heavy Metal
Origin: Portugal

Listen to Cromlech Revelations


This album pairs well with Yuengling Lager.

Dust off your denim jacket and grab a Yuengling, we are about to take a trip to a time when real heavy metal reigned supreme.  Just as Americas greatest strength is appropriating other cultures food and improving on it, Ravensire manages to produce an album in 2016 that would be the perfect cassette to keep in the glove box of your second generation Trans Am.  They do more than simply pay homage to the genre, they mange to make it their own and produce something is truly unique and capable of standing on its own.  It is impossible to listen to this album without feeling like it is your sole duty to show the world what it means to be the master of our own destiny. 

 

Album: Magma
Artist: Gojira
Genre: Technical Death Metal
Origin:  France

Listen to Stranded.

This album pairs well with Deviant Dale's by Oskar Blues.

#3

9:43AM     My body lurches, as if I just met the ground after a long fall, and I bolt awake.  The contractors will be here any minute now!  I peek out the window and don't see any trucks parked out front.  In a series of events that I am unable to place in chronological order, I grab a Deviant Dale's, check my phone, and hop into the shower.

 
10:11AM     Oh no.  I did it again.  I got lost in the shower and I have no idea how much time has passed.  Barely drying off, I run to the window.  Good, still no truck.  What is more concerning is that there is no message on my phone.  The contractors were supposed to be here at 10.  No, they did the siding last week.  But then why did I take today off work?  The hangover is messing with me.  I finish the beer, get dressed and stumble downstairs.
 
10:36AM     Breakfast helps, but eggs and hot sauce is getting old.  I really should change it up sometime.  Are the contractors late?  Did they already finish?  Ugh, this hangover isn't helping.  At least I don't have to hear the racket and banging as the workers tear down and replace the siding this morning.  I'm so thankful that they finished the job last week, or was it yesterday?  E-cig in hand, I walk into the back yard.  The siding on the chimney still looks awful.  OK, so they are just late.  Great... 
 
11:26AM     Now I am getting worried.  These guys have delayed and put this job off for six months!  I remember how loud it was in the house while they were working and my head throbs in anticipation.  As I look for the foreman's phone number, I realize that I shouldn't know what it will sound like since they haven't started yet.  Voice mail.  Inbox is full.  Fuck it.  I grab another beer.
 
12:46PM     I put on Magma and pop the top on the Deviant Dale's.  I drink this beer too much.  I can taste it before the glass even reaches my lips.  I'm getting behind on my top ten metal albums of the year reviews, and I realize that Gojira has to be on the list.  It's an obvious choice since I listen to this album so much.  I know every line and riff.  Not that it's a bad thing, this album is great, but anything can get old.  How many times have I listened to this album?  Come on! google music is never reliable with it's "listened to" count.  I know it is more than 25 times.
 

3:16PM     BANG!  What was that?  Was I asleep?  BANG!  Oh, the contractors are working.  I guess they assumed I was at work and just got started.  Opening the back door, I am greeted with an aluminum ladder that I duck under and wander onto the patio.  "Oh, don't walk under the ladder.  Bad luck!"  They laugh.  I'm not ready for this.  Glancing up at the workers I mutter, "looking good."  "We didn't know anyone was home.  We should be done today if we can work a little late.  Is that OK?"  The sun is bright and I haven't left the house all day.  "Uh, yeah.  I can't wait till this is all over."  The foreman walks up to me and awkwardly shakes my hand.  "Hah, yeah, well, we just got started.  We'll finish up today.  What a beautiful day!  I was up at the butt crack of dawn and I knew it would be a wonderful day. As soon as I saw the sunrise I prayed that this day would never end!  I have a lot of jobs that I could finish if today would just go on forever, heh.  Will you be around this evening?  You can give me the check as soon as we wrap up."  BANG! BANG!  The Christmas stocking hanger!  I run back under the ladder and open the door, shouting, "Yeah, I'll be here!"  Too late.  The reindeer stocking hanger is on the base of the brick fireplace an the metal antlers are bent out of shape.  This happens every time!  Why do I remember this?  As I bend the thin metal back into shape I slowly realize that I have been having one déjà vu after another all day.  I walk over to my laptop and open reddit.  Why are these links still blue?  I've already seen all these.  It's like that episode of Star Trek The Next Generation where Crusher keeps remembering the poker game.  Could I be stuck in a time loop? 

4:00     I realize now that all of this has happened before.  The only question is for how long.  I glance over at google play and it says that I have listened to Magma 25 times.  Did the album play on repeat 25 times today?  Have I relived this day 25 times?  I need food.  I know I shouldn't drive, but Taco Bell is right around the corner.  "Whatever," I mumble to myself, "worst case, I'll die in a car wreck and wake up again this morning." 

4:04PM     I slam on the brakes as a giant SUV launches across 4 lanes of traffic in a valiant attempt to turn left out of the Home Depot parking lot.  I knew that would happen.  I need to get out of this loop!  I need to change sometime!  I can't go to Taco Bell again, the cycle will never end.  I slam the gas pedal to the floor and make an illegal u-turn.  My head is pounding.  I have to end the cycle!  I have to make a change!  The car door doesn't close all the way as I run back into the house, but I don't care.  BANG! BANG! BANG!  Make it stop!  I can't go through this for even one more day!  Tears begin to stream down my face as I drop my knees and grab my ears.  "MAKE IT STOP!" I manage to choke between gasps for breath. 

4:56PM     Silence.  They must be painting now.  What do I do?  Pounding another imperial IPA sounds like a good idea. 

6:14PM     Empty cans surround me on the floor in the front room when my phone rings.  "Hello?"  I can see the foreman's smug grin in my mind when his insidious voice comes through.  "We are just wrapping up now.  Are you home?  I'm out back if you want give me that check."  I assume he can hear my breathing because he doesn't hang up during the awkwardly long pause.  I stand up not knowing what to do next.  "Yeah, I'll be right out."  Walking through the kitchen, the glimmer of a passing car's headlights reflect off the blade of the Cutco chef's knife that I got from my mother-in-law last Christmas.  I slide it into my back pocket and feel the point cut through the denim as it slips down until the handle catches on the top of my jeans back pocket.  The ladder isn't in the way anymore and foreman is standing in the middle of my back yard looking at his cell phone.  My mind is blank as I close the distance, draw the knife and drive it into his throat.  "Se lo chingaron!" one of the contractors exclaims as the warm spray of blood soaks my face.  One, two, three... I'm keeping count with each thrust.  Twenty-four, twenty-five, and I'm finished.  The knife is still stuck in the foreman's chest as he lays, motionless, on the grass.  I stand up, take a deep breath and look up into the darkening sky.  I did it.  I broke the cycle.  Back in the house, my finger slips as I pop the tab on another IPA, but it's okay.  My hangover is finally gone.  
 

 

#2

Album: Vessels
Artist: Be'lakor
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Origin: Australia

Listen to Whelm.

This album pairs well with Theobroma by Dogfish Head.

Historians believe that music has been around for around for 50,000 years and it is possible that it existed before what we think of as the human brain developed.  In fact, some argue that music may predate language its self.  Beer, on the other hand is a much more recent invention.  The oldest archaeological evidence of beer is just under 7,000 years old.  This, however, still predates the written word of God and almost anything we have resembling human history. 

What is unquestionable is that both beer and music possess a primal force that has shaped civilizations and defined what it means to be human.  If you indulge yourself with a Theobroma and listen to Vessels, you will experience the same feelings that your ancestors had and reunite with the spirits of those who created the world we live in today.  There is a thread running through all of us defines the human condition.  Anyone can all feel it if they just drink enough and listen to great metal.

 

 

#1

 

Album: Empires of Ash
Artist: Sojourner
Genre: Castle Metal
Origin: New Zealand / Sweden

Listen to Homeward.

This album pairs well with Dogfishhead Red & White.

 

There is tremendous debate in the metal community right now about the genre, "Castle Metal."  Some say it is metal that was crafted to played in a castle, while others argue that it is the type of metal that castles would play if only they were capable of using instruments.  Obsequiae, with their 2015 album Aria of Vernal Tombs are often credited with bringing the previously obscure genre onto the main stage, but the paltry number of bands who can be classified as such has been the main source of criticism for those who question whether or not it should be recognized as a distinct genre at all. 

But, with the release of Empires of Ash it is clear that Castle Metal is here to stay.  In much the same way the style "beer-wine," (a beer that uses a substantial amount of wine must in the fermentable bill of ingredients) will cause critics to argue endlessly about its utility, "Castle Metal" will always be controversial.  What is not up for debate is the mystifying sense of enduring solace and contentment that one receives when they polish off a bottle of Red &White while listening to this album.  

 

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