Best of 2016 So Far: Dan’s List

nine circles

It’s been a busy half-year. After promising myself in January that I’d take it easy in 2016 and be more selective with the music I listened to, I proceeded to listen to roughly 125 albums in the first six months of the year. (You know, after listening to 170 all of 2015 and thinking that was too much.)

At any rate, I’ve done enough of these over the years for you to know the drill. I’m doing a Top 10, followed by 10 honorable mentions. A full sixth of my album listening in one post? So be it. As always, I’ll keep the blurbs for each album brief so as not to become tedious. Yada yada yada. Now let’s jump into the list…

Honorable Mentions

Deströyer 666 – Wildfire
On their first album in seven years, the Aussies spit pure thrashy venom throughout. Welcome back. [Bandcamp]

Gojira – Magma
Other bands have handled a streamlining of their sound far, far worse than the boys from Bayonne have here. I really like old Gojira. I really like Magma. Give it a chance and you might too. [Spotify]

Sig:Ar:Tyr – Northen 
Pure viking metal from Ontario. Locational hilarity aside, Northen absolutely slays. Epic and melodic without falling into the genre’s typical cheesy trappings. Excellent stuff. [Bandcamp]

Gevurah – Hallelujah!
The first two songs on this thing don’t really do it for me. The remaining five? Holy shit, yes. Terrific full-length debut from the Canadian duo. [Bandcamp]

Chthe’ilist – Le dernier crepuscule
Grimy, plague-ridden death metal that’s likely to be the filthiest stuff you’ll hear all year. That’s intended as a compliment of the highest order. [Bandcamp]

Schammasch – Triangle
The idea of digesting a triple album initially put me off, but I couldn’t have been more wrong in holding out. With two discs of devastation and a third of eerily soothing, calmer exploration to close things out perfectly, Triangle‘s 100 minutes go by crazy quickly. [Bandcamp]

Wormed – Krighsu
LOUD NOISES! Also, the nanobots are going to take over and destroy us all. Also also, this thing kicks ass. Bow down to your new garbage disposal overlord, Phlegeton! [Bandcamp]

Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika
Moonsorrow’s seventh full-length, and first in five years, is 67 minutes of folk metal heaven spread across just five songs. And it destroys every. single. one of them. [Spotify]

Astronoid – Air
I’ma let you in on a little secret, folks: I don’t particularly give a fuck whether this qualifies as “metal” or not. It’s a terrific range of influences, packaged into a happy, endearing package. Gets better with each listen. [Bandcamp]

Wo Fat – Midnight Cometh
TOO. MANY. RIFFS. CAN’T. ESCAPE. THE. STONERY GOODNESS. [Bandcamp]

Top 10

10. Cobalt – Slow Forever

cobaltslowforever

This one’s fallen off a bit given additional time to take it in, but it’s still a terrific listen. Trim a few minutes off a couple of the longer tunes and this thing’s Top Five material. As it stands, still a terrific comeback from Erik Wunder and Charlie Fell. [Bandcamp]

9. Forteresse – Thèmes pour la rébellion

forteresse themes pour la rebellion

If this isn’t the best black metal album of the year so far, I don’t know what is. Absolutely brilliant effort from the Quebecois quartet. [Stream via Noisey]

8. Ihsahn – Arktis.

ihsahn arktis cover

What can you say? Ihsahn shows us all once again why he’s one of the most interesting, essential voices in metal. What’s amazed me about Arktis. since the first listen is how so many elements that should never work — the almost-hair metal riff of “Until I Too Dissolve,” the Matt Heafy guest spot on “Mass Darkness” — end up fitting like a glove. Terrific stuff. [Spotify]

7. Latitudes – Old Sunlight

latitudes old sunlight

Latitudes’ third full-length is simply gorgeous — 45 minutes of pure post-metal entrancement. With equal proficiency in both heartfelt clean passages and riffy aggression, Old Sunlight proves itself to be every bit as melodic as it is crushing. [Bandcamp]

6. Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas – Mariner

cult of luna mariner artwork

Otherwise known as “the collaboration we never knew we needed.” The stylistic juxtaposition between the Swedes and Brooklyn-based vocalist Christmas is fierce and beautiful, and makes this concept record’s exploration of space all the more haunting. [Spotify]

5. Gadget – The Great Destroyer

Gadget - The Great Destroyer

Between Magrudergrind, Nails and a whole host of others, it’s been a great year for grind. But nothing in the genre’s stood out quite as much to me as Gadget has. The Great Destroyer is an all-out attack, and a glorious one at that. Not many bands could pull off a 10-year gap between albums nearly as well. [Bandcamp]

4. Vektor – Terminal Redux

vektor terminal redux cover art

Who knew thrash still had so much room for experimentation? Terminal Redux is an endlessly entertaining assortment of technical riffs, Death-like shrieks and total heaviness. Take the last couple of songs out of the picture, and this thing would be fighting for the top spot on my list. [Bandcamp]

3. Sumac – What One Becomes

Sumac - What One Becomes

Holy hell, this thing. I liked Sumac’s debut record, The Deal, quite a bit last year, but this just blows it out of the water. Immersive heaviness on a level I haven’t felt since the latter portions of The Ocean’s Pelagial back in 2013. It’s been a terrific year for post-metal, but Aaron Turner & Co. have still found a way to stand out from the pack. [Bandcamp]

2. Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts

katatonia the fall of hearts

So much pretty, so little time. The Fall of Hearts is a terrific return from Katatonia and their best album in at least a decade. The album perfectly juxtaposes the band’s usual depressive and melodic tendencies with a renewed sense of progressiveness, instantly pulling the listener in for good. It’s one of those albums where it becomes almost too easy to fixate on a particular track, and get lost in it at the expense of the rest of the album. That happened on “Takeover.” It happened on “Residual,” and it also happened on “Shifts.” After probably 20 listens through this thing, it’s happened on all of them for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. [Spotify]

1. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä

oranssi pazuzu Värähtelijä

Surprise! The Finns’ psychedelic head trip has still gotten to me like no other album in 2016. Even at its most expansive and explorational — the extended denouement to opener “Saturaatio,” the vibraphone passage in “Lahja,” or…pretty much the entirety of centerpiece “Vasemman Käden Hierarkia” — Värähtelijä maintains a total chokehold on your attention. My top album from Q1, my top album from H1, and the odds-on favorite to be my top album of the year. [Bandcamp]

All told, it’s been a great six months for metal. Here’s to the next six!

Keep it heavy,
Dan

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