For whatever my opinion is worth (which probably isn’t much), I think this year has been quite an incredible one for heavy music. Some long-awaited returns, some exceptional grind, some progressive masterpieces, and some pretty substantial EPs, to say the least. Here are my top 20 picks for the best releases of 2016.
20. Close the Hatch – Death & Resistance (Red Moth)
19. Hush – Nihil Unbound (Independent)
18. Call of the Void – AYFKM (Translation Loss)
17. Body Stuff – Body Stuff 2 (The Path Less Traveled)
16. Bleak – Songs for Cowards (Prison Tatt Records)
15. Despised Icon – Beast (Nuclear Blast)
14. Wake – Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow (Sentient Ruin)
13. Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation (Party Smasher)
12. Brujeria – Pocho Atzlan (Nuclear Blast)
11. Aborted – Retrogore (Century Media)
10. Wormrot – Voices (Earache)
Singaporean grindcore trio Wormrot have released the perfect grindcore album. Voices features the classic approach of short, blistering tracks filled with frenzied rhythms and raw tones, capturing that visceral punk vibe. But they’ve also incorporated a range of structures and tempos, which is just enough variety to keep things fresh and interesting.
9. Ion Dissonance – Cast the First Stone (Good Fight Music)
Six years is a hell of a long time to wait for a new Ion Dissonance record, but thankfully the time away served the band well. Cast the First Stone picks up exactly where the Montreal death/mathcore band left off, comprising all of the vicious riffs, crushing grooves and angular technicality you’d expect.
8. Oathbreaker – Rheia (Deathwish)
So many feelings! Equal parts harsh and beautiful, Oathbreaker‘s Rheia is an emotional roller coaster. Featuring a wide range of sounds, from the abrasive, blackened aggression to the somber and melancholic ethereal tones, it’s a totally heart-wrenching listening experience.
7. Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis (Relapse)
New Zealand’s Ulcerate possess the most unpredictable, forward-thinking approach to technical metal while also managing to be incredibly captivating. With Shrines of Paralysis, the trio execute a mix of death, doom and black metal with intricate, unconventional songwriting and dark, monolithic rhythms to create one hell of a masterpiece.
6. Bleak – No Light, No Tunnel (Hex Records)
Consistently surpassing expectations with every release, Bleak is simply one of heavy music’s most outstanding bands. No Light, No Tunnel highlights this fact further, as they take on a more chaotic and discordant approach. From TJ Calandra’s extraordinarily heavy riffs to Michael Watson’s tortured, gut-wrenching vocals, it’s their finest and most dynamic work to date.
5. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc (Relapse)
Seven years since their last full-length and grindcore legends Agoraphobic Nosebleed decide to release a sludge/doom EP. But no one’s complaining! Exceptionally dark and heavy throughout, filled with harsh, dense riffs and mega grooves, Arc absolutely crushes.
4. Piss Vortex – Future Cancer (Indisciplinarian)
Possibly the most underrated band and release of the year, this 11-minute EP from Danish grind band Piss Vortex is a mind-blowing performance of progressive grindcore. Future Cancer is short and urgent, filled with chaos, noise and unorthodox timing, yet also incredibly diverse and overwhelmingly powerful.
3. Vermin Womb – Decline (Translation Loss)
Basically the grind version of Primitive Man (only sped up and radiating even more despair), Vermin Womb‘s Decline is relentlessly visceral, dissonant and suppressive. The release also features sections of sludge-infused grooves and grimy black metal tones, while Ethan Lee McCarthy’s vocals can only be described as terrifying.
2. Magrudergrind – II (Relapse)
Following a six-year hiatus, the return of Magrudergrind finds the band as vicious and angry as ever. II features their classic approach, combining powerviolence and punk elements with grindcore, while also showcasing more mature and focussed songwriting.
1. Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (Season of Mist)
Gorguts never disappoint, but even Luc Lemay outdid himself on this one. Pleiades’ Dust is a feat of brilliant composition and stunning arrangements, featuring several movements fused together to form a single, 33-minute-long track that emanates progressive, technical death metal beauty. One word: EPIC.
Neurosis – Fires Within Fires (Neurot)
Withered – Grief Relic (Season of Mist)
Necronomicon – Advent of the Human God (Season of Mist)
-(16)- – Lifespan of a Moth (Relapse)
Brain Tentacles – Brain Tentacles (Relapse)
The White Swan – Anubis (Independent)
Burdizzo – Acoustic Neuroma (Independent)