List: 20 Best Albums of 2016
With 2016 coming to an end, Revolver has compiled a list of the 20 best albums that came out this year. Take a look at what made it to our list and let us know which ones made your list this year.
20. The Devil Wears Prada – 'Transit Blues'
As its title suggests, TDWP’s sixth album is all about the journey, whether it be “the miles” a band travels on the road or the process of making music. And The Devil Wears Prada delve into this theme with a melodic and direct approach (see earworm “Worldwide”)—but as brutal guitars and Mike Hranica’s ferocious vocals show, the group still burns hottest with its emotionally charged metal, like during “Detroit,” which deals with losing friends due to touring. Elsewhere, the group shows a love for literature on “To the Key of Evergreen,” with spoken words from Lolita, and on “Daughter,” with lyrics inspired by The Mandarins.
19. Tombs – 'All Empires Fall'
This dark and devastating EP from blackened New York City blasters Tombs marks their recorded debut with new members guitarist Evan Void, synth player Fade Kainer and drummer Charlie Schmid; who joined bassist Ben Brand and mainman Mike Hill in 2014. From Godfleshinspired instrumental opener “The World Is Made of Fire” and tremolo-riff scorcher “Obsidian” to infectious banger “Deceiver” (featuring a guest appearance from Ides of Gemini chanteuse Sera Timms) and goth-tinged closer “V,” All Empires Fall is an auspicious preview of Tombs’ next fulllength—and a highly satisfying release in its own right.
18. Rob Zombie – 'The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration'
After decades of examining the dark recesses of his mind, Rob Zombie has simply lost it entirely. His sixth studio album doesn’t reinvent his patented monster rock sound so much as pushes it to its most bizarre limits. Jaunty drug party anthems like “Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O.” and “The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore” show Zombie having fun making faces in the mirror, while chugger “In the Bone Pile” and the mega-apocalyptic “Wurdalak” showcase the singer’s scathing dark side. Unlike anything he’s released before, Electric Warlock is proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you sicker.
17. Zakk Wylde – 'Book of Shadows II'
It took Zakk Wylde 20 years to return to the Book of Shadows, and he made it well worth the wait. Where the original album was a surprising change of pace for the Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society headbanger, II finds Wylde sober and seasoned, who accents his acoustic guitar work with rich keyboard colorings, and, of course, some electric guitar features. Wylde’s singing displays a more evocative and emotional husk this time around, and his lyrics allow him to tap a bit of inner Neil Young as he examines the rigors and rewards of life lived hard. And you can’t go wrong with a Corey Taylor duet on a second version of “Sleeping Dogs.” Wylde will always wear his Black Label proudly, of course, but hopefully it won’t take another two decades for his softer side to come out of the shadows again.
16. Killswitch Engage – 'Incarnate'
With original vocalist Jesse Leach fully embedded with his bandmates after reuniting with them for 2013’s Disarm the Descent, Killswitch Engage delivers a sonically ambitious and lyrically hard-hitting seventh album. On “Strength of the Mind,” impressive Pantera-like grooves mesh with strong messages about perseverance, and on “The Great Deceit,” roaring thrash filled with warp-speed fretwork blends with angry lyrics about “the dull complacency” covering humanity. In the middle of it all is “Embrace the Journey... Upraised,” where beefy metalcore, melodic song-craft and more impactful lyrics come together. “I’m upraised,” Leach sings, suggesting the satisfaction he must have with being back in a band that’s still at the very top of its game.
15. Alter Bridge – 'The Last Hero'
It’s worth nothing that with its sturdy fifth album Alter Bridge shows every indication of sticking around for the foreseeable future. The Last Hero has all the heavy rock virtues we’ve come to expect from Mark Tremonti, Myles Kennedy and the boys—big riffs, thundering anthems, Valhalla vocals—as well as tracks such as “This Side of Fate” and the title song that give Tremonti plenty of six-string soaring room. The key difference is it’s also their most potent and political effort, an election-year rant that offers plenty of pointed—and mostly nonpartisan—commentary (“Show Me a Leader,” “Island of Fools”) that’ll wear out a few lighters, or cellphone batteries. A bit more sober, yes, but still kicking some mighty ass.
14. Every Time I Die – 'Low Teens'
Frontman Keith Buckley almost lost his wife and unborn daughter in childbirth last year, an event that permeates every track on the Buffalo, New York band’s career-best new album. Low Teens offers a slightly more advanced version of the band’s usual sound-anthemic, molten metalcore—but lyrically, it occupies a different planet. It’s a solemn and furious examination of life and death and the very thin line in between, with little of the band’s usual dark wit. The terrifying “Petal” and “C++ (Love Will Get You Killed)” detail Buckley’s hospital ordeal wile “It Remembers,” which features Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie, is weirdly gentle, but no less harrowing.
13. Opeth – 'Sorceress'
You can’t call Opeth a death metal band anymore, but the Swedish fivesome’s embracing of ’70s prog-rock revivalism is truly glorious. Sorceress, Opeth’s twelfth studio full-length, bids farewell to the funereal, overgrown-garden vibe that suffused past albums in favor of pure virtuosic celebration. From the shimmering, early Pink Floyd-esque “Sorceress 2” to the upbeat, strings-driven mysticism of “The Seventh Sojourn,” frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt’s songwriting is bewilderingly beautiful. Jamming like a mutant hybrid of Black Sabbath, Sorceress is another landmark on par with 2001’s Blackwater Park and 2005’s Ghost Reveries.
12. Lacuna Coil – 'Delirium'
With the Italian gothmetal band losing three of its veteran members before entering the studio to make this album, Delirium’s biggest victory may be that it exists at all. A loosely-knit concept album about mental illness in its varying forms, it’s as good as their best work, and as foreboding a work as they’ve ever made. Delirium is creepy above all: Formidable frontwoman Cristina Scabbia stalks the proceedings like a vengeful ghost, and a handful of harrowing tracks (“The House of Shame,” “You Love Me ‘Cause I Hate You”) unfurl like musical versions of an Dario Argento horror film.
11. Nails – 'You Will Never Be One of Us'
From its sneering title to its bludgeoning tone, the third album by California’s Nails is an exercise in hostility. While this blackened powerviolence masterpiece clocks in at just 21 minutes, each of its 10 tracks is dense with unbridled rage. This grinding inferno of torturous riffs, curb-stomp drums and frontman Todd Jones’ uniquely bleak snarling left fans with wide eyes and pissed pants in 2016, it effortlessly bests its peers in sonic misanthropy. At a time when so many bands want to straddle genres and court the mainstream, Nails prove that sometimes your best work comes when you dive headfirst into Hell.
10. Gojira – 'Magma'
Upon its release Magma was almost unanimously hailed as Gojira’s most accessible record—but this seemingly had more to do with concise arrangements and Joe Duplantier’s increased focus on singing rather than any real concessions to the mainstream. Rather, the album’s streamlined design only served to highlight what makes the French extreme metallers so awesome (“The Cell,” “The Shooting Star”) and awesomely weird (the interstellar tones ricocheting through the title track). The result is an utterly immersive—and often transcendent—effort.
9. Of Mice & Men – 'Cold World'
Frontman Austin Carlile has alluded to his battle with Marfan syndrome on past albums, but Cold World offers a virtual roadmap to his ordeal. The gale force “Pain” dives deep into his suffering, while other, equally affecting songs face down death, struggle, frustration, and recovery. While Cold World is less influenced by nu-metal than its predecessors (though it’s definitely still a factor, as is the band’s abiding affection for Linkin Park and Slipknot) its more comfortable with melodic rock. It’s not the world-beater OM&M have made or might make one day, but it’s certainly 2016’s most unflinching release.
8. The Dillinger Escape Plan – 'Disassociation'
On their final album, The Dillinger Escape Plan says goodbye the way it said hello—with a mind-scrambling, speaker-taxing eruption of sonic complexity that will leave jaws on the floor. Whether scrolling through rhythmic and textural variations on the electronic “Fugue,” or obsessively working over a single idea on “Limerent Death,” the songs here maintain the band’s sonic signature while still shattering the listener’s expectations. Add in the title track’s mélange of polytonal strings, lumbering electronica, thrashing drums, and pop-friendly vocals, and it’s hard to imagine any band bettering this.
7. Volbeat – 'Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie'
If Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie didn’t exactly show Volbeat pushing the boundaries of their trademark sound, it certainly demonstrated their further refining of it. Whereas on earlier records the Danish band seemed more inclined to concentrate on, say, metal in one spot, country in another and rootsy ’50s-style rock in yet a third, on their sixth record—and in particular on cuts like “Black Rose” and the labyrinthine-riffed single “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”—all the disparate influences feel more perfectly melded into a singular whole. Add to this some of Michael Poulsen’s hookiest writing (“Marie Laveau,” “The Bliss”) and it’s hardly surprising that, with Seal the Deal, Volbeat continue to reign as one of metal’s biggest crossover success stories.
6. Amon Amarth – 'Jomsviking'
With their tenth (!) album, Swedish battalion Amon Amarth reaffirmed their thundering mastery of melodic death metal. Led by vocalist Johan Hegg’s vivid tales of Viking glory and the hammer-smash-face riffing of guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, the band recorded Jomsviking with blazing session drums courtesy of Vomitory’s Tobias Gustafsson and a killer cameo from German metal siren Doro Pesch (on “A Dream That Cannot Be”). On the eve of their 25th anniversary as a band, we hoist a horn of mead to many more years of having our skulls smashed by Amon Amarth’s heroic heavy metal.
5. Deftones – 'Gore'
Gore: It’s a short and evocative four-letter word—much like the album—clocking in at 48 minutes and leaving you with a breathtaking tour of the horrifyingly heavy (“Acid Hologram”) framed by serene moments of beauty (“Prayers/Triangles”) and combinations there from (“Phantom Bride”). If the best advice an artist can hear is to “kill your darlings,” Gore was battered by the antagonism between vocalist Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter, but came out to be one of the best albums of the year.
4. Meshugguh – 'The Violent Sleep of Reason'
With so many bands emulating the polyrhythms that Meshuggah pioneered almost 30 years ago, the Swedish tech masters figured it was time for a reboot. So for their eighth full-length, they altered the creative approach, recording live as a band for the first time in decades. The modifications don’t drastically alter Meshuggah’s core sound, but they give the album an urgency and off-the-rails intensity their traditionally produced efforts have lacked. Not that The Violent Sleep of Reason is anything approaching loose—it just feels more like the off-kilter and relentless assault of the groundbreaking band killing it live than the mechanized bludgeoning of most of its other albums.
3. Avenged Sevenfold – 'The Stage'
Everything about the OC metal band’s first album in three years is utterly bananas: its Beyonce-style surprise release, technical mastery and widescreen ambitions. A concept album about artificial intelligence, The Stage is with good reason a perfect breeding ground for dark paranoia. For 70 minutes, A7X frets about computers, space exploration, tiny robots, the Big Bang, and the enduring misery of humankind. Add in there are endless metaphors, forays into prog and a spoken-word by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who shows up on the 15 minute closer to ruminate about the universe.
2. Megadeth – 'Dystopia'
It took a major lineup shift to stir Megadeth from their lackluster 2014 album Super Collider to energize them to create their thrashiest, most visceral record since 1992’s Countdown to Extinction. Dystopia, enhanced by Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro, this kick to the teeth swings, grooves and stomps at just the right moments. As crucial as the new blood is, it’s frontman Dave Mustaine who continues to guide Megadeth’s apocalyptic path with snarling vocals, turbo-charged rhythms and political subject matter that keep him on edge. Whether playing jazzy, technical passages, ominous arpeggios or more straightforward riffs, Megadeth rip and rage on Dystopia like tomorrow might never come.
1. Metallica – 'Hardwired'
The last 15 years or so haven’t exactly been the smoothest stretch of Metallica’s existence. From the Napster affair through the financial flop of the Orion Music + More festivals, metal’s biggest band has made more than a few high profile missteps. Even when they’ve largely gotten it right, like on 2008’s ‘Death Magnetic’ (their thrashy comeback from the turgid mess that was 2003’s ‘St. Anger’) or in the thrilling performance sequences of their 2013 3D concert film ‘Metallica: Through the Never,’ they’ve been tripped up by questionable artistic decisions— a harsh, overly compressed digital mix in the case of the former, and a contrived and unnecessary “plot” in the case of the latter. Still, there’s something admirable about how Metallica have steadfastly soldiered on through it all. They could have packed it in years ago, and spent the rest of their lives living like kings off the royalties of “The Black Album” alone; instead, they’ve taken chances like ‘Lulu,’ their 2011 collaboration with Lou Reed, even when such experiments have earned them little more than disdain from critics and massive amounts of shit from the metal community.
And since the band’s epic live performances have continued to be fiery, passionate and skillful, one could never entirely rule out the tantalizing possibility of them someday channeling that power into another truly great ‘Tallica record. Well, here it is—the album that we knew (or hoped) they still had in them, featuring 12 lean and mean songs that split the difference between the blistering thrash of their early days and the swinging hard rock whomp of “The Black Album..."
Read the full review here. Or, pick up our December 2016 issue for more!