Dillinger Escape with the voice of Alice in Chains, and then you get a supergroup’s debut album.
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra really caught my ear with the combination of mathcore, progressive
metal, and grunge. They even add a little techno with their evocativefirst single, “Blood Moon.”
The unnerving vocal work of William DuVall sent chills down my spine. The combine efforts of
guitarists Brent Hinds (Mastodon) and Ben Weinman (Dillinger Escape Plan) brought out some
of the best shredding in both of them. With songs that also included “Crucifixion,” “Fragments & Ashes,” and “Adapt or Die,” Broken Lines has the makings of an excellent record.
14.Of Mice & Men – Cold World: Hailing from Costa Mesa, Calif., Of Mice & Men bring us
an album that mixes both metalcore and melodic rock. Follow-up to the successful Restoring
Force, this record shows the maturity in the group’s songwriting capabilities. Songs like “Pain”
and “Real” comes from the personal struggles of frontman Austin Carlile (who is coping with
Marfan syndrome). Both he and bassist Aaron Pauley come together nicely to play their most
experimental stuff yet. Unfortunately, this is the last album to feature Carlile, for he retired to focus on his recovery. He will be missed, but has left a lasting impression with Cold World.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkjvyMBeqUE
13.Babymetal– Metal Resistance: If you thought three Japanese girls could come together and
form a group that combines J-pop (Japanese pop) and heavy metal is crazy, then Babymetal’s
Metal Resistance is the proof that it is not crazy. This being there sophomore album, it is filled
with tunes that draw tons of different influences like groove metal (“Karate”) and progressive
metal (“Tales of the Destinies”) to name a few. Though it for the most in Japanese, the song “The
One” features the girls singing mostly in English and it was beautiful. What stood out the most
was “No Rain, No Rainbow” because it showcased the range of frontwoman Su-Metal’s voice
and it was in the style of a ‘80s power ballad that reminded me of Journey. Dubbed as Kawaii metal, Babymetal is a band that belongs in metal. This is why Japan has a huge metal following.
12.Fire From the Gods – Narrative:First time I saw these guys was in Santa Ana, Calif. at the
Observatory. As soon as they played their first note, I was hooked. Their debut album, Narrative,
has an old school nu metal feel to it. Vocalist AJ Channer not only can rap, he can sing with both
melody and aggression. He is like Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Pantera’s Phil Anselmo rolled
into one. The best tracks include “Composition,” “Public Enemy,” and “Pretenders.” The duo
guitar work of Jameson Teat and Drew Walker is magnificent. This is a superb debut album from
a band that makes rap metal cool again.
11.Killswitch Engage – Incarnate: Ever since the return of founding frontman Jesse Leach,
Killswitch Engage has been stampeding through the metal circuit. As soon as their 7th release
Incarnate hit the radio waves, I was in for a treat. This album is loaded with skull-crushing guitar
playing, balls to the wall rhythms, and passionate lyrical content. What is great about Incarnate is
the approach the band took to their songwriting. One song that stood out to me the most was
“Embrace the Journey…Upraised” because it was much slower and more symphonic than
anything they have done before. Killswitch Engage still brings plenty of metalcore fun with “We
Carry On” and “Hate By Design.” The drumming on the song “The Great Deceit” by Justin
Foley is earsplitting. He just tears through the song and lead guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz whips a riff that is in frenzy. Metalcore is at its finest with this record.
10.Letters From the Fire – Worth the Pain: It is tough for any band to start over with new
people. For Letters From the Fire, retooling the group that has been around a while is what they
needed to do. With some new players and singer Alexa Kabazie, the band came up with Worth
the Pain. What has stood to me the most was Kabazie’s voice. It was so vigorous and powerful.
Founding member and lead guitarist Mike Keller riffs on the record like a pro. From the crunchy
metallic “Given In to Me” to the piano led ballad “At War,” Worth the Pain is chalk full of
rocking tunes that give Letters From the Fire an identity. The chemistry that these guys have is astounding. Worth the Pain is worth owning.
09.Alter Bridge – The Last Hero: Even with vocalist Myles Kennedy working with Slash and
guitarist Mark Tremonti focusing on his solo career, they always have enough energy to bring
Alter Bridge back and produce works of art. The Last Hero is their fifth release and it does not
disappoint. I did not think they could top the predecessor Fortress, but they are like a Phoenix
rising from the ashes to bring the world of rock something new and exciting. Tremonti lays down
some awesome guitar tracks that would rival his own stuff. Songs “Show Me a Hero” and
“Poison in Your Veins” were crafted with such precision and stand out as some of the top rock
songs of 2016. Kennedy’s voice shows no signs of strain and brings the melody with authority.
Bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Philips create steady rhythms that keep each song
from coming apart. Huge in Europe, this record will give them more fans in their hometown of
the United States. This album is why they are one of my favorite groups today. Alter Bridge is back!
08.Deftones – Gore: Eerie, mysterious, eclectic, and artsy. These four words is how choose to
describe Deftones newest masterpiece. From the beginning to the end, Gore was a journey down
the rabbit hole. When I first heard the single “Prayers/Triangles,” I was mesmerized by its beauty
and eccentricity. Vocalist Chino Moreno has a haunting voice that can transform dark lyrics into
something exquisite. Though we still do not know what they are singing about, Deftones have
managed to create a striking album. The heaviest track “Doomed User” is the best song. It is
fitting to know that a band from the 1990s can still generate works of art with their brand of
07.Doll Skin – In Your Face (Again): Most girls in high school today would be listening to
Beyonce or Lady Gaga. Not for the ladies of Doll Skin. With their debut album In Your Face
(Again), they blend together hard rock and punk rock. They were first discovered at talent show
by Megadeth’s own David Ellefson, he brought them to his label and the world took notice.
Vocalist Sydney Dolezal has a razor sharp voice that brings fans to their feet, especially with the
song “Family of Strangers.” Not only that, guitarist Alex Snowden’s licks would rival that with
Lita Ford and Joan Jett. There is nothing too complex about this record. The simplicity of it
makes the album that more accessible. I cannot wait for the next one.
06.Amaranthe– Maximalism: “Sing me that song!” The first words I heard from their first
single off this diversified album. When I spoke founders Olof Mörck and Elize Ryd, they told me
that “That Song” would draw some attention both positive and negative. I focus on the positive
because it such an infectious song with a great pop hook. What is great about Maximalism is that
it takes more risks than ever before. Not only do they mix their metal pop, but they add a little
dance (“On the Rocks”), rap rock (“Fury”), and disco (“Limitless”). Even screamer Henrik
Englund Wilhemsson does an impressive job taking the lead with “Fury.” Mörck does an
excellent job creating new riffs to headbang to. Drifting further from their signature melodic
death metal sound, Amaranthe has not lost their touch when it comes to making good records like this one. Their style approach may be changing, but their metal soul is still intact.
05.Stitched Up Heart– Never Alone: Ever since I saw this band starting out back in 2014, I
knew they were destined for greatness. This album is actual proof that I am not wrong. Armed
with stellar guitar licks from Merritt Goodwin and stupendous vocals by Alecia “Mixi” Demner,
Never Alone is a prime example of how cool Goth metal can be. With fantastic songs like
“Monster” and “Catch Me When I Fall,” this group could become the next Lacuna Coil and In
This Moment. Drummer James Decker is a beast behind the kit. All the songs go together nicely
and I am sure the fans will agree me when this album belongs in the Top 5. They have a good
following, but Never Alone will bring more fans to their already growing legion. Keep it up
Stitched Up Heart, the ride has only begun.
04.Gojira – Magma: The masters of the French metal scene bring us an album of epic
proportions. With Magma, Gojira decided to head into a direction that is more melodic than they
have ever done before. Guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier maintains his death metal snarl while
opting to sing more cleanly. A slight departure from their signature sound, they honed their
musical skills to craft complex progressive metal that can bring in new legions of fans. When I
heard “Stranded,” I was immediately caught up in the madness. Now Magma has been
nominated for Best Rock Album at the Grammys as well as Best Metal Performance for
“Silvera.” They have outdone themselves and it just makes me love them more. I hope they pull off the impossible and win at the Grammys. All hail Gojira!
03.Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct: I have been waiting for over eight years for
Metallica to follow-up Death Magnetic. Well, the wait is finally over and it was well worth the
wait. A throwback to their early 1980s roots, the Kings of the Big 4 put together an album that
screams thrash. Powerful lyrics, pulse-beating drums, and thunderous riffs, Hardwired is
testimony to how the band has come and why they are still the number 1 heavy metal group in
the world. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett played all his solos without writing them out before
recording. It was a spontaneous gamble that pays off. From “Atlas, Rise!” to “Moth Into Flame,”
these are marvelous tunes that every generation of Metallica fans can get behind. Their closing
track “Spit Out the Bones” is the best because the intensity of James Hetfield’s vocals gave me goose bumps. I loved every song off this record. Welcome back, Metallica!
02.Megadeth– Dystopia: After the release of Super Collider and the departure of both guitarist
Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover, I thought Megadeth was finished. However, I was
proven wrong with the release of Dystopia. Frontman Dave Mustaine keeps showing the metal
world that he still has a trick or two up his sleeve. Arming himself with new players like guitarist
Kiko Loureiro and drummer Chris Adler, this album has brought new life to the thrash metal
legends. Probably one of their most politically driven albums since United Abominations,
Megadeth dives deeper into the songwriting abilities to bring us great songs like “The Threat is
Real,” “Dystopia,” and “Post American World.” The dual guitar shredding by Mustaine and
Loureiro is out of this world. My favorite is “Poisonous Shadows” because Loureiro plays a
haunting piano part that makes it breathtaking. Adler played some of the best Megadeth
drumming since Nick Menza. Unfortunately, he had to leave due to his commitments to Lamb of God. Welcome back, Megadeth!!!
01.Gemini Syndrome – Memento Mori: There are so many superlative albums from 2016, but
Gemini Syndrome’s sophomore release was a true masterpiece. Following the critically
acclaimed Lux, they executed a work of art with Memento Mori. The songwriting has gotten
better, the music is exquisite, and the whole tone of the record was. Though the mood sounds
melancholy, the message behind their songs was one of hope. With “Anonymous” and
Remember We Die,” they tell us to live life to the fullest. New members joined the group
(guitarists Daniel Sahagún and Charles Lee Salvaggio) brought new energy. Thought they were
not many solos, the guitar riffs these two performed are harmonious. Vocalist Aaron Nordstrom
is probably one of the best new voices in metal. His vocals were not only combative, but also
canorous. That being said, Memento Mori was awe-inspiring and will be looked back as one of the best rock records produced.
This is my final list of which records of 2016 rocked my world. As I mentioned before, so much
great music but only a few stood out. It was great seeing both Megadeth and Metallica return to
form that satisfied ears. Congratulations to Gemini Syndrome for the top spot because they truly
deserved it. For groups like Doll Skin, Fire From the Gods, Black Moods, and Stitched Up Heart,
I look forward to the future. I have a feeling 2017 will rock even harder. To every band that made