Top 20 Best Metal & Alternative Metal Albums Of 2016

From Oathbreaker to Gatecreeper, from Neurosis to Wardruna, it was again hard to pick just 20 albums, but here’s our Top 20 (in no specific order whatsoever) Metal & Alternative Metal albums of 2016 along with our thoughts on them.

Our main non-genre-specific ‘albums of the year’ list arrives on December 30, we want to give it some more love and make sure we don’t miss out anything. Stay tuned, more lists are going to be unveiled in the following days… Enjoy!

Cobalt – Slow Forever (Profound Lore)


If Cobalt lost something with Phil McSorley’s departure, they made up the difference in letting Erik Wunder really run loose, extending the Americana and blues influences of his Man’s Gin project and adding a sharp veneer of accessibility to the still-frequent descents into savagery. Lyrically, it dredges the well of man’s consciousness, Charlie Fell’s caustic screeches narrating a litany of degradation as jagged riffs bounce and clatter around him, and as the tone veers from the filthiest of sludge to stalwart metal anthemism that could bring Lamb Of God fans in droves to shows, it’s clear that this new, braver Cobalt could never have existed in their old form. In short, Slow Forever is a restless, snarling beast of an album and one of the finest metal releases of 2016.

(Dave Bowes) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Meshuggah – Violent Sleep of Reason (Nuclear Blast)


The Violent Sleep Of Reason is Meshuggah’s eighth full-length studio album and another incredible example of their scope and vision with their display of technical skills and complexity being quite random nowadays. Their ability to move forward is pure seduction to every single fan; the way they deconstruct their own structures, their multi layered rhythms and patterns and having those “What the fuck?” or “How the fuck they did that?” moments over and over again. Intelligent and challenging, full of groove and crushing riffs, their trademark sound has once again evolved, becoming heavier, bolder and infinitely more ambitious.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Spotify.

Crowhurst – II (Dulest Records)


Over the course of five years and almost 70 releases, Jay Gambit’s blackened noise unit Crowhurst has made the serene and the horrifying practically interchangeable. II, the second part of their ‘metal trilogy’, brings Andrew Curtis-Brignell (Caïna) and Matron Thorn (Ævangelist) into the fold and dredges up a blackened hellscape of drone, power electronics, pain-wracked screeches and misanthropy. It seems to exist permanently on the edge of a precipice, its rolling and lurching progressions evoking a near-inescapable sense of tension, but unlike them it’s a much more accessible prospect. The crisp guitarwork and piercing riffs create a clear, if still challenging, path for the listener, offsetting the turmoil and making II one of the most essential metal releases of the year.

(Dave Bowes) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Oathbreaker – Rheia (Deathwish Inc.)


Hardcore is, at its heart, a form built on catharsis, an expulsion of disgust and ire at injustice and ills, and anyone who has seen Oathbreaker live can testify that they embody this ethos. Rheia is, therefore, something of an anomaly as while it remains an emotionally impactful effort, its toning down of blackened aesthetics and focus on earnest intricacy marks a definite move towards maturity. The songs are longer and more unpredictable, though never meandering nor resting on weary repetition; they can chill the bones with a show of deliberate tenderness without first hacking through skin and flesh; they are a huge leap forward for a band who always sounded hungry for something greater, more audacious, and it’s enough to leave you stunned, thirsting for what they deliver next.

(Dave Bowes) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Sumac – What One Becomes (Thrill Jockey)


What One Becomes is a kaleidoscope of heavy innovation. Layers of distorted guitars, slab-heavy drums, bass that sounds like some monster surfacing from the depths; Aaron Turner’s vocals exploding like guttural bursts of mortar fire – it’s music that is terrifyingly enthralling. Cataclysmic and captivating. Intelligent, inventive and above all – unrelentingly punishing. Inside the thick, fog-like production is sprinkled moments of genuine brilliance can be found – songs do not so much exist as coalesce at evolutionary stages. From a miasma of noise, there is a living spirit, the flesh is stirring, bonds forming a cocoon upon the bones. A revelation of noise, emotion and craft.

(Andi Chamberlain) // Listen on Bandcamp.

Subrosa – For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages (Profound Lore)


A sign of a great band is whether or not they can shake off the genre that birthed them and become one in their own right – Subrosa did this long ago. Battle… continues to hone their uniquely sorrowful chamber-doom, toying with concepts of heaviness and beauty as they ratchet up the volume while pushing Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack’s violins into more prominent roles, directing melody and tone as ably as the ample distortion does. It’s not so much an album as a collection of short stories set to a whirlwind of sound – death and rage and love and loss, each narrative unfolding with time and deliberation before reaching a conclusion that never gets any less devastating.

(Dave Bowes) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Neurosis – Fires Within Fires (Neurot Recordings)


There are countless ways to describe Neurosis’ art and impact. Saying they’re one of the best to ever do it and that they’ve changed the “underground” game would just be the tip of the iceberg in an endless discussion. Celebrating 30 years of a mind-blowing career, the Oakland-based quintet follows-up a brilliant Honor Found In Decay – the 2012’s album that took the band’s sound to a whole new level with Noah Landis’s atmospheric level carrying it to unspeakable new heights – with Fires Within Fires, an album that makes use of a more conservative and direct approach that sounds all too safe at times. “Failing” in providing a more challenging work, Neurosis leave in the room a solid enough of an album that has more soul and heart than most.

(Tiago Moreira) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Korn – The Serenity Of Suffering (Roadrunner Records)


The Serenity Of Suffering sounds like a blend between 2002’s Untouchables and 2010’s KORN III – Remember Who You Are, but with a new twist, Jonathan sounds angry and fucked up, his vocals are more powerful than ever, Nick Raskulinecz’s production is top notch, everything sounds massive and heavy. The Serenity Of Suffering is a comeback to form, Head’s return was the key element in Korn’s new set of dynamics influencing the whole creative process. It still sounds impressive, refreshing and over the top, these dudes still sound unique and more organic than ever.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at YouTube.

Gojira – Magma (Roadrunner Records)


Gojira are a band that carry expectation with them heavily like a burden with each new LP cycle. Therefore, listening to this new release you can hear the weight of anticipation and the harnessed fear within each and every song. A more contemplative, slower and more introverted album than previous releases. But nonetheless creative, inventive and masterful for it. Opener “The Shooting Star” sets the mood within seconds, and the pace is kept steadily more panicked and moody with each new track. “The Cell” is a machine gun burst of intellectual metal, “Yellow Stone” is a doom laden stoner track, eponymous track “Magma” has a genuine sheen of menace and terror. Another stark and startling achievement from a band who do not compromise their vision for quality, and have knocked another homerun.

(Andi Chamberlain) // Listen at YouTube.

Wardruna – Runaljod – Ragnarok (By Norse)


Concluding a musical interpretation of the oldest runic languages known to man, as well as the exploration of mastermind Einar Selvik’s spiritual and cultural beliefs, Ragnarok is a suitably cataclysmic work for such audacious aims. Primitive and beautiful, experimental yet reflective, it’s one of those experiences whose enjoyment is determined by the time and attention it is given. Do you appreciate its eclectic and lovingly realised instrumentation, or its deft mingling of jazz, neo-classical and tribal rhythms and leave it there, or do you fully immerse yourself in its subtle power? Give it time, let it seep into your skin and breathe the joy and life into you that was obviously given to its creation – it deserves that much.

(Dave Bowes) // Listen at Spotify.

King 810 – La Petite Mort or a Conversation with God (Roadrunner Records)


King 810’s mere existence requires a more complex conversation and to start that conversation there needs to be a certain degree of understatement regarding where it does come from and what they’re trying to convey with it. As with any form of artistic expression, having the right mindset and perspective will dictate the existence or, inexistence, of appreciation.For this is an extremely cohesive piece of work that was puzzled together in such manner that its flow ends up being almost ridiculous. We’re talking about a band that was able to put together a record that has more social consciousness and awareness than you’re probably used to. More than a brilliant musical album, this album is a relevant piece of art.

(Tiago Moreira) // Listen at YouTube.

Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us (Nuclear Blast)


As their third album is released Nails are already perceived as a very well-established band. The crowd knows what to expect from them: aggression, aggression and more aggression. They’re absolutely merciless! You Will Never Be One of Us does a good job at assembling old and newer approaches to the most violent hardcore and aggressive metal, especially when there is a certain Napalm Death reminiscence. If you love this sort of music there’s nothing to complain about here – their songs are well crafted and do work.

(Ricardo Almeida) // Listen at Spotify.

Ulcerate – Shrines Of Paralysis (Relapse Records)


Shrines of Paralysis, just as with previous works from the New Zealand-based power-trio, is very demanding with its listener incorporating unorthodox but very distinctive traits into their overwhelmingly harsh, brutal, and violent sound. Skillfully designed as an album extremely layered and filled with nuances, Ulcerate reach out to other extreme music genres creating a masterpiece that uses the power of contrast to magnify the outcome and reward immensely its listener.

(Tiago Moreira) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole Of The Law (Metal Blade)


Just think about everything that you fucking hate the most in this sad and bullshit world. Now, it’s time to add all your aggression, frustrations, some perspective and perhaps a bit of your intelligence – if, you have all of this, fucking perfect! You will need it. The Whole of the Law is intense, violent and a sure-to-be classic, the songwriting is top notch and their ferocity has no boundaries. With their intimidating and mind-blowing explosive blend of whatever sounds more brutal and extreme is the law, Anaal Nathrakh simply delivered their opus and another big “fuck you” to mankind. The Whole of the Law is the perfect soundtrack for the world we’re living in, with no such thing as bullshit or even politically correctness attached. One of this year’s best albums!

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Architects – All Our Gods Abandoned Us (Epitaph)


With their new album All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, the band maximise their sound to blitz everything they’ve done before, by mastering the art of volatility. Yes, they’ve always been loud and brash, but on the new opus, they proudly elevate. They reach beyond the cut throat drama, cancelling out any niggling aches of mediocrity. Songs such as “Phantom Fear” and “A Match Made In Heaven” are both electrifying and atmospheric, pushing the sound further. The guitar influence is always there to please, as well as the thought provoking lyrical play, words that pound and provoke a response.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at YouTube.

Gatecreeper – Sonoran Depravation (Relapse Records)


We can safely say that the United States have cast upon us some of the bloodiest, goriest, most violent death metal bands ever to spew out decibels. The likes of Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and Obituary just to name a few so it’s unusual to hear a band from Arizona that sounds like the unholy child of Grave and Dismember, two of the most revered European bastions of death metal. It almost sounds like it’s the early nineties again and you can hear Dismembers buzz saw guitars and the guttural vociferations of bands like Grave and Bolt Thrower. As you can easily perceive it is nothing new, but sometimes you need a kick of the old stuff in your veins to understand where it all came from.

(Nuno Babo) Listen at Bandcamp.

Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed (Relapse Records)


Picking up exactly where Dusk|Subside left off, buzzing flurries of early 90s death metal and melancholy funeral doom switch and meld as harsh grunts and protracted, animalistic growls lend an almost human touch to the misery. If anything, they push the ideas from that first EP even farther, giving the aggression more bite and identity while fleshing out their adroit ambience to the extent that even as the album lets rip, it still pulls you deeper into that cold, empty void it inhabits. There was a lot of expectation placed on Inverloch for this release, but in these intelligently constructed and undeniably extreme compositions, they have shown a complete mastery of their art.

(Dave Bowes) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Ihsahn – Arktis (Candlelight/Spinefarm Records)


Pushing boundaries of creativity and rising again seems to be the only motto for every single sonic creation of Emperor’s frontman, the legendary and visionary Ihsahn. Arktis is a bold and mind-blowing step into the unknown, that goes deep where Eremita left off, but still full of fragments of Ihsahn’s improvisational and fifth effort, Das Seelenbrechen. This time around the approach is way more organic and filled with more traditional song
structures, full of melody and menacing old guitar riffs. A visionary without equal.

(Fausto Casais) // Listen at Spotify.

Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä (Svart Records)


Finland with its gelid atmosphere facilitates this continuous boundary shattering sound barrage that is Oranssi Pazuzu. As easy to categorize as a Jackson Pollock painting, the sonic tapestry weaved by the band never ceases to amaze and challenge the listener. The black metal tag only exists because their sound needs to be categorized, but these guys go above and beyond a traditional categorization. This is to put it plainly a fearlessly experimental avant garde music experience that challenges you at every corner.

(Nuno Babo) // Listen at Bandcamp.

Graves At Sea – The Curse That Is (Relapse Records)


It’s extremely bleak and its putrid smell doesn’t let anyone indifferent. Even if at times there’s a slightly monotone flavor to it, there’s no denying the merits of such a pile of brutally intense riffs that parade endlessly and are certain to cause affliction. The Curse That Is perfectly illustrates  the violence that extreme metal can project and will undeniably be appreciated and adored by anyone that can endure such lyrical and sonic punishment.

(Tiago Moreira) // Listen at Bandcamp.
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