Friday, December 30, 2016

Best of 2016: Part 3, top 20 albums of the year

Well, here we are, at the end of another year, and as usual, I release my top list last. I know that December is an extremely slow month for music, but I like to take that time to catch up on what I have missed (why nobody else seems to do that is beyond me). While there are albums that I simply have not had the time for, I am pretty confident they would have not ended up on this list. Oh well, I will get around to them eventually, but for now, here are my favourite albums of this year.

20. Alter Bridge - The Last Hero

It may not have as strong of a foundation as "Fortress", but "The Last Hero" still has a lot of fire power to it, with excellent songs like "The Writing On The Wall, "Island of Fools", and "Show Me A Leader". Myles Kennedy still sounds awesome, and so does Tremonti and his guitar work, solidifying the band's rough edge sound. They are most certainly my favourite rock band right now.

19. King Goat - Conduit

King Goat's debut album must have been made through some sort of witchcraft, because I get in a trance when I listen to it, which is really interesting since doom metal is not normally my cup of tea, but this album has so much magic to it, capturing your full attention with its great guitar sound and emotional vocals. Definitely a band to look out for in the future.

18. Be'lakor - Vessels

I am pissed at myself for not discovering Be'lakor earlier, especially since the band has gotten good praise in the past, and I simply ignored it for... reasons. Well, I am not doing that mistake again (at least for this band), because "Vessels" is an awesome melodic progressive death metal record that has an atmosphere taken from some beautiful alien planet. I really need to listen to the rest of their catalog now.

17. Insomnium - Winter's Gate

When a band does an "one song" album, they better make that song fucking incredible, otherwise it is all to waste. Fortunately, Insomnium rarely disappoints, something that my 2014 list also proves with "Shadows of The Dying Sun" being in it. "Winter's Gate" is a dense record/song, and it will take time, but you can be sure that it will grow on you, showing all of its talents as it unravels.

16. Thrawsunblat - Metachthonia

The full length debut "Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer On The Continent of Saplings" was interesting, but lacked that extra edge, something that this album certainly does not miss. Thrawsunblat takes their sound and evolves it further with tighter song writing and stronger instrumental work. It still feels like they have another gear in them, so I hope we get to hear that in the next album.

15. Testament - Brotherhood of The Snake

While building my list, I was surprised to see that Testament was the only thrash band that did make it in here, because that genre had an amazing year. With that said though, Testament simply made an amazing record. It is true Testament thrash at its best, more than holding up to their current era releases. In a year that showed so many different new sides of metal, "Brotherhood of The Snake" stays true to the band's sound, and delivers big time with a great knockout punch.

14. Allegaeon - Proponent For Sentience

I do not think there is any other technical death metal band out there that is as fun as Allegaeon. Not only do the guy have a sense of humour that is just wonderful, their musical style reflects it too, mixing catchy riffs and blast beats that is a blast to listen to. Also, when you have a song that fully celebrates science, you are almost guaranteed a spot on my list.

13. Witherscape - The Northern Sanctuary

When Dan Swanö is steering the boat, you know that quality is abound, and there is plenty of it on "The Northern Sanctuary". After a mediocre, but promising, first effort in "The Inheritance", Witherscape goes for the skies with this album, delivering a pack of great songs that are equally beautiful, catchy, and heavy. It is an uplifting album, even with its apocalyptic feeling.

12. Fleshgod Apocalypse - King

This band has always been one of the bands that I have found interesting, but have also had a hard time loving. Well, long story short, "King" convinced me big time. This is a symphonic death metal gold mine, a bombastic record that just pounds your face to the table over and over again. And while the band has done that before, "King" does it with more finesse, getting a more stable mix of the symphonic and the heavy. It also helps that FA contains some of the most technically skilled musicians in metal, and concept writers for that matter.

11. Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika

I honestly did not think I would love this album as much as I did, and I did not after the first initial listens, but "Jumalten Aika" grew on me, unraveling its many roots and branches all over me. It takes time to love it, especially since the average length of a song here is around 13 minutes, but give it the time it deserves, and you will be rewarded with stunning black folk metal, straight from the darkest forest of Finland.

10. Mistur - In Memoriam

Just like "Jumalten Aika", "In Memoriam" is a dark and long record that takes time to fully appreciate. The thing that takes it up to my top 10 though is that Mistur finds way to bend in these epic melodic sounds into their epic black viking folk metal. The whole album is rock solid, never missing a beat, never taking a side step. It simply attacks head first into battle, and does so with great success.

9. DGM - The Passage

The Italians of DGM really delivered a progressive masterpiece with "The Passage", and it comes with all of the elements you need to make one. An epic two part song? Check. Awesome songs that shows diversity? Oh, absolutely. Cool guest appearances from Tom Englund (Evergrey) and Michael Romeo (Symphony X)? You bet! DGM just nails everything with this release, and does so with extreme confidence and determination.

8. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation

If this will ultimately go down as the swan song of this band (which everything points towards), it is a hell of a mess they leave behind. "Dissociation" is one of the most chaotic records, not only in 2016, but for at least the last decade. It's got metal core, thrash, death metal, ambient, and even fucking electronic music. Everything that TDEP has done has led to this very moment, an album that takes it all to the very extreme. It is a frantic ride, and you will not be the same when it is over, but it is an extremely fun journey. Such a shame they had to end this early.

7. Dark Tranquillity - Atoma

This is the year when Dark Tranquility finally convinced me of their greatness. Yes, I do like the band, and believe that they have made some important albums in the past, but I was not in love with them. Well, I would not say that I love them now either, but it is not too far away. "Atoma" is a stunning album, with songs and melodies that is simply astonishing, and a Mikael Stanne who mixes his soft and harsh vocals with such finesse. Simply put, a wonderful album that blows away every other Gothenburg band out of the waters.

6. Fallujah - Dreamless

Man, talk about missing out on something. Fallujah has been one of the most innovative bands in recent years, and it took me to this year to truly discover them, making myself feel really ill for knowing that I missed out on this amazing music for so long. Well, Fallujah is not old per se, but "Dreamless" is a perfect testimony of what they are about, a technical death metal band that has the gift of taking out the beautiful from the roughest of edges. Jesus Christ, this is a beautiful album, almost hard to believe it at first.

5. Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts

Katatonia continues down their path on making their sound more and more gothic ambient, escaping their heavy roots completely. The end result for this stop is an incredibly beautiful album that is filled to the brim with high quality songs, all of them creating an album that must be listened from start to finish to make it justice. The tone and sound of the album is very easy to take in, but it needs multiple listens to fully understand it all. And just like I said in the review, it is a fall of hearts, but certainly not a fall from grace.

4. Sunburst - Fragments of Creation

Debut album of the year goes to this band from Greece, who takes a little bit of everything from the power metal history book. "Fragments of Creation" is an incredibly diverse record, with tons of exciting things in it, mostly coming from the blazing fingers of guitarist Gus Drax and his insane riffs. As said though, it is the diversity that makes "Fragments of Creation" such a magnificent effort, showing that the band has a lot of different talents at their disposal. Firewind better step up their game, or Sunburst will soon take the crown as kings of Greece.

3. Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence

You guys know how much I love Devin Townsend and his work, so it is no surprise that he once again rises into my top 20. Despite his impressive back catalog, I still believe that "Transcendence" is the best album by him since "Ocean Machine: Biomech". It is just so organic and so uplifting, and it shows a versatility that is simply incredible. While not being the most original album Devin has done, it got enough amazing stuff in it to make everyone smile. I also love that the rest of the project was more involved in the song writing process, making this album a true band effort. That Canadian bastard (and his friends) simply does not know how to disappoint you.

2. Haken - Affinity

To follow up such a magnificent album as "The Mountain" is a tall task in itself, but doing so with an album that is inspired by the 80's prog rock movement, and with a cover that even looks like a cassette tape, Haken truly blew me off my chair. "Affinity" is extremely enjoyable from start to finish, and it contains 9 great songs, from the hectic "The Endless Knot" and the uplifting "Initiate", to the massive mastodon (and official "Song of the year" winner) "The Architect". Yes, "Affinity" is a prog lover's wet dream, and it solidifies Haken's status as one of the biggest prog metal acts today. Not bad for an album that sounds like it is 30 years old.

1. Astronoid - Air

2016 have most of all been a year where we had to question ourselves what metal really is. There were so many bands that pushed the boundaries of our beloved genre, and no other band did that more so than the Boston band Astronoid. Their debut album "Air" is smooth as silk, even angelic at times, but the beats in it are still heavy, blasting through with ease. This album could easily be associated with tons of genres, like shoegaze, punk, metalcore, alternative, and progressive metal, but this is an album that does not need a genre identification, it is just as perfect as it is. Brett Boland, Daniel Schwartz, Casey Aylward, Matt St. Jean, and Mike DeMellia are all leading the evolution of metal, and it sounds brighter than ever. Thank you guys so much for making 2016 that much better, and may you have the best of luck in the future.

And those lucky wishes goes to all of you readers too. Thank you for visiting Forsaken At The Gates, may we see each other again in 2017 (hopefully with less death and misery).

Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

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