He’s a fan of all things dark and heavy and HRH Mag’s Richard Holmes has picked out a plethora of mind-bending metal to bring 2016 to a suitably gloomy close.
1 Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas – Mariner (Indie Recordings)
Post metal titans Cult of Luna and Battle of Mice songstress Julie Christmas would have always been a match made in heaven. However, even the most optimistic of fans couldn’t have imagined what was to come from their joint efforts…
Mariner was a 21st century classic, a space odyssey of a record which was both haunting and beautiful. It was proof of music’s power to astonish, to make you think beyond traditional boundaries. And to think Cult of Luna, in a brief moment of madness, said they weren’t going to play it live…
2 Bossk – Audio Noir (Deathwish)
In post metal circles, Bossk’s for year absence was keenly felt… and it even took them another four years since reforming to release a full blown album. But what a record it was.
Audio Noir perfectly balanced the band’s delicate touches with their weighty, climactic crunch, taking their listeners through a fascinating soundscape, where trickles of glistening melodies collided with crushing riffs and moments of fierce intensity.
Guys – please don’t leave us again.
3 Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä (Svart Records)
Black metal from beyond the outer limits, a vivid tapestry of astral rock and dark psychedelics… Värähtelijä was light years away from anything we’d heard all year.
The Finns’ mind warping fourth opus didn’t so much push metal’s boundaries as liquefy them and their superb musicianship and intelligent songwriting steered a course through the sonic netherworld to create a fascinating, visionary body of work.
4 Gojira – Magma (Roadrunner)
Metal needs Gojira at the moment. They’re daring, dynamic, insightful – yet the Frenchmen can also create songs so heavy they can split tectonic plates in half. Simply put, Magma had it all, from the explosive, bone shaking barrage of Silvera to the wistful, astral voyage of Low Lands, from the infectious groove of Only Pain to the tense, foreboding title track.
Perhaps Gojira will always be too ‘thinking man’s metal’ for some: the rest of us will just get on with basking in their genius.
5 Deströyer 666 – Wildfire (Season Of Mist)
Like a shot of gasoline followed by a molten lead chaser, Wildfire was an all out attack on the senses, a hefty kick in the backside, a thrillride of blackened thrash mayhem that stunk of sweat, leather and spilled beer. As such, it was phenomenal – and you’d be hard pushed to find an album that screamed ‘heavy metal’ louder than this one in 2016.
Plus, it was especially pleasing to see firebreathing frontman KK Warslut take full command of Deströyer 666 for this effort. The Aussie ruled… to great effect.
6 Inquisition – Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith (Season Of Mist)
Twisting, reptilian black metal spawned in the cosmic void, Bloodshed… opened new doors for Inquisition, and was a logical step in the Seattle-based band’s intriguing evolution.
Dagon and Incubus excelled themselves at every level here, forging a majestic album that flowed with their old magic, but felt more honed, accessible and incisive – and was proof of their growth as both musicians and songwriters.
7 Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole Of The Law (Metal Blade)
If Anaal Nathrakh’s music is the soundtrack to the apocalypse, then the shockwaves from this album will have moved the doomsday clock’s hands forward a few more minutes.
The Brummie duo have never made a ‘bad’ album, yet there was a suspicion that they have been treading water since the turn of the decade: The Whole Of The Law didn’t so much turn that idea on its head as stamp it into a pulp, and its combination of cyber warfare, melodic bombast and imperious blackened riffery made this the band’s best work since Eschaton.
8 Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us (Nuclear Blast)
It didn’t quite top 2013’s Abandon All Live, but Nails’ third album still offered sonic annihilation in its purest, most primal form.
The title track set the pace and from there on in, You Will Never Be One Of Us pulled us deeper and deeper into a firestorm of pulverizing riffs, piledriving grooves and nuclear blastbeats… a maelstrom so fierce that it took on an almost cathartic quality.
Total devastation never sounded so good.
9 Paradise Lost – The Plague Within (Century Media)
With Nick Holmes lending his pipes to Bloodbath and Gregor Mackintosh plunging into the crusty hell of Vallenfyre, it was perhaps no surprise that The Plague Within would reflect the pair’s extracurricular activities. The results, however, were even better than we might have expected.
For this was Paradise Lost’s heaviest and grittiest album in years, harking back to the days of Gothic and Shades of God, but with that extra dash of songwriting flair they’ve been employing over the last two decades. And as such, it was a must for long-time fans.
10 Discharge – End Of Days (Nuclear Blast)
Capturing the raw, defiant spirit of their early years, End Of Days was a petrol bomb of a record, an opus that confirmed that Discharge are still relevant… and still capable of unleashing wave upon wave of rabid, politically charged hardcore punk.
Tracks such as New World Order and Hatebomb harked back to their ’82 output, but End Of Days had its own identity, its own place in our strife torn-world. And by God, this album was just what we needed in 2016.