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Distorted Sound’s Top 20 Albums of 2016

For rock and heavy metal, 2016 has been a stellar year. With every sub-genre of the rock and metal umbrella delivering great records throughout the year, coming to decide on what was the best 20 records of the year was as difficult as ever. Determining what constitutes the best records of the year is never easy, but Distorted Sound‘s Editorial Team worked tirelessly together to come to our final list. Here, we determine what we think are the best records to be released this year. Records that pushed, not only their sub-genre, but the evolution of heavy metal and rock music itself. The following list showcases 20 records that are the strongest examples of what our world has to offer in 2016.

20: Proponent For Sentience – ALLEGAEON

Proponent for Sentience - Allegaeon

Colorado tech-wizards’ fourth length record continued to expand the band’s technical prowess through dazzling riffing and a masterclass vocal contribution from new vocalist Riley McShane. There is a surprising amount of accessibility to Proponent For Sentience, with enough hook to mind-blowing sequences to keep you hooked from start to finish. The inclusion of a RUSH cover was a risky move but it is the icing on the cake to a masterstroke record from ALLEAGEON. Proponent For Sentience is the catalyst for ALLEGAEON to venture to exciting pastures.

Words: James Weaver – Editor-in-Chief

19: Stage Four – TOUCHÉ AMORÉ

Stage Four

2016 was a somewhat morbid year what with countless famous faces passing. This turbulence felt through losing someone close is what drives TOUCHÉ AMORÉ’s Stage Four, and also what makes it such a stunning piece of work. The 11 songs offer an emotional ride through the grief felt by singer Jeremy Bolm as he bares his soul in brutal honesty, coming to terms with the fact that he was on tour when his other passed away from cancer. It’s a truly beautiful and moving piece of work filled with reflection and some of the most touching lyrics penned this year.

Words: Eddie Sims – Album Review Editor

18: At Peace Amongst Chaos – BROKEN TEETH

Broken Teeth At Peace Amongst Chaos

BROKEN TEETH’s debut full-length had been a long time coming but At Peace Amongst Chaos obliterates expectations and cements BROKEN TEETH as one of the UK’s brightest lights in the hardcore scene. Pummelling riffs, sheer intensity and a top class vocal performance from frontman Dale Graham is the icing on the cake here. It’s raw, gritty and showcases the best on what modern hardcore has to offer. Make no mistake, At Peace Amongst Chaos holds nothing back, from start to finish this record is a full force audio curb-stomp.

Words: James Weaver – Editor-in-Chief

17: The Astonishing – DREAM THEATER

The Astonishing - Dream Theater

DREAM THEATER often make stunning albums that just blow your mind from the off. As usual their latest album The Astonishing is just beautiful. Embodying what a great album should, it works best as a full piece, one great Prog performance. There’s also huge listenability to this, as there’s always more to find and more to understand on each relisten. The narrative stretches across a dystopian future in the US, and if that doesn’t sound like an album you need right now in this current climate, you’ve had a better 2016 than the rest of us!

Words: Laura McCarthy – Introducing Editor

16: Kodama – ALCEST

 

By this point in their career, ALCEST have proven time and time again that they don’t really know what a bad album is. Whilst previous effort Shelter was a departure from their regular blueprint, Kodama brought it right back and with envious ease by boasting the shiniest guitar tones and songs that ebb and flow to create one of the most comfortably enjoyable listens this year. The blackgaze sound still remains an interesting and unique and ALCEST are unlikely to be toppled from their throne atop the genre if albums like Kodama keep being made.

Words: Eddie Sims – Album Review Editor

15: Instructions – HECK

Instructions - HECK

Their chaotic post-hardcore assault on debut Instructions was unrelenting in is delivery but also displayed a very clear and vibrant creativity. It’s certainly brave to not only write a 16 minute song, but ending the album on such a lengthy track meant that the album went out on an absolutely mountainous high. Featuring whiplash inducing speed and a mean streak 10 miles long, HECK are one of the most exciting prospects from the British music scene and Instructions is not only one of the finest debuts of this year, but one of the best albums.

Words: Eddie Sims – Album Review Editor

14: The Stranger EP – CREEPER

The Stranger EP - Creeper

Being the only EP on our end of year list is not small thing. In a year that saw a number of spectacular albums released (Just look at this list) CREEPER were able to stand out amongst everyone else with just five song of raucous punk rock. With a sound that’s akin to MISFITS waltzing with ALKALINE TRIO, The Stranger EP confirmed that the hype CREEPER have gained over their short career is very much deserved. Filled with boundless energy and a real theatricality to their songs, The Stranger will put a smile on your face in under 20 minutes.

Words: Eddie Sims – Album Review Editor

13: The Serenity of Suffering – KORN

The Serenity of Suffering - Korn

The Serenity Of Suffering is KORN’s 12th Studio album which returns to their earlier sound, with heavier rhythms and more focus on darker growls, it is also the second album since original guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch returned. It has been described as their heaviest work for a long time, and moves away from the experimentation found on recent albums. Lyrically, Davis has used this album to explore some of his emotional states over the years, self-sabotage and personal suffering, sensitive topics but it gives the album a honest feel.

Words: Dean Martin – Introducing Assistant Editor

12: The Whole of the Law – ANAAL NATHRAKH

The Whole of the Law - Anaal Nathrakh

ANAAL NATHRAKH’s very purpose is to be the soundtrack to armageddon, to push the boundaries of “extreme” to their absolute limits, and as is described in the preface to their ninth album The Whole of the Law, to take the point of view of a demon that “for all the sardonic glee it displays, is merely holding up a mirror”. The Whole of the Law is the most unrestrained and savage ANAAL NATHRAKH have been in at least half a decade. Blasts of hyperactive electronics, eerie falsettos and suffocating choirs that sound like descent into Hell itself worm their way into NATHRAKH’s ungodly Frankenstein’s monster of black metal, grind and industrial, proving to be some of their most thrilling work to date in a career full of sickening visceral highs.

Words: Perran Helyes – Live Review Editor

11: Lionheart – HOLLOW BONES

Lionheart - Hollow Bones

If you thought that Hardcore had died, that all tropes had been over used and there was nothing new in the genre, then you didn’t hear anything about HOLLOW BONES this year, did you? Taking on real issues like depression, loss and yet also personal growth, this Melodic Hardcore band incorporate high energy with a meaning in their debut album Lionheart. There is so much purpose here, with a true drive that pushes this album to great heights. As with any good band, their inspirations are wide spread, and with strong vocals from male and female voices, they prove that there is more life in the Hardcore scene.

Words: Laura McCarthy – Introducing Editor

10: Aggressive – BEARTOOTH

Aggressive - Beartooth

Having only formed in 2012, BEARTOOTH have created a terrific sophomore album in Aggressive, which has generated a monumental buzz for a band who are creeping out of their infancy. BEARTOOTH have kept proceedings consistent by releasing another fistful of metalcore anthems in a similar vein to their debut, Disgusting. Title track Aggressive has already become an integral addition to the Ohio band’s arsenal. BEARTOOTH have refined their formula for blending crushing breakdowns and guttural riffs with addictive choruses and melodies, as witnessed in the perpetually memorable Fair Weather Friend. Aggressive is a prime example of BEARTOOTH making the deserved claim of becoming a hot future prospect.

Words: Tom Wakenell – Head of News

9: The Stage – AVENGED SEVENFOLD

The Stage - Avenged Sevenfold

Releasing an album out of the blue is a bold statement from any band, but AVENGED SEVENFOLD have successfully managed to pull it off with The Stage. With what is a huge step up from the mediocre Hail To The King, The Stage is not only a return to form, but a glorious showcase of AVENGED at their most diverse. The band’s newest drummer Brooks Wackerman approaches the album with a relentless, dynamic fuelled performance. Tracks such as The Stage and God Damn unleash Synyster Gates’ most creative shredding to date, vocalist M Shadows’ versatility and AVENGED SEVENFOLD rediscovering their sound.

Words: Tom Wakenell – Head of News

8: Transcendence – THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT

Transcendence - The Devin Townsend Project

Devin Townsend has done it again, his own unique take on the musical storytelling has proven that being positive with your musical talent infusing with Jazz, blues and orchestral tones. Transcendence is in the usual ostentatious style we have come to know and love from Devin and the guys. But don’t assume that this is a throwaway piece. Never make that mistake with DTP, else you miss out on the blissful display of one of this year’s strongest albums; A demonstration that sticking to form while constantly creating something with a fresh outlook truly pays off.

Words: Laura McCarthy – Introducing Editor

7: If I’m The Devil… – LETLIVE.

If I'm The Devil... - Letlive.

It’s hard to argue that LETLIVE. are leading the way in post-hardcore with their high octane music and sporadic live shows to match. However, LETLIVE. opted to tone down the energy to enhance the maturity of the band’s music and lyrics. Vocalist and face of LETLIVE. Jason Butler truly enforces his emotions with the heart-wrenching, politically charged Good Mourning, America. LETLIVE. still captivate their raw, no holds barred attitude in Another Offensive Song, but show their diversity with softer moments including Foreign Cab Rides. If I’m The Devil… is the logical step which LETLIVE. needed to take to refine their remarkable resume.

Words: Tom Wakenell – Head of News

6: Mariner – CULT OF LUNA & JULIE CHRISTMAS

Mariner - Cult of Luna

CULT OF LUNA’s last record Vertikal was a genuine behemoth, seemingly a culmination of everything the forward-thinking Swedes had worked towards up to that point. In its wake, the question became what exactly could they do to keep pushing. The answer presented in Mariner was refreshingly simple but with infinite possibilities: collaborate with a vocal dynamo like Julie Christmas. CULT OF LUNA’s journey beyond the stars is given a very human focal point, who is all at once beautiful, menacing, enticing and a feral freak of nature. It’s a heart-wrenching and sonically crushing but ultimately transcendent record, painting the celestial expanses of the cosmos with our very own feelings, hopes and fears, and reverberating long after its run-time finishes.

Words: Perran Helyes – Live Review Editor

5: Animus – VENOM PRISON

Animus - Venom Prison

VENOM PRISON’s explosive debut, Animus, captures the essence of extreme music. Throughout the ten tracks on the record, the band pummel you consistently, allowing little room to breathe. Laced with influences from the grooves of death metal to hard-hitting breakdowns of hardcore, VENOM PRISON take no prisoners with Animus. The hooks are infectious, with slick riffing leading the charge and will have the head banging ferociously on Abysmal Agony and Perpetrator Emasculation for example. Frontwoman Larissa Stupar gives absolutely everything in her vocal deliveries; consistently unleashing guttural snarls that solidify the musical barrage that is VENOM PRISON. Make no mistake, this record is not for the faint-hearted. It offers little room to breathe and opts for a shock and awe approach in its execution. Animus is raw, meaty and enormous in it’s delivery of sheer brutal metal. A simply outstanding debut from one of the UK’s explosive new bands. If anything in the world of extreme music tickles your fancy, you’ll feel right at home with Animus.

Words: James Weaver – Editor-in-Chief

4: Winter – OCEANS OF SLUMBER

Winter - Oceans of Slumber

OCEANS OF SLUMBER’s debut full-length record is laced with moments of sheer destructive force and moments of tranquil beauty. Intricate riffing and melodies are in full-force throughout Winter, from the opening title track, a fantastic cover of Nights In White Satin to the emphatic chorus of Suffer The Last Bridge, OCEANS OF SLUMBER have crafted a truly wonderful atmosphere throughout the record’s duration. This is only reinforced through the sensational vocal deliveries from frontwoman Cammie Gilbert, whose emotional gut-wrenching vocals inject soul and passion into Winter. It’s hard to pigeon-hole OCEANS OF SLUMBER into one sub-genre of metal as Winter is broad and though-provoking. From Dobber’s enormous blasts from the drums to the atmospheric and intricate guitar play, OCEANS OF SLUMBER have crafted one of the most poignant records of the year. Winter is a journey, a listening experience that tugs and pulls at a variety of emotions throughout.

Words: James Weaver – Editor-in-Chief

3: Rheia – OATHBREAKER

Rheia - Oathbreaker

As much as anything else within heavy music, 2016 gave great hope for the future. The seemingly endless amount of breakthrough bands who released promising debut records or massively upped the ante was where much of the year’s true quality lay, and Belgium’s OATHBRAKER made one of the most stunning leaps of all with Rheia. A seamless melding of crust, hardcore, post-rock and blackgaze, Rheia transcends them all and exists simply as exceptionally pure expression. It’s a whirlwind of frigid tremolo guitar, volcanic drums and breathtaking crescendos, drawing blood as often as tears, and then there’s Cara Tanghe who gives one of the most affecting and engrossing vocal performances of the year. She rides cacophonous blasts with twisted shrieks and slithers through thick textures with unpredictable and fragile melodies, flipping between terrifying and vulnerable in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible not to imagine her body contorting and her knuckles growing white as you listen, feeling privy to something uncomfortably personal and unflinchingly honest. It’s a deeply emotional and totally immersive experience that exists within a very special category of albums that defy tropes and categorisation and simply feel. It’s a record that lives, breathes and bleeds, and one that demands attention from the metal underground and beyond.

Words: Perran Helyes – Live Review Editor

2: Death of a Bachelor – PANIC! AT THE DISCO

Death of a Bachelor - Panic! At The Disco

Death of a Bachelor is a step away from PANIC! AT THE DISCO’s earlier work, it was written and produced by Brendan Urie after the departure of Spencer Smith (drummer) and Dallon Weekes (bassist) making it extremely unique. It seems to have worked out, reaching number one on the US Billboard 200. It has appeased old fans and new by maintaining the eccentric yet lovable feel PANIC! AT THE DISCO are known for, but growing with the fans away from the earlier heartbreak albums into something so upbeat with intense enthusiasm. Continuing the move to pop-punk started in To Weird To Live, To Rare To Die, and including operatic style vocals, a heavy focus on synths, whilst maintaining a strong drum beat to carry it all along, Death of a Bachelor is populated with flamboyant, relatable songs, an exhilarating combination which is this albums secret to success. But have no fear there is still the darker side to the lyrics, slipped quietly into the background giving enough depth to feel real.

Words: Dean Martin – Introducing Assistant Editor

1: Magma – GOJIRA

Gojira - Magma

We’ll be honest with you, PANIC! AT THE DISCO nearly made number one due to our voting system. However when pitched to the overall team at Distorted Sound, there was clearly only one winner. GOJIRA’s Magma is a masterstroke from a band who have spent their entire career refusing to be pigeon-holed into one sub-genre. Easily their most accessible record to date, but still retaining all their iconic sounds and influences, Magma is a musical journey of blistering drumwork and slick riffing to capture your attention in an instant and then cast you off on a whirlwind of an adventure. From the intense assault on Silveria to the enormous atmosphere on the title track, Magma is jam-packed full of a variety of tempos, moods and feelings. This is an intelligent record, one that is subtle in it’s delivery but still remains a force to be reckoned with. Joe Duplantier’s new vocal techniques don’t feel like a cop out with their new found popularity either, it feels like the next step in GOJIRA’s evolution. Magma showcases GOJIRA at their very best, demonstrating the sheer musical wizardry at their disposal and across the record’s ten tracks the atmosphere is infectious. Whether it is the hypnotising riffs on The Shooting Star to the emphatic chorus of Stranded, Magma is packed full of moments that clearly demonstrate why GOJIRA are a shining star in heavy metal today.

Words: James Weaver – Editor-in-Chief

Well, there you have it, Distorted Sound‘s albums of the year for 2016! Don’t agree with us? Let us know what your favourite albums of the year are in the comments below. We look forward to bringing you all things heavy in 2017!

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