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The Best Metal of 2016

Adrien Begrand celebrates the best heavy metal of the year in all of its thrilling diversity.

Artist: Voivod

Album: Post Society

Label: Century Media

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/v/voivod-post.jpg

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List number: 20

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Post Society

The first release since the departure of original bassist Jean-Yves "Blacky" Therieault, this 30-minute EP by the Canadian progressive metal innovators proves, once again, that they're still full of ideas. Alternately echoing the idiosyncrasy of classic albums Dimension Hatross and Nothingface and the d-beat speed of Discharge and Motörhead, the foursome tear through five blistering tracks, highlighted by the epic "We Are Connected" -- featuring some phenomenal guitar work by Dan "Chewy" Mongrain -- and the unabashedly joyous and creative cover of Hawkwind's "Silver Machine".

Artist: Oceans of Slumber

Album: Winter

Label: Century Media

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/o/oceans_of_slumber.jpg

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List number: 19

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Oceans of Slumber

Featuring powerhouse singer Cammie Gilbert, Houston's Oceans of Slumber delivered a stunning debut album with Century Media Records, one that delves into the more progressive side of extreme metal with astonishing discipline and song craft. Like the Gathering and Witch Mountain, the band puts an original spin on what defines heavy metal singing, as Gilbert creates a wonderful dynamic between strong, forceful vocals and a more sensitive side. The end result is a progressive doom album with heart, whether on the stunning title track or the daring, haunting cover of the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin".

Artist: Gorguts

Album: Pleiades' Dust

Label: Season of Mist

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/g/gorgutspleiadesep.jpg

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List number: 18

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Pleiades' Dust

In a year where much of death metal spun its wheels, Canada's great Gorguts continued to show incredible breadth and creativity in 2016. Arriving on the heels of 2013's landmark Colored Sands, the spellbinding 33-minute composition "Pleiades' Dust" continues Luc Lemay's career-long experimentation with melody and atonality within death metal. Again, he has been aided by bassist Colin Marston and guitarist Kevin Hufnagel -- as members of Disrhythmia they are no slouches themselves -- and along with drummer Patrice Hamelin the foursome crate an ebb and flow over half an hour that shows, like so few in the genre have dome as of late, just how much range this harsh form of music can have.

Artist: Vektor

Album: Terminal Redux

Label: Earache

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/a/a0144143476_5.jpg

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List number: 17

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Terminal Redux

Easily one of the most wildly inventive new bands of the last five years, Arizona's Vektor are evolving at a rate that often seems dizzying, putting a unique spin on thrash metal. At the same time, though, that ambition and boundless energy had led to a pair of very busy albums that would benefit from a little editing. However, just like 2011's Outer Isolation, the 73-minute Terminal Redux is impossible not to admire. Little hints of 1980s thrash are scattered throughout, the virtuosic musicianship echoing the likes of Sacrifice, Voivod, and Annihilator, but coupled with the beauty-in-chaos style of Chuck Schuldiner of Death, the band catapults a rigid sound into the 21st century, sounding vibrant and highly original.

Artist: Oranssi Pazuzu

Album: Värähtelijä

Label: 20 Buck Spin

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List number: 16

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Oranssi Pazuzu

Three years after the revelatory Valonielu, Finnish avant-garde stalwarts Oranssi Pazuzu continue their exploration of spacey, psychedelic, and krautrock-inspired sounds within the confines of heavy metal. What they've always done so well is use black metal as a springboard towards other, less restricting experimental sounds, and that combination of trebly black metal riffs with jazz fusion freakout guitar solos, Hammond organ, and oddball time signatures makes this new album, whose title roughly translates as "resonator", a marvel from start to finish.

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