Music

The Best Metal of 2016

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

15 - 11

Artist: Grand Magus

Album: Sword Songs

Label: Nuclear Blast

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

Display as: List

List number: 15

Display Width: 200

Grand Magus
Sword Songs

Perennially underrated, the Swedish trio have been consistently releasing album after album of simple, catchy melodic heavy metal, especially over the past decade. Grand Magus have evolved from a rather doom-oriented band to one that celebrates the vintage sounds of Judas Priest and Viking-era Bathory, and true, some albums are better than most. Eighth album Sword Songs is a nice improvement over 2014's somewhat complacent Triumph and Power, benefitting from a much stronger sense of conviction and energy. Sure, the chorus of "Viking metal" in "Forged in Iron -- Crowned in Steel" is as goofy as it gets, but it's crucial to never forget that metal is inherently goofy, and Grand Magus celebrate that fact, in style, every time out.

 
Artist: Amon Amarth

Album: Jomsviking

Label: Metal Blade

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/a/amonamarth-jomsviking.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 14

Display Width: 200

Amon Amarth
Jomsviking

Having become one of the most popular live bands in the entire genre, Amon Amarth have shown admirable resilience and longevity, outlasting trend after trend while building their fanbase with every new album. The key for these Swedes is how they've been able to subtly evolve from album to album while still remaining loyal to the melodic death metal sound they forged for themselves 20 years ago. What Jomsviking does so well is incorporate more melody than ever before, without compromising the visceral power of their music. Two fine examples are the unabashedly fun "Raise Your Horns" and the elegiac "A Dream That Cannot Be", which features the great Doro Pesch. Still, though, the aggressive moments deliver wonderfully, as on "First Kill" and "The Way of Vikings".

 
Artist: Anciients

Album: Voice of the Void

Label: Season of Mist

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/a/anciientsartwork-300x300.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 13

Display Width: 200

Anciients
Voice of the Void

After a longer-than-expected wait between albums, Vancouver foursome Anciients returned in 2016 with a second album that comes closer to realizing their enormous potential. Having found a very unique middle ground between mid-2000s Mastodon and 1990s Opeth, it's very impressive -- not to mention gratifying -- to see these guys keep their hyper-ambitious arrangements concise. It's all about the discipline on Voice of the Void, as these tracks never slip into self-indulgence. Instead, every choice they make serves the song, and the end result is a collection of tracks that leave an immediate and lasting impression, whether it's the barnstorming opener "Following the Voice" or the daring, Tool-esque "Ibex Eye". Toss in some very impressive singing by guitarist Kenny Cook, and you've got a supremely confident album that'll have many excited to hear what this band has up its sleeves next.

 
Artist: Aluk Todolo

Album: Voix

Label: The Ajna Offensive

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/t/the_ajna_offensive.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 12

Display Width: 200

Aluk Todolo
Voix

It's easy to lump French band Aluk Todolo and Finland's Oranssi Pazuzu together; after all, they both combine black metal, krautrock, and psychedelic rock to create highly unique hybrids. And indeed, Voix succeeds in exactly the same way that Värähtelijä does. When comparing the two, though, the slight edge goes to Aluk Todolo, whose fourth album is so remarkably concise and immediate, achieving its goal in 43 minutes as opposed to 63. The shorter length allows the music to sink in faster, and the way the trio crafts and molds the music into an amorphous yet shockingly solid whole is fascinating to hear. Drones soar and weave amidst a hypnotic, kraut-inspired rhythm section, atonal cacophony slowly metamorphoses into a coherent and alluring melody.

 
Artist: Psalm Zero

Album: Stranger to Violence

Label: Profound Lore

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/p/psalm-zero-stranger_cover-1024x1024.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 11

Display Width: 200

Psalm Zero
Stranger to Violence

Avant-garde musician Charlie Looker turned a lot of heads with Psalm Zero's 2014 debut album The Drain, which combined the punishing industrial metal sounds of Godflesh and the more meditative sounds of Katatonia. The follow-up mixes the two sides even more confidently, but even better is how a very strong Depeche Mode influence creeps into the music. The end result is a darkly exquisite contrast between harshness and beauty, as Looker and former collaborator Andrew Hock create a constant push and pull between two seemingly disparate sounds.

Prev Page
Next Page


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.