Roll out the red carpet! Let the champagne flow! Yes, it’s time for the HMO Top Albums of 2016.
As always, there were some really good albums that just missed the cut: Marillion’s F.E.A.R. Megadeth’s Dystopia, Winterfylleth’s The Dark Hereafter, Eternal Champion’s The Armor of Ire, Allfather’s Bless the Earth with Fire and Vektor’s Terminal Redux to name just a few. They’re all great albums that are totally worth your time and money.
But… there can be only ten!
THE HMO TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016
NUMBER TEN: Gojira – Magma
The French band’s sixth album Magma found them simplifying and streamlining their challenging and hard-hitting tech-groove. Tunes like Silvera and Stranded are memorable and thrilling with genuine crossover appeal. And it’s a grower with an emotional resonance that earned many repeat listens… and a place in the top ten.
NUMBER NINE: The Wounded Kings – Visions in Bone
The Wounded Kings make their second appearance in the yearly HMO Top 10 with this impressive slab of doom. Sadly, it looks like it will be their last as the band split shortly after its release. But they went out in style. This is a mature and accomplished album with great performances. Massive riffs, classic soloing and chilling vocals from returning vocalist George Birch.
NUMBER EIGHT: Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith
No surprises on the black metal duo’s seventh album. Just riffs. Layers of riffs. Infinite riffs. Thrashing, icy and breathtaking riffs. And a big long album title! Bloodshed Across the etc… is a transcendent experience: the cosmic maelstrom of riffs and the hypnotic croaking vocals of Dagon producing an immersive, gripping and mystical listening experience. Oh, and did I mention there are riffs?
NUMBER SEVEN: Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Gloriously old-fashioned death metal right down to the AAD symbol detail on the back cover. This harks right back to the genre’s grimy, primitive glory days: labyrinthine Demilch-style riffing and gonzo Trey Azagthoth soloing. But the band put their own extraterrestrial stamp on the style, giving the cavernous riffing an otherworldly quality through inventive use of effects and interludes. A remarkable debut.
NUMBER SIX: Abbath – Abbath
Few black metal legends command as much goodwill and affection as the former Immortal frontman. And, based on the quality of his self-titled solo debut, that looks unlikely to change. This is an icy and militant statement of intent from the ousted singer/guitarist. Epic tales of legend and war, served up with his inimitably grim vocals and a veritable battlefield of inventive riffs. An epic triumph and one of the year’s most flat-out entertaining records.
NUMBER FIVE: Cobalt – Slow Forever
Cobalt pulled off a hat-trick of impressive feats with Slow Forever. They managed to successfully replace a key member (Charlie Fell coming in to replace departed vocalist Phil McSorley), they managed to satisfyingly follow up their faultless, classic 2009 album Gin, and they also managed to release a double-album with no filler on it. Fucking show-offs! Literate, raging, savage black metal with a dusty, sunbaked hint of Americana.
NUMBER FOUR: The King is Blind – Our Father
Released in January, this impressive and manly melting pot of extreme metal was the album to beat for most of the year. And it managed to secure the number four spot: no mean feat for a debut album in such a strong year as this. Our Father has a thoughtful, esoteric concept served up with a varied and cathartic total metal drubbing. And if their new track Throne of Skulls is anything to go by, there’s still plenty more where this came from.
NUMBER THREE: Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law
This is a total nightmare merry-go-round of screeching, howling, screaming, mechanistic black metal. It’s a terrifying aural assault, but the impossibly versatile vocalist Dave Hunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L!) serves up melodic hooks to die for on tracks like Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion, In Flagrante Delicto and Extravaganza! The most enjoyable migraine you’ll ever get.
NUMBER TWO: Mithras – On Strange Loops
Death-metal-in-space! Seems to be a thing this year. But whereas Blood Incantation’s Starspawn went for the primitive old-school approach, On Strange Loops is visionary and progressive. It’s blasting and intense with sublime musicianship, but the real winner here is the writing and arrangement of the album. You just know a ton of thought and care went into this. There’s so much depth, the songs flow together beautifully and… my god… it’s full of hooks!
NUMBER ONE: Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder
Everyone can blather on about influences, genres, their old style, their new style and so on. But the fact is that whatever Darkthrone do, they sound like Darkthrone. On Arctic Thunder they sound even MORE like Darkthrone. This is raw and vital. A raging thunder of pure, unadulterated metal, blackened by a chill arctic wind of frosty misanthropy. Cohesive, consistent, fucks not given. The best Darkthrone-style band in the world at their best. And there’s nothing better than that.
HMO TOP ALBUMS BY YEAR
2016: Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder
2015: My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
2014: Voices – London