Nine great 2016 metal albums you may have missed
We talk about metal all the time over here (and at Invisible Oranges), but there's so much good stuff coming out that we still manage to miss some of it. So here's a list, in no particular order, of some great 2016 heavy albums that we haven't yet gotten a chance to talk about yet.
Finland's Oranssi Pazuzu make some of the most out-there, genre-defying black metal you can hope to come across. Jammy and psychedelic aren't traditionally descriptors that come to mind when thinking about black metal, but that combination is what these guys evoke. Värähtelijä, which was out back in January on 20 Buck Spin, is an extremely long, dense listen, full of knotty compositions and digressions. It's the kind of album where the thrill is wondering what might be around the next corner and still being knocked on your back when the curveball comes. Spacey, riffy and brilliant, definitely don't miss this one.
Denver death metal outfit Blood Incantation crush on all possible levels. Practitioners of the kind of grimy old-school death metal revivalism along the lines of contemporaries like Dead Congregation, Grave Miasma and Vastum, these guys keep the mood unrelentingly grim. But beneath the death-metal histrionics here is a surprisingly light touch, a focus on fun of all things, an almost jazzy feel to certain passages that makes this album an endlessly re-listenable blast. The drumming here, especially, has a bit of Brann Dailor looseness that feels like a breath of fresh air. Sure, it crushes, but it's got a dynamic range that often eludes bands like this.
On the other end of the death metal spectrum is Profanatica, the NYC blackened death outfit who unleash a kind of monolithic brutality here that isn't for the faint of heart. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but the conviction in the approach and the knack for a well-placed riff helps it stand out. The whole blasphemous death metal thing can be ponderous if it edges into pomposity, but with such a strong, focused approach here it's hard to argue with the opening riff of "March to Golgotha" or the strange, disarming transition in the middle of "Yahweh Rejected." It's a brutal listen to enhance the foulest of moods.
Spain's Wormed specialize in the kind of frenetic brutal tech-death that tends to turn off a lot of people who don't like their metal so wanky. What sets Wormed apart is their relentless, almost cartoonishly over-the-top approach to songwriting. They understand the effect that their speed-and-chaos approach has and don't just use it to show off, rather creating a musical landscape where every gesture's impact is exaggerated, every musical blow landing straight on the skull. Krighsu is a frantic, detailed, exhausting listen that is simultaneously easy to get immediately and difficult to fully digest. It's a monument to space-age absurdity with a sense of humor to boot.
Finnish folk/black metal band Moonsorrow have been doing their thing since all the way back in 1995, and their new album Jumalten Aika is another in a long line of huge-sounding, bombastic epic black metal tracks. Blending elements of black metal, folk-metal, the ever nebulous "viking metal," and here especially strong symphonic overtones, this is rousing, bombastic heavy music that really brings to mind the term "epic" even in a world in which that term is so overused. This is music for, you know, rushing into battle and all that cliched stuff. Put it this way: if I were a proffessional athlete, I might listen to Moonsorrow to get me hyped up for a big game.
Quebecois black metal crew Forteresse come from a vibrant black metal scene up north that also includes bands like Sombres Forêts, Gris, and Csejthe, all of whom are worth checking out. In the meantime, Forteresse, probably the best known band on the scene, released Thèmes pour la Rébellion earlier this summer, and it's an absolute stunner. Epic, melodic black metal that's easily accessible to folks who might have been dipping their toes in the odd Deafheaven or Woods of Desolation album. It's furiously beautiful, the type of music that makes you feel sorrowful and powerful at the same time, and an immersive headphone experience of the highest order (particularly if you understand French and therefore the album's overtly political themes).
Wildly fun doom metal from prolific metal merchant John Gallo (Orodruin), Blizaro is intended as an homage to the Italian doom metal scene of the '80s (which I admittedly know nothing about). But it doesn't take a seasoned ear to enjoy the cheeky, campy, synth-heavy, Giallo-soundtrack vibe of Cornucopia Della Morte. And if you come for the vibe, you can stay for the songwriting, which is absolutely ace. The riffs are perfectly placed and the vocal melodies in particular are more soulfully interesting than with a lot of early doom-apers, and the songs have a really progressive sense of build and, uh, progression. Highly reccommended.
This Finnish folky black metal duo Circle of Ouroborus have released a ton of music since they started in 2004, and it's a rich bizarre catalogue. Their latest release, an album-length compilation of two EPs, is a methodically-paced, weirdly beautiful trip of an album. This is the rare album that feels legitimately alien in its mode of expression, hard to pin to a specific genre, equally comforting and unsettling. It sounds isolated, crafted somewhere quiet in the midst of a cold winter. It's one of the most singular things I've listened to all year, and while it may not be everyone's bag, it's well worth a chance--it might just worm its way into your consciousness like it did mine.
Finally, this is probably my favorite album on this list. Singer/songwriter John Cobbett is active in a bunch of projects, including the supergroup VHOL. Hammers of Misfortune is his main gig, and while it's been covered extensively over at Invisible Oranges, somehow we haven't given this baby a shout out in these pages. What a great album this is. It displays dense, proggy NWOBHM-influenced songwriting that is, above all, really freaking catchy. There are surprises around every corner, and man the songwriting is just perfect here, the kind of big, intelligent metal that most of us crave but can't get nearly enough of.