The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

The unexpected death of the most badass musician in history, Motörhead’s heart and soul Lemmy Kilmister, on December 28, 2015 was a harbinger of all the bad, shocking and revolting things that would turn the year of 2016 a true nightmare for mankind. That dark prophecy was confirmed less than two weeks later, more specifically on January 10 when we lost another true star in rock music to cancer, the unparalleled chameleon David Bowie, just two days after the release of his final masterpiece Blackstar. If that was not enough to make 2016 a miserable year, we also had to endure the passing of other icons who, despite not being metal, have always inspired countless bands and artists in heavy music. We lost Prince, Leonard Cohen and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), to name a few, all irreplaceable losses to music in general. In addition, important names in the history of Heavy Metal also left us in 2016, such as Nick Menza (Megadeth) and Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio), not to mention the disbandment of amazing groups like Eths (who are by the way part of our top 10 this year), Crucified Barbara and Bolt Thrower. And I’m not even going to talk about all other types of disasters and tragedies that happened all over the world, as the list is too macabre and grievous to be remembered in full.

Fortunately, 2016 was considerably generous for us headbangers in terms of the quantity and quality of albums released throughout the entire year, especially for diehard fans of old school Thrash Metal. Except for Slayer and Exodus, all other prominent names in Thrash Metal blasted the world with their high-speed, thrilling music, led by another superb album by Testament. Even Metallica released a decent album this year, just to give you an idea of how fruitful 2016 was for this rebellious type of music. Having said that, it’s time for The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums. And even if 2017 is as hideous as 2016, let’s never forget the wise words by Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan. Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snake1. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake (REVIEW)
Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet.
Best song of the album: The Number Game

cover2. Charred Walls Of The Damned – Creatures Watching Over the Dead (REVIEW)
A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four electrified beasts.
Best song of the album: As I Catch My Breath

Cover3. Eths – Ankaa (REVIEW)
One of the most prominent and innovative French bands of all time returns with a true masterpiece of complexity, darkness and heaviness.
Best song of the album: Nefas

cover4. Primal Fear – Rulebreaker (REVIEW)
Who said rules must be broken for a metallic eagle to spread its wings and soar high in the skies of heavy music?
Best song of the album: Rulebreaker

megadeth_dystopia5. Megadeth – Dystopia (REVIEW)
And the dystopian world portrayed in the brand new album by the iconic Dave Mustaine and his Thrash Metal army is beyond awesome.
Best song of the album: Lying In State

abbathsoloface_6386. Abbath – Abbath (REVIEW)
The one and only Abbath takes a new step in his career with a brand new band an album.
Best song of the album: Fenrir Hunts

death angel_the evil divide7. Death Angel – The Evil Divide (REVIEW)
Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how Thrash Metal should always be done.
Best song of the album: Hell To Pay

anthrax_for all kings8. Anthrax – For All Kings (REVIEW)
A classy and electrifying Thrash Metal album especially crafted for all of us, the real kings of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Breathing Lightning

front9. Axel Rudi Pell – Game of Sins (REVIEW)
You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go relish another magnificent album by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen.
Best song of the album: Falling Star

nervosa-agony-201610. Nervosa – Agony (REVIEW)
Brazil’s meanest power trio returns with another marvelous blast of their kick-ass high-octane Thrash Metal.
Best song of the album: Theory of Conspiracy

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Blaze Bayley – Infinite Entanglement (REVIEW)
12. The Silent Rage – The Deadliest Scourge (REVIEW)
13. Neverworld – Dremasnatcher (REVIEW)
14. Ancesttral – Web Of Lies (REVIEW)
15. Front – Iron Overkill (REVIEW)
16. Dö – Tuho (REVIEW)
17. Be Under Arms – Doomed To Life (REVIEW)
18. SystemHouse33 – Regression (REVIEW)
19. Gojira – Magma (REVIEW)
20. False Coda – Secrets and Sins (REVIEW)

As in Heavy Metal the artwork is just as important as the music itself, like what always happens with bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, KISS and tons of other metallic titans, we decided to list the Top 10 Cover Artworks of 2016. There are several reasons for an album art to be considered outstanding, such as its strong connection with the music like Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, its visual impact (usually associated with its controversial content) like Slayer’s God Hates Us All, or its perfect minimalism and finesse like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. Do you agree with our list?

1. Anthrax – For All Kings [by Alex Ross]
2. Primeval Mass – To Empyrean Thrones [by Karmazid]
3. Witches Of Doom – Deadlights [by Carlo Muselli]
4. Ragehammer – The Hammer Doctrine [by Robert A. von Ritter]
5. Howls Of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows [by Agostino Arrivabene]
6. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake [by Eliran Kantor]
7. Henriette B – Tales of Reality (EP) [by Pierre-Alain D.]
8. Skáphe – Skáphe² [by H.V. Lyngdal]
9. Diabolizer – Apokalypse (MCD) [by Robert A. von Ritter]
10. Hostis – Hostis [by Zvonimir Grabić & Milena Nićić]

Rest assured in 2017 we at The Headbanging Moose will keep providing you the best of the underworld of Death, Thrash, Black, Symphonic, Epic, Power Metal and all other genres and subgenres of heavy music, as well as our view of the biggest names worldwide. There are already brand new albums confirmed for 2017 by Kreator, Sepultura, Grave Digger, Battle Beast and more, which means at least musically the new year promises to be really good. Thank you very much for your precious time, and keep on rockin’! Au revoir!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2017!

Well, before we go, here’s a special gift from Iron Maiden to all metalheads all over the world… A nice festive yule log fireplace to keep our hearts warm during the entire season!

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Album Review – Howls Of Ebb / Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows (2016)

Derranged howls, mesmerizing riffs, distorted screeches and hellish beats. These are the main ingredients for one of the most unique and interesting heavy albums from the past few years, brought forth by an eccentric duo from San Francisco, California.

Rating4

IVR058 - HOWLS OF EBB - Cursus ImpasseSometimes I think I overuse the words “weird”, “eerie” and “unnatural” in our reviews at The Headbanging Moose, but after taking a listen at Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows, the first full-length release by American Black/Death Metal act Howls Of Ebb, you’ll have to agree with me there are no better words to describe the distinct music crafted by this talented duo from San Francisco, California. This is not an album for the regular fan of heavy music, but a journey though the most distorted thoughts and horrifying visions created deep down the human mind.

After releasing their debut EP Vigils of the 3rd Eye in 2014 and the MLP The Marrow Veil in 2015, it’s time for Howls Of Ebb to expand their deranged horizons and offer another blast of the freakish drug they call music, forged in the pitch black darkness of their evil den in the United States. Simply look at the names of the songs and tell me if you’ve ever seen anything as crazy as that in your entire life as a metalhead, but when you hit play you’ll realize those names are even too “soft” for all the insanity and outcry coming out of the screams and strings by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund and the beats by Roteen’ Blisssss, not to mention the eccentric cover art named “Theoin II”, by Italian artist Agostino Arrivabene.

Zee-Luuuvft-HuundIn the opening track, curiously entitled The 6th Octopul’th Grin, distorted and piercing noises and growls attack the listener mercilessly, with its Doom Metal beats and wicked riffs creating a tempestuous ambience, therefore turning this amazing song in the perfect soundtrack to a soul-torturing horror flick. If you survive this demented tune, you’ll be smashed by a furious Progressive Black Metal turmoil named Cabals Of Molder, where the guitar sounds like anguished screams by an evil entity from hell, being perfectly complemented by its constantly-changing rhythm and the grim vocals by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund.

The slower and sinister tune Maat Mons’ Fume offers a creepy atmosphere enhanced by its somber lyrics (“Fetid foul upon Sullied Jowls / Endlessly propagate! / We send gifts from afar / Now, Giant Red Tomb Agitate!”), with both guitars and drums growing into a thunderous level of aggression that goes on until a purely Doom Metal ending (guided by the low-tune bass lines by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund) put an end to this hellish creation. There was only one thing that came to my mind while listening to 7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm: this is the type of song that would never, ever play in any radio station so anti-mainstream it is, which in the end means it reached its main goal, right? This multi-song brings forward seven minutes of distortions, vociferations and demonic echoes not for the average listener, and it’s interesting how each instrument sounds “individualist” at first, but together they work extremely well.

Roteen' BlisssssGaunt Vertigo is a smooth but dark instrumental bridge that prepares the listener to The Subliminal Lock – A Precursor To Vengeance, an explosion of Black Metal and Blackened Doom showcasing lyrics as bizarre as possible (“Come Dark Morbid Zen! / Illusory sub-Gnosis takes deeper root / Fleshly cowls crawl deep in the soot / The wick is raised, eyes in pursuit / Come Dark Morbid Zen!”), with the instrumental pieces always “surprising” the listener with all tempo changes, distorted passages and mesmerizing riffs and screeches. And as one last raid we have The Apocryphalic Wick, where after its initial three minutes of wicked noises, an obscure feeling grows uncontrollably until demonic growls open the gates of the underworld. Moreover, the despair in the voice by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund is superb, as if he’s getting asphyxiated due to his soul being consumed by darkness.

This unusual and interesting opus can be found on sale at the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp, or at the Cagliari Records’ BandCamp or webstore. And if you like the  weird effect caused by the noises from Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows penetrating your ears, go give Howls Of Ebb a shout at their Facebook page. Or maybe I should say you must give them a deranged howl instead, it all depends on how much your soul gets darkened by their music.

Best moments of the album: The 6th Octopul’th Grin and Maat Mons’ Fume.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 I, Voidhanger Records

Track listing
1. The 6th Octopul’th Grin 5:31
2. Cabals Of Molder 6:14
3. Maat Mons’ Fume 8:14
4. 7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm 7:09
5. Gaunt Vertigo 1:20
6. The Subliminal Lock – A Precursor To Vengeance 6:23
7. The Apocryphalic Wick 7:21

Band members
Zee-Luuuvft-Huund – vibrations, low auras, polysyllabic morbid mysticisms (a.k.a. vocals, guitar, bass)
Roteen’ Blisssss – cadence of limp and duress, bronze aura (a.k.a. drums)