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 – Charred Walls Of The Damned / Creatures Watching Over the Dead (2016)

A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four high-skilled electrified beasts who need absolutely no introduction.

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coverSome people call American Heavy Metal band Charred Walls Of The Damned a “supergroup”, but in my opinion they’re a lot more than that. Formed in 2009 by the immensely talented drummer Richard Christy (Death, Control Denied, Iced Earth) after a five-year absence from the metal scene since leaving Iced Earth and joining The Howard Stern Show in 2004, and having the one and only Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Beyond Fear, Winter’s Bane, Dio Disciples) on vocals, Jason Suecof (special guest musician and producer for Death Angel, Trivium, Kataklysm, Chimaira, DevilDriver and tons of other amazing bands) on guitar, and Steve Digiorgio (Testament, Control Denied, Death, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach) on bass, Charred Walls Of The Damned go beyond the boundaries of almost all known “supergroups”, being an already established named in the world of heavy music and always delivering first-class material to metalheads all over the world.

If you have never heard their first two releases (their self-titled masterpiece Charred Walls of the Damned, from 2010, and Cold Winds on Timeless Days, from 2011), don’t waste any more time and go after them because those albums are definitely worth a shot, especially for fans of a high level intricacy together with sheer heaviness in music. And now, after almost five years waiting for more of the vigorous music by Charred Walls Of The Damned, Mr. Christy and his henchmen are finally back with another lecture in Heavy Metal entitled Creatures Watching Over the Dead, the third installment (all of them with beautiful names, by the way) by this band that’s a synonym to classy Heavy Metal and, unarguably, one of the best supergroups of all time, if not the best as they are for this guy that writes to you right now.

As soon as the serene intro in the opening track My Eyes explodes into pure Heavy Metal, Ripper’s voice starts penetrating deep inside your mind while the flawless beats by Richard crush your soul, proving how incredible this duo always sounds. We’re treated to the right amount of complexity and progressiveness in this outstanding composition, and don’t forget to check Richard’s drum demonstration for this song as it’s simply awesome. The Soulless, the first single of the album, has everything we love in traditional Heavy Metal. Fast and blazing guitars, a perfect drumming, rumbling bass lines and Ripper’s screams soaring as high as the sun make this demolishing fusion of Death, Thrash and modern Heavy Metal a newborn metallic classic, with its acid lyrics criticizing what’s happening with many of us in our modern but extremely toxic society (“I see you tripping into this electric world / As your brain melts into glass / Thoughts focusing upon a dark screen of deceit / A life that’s paid in full and wallowing in grief / Stepping through the mindless threshold / Now amongst the soulless”). Moreover, I have no words to say how good the guitar solo by Mr. Suecof is, it really gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it.

It’s time to enjoy the acoustic lines by Jason and the smoother-than-usual vocals by Ripper before their demonic side arises in the dark power ballad Afterlife, presenting a dense musicality where the thunderous bass by Steve perfectly complements the crisp beats by Richard; followed by the best song of the album in my humble opinion, As I Catch My Breath. Gripping, groovy, atmospheric, powerful and inspiring are only a few adjectives we can use to describe it, with all four band members having outstanding performances showcasing all their skills in this classy hymn. Furthermore, it’s quite impossible not to sing the chorus along with Ripper and the guys, unless you’re absolutely not into metal music, of course. Slightly similar to the musicality from “Afterlife”, Lies brings forward a solid and potent sounding with hints of Power Metal, enhancing the epic vibe of the song. It’s another tune tailored for Ripper to shine with his enraged vocals, also presenting a soulful guitar solo by Jason that puts a beautiful end to such an awesome composition.

cwotd-2016Do you like what Ripper did with Judas Priest and Beyond Fear? If your answer is yes, Reach into the Light will put a humongous smile on your face. Its rhythmic drumming and cutting riffs provide Ripper exactly what he needs to fire his old school high-pitched screams, with all breaks and variations adding more flavor to this bestial composition by this incredible quartet. It truly amuses me how they can sound extremely aggressive and very harmonious at the same time, which is the case in another one of my favorites, Tear Me Down, displaying some electrifying vocals and guitar lines while Richard continues to impress on drums. Put differently, they get the best elements from their musical backgrounds and careers, and easily transform that interesting mixture into high-end metal music.

I personally recommend Living in the Shadow of Yesterday for your road trip playlist due to its pleasant rhythm, not to mention how good the crystal clear sound of drums is, as well as the song’s mighty bass lines. In addition, despite minimal, the song’s backing vocals end up working extremely well, and I guess I don’t need to say how tuneful all riffs and solos by Jason sound. Finally, the last sonic strike by Charred Walls Of The Damned, Time Has Passed, is a lesson in bass guitar by Steve. His instrument sounds insanely heavy, slapping the listener in the face pretty hard with each note played, which only gets better when accompanied by Richard’s groovy and furious beats and fills. When the song was over after my first listen to the album, it left me craving more Charred Walls Of The Damned. Well, it’s just a matter of going back to the beginning of the album and savor all songs again and again (something I’ve been doing nonstop since the album’s official launch).

Although there are no live dates scheduled yet for Charred Walls Of The Damned, I’m certain a tour to promote Creatures Watching Over the Dead will happen soon, and I truly hope they add a few Canadian dates to that. When that happens, you might notice Jason and Steve won’t probably join Richard and Ripper due to their other duties, but that’s not a big deal as the live musicians for the band include the also awesome Dennis Hayes (bass) and John Comprix (guitar) from Beyond Fear, as well as Matt Sorg (guitar) from Shed the Skin (check the review for their kick-ass debut album Harrowing Faith by clicking HERE). While we wait for a Creatures Watching Over the Dead tour, you can enjoy the entire album at the Howard Stern’s official website, and obviously purchase your favorite version of it at the Metal Blade Records’ website. More than just a metal album, Creatures Watching Over the Dead is a magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four high-skilled electrified musicians who need absolutely no introduction if you live and breathe heavy music.

Best moments of the album: The Soulless, As I Catch My Breath, Reach into the Light and Tear Me Down.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. My Eyes 4:30
2. The Soulless 4:03
3. Afterlife 2:53
4. As I Catch My Breath 5:03
5. Lies 3:31
6. Reach into the Light 2:39
7. Tear Me Down 3:50
8. Living in the Shadow of Yesterday 3:36
9. Time Has Passed 3:16

Band members
Tim “Ripper” Owens – vocals
Jason Suecof – guitar
Steve Digiorgio – bass
Richard Christy – drums