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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Concert Review – Gojira (Metropolis, Montreal, QC, 10/21/2016)

And Gojira melted the spinal cords of all metallers in Montreal with the scorching magma flowing from their kick-ass neck-breaking music.

OPENING ACTS: TesseracT

gojira-fall-2016If you can move your neck, feel your back, walk and breathe normally, that means you didn’t attend the pulverizing performance by French icons Gojira this Friday at the neat and well-located Metropolis in Montreal, Quebec. Who cares if it was only 8 degrees outside and raining nonstop? It was a night of heavy music played to perfection, which means no weather could stop us metallers from leaving our places and head to the venue to bang our fuckin’ heads to the most important metal band in the history of France. Very few times I’ve seen such flawless interaction between band and crowd, a night that will forever be kept inside our hearts and remembered as the night Gojira beautifully conquered “La Métropole du Québec”.

img_1842Before we get to the Armageddon generated by Gojira, let’s talk about the opening act, British Progressive Metal/Rock band TESSERACT. Founded in 2003 and having released three full length albums and a few EP’s, including the 2016 EP Errai, The band formed by the talented musicians Daniel Tompkins, Acle Kahney, James Monteith, Amos Williams and Jay Postones provided the fans at the venue a very professional and technical performance, but that didn’t mean it was exciting. Quite the contrary, their whole concert felt like one endless 45-minute song so tiresome it was. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between songs, and I was about to fall asleep after just a few minutes. Well, there were many fans that had a good time during their concert, but for fans of old school stuff like Slayer, Pantera and Anthrax, for example, the concert never really clicked. They are all awesome musicians, especially Amos with his brutal and thunderous bass sounds, but overall they sound like a less metallic version of the latest (boring) album by Dream Theater. If you enjoyed the concert that’s fine, I respect it, but we must admit there were tons of other better choices to warm up the crowd for the main attraction of the night.

Setlist
Phoenix
Concealing Fate, Part 2: Deception
Concealing Fate, Part 3: The Impossible
Of Matter – Proxy
Of Matter – Retrospect
Dystopia
Survival
Of Mind – Nocturne 

Band members
Daniel Tompkins – vocals
Acle Kahney – guitar
James Monteith – guitar
Amos Williams – bass
Jay Postones – drums

GOJIRA

img_1843After TesseracT was over I was feeling so bored I chugged a beer to see if that would wake me up, but I didn’t realize that wasn’t necessary because when GOJIRA started, they needed less than a second to make my blood boil again with excitement. I’m pretty sure they are considered the active volcano of their hometown Bayonne in France, in special after the release of the marvelous Magma earlier this year. When the heavier-than-hell Only Pain kicked off the concert, that’s exactly what every single person present on the floor section felt: a lot of pain in their entire bodies caused by the demented circle pits that started right at the first notes played by Gojira, and that madness didn’t stop until the very end of the night.

After that spine-crushing beginning, Gojira showed no mercy for our souls and blasted three songs made in the depths of hell aiming at destroying our necks, the amazing The Heaviest Matter of the Universe (obviously played by one of the heaviest bands on the entire planet), and their two newborn classics Silvera and Stranded. Yes, they played those three in a row for our total delectation. Not that after that it wasn’t heavy, because they only played brutal material, as for example the bestial Backbone, but that initial sequence was memorable. The only moment of peace was during Terra Inc., but that didn’t last long because Wisdom Comes came crushing our souls like there was no tomorrow. There were beer flying all over the places, fists and horns in the air, pure anarchy and tons of screaming and headbanging. I was just sweating like a wild boar, with my Pantera T-shirt, my pants and even my underwear soaking wet with my own sweat, with many other people’s sweat and with a considerable amount of beer.

img_1851I really don’t know what to say about the rest of their setlist as everything was superb, like for instance the demonic Oroborus and Vacuity. Perhaps the moment where the connection between band and fans reached its peak was during the stunning circle pit generated by the melancholic hymn Pray, a song you don’t usually expect to see that type of aggressiveness coming from the crowd. Or maybe it was when bassist Jean-Michel Labadie threw himself into the crowd in wat can be called an “enhanced stage-diving” as he was still holding (and playing) his low-tuned ax? Anyway, brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier, as well as Jean and guitarist Christian Andreu, were absolutely flawless with their instruments, captivating everyone with their powerful performances during the entire concert. Furthermore, Mario’s drum solo even made me forget how boring drum solos usually are, just for you to have an idea of how good he was.

Well, it’s already Sunday night, I’m back to Toronto and my neck still hurts to the point I have to move around like the old Robocop from the 80’s, but it’s that kind of pain we all love to endure after such an incredible concert of first-class heavy music. I might be getting old for the level of devastation brought forth by Gojira in Montreal, but you know what? The day I cannot get into a pulverizing mosh pit like that, the day I don’t consider the pain in my body caused by a Heavy Metal concert a good thing, I’ll call it a day. Merci beaucoup pour cette nuit incroyable, Gojira! À bientôt, j’espère!

Setlist
Only Pain
The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
Silvera
Stranded
Flying Whales
The Cell
Backbone
Terra Inc.
Wisdom Comes
Drum Solo
The Shooting Star
Toxic Garbage Island
Pray

Encore:
Clone
Oroborus
Vacuity

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

Album Review – Gojira / Magma (2016)

A rich and sophisticated album about death, overflowing anger, sadness and pain, beautifully crafted by one of France’s most prominent and innovative bands of all time.

Rating4

gojira_magmaLosing someone you love is never easy, it doesn’t matter how tough you think you are. You move on and try to live your life without that person, but you’ll always remember your (good and bad) days with him or her, and true sadness will fill your heart even if it’s just for a single moment. At the same time French brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier had to cope with the loss of their beloved mother, only a few months after relocating from Bayonne, France to New York City and building their own music studio in Queens, they were in the process of writing and composing the music for Magma, the sixth studio album from their Progressive/Groove Metal band Gojira. Hence, those negative feelings became an inner part of their compositions, and as there’s nothing better in the entire world to externalize grief, dismay and anger than heavy music, the final result in Magma is beautiful and intense.

“When you read Joe’s lyrics, for me, I cry right away. They’re very deep and to the point. No bullshit. We recycle our sadness and depression in the music”, stated Mario about the lyrical aspect of the album. In addition to that, the duration of the songs in Magma are designedly shorter than in From Mars to Sirius (2005) and L’Enfant Sauvage (2012), as explained by Joe. “We want a short album. Something less epic than what we usually do. People’s attentions are shorter now. So a lot of the songs are four minutes”, also mentioning their experimentations with some Pantera-inspired riffs, something new to them, to make their music even more impactful than usual. The freakish artwork by American artist Hibiki Miyazaki (you can check the process pics of the artwork HERE) simply complements all the darkness and pain found in Magma, adding an extra touch of desolation to the album.

The somber and heavy atmosphere in the opening track, the soulful The Shooting Star, gets even more profound due to the outstanding work done by Joe and his bandmates Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie with their stringed weapons, especially the menacing bass lines by Jean-Michel. Moreover, as aforementioned we can already witness the most sincere type of sorrow flowing through Joe’s vocals, something that only makes the whole song more captivating. Gojira’s trademark neck-breaking riffs are showcased in the sensational Silvera, obviously boosted by the precise and intricate beats by Mario. Joe invests into angrier vocals and deeper growls, with highlights to the mesmerizing riffs and the violent aura generated by all instruments, all complemented by a passionate solo before the song’s climatic ending.

Following that powerful chant we have another marvelous tune transpiring anguish and pain entitled The Cell, presenting an electrifying start (thanks to the wicked drumming by Mario) and the best elements of Groove and Progressive Metal put together. The bass guitar by Jean-Michel is always thunderous no matter the speed and heaviness of the song, which is not only the case in this exciting tune but also in Stranded, with its direct and imposing sonority led by the band’s strident riff, one of the core ingredients that make the music by Gojira so distinguished. Although this is one of those songs to destroy your neck by banging your head like a maniac, you should also pay good attention to its lyrics, which just prove how sad Joe was while writing them (“A growing sickness in the heart / Defective, lack of control / The cure is somewhere in the silence / But I’m crushed by the noise inside”).

gojira 2016Jean-Michel leads the short and eerie bridge Yellow Stone before the title-track Magma brings forward more of the band’s anguished lyrics (“The poison slowly spreads / Through the body and the mind / Close your eyes and drop your things / Be ready to fly”), flawless instrumental and atmospheric passages. Furthermore, it’s interesting how the music evolves to a darker sounding before getting back to its heavy but serene ambience. Despite beginning as heavy as hell, Pray is by far the saddest of all songs, a journey through Joe’s darkest thoughts and his personal view on what faith is while the rest of the band keeps blasting their complex, metallic and punchy lines. And if that can be considered the saddest track in Magma, Only Pain is the one emanating the highest amount of anger, with its bass and riffs piercing and blacknening your mind. Furthermore, Joe barks and screams “only pain, all in vain” in full force, providing the listener an extra taste of his pain.

The two final tracks in Magma are pure melancholy, starting with Low Lands. How not to start crying while listening to its lyrics (“While you drift away / From all the plagues of this world / You’re put out of misery, giant monster / You won’t have to face it again / Every step of the way gets you higher”)? This is a very introspective composition with some thrilling tempo changes, a song I’m sure Joe, Mario and the others are very proud of having created together. And the somber acoustic outro Liberation feels like a very personal goodbye from Joe and Mario to their deceased mother, with no words being necessary to send the desired message.

Honestly, I have no idea if Magma will please all fans of Gojira, mainly due to the small but significant changes applied to their musicality in comparison to their previous releases. Magma might not be the “evolution in music” most were expecting from such innovative and lionhearted musicians, but it’s indeed a sophisticated album written from the bottom of the hearts of each band member, overflowing anger, pain and distress from every note played. Similarly to what the chameleon David Bowie (R.I.P.) did with his masterpiece Blackstar, using it as his swan song when his inevitable death was getting near, Magma is the perfect example of how death and high-quality music always walk hand in hand.

Best moments of the album: Silvera, The Cell, Stranded and Only Pain.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. The Shooting Star 5:42
2. Silvera 3:33
3. The Cell 3:18
4. Stranded 4:29
5. Yellow Stone (Instrumental) 1:19
6. Magma 6:42
7. Pray 5:14
8. Only Pain 4:00
9. Low Lands 6:04
10. Liberation (Instrumental) 3:35

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar, flute, arrangements
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

Concert Review – Slayer (Kool Haus,Toronto, ON, 11/21/2013)

Is it a tornado? Is it a tsunami? No, it’s motherfuckin’ OLD SCHOOL SLAYER NIGHT in Toronto!

OPENING ACTS: 4ARM and Gojira

Yesterday night was one of those things that will be forever in our minds, hearts, aching necks and torn muscles. I must admit I was really tired after a full day at work, and driving from Oakville to Toronto when it’s raining it’s not fun at all, but what happened at the Kool Haus last night was worth every minute spent in traffic downtown.

Before I start, I have to say something amazing I saw lat night, which was the huge number of parents with their small kids at the concert. There was this father with his son, who was pretty excited for the concert, so I asked him how old his boy was and he said “he’s 11 now”. That’s about when I started listening to Slayer! That made me sleep better this night (even with my neck killing me), knowing the future of mankind doesn’t look so bad while we still have headbanging kids like that.

The first band of the night was 4ARM, from Melbourne, which means we have another good Metal band from Australia now. It was a decent concert that I liked a lot, even though I knew nothing about their career. Quick question: why do over 50% of the metalheads today, including band members, look so much like Jesus Christ even when singing about Jesus being a lie is their favorite topic? Anyway, that was a good warm-up for the rest of the night and a good chance to enjoy some beers while listening to some fuckin’ heavy tunes.

Then came Gojira, or Godzilla in Japanese, which by the way was the original name of the band. If you like to bang your head non-stop like a mutherfucker, you must listen to this neck-breaking French band: they are far from being the fastest band in the world, but they’re as heavy as an obese elephant and perfect for having a beer and smashing your neck. I don’t know a lot about the band; however, songs like L’Enfant Sauvage and The Heaviest Matter of the Universe sounded excellent for live concerts. Merci beaucoup, Gojira, for such a nice performance!

And it was so funny between Gojira and Slayer, when the DJ was playing some AC/DC songs and some guys (including myself) started singing “Aaaaaaaa… SLAYER! Aaaaaaaa… SLAYER!”, instead of “thunder” in Thunderstruck. There are things that only Slayer fans can do.

SLAYER

IMG_1445Whoever is responsible for the management of the venue can definitely change its name to “Kool Hell” or “Slaughter Haus” from now on. I think any Slayer concert should be used for human population control, especially if it’s an OLD SCHOOL SLAYER NIGHT like last night in Toronto. The mosh pits were insane; it was like Hell on Earth! In fact, the entire venue was a mosh pit.

Talking about the concert itself and the band, and I know it doesn’t matter what or how I say it here, I’ll never be able to describe in words the perfection of the show. I’ve seen Slayer live a lot of times (how the hell am I still alive?), and they’ve never disappointed me. Slayer always delivers a brutally awesome performance on stage, no matter where they are. When the intro to the classic Hell Awaits started and the white sheet that was covering the stage went down, there they were: Tom, Kerry, Gary and Paul, all ready for some fuckin’ Thrash Metal, and the fans answered the best way possible with a crazy mosh pit.

After that it was a sequence of old classics to make all diehard fans go crazy: the fast Antichrist and Necrophiliac, the cool Mandatory Suicide and Captor of Sin, and then we had the havoc anthem War Ensemble. There’s nothing I can say about this song except HOLY FUCKIN’ SHIT! And when I thought I could have a break and breathe for a few seconds, they come with an avalanche of classics including some of my all-time favorite Slayer songs such as At Dawn They Sleep, Die by the Sword and Spirit in Black. Do you want to rest now? No, you don’t, because the next song is Seasons in the Abyss, which was sung out loud by all fans at the venue in a celebration of Thrash Metal.

IMG_1456

R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman!

Although we all love Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and respect that amazing punk attitude he brought to Slayer, we have to admit Gary Holt is a beast and a perfect fit for Slayer. I don’t want him to leave/end Exodus, no way, but the Thrash Metal riff master adds so much value to Slayer that it’s impossible to think of anyone else that could replace him now. And as a tribute to one of the most underrated guitar masters of all time, Kerry and Tom decided to add the magnificent Strike of the Beast to their entire tour. Holy shit, that was brutal and unforgettable! And just when things didn’t seem they could get more awesome, Slayer provides us another annihilating sequence with Dead Skin Mask (also sung by everybody there), one of the most violent songs in the world and one of my favorites Raining Blood, and the fuckin’ old school Black Magic. Was it the end (of the world)? No, there was still time for the encore, the famous one with the Heineken/Jeff Hanneman flag on the back with the obscure South of Heaven and my top Thrash Metal track of all, the slashing anthem Angel of Death. Although in my opinion Dave Lombardo shouldn’t have left Slayer, I feel really good with the monster Paul Bostaph on drums, and what he did in Angel of Death just confirmed my feelings.

Finally, it’s always a pleasure to see Tom Araya and Kerry King playing live. The first is always so serene and enjoys so much having a good time with the fans (he even  demanded the security guys to bring back one fan that was supposedly doing something wrong and was about to be expelled), while the other is an unstoppable shredding machine with his pretty evil guitar.

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I swear I tried hard to find a Metallica T-shirt, but there was none. The Kool Haus in Toronto was a huge SLAYER NATION (the T-shirt I got yesterday!) last night, with no room for pussies. Well, there were many girls there, but they were not pussies at all (although they do have one): they were slamming in the pit with no mercy of the poor (or lucky?) guys close to them. Next time someone tells me Metallica is heavier than Slayer, I’m going to slap that stupid idiot in the face.

I didn’t see a single person that was just “OK” when that Armageddon came to an end. Quite the contrary, everybody was exhausted, sweating like a pig, but with an immense smile on their faces. I unfortunately hit a guy’s nose with the back of my head, and it might have hurt a lot on him (I feel so sorry for that guy). I also got a kind of a bruised eye, but nothing compared to a guy with a full black eye I saw when the show was over. My neck and the rest of the body hurt like if I was smashed by a steamroller, but hey, that’s FUCKIN’ SLAYER! No ballads, no acoustic shit, just pure fuckin’ Heavy Metal. Was it raining in Toronto when the show was over? Yes, but who cares? Inside the venue it was RAINING BLOOD, and I can’t wait to see my Thrash Metal heroes live again.

Slayer Setlist Kool Haus, Toronto, ON, Canada, North American Tour 2013

Band members

Tom Araya – lead vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitars
Gary Holt – guitars
Paul Bostaph – drums