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!

Advertisements

Album Review – Primeval Mass / To Empyrean Thrones (2016)

A primeval and aggressive feast of Black Metal crafted by a proficient and occult one-man army from Greece that will darkly guide your soul to empyrean thrones.

Rating4

cover“Amongst the Ruins of Cosmos…To Amaranthine Empyrean Thrones.”

Although there are tons of Black Metal one-man armies spread all over the world, and despite getting accustomed to their undeniable talent and eccentricity, I have to say those lonesome metallers of evil continue to impress me every single time I get to review their music. This time, what we have in our hands is a top-tier feast of the occult entitled To Empyrean Thrones, the brand new release by Greek Black Metal act Primeval Mass. If you love the heavy and thrashy sound of sheer aggression and the disturbing sense of pitch black darkness, you’ll have a blast listening to this excellent album.

Spawned at the dawn of the 2nd millennium in Athens, Greece by multi-instrumentalist and warlock Orth, Primeval Mass have been causing a significant impact in the underworld of extreme music with each and every release since the band’s inception, which includes two full-length albums (As Solemn Maelstrom… and Blood Breathing Idols), a couple of demos and some split records. However, after taking a listen at the band’s previous releases, it becomes clear that To Empyrean Thrones (conceived, arranged and performed in its entirety by Orth) is by far Primeval Mass’ boldest, most solid and most exhilarating opus to date. In addition to that, I guess I don’t need to mention how kick-ass the album art is. Designed by the exceptionally talented Karmazid, it’s incandescent, obscure, and therefore perfect for representing high-quality Black Metal.

There couldn’t be a better way to start the album than with the creepy and atmospheric In Fiery Ascent, which intro goes on for almost three minutes in a great display of Blackened Doom before darkness rises in the form of blasting Black Metal. Orth showcases his total control of all instruments during the almost ten minutes of blasphemy brought forth in this ruthless tune, followed by the amazing For Astral Triumphs. Orth definitely puts the pedal to the metal in this great composition, growling like a possessed beast amidst nonstop blast beats and endless savagery, with its harmonious guitar riffs and solos bringing balance and intricacy to the overall result.

primeval massAdding Death Metal and especially Thrash Metal elements to the music, with some riffs reminding me of the early days of Slayer, Orth fires another high-octane demented tune to haunt our souls named Their Eyes of the Abyss, one of my favorite tracks where his harsh vocals rise to a whole new satanic level. And when you think Orth will keep storming our souls with his fast and furious brutality, he surprises us all with Behind the Watching Shadows, a melancholic instrumental Doom Metal aria spreading despair and sorrow through its soulful riffs and sluggish beats. Of course, it doesn’t take too long for the sonic havoc to start again with yet another thrashier than usual Black Metal tune called With the Emblem of the Blackwinged (beautiful song name, by the way), with its disturbingly amazing rhythm enhanced by Orth’s hellish growling. Moreover, its unstoppable drumming will puncture your ears while the guitar lines will cut your flesh like a sharp razor during its seven minutes of mean and ruthless music.

Going back to the foundations of Black Metal, the ambience becomes the main element in The Grand Ordeal, with Orth’s solid guitar lines guiding the musicality together with his bloodthirsty growls, whereas in Hour of the Stellarnaut, a professional exhibit of what true Black Metal can offer fans of extreme music, our fearless metaller breathes fire an sulfur through all instruments. And how about a 12-minute dark opus entitled The Mansions of Night to conclude the album? Featuring hints of Doom Metal, this is a powerful and complex composition that switches from slower but brutally heavy passages to extremely fast riffs and beats, culminating in a spot-on Stygian ending. I’m not sure how Orth can keep that level of ferocity on vocals for such a long period of time, but the final result is amazing anyway.

In summary, To Empyrean Thrones sounds so professional and impactful it’s hard to believe only one single person was responsible for giving birth to such a strong album. Well, that’s the reason why Black Metal never gets stale, thanks to the passion skillful musicians like Orth have for this type of music, and I can’t wait to listen to his future endeavors if he continues following this hellish path.  Thus, in case you want to join him in his shadowy journey to empyrean thrones, all you have to do is connect to Primeval Mass through the band’s Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud or ReverbNation, and get your copy of the album at the Primeval Mass’ official BandCamp page.

Best moments of the album: For Astral Triumphs, Their Eyes of the Abyss and With the Emblem of the Blackwinged.

Worst moments of the album: The Grand Ordeal.

Released in 2016 Katoptron IX Records

Track listing
1. In Fiery Ascent 9:55
2. For Astral Triumphs 7:29
3. Their Eyes of the Abyss 4:04
4. Behind the Watching Shadows 4:45
5. With the Emblem of the Blackwinged 7:02
6. The Grand Ordeal 4:05
7. Hour of the Stellarnaut 2:56
8. The Mansions of Night 12:06

Band members
Orth – vocals, lead & rhythm guitars, bass, storms and invocations