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 – Skáphe / Skáphe² (2016)

Embrace the psychotic and dissonant uproar pouring from the satanic Black Metal crafted by this implacable duo, and you’ll definitely shorten your descent to the netherworld.

Rating5

skhape2_coverBorn in 2014 as a new project from American multi-instrumentalist A.P., also known as Alex Poole (Chaos Moon, Esoterica, Krieg), and having released their self-titled debut full-length album that same year, Chaotic Black Metal band Skáphe return with their disturbing music and nightmarish vibe in Skáphe², an album that not only will keep haunting your soul just like their first installment, but that also consolidates this talented American duo as one of the most promising Black Metal acts in the world of heavy music.

The addition of Icelandic singer D.G., or Dagur (Misþyrming, Naðra), added a lot of dark power to this band from Philadelphia, located in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States, enhancing the obscurity, impact and malignancy found in their music. In other words, the macabre passages and enigmatic vociferations in Skáphe² will simply bring your deepest fears to light (or maybe I should say to darkness), a usually desired effect of Black Metal on people. Moreover, the hypnotizing artwork by Icelandic musician and artist H.V. Lyngdal, exhibiting an eviscerated devil devouring a human being, is the perfect depiction of our mental insanity and of our souls poisoned by the same fears exposed in the music by Skáphe.

Instead of regular song names, Skáphe simply numbered their creations from 1 to 6 in Roman numerals. The first track, entitled I, offers a darkling psychedelic start followed by a turmoil of dissonant growls and blast beats that will lacerate your soul, proving why they don’t label themselves “chaotic” in vain. In addition to that, D.G. provides his business card as the demonic voice of Skáphe in this bestial Black Metal chant with lots of Atmospheric Doom elements added to increase its infernal aura. II continues right where the opening track stopped, which means more satanic passages and cavernous screams with A.P. putting all his demons and anger into the music, resulting in sheer darkness. Needless to say, the anguished grasps by D.G. will make you feel very uncomfortable (in a good way, of course).

skhape_apIII, the third installment, is even sharper and more mesmerizing. It’s fast and sludgy at the same time thanks to the excellent job done by A.P. with all instruments, resulting in an ode to Black and Doom Metal represented by four minutes of despair with absolutely no hope in sight. In the Stygian tune IV, D.G. howls like a werewolf during its obscure start, and its eight minutes of extreme music are definitely not suitable at all for the faint at heart. Moreover, after an eerie break in the middle of the song, brutal Black Metal nicely explodes from all instruments for our total delight.

Obviously, the fifth chant, named V, keeps the fires of hell burning bright, showcasing a tormented performance by D.G. enhanced by the reverberating riffs and the doomed drumming by A.P. The tone of the guitar throughout the whole song is amazing, sounding like a downward spiral to Hades. And finally, the last tune VI reminds me of the most obscure songs by Triptykon at first, evolving to an extremely disturbing form of dark music. A.P. has an enraged performance, while D.G. continues his demented path to the underworld. And when the blasting Black Metal music stops, we’re treated to about two minutes of wicked background noises, meaning we’ve finally reached the gates of hell.

You can get more details on the apocalyptic loudness engendered by Skáphe at their Facebook page, and if you really want to add more affliction and pandemonium to your everyday life, you can buy a copy of Skáphe² at the band’s official BandCamp page, at the I, Voidhanger Records’s BandCamp page, at the Fallen Empire Records’ webstore (LP version) or at the Vánagandr’s Big Cartel page (cassette version). Embrace the psychotic and dissonant noises pouring from the satanic Black Metal crafted by this implacable duo, and you’ll consequently shorten your descent to the netherworld.

Best moments of the album: III and V.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 I, Voidhanger Records/Fallen Empire Records/Vánagandr

Track listing
1. I 6:32
2. II 4:40
3. III 4:11
4. IV 8:16
5. V 5:42
6. VI 6:34

Band members
D.G. (Dagur) – vocals
A.P. (Alex Poole) – all instruments