Teeth of the Divine Staff Picks for 2016
Well, here we are at the start of a fresh new year. And while New Years is usually a time for bright-eyed, wishful optimism and wistful reminiscence, the global political and social climates have the world at unease. Yet despite a near blastbeat-pace of bummers and deaths, 2016 gave us another year of stellar extreme music.
Teethofthedivine soldiered on in 2016 as well, with some new faces on the team (though our distaste for digital promos hasn’t changed a bit). We also experienced a growth spurt on social media, so if you’re not following us yet, why the hell not? ‘Cause while other sites seem content to feed you with celebrity blogs, lists of ‘top 10 albums from 1993 which which had llamas on the cover’ or so-called humor pieces, TOTD just did what we do best: reviews, reviews, and reviews. One review every week day for the whole year. That’s 300+ reviews, folks.
We hope to add more interviews, features, and contests in 2017, and we do it all for you guys – our loyal readers, sharers, likers, and listeners. So keep on keeping it real in 2017, as it might be the last year the earth continues to spin. We’ll do our part to make sure metal stays as relevant in 2017 as it has been in the decades before.
So with much ado, here are the hand-picked releases that the TOTD staff enjoyed in 2016. Given the thousands of releases that assaulted our collective senses last year, hopefully we’ll introduce you to a few new favorites. And as always, stay tuned for our Fillings and Cavities feature, where we’ll shovel even more death, destruction, blackened weirdness, and melodic wonders into your willing ears.
2016 has proven to be a lot like 2014, a great year for metal but no clear cut, runaway album of the year as with 2015’s Vallendusk album, Homeward Path. What we had was a cluster of excellent albums, which throughout the year moved in and out and up and down my list.
For me, the year was dominated by tech death, Swedeath and moody melodic death metal. A mix of veterans like Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium and bright-eyed newcomers like Beansidhe, Virvum, and Aephenamer delivered the goods, while some old friends like Anaal Nathrakh showed up again after a few years of absence. Also a good mix of first-timers like Meshuggah and perennials like Fleshgod Apocalypse.
So here then is my list of albums that I really enjoyed in 2016. The order is fluid, but you get a rough idea of what rocked my world this year.
1.First Fragment– Dasein. Unique Leader. The noodliest of all 2016 tech death. Sheer over-the-top flamenco-flavored shreddage. A testament to Phillip Tougas, who was in this as well as Chthe’ilist and Zealotry. Both released fine albums this year and cement him as one of the biggest names in death metal right now.
2. Mithras – On Strange Loops. Willowtip. After a long wait, the UK duo returned with a killer, intelligent tech death album that’s part classic Morbid Angel, part Interstellar sound track.
3. Katalepsy– Gravenous Hour. Unique Leader. A black hole heavy mix of brutal and tech, Katalepsy is in a galaxy of their own when it comes to heaviness.
4. Deathspell Omega – Synarchy of Molten Bones. Norma Evangelium Diaboli. EP or full-length, a super late add to my list. Just…wow. Malevolent, discordant high art.
5. Vindland – Hanter Savet. Black Lion Productions. Melodic, powerful and epic. A real surprise in the top 5.
6. Forteresse – Themes Pour L’Rebellion. Sepulchral Productions. A rousing, searing triumphant display of primal, but epic black metal.
7. Bolzer – Hero. Invictus Productions. A weird, twisty, divisive album that really sunk in after a few listens.
8. Beansidhe – Mont. Via Nocturna. A perfect blend of Finnish death doom and melodic black metal. Really excited for the future of this new Swiss act.
9. Morrow – Covenant of Teeth. Halo of Flies. Though we will unfortunately never see Light Bearer‘s planned trilogy complete, this is close enough.
10. Cobalt – Slow Forever. Profound Lore Records. A rare, perfectly named double album that’s worth the time you invest in it.
11. Interment – Scent of the Buried. Dark Descent. Dismember is not dead, they just reincarnated as Interment.
12. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King. Nuclear Blast. Perennial favorites add a blistering production to their already epic symphonic death metal, and it pays off.
13. Anaal Nathakh – The Whole of the Law. Metal Blade. Sheer, apocalyptic sound track to the end of civilization. Fitting considering the year’s events.
14. Textures – Phenotype. Nuclear Blast. The perfect bridge between the svelte prog chug of Gojira and the more beefy grooves of…..
15. Meshuggah – The Violent Reason of Sleep. Nuclear Blast. Never been a huge fan, but this is such a muscular, monstrous record, it makes me smile every time I hear it.
16. Ade– Carthago Delenda Est. Xtreem Music. Epic, Romanic death metal done right, and now with a much more commanding vocal presence.
17. Brutally Deceased – Satanic Corpse. Doomentia. Dismember have several incarnations apparently…..
18. Saor – Guardians. Northern Silence. Perfect blend of epic black metal and the Braveheart sound track. Also responsible for one of the year’s weirdest social media moments.
19. Be’lakor – Vessels. Napalm Records. Finally getting their dues after years of being under rated.
20. Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens. Lifeforce Records. These guys were off my radar for a while, but powered by the track “Skylines” and “Stormfront,” they are back on it in a big way.
21. Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis. Relapse records. Kind of a low hype release considering the label and consistency of the band, and even though I soured on the sound a bit, they still do this style of death better than anyone other than Gorguts.
22. Obscura – Akroasis. Relapse Records. In a year of great tech death, these guys are still delivering the goods.
23. Warfather – The Grey Eminence. Greyhaze Records. Pure Morbid Angel-styled US death metal.
24. The Zenith Passage. Solipsist. Unique Leader. An underrated Unique Leader release, but a killer modern tech death record with some sci-fi flair.
25. Withered – Grief Relic. Prosthetic Records. Nice return to more crusty death metal for these long gone Atlantans. Now with More Colin Marston.
26. Sentient Horror – Ungodly Forms. Testimony Records. Just beat out labelmates Demonbreed for this spot.
27. Despised Icon – Beast. Nuclear Blast. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
28. Cognitive – Deformity. Unique Leader. Katalepsy’s younger American brother is doing good things.
29. Fatalist – The Bitter End. FDA Records. Glad these guys are back to deliver a killer American take on a classic Swedish sound.
30. Antaeus – Condemnation. Norma Evangelium Diaboli. Took over from Blasphemer’s Ritual Theophagy as 2016’s most utterly relentless album.
Best Song of the Year: Furia “Zwykłe czary wieją” from Księżyc milczy luty . The album itself was on and off the above list, but the closing song sure as hell made this list.
Best Reissues: Bal- Sagoth‘s first 3 albums . Cacophonous. Not only was it great to see Cacophonous records back in business, and even though they didn’t add a lot other than some notes and more bass, it was wonderfully nostalgic to revisit these classics from the 90s.
Best 2015 Discovery: Macabre Omen – Gods of War.
Best Self-Released Albums: Virvum – Illuminance. There was some great tech death in 2016 and newcomers like this are pushing vets like Obscura. Aephenamer – Memento Mori. These guys actually got me back into Omnium Gatherum. Great young newcomer to melodeath and I hope they keep delivering. Painted in Exile – The Ordeal. May have got me back into the style.
Best Packaging: Cultes Des Ghoules – Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love. great story, great, if loooong album, fantastic presentation.
Best 1-song Album: Insomnium – Winters gate. Century Media. If only for the 7.44 moment. Sheer bliss.
Best Old-School Comeback: Brutality – Sea of Ignorance. Repulsive Echo Records. Instantly recognizable as Brutality. It’s like they never went away. Bonus points for the Bathory cover.
Best Production: Asphyx. Incoming Death. The easy choice was one of the swedeath bands above, but not only did Martin Van Drunen deliver a monstrous album with a whole new line up, the production absolutely peels paint, skin and earth.
Biggest Surprise : Serpentine Dominion – S/T. Metal Blade. Who thought a collaboration between George Fisher of Cannibal Corpse and Killswitch Engage would kick this much ass?
Label of the Year: Unique Leader. Not only for the handful of killer releases above, but a slew of other very good releases by Carnophage, Internal Suffering, Ohmnihility, Fallujah, Inanimate Existence, Lord of War, Dawn of Demise and Unmerciful, some of which also fluttered on and of my list.Bring on the new Beheaded and Dyscarnate.
Biggest Letdown. Equilibrium – Armageddon.
Still Don’t Get the Hype: Khemmis and Dark Throne.
Biggest Reason to Be Excited in 2017: Steve Tucker rejoining Morbid Angel and hopefully getting the shit taste of Illud Divinum Insanus erased from history.