Barely a day will go by after I’ve finished my “Best Albums of the Year” list when I begin to second guess myself. I put a lot of hours into those lists, and yet there’s never enough time to truly pit each album against the other and decide where they all fit together. So with some downtime before the next crop of yearly best metal albums begin to drop, I decided to take a look back at my 2016 list and decide, with an extra year of time to think about it, what the five best records of the year were.
Khemmis – Hunted
Chalk this one up to me discovering the album too late into the year. I didn’t really sit down and spend some time this record until December, well after I’d already begun ranking albums. While I admittedly loved it at the time, I put my guard up against overrating an album that I’d only been able to listen to in full a couple of times.
In hindsight, I should have trusted my gut, as Hunted has the potential to be a career-defining album for the doom band out of Colorado. Over just five songs the band produce some of the most mesmerizing, enthralling, and darkly beautiful doom that has ever been made. My fears of rating the album too highly were unfounded, as this is the only 2016 record that stayed in my Spotify rotation for all of 2017.
PREVIOUS RANK: #5
Gojira – Magma
While still unable to claim the top spot, Gojira has nothing to be ashamed with earning the second spot on my redo of 2016. Magma is an amazing album, especially considering it is Gojira’s first foray into the realm of melody and clean vocals. Far too many bands have attempted this and failed, but recently there have been some notable success stories (Mastodon and Opeth in particular). Gojira may be the most shocking band to attempt the shift considering how insanely brutal their early work (and even this record) is, but Magma is an amazing achievement in songwriting.
PREVIOUS RANK: #2
Every Time I Die – Low Teens
I have a hard time remembering what I was thinking last December (hell, I have a hard time remembering what I was thinking last week), so I can’t explain why I rated Low Teens as low as I did. It makes no sense, especially considering I clearly remember how impressed I was with Keith Buckley’s lyrics (they’ve only gotten better with time) and the catchy, hard-hitting, groove-laden sound of the record. So why was it 13th? I honestly have no fucking clue.
Low Teens is a lyrical achievement, holding perhaps the best collection of metal lyrics I’ve ever seen written. They are clever, they are witty, the are infuriating, and they are heart breaking, all occasionally within the same track. Do yourself a favor and check out the backstory behind the music if you want the album to take on an extra level of heaviness on your next listen.
PREVIOUS RANK: #13
Alcest – Kodama
Kodama hasn’t fallen out of favor with me in any way, but over the course of 2017 I’ve just found myself going back to albums 1-3 far more than I did with the French quartet’s amazing post-metal achievement. Kodama is still a stunning album, full of wonderful and complex musicianship that is accessible at first listen but better and better with each subsequent spin. I don’t regret making Kodama my #1 record of 2016 originally, as it isn’t far off from the albums that have passed it in the year since.
PREVIOUS RANK: #1
Cult of Luna with Julie Christmas – Mariner
I mean, I’m trying not to be a too much a jerk to myself, but seriously, what the fuck was I thinking? There is no way that there were 19 better albums than this fantastic collaboration between Sweden’s Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas in 2016. I think I may have been hung up on the lead single, “A Greater Call”, which is a great, but not life-changing song. What I missed is that there are three other tracks on Mariner that surpass “A Greater Call”, and that the album as a whole is one of the most complete pieces of art that 2016 had to offer.
PREVIOUS RANK: #20
THE BIGGEST MISS
It really pains me to say this (but it shouldn’t since I’ve written nothing but effusive praise for the band the past few weeks), but the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Dissociation was not the third-best album of 2016. If I’m being honest, it is probably the weakest record of the band’s storied career, falling short of the career-defining record that I was hoping it would be (that would actually be their penultimate record, One of Us is the Killer). It is still a great album, but looking back I realize that I was projecting quite a bit when I ranked it #3 (and it took everything in my power to not put it at #1).