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Articles : Jake Patton’s Top Albums of 2016

By on December 22, 2016

2016 has been a crazy year for releases across all genres, and with so many great albums it inevitably makes the job of creating a top 10 list even harder. So many bands are producing music of a higher and higher quality that it really makes it hard to dwindle these lists down, so for this year I stuck to my roots, and that is the albums in the genres I am most in-tune with – melodic death metal and folk metal.

belakor10. Be’lakor – Vessels

What would be a top 10 list without the inclusion of at least one great Australian band? Fresh off their signing with Napalm Records at the beginning of the year, Melbourne’s Be’lakor released the follow-up to their 2012 release Of Breath and Bone, with Vessels, and further cemented themselves as one of the premiere melodic death metal acts in the world. Although it took four years, Vessels shows a growth in a band from a level to where they were ‘very good’ at what they did to where they are ‘exceptional’ at it, and the fact that this is a concept album is purely icing on the cake. These guys are some of the best in the business with their melodies and timing changes, and Vessels is another masterclass on how fusing those items properly can create musical gold.

Check out – Whelm

varg9. Varg – Das Ender Alle LÜgen

What do you get when you combine the vitriol of the disenfranchised singing anti-establishment lyrics and join it together with crushing riffs? You get Varg, and no I’m not talking about the eponymous Burzum frontman, but instead the German outfit that sports black and red body paint on stage and stylistically defines themselves as ‘Wolf Metal’. Das Ender Alle LÜgen (Translated: The End of all Lies), is this years’ crushing offering that takes aim at the current political landscape and is as intense as it is intricate, leaving very little left to the imagination. While I know that German and English versions of the album were released, if you can adjust yourself to it, the German version is the way to go as it just heightens every aspect of their music by having the band sing in their native tongue. If you are looking for something that is Pagan metal, but also something that combines many aspects of modern metal then take a chance on this band – you won’t be disappointed.

Check out – Das Ender Alle LÜgen

amonamarthjomsviking8. Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

Once more around we go with the glorious Swede’s and their pagan/Viking metal fusion. For the 10th time now it seems like a guilty pleasure – we know what we are getting into the second we purchase the album, yet we still can’t get enough of it. Jomsviking manages to capture some of the energy that seemed missing from pervious releases, and it’s through songs like Wanderer or Way of Vikings, that we really see that while all Amon Amarth tracks might seem similar, they are actually quite different. Coupled up with the perfect his/hers duet towards the end of the album with Doro Pesch in A Dream That Cannot Be and you are left with an album that sticks in your head hours after you’ve stopped listening to it.

Check out – Way of Vikings

omnium-gatherum-grey-heavens-e14552959768417. Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens

It’s quite surprising that something that was released in February this year is still receiving such a heavy play time on my devices, but such is the power of Omnium Gatherum’s seventh album Grey Heavens. Following up on 2014’s Beyond was never going to be an easy task for the Finnish sextet; however, they seem to have taken the momentum built from that album and channelled it into their writing for Grey Heavens with the result being something that just trumps most of their previous work by a long mile. Blending their harmonies beautifully together with their key passages and the visceral vocals just gives the entire album an ‘organic’ feel to it. It may have taken 20 years for Omnium Gatherum to get to this point and release Grey Heavens, but the delivery of this album leads me to believe that there is still much more to come from this group in the future.

Check out – The Pit

periphery-iii-select-difficulty-cover6. Periphery – III – Select Difficulty

Another year and another entry by Periphery into my top 10 list – and rightfully so. While not fitting my ‘genre-mould’, Select Difficulty is more than just a ‘must-have’ metal album as it embodies so many different aspects of music that it is actually everything that is good about music, and is perhaps why it earned the band a Grammy nomination for track The Price is Wrong. Beautifully constructed and masterfully produced – this album highlights every single strength of the band in the best possible light. Periphery is now three from three on the masterpiece album scaled – let’s hope that they can continue with their streak.

Check out – Marigold

thestagea7x5. Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage

Let me clarify one thing here – The Stage is so much more than what it appears on the surface. Initial plays show you that – yes, this is an Avenged Sevenfold album, but as you keep mashing that repeat button you realise that it is so much more. While many fans may feel somewhat let down by the instrumental performance in this and continue to harken back to the City of Evil days, it’s not in the music where this album makes a statement. Lyrically this album is genius, and it’s in the self-reflective nature of the albums lyrics where you really appreciate not only the music, but the album as a whole. Definitely one to add to your collections and arguably an album to propel Avenged Sevenfold to global stadium headliners.

Check out – The Stage

equilibrium_-_armageddon_20164. Equilibrium – Armageddon

I love folk metal – when done right it is just so infectious that you can’t help but embrace the craziness of it, and Armageddon by Equilibrium is the perfect example of doing it just right. Utilising a mix of melodic pieces, up-tempo riffs and even electronically influenced dub-step interludes, this album really does mix the best of all worlds. The album is written and structured beautifully, with the end result being something that not only sounds good, but translates perfectly live, and infectiously sticks in your head from the moment the sound hits it. Equilibrium has been around for a while now, and is arguably one of the best things going on in the folk-metal world. Armageddon is just another reinforcement of that, but don’t just take my words for it – go listen to Born to be Epic and not feel motivated to go and climb the nearest mountain – I dare you.

Check out – Born to be Epic

fleshgod-apocalypse-king-500x5003. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King

Since bursting out of Italy and onto the global stage, Fleshgod Apocalypse has continually produced albums which retain the power of their earlier releases, but expand on them in different musical ways. King continues this trend and is absolutely savage, holding no bars in its delivery and just releasing the brutal onslaught that it was intended to release. The Italians continue to impress and absolutely school the rest of the world on how to use their instruments in the fastest way possible, and it means that for the majority of the time you listening to this album you sit there in awe. Channelling the blackened intensity of a band like Behemoth, with the orchestral grace of Bach or Beethoven sounds like an interesting combination, and I’m sure that if you made that combination then you would be left with a product that somewhat resembles King.

Check out – The Fool

atoma-cover1. Dark Tranquility – Atoma

In all honesty, it was a tied performance between the two albums I picked at number one this year for so many different reasons than I could possibly list. Both bands play melodic death metal but both bands approaches to albums this year were so completely different. Dark Tranquillity is the first of these bands with their latest opus Atoma, which is quite possibly the bands best release throughout their career. Immersive harmonies, beautiful tonal shifts in the vocal delivery, and a sound that just sounds ‘complete’. Perhaps the most impressive feature of this album is its fluidity – the nature of its stylistic changes never seem to ‘out-of-place’ and for the first time in a very long time, the band seems to be hitting all the strides that made it a stand out fixture in a genre it helped pioneer what seems like a lifetime ago now. You will find very few albums that embody the sound of melodic death metal as well as this one, and fewer still that deliver it with such precision.

Check out – Encircled

insomniumwintersgatecdnew1. Insomnium – Winter’s Gate

Tied with Dark Tranquillity in first place is Insomnium with Winter’s Gate. There is so much to say about this piece of art that I don’t even know where to begin. As an album comprising of one song spanning 40 minutes in duration, there is so much emotion and immersion that by the time you look down on the dial to see how much of the song has passed you are suddenly 30 minutes in. Add to that the fact that the deluxe versions shipped with an art book that contained the story in three languages (Finnish, English and German), and you just know that from the outset this idea was always one where the bar was set high, and luckily enough it was pulled off perfectly. It’s a nice change of pace from the 3-5 minute long structures and really lets the band tell the tale that they set out to tell– and boy do they deliver. Immersive in nature, impressive in structure, impeccable in delivery – this is a must have album for this year and is a release where even if you are not a fan of melodic death metal, you can still easily lose yourself in the immersive nature of the album/track.

Check out – Winter’s Gate

Honourable Mentions:

Two Steps from Hell – Vanquish

A group that most people would have heard songs from, but not many people would know of, Two Steps from Hell is actually the group that composes most of the tracks you would hear during a movie trailer. This album is a great combination of atmospheric, ambient and inspirational music that is sure to get an emotive response out of it’s listeners.

Caligula’s Horse – Bloom

Prog metal and I have never been the best of friends, but find me an album that is this good and I will eat my hat. Possibly one of the best Prog band’s running in the world, and one that sits inside our very own backyard. Get this album if you haven’t already.