Somewhat delayed but finally here.
2016 has been a better year than the desastrous 2015. In terms of music releases apparently. The amount of new releases is moderate, but the quality is for the most part rather high.
Last year (2015) suffered from bands splitting up or being on hiatus leading to less releases. This year hasn't fully recovered yet in those terms but the more interesting 2017 will perhaps be.
Just like for the Summary 2015 this will be short rants / statements about more or less memorable releases.
- Any Given Day - Everlasting
- BABYMETAL - Metal Resistance
- Caliban - Gravity
- Cypecore - Identity
- Dadaroma - Stanczyk
- Despised Icon - Beast
- DevilDriver - Trust No One
- Eths - Ankaa
- KoRn - The Serenity Of Suffering
Metalcore / Djent - 50:52mins
You know, there's a TV series called UnReal. It follows the crew of a fictional, scripted reality TV show. The first season was mostly rather mean spirited but overall it's a great series, starring the amazing Shiri Appbleby.
In season two there was this one particular joke. The scripted reality TV show is called "Everlasting". One of the producers wanted to make more of the show, more sex, more skin, more drama, etc. So he cut the (fictitious) material they filmed accordingly and twisted the name to Everblasting which I found hilarious. Whenever I listen to this record I have to think about that joke.
However, 2014 was the debut on what I wrote about here as well. Back then I knew this band was going places. Here they are again with their second album, my personal Number 1 (2016).
Any Given Day pretty much took their debut or rather the essence of what made their debut great, polished it up, produced it perfectly without sounding too "clean" and released it.
I love this record to pieces.
If I would put the "winner" of 2014 (Tuoni - Kuolonpyörä) and of 2015 (Lindemann - Skills In Pills) against this, this album right here would win easily. Hands down.
It's freakishly heavy, incredibly catchy af, unique and just wonderful to listen to.
The only complaint I'd have is that the composition is a bit too cautious, it gets predictable after a few songs. But that doesn't take away from the fantastic songs this band has written for this album.
Especially Endurance is one of the catchiest songs I heard this year, while Sinner's Kingdom is the best. That one is my Top Song 2016. The refrain is sooo catchy.
While Masquerade is pretty much the essence of why I love metal.
Well, maybe two complaints. It also has a guest appearance of Matt Heafy who apparently can't shout anymore, what is the reason for Trivium's awful last record. Ironically the song Arise is pretty cool - until Heafy sets in. Heafy has just a few lines and he feels out of place in this song, it's disappointing. I fail to see the relevance of Heafy in this, except having a great name on the label.
Metal - 54:24mins
Yet another band taking the debut, polishing it up and releasing it. This second (studio) album sounds much more refined. The singing improved, the instrumental part is still somewhat tacky and experimental at times but that's Japanese Metal.
Being on tour with the big names of the metal scene Babymetal got widely known and were able to tour around the world in their young career already. Silencing a lot of the early haters. They probably like Babymetal suddenly as well because some of their idols do. :P
They grew a lot over these years as well. When I was growing up I didn't perceive it as fast.
I'm still not tired of hearing Suzuka "Su-Metal" Nakamoto's voice either. You could even say all the touring got her to improve a lot. I like her voice even more on this.
But there are two other singers as well who had to do a lot of, well, let's call it noises on the debut. But on this they got more room to actually take part in the singing. I like that, too.
It doesn't have outstanding songs like Do・Ki・Do・Ki☆MORNING on the debut, but songs like YAVA! and Sis. Anger that stand out instead. They are better mixed/produced but not as good as the former but still pretty fun.
Overall this second album got a lot more metal. But not only that, the live show apparently, too. Take a look at the live performance of Babymetal Death. The imagery is more metal than most mainstream metal bands these days. Although somewhat kids-friendly and with that tacky again. Number 3 this year, after being on #5 in 2014.
I hope Any Given Day and Babymetal stay in sync with their releases. Seems like they can't disappoint together. The next releases for both will be the infamous third (studio) record. If there is one, you never know how far Babymetal can go.
Metalcore - 55:47mins
This album was a little surprise for me. After Caliban turned away from lyrical themes like depression and other personal problems (or turned that down a lot by being more abstract about it) to not be responsible if some "fan" does something stupid, they lost a lot of their impact.
Instead, they became more similar to Heaven Shall Burn with less interesting lyrics. Sure, in this genre lyrics aren't that easy to understand anyway, but nontheless, I don't pay attention to the lyrics anymore on purpose as I used to.
After GhostEmpire and to some degree I Am Nemesis were two big disappointments, this is a step back in the right direction, back to their catchy songs with substance, like Left For Dead, or Mein Schwarzes Herz.
Mein Schwarzes Herz is perhaps the third song with German lyrics only. The cover for Sonne and nebeL being the other ones. Heavy and catchy with female background vocals. I like that Caliban is experimenting a bit with German lyrics here and there, because it works so far when they do.
Overall it sounds more like I Am Nemesis with better lyrics, with some hints from even before that. Not their best record but by far not the worst and a record that gives hope for a better future for this band again.
Industrial / Groove Metal - 51:01mins
This is a tough one. I loved their previous two records. They have a fresh spin on "fusion" metal or however Industrial Metal is called these days. At first, I straight out disliked pretty much everything on this record, except Saint of Zion.
Cypecore lost their drummer some time ago and I feared that the replacement is not good enough and doesn't fit into this band. He's not as bad as I feared but he's not as good as he could be. One guitar player and the singer left the band as well some time after the drummer left. Losing the singer is even tougher, luckily the new singer isn't that bad (after a lot of practice). Fittingly the record got named "Identity". They perhaps want to say that this record is what they are, at least that is my understanding in a sense and the replacements are most likely the reason why it took 6 years for this band to get a new record out.
The replacements lead to issues, though: They try to be as close as possible to the original members. Perhaps because Cypecore
feels like is a concept-band and they want to stay close to that concept. That is on one hand good but on the other it's not enough. Each member brings their own style to the band. Especially the drummer sounds noticeable different. The style of playing the drums is different yet somehow the same/similar. It's a subtle thing but I loved the previous drummer. Since I don't play any instrument I don't know the correct vocabular to explain what exactly it is that I cannot get on board with this drumming. Although, exceptions apply, the drums in The Abyss are great but maybe that is the closest they can get to the original sound.
After basically torturing myself to listen to the whole record multiple times I came to like at least 4 songs a little:
- Saint of Zion, the only song that hooked me from the start
- Where The World Makes Sense, where I like the rhythm
- Identity basically only because of the beginning
- The Abyss, as mentioned probably the closest to the previous two records in terms of drums
At least I came to accept the singer and the guitar work is fantastic as always, despite one new guitar player. But I won't exactly be looking forward to any new stuff from them. It takes ages, the band is not really what I'd call close with their base nor do I actually care about how hard they stick to their concept as I feel it restrains them very, very much.
Visual Kei - 59:31mins
I was bored and browsing Youtube music videos when I saw a _Fine_Bros video in the recommended section and thought what the heck, let's see how these dudes do these days after that hilarious debacle around trying to trademark "React". The shitstorm was hilarious and very well deserved. Anyway, the video was a someone r***t to some Visual Kei.
Dadaroma was apparently in it with the song 「リズリーサーカス」 ("Risley Circus" or more commonly "Liz Lee Circus"). It hooked me from the first second and I looked it up immediately.
Japanese Metal is always somewhat more experimental what makes it hard for me to like any particular band despite being more interesting in general. Many Japanese singers have very high voices, ruining the majority of their songs with clean vocals, despite a high amount of incredible instrumentalists.
Dadaroma has released many of the songs on Maxi-CDs/Singles, or as Japanese call the former EP or albums, hence this first full-length record consists of many previously released songs.
A big surprise and I love what I hear so far. It's a bit faster than what I am used to from Japanese Metal (extreme example: トレンドアイデンティティ ("Trend Identity")) but that is one thing that I really like about this band. The other is, while it is experimental, the base, so to say, of the songs is almost always Metal. There's also the occasional high pitched clean vocal part but it never strikes me as annoying as it is with other bands. 「雨のワルツ」 ("Ame no Waltz") uses it for example for the most part and it's one of the softer songs. At least if we ignore the Deathcore influenced part at the beginning. But here that gives it a great contrast and seems very self-aware. It's little details like this in the composition that makes me appreciate songs as being a form of art and recognize the musical talent of the people involved, even if I happen to not particulary like that song.
The cover of Ein Deutsches Requiem comes to mind what was the first(?) single for Deadlock's record Hybris. I didn't like it at all and thought it doesn't fit the band whatsoever but appreciated their (serious, not half-assed) attempt at it. In the context of the record afterwards, on the other hand, I really like it.
I hope Dadaroma stays around for more, they are very talented. But Japanese bands tend to be very elusive and can dissolve as quickly as alcohol in thin air. One of the Top 5 candidates.
"Deathcore" - 29:05mins
Oh, this one. Time for the "Deathcore is at its end" discussion, right? Na, not really in the mood to delve too deep into this. Let's say the Carnifex record of this year is okay. Not the best, not the worst but something I'd still call Deathcore even if Carnifex say themselves they strayed away from that genre to do their own thing.
I also heavily disagree with a certain other Deathcore formation completely turning away from this genre because "it's dead" and where the vocalist is trying desperately to stay relevant and in the news by provoking other bands on purpose. Cheap move. I don't like that they are destroying the name of that band as they do, either. I was never a big fan of them but I can recognize their contribution in helping making Deathcore widely accepted, influencing many other bands.
But back to this garbage of an excuse for a Deathcore album. Well, maybe garbage goes too far, some of the instrumental parts do sound interesting. But they never fully play out (pun intended).
Despised Icon's Beast is candidate for worst record this year. It's awful. The production value is that of a garage band and the runtime is a bloody joke. They disbanded in 2010, reformed in 2014 "for a few shows" and re-entered the studio some time later. Perhaps all of their money and concentration on their "careers" didn't pay off. Despised Icon should have stayed disbanded. This record sounds like an attempt at repeating the early 2000s where this would have fitted in very well, but now? No. Despised Icon contributed a lot to the success of this genre but this sounds as if they just want to be a shadow of their past.
Groove Metal - 50:34mins
I'm probably one of many people discovering this band through Scrubs. Devil's Son was a great entry song for this band, leading the way to the greatness that The Fury Of Our Maker's Hand is. But ever since The Last Kind Words they never put out any album I particularly enjoyed nearly as much. DevilDriver are somewhat of a constant most of the times in terms of quality of their songs. Pray For Villains, their weakest attempt, aside. However, it got rather difficult to find that special song in their most recent records. Sure, Talons Out, Ruthless, Shudder, yes, even This Deception that's on this record, are good attempts but nowhere near End Of The Line, or Head On To Heartache.
Trust No One is no exception either. It's not a bad album, but it's too easy, too cautious, too much comfort. There's the silver lining in forms of the above-mentioned This Deception and For What It's Worth, especially the latter tries to sound like early works, but it's still lacking. It makes me a bit sad, that DevilDriver can't excite me anymore, either because I've outgrown their music or they got 'lame', or a combination of both.
But at least the record did not suffer from Dez' (short-lived) reunion with Coal Chamber in 2015 and his involvement in basically two albums in that short of a time span. Pain should take notes.
Metal / Death Metal - 57:42mins
When Eths lost their original singer they had to fill in big gaps. Candice Clot has a very distinctive voice. But then they found Rachel, who was on some Talent show performing Sybreed's Emma 0 before. On mainstream TV. Took some huge balls and she wasn't half bad, especially on high shouts, I'd say I liked her version better than the original version. Anyway, in my ears a match made in heaven. Their Ex Umbra In Solem EP featured Harmaguedon as a re-record with Rachel on vocals. At that time she was able to get some experience in the songs and stuff. She sounded noticeable different than Candice but was good nontheless.
Then they came around with this record. A concept album and candidate for worst record 2016. It's not that Rachel is bad, she tries hard with a mix of different singing styles, but everything on this record is just bad. From composition, to riffing, to drums, to vocals, to mixing and production. Nothing fits, nothing sounds good, nothing makes sense. Except maybe the opener Nefas.
The rest is a mashup of sounds, vocals are somewhat pushed into the background. Component wise nothing stands out. It's no surprise that this band disbanded after this record. Somewhat ungrateful the band seemed to have silently kicked out Rachel as well in favor of having Candice for some final concerts back and never spoke of her again.
If Rachel is solely responsible for this record, that's understandable, if not, it's like she's made the scapegoat and she doesn't play the worst part on this record. Not even by a long shot. She was the best part in my ears, even if none of the songs work. Total waste of talent on all sides.
Nu Metal - 48:59mins
KoRn. This record is so much KoRn. Not their best work, but the best since Head's return. On The Paradigm Shift the sound was still somewhat cautious, like all the band members were just trying to get to know each other again with Head back on lead guitar. That one already resembled KoRn much better than anything they did without Head. Although Korn III was a strong effort.
But this is right back on track and connects to KoRn III (or Take A Look In The Mirror with Head, while See You On The Other Side with Head was more experimental on many aspacts).
If this is the direction KoRn will go in the future, I couldn't be happier, but given the history, I am cautiously optimistic. This is one of my most favourite albums this year. Especially The Hating has this particular deep guitar sound that I looove because Head introduced me to this back then on Take A Look In The Mirror (oh, boy, the joy when I listened to Untouchables after that introduction *__*). Very strong record.
Industrial Metal - 41:27mins
When LINDEMANN released their debut album, you heard clearly that it is instrumentally a Pain album. That's not bad, but the last Pain album was in 2011. Sooo all ideas used on Lindemann couldn't be used for Pain anymore. You can hear that. This album is like all the leftover ideas used.
That does not mean there isn't a single good song in this, though, with certainty there were some songs cut from the LINDEMANN sessions.
As opener Designed to Piss You Off does work, even though it has a slow start, Call Me is a strong and typically Pain-y song. While song #4 Pain In The Ass is probably the best on this record, but from then on it only goes downhill and it's surprising how low it gets. 2/3rd of the record sounds like nothing you'd expect - or want - from Pain.
This one is in the lineup of worst records but far away from being the worst. Yet it is a huge disappointment, especially after 5 years to deliver this. But then again, you have a fantastic LINDEMANN album instead.
But it shouldn't be an either/or.
Metal - 59:05mins
Definitely favourite album cover this year. Very pretty portrayal of the unknown. Not only did they release an EP, but also sort of a Best Of, all in one year. While the Best Of doesn't take too much effort and was named "Timeline - An Introduction to the Vision Bleak" it is like a mix of Best Of, with some of the best songs and with some new songs, even from The Unknown as well. Not sure if that was really necessary. However, The Unknown was supposed to consist of many different ideas and not be a concept album in opposite to the others. Hence the name of the album what seems fitting.
I was somewhat anxious when I read about that direction, more so as it sounded like an experimental album and they tend to incredibly suck. But this doesn't. It catches the very distinctive sound of The Vision Bleak and delivers it in many ways a concept album could never have done.
I haven't discovered an outstanding song like A Witch Is Born, or The Demon Of The Mire but I do come back for How Deep Lies Tartaros? fairly often. The Ghost In Me could have been on Witching Hour and a companion to The Call Of The Banshee, it does have a similar eerie sound to it. And The Kindred of the Sunset comes very close to Evil is of Old Date in its speed and upbeat character. If I'd have to criticize something it's the rather progressive nature of some of these songs. On average songs of this band tend to be a bit longer, but here the difference of concept album vs non-concept album has a negative impact on the longer songs. One of the best this year, though.
Overall better than 2015 but still at parts a very mixed year. I have also the feeling as if there aren't many new bands founded these last years that have something to offer that wasn't done like countless times already. I catch myself very often being bored by the few bands that I do discover for their terrible production, repetetive riffing, or having no talent whatsoever. I still do enjoy metal as a whole very much but I guess with age I also become even more nitpicky than I always were to begin with.
- Any Given Day - Everlasting
- KoRn - The Serenity of Suffering
- BABYMETAL - Metal Resistance
- The Vision Bleak - The Unknown
- Dadaroma - スタンチク (Stanczyk)