Top 5 Metal Albums of 2016 Forecast: The Story So Far

I was just thinking the other day how I was going to have to have a tough time with my top 5 metal albums of 2016. Not for the wealth of awesome titles, but for a lack of really standout ones. (I ended up being super wrong, but more on that in a bit.)

I had a few I knew would probably be on there (Gojira, Borknagar), but I couldn’t think of many more albums that had come out that “felt” like they deserved to be there. Not like last year.

For reference, I spent much of last year spinning the same albums, over and over again. Leprous’s The Congregation was equal parts prog and tech-infused black metal, while Tribulation’s Children of the Night met my needs for a grim yet rockin’ good time (and with raw, natural production to boot). Gorgoroth’s Instinctus Bestialis was short and so, so sinfully sweet; I couldn’t tell you how many times I listened to it during the final half hour of a Friday afternoon to make the weekend come sooner. Pyramaze’s Disciples of the Sun was a gift from a band I’d all but written off (seriously, how do you follow up an album with Matt Barlow on it?), but still it grabbed me with its fresh take on power metal. Finally, Ghost’s Meliora, my 2015 metal album of the year — well, it felt like album of the year. It’s such a well-crafted album, with so much care put into the songwriting and production that I knew it was in the running from the first time I heard it.

So when I reflected on all that and thought about the albums I’d been returning to this year, nothing really stood out. Then I had a rare moment of clarity; I thought to myself, “That can’t be right, can it? Surely there are albums out there to give Magma and Winter Thrice a good run.”

I keep a Google Docs page filled with albums I’ve listened to throughout the year. It has the month and day they were released, as well as a tentative “score” numbered 1 through 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The score indicates how I felt about them at the time, and it could increase or decrease on subsequent listens. Top contenders are bolded, and are (usually) 4s and higher.

Turned out I had a lot of bold 4s in the 2016 doc.

I really, really, wish I had a more satisfying conclusion to this bit of drama. But the reality of it was that I just plain forgot several albums I’d enjoyed. So I spun them again, and whaddya know? They’re great, and it looks like 2016 is going to be even more heated than 2015 was.

Here’s what’s coming:

My Contenders for 2016 Albums of the Year

Borknagar, Winter Thrice – I like albums that “sound” cold. It helps that “winter” is in the name of Winter Thrice, as this is a very cold-sounding album. I picture a lot of black mountains covered in frost, and the boughs of trees weighed down by snow when I listen to this. You know, Necrolord album art kind of shit. It also helps that I think the songs here are really good, which is why I’ve returned to it so many times. I just can’t get enough of the style of harsh vocals they have (I could take or leave the clean?) and their sense of melody is particularly strong. For an album to have come out so early in the year and still have me coming back to it — that says a lot.

Prediction: 2

Amoral, In Sequence – Artwork tends to play a large part in getting me to check out bands I’ve never heard of. This one looks like a card from Magic: The Gathering, so points there! I’m also digging Amoral’s prog-metal groove, particularly the two opening songs. I’ll admit, I’m not crazy about the drum production or the vocals, and I get kind of murky toward the songs on thr end of the album. I’ll definitely give it some more listens to give In Sequence a proper shot at the top 5, but honestly, I don’t know. It had a solid chance at its January release, but the competition is fierce.

Prediction: Honorable Mentions

Raubtier, Bärsärkagång – Since discovering them a couple years ago, I’ve always turned to Raubtier when I’ve been listening to Rammstein but want a little more oomph. I was delighted to find they had a new album this year, and that delight turned into sheer headbanging enthusiasm once I heard Bärsärkagång. It’s ferocious and fun, and every bit deserving of a spot on my top 5. But we’ll have to see.


Ihsahn, Arktis – So I told you I liked Leprous, right? I told you that, right? Arktis reminds me a lot of last year’s The Congregation, and not just because some members of Leprous were in Ihsahn’s live band a few years back. This album continues the unique combination of progressive, melodic black metal that I thought was just a one-time thing. Granted, I don’t think it’s as strong as Congregation, but that’s not an album it’s up against this year, is it?


Kvelertak, Nattesfard – This one came out of nowhere for me. It was from a Game Informer editor I follow on Twitter, one who I hadn’t up until now associated as being down with the devil horns. But maybe he is? I don’t know. What I do know is that he provided me with one hell of a recommendation. Nattesfard is a pretty eclectic mix of rock ‘n’ roll and black metal, but without being straight up black ‘n’ roll. Like, there’s too much pop-oriented melody going on in Nattesfard for it to be shelved next to Aura Noir and Darkthrone. But I like “different;” hell, last year was a top 5 composed mostly of “different.” There’s a good chance Kvelertak could place pretty high.


Katatonia, The Fall of Hearts – I feel like I just got done talking about “different,” and then along comes The Fall of Hearts. But I’m a fan of bands that do things with confidence, and Katatonia pulls of a kind of gorgeous progressive metal that sucked me right in from the start. This is metal I wouldn’t be afraid to play around my child, but it’s just so damn artsy that I can still feel like I wasn’t holding back. Anyway, there are some heavy hitters this year (emphasis on the “heavy”) and I don’t know if this has a place as AOTY. But the top 5? Easily.

Prediction: 3

Gojira, Magma – Ohhhhhh boy. There are just some albums you just know are going to be contenders, and Magma fits the bill. The riffage is just as memorable as its melodies, with a range of song dynamics that make me say, “why, yes, I will listen to this again.” I don’t want to say too much about it, lest I run out of things to say when it gets album of the year.

Oh, I meant “if.” If it gets album of the year. Ha ha.

Prediction: 1

Black Crown Initiate, Selves We Cannot Forgive – I talked about bands that pull off a certain style with confidence, and Black Crown Initiate definitely does that. The most remarkable thing about Selves We Cannot Forgive is how damn messy it sounds. But it’s an appealing messiness, or else it wouldn’t be here. I’ve only listened to it once as of this writing, but that should speak to how much it impressed me. I don’t know if it’ll make the cut, but a few more lessons should make its final position more apparent.

Prediction: Honorable Mentions

Revocation, Great Is Our Sin So this only came out last week, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be seeing it on my top 5. Great Is Our Sin just has so much going for it in terms of dynamic songwriting and sheer metal-ness. It has parts that really haul, but then pulls it back in a way that doesn’t feel forced. It’s just an unnaturally good metal album; Gojira may have a hell of a fight for this one.

Prediction: 1

And that’s all I’ve got for now. More albums await in the months to come, not to mention all the ones I’ve overlooked. There’s new Dark Tranquillity on the way, as well as Devin Townsend Project, Evergrey, Insomnium, and even some blasts from the past like Sonata Arctica and (don’t laugh) Korn. My musical tastes have broadened over the years, so who the hell knows? I probably won’t have another post like this until next year, but expect some proper album reviews? Maybe?

Like the final top 5, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Let’s Talk About Metal, K?

So I’ve almost been doing this year. The writing part, I mean; the dadding has most certainly been going for 365+ days, and I have the soiled diapers to prove it. Not mine, and besides those would have been disposed of by now because I’m a good parent.

But what I haven’t been particularly good at is a good writer, or at least a more regular, scheduled writer. And I’d like to change that.

So in an effort to put more of my fingers to the laptop keyboard (and maybe even the keyboard-keyboard), I’m expanding the focus of this blog. I’m opening it up to allow me to talk about metal, about music. The blog is Mostly Metal Dad, after all. I can indulge in some navel-gazing, can’t I? I guess as long as the navel is appropriate.

I think about metal a lot. I listen to it regularly, and I find myself having a lot to say about it. My first thought was always that this blog wasn’t the place for it, that I should continue trying to merge metal and parenting with every post. Except that doesn’t work all the time. More often than not I’ll come up with some great sentiment about babies and all the metal stuff will sit rusting in the stale locker room part of my brain.

So why not just talk metal? That’s cool, right?

I’ve been trying to keep up with the scene, what all the cool kids are listening to and the stuff I’m interested in as well. I listened to more metal in 2015 than I had in a long, long time — but I wrote very little about it. I’ve listened to probably an equal amount of metal in the 7+ months of 2016, but I’d like to not wait until after December 31st to start writing about it.

With luck, I can update both baby and metal stuff at the same time. Then won’t I look productive?

Heart Songs

My daughter is starting to smile at me, and it’s breaking my heart. I mean, I can claim to have seen the brutality of birth and lived to tell the tale, but seriously. Each upturned corner of the lips is accompanied by a “goo” that turns my hard metal barriers into angel food cake. If this keeps up, I’ll have to rebrand this thing “Less-Than-Metal Dad.”

I didn’t teach her how to do that, trust me. I haven’t willingly sacrificed what little metal cred I’ve got; it’s all happened naturally. Like the moment you realize you’re doing the high, squeaky baby voice is a moment you can’t go back from. My vocal register is getting so high I’m thinking of trying out for Rhapsody of Fire.

My daughter, giving a little smile.
How am I supposed to stay grimdark with this going on??

So I did what any sensible person would do when their morals and values are challenged: I made a playlist. Desperate times, and all. This is a failsafe to ensure I don’t forget my roots. “Back off, baby,” these songs say. “You may have his affections now, but WE were here first.”

Coincidentally, these songs all have the word “heart” in them. With luck, they’ll remind me of when I had metal flowing through my veins instead of all this goddamned oxytocin.

Crank Up These Heart Songs (But Not Too Loud)

“Heartwork” – Carcass
Even the band name makes me feel like a real tough guy. “This band is named after a rotting dead corpse, what’s yours, something lame like your feelings?” Carcass knows how to get to the meat of a song, and “Heartwork” is as meaty as they come. Layered with sweet riffs, dynamic drums, and raspy growling, even the melodies have the crunchiness to drown out most bedtime lullabies.

“Warheart” – Children of Bodom
From its antagonizing opening sample, Children of Bodom’s “Warheart” sets me and my daughter on a “path of rebound (???).” Okay, so lyrics aside, the combination of cymbal chokes and rumbling bass followed by furious riffing and frantic blasting makes me want to make my battle imminent. Now, I probably won’t ever go so far as to consider my child my enemy, but “Warheart” does remind me of the opposing forces at work whenever I’m struggling to change my daughter’s diaper.

Dawn of the Black Hearts – Mayhem
Okay, not a song, but this recording of a ’90s Mayhem show is the antithesis of adorable daughters. Sometimes the only way to deal with a screaming infant is to listen to something that sounds even worse. The production on this black metal bootleg is so delightfully raw it sets my teeth grinding. Compared to the shrieking china four-count before “Freezing Moon,” somehow my kid’s cries don’t seem all that bad.

“Eagleheart” – Stratovarius
When life gets me down, I can always rely on a power metal pick-me-up. Neoclassical shredding never fails to put me in a feel-good mood, which sounds perfect for a fussy baby that just won’t go to sleep. This song’s soaring chorus and beautifully simple keyboard/guitar lead can lead me out of the dark and into a bright, shining tomorrow. And considering I’m typing this at 3:30 AM, that tomorrow is only a couple hours away! Great…

“Hollow Heart” – Kalmah
Leave it to Kalmah to empty out all the mushiness from my pumper. Nothing about this song, including its swamp-slushing intro, makes me think of babies. Perfect! I’d never take my baby to a swamp; that sounds terrible. Keyboard-driven melodies mix with tight riffing and phlegmy vocals into a concoction that’s just sick. What I wouldn’t give to see Kalmah play “Hollow Heart” in the States. Actually, I might be a few sleepless nights away from a solution. Go on, baby, just try me!

“Blind at Heart” – Dark Tranquillity
Dark Tranquillity knows what’s up. Apparently I’ve got to blind myself to my daughter’s charms. Sound advice from my favorite melodic death metal band; they probably wrote this super-tight, ass kicker of a song just for my fatherly plight. You know, four years after they wrote it.

“Metal Heart” – Accept
Probably the most aptly named song name for this blog, Accept’s “Metal Heart” has the kind of old-school appeal that reminds me of my younger years. I think every metal fan went through an elitist phase, but I didn’t expect this song to make me feel so nostalgic for it. While plenty full of ’80s-era rockin’, this song at the very least reminds me of a time before baby that helped shape me into the metal man I am today.

A metal dad tries his hardest to smile, something I'm sure he hasn't done since he was a child himself.
I know it’s hard, you can do it, believe in yourself

Well the baby’s not going anywhere; she’s here to stay, all smiles and farts and that sort of thing. She mostly smiles while getting her diaper changed, so there’s a good chance she generates joy by making daddy deal with a double doody. But all the same, I never want it to stop.

I guess as long as I’ve got these songs to listen to, I can make it through just about anything. Who knew that actually listening to metal would remind me what I love most about it? If you’re ever questioning your own metalness in the midst of all your dadliness, I highly recommend it.

If you know of any other “heart songs” to add to my playlist of yearning, do let me know. The nights will only get longer.