In the words of the late great Freddie Mercury, “another one bites the dust”. In a lot of ways 2016 can bite me. But if you ignore mortality of the artists and friends we lost 2016 was a pretty fucking amazing year for metal, and music in general. Personally, it was a huge one for me, with ‘Browny’ and ‘Plugga’ somehow convincing me to come over and write for Wall of Sound. They were hard negotiations with both sides giving little away, but the offers of fame, fortune and everything that goes with it (I thank you all) was enough to sway me. So without further ado let’s get into it!
TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2016
1: Elm Street – Knock ‘Em Out… With A Metal Fist
These Melbourne based thrashers surprised the absolute shit out of me with their sophomore release. It took until July for me to throw out a perfect score with none more deserving than Elm Street. One of the best produced albums of the year – this band is destined for great things.
2: Stuck Mojo – Here Come The Infidels
Stuck Mojo, a band that I had just about given up for dead. With driving force Rich ‘the duke of metal’ Ward focusing on other projects (such as Fozzy) over the last few years I feared we had seen the last of the Rap/Metal pioneers. After several false starts with various reunions things finally clicked when Rich discovered a white boy from Canada on YouTube. With Robby J Fonts filling in the vocal duties and The Duke of Metal’s simmering anger over just about everything an angry, brutal, baseball-bat-to-the-face of an album was born. Here at Wall Of sound we were lucky enough to be the first in the whole freakin’ world to review Infidels and I for one have kept it on constant rotation all year.
3: Ragdoll – Back To Zero
And now coming in at number 3 the first ‘dad rock’ entry. In case you missed it Ragdoll are a trio out of my home town of Perth and are one of the hardest working bands in the local scene, as well as touring all over Europe and across the U.S. .The band’s debut album Back To Zero is good honest no bullshit heavy rock. I initially gave this album 8 and a half, when in hindsight it’s closer to 9 and a half.
4: Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
I had a mental arm wrestle over who was going to come in anywhere in my top 20, I changed my mind eleventy billion times and had to relegate the mighty Berkeley thrash Gods to the fourth spot. The only other album to receive a perfect score from yours truly Brotherhood Of The Snake is destined to become a true Thrash Metal classic. Thirty years on they are still showing just about every other metal band how it should be done!
5: Metal Church – XI
Turn it up to eleven, fuck that turn it up to twelve! Metal Church came back in brutal form with the release of XI. The great Mike Howe came out of self-imposed retirement, teamed up with Kurt Vanderhoof and all was well in the thrash scene. If 2016 was a good year for music, it was a great year for thrash. This album should be on everyone’s list.
6: Anthrax – For All Kings
Another quality thrash release for 2016. Five years after the release of the brilliant Worship Music Anthrax back it up with the equally as good For All Kings. Dropping in February this should have been a warning of the quality of metal to come (much of it on this list) The New York thrashers set the bar high and early. If this isn’t already in your collection give yourself an uppercut and sort yourself out.
7: Sixx:A.M – Prayers For The Damned Vol 1
Is there life after Motley Crue? Fuck yes there is. With the demise of the aforementioned band driving force Nikki Sixx has turned his focus to what was always considered a side project. But side project no more, Sixx and co smash out a huge album of hard rocking anthems. Drop the needle on the record and turn it up loud enough to annoy the teenagers next door.
8: Devin Townsend – Transcendence
Genius! That word is thrown around fairly liberally these days but Devin Townsend is, and I will fight anyone who says differently. Townsend has no need for rules, rules are boring and made to be broken. So with Transcendence the listener is taken on a journey of magic and madness. It’s a fully immersive experience, so if you haven’t had the pleasure delay no longer, don’t wait for Santa, treat yourself!
9: Crobot. – Welcome To Fat City
An album with more layers than Shrek’s onion, these Pennsylvanians were a surprise hit for me. The down and dirty psychedelic infused rock leaps from your speakers, stomps all over your mother’s just cleaned floor leaving a trail of road grime and bluesy filth. If you’re a fan of ‘dad rock’ you’ll love Crobot
10: Death Angel – The Evil Divide
“Surprise I’m back again!” so opens Death Angels 8th release The Evil Divide. This is a brutal album of thrash metal goodness. It’s an angry album for angry times with unapologetic metal fury. If you haven’t already, wrap your ears around this one
11: Taberah – Welcome To The Crypt
Ok so this isn’t an album it’s an EP, but it’s my fucking list and I’ll do what I want! Reworked previously released songs aside, this EP is worth it for the epic (I hate that word) Battle For The Sun. As well as releasing great power metal songs Taberah put on a killer live show. Buy their music, see them live, you won’t regret it!
12: Megadeth – Dystopia
I had a fear, a fear that I had already heard the best the two Dave’s had to offer. After the lacklustre Super Collider (that isn’t anywhere near as bad as some in the press would have you believe) Mustaine and Ellefson come storming back to form with Dystopia. Crunching riffs and paranoid lyrics it’s all we have come to expect from this mighty band. Swirl down the rabbit hole that is Dave Mustaine’s paranoia, you’ll love it.
13: Abbath – Abbath
Don’t put away your corpse paint yet kiddies. After 25 years Abbath may have split with Immortal, but the master of Black Metal isn’t going anywhere. There’s enough evil in this album to scare the local priest but also some surprising melody and groove. Best listened to during Midnight Mass.
14: Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
After 30 years of prog metal goodness, Fates Warning proved that in 2016 they still have it. Theories Of Flight is one of those albums that you can totally immerse yourself in. At just over 52 minutes of technical complexity, these old dogs are still showing the young pups new tricks.
15: Meshiaak – Alliance Of Thieves
Alliance Of Thieves should be on everyone’s playlist, this stunning debut surprised the fuck out of me. Old mate James ‘Plugga’ Birkin had the honour of reviewing this album for Wall Of Sound and I was just the slightest bit envious. A fresh blast of metal as good as anything released this year.
16: Metal Allegiance – Fallen Heroes
In what seemed like a year when so many were taken from us it’s no surprise this EP was released. Three absolute killer cover versions of classic tracks from 2015-2016’s dearly departed. ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ never sounded better..
17: Equilibrium – Armageddon
There’s none more German than Equilibrium. This album marched into my head and pretty much stayed there all year. A huge sound combined with a wicked sense of humour, this is everything that’s good about music.
18: Forever Still– Tied Down
Rarely are debut albums this polished, Denmark’s Forever Still have thrown down a challenge to all other up and coming metal bands. Equally brutal and beautiful, another surprise release of 2016
19: Zakk Wylde – Book of Shadows II
The mighty Zakk Wylde swapped his electric axe for a gentler introspective acoustic offering. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll and seriously good.
20: Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-destruct
Metallica at number 20 WTF?! This guy has no idea, obviously a hater…. Hating Metallica is easy, personally, I fucking love Metallica.Victims of their own success, damned if they do – this is still some of the best music they’ve released in years
Top 10 Songs of 2016
1: Testament – The Pale King
2: Elm Street – Face The Reaper
3: Ragdoll – Playing God
4: Metallica – Atlas, Rise!
5: Metal Allegiance – Iron Fist
6: Metal Church – Killing Your Time
7: Devin Townsend – Stormbending
8: Anthrax – Breathing Lightning
9: Equilibrium – Born To Be Epic
10: Crobot – Plague Of The Mammoth
Top 5 Music Videos of 2016
1: Anthrax – Blood Eagle Wings
2: Abbath – Winterbane
3: Death Angel – Lost
4: Crobot – Not For Sale
5: Devin Townsend – Stormbending
Top 5 GIGS of 2016
#1: Iron Maiden May 16th @ Perth Arena, WA
#2: Apocalyptica September 22nd @ Amplifier Bar, WA
#3: Caligula’s Horse April 9th @ Amplifier Bar, WA
#4: Fear Factory June 9th @ Metropolis Fremantle, WA
#5: Stormrider Festival June 18th @ Amplifier Bar, WA
What Am I Most Looking Forward to in 2017?
As Devin Townsend has been on my bucket list of must-see artists the announcement of his Australian tour in 2017 has me giddy. This man can do no wrong in my eyes so I will be at the Amplifier Bar to bathe in his godlike genius.
Next Big Band in Australia
Honestly, I’m crap at picking “The Next Big Thing”. I’ve seen local metal and rock bands tearing the roof’s off tiny venues while mediocre pop acts sell out arenas. I want the next big thing to be an even stronger hard rock and heavy metal scene in Australia.
In closing, this year has been an awesome wild ride at Wall Of Sound, watching the site grow from strength to strength is something I am immensely proud to be a part of. I can’t wait to get back into the mosh pit next year and bring you good people my views and reviews.
Until then, put your feet up crack a coldie and listen to metal \m/
Gareth Willaims @notgareth