Hellbound’s End of Year Wrap Up: Part 9
Well, hell’s bells – 2016 was a hellride of a year, wasn’t it?! As the New Year comes creeping in with trepidation, the individual members of Team Hellbound take a look back at our favourites of the year, give our personal thoughts on the state of heavy metal in 2016, and take a look forward at what’s to come.
As always, we here at Hellbound thank you all for your continued readership, and we wish you a very headbanging Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Happy Holidays from Hellbound!
— Kyle Harcott
Best Metal Albums of 2016:
- SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (Profound Lore)
For This We Fought the Battle feels like the truest expression of where we find ourselves in 2016 that I could possibly imagine hearing, despite its 1921 inspiration (Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We). As an added bonus, “Troubled Cells,” besides its LGBTQI outreach message, draws from the wonderful Ursula K. Le Guin (“The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas”). (noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/subrosa-interview-mormon-lgbtqi)
- Ihsahn – Arktis (Candlelight)
So heavy metal, so intricate, so many good riffs… Arktis captures many of metal’s best musical qualities and fuses them into one set of complex, engaging and inspiring songs. Plus Einar Solberg lends his heavenly voice to the track “Celestial Violence.”
- Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence (New Damage)
I’d almost rank Transcendence this high for the track “Offer Your Light” alone, but the entire album is classic Townsend, supported by most of his usual talented collaborators. This is the Devin Townsend Project’s most exciting release since Addicted.
- Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner (Indie Recordings)
There was something missing from Cult of Luna’s sound, at least to my ears. Turns out it was Julie Christmas. Her voice draws you in until what Cult of Luna is trying to accomplish somehow makes more sense. And Mariner is about exploring the cosmos.
- Harakiri for the Sky – III: Trauma (Art of Propaganda)
This two-man project from Austria has been releasing albums since 2012 but this was the first to catch my notice. The harshness, melody and atmosphere combined on III: Trauma unfold in a near-perfect if uneasy state of balance. I found myself going back to this record again and again even if I couldn’t always pin down why.
- In the Woods… – Pure (Debemur Morti)
Pure is like In the Woods… fused with Ewigkeit and comfortingly haunted by their relation to Green Carnation. An excellent combination.
- Anciients – Voice of the Void (Season of Mist)
The perfect soundtrack for when you feel like indulging in hard rock nostalgia and death metal fury, all in one album.
- Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens (Century Media)
Catchy death metal that isn’t afraid to show some keyboard love.
- Insomnium – Winter’s Gate (Century Media)
Insomnium’s melodic death metal takes on a more progressive tinge with this extended concept album.
- Evergrey – The Storm Within (AFM)
Listening to The Storm Within, I really regret not catching the album listening party at ProgPower USA. Anguish you can sing along to…
Favourite Album-Cover Art of 2016:
Opeth – Sorceress (Nuclear Blast) album cover by Travis Smith
I can’t resist the bright colours and the contrast of the lovely and the gruesome. I also find Mikael Akerfeldt’s explanation of it entertaining – see “Seven Facts About the Making of Opeth’s New Album ‘Sorceress’” by Christa Titus: (http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/7502808/opeth-sorceress-new-album).
Best gigs I attended in 2016:
It’s a tie. (I can’t help it.)
Green Carnation at ProgPower USA in Atlanta, Georgia, 10 September 2016
I was lucky enough to witness Green Carnation perform Light of Day, Day of Darkness in full at Day of the Equinox in Toronto in 2006. It was a transcendent experience. Watching and hearing the band perform the album again at ProgPower was, if possible, even better. Skill and passion all over the place, and just one brilliant moment after another.
Leprous at the Waiting Room in Buffalo, New York, 1 October 2016
Last year’s Leprous release, The Congregation, is an outstanding album. Live Leprous is also outstanding. The band performs with great musical expertise and overpowering emotional intensity. And it didn’t hurt that Einar (Solberg – vocals/synth) and Tor (Oddmund Suhrke – guitar) seem to be really nice guys.
Favourite physical-copy album I purchased in 2016:
Judas Priest – “Parental Guidance” Maxi Single 33? RPM (European release)
“Parental Guidance” isn’t a particularly good song. I hadn’t paid any attention to it before I bought this single, and it’s still unmemorable. But I’m unapologetically enthusiastic about “Turbo Lover,” which appears on the B-side as a “Hi-Octane Mix.” And to me, there’s something delightful about happening on this European artefact in a Montreal record store (Freeson Rock) 30 years after its original release. There are even European tour dates on the back.
Most anticipated album for 2017:
VUUR – debut album
I’m sure there are other bands I’m excited to hear from in 2017, but Anneke van Giersbergen’s recent announcement about her newly-formed metal band is fresh in my mind, and I can’t wait to hear it. Most of the VUUR line-up performed together at ProgPower USA as The Gentle Storm, and based on that set, their future output is destined to be satisfying.
My 2016 in Metal:
In 2016 I was reminded that metal means many things, and many different things to different people. Tensions and conflicts that are intensifying in the wider world are becoming increasingly noticeable in metal as underlying assumptions about what metal is, what it should be and who it’s for are questioned and challenged. It’s not like there wasn’t dissension and disagreement there to begin with, but the combatants, issues and stakes have been shifting for years, and this year this seemed even more visible, especially in the digital realm. Staying out of this political terrain is itself a political choice, which is one of the reasons I chose to appear on Banger TV’s Lock Horns as a co-panelist for their Metal and Gender episode.
At the same time, 2016 was also a year of incredible music (recorded and live), community and camaraderie. Here are some of my own highlights:
- Voivod living it up on the stage of This Ain’t Hollywood in Hamilton.
- Judging the Hamilton edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada and seeing our local winners – Profaner – go on to finish second in Germany. Also, having the band as guests on Kill Eat Exploit the Weak.
- Witnessing Blood Ceremony’s special guest performance for the Dark Carnival Horror Expo in Hamilton.
- Metal-oriented adventures in Montreal, including Grimposium’s Doomed to Death events.
- Attending ProgPower USA and having a helluva time.
WhatI’m looking forward to in 2017, metal-wise or otherwise:
More travel for festivals, shows and other metal-related events.
Peace, love and carrots.
Significant Loss to Metal in 2016 (in memoriam):
Piotr Grudzinski, guitarist and founding member of Riverside.
“Metal Person of the Year”:
This may be cheesy, but I pick the contributors who keep a site like Hellbound going, simply for the love of this difficult music and the complicated but often wonderful sense of community it can inspire.