5. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake:Testament is undoubtedly the only band that has successfully been able to match and at times surpass the efforts of their San Francisco Bay Area colleagues Death Angel in recent years to stand out as the best in thrash. Testament’s latest offering ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ is the runaway winner in this genre for 2016 and presents the band at its absolute best. These ten scorching tunes combine thrash and melody in the most compelling manner possible, as vocalist Chuck Billy challenges himself to use his clean singing voice more, the guitar duo of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson stamp their class, drummer Gene Hoglan lends his deadly precision and returning bassist Steve DiGorgio synchs perfectly with the rest as if he never left. ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ is a glorious representation of a band that is relevant in 2016 while still staying true to their ’80s roots.
4. Holy Grail – Times Of Pride And Peril: In their formative years, Los Angeles quintet Holy Grail were very much known for being traditional metal perpetrators, as indicated by the ‘Improper Burial’ EP (2009). But they started showcasing elements of guitar shred and modern metal on their debut full-length ‘Crisis In Utopia’ even as they still retained the classic metal sound, mainly through the soaring high-pitched, clean-sung lead vocals. Since then, they’ve evolved tremendously as musicians to explore and expand their creative abilities within their self-made realm of classic-meets-modern metal. ‘Ride The Void’ (2013) was a great example of this trait, but for the latest LP ‘Times Of Pride And Peril’, Holy Grail have delved deep and emerged with their best effort till date, going more modern as well as more old-school at the same time, and almost completely discarding the harsh vocals. Holy Grail, in truth, cannot be categorized in a specific sub-genre because sound like no one else but themselves, and this album establishes their identity upon which they can build what will hopefully be a long career ahead. ‘Times Of Pride And Peril’ is pure delight for metal-loving ears.
3. Gojira – Magma: French extreme metal group Gojira metamorphosed into greatness with their 2012 release ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’, and have capitalized on the newfound impetus to create an even better album, their sixth LP ‘Magma’. Lyrically, this one conveys guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier’s depression fueled by personal loss, and musically creates an aptly bleak atmosphere to accompany the deep, dark lyrics. In comparison to previous albums, Gojira make an attempt at expressing themselves more precisely on ‘Magma’, and have gone for a less proggy, epic feel and a more straightforward songwriting approach, with greater emphasis on clean vocals. They clearly succeed with ‘Magma’ as much as they did with anything they released in the past, and in the grand scheme of all things musically heavy, this is the one album that puts extreme metal on the map like no other.
2. Kvelertak – Nattesferd: Norwegian six-piece band Kvelertak turned quite a few heads with their self-titled debut in 2010, bringing a whole new take on metal with their undeniably unique sound, blending harsh vocals, black metal drumming and Thin Lizzy inspired guitar harmonies, complete with three guitar players. The sophomore effort ‘Meir’ was just as impressive although not as stunningly novel as the first one, simply because one knew what to expect from the band. This is where they took it upon themselves to come up with a brand new approach, and they sure did so on ‘Nattesferd’. While some of the songs continue from where ‘Meir’ left, most of this album is decidedly more melody-driven, makes far better use of the three guitars, and without being slow or dull, exudes a much more laid-back, chilled-out vibe. The catchiest, most accessible Kvelertak record till date, ‘Nattesferd’ is certainly one of the strongest releases of 2016, and makes an everlasting impact that leaves its songs resonating in the mind long after one is done listening to it.
1. Striker – Stand In The Fire: Based out of Edmonton, Canada, metal quintet Striker do not know how to put out a bad album, as evident from the songs that decorate ‘Eyes In The Night’ (2010), ‘Armed To The Teeth’ (2012) and ‘City Of Gold’ (2014). Combining the best aspects of glam, power, thrash, speed and traditional metal, Striker developed a reputation as unbeatable songwriters and captivating musicians. But they struck bullseye with their newest album ‘Stand In The Fire’, coming up with a set of songs that exhibit them at the absolute peak of their powers in all aspects, the singing, the lyrics, the guitar work, the rhythm section, the track ordering, song lengths, album length and cover artwork. Lead vocals hit the highest of highs yet show great range, backing vocals and group chorus vocals are the strongest heard on an album in a long time, the guitar riffs, melodies and solos are nothing short of face-melting, jaw-dropping and fist-raising, and the rhythm section gives it the skull-crushing heaviness to make it complete. Fast thrashers, easygoing glam anthems, powerful ballads, a shred-heavy instrumental, and even a song with sax play, this album does it all and does it better than anyone. In 2016, Striker’s ‘Stand In The Fire’ is heavy metal perfection.
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