5. Horrendous: Philadelphia PA extreme metal band Horrendous did their first full tour this year, opening for Tribulation and Youth Code across North America. Through this tour, many people got introduced to the sheer brilliance of Horrendous’ musicianship which decorates the three full-length albums they’ve already released in their short career thus far since forming in 2009. Focussing on the music rather than the look, Horrendous take metal to new extremes as their brand of death metal has layers of prog, tech and black metal. The power and dynamism of their music is felt as much upon listening to their studio album as it is when watching them live. With this band, it’s no gimmicks and all skill, and in 2016 they’ve stamped their authority as the worthiest young perpetrators of extreme heavy music.
4. Taarkus: Los Angeles based psych rock/proto doom quintet Taarkus released their debut 7-inch single in the early part of 2016 via Rise Above Records and played some fantastic, mind-blowing gigs locally throughout the year. In the past few years, this genre has witnessed the rise, reformation and return of countless bands new and old, many of them simply riding the wave of what’s current and popular, but Taarkus is one band that’s presenting a fresh, unique take on all things psychedelic and doom. Very seldom will a flute hold a room of doom metal fans captive in the manner it does when Taarkus uses the instrument, and with a richly layered sound comprising the conventional instruments, a prominent role played by the organ, and dual female lead vocals, this band is nothing less than love-at-first-listen. With a full-length album in the making, Taarkus will soon headline the very same rooms they played as opening act this year and bring their unparalleled live show experience to many more people in the near and distant future.
3. Khemmis: Denver, Colorado doom quartet Khemmis have started off their career on a prolific note, as they’re clearly motivated and inspired to create, quickly following up their 2015 debut LP ‘Absolution’ with a new full-length called ‘Hunted’ in 2016. Khemmis also spent some time on the road performing these tunes live this year, and doom fans were stunned into the realization that this band exudes talent and means business. As in any doom band, the riffs lay the platform for the music to be built on, but Khemmis’ clean-singing vocal delivery and the guitar harmonies are the most striking aspects in their tunes and garner the listener’s undivided attention instantly. Khemmis’ music is as heavy and simple as it is melodic and dramatic, and as ominous as it is uplifting. Khemmis not only satiate fans of the genre, but with their unconventional approach, even compel its detractors to take notice.
2. Oni: Hailing from Toronto, Canada, modern progressive metal group Oni exploded onto the scene in a major way in 2016, releasing their debut full-length ‘Ironshore’ on Metal Blade Records and completing two highly successful North American tours, firstly with the Cavalera Brothers and then with Children Of Bodom to end the year, also making an appearance at Knotfest in San Bernardino along the way. With intricately arranged yet instantly catchy musicianship accompanied by cerebrally stimulating lyrical content and artwork, Oni check all the right boxes, and on stage, amplify the power of their musical expression tenfold. Clean-growling vocal interplay, guitar shred mastery, crafty drum fills, groovy bass lines, and a xylosynth player to boot, Oni has it all. This three-letter word will be on prog lovers’ minds, ears and lips for the next three decades and more.
1. Beastmaker: Fresno, California trio Beastmaker spread their gospel of horror doom far and wide this year, releasing their debut full-length ‘Lusus Naturae’ and touring all over North America and Europe, opening for the likes of Monolord, The Well and Blood Ceremony in the process. Beastmaker’s interpretation of slow, riff-based Sabbath-worshipping heaviness is quite simple yet presented so powerfully, it’s truly amazing to comprehend the sheer impact they’ve made with music so straightforward. Beyond any doubt, it shows their talent and expertise as composers and performers, utilizing every single note to its absolute maximum and placing great emphasis on the sound itself, which is so crucial in succeeding or failing to establishing the atmosphere it is aiming to create, whether it be through the studio recordings or in a room full of stoner rock lovers. On the one hand, heavy music is evolving into complex modern forms, but on the other side, Beastmaker is taking things back full circle and doing a mighty fine job of it. 2016 was as much about the metamorphosis of Beastmaker as it was about anything else, and the trio beckons you to join their cult.
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