The Best Underground Metal of 2016

2016 is over. The funderground mentality continued spreading forth, infesting metal over the last year just the same as it had in the decades past the genre’s artistic high-point in the early nineties. Rehashes of past greats pandering to a lowest common denominator audience continue to dominate the release schedules of metal labels all too willing to please the lemmings with music fit to safely ignore during drunken socializing. Ever-flowing streams of posers are desperate to be rock stars, pumping out plagiarism, and paying their way to record deals. File sharing and streaming reducing the cost of hearing new music to essentially nothing has led fans to constantly consume whatever is new regardless of quality. However the purging is at last at hand. The day of doom is here. The filth who have lied and corrupted the underground must be cleansed while the commendable elite few will remain.

Dawning – Mount Um + 1997 Demo (Hate Your Guts Records)

Dawning successfully craft viral riffing reminiscent of Emperor into gothic sonic cathedrals similar to those of Celtic Frost the mid 1980s. The keyboards echo Summoning and continue the melodies expressed in the guitars rather than just playing what appear to be just the root chords of the riffs as in early Emperor. Dawning‘s grand compositions are a pleasure to behold as their riffs slowly cocoon and  transmogrify into novel life bursting forth through the remains of the old reflecting cosmic cycles of impending certain doom. Mount Um + 1997 appends to the new release what older material mastermind Steve Cefala judged as Dawning’s best to form a full length featuring zero filler.

Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom (Marytrdoom Productions)

Dead Congregation are one of the leading more atmospheric, contemporary death metal bands and one of few to continually produce listenable material. On their Sombre Doom EP, the band successfully demarcate (similar to Incantation‘s Diabolical Conquest) the more atmospheric funeral doom elements into the first track, using the cathartic, almost brutal death metal of the second to rhythmically resolve the built up tension. In this day and age of cash grab releases meant for compulsive collectors, a band releasing only their worthwhile material, however brief, is rather refreshing.

Harley Flanagan – Cro-Mags (171-A Records / MVD Audio)

Harley Flanagan, a founding member and original bassist of the Cro-Mags, offered up a solo album merging the styles of the first two Cro-Mags albums, the crossover thrash of The Age of Quarrel and speed metal of Best Wishes (after Flanagan starting performing vocals), into a cohesive whole. Cro-Mags‘ songs are based around distinct individual riffs letting Harley effectively express his extreme disillusionment towards emasculated modern culture and the sheepishness of humanity as an entire species.

Infamous / Gratzug – Split (Hammerbund)

As with most splits, one half is much stronger than the other. Infamous bring the goods here; Gratzug drone mediocre black metal with simple melodic progressions probably recorded in a bedroom. Infamous echoes Absurd and Ildjarn‘s punk rhythms to bring virtus to what would otherwise be merely sentimental melodic black metal riffs. The layering of melodies helps overcome this too, each subsequent one commenting on the previous. The end’s return to the starting point allows one to experience the first riffs in a new light, profoundly revealing what the commentarial elaboration had merely hinted at.

Kshatriya – Vsque ad Sidera Vsque ad Inferos (Eremita Produzioni)

Kshatriya interwine primitive Beherit and Ildjarn style riffing with long Hellenic black metal melodic fills on Vsque ad Sidera Vsque ad Inferos. The d-beat drumming lends Kshatriya an uncommon martial vigor, the strange spoken word interludes let Vsque ad Sidera Vsque ad Inferos be the soundtrack to a hermetic warrior-poet laying waste to the dishonorable filth who walk the earth like demons, and the cyclical song structures emphasize the inherent impermanence of existence with death merely allowing the mortal flesh to be recycled into younger life.

Mortalized – 呪われた …Complete Mortality (Blastasfuk Grindcore)

呪われた …Complete Mortality is another riff bible from Takafumi Matsubara (Gridlink and Hayaino Daisuki). Riffs are arranged into bits of blasting grindcore fury or short heavy metal narratives. The styles are immensely varied from crust to N.W.O.B.H.M. to black metal, allowing listeners to experience the full breath of Mastubara’s boundless creativity. Mortalized never got around to recording a studio album becoming yet another band that never was; Complete Mortality is a properly encompassing epitaph.

Ripper – Experiment of Existence (Unspeakable Axe Records)

Ripper use the extreme speed metal of Merciless as fuel for a blitzkrieg in the manner of blasting Morbid Angel influenced black metal such as Immortal‘s Blizzard Beasts and Angelcorpse. The aftermath is a non-stop proto death metal artillery barrage from start to finish. Experiment of Existence leaves headbangers dazed and whiplashed by a monolithic, unknown compelling force experienced by few in the third millennium. The only suggestion for improvement would be for Ripper to adopt a combined arms approach of varied riffs in flexible song structures as used by pure death and black metal to leave lasting material impressions beyond merely of the sound of the band as an entire entity.

Sorcier des Glaces – North (Obscure Abhorrence Productions)

The Wizard of the Ices returns with another album of flowing arboreal black metal compositions. The keyboards from Sorcier des Glaces early days are thankfully gone and replaced by multi-tracked and layered guitar parts but the riffs composed of extended tremolo-picked melodies remain and the vocals are now aggravatingly overloud. Many of the songs on North resemble a Philip Glass arpeggio-filled score for witches flying at high-speed through a dense forest populated by the commonplace, naturalistic horrors of life.

Tarnkappe – Winterwaker (Hammerheart Records)

Tarnkappe provide narrative to the fury of later Gorgoroth, intertwining melody and rhythm to pick-up beats ordering the march to continue with not one step back. Winterwaker‘s riffs saw together like Zyklon-B but resolve in the almost call and response fashion as Master’s Hammer but less speed metal and with the guitar enslaved vocals more a mournfully tragic call to arms than a possessed raving occultist. Precisely spaced tempo shifts into slower melodic passages and rhythmic fills prevent Winterwaker from becoming another monotonous slab of flowing black metal until the initial riffs return reinvigorated leading to triumphal melodic apotheoses to conclude each of the campaigns.

Album of the Year

Serpent Ascending – Ananku (I, Voidhanger Records)

Ananku sees Jarno Nurmi‘s solo project Serpent Ascending shed its speed metal skin to numerologically reveal inner melodic truth inherent but yet unheard in death metal riffing. These riffs serve as baseboard for Serpent Ascending to summon otherworldly but aptly layered leads and guitar harmonies similar in style to Nurmi’s prior band Desecresy, creating compositions that can superficially be compared this time around to the atmospheric death metal of Therion. The advantage over Desecresy and Therion is that Serpent Ascending approaches the flexibility afforded by this contrasted riffing with the aggressiveness and urgency of Sepultura. Detractors will decry this as simpleminded or mainstream but not meandering is the right choice. No fat allows Serpent Ascending to compose cohesively flowing black metal that awes listeners with overwhelming power, imparting the emotions behind the greater ancestral truths Ananku attempts to convey. Nothing in any of the eight tracks is extraneous to the album’s barely thirty minute length meaning that it can be constantly replayed to further explore the crevices of its melodic caverns. Ananku is easily the best and greatest metal release of 2016.


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145 thoughts on “The Best Underground Metal of 2016”

  1. dick tip torn due to crusted semen says:

    If this stuff is the best of the year I think it’s time metal had some sort of “hard reset.”

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      It’s the best of what suits the relevant audience. Whose general disposition is “Shoot first. Don’t ask questions later” and who is heavily predisposed towards sequentially constructed music: Eg, the Merciless debut obviously suggests itself as comparison when looking at Ripper. But Ripper is flat: It’s guitar riffs strictly accompanied by pretty schematic drumming and “rhythm section bass”. In contrast to this, Merciless has three instrumental voices working together towards creating the music (not unlike what used to be Mayhem at the time this was released).

      Tarnkappe suffers from similar characteristics: Flashy guitar playing, anything else straight out of some tin. This gives an impression of a band playing behind a thick layer of cotton wool: There’s emotional content in there but it’s muffled. And limited by the intended glorification. That’s ultimatively praising mankind, at least some of it, a weird thing for a ‘black metal’ band to undertake.

      NB: They’re still 100,000 times better than ‘remotely similar bands’ who occasionally stop being able to hide that they’re really folkies and burst out into passages of clean singing.

      1. Merciless has three instrumental voices working together towards creating the music (not unlike what used to be Mayhem at the time this was released).

        Not surprising, since Merciless was the first band signed on DSP.

    2. Robert says:

      I agree. Although, I must admit…that Serpent Ascending album is infectious. It’s shocking! Especially since their compilation from a few years back didn’t grab me too much. Saturnal was the only tolerable song.

    3. Metal has needed a hard reset for the past 22 years, but since idiots win out at the album sales game, no one with any brains is going to bother composing metal and releasing it. They will simply be ignored. This is the same reason why we have lots of literary favorites, but few great authors: the markets are driven by idiots, and idiots choose drivel, so people with the ability to write something better flee the scene knowing that they will be actively discriminated against for having real talent.

      Look at your metal magazines and blogs. Everything big is bad, and reports on the bad as good. Look at your fans: other than the underground diehards, they are chinless worms who otherwise would be into indie music or other trends. There are a few people here, and they are dedicated to finding the best, and we acknowledge that oftentimes this means nothing as good as what came out between 23 and 33 years ago. The point is to create and nurture an audience for better metal, but most people have the disease of this time — solipsism — and are too fascinated by their own cleverness or quests for personal acclaim (incl. virtue signaling of both SJW and NWN/FMP types) to help out.

      Those people are the real problem.

      1. says:

        “goddamn kids these days.”

        OK we get it, grandpa.

        1. If I had lived through the 80’s and 90’s and experienced the surge of classic music, I would act in the same way.
          But I’m a jolly lad, because I’m listening to those classics now for the first time.

          1. says:

            The genre is simply in a different place now. Pining for the old days is a good way to end up with mental health issues.

            1. Necronomeconomist says:

              Though, it IS possible that we’re not merely ‘different, but of equal quality’.

              It IS possible that the best shit has been mined and done.

              Hell, DMU’s conservatism rides upon that being a fact.

              1. says:

                Equal consideration should be paid towards what these bands are actually trying to accomplish.

                Where did you get this: “not merely ‘different, but of equal quality’.” from?

                1. No, equal consideration should not be paid to what they are trying to accomplish.
                  If a rapist tries to accomplish raping me, and succeeds in doing so, I will not applaud him for being successful in his endeavour.

                  The only thing that matters is how good the music, or any thing in life, is to your nature and your values.
                  There is more metal from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I like, than from the 2000’s and 2010’s.
                  Regardless of whether they were trying to be bad, or trying to be good and failing.

                  1. says:

                    Ah yes let’s reduce the conversation to the absurd, not address the point and make vague illusions to your individual will to power. That’s going to be very productive.

                    1. There is nothing absurd about pointing out that intentions are irrelevant to the quality of the end result.
                      Succeeding with one’s intentions only leads to a good result if the intentions were good to begin with.

                    2. says:

                      You are determined to avoid having a productive conversation aren’t you?

                    3. Attention Defecate Disorder says:

                      It doesn’t even negate your point. You can pay attention to what bands are trying to accomplish and still reject it as not worth doing. So, what do you think are some differences in what newer bands are trying to accomplish? Setting aside the impostors of course.

                    4. says:

                      How can we even reject something as not worth doing if we aren’t going to bother addressing what that is in the first place? That’s probably why this site speaks primarily to the already converted and maintains a niche. Nobody who values modern metal is going to suddenly have a change of heart without good reason. Holding contemporary entrees against a canon that is arguably aimed at different ends is ridiculous. Of course, reaching across the isle isn’t elite and for some reason patrons and authors here have decided to stake their elite status on a retarded factor (music).

                    5. Holding contemporary entrees against a canon that is arguably aimed at different ends is ridiculous.

                      And if the canon was designed to escape the kind of garbage that is the contemporary norm, then there is zero compatibility.

                      Of course, the contemporary is failing: metal has lost its vital audience and replaced it with conformists, just like punk did, as we warned back in the day would be a problem.

                    6. I don’t care about appearing elite. I know what I like in music, and if music doesn’t have those things (on purpose or due to failing) then I don’t like it.

                    7. says:

                      Brett that position reeks of resentment

                    8. Attention Defecate Disorder says:

                      Geriatric, if it wasn’t clear, I agree with you. To some extent though this argument has already been made throughout the site’s articles and therefore is not made anew each time.

              2. It IS possible that the best shit has been mined and done.

                Hell, DMU’s conservatism rides upon that being a fact.

                The basis of DMUs conservatism is this: things are not “merely different but equal” because quality is not subjective, mainly because nothing is rigidly subjective or objective. Those are “subjective” judgments after all. People are biased and not equal, so not equally correct or accurate. Art however can be understood in general qualitative terms, which is what we need to do to separate the pointless from the good, and among the good, people can split hairs all they want but this really a small group, maybe 1/20th of that which makes a noise in whatever scene, so by the act of separation, we have imposed Darwinism and quality control as well as rewards for quality in the future.

                There were many shit releases back in the day, including some that went on to make a lot of money. The point is that there is a canon of greatness, and we refer to them, and we look for other bands of this quality level and do not relax our standards. This is elitism. Elitism however is not a knee-jerk social response, and is in fact very open-minded to potential until such potential is foreclosed by a sellout release or other display of mental incompetence. As a result, we relax our standards on demo bands and those trying to muddle their way out of a wasteland of a scene, saying “these are the best of the year” without saying “these are part of the canon.” Some of these bands will join the canon; others will not (I keep trying to listen to Dead Congregation). Others will join my personal collection whether or not they are canon, in part because it is arguable they are not death metal. For example, Ananku is something I will always enjoy because of the interesting song construction and odd fusion of later Sentenced with 1988-era Queensryche and what sounds like Joe Satriani as a distant influence. It may not be death metal and therefore may not be appreciable as death metal… which is a troubling situation for death metal fans, on a death metal site, but it is good music, and so we hail it and promote it. If anything, it is forcing all of the brain-dead death metal and war metal bands to upgrade their own quality to compete, and this is a positive thing. So what you are seeing here is not us saying “these bands are equal to the best of 1993″ but “these are possibilities that could be as great as the canon.” In some cases, it is obvious they will not. In others, the book is not yet written. But the point is that posting this list is a revolutionary act by rejecting the “bad = good” formulation of every label, PR flack, journalist etc. because they view (wrongly) that their business is found in hyping everything as great so that dummies buy it — in fact, they want “power users” to buy it and they only react to quality; the dummies emulate them — and instead urging people toward quality, even if we may not have canon-worthy material yet every year.

                1. Belano says:

                  Exactly. The interesting thing is that, when you compare this list with those from other sites, it’s clear what you’re saying. This is one of the few end of year lists where I can find albums that are attempting interesting things within a metal framework/spirit, even though some or various of them probably won´t be part of a future canon. I only missed Sangreal; I really like that album.

                  1. Sangreal is more progressive rock than metal; it’s closer to heavier seventies prog rock than Slayer. The big flaws are the album suffers from the common syndrome of the first track being by far the best and many of the metal riffs being virtually recycled, including from Condor’s own previous work.

                2. Dead Congregation are one of the only examples of a current death metal band in their prime who are actually good enough to where if they were around in the early 90s, could’ve got a release on a known record label. They have some great riffs and ideas but none of their albums come close to approaching the best. That being said, none of their cheesy mistakes are big enough to make you slam stop like mid 90s Death, Benediction, or Cancer.

          2. Eviscerator says:

            A jolly fag?

      2. Svmmoned says:

        I think that your explanation is too superficial. Inspired material would emerge despite circumstances you are describing, if not partially as a reaction to them. I also doubt that metal musician rationalize his internal urge to create on basis of such factors as condition of market or audience. Yet even such artists fail to deliver and honestly, they have everything they could theoretically need. You can always blame humans and more often than not you will be right, but there’s also something non-human at play here. Metaphysical exhaustion, something inappropriate in zeitgeist, something lacking, not quite right in sum of the influences that shape today’s person. There’s also assertion of wrong notions about what constitutes metal in terms of aesthetics and composition. It lacks substance, strong basis and solid structure. It’s not heavy. It’s elusive.

        1. trystero says:

          Completely agreed. This isn’t something limited to metal either it seems, or even music. It is more like a spiritual death than crowdism.

      3. Seth says:

        I would say that hard reset is already in progress. The quality underground and the funderground seem to going their separate ways, at least audience-wise. A Mgla show I went to was packed to the gills with hipsters, yet I can go see Master and Profanatica, and there will only be 20 to 30 people there. While that’s sad for the bands, it’s the few really discriminating hessians that end up going, among them some of the more competent musicians in the local scene. Hopefully this mitosis into underground and “subunderground” will continue naturally until all the hipsters and sjw’s are scared out of the latter, and we’ll have some semblance of a quality scene once again.

      4. Rainer Weikusat says:

        […] and we acknowledge that oftentimes this means nothing as good as what came out between 23 and 33 years ago.

        If I mentally go through my erstwhile record collection (solely hampered by lack of money and seriously bad accessibilty), I remember a lot of things I wasn’t exactly happy with, namely,

        Nuclear Assault, Handle With Care — some people might like the style. I don’t.
        Incubus, Beyond The Unknown — horrible.
        Nocturnus, The Key — dito.
        Metallica, Kill ’em all, … and justice for all — redundant/ worse-than-redundant.
        Anthrax, Fistful of Metal — someone sold this to me because I wanted a metal album and he didn’t like that. ’nuff said.
        Kreator, 1st, 2nd and 3rd — nice music for “alienated teenagers”. I’ve since rebought Extreme Aggression because it’s a part of my history but I don’t listen to that.
        Sodom, everything up to Better Off Dead — In The Sign of Evil and Persecution Mania are good, all others a dispensable. Liked them better in the past.
        Godflesh, Streetcleaner — considered a classic by some. Horrible shit.
        Paradise Lost, Lost Paradise — not my style.
        Rage, Secrets in a Weird World — ghastly pop-metal followup to a good album.
        Thanatos, Emerging from the Netherworlds — fast deaththrash. OK but not great.

        In contrast to this long list of non-desirables, there were 4 good albums I’m not going to mention here.

        In this respect, the “modern” situation is decidedly an improvement. Most of what is released is still tripe but I’m no longer forced to do “experimental purchases”.

        1. Svmmoned says:

          I agree, but with exception of Kreator’s first two. Good things that inspired people are really there, just listen to it. I don’t mind Terrible Certainty either. Don’t throw them away.

      5. you can only die once says:

        You do a fine job then, I often still find good metal, I don’t really go year by year anymore as I still find good stuff from the from the 2000s that was completely looked over. I am thinking of starting my own blog or zine or something as I have found a lot of good shit that isn’t really discussed.

        It is a shame that good metal stands no chance of building any sort of fanbase because I’ve seen some pretty damn good shows over the past 6 years in the south, from Texas to Atlanta, there is a badass handful of bands but absolutely no recognition, reviews, interviews, hype, absolutely nothing. I always thought this site could do a better job on that front but I think you do fine where you stand, just wish there was more people like you writing about metal.

        1. Thank you for reading and thinking about metal. Please send along any interesting bands you find, from any era or locality. In my experience, promising bands die out after a couple years because the audience is not there for quality-over-quantity style bands.

  2. Immanentist says:

    There’s nothing here above C+.

    1. Robert says:

      Serpent Ascending album is a B+ for sure.

    2. you can only die once says:

      I thought their Enigma Unsettled was better, I listened to this twice and it doesn’t make me want to hear it again. It is composed with intelligence but doesn’t do anything for me, I just observe it and move on. A lot of metal is like that now, like the Dark Descent roster, a lot of concentrated effort, not much substance.

  3. 2016 = shitty metal all year says:

    Bad list, agreed with first comment:

    Really scraping the bottom of the barrel for something with this one. At least previous years had the Ildjarn (Nidhogg) release. Serpent Ascending is like the Tribulation or Morbus Chron band for a different record label. It can be seen under whatever different light, it isn’t awesome – it’s contrived and lacking. Mortalized sounds like indie/post-hardcore “grindcore” that Relapse would’ve released if they got to it. Ripper is Sepultura-lite and Dead Congregation is so bad that it sounds like a Krypts ep more than an Incanclone. I just listened to the first song from the Dawning release – it goes in a circle like a Death song minus the illusion of momentum.

    The biggest offender here is Serpent Ascending – a sort of metal for non-metal fans who like “atmosphere and stuff”. If I bought a Triptykon album over any of this I could at least use the excuse “but Tom Warrior did good things once upon a time and I got some Giger art”.

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      Dead Congregation is so bad that it sounds like a Krypts ep more than an Incanclone.

      The Dead Congregation EP starts with a lengthy doom/ death track. That’s a musical style also employed by Krypts and not employed by Incantation (as far as I know). Not a very astute observation and as quality judgement/ description pretty useless.

      This reminds me of something from 1994: In 1994, Alvin Lee released a new album (named ‘1994’, somewhat remarkable because it contains a complete version of I want you/ She’s so heavy). By that time, I read a review of the record which could be summarized as “It’s blues. I really don’t like blues”, suggesting an answer of “Well, then don’t buy it”.

      BTW, within the limits of being what it is, the Krypts album is actually pretty good: It’s sort of a single 32 minute track split into five sections of related but musically different character. Dead Congegration is arguably better but they have more experience. Stoning a baby to death because it wasn’t born as heavy-weight boxing champion, something this site also particularly likes, isn’t very sensible.

      1. Stoning a baby to death because it wasn’t born as heavy-weight boxing champion, something this site also particularly likes, isn’t very sensible.

        Bad metaphor. What we do here is more like stoning babies to death because they were born with Down’s syndrome or blue hair. Metal is what metal is; good metal is another question. If whole styles/approaches are stupid, there is nothing wrong with stoning that baby because it is (1) in a stupid style/approach and (2) not exceptional. We would all listen to an exceptional version of Pantera, stoner rock, etc. But as is obvious, styles are designed for particular audience, and when your audience is “gullible insincere products of a dying civilization with IQs under 125” then you make doofus music because to do otherwise is to fail. This is why most of us avoid mainstream music; we know that it is not designed for us, and the group that it is designed for prefers simplistic catchy distractions. That does not fit our needs as underground metal fans. Now we are simply applying that same framework to war metal or Incantaclone drone wall-of-noise dirge music or whatever trend the idiots have gone off toward this week.

        1. Rainer Weikusat says:

          Until you’ve gone through 45 minutes of Qrixkuor playing live – and may $supreme_being be more merciful to you than it was to me – you have no idea what “drone wall-of-noise dirge music” actually means :->.

          1. Ouch. The name alone is enough to repulse me, but the description of the live event makes it sound like suffering.

            I used to be more attuned to aesthetic elements of music, but now I just want it to have some significance and meaning so it does not become part of the background hum of unrelated data flooding this world.

            1. Robert says:

              Brett, do you completely agree with Daniel Maarat’s list for 2016? If not, what were your favorites?

    2. George Sanders says:

      I’d say Ananku is more like nonmetal for metal fans.

  4. Facelessones says:

    Don’t expect. Metal is dead.

  5. Svmmoned says:

    Disaster. Artists that released some good albums in the past (Infamous, SDG, Desecresy) are awarded here somewhat on credit, in a gesture of faith. The rest is completely shallow.

    This site needs to reconsider its approach. It must be more intellectual, inspired and show more effort. Culture is insdispensable.

    1. Misanthrope says:

      I have suggested that this site puts more focus on putting out more exegeses of the canon of metal albums which have been compiled in the late 90s and early 2000s. For example, one may write volumes on Darkthrone’s “Under a Funeral Moon”. The same may be said of Burzum’s “Det Som Engang War”.
      Maybe it is time for such albums to be given their due as timeless works of art. And written of as such. That would be a step towards propagating culture.
      What say you?

      1. Svmmoned says:

        Me? I was thinking exactly along those lines.

        Nobody is saying that site necessarily needs to drop lighter, populist and forgettable elements (in fact SMR also seem pointless at this point), but demanding articles shall be the focus of this site. There’s so much to describe from insider’s perspective. Besides, new readers aren’t aware of countless discusions and thoughts on DLA forum where maybe in fact everything already has been said.

        But be aware. Insubstantial intellectualism which reads like Drudkh sounds, pointless nostalgia or simply any falsity will be immediately apparent.

      2. Necronomeconomist says:

        I’m feeling that, too.

        Remember D. Rosales’ exegesis of At the Gates “The Red & the Sky is Ours”?
        That was great! That article is itself a canonical piece of metal writing.
        D.M.U. would do well to share more of that type, articles that future Hessians can reference and research from.

        Likewise, y’all have done recent things with Profanatica, Sodom, even Misfits. No one else is doing that, amiwrite?

        1. Johan P says:

          I second this, but those kind of articles requires alot of time, effort and last but not least passion to write. It would be great if more people got involved and contributed in one way or another!

          1. thewaters says:

            This site had a plethora of dedicated writers working for it many years ago. Moreover, each of those writers had a passionate interest in writing and metal….whatever happened to those writers? I wonder what originally attracted those writers, i.e., Devamitra, ObscuraHessian, Helmholtz……..

  6. maybe i should get into rap says:

    Serpent Ascending is just as much a transparent product as the NWN war metal and retro-revivalists. It’s just aimed for a different crowd – masturbatory elitists who worship the past because they are ineffectual in the present.

    Tarnkappe = alright. Ripper and SDG = competent rehashes. Dead Congregation has declined sharply since their first EP.

    The worst part of all of this is that these releases really are the best of 2016.

  7. Belano says:

    Excellent review of the year, as always. I can’t speak about the quality of the music, because I’ve only heard the new Dead Congregation (which I liked). But I can say that for people like me, who do not have much time to listen to the hundreds of records that come into the market, pages like DLA (which can be counted with the fingers of one hand) —and articles like this— allow me to locate myself within the minimum expected to, from there, begin to inquire what I think are the best releases according to my personal preferences. In that sense, although I understand people who hope that only A+ albums appear on a year-end list, I am more interested in this type of approach, which seeks to show what of interest is being done in the world of metal. Then, of course, everyone decides what to discard and what to buy. Keep the good work!

  8. trystero says:

    The Infamous is good, that’s definitely worth listening to. The dude is pretty good in general, quality music. Could be improved but it has that basic element of appeal (musicality) that lacks in pretty much all metal music at the moment. It’s music you can respect that will last.

  9. Seth says:

    I’m surprised the 2016 Inverloch (composed by 2 of the members of Disembowelment) release was never reviewed. Though it was promoted almost not at all. Even though a lot of it was structure like a Close to a World Below/Transcendence into the Peripheral sandwich, they still beat 90% of the Immolation clones I’ve heard in the last 5 years.

    1. I took a quick listen to a few tracks on Bandcamp. I’ll give them a review this week but they’re not good enough to make the list; Dead Congregation are better doomy Immolation worship.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        Inverlock has an unholy similarity to Warcrab,

        they’re a better band but this doesn’t make the style more likeable (to me). Also, about half of the album is dedicated to “bittersweet sadness dirge(?) music soloing”. I like the death metal parts but they take up much less time than the other two which are – at best – tolerable. That’s why Distance Collapsed (I posted a link to the title track a while ago) fell out of ‘regular listening’ fairly quickly.

        1. Seth says:

          I agree. The sadtime acoustic dirges definitely turn it into an oil and water suspension, which as whole is far less engaging then if they cut most of that out and turned it into an EP instead. Perhaps one I should have mentioned Standvast’s Afkomst first, sharing a member with Kjeld and Tarnkappe, though stronger than the former in my opinion. It has quite a bit in common in production and sense of rhythm as Stormkult, though not quite as potent.

          1. Exploded Drawings says:

            Where do you guys stand on “Watching from a Distance” by the Warning?

  10. thomasw_ says:

    The list is what it is; the grindcore compilation is the least disappointing, as I expect only so much there. Nothing on that list gives the goods like Belial’s Wisdom of Darkness EP, so I’ll just light a pipe with some irish flake and enjoy that.

  11. GGALLIN1776 says:

    Talk about a lackluster year.

  12. Necronomeconomist says:

    Brett, please make Daniel re-issue this article in the following format:

    Each record will be graded on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being probably Incantation ‘Onward to Golgotha’ or Morbid Angel ‘Altars of Madness’ (or ‘Abominations of Desolation’ if you simply must) or Burzum ‘Hvis Lysett Tar Oss’.

    There must come a day when you come clean: the top ten of this year are worse than the 60th best album of all time.

    Currently blasting:
    Celtic Frost — “Return 2 the Eve” — Morbid Tales

    1. rerreer says:

      Nowhere near 60th, maybe 600th.

  13. cornrose says:

    Why no Metallica?

    1. Vigilance says:

      Good question, the new metallica was street af. smh

  14. nick gurs says:

    Beithioch needs to be on the list

    1. Too much ambient, not enough metal. I have the promo and will review it but Conquest was cooler with the Carnage influences.

  15. Drakon says:

    Was looking forward for this list, thank you for digging through the garbage. Will give Ananku and North another try. Perhaps Imposition – Dark Mysticism deserves a mention? And maybe a “Best of non-metal” list would be more interesting.

    1. Imposition was rightfully negatively reviewed. A best of non-metal is indeed coming.

      1. Imposition says:

        My album was skimmed over by someone who seemed to have dragged the progress bar in windows media player/youtube to the right, maybe 4 or 5 times, and then pushed ‘close’. I found the review quite disappointing; the conclusion being some comment along the lines of ‘must try harder to communicate a unique idea with each song’, which was exactly the aim of each of the tracks (apart from each the last three, which were linked thematically). Internal narrative, and the ‘revelation’ of such through 4-7 minutes was the ultimate aim. Much more than some of this shit you have deemed ‘best of 2016’, which seems to be uninspired and hollow after about 2 listens. Anyway, I simply don’t see how idiot savants like Ildjarn et al communicate a rich variety of ideas in a single album. If you write a negative comment that is supposed to explain why a release is less worthy than you might desire, perhaps try to pick a feature of the music that isn’t absent from releases you do deem worthy, or it’s absurd. Finally, the keyboard accompaniments were simply brushed off as being like the Vangelis soundtrack to Blade Runner, when they are one of the most important parts of the tracks. If you 404 out at a slightly different ‘cosmic’ approach to morbid black metal, then I truly question whether you are looking for something unique or just the same old aesthetics. [Not Vangelis anyway. Try the Richard Wright led moments in Live in Pompeii Era Pink Floyd].

        Anyway, thanks for the best of 2016 list; revealed to be a truly terrible year in underground metal. I second Ripper, which is about it.

        1. Johan P says:

          I’ll gladly try this album out. I like the idea of black metal-meets tangerine dream!

        2. Rainer Weikusat says:

          I’ve listened to the first track and I don’t desire to listen to another. The laid-back somehow-threatening-but-not-really vocals and guitar would make a brilliant soundtrack to a computer game (and the image would fit such a setting or ‘something RPG’ very well, too) but this is artisanal and not art: Likeable, possibly useful, a display of craftsmanship and entirely meaningless.

          That’s as it ought to be for ambient (music) but black metal is not a weird ambient sub-genre.

          1. Imposition says:

            The first track was an instrumental introduction you goose.

            1. Rainer Weikusat says:

              I skipped the intro, you less-than-quick-witted-person.

          2. Imposition says:

            My album is not ambient music. It’s black metal. There is an introduction and an interlude that are ambient.

            “This is artisanal and not art”. This is the best criticism you can muster? I thought people around here have access to the thing-in-itself? Knowledge beyond mere perception; logos beyond appearance; objective beyond subjective. Yet you give me a ‘reason’ why my art is not Good that is dripping in a subjective reaction.

            1. BlackPhillip says:

              What do you care what others think of your art? Wouldn’t you have created it as an extention of yourself? If your work is not sufficiently conveying its purpose then try again. Use the criticism as a tool if it means that much to you to be accepted and understood.

              1. Imposition says:

                1) Yes
                2) Personalities can be misunderstood and dismissed on the basis of surface features, or features initially deemed ‘different’

                1. BlackPhillip says:

                  If your personality was misunderstood through your music, then you sure cleared things up in the comments section of this article.

            2. Rainer Weikusat says:

              No. This was the most polite way of phrasing the original “this is not beyond hope but a far cry from good” statement I could come up with, namely, one supposed to be a bit more explicit in recognizing the latent strengths this does possess.

        3. Mansa Musa Louverture says:

          Maybe y’all shouldve focused on riffs instead of keyboards. Ya band sounds like crackas with Afros on crack from 1976 wearing wizards robe mixed in with Darker Than Black “kill the niggers and spics” genericness. I think you need to contact a producer. My boy Jermaine who got a mixer and speakers sees this shit with suspect wannabe thugs everyday.

          Like Kshatriya I thought was some back to Africa shit with the drum circle but they weren’t no niggas in rainbow mumus. They Italians who wanted to beat the shit outta someone and then preach them to them like Bad Brains if Bad Brains didn’t smoke reefer. Ripper just wanna go kill people. Imposition wanna get that mystical, African child soldier on PCP battle lust but Imposition don’t come close. I can see why these crackas spent most of the review writing about taking a shit. One time I ate Spaghetti-Os for dinner and had the runs at school when I was growing up. That was more world-changing and led more to ass-whoopings in the pit than your band Imposition.

          1. Imposition says:

            Your mother is calling your from the basement, asking you to stop looking at 4chan memes and masturbating.

          2. Imposition says:

            And anyway, mother goose, your lust for ‘riffs’ over keyboards just shows you want more crack cocaine for your riff addiction. Perhaps you should try to listen to what a song is trying to communicative, irrespective of the instrument?

            1. Mansa Musa Louverture says:

              Why y’all crackers even trying to play metal then? Y’all crackers should be trying to be Rick Wakeman, not Varg Vikernes.

              1. Imposition says:

                I’m not autistic enough to pass as Varg Verkines; wouldn’t try. Any perceived Burzum tropisms are yours.

        4. trystero says:

          Hey bro I like you, you’re a smart guy, you’re probably a good guy too, but your music sucks. Your last album was better but it misses the point too. Your music needs to be destroyed; since you miss the very basic element, every other (very competent) element is rendered meaningless. It is completely sterile modern metal in spirit, if not in style. Focus on the micro elements of songs, making good riffs that touch hearts rather than “aesthetic and coherent songwriting”. Right now there isn’t a shade of good music in the sounds you make. Stop thinking, start dreaming, start feeling, then start from scratch.

          1. Imposition says:

            Hey ‘Bro’ (are you black now?),

            I happen to like my music. (Some) other people happen to like my music.

            Question: Why on earth do you think your br0000tal Realist(TM) internet comment here will suddenly make me ‘see the light’?

            1. Imposition says:

              Despite what you might think about yourself and your comrades (incl the editors) around here, I (and I can only speak for myself) did not submit my music here to have it ‘approved’ or not. I submitted it to get exposure.

              1. trystero says:

                It isn’t personal, your album just stinks, sorry. I was really looking forward to it too because I thought the last one showed some promise. At that stage I was willing to overlook deficiencies in its voice (i.e. actually being good music) but the new one is worse in that department, making it probable that anything promising in the last album was accidental.

                You know how someone whistles a tune, and you hear it and you think “hey, that’s a good tune”. Your music doesn’t have any of that. It’s a metal mannequin, not the real thing. I don’t know what you can do about this, this isn’t an attempt to make you “see the light”, just to inform you that you are severely off track. What you do with that is up to you.

                The following is my assessment, it may be wrong, it may be right: Your approach to music seems to be entirely intellectual and abstracted. You have ideas about what good music should be, and you think simply putting them together can result in good music. That a song which sensibly unfolds towards some musical message is inherently a good thing, superior to a song which fails to do this. This is upside down. While development, narrative and message are all important, they are secondary to the immediate evocative power of music that is not clearly definable. One can’t say what makes a good riff or melody, but one knows it when they hear it and some can put one together. It’s when you take that raw stuff and make greater structure out of it that heights are reached, the structure itself is meaningless without it.

                I really hope you will succeed. And yes I AM black nigga what it do???

                1. While development, narrative and message are all important, they are secondary to the immediate evocative power of music that is not clearly definable.

                  Or is metaphor. Music is not musical; it is a language for describing reality, and all musicality is a means toward that end.

                  1. trystero says:

                    While there is some power to the idea that it is metaphor, I don’t believe that is sufficient. One could semantically expand and say “evokes symbol (or platonic form)” which still does not touch the experience of music. It is a metaphor in addition to whatever it is. It is not simply a language describing a reality, but the transmitted experience (emotion) of a higher reality itself. Higher is important here, as music that supposedly evokes fear, disgust, hatred etc. is still a cathartic and revelatory experience. Nevertheless, this is a secondary concern, everyone *knows* what music is whether or not they can deconstruct it, just like I know what Red or Blue are.

                    1. Schopenhauer identifies music as closest to nerve impulses. When the impulses it generates resemble other experiences we have, it produces a sense of metaphor, and combines the pleasure of listening to something interesting with a transition to a question of meaning.

                2. Imposition says:

                  You’ve simply said nothing here the semantic content of which can be cashed out as anything more significant than ‘this didn’t give me the experience i was looking for’. That’s, in itself, is fine. Who could argue with this?

                  Insead, you dress up your opinions in fancy dress; like some whore who has discovered plastic surgery and makeup.

              2. Necronomeconomist says:

                Buddy, you ARE getting exposure… to a major gang-rape.
                Engaging, and trying to convince niggas to like the music, is making it far worse.

                1. Imposition says:

                  Im sure not all the readers are so timid as to fail investigating things for thsmelves.

    2. Imposition says:

      Thanks for the mention, Drakon!

      1. OliveFox says:

        I truly DID like your album. But, you should rise above the rabble in defending your art. If you feel it was treated unfairly, unfortunately, it isn’t really your place to criticize the criticizer. Sucks. But instead of getting petty, get bolstered. Look between the grumpiness and trolly-bolly’s, and find the areas of growth from the audience that interprets your work as only they can.

  16. cornrose says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the Ripper release. It’s musicianship alone qualifies for this list. Its style may be rehashed but i haven’t heard this style done so well in decades! Great stuff!

    1. Special Economists says:

      I don’t catch the references to Ripper’s rehashing. Who are they rehashing? Maybe I should just go peep THAT!

      1. cornrose says:

        I get a BTR era sepultura vibe from this but I’m sure there are others to compare. This is done well though.

  17. Skull Powder says:

    Listen to (and buy) Serpent Ascending’s Ananku here:

  18. N.H.S. says:

    Daniel / DMU staff, thanks for assembling this list. I have not heard any of your selected albums other than Ananku (though I was distracted at the time) and other bits and pieces, so I will refrain from commenting about any of them.

    I have listened to very little music from 2016, but I will sincerely and heartily recommend the exhilarating and memorable heavy metal of Demon Bitch – Hellfriends. The high-momentum riffs, idiosyncratic vocals, and melodic virtuoso soloing give me a sense of dramatic struggle and fill me with great energy, a lust for life and adventure. The songs nearly stumble over themselves when galloping at breakneck pace, but they remain surprisingly coherent. Any thoughts? I don’t trust my own taste 100%, so if I’m wrong and this is mediocre or bad, please denounce it and prevent me from further wasting my time.

  19. Parasite says:

    Will 2017 be a better year for metal……

  20. Cynical says:

    Glaring omissions: Mortem – Deinos Nekromantis, Master – An Epiphany of Hate, Morbus 666 – Ignis Divine Imperium.

    (I personally think the new Antaeus album is their best, and is an absolute triumph — it’s the album that Immortal should have made after “Blizzard Beasts” — but that opinion isn’t shared by the site.)

    1. Parasite says:

      Hey Cynical,

      I agree 100% about MORTEM’s new album.. They are one of the only bands i consider to sound completely POSSESSED BY EVIL, not to mention they have been consistently GOOD(B+,with some various songs scoring higher) since their inception.


    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      I bought that (Condemnation) pretty much immediately after it was released (November) and I’m still listening to it at least once or twice per week which makes it decidedly »above average«. It’s more red metal than black metal, though.

      Usual black metal topics are one reaction of the (relative) country boy coming to the big city, “I’m not like these water-polished cobblestone people spending their days worshipping golden calves and their nights with boozily dancing around golden vaginas and don’t desire to be like them. Unless I become empty myself, the substitute gods they’ve created to fill their inner void cannot charm me.” The result is a mythological retreat into saner spaces, with more natural dangers than “get run over by an idiot whose control of his car was less complete than he had thought”.

      The Antaeus album is more (my entirely subjective impression) “I’m not like these people and couldn’t become like them even if I could want that. There’s a fire burning inside me and while I hide that well enough, sometimes, careless intruders get burnt”.

      1. trystero says:

        Everything you say is crap. You dont seem to have a clue about anything but blindly keep posting paragraphs of know-it-all-isms anyway. It would serve you better to study the DLA albums for a year or so rather than entertaining us with roboticisms. It is difficult to tell if you even like metal. For the longest time I said nothing because I thought you were an elaborate troll personality but now I think it doesnt even matter. Even if it was a troll it’s too real now.

        Since you dont know anything, but probably are not stupid, you are led down rabbit holes of inference that have no grounding in reality. Probably you would not be so exceptionally wrong if you were less intelligent.

        1. Rainer Weikusat says:

          Everything you say is crap. You dont seem to have a clue about anything but blindly keep posting paragraphs of know-it-all-isms anyway.

          Translation: I really hate you’re writing style …

          It would serve you better to study the DLA albums for a year or so rather than entertaining us with roboticisms.

          … get seriously pissed off if people seem to know less than I believe to do but can’t be arsed to teach them do do any better …

          t is difficult to tell if you even like metal.

          … and don’t understand a word of what they say.

          You know what, airhead: FOAD.



  22. Bah, nothing here but serpent worship

  23. Steve says:

    Zealotry’s The Last Witness was one of the best of 2016 – a few steps up from their debut, which was praised here – wrongfully assessed by rosales, better described by odb on his blog.

    1. Vigilance says:

      It had more personality than most releases this year so it earns praise at the very least for that. I noticed that, being a concept album, each song functions more as a whole painting of some sort of scene rather than a nicely concluded linear development with gratifying motifs. So tracking each song feels like there is kind of a lack of a emotive center if you aren’t reading along with the lyrics to fill in the blank.

      I think the first, third and fourth track + the title track were better than other death metal this year despite the glaring deficiencies noted.

      1. OliveFox says:

        They are a band that lends itself to “playlists.” Most people on here probably don’t like “playlist metal, but, it serves an interesting…nay, evangelical purpose, if you will…for some folks that have useful functions beyond whatever this wacky sites “qualifications” are for being a non-dispensible human.

        1. Vigilance says:

          The wheat listens to albums in full, in a single sitting, while the chaff lacks the requisite capacity for deathlike meditation and thus mixes singles in a pot.

          I remember the last time some neurotypical asked me for a recommendation of a single song from a band. “The best song!” I scoffed and continued, “I couldn’t possibly pick out a single instance for each one depends upon the next and that which precedes it.” The tone of my voice became steadily more firm but caring as the righteous but appropriate and well articulated monologue proceeded (I’ve since forgotten the remainder of that lecture).

          …That was the last time I spoke to my childhood best friend.

          1. OliveFox says:

            I suppose you have a point. But, I have had many wonderful times “creating” my own social settings where music, mostly metal, is the centerpiece of the party. Often, full albums are the way to go. For instance, I just had an early black/speed metal night a few weeks back. Early Kreator and Sodom, Sepultura, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Bathory and so on. Shit load of fun and a lot of musical meat to chew on. But, sometimes, if the company is right, playlists can lead to interesting discussions and swell times to boot, and lead some people whom might not ever have considered metal the grand art form that is (classical nuts, country/western fanatics or nerdy jazz types mainly), into finally sitting down with some albums to digest and discover on their own.

            But what the hell do I know seeing as I lack the requisite capacity to distinguish between biblical metaphors that were beaten into my head during parochial school and listening to the first half of Obscura before remembering that I fucking hate it and turn it off.

    2. Wrongfully how? My main complaint is that songs do not make sense after their initial development towards a sort of climax in the middle, which is not even a real climax. I gave my view on the reason behind this, which in plain words may be that Zealotry knows death metal but has no deeper well of inspiration. They just wanna “play metal”.
      Zealotry does not finish songs, it just adds more content until it codas out or fades out. This is usually a Lear symptom of not knowing where they are going, not really having a point besides playing cool riffs.

      1. Zealotry remind me of a more dissonant Death in this regard.

      2. It seems to me that other bands like Arghoslent have been identified as having the same problem: cool riffs, no direction, therefore the songs/album fall apart.

      3. trystero says:

        The riffs arent cool either.

  24. colt says:

    still no love for panphage on the anus? i would’ve expected yall to be on that bandwagon by now. one of very few modern extreme metal bands worthy of canonisation.

  25. Uncle Boyd says:

    Imposition’s vocalist sounds like Dave Mustaine singing “Sweating Bullets”, it was too corny to take seriously.No thanks.

  26. Forbinator says:

    Any reason for the Inquisition snub? I’d ask the same question about Anaal Nathrakh but I already know they’re frowned upon here.

    1. Inquisition released another album of generic, Marduk influenced black ‘n’ roll.

      1. Imposition says:

        Why is it black n roll? Like an undergraduate essay, be sure to give REASONS for your arguments.

        1. Forbinator says:

          I think “black n roll” is factually incorrect, but I can’t really argue so much with the other criticisms (generic and Marduk influenced). Is this black n roll?

          My top 6 releases for 2016 so far (although there are plenty of albums that need more listens):
          Anaal Nathrakh, Sorcier des Glaces, Inquisition, Kunstzone, Imposition, Deathspell Omega.

          This probably communicates in equal measure that I have shitty taste and it was kind of a shit year.

          1. The track you linked sounds like Summoning or Graveland trying to write an overly emotional rock anthem to get fans to show them their lighters.

          2. Imposition says:

            Interesting, but I don’t get it.

            1) Generic: can you point out another artist that sounds like this?
            2) Marduk: which of their songs sound like this?

            1. Imposition says:

              Actually later inquisition does sound rather like Marduk.

    2. this trip is turning into a bit letdown says:

      It’s not really a snub when the band is fucking terrible.

    1. No. Only those rectally ingesting cocaine like Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart could enjoy this.

      1. oppositorum says:

        I wasn’t seeking your approval.

        1. Why even post it that here as a suggestion on a best of metal list if it isn’t metal and isn’t competent music? All you’re sharing is your own bad taste.

      2. canadaspaceman says:

        I enjoy SOME Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart, and do not use cocaine…anymore.
        Cocaine is for those that THINK they are intellectuals, but end up haunted.
        You will not control the demons/entities it allows you to see.
        Crowley was liar.

    2. Cynical says:

      Wow, that band couldn’t be more hipster if they tried.

  27. Millettia Laurentii says:

    The new Faustian Dawn’s cover was more valuable than any other metalworks in 2016 – The demons that destroys the material-world are the unconsciousness of powerful to uncontrollable in our inner depths, that’s even more appreciated than the music itself~

  28. ttt says:

    Lord Wind released some demos in 2016.

  29. Yes! says:

    Head in Pain! This is for you all metal brothers!!

  30. Morbideathscream says:

    The Ripper album does it for me. Can’t think of much that has come out in 2016 that is noteworthy.

  31. Rainer Weikusat says:

    September ended. But this should qualify as neverending 2016 by now.

  32. Varg Overreacts to Big Cat Cock says:

    Does Darkthrone “Ablaze in the Northern Sky” sound like Celtic Frost?

    1. I thought it sounded like Obituary.

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