Well, this is late.
Truth be told, there’s probably absolutely no reason to post this now. After all, it is ten months too late. But 2016 was an important year. Of course, it was a really happening year globally with all its celebrity deaths and political shifts, but personally, it was a pretty big year as well. 2016 was the year I started National Service, including Basic Military Training, Security Trooper (Combat) Course, Sea Soldier Landwards Ops OJT and my junior/understudy mounts as a Sea Soldier. My life became consumed by the military, and the absence of studies and an extremely stagnant social life has left me with fewer and fewer outlets to obtain fulfilment. 2016 was also my most emotionally turbulent year, with one of my greatest strengths becoming more of a bane than a boon and a whole bunch of new experiences that radically altered the way I viewed the world and society. I had to go through a lot over the whole year, and music helped a bunch. While 2016 may have been a year of life-altering moments and global disappointments, the soundtrack was pretty good.
This list reflects the opinions of the October 2017, and I think this is important to mention. While I did single out my ten favorite albums last December, a lot of the items have shifted considerably over the subsequent ten months, even my pick for the top has swapped with number two.
10) Hunted – Khemmis
You could say that this record has everything that I want from Doom Metal: the vibes, the tones, the performances are all stunningly appropriate, and this is simply a record that has gotten several spins over the past few months. The thing is, I really don’t consider myself that huge of a fan of Doom, with most of it either being too slow or too simple, but Hunted, along with a few other select albums, don’t seem to have that problem. Fortunately, Hunted set a great tone for all future Doom releases that I’ll be listening to, and somehow, I do end up preferring another 2016 Doom release more.
9) Ghost Ship – Theocracy
Theocracy is a criminally underrated band, but it’s somewhat easy to understand why. In a genre generally associated with darkness, fantasy, myths and atheism, a Progressive Power Metal band with strong religious themes might automatically turn off a few Metal fans. But for what it is, the music is really good. Theocracy has always made unique and lovable tracks, and Ghost Ship might be their best offering yet.
8) Winter’s Gate – Insomnium
Insomnium‘s style of music has been the same for so long, they were pretty much the pinnacle of “if it’s broke, don’t fix it”. Epic Melodic Death Metal with booming choruses and a whole lot of gray-colored art. That was how it was for so long. And then comes a 70 minute song, split into seven parts. Winter’s Gate is a symphony of everything great about Melodeath, and I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I had expected.
7) Conduit – King Goat
Probably my favorite Doom Metal release ever, as of this point. It’s really hard to point out any flaws in this album. With its twists and turns and structural intricacies, its soaring vocals and exemplary production, Conduit proves to be a heavy and powerful listen each and every time.
6) Kodama – Alcest
When I heard that Alcest is returning back to Blackgaze/Post-Black Metal after their brief forage into Shoegaze in Shelter, I was hyped. The singles leading up to the release of the album, such as the title track and Oiseaux de proie, hyped me up even more, with beautiful melodies woven together into wholesome songs reeking of solitude and isolation. Kodama is an album for rainy days and starlit nights, and it pains me to put it only at number six.
5) Magma – Gojira
The album that gave Gojira, not one, but two Grammy nominations. Dang, how am I even supposed to discuss this heavy, relentless and extremely interesting, Magma has provides a transcendental experience of Progressive Metal that’s unique to Gojira alone. If Gojira hadn’t broken through with L’Enfant Sauvage, they most definitely have done so here.
4) Dissociation – The Dillinger Escape Plan
I absolutely adore this album. A fitting final album for a brilliant band at the leading edge of Mathcore. Irregularity and sporadic violence condensed into one hard-hitting album, with excellent songwriting and brilliant performances from everyone. Limerent Death is one of the best songs of the year, without a doubt, and the interesting turns on the album, such as Fugue, are captivating, and just add to the album’s deep-impact goodness.
3) Jumaltan Aika – Moonsorrow
Moonsorrow is really on another level when it comes to folk-influenced Black Metal. Each of the five songs are amazing, all providing a different experience without any form of disappointment. The buildups are natural and powerful, and the choruses lush and beautiful. Five amazing songs all put together into one album; how could I possibly complain?
(Ruttolehto is my Song of the Year.)
2) Stage Four – Touché Amoré
There is no reason this shouldn’t my favorite album of the year. In fact, it was, and if I hadn’t changed the nature of my lists to reflect personal enjoyment rather than what I just thought was the best, it would have still been on top. Stage Four is by all metrics a masterpiece. 2016 was a tough year, a really tough one for me, but Stage Four helped to put things into perspective. I can easily say that, in my entire life, I have never heard an album that affected me so strongly emotionally. This album pulls at your heartstrings with no regrets, screaming out the purest form of sadness I can imagine, one that I hope I will never experience. This album is not demanding because of its genre or complexity, its demanding because its an exasperation of utter despair, and only the odd fool can listen without feeling anything.
1) Weezer (The White Album) – Weezer
In hindsight, this seems to be the most appropriate pick for my favorite album of the year. I never expected to enjoy it this much, and Weezer didn’t really mean anything to me before this. But what I got when I went into it were extremely clever lyrics and vibes of bittersweet nostalgia that made me yearn for the past years of my life.
My last school year was 2015, the year before. I graduated high school, filled with regrets. All the opportunities I didn’t seize and all the bad decisions that could have been avoided. Generic high-school stupidity mixed with that odd feeling of maturity you get from the imminent embrace of adulthood. And yet, those were the best years of my life. Those were the years where the foolish me was actually living, when the burdens of the outside world or the struggles of National Service didn’t affect me as I was wrapped up in my little bubble. I would change so many, so many things from those years. But in the end, those were my teenage years, and they’re all over now. The dramatic shift from high school life to one of regimentation and physical exertion has provided a whole bunch of experiences, both great and bad. In between all the tough times, I find myself thinking more and more about what high school was, about all the time I spent in classrooms and libraries, about all the study sessions and coffee breaks, about all the social dynamics as well as the casual canteen chitchat, and this album hit me like nothing else I’ve listened to the whole year. The White Album is an Alt Rock album with youthful vibes, but it goes well beyond other albums in the genre, relishing in a painful maturity that I simply cannot describe in words. This is, most definitely, my Album of the Year.