I know that this post is a little late, but I always enjoy looking ahead to see what musical treats are in in store for us over the coming year. 2015 was very strong indeed, so much so that I had to increase my end-of-year ‘best of’ countdown from 20 to 30. And even then, I was struggling to make everything fit.
Well, 2016 could well be even better. We’ve already been treated to great albums from Serenity, Megadeth and Brainstorm, not to mention ‘The Astonishing’ from Dream Theater which I am yet to hear in it’s entirety. And then there’s ‘Winter Thrice’ from Borknagar. It may still only be January, but already it has to be a contender for ‘Album of the Year’. Immense, majestic and challenging, it is one of the best extreme metal albums I’ve heard in a while.
So, I hear you cry, what else can we look forward to during 2016? Well, here are the first ten that spring to mind immediately…
Evergrey – Title ‘TBC’
This is one release that goes without saying and tops my list this year. I rank Evergrey as my number one band of all time and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. 2014 saw the return of two favourite members to the Evergrey fold in the form of guitarist Henrik Danhage and drummer Jonas Ekdahl and with them also came the band’s best album since the glory days of ‘In Search Of Truth’ and ‘Recreation Day’. A monster in every sense of the word, ‘Hymns For The Broken’ came out of nowhere to blow us all away. The cocktail of properly heavy metal with anthemic choruses, a dose of prog and some of the most personal and powerful lyrics I’ve ever heard is a heady one, one that has made the world sit up and finally take notice of Evergrey. Founder Tom Englund keeps teasing us with the hashtag #anewalbum2016 – I just hope it’s true because I for one can’t wait!
Katatonia – Title ‘TBC’
It had been pencilled in for release during 2015 but it never happened. They say you can’t rush genius, so 2016 it is then. The Swedish dark metallers are in a rich vein of form at the moment, a moment that has seemingly lasted their entire career as, like a fine wine, Katatonia seem to get better with age. These guys do not release mediocrity, it’s not in their vocabulary. Top class song writing, professionally executed and positively dripping with beautiful fragility underpinned by a heavy, gritty exterior – what’s not to like? Any follow-up to the exemplary ‘Dead End Kings’ is likely to be highly anticipated and in Jonas Renkse, Anders ‘Blakkheim’ Nystrom and Co., my trust is absolute.
Haken – Title ‘TBC’
Album number 4, dubbed ‘H4ken’ by the band themselves is just about complete as far as I’m aware and so one of my most hotly anticipated releases will see the light of day at some point during 2016. Album number three,’The Mountain’ is magnificent and was my number 1 album of 2013, so it’s not surprising that I fervently await this release like a small child awaits the arrival of Santa Claus. Put simply, Haken are the best young progressive band out there at the moment, displaying an almost limitless ability to create music that’s complex, thought-provoking, outright bonkers and extremely memorable. I’m a total fanboy but I don’t care – unless something drastically bad happens, this new record is going to be something to behold, I’m certain of it.
My Soliloquy – Title ‘TBC’
Yet another band that came out of nowhere a couple of years ago and impressed me with a cracking debut, ‘The Interpreter’. The brainchild of Threshold guitarist all all-round top chap Pete Morten, it comes as no surprise that here is a band that can write sophisticated and properly engaging progressive metal that’s satisfyingly intricate but that has more than enough earworms to reel listeners in time and again for repeated listens. Pete’s singing on the debut was great too, so I’m intrigued to see how he has developed as a vocalist on this new record. It’s nearly done apparently, so I’m very much looking forward to the sophomore release definitely sometime in 2016.
Seventh Wonder – Title ‘TBC’
Could 2016 be the year that we see a new album from this uber-talented Swedish band? Heck, I certainly hope so. With ‘Mercy Falls’ in 2008 and more latterly ‘The Great Escape’ a mere six years ago, Seventh Wonder have announced themselves as one of the very best prog metal bands on the planet. Blending tons of technicality with memorable melodies and almost pop-like vocal melodies, Seventh Wonder tick all the boxes and deliver a more than satisfying listening experience each and every time. There are some bands that can seemingly do no wrong and Seventh Wonder are one of those without doubt…except maybe releasing albums more timely of course!
Darkane – Title ‘TBC’
My admiration and love for this band never diminishes. If you’re after a band that can combine melodic death metal, thrash and a healthy dose of prog-laced technicality, then Darkane are the no-brainer choice. Savage, brutal, majestic and subtly melodic, the Swedish extreme metallers have delivered quality music time and time again over their six album career. ‘Expanding Senses’ released in 2002 remains my favourite but only by a gnats whisker. And it’s entirely possible that the new album hopefully out this year will push it closer than ever, delighting us all once again.
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
I Am Anonymous’ is one of the best debuts I’ve heard for a long time and remains a firm favourite to this very day, deserving of a place in my end of year best for 2012. Boasting the vocal talents of Damian Wilson and backed up by a group of seriously talented musicians, Headspace offer epic prog metal that blends technicality with extremely memorable song writing. I have actually been lucky enough to hear album number two, entitled ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’, and at this early stage in proceedings, as demonstrated by the following track, it is safe to say that it is unlikely to disappoint.
Myrath – Legacy
It has taken me a long time to fully appreciate Myrath. However, the epiphany came with their latest release entitled ‘Tales Of The Sands’. The Tunisian band really impressed me with their clever blend of progressive metal, strong melodies and traditional African instrumentation. I’ve not heard it yet, but ‘Legacy’ will be with us towards the end of February and, judging by the interaction on social media, I’m not the only one who’s eagerly awaiting this record. The first song released from the album can be heard here:
Textures – Phenotype
Dutch metallers Textures hold a special place in my heart as being the first real djent/tech metal band to make a positive impact upon me. Most recent album ‘Dualism’ sparked my enthusiasm massively thanks to some very technical, complex extremity that they mixed with breathtaking melody, seemingly with consummate ease. That album remains as the genre benchmark to these ears and as such, I’m highly anticipating a follow-up to further cement my love for this band.
Circus Maximus – Havoc
Here’s another band that found themselves nestled nicely in my 2013 end of year ‘best of’ series with the fantastic ‘Nine’. Norwegian band Circus Maximus are yet another superb progressive metal band that need to be part of your lives. Again, the compositions can be complex and relatively epic-sounding but they also manage to incorporate almost AOR melodies and choruses into their songs, meaning that a Circus Maximus album can be both challenging and beautifully memorable. ‘Havoc’ is the name given to the new release and it can be expected to hit in the next month or two.