Best of 2016: Runners up

While it might seem like a fitting number to wrap up the best music of the year, 40 really isn’t a lot. There always are really great records that don’t end up in that list that still are unreal recordings. Here are five that ended up outside the top 40 but still remain some of our favorites from 2016.

alcest-coverALCEST, “Kodama” (Prophecy): It’s not totally proper to consider “Kodama” Alcest’s comeback record. It’s not like they went anywhere or took a gigantic break from recording music. “Shelter” has just come out two years previously. Instead, “Kodama” is the band, led by Neige and backed by drummer Winterhalter, reaching back into their roots and bringing some heaviness and fierce vocals back to mix into their dreamy, intoxicating post-metal. I feel kind of stupid not putting this is the top 40, to be honest, it’s that good, but that’s how strong the field was. Six songs spread over 42 minutes are atmospheric, blistering, and imaginative, running through the title track, “Eclosion,” and “Oiseaux de prioe” that stand up there with some of the strongest material Alcest released to date. (Sept. 30)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.alcest-music.com/

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: http://us.prophecy.de/oxid-oxid-5/

Or here (internationally): http://en.prophecy.de/pre-order-bundles/

For more on the label, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/

gatecreeper-coverGATECREEPER, “Sonoran Deprivation” (Relapse): Gnarly, nasty death metal always goes down right, and when you throw in stellar riffs and cool melodies, you have Gatecreeper’s debut record that pays homage to their rugged desert home. Ripping out over 33 minutes, a perfectly dosed album, the Arizona-based band chugs and blasts you over nine songs, often smearing gore over everything. From the opener “Craving Flesh” through “Rotting As One” into “Patriarchal Grip” to closer “Grotesque Operations,” this quintet launches into a stampede of blood and fury, one that marks this band as one of the more promising new death metal groups going. (Oct. 7)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/gatecreeper

To buy the album, go here: http://store.relapse.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Savage Master coverSAVAGE MASTER, “With Whips and Chains” (High Roller): It used to be OK for metal to be fun and full of debauchery. It’s not that Savage Master are, like, Poison or something, but they definitely bring the 1980s vibe where danger is afoot, leather is strapped to everyone, and you might get to see something catch on fire. Savage Master’s great second record “With Whips and Chains,” a 10-track, 35-minute affair, also is aptly titled, because that’s what will be on your mind the entire time you listen to the music. Uh, but that’ll be drenched in blood, sweat, and piss, with Stacy Savage out front in total command of this metallic army. “Dark Light of the Moon,” “Vengeance Is Steel,” “Burned at the Stake,” and the pummeling title track should keep your adrenaline flowing and you willing to battle long after your body has succumbed to exhaustion. (April 22)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/savagemaster666

To buy the album, go here: http://www.hrrshop.de/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.hrrecords.de/

Vex coverVEX, “Sky Exile” (Eihwaz Recordings): A drought might not seem like the most metal topic in the world, but that subject matter hit home hard for Texas death metal unit Vex. So, on their latest record “Sky Exile,” they revisit the 2011 drought that ravaged West Texas, an event that ravaged the people of that area. The result is some of the most inspired work of Vex’s run, which started way back in 1998, and the music here is marked by heaviness, texture, fury, and compassion. The material spreads over 11 songs and 58 minutes, with riveting epics (“Antithetical Age,” “Nowhere Near,” “Dark Skies Painted”) mixing with stirring instrumentals (“Dry River Days,” “Empyrean”) on an album that really deserves to have gotten more traction than it did. If you missed out on this one, definitely go back and check out one of death metal’s best-kept secrets of 2016. (June 2)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vexmetal/

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

For more on the label, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/

Phobocosm coverPHOBOCOSM, “Bringer of Drought” (Dark Descent): Weirdness and innovation are two elements that have made Phobocosm one of the most enthralling bands in the underground scene. Their dark death metal bubbled to the surface again this year on their second effort “Bringer of Drought,” a four-cut, 35-minute excursion into morbid mysteries. Thick, mucky playing mixes with sections where things get surprisingly atmospheric and proggy, pummeling you over and over again on tracks including “Engulfing Dust” and the massive closer “Fallen.” Boiling fury and sci-fi-laced twists and turns not only will keep you sustaining body bruises, but it also will remind you that you don’t have to accept run-of-the-mill returns when it comes to brutal death metal. You always have Phobocosm. (May 13)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Phobocosm

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

 

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