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2016-12-09

MUSIC 2016: top albums and concerts



Comparability just isn't one of music's greatest strenghts.

Yes, if you have three bands trying to sound like Slayer you probably can match them against each other. But other than that the moods, intentions and overall experiences of most works or concerts are just too vastly different. Which is good. But it makes "best of" lists a pain in the ass and me always feeling like unfairly dismissing a shitload of artists. If you could see my whole TOP 40+ albums here, I'd possibly have almost the same love for rank 35 as I do for rank 15.

As always the postulate for every recording to possibly appear here is that I have to own it in physical form. I don't need to stress that all this is super highly subjective, right?

Ok, here we go:



ALBUM TOP 22:



  1. DAVID BOWIE - Blackstar
    Yes, I'm going with the obvious choice here. A decidedly challenging, exciting, bold and daring album for an artist so late in his career. Love the jazz ensemble! That was my main impression from the start, a few days before that fateful Monday. Would "Blackstar" also be in the top spot, if Bowie was still alive and well? - The question is obsolete, because without his passing this unsparing album dedicated to farewell and death simply wouldn't have happened.
  2. SWANS - The Glowing Man
    "The Seer", "To Be Kind" and now "The Glowing Man". Michael Gira finishes a singular album trilogy of enormous scope and depth with the probably most epic incarnation of the Swans. Subsequently this form of the band is being laid to rest now. Luckily this gigantic album remains for eternity.
  3. SUBROSA - For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages
    Blunt, bleak and breathtakingly beautiful. Crushing riffs and raging violins paint a dystopian masterpiece. Even though every song is a monument in its own right the closing track "Troubled Cells" stands out as especially heart-breaking. Especially given the technical problems at their show in Hamburg I can't wait for the complete performance of the album at Roadburn 2017.
  4. COSTIN CHIOREANO - The Quest For A Morning Star
    Costin Chioreano is best known in the metal scene as a very busy cover and poster artist. Indeed in this very list there are two more albums (7&8) featuring his work. But this is him as a musical solo artist. Probably the most obscure album here, this collection of dark ambient soundscapes with black metal influences just keeps moving me on a profound level. It's not wholly within the realm of the explainable, but "The Quest For A Morning Star" already feels like a timeless classic.
  5. VEKTOR - Terminal Redux
    How about an epic sci-fi space story told through an enormous concept album of brilliant brutal blackened thrash metal? With "Terminal Redux" the canadian Voivod / Death / Slayer worshippers released nothing less than one of the greatest thrash records of all time.
    If you dig this album and also lean towards ultra-technical death metal with strong classic Cynic influences, I highly recommend Obscura's "Acróasis" as well.
  6.  THANK YOU SCIENTIST - Stranger Heads Prevail
    Support of Haken (whose crazy 80s trip "Affinity" also deserves a more than honorable mention here) on their US tour, Thank You Scientist share and even improve their positivity. With a funky brass section and true soul singer Salvatore Sarrano this seven-headed party monster establishes an all-over-the-place, yet highly accessible and addictive brand of prog metal jazz fusion.
  7. SEVEN IMPALE - Contrapasso
    What a creative, explosive advantgarde metal prog rock psychedelic jazz fusion extravaganza! Weird, wild, captivating, dark, saxophony and fun. Just how I like my prog. Yes, the description in parts reads similar to Thank You Scientist. This stuff is totally different though, but I guess you could view both albums as good or evil twin of each other.  
  8. OCEANS OF SLUMBER- Winter
    Blues. Blast beats. Emotions. Virtuosity. Doom. "Nights In White Satin". Piano. Death Metal. More blast beats... On "Winter" anything can happen at any given time. An album which broadens the spectrum of prog metal with almost every song, yet somehow manages to stay consistent. The icing on the cake is stunning singer Cammie Gilbert. 
  9. NEW KEEPERS OF THE WATER TOWERS - Infernal Machine
    Carrying the hypnotic darkness and bold experimental spirit of Pink Floyd "live in Pompeji" into the everyday-is-doomsday present of fucked up 2016, the swedish masters of cramming every square centimeter of club stages with effects and instruments on "Infernal Machine" suck you into an ever flowing maelstrom of pumping, menacing psychedelic rock.
  10.  BLUES PILLS - Lady In Gold
    Elin Larsson is a fireball of energy. And the Blues Pills know how to make use of this more than ever. Knowing their shit about music history the sound of the band is infused with some serious 60s and 70s soul and gospel influences. Organ and mellotron are other welcome additions to the sound of the retro rock shooting stars. (The vinyl quality however is *meh* as fuck, so better buy the CD version including a live DVD!) 
  11. MOTORPSYCHO- Here Be Monsters
    Motorpsycho just being their legendary selfs once again. From the pop harmony of "Spin, Spin, Spin" to the "Big Black Dog" devouring everything, this is a masterpiece and lesson in dynamics. What a shame (but fully understandable) that drummer extraordinaire Kenneth Kapstad has left the band later this year to fully devote his attention to Spidergawd, whose third album "III" is also a must-listen for Psychonauts.
  12. MONO - Requiem For Hell
    Here be another monster! I seriously have no idea whether Mono have just kept their stellar quality or outdone themselves with "Requiem For Hell". But one thing is for sure: in their field of dramatic instrumental post rock the japanese band is unrivaled. The eighteen minute title track is one of the mightiest musical behemoths unleashed this year.
  13. KHEMMIS - Hunted
    Five epic hymns of heavy doom metal with majestic mournful lead vocals and royal Iron Maiden style twin guitars. Add some growling, sludge and dirty rock'n'roll here. Add some funeral doom and post metal there. Write some thrilling lyrics and wrap it all in a super badass cover artwork. There you have it: a masterpiece!
  14. CULT OF LUNA and JULIE CHRISTMAS - Mariner
    Years after "The Bad Wife" here's finally a new vital sign from the excentric and versatile Ex-Made Out Of Babies singer Julie Christmas, a collaborative album with Sweden's post metal force Cult Of Luna! You get everything you could wish for from both involved parties.
  15. THE NEAL MORSE BAND - The Similitude Of A Dream
    Wow, more prog in this list than I would have expected! While I put some others above this one for bringing more fresh twists to the genre in their overall approach, there's no way to ignore the sheer quality, creativity and joy of the traditional symphonic prog on The Neal Morse Band's giant concept album. Often reminiscent of Spock's Beard's "Snow" this is a fantastic - or dare I say truly *cough* astonishing? *wink* - work. 
  16. SINISTRO - Semente
    Originally an instrumental quartet playing a mixture of post rock, doom and ambient film score music, Sinistro have since partnered with singer / theater actress Patricia Andrade, who is now fully incorporated into the band. Her dramatic portuguese vocals leave a huge imprint on this heavy, mesmerizing record. The hauntingly beautiful "Relíquia" is a composition for the ages.
  17. THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM
    - Monolith Of Phobos
    Does it take any convincing to love an album which ends with an autobiographical(!) song about Michael Jackson's chimpanzee Bubbles, followed by an instrumental called "There's No Underwear In Space?" Well, that's just a small taste of all the craziness and greatness on this collaboration between Primus mastermind Les Claypool and Yoko Ono's son Sean Lennon, who both played every single instrument (and also did the artwork) of this record.
  18. ALCEST - Kodama
    Cloud-caressing shoegaze dreams meet piercing post black metal screams. Otherworldly beauty merges with harsh intensity. No matter how you put it, this Japanese influenced work of the French duo Alcest wasn't made to be described in  inadequate mortal terms, but rather to be experienced. Feel the stream and float in its transcendency!
  19.  WANG WEN - Sweet Home, Go!
    Mono's spiritual brothers from China strike and enlighten us with this beautifully packed double LP. (Kudos Pelagic Records for always implementing such unusual visual ideas!) This time almost fully instrumental, Wang Wen sound as big, wide, poetic and colourful as a Zhang Yimou movie, without trying to copy their previous masterpiece "Eight Horses". A phenomenal band.
  20. VIRUS - Memento Collider
    Ever imagined Captain Beefheart covering Voivod's "Nothingface"? I hope so, because that's really the closest description of the sound of Virus I can give you. There's just nothing like this unique, slightly disharmonic brand of weirdadelic progressive rock, which always seems to be laid back and hyperactive at the same time. Fabulous stuff!
  21. THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN - Dissociation
    The world isn't worthy of The Dillinger Escape Plan. So fuck the world! But of course the mathcore pioneers don't leave us without fustigating our weak little minds through one last sonic and emotional excess of brutalization. As Greg Puciato channels his inner Mike Patton again, "Dissociation" combines all the strenghts of the band's history with some welcome surprises.
  22. KANDODO / MCBAIN - Lost Chants / Last Chance
    And here I am already feeling bad for not including enough psych rock jams in this list. So let there at least be a shout-out to the great works of Monarch, Sula Bassana and Causa Sui, before I conclude with this outstanding "double double album", which is meant to be played at 33 or 45 rpm. And its trippy magic works in both speeds!

Many more artist would have deserved to be mentioned here (like Kayo Dot, King Dude, Kendrick Lamar, Conan, A Dead Forest Index etc.) and of course there are countless more, who I would hold dear if I only knew them, or whose albums I should finally cross off my consideration / wish list and purchase. (I'm talking about you, Oranssi Pazuzu. Still not sure about Metallica.)

And then there's this late arrival:
  • DISHARMONIC ORCHESTRA - Fear Of Angst
    After fourteen years of absence the Austrian Virus of Death Metal return with a crisp riff-heavy record which concentrates (almost) all the strengths of their discography to nine irresistible bastards of old school death metal, Coroner grooves and all that unmistakable, unique disharmonic stuff. I included the album here, because this is very likely TOP 22 stuff, but it's just too early to tell, and I want to publish this post now. 





SOLO/CLUB SHOW TOP 11:



  1. LAIBACH - Krizanke, Ljubljana
    Even though it felt strange to be so far away from the stage, this is the unrivaled number one here, because... come on: Laibach! In Ljubljana! With an orchestra! *checks lifetime experience*
  2. MAGMA - Markthalle, Hamburg
    Magma is Magma is Magma. And there is nothing else like Magma. Unbelievable!
  3. MONO + ALCEST + PG.LOST
    - Uebel & Gefährlich, Hamburg

    The triumvirate of the transcendent. An escapist dream ride. Best tour package of the year!
  4. SWANS + ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF
    - Kampnagel, Hamburg
    All good things go by threes. The final Kampnagel show of this Swans incarnation, with a truly congenius support act.
  5. BOHREN UND DER CLUB OF GORE
    - Kampnagel, Hamburg
    Smooth slow moving waves of doom jazz.
  6. LAIBACH - Knust, Hamburg
    "The Sound Of Music" tour. Not the ideal location for their grandiosity, but Laibach always deliver.
  7. RADARE - MS Stubnitz, Hamburg
    The whole night with Toby Driver and Nick Hudson was a special experience, but the concert of these german Bohren worshippers rose to the most out-of-body magical heights.
  8. SUNN O))) + BIG|BRAVE - Feierwerk, München
    Damn travelling day through Germany! Or was it the small location? Anyway, I didn't survive the whole drone experience in the first row this time. And another show with a perfect support act.
  9. KAMASI WASHINGTON - Grünspan, Hamburg
    No open air jazz session as expected, but much funkier than the last time.
  10. LUCIFER - Hafenklang, Hamburg
    The addition of a second guitar player and the integration of more background vocals elevate the timeless doom rock of Lucifer to a new level.
  11. ARCHIVE - Docks, Hamburg
    The new album is subpar to their previous releases, but luckily I had bought the ticket for the nonetheless  amazing show long before I heard it.
 


FESTIVAL SHOW TOP 11:


Tau Cross

  1. TAU CROSS - Roadburn
    Rob "The Baron" Miller + Michel "Away" Langevin = absolutely legendary
  2. LA MUERTE - Roadburn
    Kustom Kar Kompetition Kult!
  3. SINISTRO - Roadburn
    Epic cinema from the Euro Champs (Portugal, you know...) of doom.
  4. NEW KEEPERS OF THE WATER TOWERS - Roadburn
    So many great "Man, I was there!" performances on the tiny Cul de Sac club stage this year, and the New Keepers stood out among those.
  5. TRIPTYKON - Wacken
    With death, doom and gloom and a set of Celtic Frost classics and Triptykon epics Thomas Gabriel Fischer ruled Wacken supreme.
  6. KING DUDE - Wacken
    Blacker than most artists in Wacken, yet a slightly different kind of black.
  7. DOOL - Roadburn
    With the release of their debut in February Dool will soon explode in popularity, that's for sure. Their combination of gothic rock and The Devil's Blood metal is just too damn good.
  8. IRON MAIDEN - Wacken
    Promising up-and-coming heavy metal band. Worth checking out.
  9. MYRKUR - Wacken
    Fairy and banshee in one, Myrkur evoked a truly otherworldy magic Wacken isn't used to. A performance that exceeded my high expectations.
  10. MINISTRY - Wacken
    The mind is a terrible psalm of rape and honey. Halleluhjah!
  11. HILLS - Roadburn
    The higher the Hills, the trippier the trip.



My favorite EPs, live recordings and other formats as well as my 2016 disappointments can be found... -->  HERE!

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