Today we begin counting down The Listening Chaos’s Top-25 Albums of 2016. Instead of giving you all twenty-five albums at once, we’re going to spread it out over the course of five days, covering five albums per day. My hope is that releasing the list in smaller chunks might make it more likely that readers will check out records they weren’t already familiar with and possibly find some new favorite albums of their own. Also, it builds some suspense, and that’s never a bad thing.
So without any further ado, here’s Part I of The Year-End Chaos
25. Youth Code – Commitment to Complications
So I completely missed this album when it came out back in April, probably because Youth Code isn’t exactly a metal band. They’re actually EBM/industrial, but they approach the genre with a hardcore punk attitude that has earned them frequent comparison to Skinny Puppy, Twitch-era Ministry, and some early Wax Trax! stuff like Front 242 or Front Line Assembly (in fact, ex-FLA member Rhys Fulber produced Commitment). Youth Code do have some metal friends, though: Ben Falgoust of Goatwhore and Todd Jones of Nails both appear on the album, and they’ve toured recently with Baroness (which is how I got hep to them), and with Tribulation + Horrendous. So don’t let the EBM tag dissuade you from giving this a listen – this record is as abrasive and dissonant as any metal record that came out this year, and vocalist Sara Taylor sounds like she could totally kick your ass, even on the slower songs. Definitely see them live if you get the chance.
24. Devil to Pay – A Bend Through Space and Time
The fifth full-length from this long-running Indy outfit just might be the band’s strongest outing yet. What I’m finding I appreciate the most about the record is its mix of tracks that grabbed me instantly and those that have grown on me more over time. At first, my favorite songs were the total earworm “Kerfuffle” and the super gnarly “Your Inner Lemmy,” but lately I’ve been gravitating more towards the lumbering caveman riffing of “Knuckledragger” and the groovy “Laughingstock.” I haven’t had a chance to see them since the record came out, but I’m looking forward to hearing how these songs translate live.
23. Cobalt – Slow Forever
I know a lot of people were kind of skeptical about this record before it dropped (myself included), but Erik Wunder definitely knew what he was doing when he tapped Charlie Fell (ex-Lord Mantis, ex-Abigail Williams, ex-Nachtmystium) to replace the acrimoniously departed Phil McSorely for Cobalt’s first new album in nearly seven years. Wunder also proved wise in essentially abandoning the black metal of their previous album, the critically-lauded Gin, for something far more primal and ugly. This is an emotionally exhausting record, with Fell’s vocal performance in particular is practically overflowing with self-loathing and rage. Hopefully it doesn’t take another seven years for Wunder to follow this one up.
22. Void King – There is Nothing
Void King kind of snuck up on me. The IMS crew just missed their set opening for Stonecutters back in March, and then a couple months later There is Nothing comes out and completely blows me away. Two things separate Void King from their stoner/doom peers: the grungy undertones in Tommy Millers’ riffing, and Jason Kindred’s Danzig-esque lead vocals. Also: I finally got them the other night, and they are a force to be reckoned with live. They also played a trio of new songs that have me already expecting them to take a slot on next year’s best-of list as well. Brothers and sisters, praise the riff!
21. Cough – Still They Pray
Speaking of long layoffs, six years elapsed between Cough’s last full-length Ritual Abuse and Still They Pray. I don’t know what happened in the interim, but the end result was worth the wait: huge riffs, tasty leads, and Parker Chandler’s clean vocals sound stronger than ever. It’s also depressing as fuck, but Jus Oborn’s (of Electric Wizard fame/infamy) production has it sounding so god damned good that it cheers me up anyway whenever I listen to it. I also appreciate the way the band’s love of American traditional music has found its way into the songwriting, especially on “Dead Among the Roses.”
Check back tomorrow for Part II.