November 2016 Best Heavy Metal Albums

As 2016 winds down, it’s time to start putting together those year-end lists. But before we do, there’s still November’s best. It was another strong month, with both big names and up and comers making our list of the month’s best.

Dark Tranquillity - Atoma
Century Media Records

1. Dark Tranquillity – Atoma(Century Media)

Dark Tranquillity are one of the pioneers of melodic death metal, celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. While their style has undergone some changes over the years, you can still hear the Gotenburg sound in their DNA. Their latest album Atoma is their strongest in quite a while.

The songs are streamlined and memorable, with catchy choruses augmented by atmsopheric keyboards and excellent guitar work. Mikael Stanne’s vocal performance is outstanding, blending growls and melodic singing with a convincing delivery. The songwriting is top-notch, the musicianship first-rate, and a quarter century into their career, Dark Tranquillity are still one of melodeath’s best bands.

Metallica - Hardwired...To Self Destruct
Blackened Recordings

2. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self Destruct (Blackened)

This time around it feels like Metallica are once again playing for themselves. Most of the material is mid tempo, incredibly heavy and bookended by two blazingly fast paced scorchers. Where Death Magnetic seemed a tad forced and finds the band trying hard to recreate their early style, Hardwired..To Self Destruct is more organic and contains influences from all eras of their career.

Much more mid-tempo than initially imagined, the songs take multiple listens to fully comprehend and be digested. There are five instant classics that still find them executing metal at its finest level. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another eight years for the follow up.

Vader - The Empire
Nuclear Blast Records

3. Vader – The Empire (Nuclear Blast)

Although Tibi Et Igni is a solid album, The Empire is much better with efficiently written songs, stellar, extremely tight musicianship and solid production. The Empire also features songs that proceed at a less than breakneck speed, instead going for a mid-paced gallop that reveals thrash metal as one of Vader’s early influences.

Expertly interweaving the slower songs within the out and out corkers has allowed Vader to produce a stellar album that sits alongside their best work very nicely. The album is also a little short at 34 minutes, but the short running time (a full eight minutes shorter than Tibi Et Igni) gives it a taut efficiency, thereby enhancing its intensity even more.

Martyrdod - List
Southern Lord Records

4. Martyrdod – List (Southern Lord)

Following the critical success of their prior album Elddop, Martyrdod have graced us with List; an aptly titled album that is almost a set of rules for how this kind of hardcore should be presented in 2016.

List is chock full of heavy crust, which when more closely examined, becomes exceptionally more and more melodic. Take for example the title track; it bobs and weaves within a traditional hardcore structure but can at times be moving and beautiful. On the other hand, “Wipeout” starts like the beginning of a Bolt Thrower song before following a very punk framework.

Setentia - Darkness Transcend
Blood Music

5. Setentia – Darkness Transcend (Blood)

The New Zealand band Setentia have been around for several years, but Darkness Transcend is their debut album. It was certainly worth the wait.

Their triple guitar attack is put to good use on the album, with innovative, progressive sections in addition to crushing blackened death metal. Extremity and brutality abound, but it’s tempered and contrasted by introspective and somber parts. Controlled chaos, precise technicality and creativity are all on display. Top-notch songwriting and first-class musicianship make this an impressive debut album.

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