7) Allegaeon, Proponent for Sentience (Metal Blade)
Music news outlets spent so much of 2016 focused on Allegaeon’s Patreon efforts and the pros/cons of crowdfunding that the release of Proponent for Sentience got lost in the shuffle very quickly. That is an absolute shame, because this record is a technical masterpiece. Allegaeon has only gotten more intelligent and thought-provoking with their music as time has gone on, and Proponent for Sentience follows that pattern as being the band’s most ambitious offering to date. With an album-spanning throughline devoted to scientific development and innovation, this album is an intriguing listen for both the musical elements and the lyrical content. Add in an excellent cover of the Rush hit “Subdivisions”, and you have a dream album for any fan of technical or progressive metal.
Highlights: “Proponent for Sentience I – The Conception”, “Proponent for Sentience III – The Extermination”
6) Dark Tranquillity, Atoma (Century Media)
It has been a long time since I have been this genuinely impressed by a record from one of the original Gothenburg melodic death metal bands. Sure, it’s usually a safe bet that they will release solid records every time, but Dark Tranquillity’s Atoma hits a sweet spot that has been dormant for far too long. This album, to the casual listener, may sound basically equivalent to 2013’s Construct, but the subtle touches that longtime fans and those with musical training will hear are sure to impress. Dark Tranquillity set out to make Atoma the most complete, well-rounded album of their storied career, and they succeeded with flying colors. I have not heard a Gothenburg-style record with this much precision and nuance in years, and I am thrilled by what is offered here.
Highlights: “Atoma”, “Force of Hand”
5) Killswitch Engage, Incarnate (Roadrunner)
I said it six months ago, and I will repeat it here: Incarnate is the best album Killswitch Engage has ever released, hands down. Yes, this even beats the legendary Alive or Just Breathing in my book. The landmark album from 2002 has defined metalcore since its release, and is usually the standard by which most other albums are measured. 2016 KSE is a far different beast than 2002 KSE, though. The band is now able to be bold in their musical expression, and that boldness has only made them better over time. On the surface, not much has changed – Jesse Leach is still one of the best singers in all of metal, Adam Dutkiewicz is still the wizard that I described above, and the rest of the band is still among the best musicians the genre has ever seen. But the maturity and growth of fourteen years leaves an indelible mark, and it pushes Incarnate over the edge as Killswitch’s best of all time.
Highlights: “Hate by Design”, “Until the Day”, “The Great Deceit”