3) Alcest, Kodama (Prophecy)
The most gorgeous album I have heard this year came from Alcest, which isn’t a surprise if you’ve ever listened to the band before. On Kodama, Alcest finds just the right balance of blissful shoegazey passages and the harsh tones and vocals of black metal. Some may call it a return to form, but I call it Alcest just continuing a streak of wonderful albums that walk the line between heavy and tranquil.
Key Track: “Kodama”
2) Zeal and Ardor, Devil Is Fine (Self-Released)
Blues is the root of many a musical genre, but that doesn’t mean you can just up and combine it with the likes of black metal and trip hop, right? Well, that’s exactly what Manuel Gagneux did with his one-man band Zeal and Ardor, perplexing listeners with howling blues vocals and the fuzzy tremolo picking of black metal before shifting gears into electronic interludes. And it works. It might be a bit jarring at first, but the searing old school blues punctuated with black metal shrieking makes for an album that has stuck with me in the many months since its release.
Key Track: “Come On Down”
1) Dream Theater, The Astonishing (Roadrunner)
There are very few concept albums/rock operas where I have actually gotten caught up in the story. Hell, sometimes I forget there’s a story at all. So, while I knew Dream Theater would deliver with The Astonishing on some scale, I didn’t anticipate how captivated I would be on my first listen. The story of a dystopian world without music isn’t unheard of (2112 anyone?), but the added depth of a whole website of lore and the band’s tried and true musical ability make The Astonishing the first album I can genuinely say I’ve listened to for the story. That alone makes the album worth being my top pick for 2016.
Key Track: “The Gift of Music”
Gojira, Magma (Roadrunner)
Ihsahn, Arktis. (Candlelight)
Metallica, Hardwired…to Self Destruct
letlive., If I’m The Devil (Epitaph)