It’s been a pretty long, insane year for metal with a lot of excellent music in it. A common complaint among people putting together these lists have been that there’s been almost too much music to condense into one list. That’s a great problem to have. The popularity of streaming services and/or YouTube have made it easier than ever to listen to new music, so even if people are buying less music than before, they’re listening to more of it than ever before. There’s probably a ton of stuff I’m forgetting or haven’t gotten to spend enough time with, but here’s what I spent a lot of time listening to this year.
10) Machine Head, Bloodstone & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)
I’m a little conflicted on this. The band’s eighth album is long. Too long. It could have easily lost three or four songs and would’ve been higher on the list than this. But Machine Head are undeniable. From epic thrash to Robb Flynn’s sometimes emotional crooning, the band up the ambition on this album, turning in an album that’s better than Unto the Locust but not quite as good (or as surprising) as The Blackening.
Key Track: “Night of Long Knives”
Starting with The Hunter, Mastodon stopped with the weighty concept albums and just started writing songs. So what happens when a band who innovated on every album concentrates on the song as opposed to the album and just starts having fun? You get an album like Once More ‘Round the Sun, which is not only far removed from the band’s first two albums, but almost equally so from their middle two as well. They still know their way around a hook though, and while they might shed some old school fans with every album, they’re picking up new ones constantly, like the ones that appeared in the video for “The Motherload.” Will this album wind up playing while kids party in the woods? We’d be willing to bet it has. That this might be my least favorite Mastodon album and that it’s still in my top ten speaks to how much I like this band.
Key track: “The Motherload”
Is this technically a metal record? Opeth probably don’t give a fuck. The band are making the music they want to make, and the fact that it sounds like 70s prog more than ever is of no concern to Mikael Akerfeldt. The band’s transition from death metal to what they’ve become had been gradually happening, but Heritage threw a lot of people for a loop. This is an evolution of that album in every way. It’s slightly rockier, definitely a little weirder, and opens up a little more at every listen.
Key Track: “Eternal Rains Will Come”