This could almost be the top 10 Hard rock albums of 2016, as many of these bands ride the line between what is metal and what is not. These are the band's you are much more likely to hear on your Sirrus Radio or any air waves that venture into metal like KNAC. Some of these are veterans who are back in fighting shape and the very fact that they are mainstream means they have already paid their dues in the clubs at the very least. These are no the kind of bands sites like Cvlt Nation would cover, but are more likely to be found in the few print sources at their so if you have still not figured out how we are defining mainstream then go back to sniffing glue, here are your top ten mainstream metal albums of 2016.
10-Flotsam and Jetsam -s/t
It's been a good year so far for the legends of metal, both Anthrax and Metal Church returned with strong albums lets see if Arizona's thrash lords can do the same. Granted their first three albums were their best, they did not have as long of a prolific run as Anthrax. Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner is on the throne for this one, but three of the original members are still intact. Eric AK's voice has taken some wear and tear. It's still powerful, but gone are the yodels that once rivaled King Diamond's upper range. King Diamond still has it so I expect to hear him attempt one. They can still thrash with authority on the opener and don't slow down for better or for worse
9-Daniel Lioneye- "Vol. 3"
The solo band of H.I.M guitarist Linde Lindstorm, takes out the bulk of the cheese that was stinking up the later H.I.M albums. Said to have been more influenced by black metal than his work with H.i.M, I'll say it's heavier but not black metal. The vocals are baritone croon, not far from what Vile did in H.I.M, just less gasped and over accented. It's right at the border of metal and hard rock for me. H.I.M often referred to their sound as "love metal" which was another way for saying we make music for girls and sissy boys. This is not as sissy boy as Linda former band, but if you are a regular reader here then chances are this won't cut it as metal for you regardless of how many times they opened for Cradle of Filth. Judged on it's own merits as hard rock, its pretty decent.
8-Metal Church- "XI"
The Metal gods of yesteryear are coming back strong this year.Things have changed since Metal Church's electric steeple was held high. While well written I don't think "Killing Your Time" is actually metal and falls on more the the hard rock side of the coin. Chances are if this is your idea of metal you too have failed to change with the times. The strum of an acoustic guitar starts of the more aggressive attack of "No Tomorrow". When "Blessing in Disguise" came out the band as actually thrashing, but here they are only marginally heavier than W.A.S.P.
Mike Howe's voice sounds great. He has a good blend of grit and singing actual notes. His melody on the chorus of "No Tomorrow" couldn't be more solid. "Signal Path" has more of a classic metal vibe, that most of us think of us power-metal these days.
7- Moonsorrow-" Jumalten Aika"
It's been five years since the Finnish overlords of pagan metal left us with "Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa". The album opens with folk instruments creating a ritualistic aura.After a minute and a half of this they storm into the kinda of larger than life metal you have come to expect from them. The black metal side of what they do is toned down on this album.They have more in common the more epic side of folk metal. Holding true to their mission statement this does have a commanding viking feel, without inspiring you to go into a jig with your drinking horn. They wait is in some part due to the ambitious production value this album was crafted with. The drums have enough thunder to make Thor jealous. Production wise this might be their biggest drum sound yet. This drummer might have always been a monster, but this albums really shines a spotlight on the fact.
6- Red Fang - "Only Ghosts"
In the past when I heard them I thought they were a little derivative of Kyuss. While they are not re-inventing the wheel here, and are arguably taking more inspiration from the more hooky direction Torche went in back in 2008 on "Meanderthal", the songs are well written and by the time the vocals switch over into the hook, I am enjoying myself. The riff to "Cut It Short " owes more to Devo's "Girl You Want" or Kiss' "Rocket Ride" than any Black Sabbath song. Ross Robinson did a good job here. I like the production on the vocals and there is a great bass tone this album. I am not sure this is what I would call metal as is rocks about as hard as the Foo- Fighters or Queens of the Stone-age.
The Deftones are the last nu-metal band standing that changed in their house of flies enough to remain relevant as the years have passed them by. Sergio Vega from Quicksand continues to fill in on bass making this his 3rd album with the band. The album opens with the moody "Prayers / Triangles" that benefits from one of Chino's smoother melodies that fits like a velvet glove on the groove. A more trip hop layer of atmosphere leads into "Acid Hologram". It swells into a Mogwai like drone. With very emo tinged vocals giving a fey croon that sounds like something more fitting of My Chemical Romance or Coheed & Cambria. The heavier "Doomed User" is the second single from the album. It is much more in your face metal, with a riff that reminds me of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". Chino's vocals are all over the place on it until finding a smoother hook. The intro "Geometric Headdress" fakes like they are taking a darker turn until the more chugged riff comes. Chino throws in some his old screams. It feels like Slipknot getting more melodic and if it wasn't for the way the riff resolves itself then I would think this is an April Fools joke and someone slipped some Mudvayne in on me. It's unapologetic nu-metal. They earn their place, bu still writing some good songs and being heavier than expected.
It seems the French purveyors of what was once hailed as black gaze have decided to at least try to be a rock band. The title track has more of a Pink Floyd like jangling drone to it. While this is far from black metal it is a more suitable extension of growth than their previous album which had little in the way of balls to it. They do flirt with blast beats on the second song, but it smooths out into the more fey touched indie rock. In some ways this is closer to what they once did than the title track, however my initial impression is that the title track is better even though harshly screamed vocals re-surface. I respect this since between Opeth and the Used, this seems to be something many singers are unwilling to re-visit, which I think is as much of a cop out as only relying on screaming.There are some pretty awesome guitar tones on this album. While there is little by way of soloing, I think the tones are impeccable. They do have plenty of the older shoe gazey epic guitar lines soaring over the fairy forests for you. I don't need Alcest to re-make their first two albums. I just want to hear that they are still the band that I used to love and not abandon their metal roots altogether, along with writing good songs. This album tends to fall within those bounds. They do eventually revert back to almost full blown black metal, the only thing keeping them from it is the guitar sticks to dreamier sonic scope.
3-Rob Zombie- "Electric Warlock Acid Witch"
I love me some White Zombie, I was on for the ride the more Stooges like "Make them Die Slowly" so when "La Sexcisto" came out I was confused as to why they sounded like Metallica. The band hit their stride during the peak of my drug summer when "Astro-Creep" came out. I have caught Rob a few times live since the band broke up, but never caught on with his solo work cus I wanted White Zombie, the last of the Demons Defeated "Satanic Cyanide/ the Killer Rocks On" slows down and has more rock to it than the more electronic thump I associate with his solo work. Overall the songs can become rather infectous here if you are just on for some big dumb fun, much like his movies.
2- Katatonia- 'the Fall of Hearts"
The gloomy Swedes have pretty much become a prog band at this point. The Opeth like cadence that builds the opener when the distortion is stomped on makes sense considering the acrobatics the guitars have already engaged in leading up to that point. "In Absentina" ear Porcupine Tree might also come to mind. This is not to say there is not plenty of the band's own DNA all over this song. Jonas' vocals are unmistakable.The album is very crisp from a production stand point, which lightens the shade of gray cast over these songs. Jonas doesn't have the same melancholic desperation fueling his vocals, yet he doesn't stray from his style. He sounds more hopeful, though lyrically the same themes seem to be present. The guitar work on this album is stunning. I am not sure how much of that owes thanks to Roger Ojersson from Tiamat who is another new addition to the band. If you are going to do prog-rock, this is the way to go as songwriting and melody have more value than showcasing chops or trying to create some kind of obtuse sonic puzzle. Their new drummer Daniel Moilanen, does't make me go "Damn, Daniel", but he does play very tastefully around the more progressive part to create more jazz influenced passages. This is a surprise knowing he comes from Heavydeath and other more extreme Swedish acts.
Anthrax used to be one of my favorite bands and to this day "Among the Living " is without a doubt one of the best metal albums ever with "Spreading the Disease" not too far behind. I hung tough with the band for the first six albums, even liking Jon Bush's first album. Then we grew apart. "Worship Music" saw the return of singer Joey Belladonna, but I never gave it a shot. I am giving them a chance here and while Belladonna might be 55, but I just reviewed the new David Bowie, and he is 69 so no body is slipping by due to age. Age might have helped Anthrax here , because with age Belladonna's voice is lower than even on "Persistence of Time" , but it gives him more aggression, which might have helped on albums like the almost too happy "State of Euphoria". There is younger blood injected in the band as Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall is now in the band. They a surprisingly melodic section into the middle of the opener before thrashing back into it. They do not let up on the heavy with "Monster at the End", though it has a smoother groove allowing Belladonna's vocals to coast into a hookier chorus. A little less thrash and closer to mainstream metal, it's still a solid headbanger .