Welcome to the second instalment of my half-year round-up where I summarise my favourite albums that have been released during the first half of 2016. As I stated in Part 1, this year has been tremendously strong and so the candidates that feature in this list are all of the highest possible quality.
So here goes with another batch of sonic brilliance:
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
I have absolutely no hesitation as lauding Finnish sextet Omnium Gatherum as one of the very best melodic death metal bands on the planet. And ‘Grey Heavens’ further enhances my stance. More aggressive and darker than its predecessor, this latest opus is nevertheless the perfect blend of extreme metal, groove and elegant AOR-like melodies. Brilliant.
“It is exactly the kind of album that I hoped for from this talented group of musicians, a band that continue to grow and go from strength to strength. With ’Grey Heavens’, Omnium Gatherum have just increased their stock further and, for me at least, stand at the very summit of the melodic death metal genre.” – read my full review here: Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Redemption – The Art of Loss
Metal Blade Records
American prog metal band Redemption have always had a knack of combining the all-out shredding power and technicality of progressive metal with great melodies and an impressive emotional depth. ‘The Art Of Loss’ is arguably the best that an already high-quality band have produced, thanks to some very strong songwriting, excellent individual performances and their richest production to date. Oh, and the guitar solos are absolutely killer too!
“So how do I sum up an album like ‘The Art Of Loss’? Unlike the music itself, it’s an easy task. Quite simply, it is a magnificent body of work that plays to all of the plentiful strengths of the band. This is all-out progressive metal that combines technicality and superb musicianship with genuine heaviness and all the sumptuous melodies and hooks that you could possibly wish for. As a result, ‘The Art Of Loss’ will not only delight the faithful and probably lead to claims that it is their masterpiece, but is sure to bring a few new fans to their cause.” – read my full review here: Redemption – The Art Of Loss
In Mourning – Afterglow
Having not been high on my list of anticipated 2016 releases, I was expecting something solid from In Mourning. However, as it turned out, I got a lot more than I bargained for. Crushing and intense death/doom metal with a progressive flourish or two and plenty of majestic melodies is the order of the day and, as someone with a soft spot for this kind of music, it presses all my buttons, delighting at every turn.
“I am hugely impressed by what I have heard. There’s not a weak track anywhere to be found and the consistency of the song writing and indeed the execution is out of the top drawer…’Afterglow’ is a damn fine record and is one of the finest melodic death/doom releases I’ve heard in a while, right up there with label mates October Tide and last year’s opus from Swallow The Sun. Highly recommended.” – read my full review here: In Mourning – Afterglow
Airbag – Disconnected
If you’re looking for an album that sounds smooth, majestic and elegant, then Airbag are the band for you. The Norwegian progressive rockers play music that sounds simple and effortless but in truth, it is anything but. The songs themselves are deceptive; cleverly composed and dripping with atmosphere and emotion, Airbag deliver sophisticated music for the discerning ear.
“‘Disconnected’ is a devastating album. On the one hand, it sounds so simple, so unassuming. However, give it your full attention and the magic starts to flow. Emotionally charged, epic and beautiful, there’s unlikely to be a more majestic progressive rock album released this year. This really is a wonderful album and I love it.” – read my full review here: Airbag – Disconnected
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Odd Logic are another of those wonderful surprises for me in 2016. I hadn’t heard anything about them until I took a listen based on a recommendation. I’m glad I did, because this American progressive metal band have delivered a superb and intriguing record that’s properly challenging and occasionally quirky, just like prog should be. Blending all kinds of different musical influences, I’m kept on my toes and thoroughly entertained from start to finish. How are these guys still unsigned?
“I adore this record because it delivers exactly what I like in my music. It is heavy, melodic, complex, intelligent, surprisingly emotional and thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.” – read my full review here: Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Grand Magus – Sword Songs
When I last heard Grand Magus, several years ago admittedly, I wasn’t too enamoured with their brand of doom-laden heavy metal. Fast forward to 2016 and I cautiously gave the Swedish trio another chance. What I hadn’t realised was that, in the intervening period, Grand Magus had steadily reduced the doom aspect of their sound to allow the classic, traditional heavy metal to shine through. The result is a highly addictive set of metal anthems that I find myself gravitating to on a frighteningly frequent basis.
“Above all, what I love most about ‘Sword Songs’ and Grand Magus is the honesty of the music, the sense of fun and enjoyment that comes across in the songs…Yes, they may have veered away from their early doom influences but their integrity towards the classic heavy metal ethos is hugely refreshing. If you want to remind yourself of what attracted you to heavy metal in the first place, ‘Sword Songs’ is the place to start.” – read my full review here: Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’