Finally, after what seems like an age, my ‘Album of the Year 2016’ top 30 countdown reaches the top 10, those ten albums that have made the biggest impact upon me over the past year.
As I’ve said many times throughout this series, this isn’t anything other than one person’s personal thoughts on the year in music. There are going to be some glaring omissions as far as many are concerned. For a start, I’ll let you into a secret: Metallica are not included in this list; they’re not even close, despite their new record being the best for far too many years to count. And there will be others who aren’t included as well, which might raise an eyebrow or two. But hey, it’s my list, so what I say goes!
And on that rather bullish note, it’s time to get on with revealing my top 10, starting with today’s choice at 10. There’s just time to mention that all of the other posts in this series can be viewed via links at the bottom of this page, so please check them out if you haven’t already done so.
“After a few weeks, I have several adjectives running through my mind, many of which have become stronger and more defined the more familiar I get with the album. Words like ‘smooth’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘refined’ sit comfortably alongside ‘adept’, ‘confident’ and ‘assured’.
You can probably tell therefore, that I like ‘Naturalis’. But that’s not entirely accurate. I love this album. There is so much within it to enjoy and discover; it will take more than a cursory listen to fully appreciate it and that’s one of the beauties of this record.
…on ‘Naturalis’, Maschine just have a knack of making the most complex and challenging music sound so gorgeous, effortless and smooth. Add to the mix a strong production and lyrics that don’t shy away from the big topics of the day and ‘Naturalis’ begins to add up to a very commanding release indeed. I’m thoroughly smitten and can only conclude that if you’re a fan of intelligent and ambitious progressive music, Maschine are an essential addition to your collection.”
‘Naturalis’ might have been one of the last releases of the year to be featured on the Blog Of Much Metal but, thanks to the lovely people at InsideOut, I was treated to a generous advance preview period, in which time I was able to sink my teeth deeply into this sophomore album from UK proggers Maschine. Mind you, I needed that time to even begin to fully appreciate everything that such an ambitious and complex record had to offer.
It was time well spent because ‘Naturalis’ has become a firm favourite at the Mansion of Much Metal. It isn’t hard to see why either, because this is a thoroughly immersive and sophisticated listen, one that I have found difficult from which to extricate. But then, I’m not sure I want to.
If their debut was a superb starter for ten, this follow-up has upped the ante in just about every department. As my quotes above indicate, ‘Naturalis’ has to be one of the most complex yet smoothest and subtle releases of the year. The album is littered with clever nuances and impressive intricacies but yet it manages to blend the technicalities and superb musicianship with confident songwriting, plenty of atmospheres and strong melodic sensibilities. The result is an album where every song contains something irresistible, begging a repeat play almost immediately. And, as I have discovered over the past couple of months, the music just gets better the more I listen. Who knows where within my list it might have been if it had been released a few months earlier. This is sophisticated prog and I love it.
In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2016 – number 13
Album of the Year 2016 – number 14
Album of the Year 2016 – number 15
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2016 – number 17
Album of the Year 2016 – number 18
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2016 – number 20
Album of the Year 2016 – number 21
Album of the Year 2016 – number 22
Album of the Year 2016 – number 23
Album of the Year 2016 – number 24
Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30
And from previous years: