And now it’s time to draw attention to the music related aspects of 2016. Music is a pretty huge part of my life. In fact, it is life! I can’t stand the sound of silence (except for the song, it’s a brilliant song), and I need music to fill in that void. As much as I can’t picture life without videogames, I can’t picture life without music either.
2016 was a fantastic year for new album releases! So much in fact, that I had a great difficulty whittling the list of my favourite albums of the year to just 10. Alas, after much thought and listening, I finally managed to get the list down. Believe me, this was no easy task! Infact, I cheated and added an extra album, I just couldn’t knock any of these off the list, they’re all too good! Needless to say, the ones listed here are of the highest quality. I admit, they may not be for everyone (as I’m into so many alternative genres), but hopefully some of you will find some gems here. Without further ado, I proudly present my top 11 albums of 2016…
Angelspit – Cult of Fake
Genre: Industrial/EBM Label: Black Pill Red Pill
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Zoog Von Rock returned to us with Cult of Fake, and what a hell of an album it is! For the sixth outing, it was promised to be a lot more of a dance album than others in the Angelspit catalogue, and it certainly delivers in that respect. Tracks are filled with harsh stompy dance beats, with catchy hooks and strange, yet genius, progression. Yet, as dance-y as it all is, this is definitely an Angelspit album through-and-through; the trademark recognisable style shinines through, along with it’s aggressive anti-corporate vocals and lyrics. In fact, as much as it treads new ground, it has a very old-school Angelspit feel to it, very reminiscent of the earlier albums. The gritty sounds, and some of the samples definitely bring to mind the days of their debut album, Krankhaus. The album instantly springs to life with opener “Thanks for your Cooperation”, fast pounding drums back the track, as Zoog’s vocals resonate with the catchiness of the rest of the track. “Eat Volts” has some crazy eletro sounds, that echo those seen in the classic 100%, and the continuous pounding drums of “Cult of Fake” cut through distorted soundwaves, whilst “New Devil” has a very catchy sound to it, as it continues the rampage of stompy sounds. “Breath” is a track that really encapsulates the sounds of early industrial tracks, that’s bound to evoke memories of dancing in dark, gritty clubs back in the day, which also carries through to “Happy Murderland.” Again, there’s more flashbacks to earlier Angelspit tracks in “Sky High”, with some excellent melodic styling. “On the list (She’s Not)”, has quite a swagger to it, and is an interesting choice of “cover” too (look up Nine Inch Nails – Strobe Light, and you’ll see what I mean.) Things get quite chaotic in “Disaster Porn”, as a torrent of electro goodness spills through, all climaxing on “My Little Blade”, which is fast-paced and twisted. Overall, the album is a fantastic listen, and it’s great to see so much experimentation with elements of dance. It really resonates well with the Angelspit style, to create a monstrous album that is filled with dancefloor hits. It’s hard to believe that Angelspit has already been going for over 10 years, but with Cult of Fake, it proves that Angelspit is stronger than ever!
Ayria – Paper Dolls
Genere: Synthpop/EBM Label: Alfa-Matrix
Jennifer Parkin has never failed to impress with any of her Ayria albums, and in Paper Dolls, she’s definitely outdone herself! Flowing from her trademark style, the album mixes elements of EBM, Industrial and Synthpop to a beautiful perfection, all with the superbly pitch-perfect production quality from Sebastian Komor. What we have here is an album filled with catchy melodies, anthemic choruses and hypnotic hooks. The proceedings instantly get started with opener “Underneath the Water”, with a harsh electro pop rhythm that is bound to get anyone moving their feet… and this is only track one! Title track “Paper Dolls”, about how social media and technology consumes us, has a darker feel to it, with an interesting change of pace and tempo towards the end. Meanwhile, “Feed Her to the Wolves” continues the dance-y proceedings, with it’s highly catchy sound, and lyrics that are easy to sing-along to. “Deconstruct Me” is a personal favourite of mine, with minimal, atmospheric sounding verses, that build into an absolutely epic chorus. “Sticks and Stones” is much slower, but still retains the cluby feel, whilst also being one of the darker tracks of the album. It covers the topic of abusive relationships, and does indeed pack a lot of emotion within it. “Crash and Burn” has an interesting pace to it, with slow sections that build into a fast frantic frenzy of electronic harmonies and beats, with more aggressive vocals. There’s social commentary here too, with lyrics about how classist society has become, and how it’s affecting our world. “Barren” is more of a ballad, and feels extremely haunting, with overlayed vocals resonating beautifully. Catchy drums and electro-hooks back “You’re So Vacant”, whilst “Not Receiving” has a more astronomical feel, and wouldn’t be out of place amongst the top tracks in Plastic Makes Perfect era. “Fading From Me” is another ballad, sounding very minimal, drawing the main focus on Jennifer Parkin’s vocals. It’s a stunning track. It all ends on “Chameleon”, which opens with atmospheric electronics, progressing into an extremely striking danceable track, making for a big finish. There are no dud tracks here on Paper Dolls, each one stands out on it’s own merits, it’s all killer no filler! Not only are the songs dancefloor fillers, they’re filled with deep, meaningful lyrics, that at times make the listening experience very thought-provoking and relatable. Whether you feel reflective, or feel like dancing, it truly is an album to suit any mood (even though, no matter what, you’ll be dancing by the end of it!) It’s truly a stunning piece of work, and definitely the best Ayria album to date. If you missed out on this one, buy it. You will not regret it!
Chrom – Peak and Decay
Genre: Synthpop Label: Out of Line
With their previous album, Synthetic Movement, being so superbly crafted, Chrom had a difficult task ahead of them to top it. Yet, they’ve managed to do so on Peak and Decay, and then some! It’s an album filled with hits, and epic tracks that are bound to get any club moving. It’s an album that’s beautiful, epic and emotional, whilst also having a high atmosphere and very catchy danceable hooks. Every track is a stand-out, and could easily feature as a single on this record, especially with the majority of the tracks having such huge, anthemic choruses, that could easily have entire rooms full of people singing along in unison. When it comes to the latter, tracks like “I don’t Believe”, “Visions” and “Staring at the Sun” spring to mind, each one containing stunning melodies that you won’t be able to not move to. It even has it’s darker moments, such as the start of “Walked the Line”, as well as the lyrical content of “Murder Fantasies.” Speaking of lyrics, they’re extremely powerful on Peak and Decay, and there’s very deep meaning behind all of them. It remains coherent throughout, and from the get-go, it has the prominently unmistakable catchy electronic sounds that Chrom are known for. The production quality is superb, and the music will always jump out at you, making it easy for you to get lost in it’s atmosphere. If there’s ever any synthpop band that people need to listen to, it’s definitely Chrom, and I’d definitely recommend this album, as it’s their best yet. This is a band that’s only gaining momentum, and with albums of this quality, it’s truly well deserved. They only deserve to grow to greater heights. Mark my words, this band is the next VNV Nation in the making!
Dance With The Dead – The Shape
Genre: Electro/Dance Label: Neuropa
I remember a quote from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back regarding 80’s music, “..for the record the times sucked ass!” I seriously don’t think that could be any more wrong, and that’s certainly proven to be a null statement when it comes to the likes of Dance With The Dead (I know it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but contextualising, yo. I’ve been wanting to get that reference in a post for ages!) The band perfectly mashup 80’s style music and modern dance tropes to create something truly epic. I’ll be honest, I never discovered this band until this release last year… how the hell did I not notice them before?! Opening with the stunningly cinematic sounding, and aptly named, “There’s a Storm Coming”, mesmerising synths herald in a beautifully haunting lament, as strings build up towards the end. Then everything bursts to life with “Eyes of Madness”, a brilliant electro track that clearly establishes the 80’s inspiration. This is a theme that carries throughout the album; 80’s synths bring back echoes of the past, often accompanied by massive chugging guitar riffs, with the occasional screeching solo. Sometimes the action is broken up by stunning, atmospheric ambient synths. All this is presented and produced with a modern sound, with familiar electronic hooks and beats that can be found in modern music. All these elements meld the best on tracks “Riot”, which opens with frenzied drums, before giving way to non-stop electro goodness, and “Horizon”, starting slow and dramatically building into a very fluid dance track, accompanied by an absolutely massive riff half way through. “Adrift” and “Watching You” have an extremely euphoric feel to them, with an excellent use of catchy electro sounds. It all ends fantastically, with the moody finisher “Quietly Into The Night.” Dance With The Dead incorporate a superb range of influences from different eras of music, and mould those into their own sound. The sounds that follow are highly-charged dance tunes of astronomical proportions, oozing with atmosphere and energy. The Shape is a defining album, that makes what is old feel new again.
Def Neon – Def Neon
Genre: Alternative/Electro/Rock Label: AnalogueTrash
Every so often, something unique comes along that catches me off-guard. That was indeed the case with Def Neon, and it blew me away! Initially, it all starts like your typical electronic industrial album, with dark synths backing a highly atmospheric melody. Then, out of nowhere, the first track proper kicks in, “Rotoscope” with a guitar riff that wouldn’t sound out of place in old-school rock ‘n’ roll tracks. This is backed with a synthy beat, a strong vocal performance from lead singer Emily Gresham, and it all somehow melds together brilliantly. From there, “Destroy” keeps this marriage of rock and electro industrial going, although the guitars are more minimal here, but still somehow remain noticeable. “Night Vision” has a more 80’s vibe to it, and is sounds quite poppy, having the addition of space-y synths, “Stand Aside” is a lot more heavy rock by comparison, and has a really badass stand-offish feel to it in it’s style and lyrics. On the flip-side “Jed is Dead” is completely electronic, with modern EBM elements blending together, even with some dubstep influences. The rock elements return in “Damaged”, whilst “Chocolate” is a fast-paced crazy interlude, and is a surprisingly danceable track. “High Hopes” has some pretty rocking riffs going on, contrasted by some haunting electronic sounds. Winter goes extremely poppy, and very aptly feels like a Christmas song, although it does remind me of The Birthday Massacre a little bit (can we get this to Christmas number 1 at some point, please?) Yet more contrast is in place in the final track “Stop.” In all honesty, in text, the mashing of genres sounds like an absolute mess, but it’s really not, it’s quite the opposite. What Def Neon’s debut achieves is a highly experimental alternative album that not only appeals to all walks of the scene, but an is an album that bravely crosses genres in a highly unique fashion that very few bands manage to achieve. If this is only the debut album, and they already sound this amazing, I’m really excited to hear what they come up with next!
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Genere: Metal Label: Century Media
It’s common conception that most bands, as their careers progress and as they get older, that their music gets softer an quieter. If Lacuna Coil‘s Delirium is anything to go by, then that claim is very, very wrong. This is clarified in the opening track “House of Shame”. A haunting choir sings in harmony, then brutal guitars and drums burst in like a runaway frieght train, as Andrea Ferro roars an epic metal growl of death. As he roars out the verses, Cristina Scabbia powers through beautiful and epic harmonies during the dramatic choruses. Tracks like the title track “Delirium” really bring back elements of the band’s earlier work, to the point where it could almost be a track off Comalies. “Blood, Tears, Rust” provides the most aggressive vocal performance from Ferro on the album, and similar to the opener, Cristina Scabbia’s melodies break through the aggressive nature of the track, at one point giving into an amazing bridge section. The slower paced “Downfall” sounds a lot darker than the other tracks, with an atmospheric electronic backing, as Scabbia takes command in the vocal department. “Take Me Home” starts pretty creepily, with children chanting a playground style song, and includes a deep chugging bass hook throughout. It’s pretty relatable to the Karmacode era. Moody ambience fills “You Love Me ‘Cause I Hate you” emphasising the tragic theme of the song, whilst the pace picks up in “Ghost in the Mist”, with some epic guitar work and progressive vocals. Subtle strings are introduced in “My Demons”, giving it a more cinematic feel, with the heaviness of the track complimenting the softer sections nicely. The album rounds-off in style with “Claustrophobia” and “Ultima Radio.” The real driving force of this album, and the reason why I love it so much, is the fact that Delirium is an album filled with contrasts. The aggression, the heaviness gives way to harmonic, beautiful moments, and when both elements are in play at the same time, it melds together immensely. For a while, Andrea Ferro has been getting more and more aggressive with his vocal style, and it’s great to see it finally fully realised, and Crisitina Scabbia’s vocals are more stunning than ever. There’s plenty of aspects of this album that bring back the style heard from the early days, and it’s a welcome return. However, as much as Delirium returns to the bands roots, it also treads some brave new ground with it’s experimental nature. I wasn’t prepared for what this album had to offer, but it’s incredibly epic, and certainly one of Lacuna Coil‘s best.
Mesh – Looking Skyward
Genre: Alternative/Synthpop Label: Dependent
I’m still not sure if this album is better than 2013’s Automation Baby, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s still bloody brilliant! It all kicks of with style on “My Protector”; haunting electronic melodies lead into a catchy riff, and a truly epic chorus. Things get a bit slow and dramatic with “Tactile”, which is a surprising move this early on, but its emotional atmosphere truly packs a punch, moving onto the complete opposite in “The Last One Standing”, with it’s uplifting electronic, almost disco-like dance beat. Slowing things down again, “The Traps We Made” keeps the high level of contrast, with more atmosphere melded in. “Kill Your Darlings”, the lead single for the album, brings in heavy guitars and the darkest tone on the album, with a chorus that is reminiscent of “Born to Lie” from the previous album. “Iris” acts as an interlude, and sounds extremely dark and cinematic, leading into the highly inspiring “Runway”, a definite feel-good track, and a highlight of the album. “Before This World Ends” is a beautiful reflective ballad, that is one that should surely get crowds waving their lighters/phone torches around in slow-motion unification. “Two+1” speeds things up a bit, maintaining the emotion, and the album truly gets speeding up in “The Ride”, a frantic fast-paced electronic track with some cool beats. “There Must Be a Way” is a lovely ballad with prominent sounding minimal synths and beats backing it. “The Fixer” has more electro-disco vibes to it, and is extremely catchy, before ending on “Once Surrounded”, which is quite heavy and dark in comparison. I do admit, the pacing on this album is a bit odd, but it really seems to work in its favour. There’s a massive variety on display here, and it helps certain tracks to really stand out and hit the mark. Even when it slows right down, there’s never a dull minute. Nevertheless, it’s still full of epic, anthemic moments, massive choruses, and it’s truly spellbinding. It carries the quality and sound that can only be found in a Mesh album.
Mick Gordon – DOOM Original Soundtrack
Genre: Metal/Industrial Label: Bethesda
You may remember me praising the game a few blog posts back, and in that very post I stated that DOOM‘s soundtrack is one of the best ever created for a videogame. After such a bold statement, is there any surprise that this album made the list? For ages, there was an outcry for an official release. Then, finally, months later, the soundtrack was unleashed to the public, almost out of nowhere. It was a glorious day, plus it was clear why it took so long. Tracks on a game disc are randomly edited and cut to fit with the flow of the game, so creator of the soundtrack, Mick Gordon, put in the extra effort by reorganising and mixing the tracks, to make them flow more naturally as an album. How cool is that?! The extra effort has paid off, as the tracks sound even more stunning than ever. The opening, “I. Dogma” is actually dialogue taken directly from the game itself, with ambient backing giving it a highly atmospheric feel. This theme continues throughout the album, splitting it into chapters, making it flow like its own narrative. As soon as the track ends, “Rip & Tear” bursts into life, with a brutal orgy of metal guitars and riffs. In short, it’s an absolutely brutal track, with some seriously epic hooks and pounding drums. From there, the album blends tracks of ambience, metal and industrial in fantastically inventive ways. The ambience breaks up the heavier tracks nicely, and they are dripping with atmosphere. At times, it almost feels as if Gordon is channelling Trent Reznor, especially on “Vega Core.” There’s even small homages to melodies in the older titles! However, the album truly shines when it’s at it’s most brutal, with some sections being so heavy that you’d swear they were being played by the dark lord himself (although that may be personal preference speaking there)! This resonates best of all in the eleventh track, “BFG Division.” It starts with ambience, breaking into an industrial electronic beat, before storming into an insanely heavy riff. The chugging powerful guitars are the driving force of the track, but more electronic industrial elements and ambience wrap around it, splitting it into sections. It’s almost like three tracks in one! In the end, that’s what makes this album so great; it feels like so much more than a soundtrack, it blends genres in such unique ways that it’s absolute genius. It has the perfect blend of ambience and heaviness to balance it out, and each track is filled with immense detail that always flows as smooth as glass. With each listen, there’s some new to discover that you may not have noticed before. Mick Gordon is certainly the master of his craft, and this proves it. It not only lives up to the Doom name, but it’s an that thrives on it’s own merits and greatness.
Noisuf-X – #kicksome[b]ass
Genre: EBM/Hard-Electro Label: Pronoize
Noisuf-X has become a pretty big name in the EBM/Industrial scene, and it’s clear to see why. His tracks are filled with euphorically hard-electro stompers that floods dancefloors. If there’s one artist that needs their tracks playing on a night out, it’s these, especially when it comes to this release. It’s chocked full of heavy hitters, that are bound to please any crowd. The album kicks off to a roaring start, containing the familiar, yet epicly heavy distorted electro sounds that Noisuf-X is known for. From then on, the album never lets up, with high-octane, high adrenaline fueled tracks. This is industrial rave at it’s finest that really hits home with it’s mesmerising sounds and pounding dirty bass. I know I haven’t even mentioned any tracks yet, but it’s just so damn hard to pick favourites on this one, they’re all brilliant, and follow the same winning formula in variously harsh yet consistent ways. The usage of samples is another staple of Noisuf-X, and they are used to great advantage here. They really add new dimensions to the tracks, giving them more of a punch, and sometimes slightly sinister tones. This is used to best effect on “Big Bang V2.0”, a familiar song, but now with much meatier bass, “Count to Seven”, that times the laughter samples spot-on, and lead single “Let’s Rock”, which brings back memories of the classic track “Orgasm” from The Beauty of Destruction. It’s when these elements combine and resonate together that makes the album truly stand out, making it unmistakably a solid Noisuf-X release. Do yourself a favour; get this album, invest in an epic speaker setup, turn up the bass and let loose to #kicksome[b]ass. I guarantee you will not stop moving until the very last note.
Terrolokaust – Dissensions
Genre: Industrial/EBM/Rock Label: Digital World Audio
Terrolokaust are a band that have always mixed the electronic and metal sounds of industrial extremely well. It appears that they have perfected this art on their latest album, Dissensions. There are massive heavy moments, whilst moments of melody contrast through. There’s moments of EBM friendly hard-electro, as seen in “Evade All Traps”, “Pirsuit of Ruin” and “Pay The Price”. These are truly hard stompers, and are extremely catchy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them dominating alternative clubnights. The more rock elements really hit home in tracks like “A Masochist’s Tale” and “Heterochromia”, with guitars that dominate the tracks, and the synthy catchiness is still maintained within the background. Things get more haunting, and highly atmospheric in tracks “Dissensions” and “My Fault”, as the emotion really takes the centre stage. They really come across as more ballad-like, and really help to keep the pace of the album fresh. “El Mundo Sigue Girando” is a superb track too, and is sung entirely in their native Spanish tongue. Ssagittar’s vocals are as brilliant as always, sounding really clean and dominant, yet breaking into a more aggressive tone when the time demands it. The band has become a lot more experimental over time, and this has all come into fruition in Dissensions. It’s an album that covers the entire range of their styles, whilst also branching out, and trying out a few new elements. Long story short, this is the definitive Terrolokaust package, as it encompasses everything that’s great about the band perfectly. It rocks, it’s catchy, it blends many different sounds and styles and it’s extremely danceable. Listening to it is definitely an experience.
Vigilante – Turning Point
Genre: Industrial/EBM/Rock Label: Cleopatra Records
Vigilante is a project I’ve been meaning to listen to for years, and I finally got round to it with the latest release, Turning Point. All I can say is, what the hell have I missed out on all these years?! It’s a brilliant blend of industrial, metal, EBM and aggrotech, making for a stunning album. Laden with riffage and harmonic synths, the intro, “Crossroads” echoes lyrics and themes that are discovered later in the album. A drumbeat echoes, as guitars blaze in on “We Are One”, backed with a frenetic range of electronic synths. “Illumination” kicks in with a solid electro tune, before giving way to an apocalyptic guitar riff, with the track even featuring rapping from Kryptomedic, that gives it a unique flair. Kosmos is pretty heavy, and probably the most aggrotech track on the album, with dark sounding electronic space-like rythms, and very metal guitars, feeling very reminiscent of earlier industrial music. “Masters” feels a bit more metal, with a slower pace, and powerful atmosphere. Title track “Turning Point” samples a philosophical statement from Peter Joseph, as strings compliment the speech, flowing into an epic cavalcade of guitars and electronic elements, that are bound to get any room moving. “Into the War” is extremely heavy in comparison, more likely to get people banging their heads, whilst “Under the Sun” continues the heavy theme, but complimented with a catchy electronic backing. The Guitars are stripped away in “Slaves”, as a slow continuous electronic rhythm backs the vocals, progressing to a dramatic string section. If I’m honest, I don’t care much for the final track, a cover of “99 Red Balloons”. It is fun, but it feels out of place on such a strongly socially and politically driven album. Luckily, the rest of Turning Point totally makes up for this with its absolutely massive sound, and superb production quality. At times, the album reminds me of Pendulum‘s In Silico, if that album was on steroids, and turned the heaviness up to 11, and even then, it gets even more diverse with it’s spectrum of industrial influences. It’s variety and power make Turning Point a superb listen, with it easily transcending genres and music scenes.