Two Years in a Row?: The Best Albums of 2016

Some years, there is nothing but good music. Other years, there is only a handful worthwhile albums. The music released in 2016 fell into the former, not the latter. Everything about the music released that year screamed quality. So much so, that I had a hard time settling on the first couple of entries on this list, much like what happened with 2015. But I still narrowed it down to a final ten. Which albums made the cut?

10. Dust by Tremonti

The lead guitarist for Alter Bridge, and formerly Creed, Mark Tremonti has so much talent. His third studio album shows just as much. This album combines relentless riffs (“My Last Mistake,” “The Cage,” and “Betray Me”) with ballad melodies (“Unable to See,” the title track, and “Never Wrong”). Each song on this album is so carefully constructed and perfectly performed, especially during the solo sections. Accompanying the fret work, the drumming on this album exceeds all expectations. If you have not heard of Tremonti, this album can change everything.

9. The North Corridor by Chevelle

Chevelle is one of those bands that never ceases to amaze or impress. While there are vintage Chevelle parts, The North Corridor offers an entirely additional dimension that many of their 2000s albums lack: unapologetic power. From “Door to Door Cannibals” to “Shot from a Cannon,” The Loeffler brothers embrace their alt-progressive metal sound, and boy do they deliver. “Rivers” shows this in spades, even containing a riff and chorus that reminds the listener of Slipknot’s “The Devil In I,” which speaks to the band’s ability to get really heavy while still maintaining a readily accessible tone in their music. Chevelle really returned to form with this one.

8. Theories of Flight by Fates Warning

Jim Matheos and company are nothing short of amazing. While this album houses two ten-minute masterpieces, its shorter songs really care this album. “From the Rooftops” starts off slow and moody, but then exposes into its main riff which carries it all the way to the end. “Seven Stars” and “White Flag” are perfection with memorable and smooth choruses and bridges as well as tempered solos. Bobby Jarzombek’s drumming does not let up for one second, especially during those vintage Fates guitar solos. For a second album out of hiatus, Fates Warning really nailed this one.

7. Pacific Myth by Protest The Hero

Protest the Hero never backs down from a moment to comment on the world. The opening track, “Tidal,” takes a vintage Protest the Hero approach, while also taking a moment to criticize a modern truth for most people. “Why do we work until we die?” On first listen, that line does not stand out. But with multiple listens, that line takes on a whole new meaning. Art’s subjective nature, huh? Beyond “Tidal’s” thought-provoking lyrics, Pacific Myth delivers the goods with every other song, “Ragged Tooth,” “Cataract,” “Cold Water.” Even the heaviest and longest songs, “Harbinger” and “Caravan,” respectively, have their moments. This album really stands out both in the Protest the Hero discography and the albums released in 2016.

6. Periphery III: Select Difficulty by Periphery

Aside from the video game reference in its title, Select Difficulty shows a band’s continual maturity. With its heavy moments (“The Price is Wrong,” “Motormouth,” and “Prayer Position”) and more accessible songs (“Catch Fine” and “Remain Indoors”), Select Difficulty has very few wholes. The three longest songs, “Marigold,” “Absolomb,” and “Lune,” are some of Periphery’s best, even giving the listener a ninety-second to two-and-a-half-minute instrumental outro to either close out the song or segue into the next one. Overall, Select Difficulty maintains a djent core while expanding into more progressive and readily accessible areas musically. Periphery really nailed it with this one in 2016.

5. The Last Hero by Alter Bridge

We now get into the top five albums released in 2016, starting off with Alter Bridge’s five studio album. This album does not shy away from calling a spade a spade. “Show Me a Leader” offers one hell of a critique of modern leadership, which really hit on something as the 2016 Presidential Election occurred. But that sentiment shifts on tracks 2 through 14. “The Writing on the Wall” is an excellent song, while “My Champion” reminds the listener of early Foo Fighters’ “My Hero.” “Poison in Your Veins” packs a real punch, and the title track reminds the world why Alter Bridge is a big name in the rock and hard rock genres. The fact that this album came out the same year as Mark Tremonti’s speaks to this band’s talent.

4. Sorceress by Opeth

Opeth strikes again. Despite my initial reluctance to listening to this album, Sorceress stands as a testament to Mikael Akerfeldt’s songwriting and musical talent. Fully embracing the fusion prog sound, Opeth still manages to slip in some vintage heaviness. The crunching main riff on “Sorceress” and forceful guitar solo on “Era” show that Opeth still has it in them to deliver fresh music with a vintage edge. “The Wilde Flowers” and “Strange Brew” have so many good elements to them, ranging from progressive metal at its finest to refined prog fusion. Even the instrumental “The Seventh Sojourn” builds in a pleasant break from the action. My initial reluctance be damned. Opeth took things to another level with this album, making it one of the best in 2016 on release and beyond.

3. The Stage by Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold surprised the world when they released this album in October of 2016. With new drummer, Brooks Wackerman, in toe, Avenged Sevenfold started embracing the progressive metal concepts that appeared at the end of Nightmare (2010)’s “Save Me.” A concept album, The Stage deals with artificial intelligence and related things. And the listener can immediately tell with “Paradigm” and “Simulation.” Avenged Sevenfold also threw in a “Seize the Day”, “So Far Away”-style song with “Angels,” which pays homage to those songs while offering something fresh. The Stage even combines heaviness and progressive metal to deliver a great album with “God Damn,” “The Fermi Paradox,” “Higher,” the title track, and the fifteen-and-a-half-minute opus “Exist.” Welcome back, Avenged.

2. Affinity by Haken

Like Opeth, Haken struck again. Releasing their fifth studio effort in the 2010s, Haken cemented themselves as the new torch-bearer in progressive metal. Affinity may not rise to the same musical perfection as Visions (2011), but it certainly stands tall as one of the best albums released in 2016. From the static, transistor radio intro (“affinity.exe”) flowing into the first full song, “Initiate,” to the ending transmission at the end of “Bound by Gravity,” Affinity does not disappoint. The most forceful, and perhaps the best, songs on this album, “1985,” “The Architect,” and “The Endless Knot,” carry this album. They even reference other parts or lyrics from other songs, like “The Endless Knot” reprising lyrics from “1985.” Overall, Affinity is an excellent album, one that could have topped this list if not for the No. 1 album.

1. The Similitude of a Dream by The Neal Morse Band

Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse have worked together since the 1999 into the early 2000s, with Mike playing Neal’s solo prog albums and collaborating with Transatlantic. With each new release, the duo show something new and fresh. In 2016, the duo, along with Randy George, Bill Hubauer, and Eric Gillette, released one of the greatest double albums ever, The Similitude of a Dream. Despite its one-hour-and-forty-six-minute runtime, Similitude is a musical tour de force. The overture, “Overture (Overture),” showcases each band member’s musical and songwriting prowess, while the rest of the album builds on that musical chemistry. Describing every aspect of this album would not do it justice. Just give this album a listen, and it will make sense why this album stands head and shoulders above all other albums released in 2016.

Honorable Mentions: Incarnate by Killswitch Engage; Bad Omens by Bad Omens

Did your favorite album makes the list? If not, comment below to let us know.

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