Though considered a disaster by many, the year 2016 proved to be yet another excellent year for alternative music. Panic! at the Disco and twenty one pilots topped the BillBoard charts and sold out stadiums around the globe, Blink-182 made a triumphant comeback with Matt Skiba, and alternative legends like Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer dropped new music. But 2016 was just as positive on the heavy end of the spectrum, and you’ll find evidence of just that in our countdown below!
10. Hellions – Opera Oblivia
Young Australian hardcore band Hellions dropped a bit of a curveball into the genre in mid-2016 with their album, Opera Oblivia. A concept record with generally happy, uplifting lyricism is certainly unique in modern hardcore, and Hellions execute each facet extremely well. Structured as if it were a stage/play performance, Opera Oblivia is a ten track tour de force that spawned two easy song-of-the-year candidates in “Quality of Life” and “Thresher.” Opera Oblivia is the perfect example of artistic growth: a band honing and executing a uniquely ambitious release that hopefully will be a shot-in-the-arm for the genre.da
Read the full Flippen Review:
Hellions – ‘Opera Oblivia’ (Review)
Check out the banger “Quality of Life” below:
9. Bring Me the Horizon – Live at the Royal Albert Hall
You may be thinking to yourself as you read this, “how can a live album make this list?” Rest-assured, this is not simply another cash-grab live release that many major bands deploy in between album cycles. Here, the Sheffield (UK) boys bring something entirely new to the live album/DVD release, recording a their live set with a full orchestra, adding a unique dimension to each song of the set. New age BMTH favorites like “Doomed” and “Throne” sound absolutely epic with the orchestral backing, while older hits like “It Never Ends” and “Can You Feel My Heart?” both benefit interestingly well from the accompaniment of strings, keys and brass. Its an engrossing experience, one that cannot be heard on their traditional studio albums. Additionally, the entire release was for a tremendous cause: proceeds were sent directly to the Teenage Cancer Trust, ensuring this is not simply about cash flow.
A great cause, an orchestra, and Bring Me the Horizon bringing the first “wall of death” to the legendary London auditorium, how could this not be one of the best releases of 2016?
Watch the incredible live rendition of “Doomed” featuring a full orchestral accompaniment here:
8.Normandie – Inguz
One of the more lesser-known releases to hit this list, Normandie, an InVogue Records act, is a Swedish four-piece exuding enormous potential in the alternative rock scene. Inguz, their debut record, is chock-full of massive choruses and cross-over appeal. Lead single “Collide” is perhaps the best ballad to hit the scene in quite some time, and the machine-gun breakdown in “Loophole” proves there’s something here for the metal-heads as well. The synths and strings found on the insanely catchy “Awakening” can be likened to the best of Hands Like Houses and Our Last Night, while “The Deep Cold” and “Calling” could find themselves alongside the best cuts off of Bring Me the Horizon’s That’s the Spirit. Effortlessly bridging sharp post-hardcore with shimmering electronics and melodic pop influences, Normandie is certainly an act worth a look, and Inguz is an album poised to leave numerous hooks stuck in your head.
Stream “Awakening” here:
7. Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
Architect’s seventh full length studio album is without a doubt their magnum opus. Heavy in both music and feeling, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us is a metalcore triumph full of existential anthems and unmatched energy. Considering the release of the album immediately precedes the death of lead guitarist and songwriter Tom Searle, the lyrical content hits even harder in . For many listeners, the album seems to take an entirely new direction and meaning now with the knowledge that Tom was battling cancer throughout the writing and recording process. The true emotions captured within the sonic landscapes of tracks like “Gone With the Wind” and the heart-wrenching closer “Momento Mori” may be only truly understood by the band, but they invoke feelings within the listener unlike any other release of 2016. All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us cements a legacy for Tom Searle and Architects, its quite the metallic masterpiece.
6. Northlane & In Hearts Wake – Equinox Split EP
Another unorthodox release to hit this list is the incredible split EP performed by Aussie heavyweights In Hearts Wake and Northlane. Equinox is three tracks, two tremendous hits in “Refuge” and “Hologram” tied together by the title track interlude. Unique to this split is that each member of both bands performed on the two [actual] songs of the EP, creating a truly one-of-a-kind release. The influence of each band seems to heavily steer the direction of each track, as In Hearts Wake clearly take the reigns on the powerful “Refuge,” which includes a stadium-ready chorus led by bassist Kyle Erich’s career-best vocal performance and a breakdown-of-the-year contender. The progressive influence of Northlane spins “Hologram” toward the sound of their recent Node release, and is led by Marcus Bridge’s best vocal delivery since becoming the front man of the Sydney five-piece. Nic Petterson’s choppy yet thunderous percussion coupled with Bridge’s menacing growls make for an incredible introduction to a track laced with hard-hitting lyricism and heavy ambiance. Both songs are terrific in their own right, and each ought to find themselves on numerous metal “song-of-the-year” countdowns. But the unique collaboration is what makes the EP so special, and has metal heads everywhere hoping for more similar takes on the split release.
Listen to the full split (and watch both bands perform the entire release, together) below:
5. Periphery – P3: Select Difficulty
Just over a calendar year removed from the masterpiece that was the [aptly-titled] conceptual double album Juggernaut, progressive metal band Periphery released their third self-titled LP, and fourth record release overall, Select Difficulty in 2016. Following up the diversity, epic storytelling, and tremendous songwriting of Juggernaut would be a tall task for any band, and while it may not top their magnum opus, Select Difficulty is yet another shining gem of consistency in the Periphery discography. “Marigold” is a sure-fire song-of-the-year candidate, with a tremendous chorus to rival that of the unbelievably catchy “Alpha” from the previous release. Arena-ready sing-along “Lune” and radio-friendly “Catch Fire” showcase a pop-sensibility from the band, and are likely the two poppiest tracks of the band’s career, and add to what is easily the most diverse release of the band’s career. Powerful choruses are to be found on “Flatline” and “The Way the News Goes” as well, the latter of which is laced with blast-beats making for the most unique metal-singalong of 2016. Don’t fret, however, the trademark Periphery bounce, groove and “djent” can be found on on the super-heavy “Motormouth,” breakdown-filled “Prayer Position,” bass-heavy “Absolomb,” and the punchy “Habitual Line-Stepper.” And when the widely-believed weakest track on the record, “The Price is Wrong,” finds itself GRAMMY-nominated alongside Korn and Megadeth for “Best Metal Performance,” its quite easy to include Periphery’s latest effort among the best heavy releases of the year.
Watch the music video for “Marigold” below, and just try not to sing along:
4. Bad Omens – Bad Omens
Bad Omens burst onto the scene with three tremendous singles in late 2015, and those songs found their way onto the band’s highly anticipated debut, self-titled album in early 2016. The album exudes diversity as well, as the straightforward metalcore “bangers” like “Exit Wounds” and “Glass Houses” find themselves alongside the industrial-tinged “F E R A L,” mosh-inducing two-minute tour de force “Hedonist,” anthemic “The Worst in Me,” and the dark, piano driven psuedo-ballads “Crawl” and “Enough, Enough Now.” The best track on the album, however, may be the closer, “The Fountain.” Inspired by a movie of the same name, the tribal drums, colorful keys, and melancholic vocals, bring the debut record from Bad Omens to an end with a chilling yet fitting atmosphere. The band certainly brings something new to the table, coupling inspiration from heavy hitters like Slipknot, Bring Me the Horizon and My Ticket Home with classic dark pop like the legendary Depeche Mode. The diversity allows Noah Sebastian and co. to take this project in virtually any direction, and with a killer debut like this, its easy to be excited about the future of Bad Omens.
Read the full FlippenMusic Review:
Bad Omens – ‘Bad Omens’ (Review)
Check out our interview with frontman Noah Sebastian:
Bad Omens, Poised to Take Heavy Music Where It’s Never Been Before (Interview)
Stream lead single “Exit Wounds” below:
3. Dayshell – Nexus
Shayley Bourget’s other-worldly vocal chords were always the highlight of the early Of Mice and Men lineup, not to mention his ability to play guitar and bass at a significantly higher level than his band mates. It is almost night and day in terms of the direction Of Mice and Men took since Shayley left the group in 2012. And while it can be argued that both Of Mice and Men and Shayley’s new project, Dayshell, are both radio rock acts, Dayshell’s take on writing accessible heavy alternative music is exponentially better in every facet than the Shayley-less Restoring Force and Cold World, the latter of which is among the most disappointing releases of the year. But here we have the second effort from Dayshell, Nexus, and it is every bit as gorgeous as the self-titled debut which arrived in late 2013. This is every bit Shayley’s band, as he takes the reigns on nearly every aspect of the songwriting, and the result is the most interesting yet accessible alternative rock in quite some time. Shayley’s voice alone creates a unique atmosphere for each track, and progressive, sometimes djenty guitar with audible, booming bass work drives the backbone of Nexus. The instrumental composition is not too far removed from the lighter side of prog-metal superstars Periphery, nor the heavier side of radio rock rising stars Nothing More, but the vocal hooks take Dayshell to an entirely different level. Tracks like “Car Sick,” “Improvise” and “Low Light” (also the three lead singles) bring choruses so catchy its easy to ponder why Dayshell hasn’t absolutely exploded on modern rock radio. “Spit in the Face” brings the mosh-ready riffage and “FTNW” is a bouncy, fist-bumping anthem ready for stadiums worldwide, but the glistening ballad “Rush Hour” is likely the best track to be found on Nexus. A breath of fresh air at the back half of a fast paced album, “Rush Hour” drops the tempo a bit, bringing in shimmering electronics, delayed guitars, and tremendously executed falsetto vocals. Its a track perfect for showcasing Bourget’s ethereal vocals and the true sonic potential of Dayshell. With Nexus, its easy to feel as if Dayshell are on the verge of hitting it big whilst maintaining their sound on their sophomore record. Its time for fans of rock to take notice, and more outputs like Nexus will all but ensure that deserved success.
Watch the video for the insanely catchy “Low Light” below:
2. letlive. – If I’m the Devil
Known to fans as the “Soul Punx,” letlive. started their own punk rock movement with their first two LP’s, Fake History and The Blackest Beautiful, each hailed as post-hardcore masterpieces by many. How would they follow up this critical success? Enter 2016’s If I’m the Devil, which marks a significant sonic shift for the band. This is apparent right from the early croons of opener “I’ve Learned to Love Myself,” which feels like an entirely different artist that can be heard on Fake History‘s introduction, “Le Prologue.” The emotional, lyrical and instrumental crescendo of “I’ve Learned to Love Myself” makes for a jaw-dropping opener, and sets the stage for the most unique “ll.” album yet. The instrumental heaviness found on previous releases takes a bit of a back seat for much of the record, however, which could be a turn-off to longtime fans of the band. But fear not, for this does not mark an attempt at selling out; If I’m the Devil is very much a punk rock effort. Jason Butler’s lyricism is as inspired and aggressive as ever, and his vocal delivery is by far the best effort of his career. Singles “Good Mourning America” and “Reluctantly Dead” tackle controversial world issues in perhaps the most hook-driven way possible, while “Who You Are Not” addresses personal dissonance with perhaps Butler’s best lyrics. Top to bottom, the lyrics found on the record are certainly a highlight of the release, and letlive. dive head first into subject matter that most bands would fear to touch. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the polished production far succeeds overly raw take that held back The Blackest Beautiful.
To the casual fan of letlive. and post-hardcore music in general, there’s something here for every type of ear. Aside from the tremendous hooks found on the aforementioned tunes, “Nu Romantics” and “Elephant” bring the bounce, “Another Offensive Song” is a Fake History-esque ripper, and slower jam “Foreign Cab Rides” brings the soulful sensibility letlive. has always possessed. The poignant title track and the melancholic “Copper Colored Quiet” bring the record to a close in similar soul-filled fashion. Altogether, this is a much different effort from letlive., but it is an intriguing, thought provoking, and meaningful record that is just as heavy and “punk” as the rest of their discography though rather in lyrical content and atmosphere than thrashing guitars and lightning-paced percussion.
Watch the music video for the anti-police brutality anthem, “Good Mourning America,” below:
1. Every Time I Die – Low Teens
At this point in their storied careers, Every Time I Die might as well be a national treasure: their impeccable consistency is second to none in the alternative scene. With album number eight, one would think that maybe, just maybe, they would take some sort of step back or dial down the chaos that is their musical onslaught. Low Teens shatters that mindset at first listen, and slots itself as perhaps the best ETID record after the second.
Lyrically born out of a very difficult time for vocalist Keith Buckley (his wife was hospitalized due to complications with the birth of their first child – the family is all in good health as you read this!), Low Teens hits hard in both vocals and instrumentals. Often bone-chilling and sharp as ever, the lyricism and vocal delivery is superb; Keith channeled the emotion into the performance of his career. The rest of the band steps up as well: founding members and guitarists Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley bring some of the catchiest, heaviest, and “dirtiest” riffs to be found in the discography, while Stephen Micciche and new drummer Daniel Davidson anchor a stellar rhythm section. Altogether, the band’s consistency continues to set a model for all bands to follow; this is how its done.
Lead single “The Coin Has a Say” is an easy song-of-the-year candidate, effortlessly transitioning from head bobbing riffage to neck snapping breakdowns and everywhere in between. Keith’s witty one-liners return here in spectacular fashion: “I can’t go back to what I was/Metallica without the drugs/a faith healer without the plant/there’s no hope for a hollow man.” A bit of stoner rock influence finds its way onto “It Remembers,” a track featuring longtime ETID fanboy Brendon Urie (of Panic! at the Disco fame) in what is easily the most unique song on the album and perhaps the most unorthodox collaboration of the year. But, it works so well. In fact, there is not one dull moment, from the creaky opening notes of “Fear and Trembling” to the crushing breakdown outro on deluxe edition bonus track “Nothing Visible; Ocean Empty.” “Glitches” and “Petal” turn the chaos up through the roof a la From Parts Unknown, while “C++” and “I Didn’t Want to Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway” would find themselves right at home within the tracklistings of earlier ETID releases. “Religion of Speed” is yet another highlight, clocking in as the longest track the band has penned to date, and features a mesmerizing acoustic intro before developing into what can only be described as a hardcore epic. Most impressive, though is perhaps standard edition closer “Map Change.” One of the most well-written songs in a discography chock full of them, Keith takes the listener on an emotional roller coaster that crescendos into an absolutely spectacular finish.
Eight albums in and Every Time I Die just continue to blaze their own trail in the alternative scene. Thrashing riffs, crushing breakdowns, catchy hooks, and captivating lyricism, Low Teens is a record with highlight after highlight and seemingly endless replay-ability. With Low Teens, Every Time I Die have not only composed the best record of their storied careers, but the best heavy alternative release of 2016.
Read the full Flippen Review:
Every Time I Die – ‘Low Teens’
Stream the unreal lead single “The Coin Has a Say” below: