It's that time again when we look back at the best albums of the past twelve months. 2016 may have been a clusterfuck of a year when the fabric of reality started folding in on itself. But musically it was an absolutely joyous year with old masters rubbing shoulders with bright young things to give us fans a real feast for the ears. We lost some greats, that's true. But these thirty albums softened the blow a little.
As always the format of our best of is not set, and in no particular order of rank or genre bias, but this is a selection of highlights you may have enjoyed, or even missed first time round. So without further ado here is this year's countdown.
It was a given that any top album list would have to include the enigmatic David Bowies swansong album 'Blackstar'. Fusing rock, jazz and electronics this short but beautiful parting gift from one of the most prolific recording artists of all time was a beautiful, poignant slice of experimental songwriting and deep heartfelt performances.
The sophomore offering from The Sweetest Condition sees the bands signature sound of synthpop crashing headlong into harder industrial elements and some brash rock guitars further refined into a sharper and more focused attack.
The strongest Dead When I Found Her album yet. It is both classic and relevant. A perfectly distilled expression of angst and paranoia crafted by a skilled and intelligent hand. As with previous releases it will appeal to older industrial fans as well as those finding their way to the genre through newer bands.
Dawn Of Ashes – 'Theophony'
Focused, energetic and renewed, 'Theophony' sees Dawn Of Ashes reach new heights. The album is a sure sign that the band are reaching their full potential in terms of writing and execution. A fitting and satisfying return.
'The Gospel Of Nil' is a breathtaking album that explores a multitude of styles and genres, in every song. It's frantic pace and big atmosphere make it an exciting and engaging listening experience from start to finish. And best of all it hints at so much more to come from this band.
The album's dark topical narratives, gritty snarled vocals, and sumptuous blend of guitars, synths and beats are a masterclass in how high industrial rock can aim. Heal could have easily rested on the laurels of past glories and given us more of the same. But instead he has pushed his abilities as a songwriter, performer and producer.
Bestial Mouths – 'Heartless'
'Heartless' is a very strong album that shakes you out of your complacency and forces you to listen to it. The band have masterfully found the balance between their experimental and accessible sides, and while this is easily their most accessible effort to date. It is also their most enjoyable and well-rounded.
'The Gospel' is a long overdue, but very welcome return from one of industrial rock's unquestioned pioneers. Watts honours the core of the Pig sound that endeared the band to the industrial rock scene, but lovingly builds on its legacy in order to secure its future.
Pain – 'Coming Home'
Peter Tägtgren's CV speaks for itself, and it is great to see that nearly 20 years on since Pain's eponymous début he can still pull something new and different out of the bag. 'Coming Home' is a huge sounding album, subtle in places, but with an uncompromisingly heavy backbone that will not only appeal to long-time fans but also certainly hook some newbs as well.
Combichrist – 'This Is Where Death Begins'
Fans of Combichrist's earlier sounds may find the more metal direction hard to take, but those who have stuck with their evolution thus far will not be too shocked by this move and will undoubtedly embrace the blend of hard metal and gritty electronics. Either way, Combichrist have crafted a monster here and it will undoubtedly prove to be a notable release in an already enviable discography.
'Cult Of Fake' is a great album, easily one of the best Angelspit releases so far. There is a great balance of industrial dance and vehement punk rock attitude balanced out quite nicely across all the tracks. Long-time fans will be able to pick this up with ease and it will undoubtedly still attract new fans through casual listeners purely on the strength of the songwriting and composition at work here.
This is another great release from a band that are solidifying their legacy as one of the country's strongest gothic rock acts for a long time. Strong, powerful and most importantly high qualirt, 'Purity & Perversion' is a must have for any fan of gothic rock.
'Surgical Meth Machine' is a brilliant first step in what will hopefully be an exciting new journey for Jourgensen. This album is his most diverse in his career to date and the unexpected twist at the end shows he still has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.
The 69 Eyes – 'Universal Monsters'
It would still be nice to hear a bit more of that slow and thick gothic sound that made albums like 'Blessed Be' and 'Paris Kills' such attention grabbing releases. But with 'Universal Monsters' The 69 Eyes find a nice balance between their different influences in a focused and consistent way that shall please almost all of their fans.
Skold – 'The Undoing'
'The Undoing' may have been delayed since 2014, however it is another example of Tim Sköld's solo albums being worth the wait. Unencumbered by other band members and expectations he is free to let loose and indulge his creativity to its fullest. And the result is brilliant.
Victor Love – 'Technomancy'
This is a great full-length début by a honed and hardened veteran of all things cyberpunk. The collaborations are great and the album presents quite a varied spread of sounds that will easily appeal to established fans and attract new ones.
Mourning Beloveth – 'Rust & Bone'
Youth Code – 'Commitment To Complications'
It is hard to believe this is the band's sophomore full-length outing. Their rounded out hardcore meets industrial sound has sharpened and it is evident they have distilled the best moves from their demo and self-titled album into a brilliantly sustained attack.
Blush Response – 'Reshaper'
Delving into more rhythmic noise territory than previous releases but nonetheless still enjoying the same free-flowing sense of experimentation that has always marked Blush's songwriting. 'Reshaper' sees a grittier slant on his modular manipulations, yet Blush maintains the manifesto of an ever evolving sonic arsenal. A definite must-have.
Iszoloscope – 'False Vacuum'
'False Vacuum' is an album that sticks to the strengths of the Iszoloscope sound and excels because of it. The focus may be somewhat narrowed but Faussurier shows the true extent of his skills and delivers on all the goods. This is sure to be a fan-pleaser.
M‡яc▲ll▲ – 'M‡яc▲ll▲'
M‡яc▲ll▲ are one of those bands that just seem to get better with every release. The cinematic scope of their songs ever increasing and as a result their self-titled album is truly a thing of beauty. It is great to see their stock continue to rise with quality releases such as this.
'In Remission' shows Wulf as a man very much on top of his game. The songs continue to show a definite progression from last year's albums and another step up in quality, if that were possible. There is plenty of deep and exciting music to get lost in, and when listed to last year's album's back-to-back it becomes a real feast for the ears.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – 'Skeleton Tree'
A poignant and traumatic confrontation of death, 'Skeleton Tree' marks Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds sixteenth studio album and one that shows just what an important artist he is. Soulful, dark and teetering on the brink of utter collapse, the album is a therapeutic exorcism of a master of his craft.
The band's run since 2003's 'Viva Emptiness' has been an enviable one with a consistent trend upwards in terms of quality of releases, and 'The Fall Of Hearts' doesn't break this pattern. The progressive elements sound excellent and add a greater dynamic to the band's atmospheric metal steeped in sadness and loss but more complex and free in execution.