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CD Review - January 2017

Top 10 Albums of 2016

By Justin Press

Hardwired To Self-Destruct - Metallica By Justin Press1. Hardwired To Self-Destruct - Metallica

An absolute return to form from start to finish. Thrash, riffs and throaty vocals with their most notable tracks in the last quarter century in "Moth To Flame," "Spit Out The Bone" and the 3-minute bulldozing title track.

Sorceress - Opeth By Justin Press2. Sorceress - Opeth

Continuing down the path to Progressive infamy, the Swedes once again listen to their gut and not the fan base and deliver a masterwork of nuance, folksy melodies, hard-hitting straight ahead rock with a twist and maybe their finest hour with the rolling, jazzy, blast beat, melodic number "Strange Brew." A simply intoxicating album.

The Fall Of Hearts - Katatonia By Justin Press3. The Fall Of Hearts - Katatonia

Once again the former doom merchants have concocted a beast of a record weighing heavily on the vocals of Jonas Renske, the heir apparent to his best mate Mikael Akerfedlt. Katatonia's take on a sound that could be a considered a more orchestrated version of prime era Alice In Chains never fails to hit the mark especially on "Passer" with Renkse's vocal nuances dancing about the place.

Violent Sleep Of Reason - Meshuggah By Justin Press4. Violent Sleep Of Reason - Meshuggah

More in tune with the album Thirty Three then Obzen, Meshugga churn you into aural butter, twisting notes, drumming that falls in behind the riff and vocals that never for an instant leave their guttural origin. Riffs so vast you could drive a bus thru them are harnessed by rhythms that could chisel stone to dust. "Ivory Tower" is a testament to knuckle-dragging metal with a scientific mindset.

4 ½ - Steven Wilson By Justin Press5. 4 ½ - Steven Wilson

A bookend E.P. to 2015's Hand. Cannot. Erase, this is hardly a B-sides demo by any means. "My Book Of Regrets" would make any artist's career but to Wilson is yet but another track in his stellar catalog. "Vermillioncore" is how YES would have sounded if they had a metallic edge to them, it's a damn near perfect instrumental.

Nucleus - Witchcraft By Justin Press6. Nucleus - Witchcraft

After several attempts Witchcraft recapture the magic of their debut with Nucleus. Cleaner production and more than a casual nod to Jethro Tull don't deter the band from sounding like "that" band that would have surrendered the soundtrack to a movie like The VVitch or an old Hammer classic. This is the fourth Swedish band on the list so far; something is in the glacial estate of that place.

Jomsviking - Amon Amarth By Justin Press7. Jomsviking - Amon Amarth

Make that the fifth set of Swedes. Amon Amarth don't swerve one iota from what they do, power metal with 100% commitment to Nordic folklore. If Motorhead, Slayer and Ramones stuck to one-thing and did it really well, then you can add Amon Amarth to that tri-fecta. Valhalla will never cease to bang its collective head.

Transcendence - Devin Townsend By Justin Press8. Transcendence - Devin Townsend

Massive, swooping ethereal beauty from the second hardest working soul in music (Steven Wilson gets the top slot). Transcendence is a beautiful bird hovering above the fray. Tortured and melodic odes to love and the afterlife, a majestic affair harnessed by "Stormbending" and its grand-scale soloing and the sweet yet gargantuan "From The Heart." If love was spilled out onto a huge canvas and painted by the masters, it would sound like this.

Skuggsja - Einer Selvik & Ivar Bjornson By Justin Press9. Skuggsja - Einer Selvik & Ivar Bjornson

The two masterminds behind Wardruna and Enslaved (who fall unto the opposite spectrum of Amon Amarth). Skuggsja employs original instrumentation from the Viking age and is a meditative take on Nordic mythology. Think of the movie "Valhalla Rising" and its slow pacing but ultimately heavy vibe. Atmospheric music for the thinking man's bezerker.

Ouroboros - Ray LaMontagne By Justin Press10. Ouroboros - Ray LaMontagne

Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here if done by an Americana artist who is more folk than astronaut. IF Gram Parsons was "cosmic cowboy" than LaMontagne is "interstellar troubadour."  There are elements of Beck's fine Morning Light record but this album just resonates with Dave Gilmour and Richard Wright more so.


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