2016 has been a great year so far for heavy metal, so limiting this list to ten releases was hard enough. Trying to sort them was even harder. In any case, here are my favorite albums from the first half of 2016 (January 1—June 30 release dates).
10. Winterhorde : Maestro
Despite being unprolific, Winterhorde really impressed me with this album, which was my first for the band. The music is complex and dense, but not pretentious and noodly. A special highlight is vocalist Z. Winter who can run the gamut between death grunts and soaring operatics. [SoMP Review] Get the album
9. Gehennah : Too Loud To Live, Too Drunk To Die
Extended time off can usually make a band rusty, but after nearly 20 years since their last album, Gehennah stormed into the party and began drinking everyone’s beer. Their unique blend of classic metal elements makes their "street metal" sound just as enjoyable now as in their 1990s heyday. [SoMP Review] Get the album
8. Fejd : Trolldom
Fejd have always treaded that line between straight folk and folk metal. For me, however, that sets them apart from other folk metal bands. Trolldom sees the band moving in a more "metal" direction with a greater prominence on electric guitars than the bouzouki-led compositions of the past. Still great stuff, though.
Get the album
7. Van Canto : Voices of Fire
Sure, Van Canto is a "gimmick" band in the strictest sense, and they’ve put out their fair share of cheese over the years. However, their first concept album of all-original material shows what the German troupe is capable of. If nothing else, just bask in the sheer vocal talent on display. [TMA Review] Get the album
6. Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas : Mariner
I can be finicky about post-metal, but Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas crafted a unified, singular vision that is simply gorgeous to listen to. Admittedly, this one needed to grow on me, but I like it more with each listen. [TMA Review] Get the album
5. Bat : Wings of Chains
While "supergroups" can be a mixed bag, Bat laid those fears aside with a tight, high-energy assault that kicked my ass for twenty-nine straight minutes. Ryan and Nick nail the stringed instruments, and the 49 year-old Felix Griffin can still pummel the drums. If you’re a fan of either Municipal Waste or D.R.I., this is a must-listen. [SoMP Review] Get the album
4. Volbeat : Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie
I was unimpressed with Volbeat’s previous two albums, but the Danes returned in 2016 with a newfound energy that reminded me why I fell in love with the band all those years ago. While the album has been accused of being "less metal", I don’t care because I’m having too much fun listening to it. [TMA Review] Get the album
3. Amon Amarth : Jomsviking
The Swedish Vikings have been accused of "treading water" musically for the past few albums, but then they go and release a concept album based on the fiercest Scandinavian warriors in history. If that’s what it takes to breathe some new life into a band, I’ll order them an entire library of history books. [SoMP Review] Get the album
2. Deströyer 666 : Wildfire
If Bat and Gehennah are too one-dimensional for you, then Deströyer 666 hits that sweet spot with tons of high-speed aggression with more complex songwriting. This was a joy to listen to from start to finish, and my only regret is not engaging with them before this album. [SoMP Review] Get the album
1. Moonsorrow : Jumalten Aika
Although it had been several years since their last release, the wait was absolutely worth it. While the extended track lengths may be a challenge for some, Moonsorrow expertly crafted their blackened folk soundscapes that engaged me for the entire runtime. [SoMP Review] Get the album
Keep in mind this list only comprises albums I’ve listened to, so if your favorite doesn’t show up, maybe I never got around to listening to it. Also, my ranking is based purely on enjoyment and replay factor, not technicality, instrumentation, etc. If you want, feel free to rebut with your own list in the comments section below.