18 December 2016

Marc Richardson's Top Twelve Albums of 2016

Greetings and salutations from the occasional blogger. Apologies for my absence, it's been quite a momentous year for me personally, what with finally getting the new house in order and of course a new arrival onto our blessed world. Here she is, just a few weeks away from her first birthday as I write, and geared up for what should be a marvellous January. I will be absent again for most of the month, but it's my intention to get blogging again afterwards and go with guns blazing on Spotify, or Deezer or whatever new is available to listen to as well as sharpening up my ears once more.

As I said, I really haven't had much time to simply sit down for 2 or 3 hours for each review, so I've had to do a crash course in the 2016 albums and give my own appraisals. No doubt we'll all have our differing opinions and if the chance ever came begging, I'd like to hear what each and every of you ATTIWLTMOWOS think is the top album. In the meantime though, here are my Top Twelve (it was meant to be Twenty I know, but time constraints restricted my personal input. Hope you understand), and why they've earned their spurs on my shortlist. Enjoy reading!

1. Megadeth - Dystopia

He may have made one or two little changes in musical direction and it hasn't always worked since the 1980s, since the days of Jason Becker, but Dave Mustaine's found an accomplished co-lead/rhythm stringsman in Kiko Loureiro. It's put the deft melodies back in the 'Deth and consolidated their position as Speed (Metal) Kings.

2. The Divine Comedy - Foreverland

The musical charm that Neil Hannon seems to weave is intangible. His vocal styles are the smoothest coffee beans I've heard for ages, then there's the broad spectrum of percussion and instrumentation on top of his very inviting narratives. I see an Allmusic reviewer describes several tracks as cringe-inducing. Ignore it as Foreverland is a charming album.

3. Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence

I was converted to DT since hearing the mighty Epicloud back in 2012, Canada's finest progressive musician has come up with an equally ethereal offering in Transcendence. Distancing himself just a little further from his Strapping Young Lad days, it's a surprise that Eddie Carter hasn't alerted me to this. Hopefully Amazon does deliveries in time for Christmas....

4.Opeth - Sorceress

File:Sorceress Album Cover.jpg

Yet more Prog Rock/Metal enrichment, this time from Sweden's most learned acts. Folk roots seem to have taken a temporary backseat on this occasion, but many of the hooks and twists are very original and well thought out. Sorceress seems simplistic, but very deceptively so.

5. Face To Face - Protection

Where Alien Ant Farm have fallen short with their last album, similar act Face To Face's offering of uncomplicated and unashamed Pop Punk is worthy of a half hour of your valuable time. Nice filler and not a bad backdrop at any local house party.

6. David Bowie - Blackstar

Cielo my daughter came into the world just at about the time that Ziggy was departing from it. I didn't hear the news myself until I was back online about two weeks later. It's academic that Mr Bowie had planned this as a parting gift. His experimentation on this harks back to his earlier incarnations stretching back 40 years, but those who enjoyed his contemporary 80s hits I fear will be put off by this. Shame.

7. Babymetal - Metal Resistance

Their first album really was a case of "I've never heard anything like it." Three Japanese pop chanteuses barely in their teens accompanied by a European derived death/speed metal band. Frankly I thought in the current lineup wouldn't last beyond their first album, but they've somehow managed to release this follow up. A little more mature perhaps, but still just as wacky and fun.

8. Marillion - F.E.A.R.

Image result for marillion fear

I've never really followed Marillion since Fish left them in the late 80s. Nevertheless, they've kept faith in the same lineup for almost 30 years, they've moved on and the Genesis tag they once had, cruelly given in my opinion, has long gone. Prog Rock fans enjoy this 18th album. I did.

9. Anthrax - For All Kings

I don't listen to many Thrash albums, but Anthrax I honestly can tell you are a quantum leap from the embarrassment they were thirty years ago. I like the concept that the switch to Nuclear Blast gave them the sharpest kick up the ass they needed. For All Kings is crisp and compelling, especially with the scene setting narratives which I really enjoyed.

10. Brujeria - Pocho Aztlan

Groove Metal and deathcore, or is it deathgrind? They're strictly not my forte all things considered, but Chris Jermyn, despite his limited Spanish has loved this album to the full and bombarded me with a few snippets of this album from some Mexican bandidos. The themes are comparative with Napalm Death's, social decay and against the establishment. Listenable, save for a few adolescent whoops and as raucous as you can imagine.

11. Metallica - Hardwired...To Self Destruct

I've haven't heard too much of the Thrash Kings since their 1991 Black Album, and some ill advised twists in their musical path, like the dreadful team up with Lou Reed didn't really improve their stock. Hardwired in my opinion redresses the thrash order they've been missing.

12. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker

Another legend to pass away just as he was completing his swansong album. His deep rich vocals have always so compulsive to me, not dark but retains its mystique. As for You Want It Darker, you really need time and patience for all of its 36 minutes, but it's worth it in the end.

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