Sumerlands – Self Titled (Relapse Records) – The debut record by this 5 piece from Philly is a stunning piece of music from beginning to end. Inventive riff after riff cascades over the listener providing a foundation for interesting and memorable arrangements. Phil Swanson’s voice is so dang majestic and the way it soars over the music is sonic sorcery. There’s definitely a nod to the 70’s and 80’s, but the album still retains its own identity and freshness without wearing influences blatantly on its sleeve. Hands down my fave for 2016.
Shotgun Sawyer – Thunderchief (625187 Records DK) – This trio from Auburn California completely tears shit up on this fantastic slab of heavy blues. These guys have serious chops and can play circles around the most seasoned of musicians. Each instrument shines and can be heard equally without the record being over-produced. In fact, there’s a certain rawness to the over-all sound of the album. Jam after jam of loud boogie blues.
Greenleaf – Rise Above The Meadow (Napalm Records) – Sweden’s Stoner Rock kings hit it out of the park with their new release. This record is an absolute gem from start to finish. There’s plenty of chugging mid-tempo groove and also moody psychedelic slow jams to spice things up.
Destroyer 666 – Wildfire (Season Of Mist) – The Australian Blackened Death Thrash warriors returned this year with a furious record that is chock full of speed and aggression. Heavy as hell and also retaining a catchy quality that stays with the listener. The songs also have an extremely epic and expansive quality that comes from the fantastic axe work giving the record a sheen of sonic beauty.
True Widow – Avvolgere (Relapse Records) – The Dallas trio’s new effort is the perfect soundtrack for a lazy hazy rainy Sunday afternoon. Droning mellow Shoegaze at its finest providing a perfect auditory backdrop for a relaxing psychedelic trance. The dual male/female vocals mix things up very nicely and the big cavernous echoey feel of the record makes it all the more ethereal.
Megadeth – Dystopia (Universal Music) – After the departure of Chris Broderick (guitar) and Shawn Drover (drums); there was a ton of anticipation and speculation as to who Dave Mustaine would fill the vacancies with. Enter Kiko Loureiro and Chris Adler to re-invigorate Megadeth with fresh new and young blood and assist Mustaine in creating a killer return to form Thrash record. This is classic Megadeth through and through and amidst all the other output from the Big Four this year; this record puts Megadeth at the top of the heap of the old guard.
Black Mountain – IV (Jagjaguwar) – Vancouver Canada’s psychedelic rock masters have produced nothing but high quality music in their decade plus existence and IV is no different. Another record on my list which incorporates dual male/female vocals to fantastic effect. There’s spacey Krautrock influences with the sinewy analog synth’s, fat mid-tempo grooves, and of course weird dreamy psychedelic passages. Cerebral stuff.
Flotsam & Jetsam – Self Titled (AFM Records) – A fabulous return to form from the legendary Arizona Thrashers. Beefy production with songs packed with muscular walloping riffs. They really capture a classic Thrash vibe married with modern sensibilities. The addition of drummer extraordinaire, Jason Bittner, adds incredible depth, heft, and technical prowess to the rhythm section. Really cool to see these guys still at it and doing it well.
Honky – Corduroy (Housecore Records) – The Austin Texas kings of Southern Rock Boogie just kill it with their debut on Phil Anselmo’s Housecore label. Trinidad Leal (drums) of Dixie Witch joins Bobby and Pinkus on this outing. Scorching leads and searing riffs are all over this record. There’s a lot more variety on this one than records past. It’s a more mature, polished, and at times mellow effort…and all to great effect.
Langfinger – Crossyears (Small Stone Records) – The Small Stone debut for these Swedish Rockers. All round kick-ass Rock record full of memorable and catchy jams. Really fun and accessible stuff that should appeal to a wide audience of lovers of all things Rock.
Aubrie Sellars – New City Blues (Atlantic) – What a super talented cutie-pie! This beautiful singer/song-writer’s record is a fantastic blend of Country, Blues, and Rock. In a time when Country music is associated with the dastardly garbage on FM radio, it is so refreshing to see a young artist creating real and true Country music. Aubrie’s voice is captivating and she plays guitar to boot as well.
L.A. Witch – Drive Your Car (Black Mass Recordings) – It’s only two songs, but this trio of kick-ass gals from Los Angeles were in heavy rotation on my listening devices this year. The band are true road warriors and spent much of the year on tour and are currently on a successful run in Europe. Mellow, moody, stripped down Rock with a dreamy retro sound. Sade Sanchez’s voice is gorgeous while the rhythm section of Irita and Ellie provide a strong foundation of bass and beats.
Black Crown Initiate – Selves We Cannot Forgive (eOne Music) – Progressive Death Metal quintet from Pennsylvania. This record is a dizzying and grandiose affair. Equal parts sheer beauty and crushingly brutal as well. The arrangements are ambitious and the juxtaposition between the clean singing and the growl/screaming adds great texture. It’s not all masturbatory wankery…there’s intricate instrumentation, but the songs bear a human warmth and are memorable in their own right to keep the listener engaged.
Keef Mountain – Self Titled (?) – This Kansas City duo’s self-released album is heavy as hell and drenched in bong water. Humungous sludgy riffs propel you through a journey of hazy peaks and valley’s. A really impressive effort by a fledgling band that will hopefully get noticed, get to the next level, and bring their thundering doomy Stoner heaviness to the masses.
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown (InsideOut Music) – 70’s influenced Grecco-Swedish Classic Rockers laid down a fabulous album of psychedelia and big grooves. Awesome organ sounds that invoke some Deep Purple worship and the pipes of Apollo Papathanasio are downright magnificent. Timeless anthems played by stellar musicians of the highest caliber.
Backwoods Payback – Fire Not Reason (Deep Rest Records) – Thank goodness that West Chester Pennsylvania’s Stoner Rock mavens got their fantastic new long-player in before the end of the year. The band now features Erik Larson of Alabama Thunderpussy fame on drums. The band seriously tears shit up on this incredible slab of 9 monstrous jams. Full throttle no nonsense mid-tempo foot stompers.
Mos Generator – Abyssinia (Listenable) – Musical journey-man Tony Reed does it again. Abyssinia is a more straight forward and aggressive Rock record than Electric Mountain Majesty was. The musicianship is incredible with Tony playing most every instrument himself. A really fun album of heavy bluesy Rock.