The music industry is in shambles and on the verge of destruction–if you pay attention to much of the internet fodder. From my perspective, the music industry is actually cultivating some of the best music we’ve heard in years and it’s not just coming from the rookies. In fact, this year’s list feels like a time warp back to the high times of the 80’s thrash metal years including an added course of stoner rock. With some of the most highly noted and successful bands from the metal scene still inspiring and producing top albums today, after all these years it could be argued that heavy music is still thriving today!
It’s important here at the Urb Thrasher Flower Hour to explore the music world and branch from the normal tendencies we sometimes lock ourselves into. Our list ranges wide from bluegrass, stoner rock, and various strains of heavy metal! We appreciate all the record labels, promotional firms, and bands that support us throughout the year. After another great year down, in no numbered order here is our 10 top favorite and Rip-Worthy mentions of 2016!
Metallica – “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct”
“The older we are, the softer we get,” is what they say, although I have no idea who “they” really are. Thankfully, when it comes to Metallica in 2016, maybe they should say, “the older we are, the more we stay the same!” Innocent, driven by dreams, and full of thrashmanship as they unknowingly began a Hall of Fame career 35 years ago, the legendary Metallica has just unleashed a brand new album, “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” via Blackened Records (November 18th, 2016)!
The album takes you on a journey drawn from the deeply influential Metallica catalog, consisting of fragments of everything from “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets” to “And Justice For All,” combining the heavy groove facet of the storied “Black” album all the way to “Load and Reload!” Defined by heaviness with a touch of despair that dissolves as the band continually pushes the elements of Heavy Metal, “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” is another epic moment within the growth of the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Famers, Metallica and a full-on favorite for 2016!
Metallica – Spit Out The Bones
Testament – “Brotherhood of the Snake“
The San Francisco Bay area thrashers are back again with the release of “Brotherhood of the Snake” (Nuclear Blast Records) featuring 10 new tracks drawn from an influential career spanning three decades of consistent, powerful, thrash metal dominance. Sitting on successful sales exceeding 14 million worldwide, and regarded as falling within the upper echelon of metallic leaders, 2016’s “Brotherhood of the Snake” has become a legacy trip with a new vision that has Testament on a fresh, new path!
Testament has remained consistent, withstanding years of industry change. Bursting onto the thrash music scene in the mid-80’s with still-to-this-day favorites like “The Legacy”, “The New Order” and “Practice What You Preach,” the band grounded their roots within the scene and never looked back! Generated by a riff-and-shred heavy dual guitar attack, forceful and melodic vocals, all undercut with mellifluous rhythms and combined with a consistent onslaught of powerful drum beats, fans can be assured “Brotherhood of the Snake” encompasses the same energized spirit that has always led Testament toward new highs! On the surface, Testament is back with another outstanding effort! Underneath, Testament will always be back with another outstanding effort in which this case, a burning favorite for 2016!
Testament “Brotherhood of the Snake”
The Pine Box Boys – “The Feast of Three Arms”
When it comes to spoken storytelling, progressive bluegrass, the stench of whiskey, buried coffins, and righteous murder ballads, look no further than San Francisco, California-based horror-grass purveyors The Pine Box Boys! With the scent of death still lingering thick as fog, high times surely lie ahead following the release of their 5th full length album, The Feast of Three Arms, on October 21st, 2016 (LTR/Hollins & Hollins Mortuary Entertainment)!
When it comes to the music, The Pine Box Boys are at ease combining conventional vintage bluegrass signatures, darkened, guttural outlaw symphonies, and fast-paced string picking with just a dab of punk rock. Born from the grave in 2003, the band’s sound is rooted within a controlled ruckus that explores various branches of the “murder ballad,” giving way to their highly distilled, trademark sound. The Pine Box Boys, led by Lester T. Raww on vocals and guitar, along with Alex “Possum” Carvidi on banjo and keys, Colonel Timothy Leather handling the bass, and Steven “Your Uncle” Dodds on drums and percussion, are all guilty of past mischief of course, and continue to merrily take the underground bluegrass world into uncharted territory deeming an easy choice for favorite of the year.
The Pine Box Boys – “A Dog Named Death”
Spellcaster – “Night Hides The World”
Every so often a new storm looms large, patiently waiting to hit somewhere in the world! Storms, usually callous from within and capable of heavy destruction, also allow for growth following their destruction, refreshing nature with new life. Reigning from legalized Rip City Portland, Oregon, metal purveyors Spellcaster who recently signed to Prosthetic Records, are soon to hit the music world by storm with their brand new album ”Night Hides The World,” released, July 8th, 2016! Soaked with the traditional values that have made Heavy Metal great throughout the years, namely high energy and power, tasteful melodic structure, brilliant vocals & hooks, strong dual guitar harmonies and riffs to briefly touch on the sacred formula. “Night Hides The World” perfectly encapsulates these elements. Boasting endless potential, “Night Hides The World” is a worthy 2016 favorite!
Spellcaster “Night Hides The World”
GOZU – “Revival”
The Free Dictionary defines revival (n.) as a time of reawakened interest in religion; or simply as the condition of being revived (2016). After listening to their 3rd release, titled “Revival” (Ripple Music), it’s clear that the message Gozu is preaching in 2016 involves cannon-type blasts of rhythmic, heavy ROCK! Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts and somewhat previously sheltered in the underground Stoner Rock world, Gozu has opened up their personal sound, expanding Gaffney‘s vocals textures, and adding puffs of psychedelic rock implanted within deeper and heavier riffs, pushing the band’s musical boundaries to reawakened highs. With a growing congregation finally catching onto Gozu’s word, Marc Gaffney (vocals), Doug Sherman (Guitars), and newly-joined members Joe Grotto (Bass) and Mike Hubbard (Drums) triumphed by recently signing to Metalbalde/Blacklight Records, GOZU is for sure a 2016 favorite.
GOZU – “Nature Boy”
Death Angel – “The Evil Divide”
Angels live forever! If you’ve followed the career—spanning three decades—of San Francisco’s Bay Area thrashers, Death Angel, that statement should be easy to inhale! On the heels of their brand new album, “The Evil Divide,” released June 3rd through Heavy Metal projectors, Nuclear Blast Records, Death Angel seems completely energized and poised for another chapter of excellence. Featuring 10 tracks combining Death Angels’ signature mix of speedy thrash music embellished with classical divides and melodic punctures like “The Moth” and “Cause For Alarm,” the guys are hungry and confident for their continued rise to thrash music glory! ”We know who we are,” adds Rob Cavestany “We’re dedicated to this sound for both the fans and ourselves.” Forever carrying thrash by the horns, “The Evil Divide” is a obvious choice as a 2016 favorite.
Death Angel – “The Moth”
WO FAT – “Midnight Cometh”
No one spreads shredful haze from the stage now-a-daze like Wo Fat! Releasing their 6th full-length album, “Midnight Cometh” on May 20th, 2016 via Ripple Music, the Dallas, Texas power-groove trio known as Wo Fat delivers another solid A+ effort, demonstrating their consistent, steady progression of amplified growth. Leaning heavily on the riff, Wo Fat combines heavy doses of Rock-N-Roll, Stoner Rock, Southern Rock, Blues, Soul and even a little voodoo, instilling a deeply-rooted base within their music. The tunes—6 in this case—are usually long and always full, and read almost as the tale of a mysterious pack of restless ghost riders speed-racing through the night wind, illuminated by moonlight while blazing along on a sinister journey to eternity! Consisting of lead guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Williams, and drummer Michael Walter, the band dishes out a shredtastic favorite album for 2016.
WO FAT – “Riffborn”
WITCHSKULL – “The Vast Electric Dark“
One of this year’s more favorable from the underground scene releases is “The Vast Electric Dark” by WITCHSKULL, dropped on September 23rd, via Ripple Music ! Hailing from Canberra, Australia, combining heavy music roots delved from the earlier NWOBHM influence along with the still coveted desert Stoner Rock sound, the hard rocking trio has branded an enthusiastic and original mark of their own excellence in “The Vast Electric Dark”. Featuring eight tracks of groove laden Stoner Rock, the album is a welcome bridge helping form future chapters in the ever-changing heavy music Stoner Rock scene. Described as a brotherhood more than a band, it’s evident WITCHSKULL is one of the bands to continue to watch out for in the coming years. Heavy riffage, potent blasts on the mark of the groove, and the glow of darkened horned sky easily casts “The Vast Electric Dark” as a 2016 album favorite.
WITCHSKULL “Pan’s Daughter”
Megadeth – “Dystopia”
Sometimes I wonder if founder Dave Mustaine is living a second life after possibly also existing as a composer from some clever musical time back some eons ago. After listening to Megadeth‘s brand new January 22nd, 2016 skilled “Dystopia” release via Tradecraft many times throughout the year, it’s reassuring to know that still today Mr. Mustaine and the band continue to conduct thrash! Combining the classic Megadeth footprint of screaming guitars with solo’s full of mastery and classical guitar breaks, signature low-toned vocals, substantive song-writing, and one of the better rhythm sections known to the heavy metal world, the band is still contributing some of today’s most exciting metal and thrash! Also featuring one of this year’s best tracks which includes one of bassist Dave Ellefson’s best riff career moments in “Fatal Illusion”, Megadeth’s “Dystopia” is a strong worthy contender for a Urb Thrasher Flower Hour favorite of 2016!
Megadeth – “Fatal Illusion”
Sturgill Simpson – “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth“
One of this year’s most complete and comprehensive albums happens to be excluded from the Stoner Rock/Metal universe, inhabiting somewhere in the country music world. Where in that world is still being decided by many and precisely one of the reason’s we’re so excited about Sturgill Simpson and his new April 15th, 2016 “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth” via Atlantic Records! With previous Urb Thrasher Flower Hour 2014 favorite “Metalmodern Sounds In Country Music” landing on our list back in 2014 as well, Simpson seems to take on the diverse world with ”A Sailor’s Guide To Earth“, expanding his fast-paced bluegrass driven core combining elements of blues, country, and even rock. Sitting somewhere musically between the legendary Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, with the outlaw tendencies of Hank III, Sturgill Simpson in a man well on his way to giving country music a new path to follow. As I write this, I couldn’t be more excited to see Strugill Simpson get a country music grammy nomination for album of the year!
Sturgill Simpson – “In Bloom”
10 More Rip-Worthy Mentions:
Favorite moment of the year was getting a quick moment with Tommy Victor of PRONG!
Thanks for supporting the Urb Thrasher Flower Hour and all the bands we support! We’ll be back in 2017 spinning the best in bluegrass, rock, stoner rock, and heavy metal!
10 Rip-Worthy band links: