The next entrant in Rock Sins traditional end of year awards is longtime contributor and senior writer James Halstead. Never one to shy away from a strong opinion or two, here is what James made of 2016’s musical output…
Album of the Year – Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
Taking the blueprint of the last two albums Architects have taken a much more compositionally advanced approach to their sound on this album. There’s everything familiar with Architects from the last few years with juddering Meshuggah inspired grooves but beneath it all there’s an added electronic element that just brings much greater dynamics to the songs. Moving firmly away from the metalcore camp that they outgrew years ago this is the year’s best ‘heavy’ album.
Song of the Year – The King is Blind – Mourning Light
One of the best paced, most innovative songs of the year ‘Mourning Light’ starts out as a doomy masterpiece but by the closing minutes the double bass steps up adding an extreme metal intensity to this composition. It’s not quite reinventing the wheel but it’s still a perfectly paced slab of pure metallic bludgeoning.
Gig of the year – Machine Head – (Ten Tonne) Hammersmith Appollo
With one of the best back catalogues of any band from the last thirty years of heavy music three hours of Machine Head delving into rarities was always going to be a joyous experience. Opening with ‘Clenching the Fists of Dissent,’ dropping ‘Take My Scars’ in the first twenty minutes and including the ultimate surprise of ‘Desire to Fire’ for the first time in over fifteen years was a whole new level though.
Festival Performance of the Year – Cancer Bats – Slam Dunk
Opening with a cover of Children of the Grave straight into Hail Destroyer – a song traditionally saved for later in the set – was outrageous enough but playing Sabotage third was just taking the bar set only half an hour earlier by Creeper for performance of the day was a sight to see.
Most disappointing album of the year – Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
Seriously. I had to look long and hard through albums released this year before I even remembered Killswitch Engage had released new music. Killswitch Engage. The band that wrote ‘Alive or Just Breathing,’ ‘Daylight Dies’ and returned to form with 2013’s superb ‘Disarm the Descent’ released an album that was so disappointing I straight up purged it from my memory. If that’s not worthy of disappointment of the year I’m not sure what is.
Music Video of the Year – Heck – Good as Dead
Heck are a band that always put real thought and effort into their videos and the video accompanying lead single for ‘Instructions’ is no different. Performance videos certainly feel more than a little dated now so its tribute to Heck that they can bring such a fresh and original take on them. From the Van pulling up and the band strolling out at the beginning, to the frenzied ‘live’ performance of the band in the first half of the video and then the synchronised dance throughout the videos second half Heck are clearly a band with original ideas not just musically but also visually.
Band of the Year – The Dillinger Escape Plan
There are not many bands that have had a perfect career. Dillinger Escape Plan are definitely among that elite few. From their tireless recorded excellence to the decision to bow out halfway through recording latest album ‘Dissociation’ this is a band that always prioritised creating excellent ‘art.’ Both pushing boundaries but also retained an almost impossibly high standard of work. That they are bowing out simply because they feel that the Dillinger Escape Plan Project has reached its creative endgame is a one in a million occurrence in today’s cynical climate where bands continue to reunite for a quick buck or find excuses to play not-so-classic albums in full to drive ticket sales. There aren’t many bands that are dedicated so totally to their art and that is why Dillinger Escape Plan are my band of the year.
2017’s Alternative Ambassador – Rob Flynn
One of the genuine heroes of heavy metal and alternative music in 2016, Rob Flynn has set a tremendous example for the entire scene. From his courageous words about the particularly odious incident at Dimebash to his honesty about the more commercial direction Machine Head have taken on latest single ‘Is There Anybody Out There’ Rob Flynn has been a bastion of honesty and integrity this past year and long may it continue.
Enjoyed James’ awards or disagree with his choices? Let him know! In the meantime, please take the chance to catch up with the 2016 end of year awards from other members of the Rock Sins team: