Mark Bryson - 2016 Top 10 Albums

Arguably, 2016 was mixed bag for music fans all genres. We lost such great music heroes as David Bowie, Prince, and most recently George Michael. While we've lost many great musicians this crazy year, music has continued to push on. Albums were still released, artists still played shows, and we kept the love for the musicians we still have with us.

In Metal, titans such as Metallica, Megadeth, Testament released very anticipated albums. I wanted to make my list this year as diverse as the music that I try and keep up with. Although Metal, Punk, and “Dad Rock” are my forté, I like to keep reaching for more sounds. This year I discovered artists like Charles Bradley (R&B/Soul) and Kacey Musgraves (Country), whose genres I never thought I’d cross over to.

My list primarily consists of highly anticipated records, new music I’ve discovered, and just damn good tunes! Check it out below!

10. Volbeat - Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie
This album was about what I expected it to be. Although I still love Volbeat, their past few albums haven't done much for me. They have been less heavy and more melodic over the years, but their popularity has grown. Since Rob Caggiano of Anthrax joined the group, they have absolutely gained a better lead guitar section. This album is a mixed up group songs. They have a few covers (Battleship Chains, Rebound) with a bunch of great originals. They have pounding singles like “Seal the Deal” and “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” which got a lot of radio play and attention on mainstream rock radio. They had some other tracks like “Goodbye Forever” and “The Gates of Babylon” which had very catchy choruses and great hooks. Regardless of my feelings on their minor change in sound, I still think this album is worth checking out.
9. Killswitch Engage - Incarnate  
This album was such a powerful force beginning with the first track “Alone I Stand.” I was reluctant to come to a Killswitch Engage fronted by Jesse Leach because I started listening to Killswitch while Howard Jones was their lead vocalist, but Jesse picked up right where they left off and this album shows it. All of these tracks can get get you up in the morning and pumped for the day, with a cup of coffee of course. One of the singles, “Hate By Design” speaks such truths of what 2016 was for a lot of people. Although this song is full of pounding tracks, it does not get in the way of showing us the talent these guys have. Tracks such as “Strength of the Mind” and “Reignite” get you right in the pit ready to tear it up. Disclaimer: neither Killswitch Engage or I take responsibility for any furniture broken in your house after listening to this record. It’s just that good. If you’re looking for an album that keeps Metalcore alive and well after 2009, this is it! 
8. Devilskin - Be Like The River
I discovered Devilskin while writing a news article about their single for this record, “Pray”. I really enjoyed the song so I decided to listen to more of them. They're a hard rock outfit from New Zealand so they do not get a lot of press in the states. This is their second album and it burns bright. With songs like “Mountains” and “Limbs” it shows the chemistry this family band really has. One of my most favorite tracks is “Animal”. It starts very melodic but brings the heat with a backbreaking rhythm. I hope these guys get more recognition in the states soon. 

7. Charles Bradley - Changes
This is an album I never thought I’d have on my list but I think it deserves some recognition. Charles Bradley is a soul singer who spent the early days of his career impersonating James Brown. Bradley was inspired by James Brown at a young age and their music styles could not be any more alike. This is Bradley’s third album and it caught my interest when it came out. On this latest record he covers the Black Sabbath song “Changes.” This is how I found Bradley. I read an article about a soul singer covering the Metal founding fathers. It is the title of the album and it is easily one of the best songs on the album. One of my favorite tracks is “Ain’t Gonna Give It Up” because it is such a raw and old style song. It gives me nostalgia for a time I never lived. Bradley’s powerful vocals push the emotional strength of each track. By the end of this record you will have gained a wise Uncle Charles in your life. I only wish this 68 year old man would have gotten his start earlier on. 

6. Red Fang - Only Ghosts
This is Red Fang’s 4th record and it was a good follow up to their last album, Whales and Leeches. The rhythmic strength of this album makes for catchy sounds and memorable lyrics. One of my personal favorites on this album is “Shadows” because the tone of the guitar and bass is just captivating. Red Fang always makes me want to get in my car and drive off into the sunset. This album really showcases the band’s chemistry especially with rhythmic tracks like “The Smell of the Sound."

5. David Bowie - Blackstar
This list would not be complete without David Bowie’s latest and last album, Blackstar. This album was released days before he passed away in January and it is truly a beautiful send off and last message from the cultural icon. The most haunting track on the record is the single, “Lazarus.” This melancholy track is Bowie’s way of telling you that he is dying and that he will be returning to the stars he was born from. This song is enough bring tears to the eyes of his fans. It is both sad and just so perfect that is last album would be one of his best. The Starman is now looking down on us from the skies, and I would not have it any other way. 

4. Kacey Musgraves - A Very Kacey Christmas
I know what you are thinking: “Mark, why is a country singer’s Holiday album on your list?” A friend of mine introduced me to Kacey Musgraves earlier this year and I fell in love with her. Her down to earth songwriting and charming voice are what got me hooked on her. This album is mainly covers of holiday classics with a few of her own. Songs like “Christmas Always Makes Me Cry” and “Present Without a Bow” give a very real picture of what the holiday season is like for some of us. The pop song “Ribbons and Bows” is one of my favorite on the album. She collaborated with Leon Bridges, Willie Nelson, and the Quebe Sisters. In a genre that I only assumed sang about trucks, girls, and cheap beer I found my own niche. I hope that in the new year Kacey brings us more of her own original tracks and a tour if we are lucky. 

3. Green Day - Radio Revolution
This was one of the most anticipated albums of the year and it delivered. For a lot of Green Day fans, this was redemption for the past few albums they have released. They have several pounding tracks like the title track and the single “Bang! Bang!”. I enjoyed the diversity of the album and that they did not try and recreate American Idiot but still keep the angst and anger. One of my favorite ballad jams on the album is “Outlaws.” I’ve always enjoyed Green Day’s songwriting ability. Billie Joe and the boys still got it as far as I am concerned. 

2. Metallica - Hardwired to Self-Destruct
This was the most anticipated album of the year in my opinion. Metallica released several singles from this album which gave us a taste of what it will be like. They seem to be going back to their roots with songs like “Hardwired” and “Dream No More”. The week the album was released, the band would upload a music video for each track on the album. This was an interesting but unnecessary touch to the album. There were a few songs on the album that were not all that great but I still really enjoyed it. My favorite track on the album is “Spit Out The Bone” which is powerful locomotive ready to run your ass over. They payed tribute to one of their friends and longtime hero Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead who passed away late last year. The fitting song and music video was a nice tribute to one of the kings of rock and roll. I’m hoping they have a great tour to support this record. 

1. Amon Amarth - Jomsviking
Last but not least this is was my #1 album of the year. Amon Amarth has not disappointed yet and I do not expect them to. At first I did not like the first single “First Kill” but I learned to love it with the rest of the record. One of the most popular tracks on the album is “Raise Your Horns” which has cemented its fate as one the most metal drinking songs ever. My favorite track on the album is “The Way of Vikings” for its melodic tone and pounding rhythm. Another great melodic track on this album is “One Thousand Burning Arrows.” If you love “Viking Metal” I highly recommend this album. It continues the great momentum the band has had for a long time.
Thank you for checking out my list! I hope that it opened up your curiosity and you will check out some of these albums. I hope 2017 brings us all great music and happiness. I know 2016 was a bit of let down, but we have great music to look forward to. Join me and The Hook as we come out of 2016 strong and ready for the music ahead. It will be a great year, I can feel it.