2016 has been a year of pure shit.
No matter where you stand, you can’t deny it. We’ve lost a ton of great artists to death. The United States somehow elected a race-baiting orange goblin as its Commander in Chief. Fake news is more impactful on people than facts and evidence. It’s been a goddamn blast, let me tell you. Over the next two weeks, we’re going to celebrate what’s been great about metal this past year because, as bad as things have been otherwise, we’ve had a lot of excellent heavy metal to distract us from the shit comet that slammed into us over and over again. It’s the right thing to do.
But before we get there, let’s take one last bloody spit of the bad stuff from the metal world this year. There have been some not-so-great records, some embarrassing garbage that continued to bog down this great style of music, and some things we’d sooner forget. So here we go, one last trip through the bullshit from metal before we get to the stuff that was really good.
Opeth’s “Sorceress”: I get that Opeth isn’t a death metal band anymore. It’s a stupid idea. But I get it. This band that created some seminal classics such as “Morningrise” and “Blackwater Park” has been on this prog rock thing for far too long now, and the new record, while well played, is a boring disaster. Just because you like prog rock doesn’t necessarily mean you should re-program the band to play only that. And holy shit, can we dial back the organs just a little bit? If they weren’t one of the great and more forward-thinking death metal bands in the world, that would be one thing. Them not being a particularly strong prog band is something else. This record is grating from front to back, and as much as I’d like to honor them for following their dusty muse, this just isn’t working anymore.
Naming “Hardwired … to Self-Destruct” metal album of the year: So, this is a new one, and that’s because this just keeps happening. I like the new Metallica record. In fact, if you took LP 1, lopped off track three and added “Spit Out the Bone” to the back end, you might have an argument. This is as inspired as Metallica has sounded in ages. But in a year when we’ve had some really great pieces of metal bombard us, this is the equivalent of awarding some washed-up legacy band a Grammy just because they made a record where they didn’t fall ass backward into their own shit. The second record/CD of this album? Not very good at all. Metallica isn’t washed up, but they also didn’t make the best metal record of the year. They made a good one, and part of the excitement is over these guys creating baffling garbage for two decades and finally doing something right. Celebrate that they’re playing well again, but don’t choke on hyperbole.
Acting like an adult still not kvlt: Accidental rhyme, but I’ll let it stand. Another year, another embarrassing experience interacting with the metal community. I know, people hardened in the black metal movement seem to think that people want a cozy place to stay and music that isn’t dangerous. Yeah, no one fucking wants that. People got into many forms of metal because it was dangerous. That makes it fun and cathartic. What sucks is people being shit on for wanting LGBTQ and minority folks to be able to enjoy the music and go to shows without being harassed. Or exist online and discuss the music they love without being threatened. You can toss the SJW “insult” all you want, but it comes off like people ill-equipped for a political debate using the derogatory terms for liberal and conservative. And yeah, the Antifa shit may have good intentions, but the threats of violence and terror undoes any of that and makes the right that much more galvanized. It would be nice if we could enjoy metal, get our negativity out of our systems with it, and leave people the fuck alone already.
That Bolzer album: The less said about “Hero” the better.
Nails put out decent album, act like babies: “You Will Never Be One of Us” is a pretty difficult album title to misconstrue. Split verbs, guys! You’re not their friends, and you never will be. Based on the way their leader Todd Jones acted this year, I’m cool with that. As a member of the media, I’ve been subject to attacks from subjects I’ve written about. Shit, I wrote a piece two years ago that still results in me being called every name in the book. Good thing people get over things! Jones losing his mind over stories written about his band (including one that contained a positive review of the band’s third record, which is pretty rad, by the way) reeked of someone with thin skin not being confident enough in his own abilities and band to let things go. Well, come to think of it, we just hired a president who does the same thing. It was so bad, as were the people who wished misfortune and bad luck for the band, and it put a slimy feel on what should have been a pretty cool year for Nails.
Nuclear Blast sign, push Ghost Bath: You know, the band that claimed to be Chinese when their “Funeral” and follow-up “Moonlover” was released getting signed by one of the biggest labels in metal is a joke. Not that the North Dakota-based band is bad or anything. But shit, you pull off a dumb thing like claiming you’re from China instead of a seemingly boring state in the Midwest, that should leave you desolate as a band. Nope! Wide distribution and seemingly everyone forgetting all about this.
Metal also has shitty deaths: Fuck off, universe, for taking away: Bill Bumgardner (Indian, Lord Mantis), Caesar Cole (Dawnbringer, Superchrist), Nick Menza (Megadeth), Adrian Guerra (Bell Witch), Karl Pendragon Weiss (Atlantean Kodex), and even though they aren’t metal, David Bowie and Greg Lake. Leave and never come back, 2016.