This was, by far, the most exhausting and time-consuming article I wrote for Metal Wani. Analyzing dozens of albums and coming up with only ten – especially when the crop is as good as 2016 was – for a top 10 is no walk in the park. Being the stubborn goat and perfectionist that I am, I listen to 70, 80 albums per genre and inside that lies a lot of debut albums, objects of this top 10. So cope with me when I say that if your favorite debut of 2016 doesn’t appear here, I either didn’t think it was that good, forgot about it (which would classify it as “not that good after all” in my view) or just haven’t listened to it, which is actually more likely. Bear in mind that I did listen to about 100 debut albums this year, so cut me some slack, eh!?
As it was with every genre in 2016, quality debut albums were plenty and choosing only ten of them was absolutely cruel, so, like I did with my ‘best of heavy’ list, I’m going to cheat a little bit and put some “honorable mentions” that could have easily made the cut.
Killer first timers such as Iron Spell, Vociferatus, Armory, Taken, Moros Nyx Inverloch and many more didn’t made the list but raised the bar really high music-wise, which makes me very happy and satisfied with the future of the heavy metal world in general. So, without further ado, here are the best debut albums of 2016:
- Gevurah – ‘Hallelujah!’
Gevurah’s ‘Hallelujah!’ gets better with each listen. The duo from Québec, Canada delivers a substantially rich album full of evil atmosphere and bets on longer tunes, making each song an experience of its own. Cruel, macabre and deep.
- Metaluria – ‘Fuerzas en la Noche’
The South American scene is one of the best when it comes to traditional and speed metal, and Argentina is stacked with quality bands. The newcomers of Metaluria seem to be around for ages thanks to a mature, ambitious and fun as hell maiden-voyage on ‘Fuerzas en la Noche’. Fans of Exciter, Ranger, Whiplash, Razor and the speed metal genre in general will cry of happiness with this.
- Blood Incantation – ‘Starspawn’
These American death-metallers took over the underground last year with a monstrous EP and an insane split with Spectral Voice, and managed to top all that with ‘Starspawn’. Strong guttural voice and bestial guitars are the trademarks of these dudes, who will most definitely reach a higher place in the Death Metal community in no time. All hail old-school Death Metal.
- Wildhunt – ‘Descending’
One of my favorite thrash albums of 2016. The Austrian thrash-machine completely obliterates the competition with mature songwriting and prolific passages, all while maintaining the core elements of the thrash genre. These guys will reach the top of the chain in no time if they continue to deliver strong albums like ‘Descending’. This, my friends, is European thrash metal at its best.
- Sumerlands – ‘Sumerlands’
As I said on my heavy metal top 10 list, Sumerlands cheats. John Powers, Arthur Rizk and highly skilled vocalist Phil Swanson join forces in a blend of US-Metal and NWOBHM, delivering dense and complex songwriting allied to masterful performances. When a band reminds us of fine acts such as Onward, Fool’s Game and Pharaoh, it’s hard not to become a fan.
- Nucleus – ‘Sentient’
Sci-Fi is a common theme these days in metal, thanks to classic bands like Iron Savior, Scanner, Voivod and newer acts like Vektor and Wormed. Nucleus adopted the trend and mastered it for the death metal genre, with highly technical song structures blending beautifully with a guttural approach and a vicious atmosphere. You know an album is great when while listening to it you think about a full-scale war between Aliens and Predators with the songs as the background. Surreal.
- Eternal Champion – ‘The Armor of Ire’
Michael Moorcock, H.P. Lovecraft, haunting solos, masterful performances, epicness, intelligence. Mix it all together and you will get Eternal Champion’s masterpiece, which also grabbed a spot in my top 10 heavy metal albums of the year.
- Sunburst – ‘Fragments of Creation’
Roy Khan widows will rejoice with the amazing vocal range and techniques of Vasilis Georgiou, guitar-virtuoso enthusiasts will find sanctum with Gus Drax and even those who love the modern approach adopted by the newer prog/power metal bands will definitely find something for them here. ‘Fragments of Creation’ is what happens when highly skilled musicians who are at their creative peak join forces and pour their hearts into the work. Absolutely mandatory for prog/power metal fans and one of the best debut albums of the last decade for the genre.
- Trees of Eternity – ‘Hour of the Nightingale’
This album presents a powerful and bleak soundscape of atmospheric doom with beautiful songwriting and excellent vocal work that is only made more impressive by actual tragedy. Vocalist Aleah Stanbridge passed away early this year of cancer, so when you hear her soft and haunting voice you can genuinely feel the pain and sorrow the album tries to emulate. Crafted by Swallow the Sun’s mastermind Juha Raivio, along with experienced doom/death musicians such as Mattias Norrman (ex-Katatonia, Moondark), Kai Hahto (Wintersun, ex-Swallow the Sun) and Fredrik Normann (ex-Katatonia, October Tide), you can bet that ‘Hour of the Nightingale’ will be on many top 10 lists this year.
- Eldamar – ‘The Force of the Ancient Land’
One of the best albums of the year, period. Matthias Hemmingby put everything on his shoulders in this one-man band and created a deep, meaningful and layered opus, full of nuances and passion. Seldom do we find albums this organic and well-constructed, so the gold medal here is more than deserved. ‘The Force of the Ancient Land’ is one of those albums that transcends its genre and must be heard by everyone out there.
Septagon – ‘Deadhead Syndicate’
These Germans play a blend of speed/thrash that is at the same time accessible and underground. Created by veterans of the scene like Markus “Ulle” Ullrich, Alexander Palma and Jürgen Schrank of Lanfear, and Atlantean Kodex frontman Markus Becker, the high level of virtuosity and musicality in ‘Deadhead Syndicate’ is just insane. Cruz del Sur Music is known for launching great bands into the scene, and they have done it again with Septagon.
Medevil – ‘Conductor of Storms’
Power/thrash metal from Canada. These dudes released ‘Conductor of Storms’ independently on August 25th and showed us that when you have passion and will allied to great technique you don’t need any sort of label or high-equipped studios to record a killer album. An awesome bass performance by Eric Wesa and Liam Collingwood’s ripped vocals make the whole experience of the album unique.
Sojourner – ‘Empires of Ash’
I love me some epic/atmospheric black metal, so when I heard Sojourner for the first time I was completely mesmerized. Despite being more melodic than my personal taste, this actually works really well with the atmosphere and the duo of frontman Emilio Crespo and guitarist Chloe Bray who also provides the female voices here, which gives the album a welcomed twist. Using tried-and-true effects and instruments such as wind sounds and flute and piano passages, the New Zealanders/Swedish made their mark in an already flooded genre.
God Syndrome – ‘Controverse’
Russians are masters of the extreme genres of metal, and God Syndrome is no exception. The band view themselves as a melodic death metal act, but ‘Controverse’ is so vicious, fast and evil that the melodic part gets torn to pieces by the brutality and fierceness of the album, save from some guitar lines and choruses here and there. Colossal first-impression by the band.
Trecelence – ‘Justified Atrocities’
Thrash metal from the west-coast, need I say more? These boys focus on the technical side of thrash and kick you in the face with fast-paced tunes and a little bit of a Toxik worship. High-pitched vocals, twin-guitar solos and bad-ass attitude: it doesn’t get better than this.