Best of 2016 Ken’s Favorites

Kim & Ken holding hands Goodbye, good riddance and FUCK YOU, 2016.

While I begin writing this, I am overcome with a rush of emotions. To say that is was a rough year for my family would be an understatement.

As some of you already know, my wife of 20 years and my best friend and soul mate of almost 30 had a heart attack and nearly died during a scheduled open heart surgery to replace a defective valve. She would end up having two more open heart surgeries (three total over three days), and then flat line several times in the days that followed, two of those times while myself and our two teenage children were in the room.

In the weeks that followed, days seemed to never end. Time pretty much stood still. She spent 21 days in the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) in a drug induced coma, while 16 different drips, two cardiac machines and a heart pump helped keep her alive and her heart beating as close to a normal sinus rhythm as possible, until it was strong enough to beat on its own.

During this trying and inconceivable period, music was one of the few things that remained a constant source of consolation for me.

On the pages that follow, you’ll find my favorite heavy albums released this year. A good chunk of this music has definitely comforted me mentally, and assisted me in navigating the dark path created by almost losing my beloved Kim.

As always, I hope that you enjoy the music and are turned on to something new.

25. VailsFuckpuncher (4/29, When Planets Collide)

24. UstalostThe Spoor of Vipers (4/5, Independent)

23. High SpiritsMotivator (9/16, High Roller Records)

22. Slaves BCAll Is Dust and I Am Nothing (2/15, Veritas Vinyl)

21. SpotlightsTidals (5/13, Crowquill)

20. NetherlandsAudubon (8/26, Prosthetic)

19. Clouds Taste SatanicDawn of the Satanic Age (9/27, Independent)

18. Ggu:IIDwaling (5/20, Van Records)

17. Emma Ruth RundleMarked For Death (9/30, Sargent House)

16. BloodiestS/T (1/15, Relapse)

15. 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker)5772 (9/30, Independent)

14. Muscle and MarrowLove (5/27, The Flenser)

13. Agoraphobic NosebleedArc (1/22, Relapse)

12. Body VoidRuins (6/16, Transylvanian Tapes)

11. Tuho (4/29, Independent)

10. Slomatics – Future Echo Returns

(2/9, Black Bow)

Slomatics - Future Echo Returns album cover

Slomatics are one of those bands that is constantly spot on. They have previously released a slew of splits, an EP and four full lengths. Future Echo Returns is their fifth, and the band seems to get heavier as the records drop. Tracks like “Estronomicon” and “Into The Eternal” will shake you to your very core. Slomatics remind me a little of one of my favorite bands, Torche, but without the fluffy vocal harmonies.

09. Trap Them – Crown Feral

(9/23, Prosthetic)

Trap Them - Crown Feral album cover

Since their debut on Trash Art! in 2007, Trap Them are another “NO FILLER” band have been consistently releasing great album after great album, usually with little recognition. On Crown Feral, they marry the buzz saw guitar tone of their last record, 2014s Blissfucker, with their earlier raw hardcore sound. Speaking of recognition, maybe I’m just checking out the wrong lists. As soon as I see Crown Feral on another list, I’ll retweet it.

08. Jagged Mouth – Louring

(9/15, Independent)

Jagged Mouth - Louring album cover

Note for note, Louring is probably the heaviest album on my list. Albuquerque’s Jagged Mouth take a cue or two from Cult of Occult, or maybe even the likes of Primitive Man or Fister, and then tune it waaaaaaaaay dowwwwwwwwwn a notch, or eleven. Closing track, the almost fifteen minute monster “If Hope Conspires Against Us,” will rattle your insides and leave you feeling happy and destroyed.

07. Eight Bells – Landless

(2/12, Battleground)

Eight Bells - Landless album cover

Melynda Jackson is an extremely talented guitarist/musician/all around cool person, and she’s created a force to be reckoned with in Portland, Oregon’s Eight Bells. Of course surrounding yourself with other extremely talented musicians can’t hurt. Bassist Haley Westeiner and Immortal Bird vocalist Rae Amitay on drums complete the trio. As with their 2013 debut, The Captain’s Daughter, Landless takes the listener on dark and blackened musical journey.

06. Helen Money – Become Zero

(9/16, Thrill Jockey)

Helen Money - Become Zero album cover

LA based cellist Alison Chesley is Helen Money. I believe Become Zero is her third full length release under this moniker. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I was driving down the highway coming home from the hospital with tears of sorrow (and occasionally joy) streaming down my cheeks, usually during the song “Radiate.” Become Zero will both devastate you (“Vanished Star”) as well as rock your world (“Leviathan”)!

05. Gilded Lily – Mongrel’s Light

(8/5, Lion’s Jawbone)

Gilded Lily  - Mongrels Light album cover

Ontario based trio Gilded Lily’s debut full length Mongrel’s Light combines harsh black metal riffs with plenty of atmospheric blackened doom. Tracks like “Bellflower,” “The City Ends” and “Amber Murk” will melt your brain. Vocalist Andrew Helsinki has pipes deeper than the grandest of canyons. If you are not moved or affected in the slightest bit by his vocals, then you really are missing the big picture.

04. Zun – Burial Sunrise

(3/25, Small Stone Recordings)

Zun - Burial Sunrise album cover

If my picks were based solely on the number of listens, Zun’s Burial Sunrise would be my number one album of 2016. I listened to it A LOT, in particular the song “Solar Incantation.” Sera Timms vocals are simply wonderful. She and John Garcia (Kyuss, Vista Chino, Slo Burn, etc.) do an amazing job of putting a voice to this gloomy desert rock soundtrack. Plus, I really dig that lap steel guitar sound. It plays a huge part in making this record sound phenomenal. Into the wasteland I ride!

03. The Body – No One Deserves Happiness

(3/18, Thrill Jockey)

The Body - No One Deserves Happiness album cover

This album is damn near perfect. A veritable cornucopia of darkness. Bleak in its outlook. Filled with beautifully frightening moments of pop tinged despair and heaviness. The Body will not just tug at your heart-strings, they will rip them out too. Chip King and Lee Buford are definitely a force to be reckoned with, and will continue to push their own creative limits for years to come. Is No One Deserves Happiness the “grossest pop album of all time?” I say more like the poppest gross album of all time!

02. OvO – Creatura

(12/9, Dio Drone)

OvO - Creatura album cover

Italian duo Bruno Dorella (floor tom, snare, ride) and Stefania Pedretti (voice, guitar, bass) are OvO. They have been on my radar for a couple of years now, and get sicker with each and every release. I really cannot tell you how many records they have out. I know of the last three, which are Cor Cordium (2011), Abisso (2013) and their latest, Creatura. The music is unpredictable and experimental, quite often electronic and always goddamn heavy. OvO are freaky as fuck and I simply love them!

01. Make – Pilgrimage of Loathing

(7/15, Accident Prone Records)

MAKE - Pilgrimage of Loathing album cover

It was July last year that Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s doom trio Make released The Golden Veil, and it came in at number two on my “Best of 2015” list. Scott Endres (Guitar, Vocals, Synthesizers), Spencer Lee (Bass, Vocals, Guitar, Rhodes, Percussion) and newcomer to the band Luke Herbst (Drums, Vocals) are far more abrasive and angry this time around, and Pilgrimage of Loathing sits as my uncontested FAVORITE ALBUM OF 2016. Pure. Raw. Emotion. You can actually feel the loathing, the absolute fucking disgust. Tracks like “Two Hawks Fucking,” “The Somnambulist” and “Human Garbage” sound so immense on vinyl, it is easy to get lost in their mighty midst.

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