2016 has rolled in to a close at last. Though we can’t say that this year quite reached the intensity of 2015 when it came to new releases, there were nevertheless a few positive surprises in there that managed to pique our attention. So without further ado, here are our staff picks for 2016!
BW: There were three contenders for this award for me this year. The first was BLIND CHANNEL‘s debut, “Revolutions,” which is a stunning first album full of great songs and great energy (though not strictly “metal” if we’re being fair, as there is so much more to it). The second is INSOMNIUM‘s epic, “Winter’s Gate,” which is a beautiful and haunting concept that perfectly captures the story, start-to-finish. Lastly, we have MACHINAE SUPREMACY‘s last-minute entry into the game, “Into the Night World.” Since INSOMNIUM‘s concept album is not a casual listen, I will have to make this a tie between the others.
VK: Every year there’s usually one album that’s worth a 10/10 in my books, and this time it was “Theories of Flight“ by FATES WARNING. I wouldn’t change a single thing about this album, as every song is great, the production caresses your ears, the playing is superb, and Ray Alder sings better than ever. The fact that my favorite song on the record has changed so many times is a testament to its brilliance: at first it was “Ghosts of Home,” then (while writing the review) “White Flag,” and now I think “The Light and Shade of Things” is the best one. This is one of the things that makes it so rewarding to go back to “Theories of Flight” time and time again: it’s all killer, no filler.
LL: No questions here, INSOMNIUM won this from me with “Winter’s Gate.” I’ve rambled about my thoughts on it in length in my review, but I gathered here some sort of afterthoughts, now that it has a few months of mileage behind it. Rarely have I come across an album that grips your attention full-force time after time, but which you can also just put on and let it spin a few times without even noticing any time has passed. It’s a perfect meditation album in that sense, and I can’t bring myself to get bored of it. Impressive, ambitious, and utterly gorgeous, I believe here’s an album that will endure time better than most records – however good at this point in time – that come out this day and age. It’s a classic in a time that does not look for classics.
BW: I spent a great deal hemming and hawing over this, as there were a lot of really great songs this year. Again, “Winter’s Gate“ is legendary. MACHINAE SUPREMACY‘s “Into the Night World“ is probably my subjective personal favorite song of the year. BLIND CHANNEL‘s “Deja FU“ was holding this spot since its release due to its fantastic construction. However, if we’re going to combine song construction/progression with vocal quality, musical quality, and incredible feeling, I would like to award this to MACHINAE SUPREMACY for “Twe27ySeven.” This is one of the most unique songs MASU have put out in years and really sets the creative bar high for the band in the future! It’s a little piece of mastery in an album of a lot of great songs. Oh, and did I mention the harmonization between Stjärnström and Ingeborg Ekeland? Because it’s chill-inducing.
VK: Steven Wilson only released an EP this year, but “My Book of Regrets” alone made it worth the price of purchase. In 9½ minutes the song brilliantly captures the crowded yet lonesome feeling that living in a big city can give you, and it was my favorite part of the show in Tampere this year. Wilson has been on a roll lately, and hopefully it will continue in 2017 with his next album.
LL: As you well know, technically, “Winter’s Gate“ is one 40-minute song, so guess what, I’ll name the whole damn thing. I’d assume I wouldn’t have to explain the pick anymore at this point, but then again I like talking about “WG.” I was quite disappointed with Spotify for chopping the album into seven parts, and have refused to listen them separately because that’s just not how you’d really listen to it. You wouldn’t read a book by taking a chapter from the middle, one from the end, and one in between, would you now? Of course it is possible to cut it at logical spots, but listening to them separately? No, just… no. I know I’ve said this before, but what I love so much about “Winter’s Gate” is the seamless flow that makes the album into the one beautiful song it is. The story roams on without tripping and stumbling, and justifies it being just one whole. And hey – how many times you can top the official album chart with one 40-minute death metal song?
MOST EPIC SONG
BW: I’m a little conflicted about this. If I’m being unfair, this award undoubtedly go’s to INSOMNIUM‘s “Winter’s Gate“ because it is literally a glorious 40-minute epic. But really, who can write an average-to-long song that could even compare to such a success? So because I don’t think it was a fair fight, I’m going to bring in a second winner to this with SONATA ARCTICA‘s “White Pearl, Black Oceans pt. II: By the Grace of the Sea“ because that lovely piece of music is everything I’ve wanted SONATA to do in an epic that they haven’t yet done. Plus I just adore the hint of NIGHTWISH in there. Sequels to popular songs are hard to succeed at, but I think these guys totally nailed it. Both are top songs in their field, so both deserve to be mentioned here.
VK: This was a great year for long songs for sure, as Steven Wilson, WITHERSCAPE, FATES WARNING, HAKEN, and MASCHINE all released excellent epics. Since I already named “My Book of Regrets” the best song of the year, I think it’s fair to give “The Ghosts of Home“ by FATES WARNING some appreciation too, given how well-written and cohesive it is considering the 10½-minute length and the various mood changes. One hell of a journey!
LL: Any guesses what I might say? Of course it’s “Winter’s Gate.” Duh. It’s got everything that counts as epic [SPOILER ALERT]: Vikings (yay, Vikings!), mystery hidden treasure stuff, deadly huge-ass lethal creatures, oh and also ETERNAL GRIM AND FROSTBITTEN TRVE KVLT WINTER IS COMING TO KILL US ALL. BOOM. Oh yeah and it’s one damn great song, too.
BEST SLOW SONG
BW: A no-brainer here. The moment I first listened to “Into the Night World,” I thought, holy hell, MACHINAE SUPREMACY has a straight-up ballad! Not only that, the song is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Those piano lines, those lyrics, the passionate and emotional solo, and the high switch Stjärnström takes in the vocals in the last run through the chorus… goddamn. It’s been 2 months now and I still tear up every single time I listen to “Remember Me.”
VK: Witherscape’s “Marionette“ is a fantastic mix of melodeath, doom, shoegaze and AOR, so it wins hands down. It’s a bit of a deviation from the standard WITHERSCAPE sound, but Dan Swanö‘s vocal performance is impressive, and the solo at the end is majestic.
LL: I had to wrack my brains a little bit for this, but I’d be damned if I did not put PSYCHEWORK’s “Barricades Won’t Fall“ here. It’s a bit debatable as to whether it’s actually a slow song, per se, but contextually speaking it’s definitely a power ballad of the finest rank. Knowing under what conditions the lyrics were written, you are already tuned into being moved by it somehow; however, it shouldn’t be overlooked in any way that in this, Antony Parviainen’s lyrical skills get to truly shine. Extracting it from the original context, it’s a beautifully constructed message to pick you up whenever you drop down and consider letting go – like a gentler version of TURISAS’ “Stand Up and Fight,” yet just as powerful. As you know, sometimes it’s not a kick in the butt you need, rather than a hand to hoist you back to your feet.
MOST CHILLING SONG
BW: Ahh, it’s time to break out “Winter’s Gate“ officially. Even if you were to break the album up into parts (incidentally – DON’T), this album is chilling because the story is chilling – the haunted, mysterious folklore gives the story exactly the sort of mysterious edge it needs to send cold, dark fingers up your spine to set your skin on edge.
VK: I’m going outside the box with this one by picking David Bowie‘s “Lazarus.” It’s a mellow and jazzy song, so you can chill out to it, but the meaning of the lyrics makes it literally chilling, as it’s essentially a farewell message by Bowie, though few knew it when it was released. For these two reasons, I feel like it’s the only right choice for me in this category, though it’s not metal.
LL: Because no-one can stop me from putting “Winter’s Gate” here, I could. But lo and behold, I will not give this honor to INSOMNIUM – there are two other pieces that chill me to the bone and move my very core every time I hear them, and therefore deserve the title. Both of them tell story of a battle, one that was eventually won and one that was lost. To remain and to pass on – the fine thread that finally separates the living from the dead has been thinner than it’s been for a while this year, or so it feels, cut short one time after another. It’s near impossible to predict who will leave today or tomorrow, and even when you can see the end coming, you wouldn’t want to see it finally reach anyone. It feels perhaps more appropriate than ever to be with your loved ones and light a candle to those who have sailed on to undying lands – I raise my glass to them all. With these words, I name PSYCHEWORK’s “The Dragon’s Year“ and “Gallows Bird“ by TREES OF ETERNITY.
BEST FUN-TIME SONG
BW: I have to tie this one yet again. First of all, I know in my review I threw a lot of shit on SABATON‘s “Shiroyama” for having stupid lyrics. It does have terrible lyrics, but that doesn’t change the fact that that song is just so catchy. It’s almost a guilty pleasure for me, because the intellectual part of me can’t condone enjoying it, but I do! I really can’t help it. At the same time, MACHINAE SUPREMACY wrote a high-energy love song called “Space Boat.” I’ll say that again. A speedy romance called “Space Boat.” If that is not the best thing ever, I don’t know what is. I can’t pick between these two. Also, special mention to “Veterans of the Apocalypse“ by THUNDERSTONE, because that song had held this category for three quarters of the year before “The Last Stand“ and “Into the Night World“ came out.
VK: I think this one goes to THUNDERSTONE‘s “Veterans of the Apocalypse.” “The Path” and last year’s “Fire and Ice” were good enough as advance singles, but neither of them screamed “Thunderstone is back!” quite as much as this one. “Veterans…” is an excellent album- and show-opener, and the acoustic version that I saw them play at Levykauppa Äx was very entertaining as well. There’s some cool soloing, singalong choirs, and at the end, Atte Palokangas is just blasting away on drums. This song never fails to make me feel pumped, and as I found out in the summer, it’s great background music for bicycling!
LL: I was close to call it a tie again, this time between BLIND CHANNEL and THUNDERSTONE. Like Wille said, “Veterans of the Apocalypse“ pretty much never fails to get you to feel pumped, but if I look back at what I’ve been partying this year to, it’s clearly “Deja FU.” Not a purely fun-time song with its lyrics and all, but there’s been plenty of fun times where it was heavily involved and enjoyed.
BEST COVER SONG
BW: It’s an interesting moment when you find a cover song you aren’t familiar with, only to go listen to the original and immediately understand why the band in question chose the song in question. On this occasion, I’m referring to the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT‘s cover of WEEN‘s song, “Transdermal Celebration.” If you listen to the WEEN original, it actually sounds like a toned down DTP song, so it’s no wonder that Dev liked it and felt like it would fit onto his new album. And the DTP version is even better than the original! These two were a match made in heaven.
VK: I can’t remember a lot of cover songs from my favorite bands this year… SONATA ARCTICA‘s rendition of Bryan Adams‘ “Run to You” was pretty good, but the lyrics about cheating are sleazy as hell, and SA didn’t add that much of their own sound into the song, and hence I can’t let it win. CMX, on the other hand, managed to make pop star Antti Tuisku‘s “Hyökyaalto” sound like their own with a guitar-driven rock version. I hadn’t really appreciated the song earlier, but this is yet another reminder that a good tune is a good tune, no matter what the arrangement is.
LL: While I think hardly anyone should touch QUEEN’s repertoire, I found DELAIN’s version of “Scandal” on “Moonbathers” rather enjoyable. It also fit the album sound, overall nice job there.
BW: For me, this is a category that I either find really easy or really hard to fill out. Either something jumps out at me immediately, or nothing jumps out at me. This year, I have to say, there were a lot of cool riffs out there. What is the best? I’m not sure. It’s hard to pick between them. So instead, I’ll give some special mentions: “Beast Engine“ by MASU has some straight-up rugged heavy classic metal riffing going on that pumps me up a lot. “Dream Sequence” from the same album has something phenomenal going on nearly consistently throughout, that gives me some serious chills. The piano line in “Remember Me” is haunting. The intro riff for “Offer Your Light“ by DTP is very Devin Townsend, but kind of electronic and really energetic. Most of “Winter’s Gate“ is a good riff. SONATA ARCTICA‘s “Black Pearl, White Ocean” sequel has the most NIGHTWISH-inspired bit I’ve ever heard and I kind of love it. So while I can’t narrow this down, I think I will give it to MASU non-specifically because they had a lot of really inspired riffs throughout the album. If I give a separate award for a solo, it’s the one in “Remember Me” by MASU – it kind of comes out of nowhere as the song seemingly fades out and then just kicks the emotion up to 11.
VK: My favorite riff this year is in the title-track of OPETH‘s “Sorceress.” Sometimes simplicity is best, – just think of BLACK SABBATH – and this riff is made even catchier by the vocal melody that mimics it. It also sounds heavy as hell coming off the heels of the jazzy intro. As for solos, there are two strong candidates in “White Flag“ by FATES WARNING and “Marionette“ by WITHERSCAPE. However, as impressive as the playing by both Mike Abdow and Frank Aresti is on “White Flag,” I’m a sucker for big, melodic guitar leads that ooze emotion, so Ragnar Widerberg‘s performance on “Marionette” takes the cake.
LL: Oh, this was a tough call; I probably used more time on this than any other category. I loved the soundscapes on both “Winter’s Gate“ and “The Dragon’s Year” a ton, but wouldn’t still pick anything out of the former – thinking of the whole album as, well, a whole makes it somewhat pointless to dig out just one thing. In the end I decided to skip the latter as well, for rather similar reasons, and went with something entirely else: the riff in “Frontiers” by OMNIUM GATHERUM. I spent at least week last winter listening mostly “Frontiers”; it’s one of those songs I have a hard time getting tired of – it might not be the most spectacular out of the bunch, but man, it is addictive in all the good ways, the riff being not the smallest factor in that.
BW: How many instrumentals did I hear this year? As much as I love “SID Metal Legacy” from “Into the Night World,” it might just be winning this one because it has no competition. Did I miss anything? Were there any other instrumentals this year? Well, it might have won anyway… the only other song I could think is actually MACHINAE SUPREMACY‘s Koji Kondo cover of Ocarina of Time‘s “Gerudo Valley” theme. Both are good in their own way – the former a tribute SID music, and the latter a tribute to the anniversary of one of the best games of all time.
VK: RIVERSIDE‘s “Eye of the Soundscape” is 99% instrumental, only with occasional wordless vocals, so there’s a lot to choose from on that album. However, I’ll limit myself to the previously unreleased songs, because the rest of the material had been released earlier than 2016. Out of these new pieces, “Shine” is my choice, because it’s got some cool keyboard and bass work going on, and I like the CURE vibe that I can hear in it.
LL: Honestly, I’m quite useless in remembering instrumental songs (probably because I’m a hopeless lyric addict), if they’re not something rather unusual, or just unusually great. So this year mostly hits blank on that front, with the exception of ”These Grey Heavens” by OMNIUM GATHERUM. It’s mellow with the ability to get some fragments stuck in your head, so there is definitely something done right.
BEST NEW DISCOVERY
BW: This was a no-brainer for me. In March, I had no idea who BLIND CHANNEL was, and by June they were already on my list of favorite live acts of the year. They lured me in with their brilliant song construction and energetic stage performance before they even had an album out, and let’s face facts – their debut did not disappoint! I am seeing huge things in this band’s future and I’m glad to have gotten on board as early as I have! Since “Revolutions“ already tied for Best Album, it takes the best new discovery without any question. Special mention to HAKEN though – I’m not a big prog fan, but my partner is, and so I’ve been hearing a lot of it and can’t deny that I enjoy it.
VK: Though MASCHINE had already released an album before this year’s “Naturalis,” I’ll let them take this one, because they’re still a relatively new band, and I only heard a few debuts this year anyway. I was positively surprised at how mature the record sounded, and I’ll definitely keep an eye on them in the future.
LL: Having been aware of BLIND CHANNEL (and their domestic contemporaries mentioned here) for a couple years already, my choice falls to PHANTASMA, the side project of DELAIN’s singer, Charlotte Wessels, along with Georg Neuhauser (SERENITY) and Oliver Phillips (EVERON, among many others). Their 2015 debut, “The Deviant Hearts,” sailed under the radar for me until late spring, and I eventually came across it by chance – and hold on just a second, how and WHY? It’s easily one of the best melodic metal albums I’ve heard in this decade; an enchanting story, told by music that dances around you in the most graceful way, adorned by the voices of Wessels and Neuhauser, with a bunch of guest vocal performances to complete the palette. I recommend doing yourself a favor and giving the album a spin right away.
BW: There were a few contenders this year: LEAVES’ EYES’ split with Liv Kristine was an epic dramafest. ELUVEITIE dumping Merlin Sutter and having Anna Murphy and Ivo Henzi follow him was a huge shocker. Aleksi Munter had to give up SWALLOW THE SUN in favor of love and rest and rejuvenation. FROSTTIDE parting ways with Joni Snoro and Lauri Myllylä involved a lot of over-dramatic bullshit from those two, and SIRENIA has moved on to yet another vocalist (how many have they been through now?). However, I will go with Peter Iwers from IN FLAMES, because I feel like his departure was the last nail in the coffin that is that band and their music nowadays. All the rest of those bands still have a glimmer of hope, but I have officially lost interest in that band after “Battles.”
I’m going to throw a special mention in here as well to the death of Aleah Stanbridge from TREES OF ETERNITY. This section isn’t meant for deaths, but members leaving bands/bands breaking up. Nevertheless, I feel like I can’t leave this year behind without mentioning this girl and her lovely voice, who is very sorely missed. And of course, Lemmy and Bowie deserve mention as well, along with Piotr Grudziński.
VK: Though this category is for line-up changes and bands calling it quits, I can’t ignore the fact that 2016 was a dark year for popular music with a lot of deaths. The one that had the biggest impact on me was the passing of RIVERSIDE guitarist Piotr Grudziński, because he was the only one I was a fan of beforehand, and he was only 40 years old. On top of that, RIVErSIDE had just released a great album last year, and it felt like they were on an upward trend with big future plans, which makes this sudden death even more tragic. Luckily the band will carry on with guest guitarists in the future, and Grudziński‘s legacy will live on.
Martin Henriksson‘s departure from DARK TRANQUILLITY is the only significant line-up change I can remember from this year – maybe it’s the constant dying making splits seem little in comparison? While “Atoma“ is a good album and DT weren’t affected negatively, it’s sad that the guy who wrote melodeath classics like “Lethe” and “Final Resistance” lost his passion for music.
LL: A lot of the mentioned splits here feel like having a necessary quality, which – to me – erase some of the sad part, and while it really is sad to see Aleksi Munter having to give up SWALLOW THE SUN, I, for one, have the highest understanding when it comes to avoiding burnout. So, alike Bear and Ville before me, I would like to use my space here to remember all wonderful musicians we have lost this year – from big stars like Lemmy and Bowie, to less known but equally loved artists, such as Aleah Stanbridge of TREES OF ETERNITY and TAROT’s late drummer Pecu Cinnari. May they rest in peace.
BW: It took me a while to figure this one out, because I had forgotten the obvious pick. Is it Elina Siirala in LEAVES’ EYES? Nah, I still get a bad taste in my mouth from that band’s split with Liv Kristine and don’t think they’ll be the same without her, even if Siirala is a great vocalist. Could it then be one of ELUVEITIE‘s three replacements? Nope. Think, was there any really and truly inspired replacement this year? Of course! Netta Skog taking over for Emmi Silvennoinen in ENSIFERUM. I really like Emmi, but her live performance has been lacking life for years now. Netta played a few shows with ENSKA before this was announced, and with her background in folk metal (TURISAS), it only makes sense that her accordion has the potential to really make ENSIFERUM stand out from the ever-growing crowd of Viking/folk metal bands. I’m really excited to see what happens with her on board now!
VK: Anders Iwers seems to fit nicely into DARK TRANQUILLITY and I’m glad they finally got someone to fill the bassist spot after playing with backing tracks for a couple of years, so he’s the only one I can think of. As a random fun fact, “Atoma“ is the first time since IN FLAMES‘ debut “Lunar Strain” (1994) that Iwers and Mikael Stanne appear on the same album, so it feels like a circle has become complete in the Gothenburg scene!
LL: Netta Skog joining ENSIFERUM after Emmi Silvennoinen is one that initially comes to mind, and I, like Bear, couldn’t think of a better pick for the band.
BEST COVER ART
BW: This was a genuinely hard pick for me. I’ve always enjoyed the female-centric focus of MACHINAE SUPREMACY‘s albums, and I particularly love the girl in the background on this one and the muted colors that go with it. As well, with the “Last March of the Undead“ on the cover, it seems only fitting to have these phantom-esque beings zombie-walking towards the viewer. SONATA ARCTICA‘s “The Ninth Hour“ wasn’t perfect, but I like the steampunk complexity of the album art with its dystopian village and contrasts between nature and civilization. I suppose I should give this to SONATA ARCTICA because it has the greatest artistic complexity, but I’d honestly be happy to give this award to any of these covers.
VK: I’m going with “The Ninth Hour” as well, because I like the symbolism behind the cover, and it’s been executed beautifully. I haven’t seen the vinyl version in stores yet, but I bet it looks glorious!
LL: This wasn’t an easy pick for me, either – a lot of intriguing covers this year, from bigger and smaller bands alike, and nearly all of my favorite albums have had really nice album art. In the end it was a choice between STAM1NA’s “Elokuutio” and “Hour of the Nightingale“ by TREES OF ETERNITY, and out of those two I go with the latter. The minimalist storybook style and muted tones fit the album beautifully, and the artist’s style is just so lovely. It’s not grand or impressive, but brings me joy.
BEST LIVE SHOW
BW: Before I give out the award, I want to say that this should go hands-down to the LAHTI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA doing Score: Orchestral Game Music. They deserve it simply based on how utterly unbelievable they were; however, this is 2016 in Metal and that’s not even close to metal, so they don’t qualify. With that out of the way, we can discuss the real contenders, of which there were three. The first was BLIND CHANNEL and EMBER FALLS for the former’s debut release gig at Virgin Oil – a perfect energy and performance combination from both bands; next, AMORPHIS with Anneke van Giersbergen at Huvila-teltta for the An Evening with Friends show where they played “Under the Red Cloud“ in full; and of course, IRON MAIDEN at Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto on their Book of Souls World Tour. Strengths and faults? While BLIND CHANNEL and EMBER FALLS both put on their best shows of the year, the former’s setlist wasn’t in the best order as compared to the album itself, which brought a song or two down a notch. AMORPHIS‘ show was the best I’ve seen from them as well, though they squandered their time with Anneke van Giersbergen by using her in only two songs and, in hindsight on re-watching the show online, I honestly didn’t think she was used all that well in “House of Sleep.” That leaves IRON MAIDEN, who, like the others, I’ve seen many times now and this was again the best show I’ve seen from them. It’s a little unfair, but IRON MAIDEN has a bigger budget to put on a better show, and unlike the other two (no matter how minuscule they were), there were no real fumbles in the performance that I can think of. It feels a little cheap to award it to such a big band, but frankly, I genuinely think Maiden earned it. Also, a special mention to both AVANTASIA and GHOST at Tuska this year – both bands genuinely shocked me with how great their performances were!
VK: Oh man, this is like having to choose between your children, since I saw so many fantastic shows this year! However, Steven Wilson deserves the victory just like last year, because the sound at Pakkahuone was absolutely perfect, I enjoyed the visual stimulation (aka video screens) very much, and getting to hear a longer setlist with a few more PORCUPINE TREE classics was awesome. Honorable mentions go to AMORPHIS at Juhlaviikot and BLACK SABBATH and co. at Monsters of Rock – AMORPHIS played the best show I’d seen by them, while MoR had a great line-up and SABBATH was… well, SABBATH!
LL: I’m on the verge of calling this a tie between DELAIN and PSYCHEWORK here – as I predicted in the beginning of the year, the latter held up quite impressively throughout the length of it, and it was no slouch of a year on the grand scale of live shows. There was the utterly entertaining Sakara Tour show at Espoo Metro Areena, and some very pleasing festival shows – like the return of mighty AJATTARA – but in the end none of them managed to top the “whoa mama!” and sheer astonishment that ran circles in my head the whole show as it did at Lutakko last January. So I actually had to wait almost a full year to find a worthy contender for the title, and oh dear what a contender that was! I’ve described DELAIN’s 10th anniversary show at Paradiso, Amsterdam, elsewhere as “a goddamn confetti bomb of awesome,” and that sums up what went down rather well, even though it’s sometimes extremely hard to put feelings that you go through at shows into sentences. But I will state that the concert DVD from Paradiso will be a gigantic, unapologetic dose of crazy, happy, good-times with some brilliant visitors. But the title for the best live show? You know what, I will still give it to PSYCHEWORK. If a band can pull off a first show like that, they are capable of nearly anything in this genre.
BEST LIVE ALBUM/DVD
BW: You might think, considering how much I love “The Human Equation“ and how much I loved “The Theater Equation“ that I’d be all over the DVD release of the show for this award. However, I feel as though this project deserved a higher budget for video quality and since I was there for the real thing, the live DVD does not quite compare to the memory of seeing it in person. That leaves really only one band who could possibly sweep this – NIGHTWISH‘s “Vehicle of Spirit.” We saw the screening of the DVD in advance and we were present for the show at Ratina (which was my runner-up for best show last year, second only to The Theater Equation), so it’s pretty obvious that if Ratina was one of the best shows of 2015, its DVD release would be the best of its kind in 2016.
VK: I’ve always loved live DVD’s, but somehow I didn’t buy any new ones this year. RUSH released “Time Stand Still,” but it’s a documentary, and I haven’t received my copy yet anyway. AT THE HOLLOW also released a live CD recently, but I’ve yet to check it out. However, I did enjoy the bonus DVD that came with BLUES PILLS’ “Lady in Gold,” and OPETH had a couple of cool audio tracks from their orchestral show in Plovdiv on the bonus disc of “Sorceress.”
LL: I have to confess that I’ve yet to see “Vehicle of Spirit” (but which I will have seen by the time this blog post is out), so again a year has passed without me seeing any new live DVDs. I will have to fix this the upcoming year, for sure, once DELAIN releases the recording of their anniversary show at Paradiso. (Also, I haven’t lost my hope for the KIUAS DVD. Yet. Because there needs to be one. It’s not the DVD we deserve, but definitely the DVD we want.)
BEST MUSIC VIDEO
BW: I honestly haven’t paid much attention to music videos this year. BLIND CHANNEL‘s live shots from their tour with SIMPLE PLAN for “Deja FU” were pretty good, but nothing noteworthy or unique by any means.
VK: Most metal videos these days are generic as hell, with the band playing in an empty industrial hall, maybe with some (usually totally unrelated) conceptual footage thrown in. However, a few videos did have an impact on me, “Forward Momentum“ by DARK TRANQUILLITY being the best one. It’s got an apocalyptic vibe, but the perspective is very human and down-to-earth, which goes along nicely with the song, as both seem to convey the simultaneous sadness of leaving something behind and determination to carry on.
LL: I agree with Wille on “Forward Momentum” – anything Vesa Ranta touches that is audiovisual or drumming-related turns to gold – but along with that I have a PSA for you: Viivi Huuska is a video directing genius who should do every video Vesa Ranta is not doing. Also, her video to Pete Parkkonen’s “Kohta sataa” is a glorious example of bringing some sexy gender equality to music videos – it does exactly what IKINÄ failed to do with their “Magic Mike” vid, and therefore more than deserves the spot here. Oh, right – it’s NSFW (and as far as warnings go, if mainstream hit chart pop/rock isn’t your cup of tea, you might want to mute the audio). Extra points for a nicely showcased STAM1NA tattoo. No, that’s not a euphemism. Although it could be.
BW: Another no-brainer for me. I discovered BLIND CHANNEL and EMBER FALLS around the same time this year, so since BLIND CHANNEL put out an album and EMBER FALLS didn’t, BLIND CHANNEL gets to take home Best New Discovery and EMBER FALLS, without a doubt, gets Most Potential. Their debut music video is one of the best music videos I’ve seen in ages (and easily would have won that category last year if I had known about it then) and their live performances have assured me that I will be a fan of their debut album when it comes out next year. Guys, don’t keep me waiting much longer!
VK: Okay, unlike the discovery category, I think this award has to go to an actual debutante… THE MUTE GODS is the brainchild of Nick Beggs, who plays bass in Steven Wilson‘s band, and his debut “Do Nothing till You Hear from Me” proved that he’s a very capable lead singer and songwriter as well – I especially enjoyed his lyrics. A sophomore album – which reportedly will be heavier than the debut – has already been announced for next February, so Beggs and his partners in crime have been very productive. I’m looking forward to hear how the various dark events around the world in 2016 will manifest themselves in their music.
LL: I’m with Bear here; my last year’s statement on ARION still stands and the two singles that have come out since have matched my expectations – which are admittedly higher than high with that band – but with them it’s more like knowing what you get at this point (as is the case with my other pick, PSYCHEWORK). However, EMBER FALLS is right now an intriguing wild card we haven’t seen pulling out their biggest guns – yet. And they will get to that sooner rather than later. Heck, I’m glad I stumbled upon this band back in the day they operated under the name of MEKANISM, it makes me even more eager to see what they’re up to now that they’re finally “getting there,” whatever that holds.
Best Album: Machinae Supremacy – “Into the Night World” / Blind Channel – “Revolutions” (BW); Fates Warning – “Theories of Flight” (WK); Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate” (LL)
Best Song: Machinae Supremacy – “Remember Me” (BW); Steven Wilson – “My Book of Regrets” (WK); Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate” (LL)
Most Epic Song: Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate” / Sonata Arctica – “White Pearl, Black Oceans pt. II” (BW); Fates Warning – “The Ghosts of Home” (WK); Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate” (LL)
Best Slow Song: Machinae Supremacy – “Remember Me” (AW); Witherscape – “Marionette” (WK); Psychework – “Barricades Won’t Fall” (LL)
Most Chilling Song: Insomnium – “Winter’s Gate” (BW); David Bowie – “Lazarus” (WK); Psychework – “The Dragon’s Year” / Trees of Eternity – “Gallows Bird” (LL)
Best Fun-time Song: Sabaton – “Shiroyama” / Machinae Supremacy – “Space Boat” (BW); Thunderstone – “Veterans of the Apocalypse” (WK); Blind Channel – “Deja FU” (LL)
Best Cover Song: Devin Townsend Project – “Transdermal Celebration” [Ween] (BW); CMX – Hyökyaalto [Antti Tuisku] (WK); Delain – “Scandal” [Queen] (LL)
Best Solo/Riff: Machinae Supremacy [riffs], Machinae Supremacy – “Remember Me” [solo] BW); Opeth – “Sorceress” [riff], Witherscape – “Marionette” [solo] (WK); Omnium Gatherum – “Frontiers” (LL)
Best Instrumental: Machinae Supremacy – “SID Metal Legacy” / “Gerudo Valley” (BW); Riverside – “Shine” (WK); Omnium Gatherum – “These Grey Heavens” (LL)
Biggest Positive Surprise: Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour BAW); Haken – Affinity (WK); return of Battlelore & Eternal Tears of Sorrow from hiatus (LL)
Best New Discovery: Blind Channel (BW); Maschine (WK); Phantasma (LL)
Saddest Farewell: Peter Iwers [In Flames]; special mention to all of the musicians who passed on this year
Best Replacement: Netta Skog, Ensiferum (BW); Anders Iwers [Dark Tranquillity] (WK); Netta Skog [Ensiferum] (LL)
Best Cover Art: Sonata Arctica – “The Ninth Hour” (BW & WK); Trees of Eternity – Hour of the Nightingale (LL)
Best Live Show: Iron Maiden @ Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto (BW); Steven Wilson @ Pakkahuone (WK); Psychework @ Lutakko (LL)
Best Live Album/DVD: Nightwish – “Vehicle of Spirit” (BW); Blues Pills – “Lady in Gold” bonus disc, Opeth – “Sorceress” live tracks (WK)
Best Music Video: Dark Tranqillity – “Forward Momentum” (WK); Pete Parkkonen – “Kohta sataa” (LL)
Most Potential: Ember Falls (BW); The Mute Gods (WK); Ember Falls (LL)
Written by Bear Wiseman, Wille Karttunen, Lene L.
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