Last year when I wrote this, Mike Barrett got in touch to say ‘not in my name’ and it was generally agreed that I don’t speak for the whole lang cat team when I do these lists. So before I get going, in the interests of balance:

  • Mike, our own superstar DJ, has his own Spotify playlist of the year here
  • Shona is sad about George Michael
  • No-one knows what Lucy likes because she won’t risk telling us
  • Pam has exceptional taste but doesn’t shout about it
  • Terry pops sneaky metal on when no-one’s listening
  • All the rest 20/1 bar

Anyway, here’s the important bit. 2016 has sucked in many ways, but for music – and metal in particular – it’s been great. So here’s 10 of my best this year…

10: Pixies – Headcarrier – much, much better and glimpses of the old magic. Mike and I went to see ’em at Brixton Academy and it was great.

9: 65daysofstatic – No Man’s Sky – this is a soundtrack to the big open-world video game, but don’t let that put you off. Brilliant mix of guitars and electronics. And an awesome gig at Glasgow Art School to boot (the Islington one below is a poor substitute).

8: Killswitch Engage – Incarnate – I like metalcore. There. I said it.

7: Anthrax – For All Kings – this was SUCH a good thrash record and right up there with Among The Living, for those who remember back that far. Metallica might like to have a listen and remember how to write songs under 8 minutes in length.

6: Yorkston Thorne Khan – Everything Sacred – this is an amazing mix of folk, jazzy bits and traditional Sufi sarangi playing from James Yorkston (who gave the lang cat its name), Jon Thorne of Lamb and Suhail Yusuf Khan, who is huge in India and will be here, soon. One of the gigs of the year at the Edinburgh Festival too (though I had to sneak out, sorry James). Broken Wave (Blues For Doogie) below is a rework of the requiem JY did on his last record for his late bass player, Doogie Paul. It was a hard listen before; it’s lifted to another place now.

5: Ihsahn – Arktis – no, you’ve never heard of him but he was in black metal pioneers Emperor. This record is stupidly good, mixing almost poppy melodies with proper singing and then blackened guitar onslaughts with excellent Cookie-Monster grunts. Takes some getting used to but absolutely worth it.

4: Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack – this was just lovely stuff from the Selkirk band. My Scottish music album of the year (beating Malky Middleton, YTK and Mogwai, so that’s saying something).

3: Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence – even people who don’t like heavy music sometimes like Dev, and if there’s any justice this will catapult him into the biggest of the big leagues. Listen to Stormbending and thank me later.

2: Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika – this is sort of melodic black folky metal, sung in Finnish throughout. It’s the record I played most this year. If you’ve ever liked heavy stuff then try the unpronounceable Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa which translates as ‘Plague Grove incl. People of the Dayless Day’. It’s 15 minutes long and worth every second of it.

1: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree – so much has been written about this and Nick’s son’s death. He wrote it before the unthinkable happened, but if you were superstitious you’d find lots of foreshadowing of it in the lyrics (mind you, you could probably say the same for any of his records). This whole thing is drenched in grief and doesn’t let up. It’s an unbelievably honest piece of art as much as a record, especially if you watch the accompanying documentary One More Time With Feeling. Listen to Else Torp, the Danish soprano, singing on Distant Sky, and Cave’s lyrics:

“They told us our gods would outlive us
They told us our dreams would outlive us
They told us our gods would outlive us
But they lied”

and try to keep it together. I can’t.


Honourable mentions go to Insomnium, another Finnish band, with Winter’s Gate, a record that is one 45-minute song. It’s probably the best melo-death release of the year and only isn’t on the list cos I only came across it 2 weeks ago. The same Johnny-come-lately fate befalls Dark Tranquility’s Atoma, which has actual songs on it but is almost as good as Insomnium. A prize year for metal is also rounded out by Anaal Nathrakh’s The Whole of the Law, which is ace despite horrible brickwalled production. Away from metal, it’s all Bowie and Bob Mould and King Creosote and Malcolm Middleton, all of whom could easily have made the list.

Metallica isn’t on the list.

Gig of the yearHector Bizerk’s swansong at Glasgow School of Art. Louie and Audrey are missed. Barry Neilson from Nucleus was there as well and put this up on YouTube:

So that’s mine. Stick yours in the comments if you can be bothered.