2016: A Year in Review

img_3005Well, here we are at the end of another crazy, fast year. To sum up 2016, it was the year of comebacks (Thrice), chaos (Trump vs. Clinton during the election) and losses (mostly celebrity losses). At the end of 2015, I previously mentioned that there were many things that I was looking forward to see happen musically and most of them exceeded many expectations that I had originally. Bands had mentioned comebacks, some have mentioned upcoming new albums and even some have mentioned disbandment announcements and surprise breakup announcements (Chiodos. But we all kind of saw that coming. Haha). So, let’s get to the usual shenanigans otherwise known as my top 10 favorites albums of 2016.

Group A (10 favorite releases from big name bands):
After the Burial – Dig Deep
Hands down, 2016 has been the year the boys from the Twin Cities. Despite a tragic loss of guitarist Justin Lowe last year, the time they took off of touring and performing really had them reflect and mourn and create some of the most heaviest material they have ever done. 9 tracks with 38.6 minutes worth of material of guitar riffs and chugs courtesy of Trent Hafdahl, the monster screams of Anthony Notarmaso and Dan Carle’s good drum work really made the album what it was. As far as live performances go, nobody can deny that even though they didn’t really headline any tours this year, the reception and attendance at their shows were really outstanding, the prime example being the first Sumerian 10 year anniversary tour of the year, which you can find on my blog. “Dig Deep” really hit it on the nail for me as a listener and as long as the band continues to soldier on and make good music, I will continue to support them.
Check out: Collapse, Lost in the Static, Laurentian Ghosts (which contains one of Justin Lowe’s riffs written before he passed), Catacombs.
Saosin – Along the Shadow
Welcome back, Saosin. It’s definitely been a while since we last heard from you guys. Now people can say that after this album was released that it’s not the same anymore, and that they don’t really have it anymore and they should just stop after this. I strongly believe that after this album I say that Anthony Green, Beau Burchell, Chris Sorensen, and Alex Rodriguez definitely still have it in them to create more music for those who have supported Saosin since the Translating the Name days. And the material that they put forth really shows that they haven’t lost their mojo or missed a beat. No, it’s not “Translating the Name, Part 2” as that was back in 2003 and they’re much older now. I honestly got a Circa Survive feel from some of these songs and some people can say the same too but it’s all worth it in the end and this album is definitely a statement that Saosin isn’t dead and is probably not going away anytime soon.
Check out: The Silver String, Racing Toward a Red Light, The Secret Meaning of Freedom, Ideology is Theft.
Every Time I Die – Low Teens
8 full-length albums in, this album is definitely one of the most emotional albums to come out this year (aside from Touche Amore’s “Stage Four”). Vocalist Keith Buckley really digs deep as far as lyrics go touching on an almost tragic situation in his life regarding his wife and daughter to which they came out happy and healthy and tackling with sobriety. Musically, the band dug even deeper by creating the most dirty and gritty sounding songs they have ever done by incorporating some sludge rock in their already chaotic, southern tinged metallic hardcore style. This one actually took me a while to listen to and had me really dissect the material and see what the band was going for and I’m happy I did because this is a well written album and which no one can ignore either if you’ve been listening to Every Time I Die for forever or just getting into their material. Even Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco lends his vocal talents on a track, which really had people talking.
Check out: Glitches, Fear and Trembling, Map Change, It Remembers, I Didn’t Want to Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway.
Fire From the Gods – Narrative
Fire From the Gods’ debut full-length on Rise Records is definitely a favorite of mine that came out this year. And yes, the vocalist AJ Channer hails from my hometown, The Bronx, New York, but that’s neither here nor there. This album had me interested from the get-go after hearing the first single “Excuse Me” and also seeing them live in Staten Island when they were first started touring before they got signed. The mix of metalcore, nu-metal, and a hint of ragga-punk (which occurs on a track or two) really make the album an enjoyable listen for those who are looking for somewhat of a breath of fresh air for the genre. I really got a Sevendust vibe from this album, which is not a bad thing. Also, AJ Channer really shines as a vocalist throughout the album with vocal styles ranging from soulful singing to screams to rapping to reggae. This band is not one to doubt whatsoever as I look forward to their progression on the next full-length.
Check out: Excuse Me, End Transmission, Composition, Evolve.
Thrice – To Be Nowhere is to Be Nowhere
Ah yes, the almighty Thrice. Dustin, Teppei, Riley and Eddie. A lot of tears were shed during the 2012 farewell tour before they went on hiatus for a few years and stopped being a full-time touring band. As time went on, little rumblings came about about a return for the modern day legends that cumulated in a headlining spot on the Taste of Chaos return show. Many anticipated the writing of new music to commence sometime after which was confirmed from Dustin Kensrue himself and also allegedly that Dustin and Teppei being in attendance at a Brand New show really set the wheel in motion. As a result, TBNITBN is not a musical mishap or a terrible album but an album that shows the band sounding refreshed, powerful and better than ever. In other words, Thrice definitely knows what they’re doing. Definitely a good mix of sounds of Major/Minor, Vheissu, and The Alchemy Index that had their fans very hyped that their heroes have returned, myself included. Thank you for the masterpiece The Artist in the Ambulance.
Check out: Black Honey, Stay With Me, Salt and Sunshine, Blood on the Sand.
Norma Jean – Polar Similar
This album from Norma Jean, this being their 7th full-length, really had me ecstatic and looking forward to hearing this one. By the first note of the first track, I came close to going mental and start moshing in my room. This is definitely the darkest, progressive and heaviest material the band has had to date. Despite a member change in which an original member left the band, it brought in fresh new blood to really help the creativity and keep the machine going. Ideas ranging from recording guitars in a poolroom, incorporating slide guitar, electronic interludes and passages, and the guidance of producer Josh Barber mixed along with the feeling and emotion from the band and the roars and angelic cleans provided by Cory Brandan? What else can I say about this album except that this album is really worth the listen and buy it immediately! It’s safe to say that this album is number one of the year for me. Be sure to keep an eye out for Cory Brandan’s other band Hundred Suns to release their debut full-length February-March of 2017.
Check out: Everyone Talking over Everyone Else, 1,000,000 Watts, I. The Planet, Death is a Living Partner, Synthetic Sun, Reaction.
Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
Little did people know that this was going to be the final Architects album to have Tom Searle as their guitarist before he passed away at the age of 28 due to cancer. Musically, the band made sure to make this one count after the success of Lost Together//Lost Forever. Basically this album is lightning striking twice as many people believed that after Lost Together//Lost Forever that the band has found their sound after many albums including the masterpiece Hollow Crown. The riffs, breakdowns and choruses that Architects are known for are still there with a bit more electronic passages but still staying true to who they are as a band. Searle and his band of brothers (pun intended referring to the Deez Nuts song that vocalist Sam Carter guested on) Carter, drummer Dan Searle, bassist Alex Dean and guitarist Adam Christianson along with producers Henrik Udd and Fredrik Nordstrom for sure made the dream team that resulted in the band’s highest charting album to date peaking at number 109 on the Billboard 200 and reached number 15 on the UK albums chart. That would be something Tom would surely be very proud if he were still with us today. As far as new music from band is concerned, we have to take this album with a grain of salt, as it is unlikely that band would release new material anytime soon. But they are still playing their hearts out as a tribute to their fallen brother and that’s all that counts. Rest in power, Tom Searle.
Check out: Gone With the Wind, Memento Mori, Deathwish, A Made Made in Heaven, Gravity.
Silent Planet – Everything Was Sound
Silent Planet, along with Norma Jean, really made Solid State Records’ year as a label a big one hitting it out of the park with release after release. Progressive metalcore without sounding stale and tired really was the band’s forte as the album is definitely made them a top favorite this year. Vocalist Garret Russell harsh screams over heavy and soft sounds are very emotional on this one and the guitar work and atmospheric passages executed by Spencer Keene and Mitchell Stark really brings the sonic of the album out and makes the album stand out. Everything Was Sound was really a make or break album for this group of guys and they exceeded expectations after The Night God Slept dropped with many big tours including a stint on Warped Tour that came after. Be sure to check out the Garrett Russell conversation episode on Ian Hates Music here: http://www.ianhates.com/podcasts/ian-hates-music-episode-35-garrett-russell-silent-planet.
Check out: Panic Room, Psychescape, Orphan, Depths II.
The Devil Wears Prada – Transit Blues
The Devil Wear Prada is a prime example of bands evolving and getting better and better as they go along in their career and their album Transit Blues is proof of that. After the single South of the City dropped, it was safe to say that the band showcased where they were taking their sound. Definitely ended up for the better as this album is them really showing their potential as opposed to very early releases such as Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord and Plagues. A very, very focused album from guys who have definitely grown up really had me listening to the album twice after it first dropped really impressing me with the musical direction with the structure of the songs not sounding exactly the same as the last, also taking influence from bands like La Dispute, darker Underoath and vocalist Mike Hranica’s side band God Alone and every clean vocal part with guitarist Jeremy Depoyster being well placed and not overdone and constant breakdowns becoming a thing of the past. Mike Hranica’s range is very evident in this album ranging from screams to more of a spoken word and it’s very clear when you listen to the album. Definitely looking forward to the band’s progression after this one for sure and it is also a breath of fresh air in the genre that has become stagnant.
Check out: To the Key of Evergreen, Lock & Load, Daughter, Home for Grave Pt. II, Praise Poison.
Capsize – A Reintroduction: The Essence of All that Surrounds Me
Capsize this year became one of the many melodic hardcore bands branching out of their comfort zones and trying different things. Hundredth being another one with the release of the Dead Weight single. In Capsize’s case, pulling the post-hardcore tricks out of the bag with influences ranging from The Used and Underoath to help shape the sound they went for to follow up The Angst in My Veins. While many melodic hardcore diehards may be upset and may think that the band sold out by incorporating cleans and whatnot but hey, if they feel comfortable doing what they love by playing the music they grew up listening to then go for it but just make it good. Haha. Sonically, Capsize did an exceptional job with this one and also had me anticipating this release because I liked Capsize’s previous full-length along with some singles or 7’ releases that they came out with leading up to this album. Other than that, their live performance is good and is a good mix of new and old material. All in all, the old school post-hardcore revival is definitely real courtesy of Capsize.
Check in: XX (Sew My Eyes), Tear Me Apart, I Think It’s Best We Don’t Talk Anymore.

Group B (Top NY local scene music releases):
Sylar – Help!
Even if Sylar is a big band signed to Hopeless Records, they are looked at as hometown heroes so I thought I’d put them on this list. This album really impressed me and Sylar really got it together with this one. When vocalist Jayden Panesso told me on of the many times we ran into each other at shows this year months leading up to the release, he told me that the album is a different story compared to To Whom It May Concern which aside from the very few good songs off of it, it was lacking in regards to musical style wise. Definitely a lot more melodic side of Sylar on this one with clean vocalist/guitarist Miguel Cardona appearing in the choruses in more songs on this than the last. Also, Jayden aside from the screams and the rapping showcases his clean singing abilities too as well, which is a major plus for sure. The harsh style is still there but it was very well done and it definitely had me listening to the album from cover to cover, not skipping songs and actually buying a copy of the CD. Really enjoyed this album and hopefully this is a sign that Sylar is evolving, which I’m sure the band will they me eventually. Keep it up, boys!
Check out: Assume, Soul Addiction, I Know, You Know, I Know, Pleasure Paradise, Gambit Rouge Delight.
Varsity – Reign Dance and Cali Dreams singles
I have said before on Twitter that Varsity is one of the very few bands here in New York City that I can feel what they are playing and saying musically. I had previously reviewed Varsity’s single Risen on the Favorites of 2015 blog post. This year instead of one single, they dropped two singles this year with many updates of their tours with bands like In Loving Memory and the new full-length album titled The Death of a Monster to be released sometime in 2017. Let’s start with Reign Dance. This song with features by Jonny Craig of Dance Gavin Dance and Emarosa fame and Joshy Singer from Blessing a Curse dropped after the news that they singed with Artery Foundation. In this song, vocalist Joey Varela singing about dark times in his life leading up to a fight to find the path to the light and brighter days. This track definitely has all you can expect from a Varsity single: Joey Varela’s raw emotional vocals, heavy parts here and there, a catchy chorus, guest spot by Jonny Craig and a background piano part provided by now former guitarist Marlene Mendoza which took place of the overdone 808 which is a constant occurrence in post-hardcore music. Now the uplifting Cali Dreams single, which I by after the first listen had me dreaming of SoCal on some real shit. The lyrics in the song really moved me to work even harder to accomplish goals that I have dreamed about my whole life and to take whatever opportunity is presented in front of me. Be sure to keep a look out for Varsity in the future regarding their full-length album again which is titled The Death of a Monster and keep an eye out for tour announcement to see if they’ll be stopping in your city.
Synapses Firing – Forgive EP
For fans of Glassjaw, Armor for Sleep and Brand New, this Bronx, New York based band is the band to check out. This 3-piece is an alternative rock band that originally was a solo acoustic project can be full force with distorted guitars in one moment and be very soft, atmospheric and acoustic the next. Vocalist/guitarist Sean Dowling has pretty good singing voice which many critics and listeners would consider the emo type but they fit in the with music and drummer Paul Bennardo really showcases his playing abilities with the drum parts he executes throughout the album. This full-length EP is worth checking out if you are into well-written alternative music with elements of post-hardcore, pop punk and indie rock with good production. Supposedly, the boys have some new material in the works so I’ll definitely be keeping up to date, as should those who are interested in checking them out.
Check out: Skin, Cut, Gold, Sparrows and Doves, You’ve Been a Bastard.
Bedlam Barrio – Bedlam Barrio EP and Translucid Theory single
What can I say about this alternative rock band from Queens, New York, which consists of vocalist Sam Nicks, guitarists Vinny Agate and Sebastian Martinez, bassist/screamer Andres Ricano and drummer Andrew Kimbanis? A very passionate band with raw emotion that never lets down. Even though the EP may be very short with people wanting more but it has your taste of what’s to come and what you can expect in the future which I will talk about with the single that was released after. 5 tracks with 12 minutes of material full of R&B style vocals done by Sam Nicks accompanied by leads done by Agate that are done in a tasteful way with the rest of the rhythm section following suit that creates a very consistent mix of heavy and light indie rock tendencies. After listening to the EP, as I had previously stated that I was left wanting more in form a single that had dropped titled Translucid Theory basically continuing what the band had started with a music video to boot. They are on a good path for the most part and are consistently hard at work on new material that I hope will provide more steak with the potatoes and vegetables for the listeners. Cheers!
Check out: Debris, Idler, Translucid Theory.
Husbandry – Fera
Fugazi meets Aaliyah is an understatement for the post-hardcore band from Brooklyn, New York. The sound they provide on the full-length EP is something that has been missing for a while in the post-hardcore genre and is definitely a refreshing twist on what has already been done before as far as the instrumentals go. Carina Zachary’s dynamic vocal delivery really adds to the musical landscape created by guitarist Jordan Usatch, bassist Arnau Bosc and drummer Andrew Gottlieb for 9 straight tracks of aggressive and sensual material influenced by bands such as Fugazi, of course, and At the Drive-In. The band definitely made waves this year with the music video for the song So Long, Capricornian Crone on the AfroPunk website to a really good reception with a couple of tours to go along with it. I had the opportunity to attend a strong album release show with Spotlights another band from Brooklyn and witness them put on a good live performance and took some pictures which you can check out on my photography Instagram @ty_rockcityphotography. If you can do the band a solid and devote 45 minutes of your time, check out their music. If you like it, definitely buy the album on Bandcamp or at the live shows.
Check out: So Long, Capricornian Crone, Nature VS. Nurture, Grab Twist Pull.

2016 has been an up and down year with a couple of good albums that were released, some great shows and many big celebrity losses. Here’s to 2017 and the many 10 year anniversary tours and label tours to come out as well as new material from bands like Code Orange, Misery Signals, Darkest Hour, Motionless in White, AFI and hopefully System of a Down. Happy New Year and see you all in 2017!

Band comebacks of the year:
Candiria – While They Were Sleeping
Zao – The Well-Intentioned Virus
Destroy the Runner – Void
Walls of Jericho – No One Can Save You from Yourself
Saosin – Along the Shadow
Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere
The Fall of Troy – OK

Band farewell of the year: The Dillinger Escape Plan. Thank for you for a great final album in Dissociation and for the good music you have given us throughout your career.

RIP: Tom Searle of Architects, Alan Thicke, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, David Bowie, Florence Henderson, Alan Rickman, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire, Merle Haggard, Garry Marshall, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Doris Roberts, Garry Shandling, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.img_3055

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