Welcome to the top 5 of my ‘Album of the Year 2016’ top 30 countdown. It has been a long time coming but here we finally are – the five best albums of 2016, according to the Man of Much Metal.
as I’ve said many times before, this is just one man’s opinion of the music he has heard over the last 12 months. I have not taken votes, I have not compiled the list in an effort to get extra traffic to my site or a procession of positive, fawning comments. Frankly, given the quality of the music this year, I could have compiled a top 60. But instead, I have kept it to the very best 30 from my subjective viewpoint.
I’m always keen to have a debate, so let me know what you think of my choices.
If you’ve missed any of the previous 25 posts in this series, you can find links to them all at the bottom of this post. In addition, you can also find links to the entire lists I have compiled since 2012, should you be curious about my choices in years gone by.
And now, here comes my pick for the fifth best album of 2016…
Number 5
Winter Thrice
Century Media Records
“It’s only mid-January and already I’m confronted with an album that has well and truly put the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons. The enigmatic and evergreen Borknagar have released what I consider to be their magnum opus. ‘Winter Thrice’ is nothing short of magnificent, a triumphant album full of almost flawless music. You think I’m kidding? You think I’ve begun this review with unnecessary and frivolous hyperbole? Just wait until you hear this beast an then tell me I’m overstating things.
…the first place to start with this record has to be with the vocals. Most bands would kill for a world-class singer but in Borknager circa 2016, there are four.
It is a sensational slab of intelligent, powerful and sophisticated extreme metal that is as beautiful as it is brutal. I have been captivated since the first listen and I cannot see how the spell that Borknagar has cast upon me can be broken. Mind you, I don’t want it to be broken. This is a near perfect aural experience and I am all the richer for having it in my life.”

Credit: Martine Petra Photography & Dance


‘Winter Thrice’ was the first album of 2016 that knocked me sideways. In fact, it knocked me backwards, sideways and upside down. I knew when I heard it back in early January that it would feature in my top 30 countdown. I knew in January that it would feature in my top 10. But it is testament to its brilliance that it finds itself at number 5 in the face of stiff competition from all quarters since.
In fact, ‘Winter Thrice’ has ended the year being my favourite extreme metal record of 2016. And why have I bestowed this honour upon Borknagar ahead of all other more extreme metal releases this year? The reasons are many but here goes…
Firstly, the four vocalists that appear on the record are sheer class. The variety that each individual brings to the table is immense and gives ‘Winter Thrice’ an added dimension that is lacking almost everywhere else. From growls to smooth, introspective clean voices, the lyrics are delivered in a deliciously unique manner.
The musicianship is out of the very top drawer, as is the songwriting. Each and every composition on this record offers something almost magical or otherworldly that draws me well and truly under their spell. ‘Winter Thrice’ is the sound of a band at the height of their powers and  as a result, there is no filler and in fact, there’s nothing less than brilliance to be heard throughout the album.
For me though, the best thing about ‘Winter Thrice’ is the way in which elegant and captivating melodies are brought into the recipe to counteract the heavier bombast elsewhere. It’s sometimes difficult to imagine a true extreme metal band being elegant and sophisticated but that’s exactly what Borknagar achieve. As a result, each facet of their folk-tinged and progressive metal output comes across as being that little bit more powerful, pronounced and engrossing.
It is a special album that can make something so apparently impenetrable and daunting sound so welcoming and warm whilst at the same time kicking some serious butt. Whenever I listen, I never know whether to smile, grimace, head bang or tap my foot. So I generally engage in all four and plenty more besides.
Oh and the title track is just about the most perfect song that I have heard all year. It is truly astonishing and acts as an eloquent example of what Borknagar are all about. I adore it and nearly a year on, I still do not tire of it. If anything, the magic has grown and I’m more obsessed than ever about it. In fact, I think I’ll listen right now, for the 1,034th time…

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zoa9w7WB_Xo]

In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:
Album of the Year 2016 – number 7
Album of the Year 2016 – number 8
Album of the Year 2016 – number 9
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2016 – number 13
Album of the Year 2016 – number 14
Album of the Year 2016 – number 15
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2016 – number 17
Album of the Year 2016 – number 18
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2016 – number 20
Album of the Year 2016 – number 21
Album of the Year 2016 – number 22
Album of the Year 2016 – number 23
Album of the Year 2016 – number 24
Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30
And from previous years: