Will Metallica and Tool finally drop new albums in 2016? That’s the big question for metalheads looking ahead to yet another year of mosh pits and whiplash. But even if those high-volume riff dealers once again don’t deliver, there is still plenty of heavy music to get excited about. Here are the 25 records we most want to hear come stomping out of rock’s darkest corner.
25 Most Anticipated Metal Albums of 2016
Metallica, Deftones, Gojira and more of the heaviest sounds to come
By Richard Bienstock, Dan Epstein, Brandon Geist, Kory Grow, Christopher Krovatin, Jon Wiederhorn
It’s been nearly eight years since Metallica won back fans and critics with Death Magnetic, a return-to-thrash-metal-form, and five since they almost alienated them with their controversial Lou Reed collaboration Lulu. So it’s no surprise that they’re taking their time to perfect what will be their long-in-the-works 10th LP. They’re staying tight-lipped about it’s progress – in April 2014, Lars Ulrich estimated they were in the “fourth inning” of the process, though Kirk Hammett guessed they were “30 percent” done a year later – but regardless, they want you to know they’re working. Last March, Ulrich said the group was working with 20 songs on the heels of their 2014 tour single “Lords of Summer.” They’ve also teased new material with video of James Hetfield playing a crushing new riff on guitar and of thrashy song snippet on a computer. The band has only one tour date on the books so far, so they’ll have plenty of time to release more snippets this year.
A time-consuming, demoralizing lawsuit has kept Tool from writing a follow-up to their last album, 10,000 Days – which came out 10 years ago(!) – but now that the legal matter is settled, they’re slowly making progress on the record. At a concert last Halloween, they debuted a hypnotic, new instrumental dubbed “Descending,” which guitarist Adam Jones says is one portion of a new song that lasts about 14 minutes long. “It’s like a vague movie trailer to the real movie,” he told Rolling Stone last year. At the time, the group was working with about 20 song ideas. “I’ll tell you, it’s wonderful,” Jones said. “Things are really flowing and going really well, and I’m just blown away at the stuff that’s coming together.”
Almost 30 years into their careers and following near breakups and the death of original bassist Chi Cheng, alt-metal heroes the Deftones are in the midst of a creative renaissance. Their last two albums, 2010’s Diamond Eyes and 2012’s Koi No Yokan, rank among their finest hours, and the band shows no signs of letting up when it comes to pushing the boundaries of its already expansive sound. In May, singer Chino Moreno described the group’s forthcoming eighth album to NME as “out of the box” and full of “keyboards and a lot of cool, spacey low frequencies.” He also added that Morrissey was serving as a key influence on the songs. “I’ve been on this crazy Morrissey tip recently – totally obsessing over his solo records – so I brought a lot of that to the table,” he said. “On those early solo records, he uses this awesome, Elvis-y delay on his vocal that I’ve been ripping off a ton.” As of November, the album – which reportedly includes a cameo from Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell – was being mixed, with a spring release expected.
If Rob Zombie is competing for longest album title of the year, he’s got a good chance of taking the prize. His sixth solo record is called The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser and it will mark a natural evolution from the chugging, phantasmagoric, sample-filled carnival rock of 2013’s Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. Zombie started writing …Celebration Dispenser in January 2014, and worked in fits and starts between tours and movie ventures. Although the group finished tracking about a year ago, they’ve held off releasing the record until April 29th, after Zombie completed his upcoming horror flick, 31, in order to present the record with complimentary video footage. “This is the most time I’ve ever spent making a record. In an age of constant deadlines, I decided to throw away that ridiculous way of thinking,” the rocker-director says. “I started in the dead of winter and finished one year later in the dead of winter. It was worth every freezing second. A true Zombie record from start to finish.”
It’s been nearly four years since the last Meshuggah studio album – 2012’s uncharacteristically groove-oriented Koloss – and well over a year since the release of 2014’s live CD/DVD The Ophidian Trek, but it may still be a while before the veteran Swedish progressive metal band favors us with some new music. In an interview with Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta last April, guitarist Mårten Hagström predicted that Meshuggah’s eighth studio album would be “pretty diverse” musically, but admitted that the record was only “early in the writing stage.” Two months later, Hagström told a Swedish website that Meshuggah would go into “full writing mode” following their summer tour dates, and that the album would probably see the light of day “sometime next year, but not early.”
Life of Agony
In 2011 singer Mina Caputo came out as transgender, an announcement that seemed to coincide with the end of her long-running band Life of Agony. But then, last year the Brooklyn group reunited to play live shows, and now LOA have surprised fans by revealing plans to release their first new album in over a decade, A Place Where There’s No More Pain. “I think our fans know that our music comes from a very real place of suffering, from all of us in the band,” says bassist and songwriter Alan Robert, addressing the record’s title. “Many of our fans have told us over the years that sharing our personal struggles has been cathartic for them in healing the pain in their own lives. That uplifting energy we share at the shows, gives us hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And for us and hopefully our fans, that short time when we’re all together is a place where there’s no more pain.”
For album number six, French metallists Gojira followed their frontman Joe Duplantier to Brooklyn, where he moved a few years ago to start a family. There, they recorded the new LP in Duplantier’s Silver Cord Studio, which he constructed himself with the help of his brother, Gojira drummer Mario, and friends in Grammy-nominated rock group Highly Suspect. The result is more focused and straight-ahead than the band’s past output but no less crushing, epic and experimental; to say that Gojira are stoked about the record would be an understatement. “It sounds really pretentious to say it’s the greatest album of all time,” Joe enthused in September, “but, to us, it is.” Look for it this spring.
On January 3rd – just a week after his band entered Chicago’s Electrical Audio in Chicago with engineer Steve Albini – singer-guitarist Scott Kelly announced on Instagram: “The Neurosis album is done.” The follow-up to 2012’s characteristically epic and intense Honor in Decay, the record will be the group’s 11th full-length, and will also help mark band’s 30th anniversary this year. Neurosis recently kicked off their commemorations of the milestone by announcing a massive limited-edition box set, dubbed Strength & Vision (the band’s motto), featuring deluxe vinyl editions of all their releases.
Dave Mustaine has regained his focus. Three years after putting out Super Collider, an album with a song containing one of the world’s least “metal” instruments (the banjo), he has concocted an LP’s worth of riffs that echo Megadeth’s thrashy peaks like Rust in Peace and Peace Sells. Many of the 11 tracks on Dystopia – the group’s 15th offering, set for release on January 22nd – find the singer returning to one of his favorite topics – the end of western civilization – and all of them benefit from some new blood in the group’s ever-mercurial lineup: former Angra guitar shredder Kiko Loureiro playing lead and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler as a special guest.
Following a reunion tour in 2015, Philip Anselmo’s sludgy hardcore band Superjoint Ritual – shortened to Superjoint, for legal reasons – started working on its first studio album since 2003’s A Lethal Dose of American Hatred. So far, the group has tracked drums and most of the guitars, and Anselmo has written lyrics for four songs. He plans to record his guitar parts this month, then focus on the rest of the vocals, which, for the first time, won’t be about the tortured life of a drug addict. “There’s no way I’m gonna glorify dope anymore,” Anselmo says of the album, which should drop early summer. “I’m trying to avoid the topic altogether because it doesn’t have anything to do with me or any of us anymore. We’re still fucking crazy, we just don’t have the poison in our bloodstreams. But I still think we have plenty of venom.”
The greatest challenge for any epic prog metal band is to become increasingly more … well, epic. The ever-ambitious Dream Theater have tackled the task with their 13th studio release The Astonishing, a double concept album split into two acts and set for release January 29th. The music is majestic and asymmetrical, yet consistently melodic, and it follows the album’s winding narrative, which is part Game of Thrones, part Terminator. Dream Theater will play the album in its entirety on its upcoming tour. Says guitarist John Petrucci: “Our motto is to continually strive to give Dream Theater fans something to look forward to and to enjoy on as many levels as possible. Hopefully we’ve delivered on that promise.”
This March, metalcore pioneers Killswitch Engage are set to release Incarnate, their second album since the 2012 return of original vocalist Jesse Leach. The band started writing in January 2015 and six months later had the skeletons for 17 songs. In contrast with 2013’s Disarm the Descent, which was a rapid-fire assault of churning guitars and barreling beats, Incarnate is darker and more brooding. “We wanted to keep the energy flowing, but at the same time we wanted to get more melodic and a little deeper,” says guitarist and producer Adam Dutkiewicz. “It doesn’t have to thrash the entire time.” Incarnate is Killswitch Engage’s last contracted album with Roadrunner Records, and for the band, the future is wide open. Says Dutkiewicz: “We’re gonna get through this next album cycle before we worry about what happens next.”
It’s been five years since Anthrax’s last studio effort, but that album, Worship Music, was their thrashiest in close to two decades. The New York metal heavyweights will continue to bring the noise on their 11th full-length, For All Kings, which drummer Charlie Benante says is “even more aggressive” in spots. To that end, first single “Evil Twin” is powered by heavily syncopated riffing and a pummeling speed-metal rhythm, over which singer Joey Belladonna rails against those who “stand for nothing [and] care for nothing.”
Kvelertak made waves (and fans out of Metallica) with their 2010 self-titled debut; their blackened sophomore LP, 2013’s Meir – Rolling Stone’s Number Two metal album of that year – only solidified their status among heavy music’s leading upstarts. The band played some new material on a recent European tour, but in late November frontman Erlend Hjelvik claimed that they were still a song or two short of a new record. Not so anymore: On January 18th Kvelertak will enter Amper Tone studio in Oslo to track Meir’s follow-up, which they will record live. “We grew tired of recording to a click track and the intense scrutiny and attention to detail that follows,” the band explains of the album, which is set to drop this spring. “We’ve done nothing but play live since 2010 so it makes sense to record live as well.”
When Brian Head Welch rejoined Korn following an eight-year split from the band, he boasted about how, as a true metalhead, he was bringing a renewed heaviness band into the group. To some extent, his claim was true; 2013’s The Paradigm Shift, while saturated with hooks, was more aggressive than the 2011’s The Path of Totality. And it looks like Korn’s upcoming 12th album will be even angrier and more aggressive. Guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer told APTV that the band has 10 new songs that are louder and “more guitar-focused” than anything from the last album. And in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun drummer Ray Luzier added the material is “ruthless … I literally get goosebumps every time I hear it.”
A cross between Dethklok and a J-pop girl group, Babymetal released their speedy, euphoric self-titled-debut in 2014 and audiences across the globe simultaneously smiled and raised devil horns as the group opened for everyone from Lady Gaga to Iron Maiden. With their frontgirls now in their mid-teens, Babymetal are looking to take things even further with their second record, which is due for release on April 1st. “Our goal to establish a one and only genre called Babymetal remains unchanged,” says the band’s mastermind, skeleton-costumed producer Kobametal. “My aim is to produce an album that could be delivered to even more people.” New tracks include “The One,” “Awadama Fever” and “Road of Resistance,” which features DragonForce guitarists Sam Totman and Herman Li.
While there’s no release date yet for The ConcreteConfessional, a follow-up to 2013’sThe Divinity of Purpose – which debuted at a career-high Number 20 on the Billboard200, and also topped Billboard‘s Hard Rock Albums chart – recent posts on Hatebreed’s Twitter and Facebook accounts show Jamey Jasta and the boys hard at work in the studio with Chris “Zeuss” Harris, who has been behind the board for every Hatebreed album since 2002’s Perseverance. “No glitz, no glam, just pits, all slam,” tweeted Jasta in reference to the new album, and we’re inclined to take him at his word.
Given that Amon Amarth parted ways with longtime drummer Fredrik Andersson last year, some fans might worry that the Swedish Viking metallers’ upcoming 10th full-length will fall short of 2013’s pummeling Deceiver of the Gods. But Amon Amarth are above all else reliable, and their latest will unquestionably feature catchy riffs, huge choruses and lyrics about Odin and Berserkers bellowed by towering frontman and UnderArmour spokesman Johan Hegg. That the band announced plans to lock themselves in “a cabin in the woods” to write their new metallic Edda speaks to the likelihood that it will split skulls by firelight.
Former Ozzy Osbourne guitar man Zakk Wylde spends most of his time these days churning out doomy biker metal with Black Label Society. But the burly guitarist has always had a soft side (ever hear his take on Neil Young’s “Helpless”?), which he first put on grand display on his debut solo album, 1996’s Book of Shadows. Now, 20 years later, Wylde is releasing Book of Shadows II, which finds him returning to the acoustic-guitar-and-piano template of the original. As such, expect a record imbued with the soul of Sabbath, but leaning more toward the sound of Simon & Garfunkel (for the record, Wylde’s also done a surprisingly credible version of the latter’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”).
Over the last few years and a sprawl of full-lengths, EPs, splits and singles, hardcore outfit Nails have established themselves to many as the prevailing sonic definition of pissed the fuck off. There’s no question that the band has done everything it can to live up to that billing with its latest LP, You Will Never Be One Of Us, which was recorded with Converge guitarist and noted heavy-music producer Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studio, and will be the group’s first for label Nuclear Blast. “You Will Never Be One Of Us is for us, for our fans, and for anybody else who feels disgusted and fed-up with social-climbing impostors, trying to leech off of anything they’ve ever dedicated themselves to,” main man Todd Jones said in a statement. “I can say with 110 percent certainty: We will not let you down.”
Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley knows his way around a good cover song (see his version of Russ Ballard’s “New York Groove”). Fittingly, his upcoming solo effort will be an all-covers affair, with the Spaceman reportedly tackling tunes from influences like the Beatles, the Stones and the Who, as well as Kiss cuts originally penned – but not sung – by Frehley, like “Cold Gin” and “Parasite.” Expect a slew of guest musicians as well, with Slash already confirmed on a yet-to-be-named Thin Lizzy song. Also allegedly on Ace’s list of hopefuls? Kiss bassist and Frehley frenemy Gene Simmons.
The Portland stoner rockers are gearing up to record their fourth album – their first since 2013’s acclaimed Whales and Leeches, which made it to Number 66 on theBillboard 200 – and it doesn’t sound like writer’s block is going to pose a problem. “Sometimes I get overwhelmed because I open up our recordings in the computer I’ll be weeding through at least 100 songs ideas,” singer-guitarist Bryan Giles told an interviewer in October. “We’re at a point now where we probably have enough raw material for three new albums, so it’s just a matter of picking the ones we like and really focusing in on them.” The band will enter the studio in February with a somewhat surprising producer, Ross Robinson, best known for his work with many of nu-metal biggest acts, but Red Fang are looking forward to the experience. “The opportunity to work with Ross Robinson is so crazy,” enthuses drummer John Sherman. “I’ve got goose bumps just talking about it!”
In fall 2013 Crowbar riff lord Kirk Windstein bid farewell to Phil Anselmo-fronted Nola sludge-metal supergroup Down to focus on his long-running main band. The result, Symmetry in Black, was the best Crowbar albums in over a decade and one of the finest metal records of 2014. The group has been hard at work writing a follow-up, which will assuredly be anguished and heavyweight. “Our achievement this year is making the best Crowbar album ever for our fans!” the band posted on their Facebook on New Year’s Day. “GET READY!!!”
Every album by Brooklyn psychedelic sludge act Tombs has been progressively more breathtaking, right up to 2014’s Savage Gold, a record so damn dark and satisfying that it spawned its own namesake brand of coffee. The band spent the summer of 2015 at Applehead Studios in Woodstock, New York, recording their new EP with black-metal musician/producer extraordinaire Sanford Parker, known for his work in Twilight and Nachtmystium. Parker’s involvement, and the recording videos on drummer Charlie Schmid’s Instagram page (@wolvesinthephoneroom, if you like insider metal puns), suggest the new material – an EP titled All Empires Fall, due for release this spring – will be a disharmonious ride worthy of its predecessor.
Recently signed to Relapse, D.C.-spawned, Brooklyn-based grindcore trio Magrudergrind are preparing to unleash II, their first full-length studio effort since 2009, on February 12th. Produced by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, II’s savage standouts include “Relentless Hatred,” “War For Resources” and “Incarceration State,” though every one of the album’s 15 spleen-venting tracks seem designed for maximum aural punishment.