7) Red Fang, Only Ghosts (Relapse)
From their punchy, riffy songs to their videos, each of which is a mini-masterpiece of comedy, Red Fang have always been a fun band. This time, however, they crafted an album that’s as catchy as they are fun. Working with Ross Robinson, which you’d think might be a weird move, it sounds like the band have been doubling down on listening to Queens of the Stone Age in addition to the Melvins. In short, this is the catchiest album they’ve written, and if rock radio pulled it’s head out of its ass and stopped playing generic Nickelback-ian yarling, they could discover their new favorite band.
Key Tracks: “Flies,” “Not For You”
6) Zeal and Ardor, Devil Is Fine (self)
Like another album down the list a bit, it’s not often that a sound comes out in music you haven’t heard before. Zeal and Ardor, the one-man project of Swiss musician Manuel Gagneux, blends a hell of a lot of influences into Zeal and Ardor. Spirituals, black metal and electronic music into a sound that’s completely new. While this album isn’t getting a proper U.S. release until next year, it’s a record that I listened to a bunch when I first heard it, and keep coming back to months later, which makes it an automatic for this list.
Key Track: “Devil Is Fine”
5) Metallica, Hardwired… To Self Destruct (Blackened Recordings)
You’re really not supposed to expect much out of any band that’s been around for over 30 years. Metallica’s first album in eight years turned out to be their best in 25 years. Granted, it’s not like the bar was set that high after Lulu and St. Anger, but this double album (that’s actually shorter than some of their single albums) has some of the most vital Metallica tracks since their first four albums. This makes the top ten just based off the title track, “Moth Into Flame,” “Atlas Rise” and “Spit Out the Bone.” The other eight songs sound like a cross between the Black Album and the better parts of Load and Reload. It sounds like the band have stopped trying too hard and just created music they like.
Key Track: “Atlas Rise”
4) Khemmis, Hunted (20 Buck Spin)
There’s always one album that sneaks in at the end of the year, and this year, it’s the sophomore album from Khemmis. There’s elements of doom, but it’s like Pallbeaerer sped up and given an injection of Thin Lizzy. I’m a sucker for guitarmonies, and these guys have them in spades. In and out in five long songs, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either.
Key Track: “Hunted”