Top 25 Albums of 2016

As voted by UG community.

Ultimate Guitar
Top 25 Albums of 2016

With 2016 coming to a close, it's time to round up our top albums of 2016, which you voted for here. To quote UG user dirron, "Holy shit there were a lot of good albums this year"! We summed up the results in a Top 25 list, so check it out below!

Before kicking things off, this year's honorable mentions are:

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway
  • Korn - The Serenity of Suffering
  • Thrice - To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere
  • Ihsahn - Arktis
  • Obscura - Akróasis

So here's an actual top.

25. Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts

Katatonia's albums have been consistently top-notch throughout their career, so it's hardly a surprise to see them get some love from the UG community. "The Fall of Hearts" was strong on melody and progressive metal influences, in keeping with the formula of their past few albums, and it's really awesome to see them kick off this year's top 25!

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24. Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression

Raw and energetic, Iggy Pop's "Post Pop Depression," a collaboration with members of QOTSA and Arctic Monkeys, is a varied album which touches on new wave, garage rock, and even some avant-garde and progressive tendencies, and has garnered a nearly unanimously positive reception from UGers, especially from member Bedside Shred, who opines that it's a "fantastic album to fuck or do drugs to, better yet great to fuck to while on drugs." Not too shabby!

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23. Haken - Affinity

After 2013's monumental "The Mountain," Haken's "Affinity" shifts gears into an homage to all that is 1980s. '80s prog-rock records like Yes' "90125" and King Crimson's "Discipline" were due to receive the homage treatment, and "Affinity" is the perfect prog-rock record for fans of that era, and a total nostalgia trip (as well as this writer's personal favourite of 2016!).

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22. Anthrax - For All Kings

The thrash metal legends take the #22 spot, proving that even after all these years, Anthrax are still capable of delivering the goods. "For All Kings" is considered by most to be a return to thrash metal form, with many of you guys hailing it as a "classic" and "masterpiece."

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21. The Dear Hunter - Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional

Art-rockers The Dear Hunter take us on a ride at #21 with "Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional," another excellent installment in their series of rock opera concept albums, throwing in a myriad of musical styles and yet still managing to make a cohesive album that does a very effective job of telling an epic story. They've always had a very, very loyal following, and I couldn't be happier to see this brilliant band on the list.

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20. Animals as Leaders - The Madness of Many

Bringing us to #20, Animals As Leaders' new album "The Madness of Many" focuses on tighter collaborations between band members and experimentation with elements like nylon-string guitars and the band's trademark rhythmic exploration, Tosin, Javier and Matt deliver yet another great slab of post-2010 progressive instrumental metal that sounds like nothing else out there.

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19. Plini - Handmade Cities

Up next is one of the most beloved names in this new wave of shred guitarists, Australian virtuoso Plini, who's debut full-length album "Handmade Cities" shows that he can also carry a tune just as well as he can rip on his guitar (usually a headless Strandberg Boden!). Plini proves on this album that he can hold a candle to the writing and playing talents of past guitar heroes like Vai, Satch, and Gilbert!

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18. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!

And now for something a little different, Childish Gambino (perhaps better known as comedian/actor Donald Glover outside of music circles) delivers a soulful, musically adept album of hip-hop, soul, and funk with "Awaken, My Love!" "Me and Your Mama" is an especially good song, and that track alone is worthy of this album being on this list.

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17. The Claypool Lennon Delirium - Monolith of Phobos

While on the surface, it seems like a rather odd combo, Primus' Les Claypool teaming up with Sean Lennon, son of former Beatle John Lennon, has yielded some interesting, brain-melting psychedelic rock on "Monolith of Phobos," with tongue planted so firmly in cheek that it could have only come from these two diverse and talented artists.

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16. Architects - All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

Sadly, "All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us" is the last album to feature guitarist Tom Searle, who died of skin cancer on August 20th. But this album serves as a very excellent swan song for Searle, and is one of the band's strongest and most diverse offerings to date, showing the band as more than a mere one-dimensional metalcore band and setting the standard for other metalcore bands to follow.

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15. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

At #15 is Nick Cave's "Skeleton Tree," another very diverse, stripped down album with a lot of avant-garde and electronic influences. Nick Cave has always had a lot of "bubbling under" influence, but as far as I can recall, this is the first time he's made a top albums list on Ultimate-Guitar!

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14. Vektor - Terminal Redux

With Megadeth, Anthrax, and Metallica all releasing absolutely top-notch albums in 2016, it seems that thrash metal is alive and well this year, and newcomers Vektor have put out "Terminal Redux," one of the most mind-blowing records of the year, evoking the likes of Voivod and Death as well as the more traditional thrash sounds.

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13. Deftones - Gore

The band's exploration of dream pop and post-rock textures is continued on "Gore," and a guest appearance from Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell doesn't hurt this album as well. Great songs, excellent production, huge atmospheres, what's not to love about this album?

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12. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation

As announced this fall, TDEP has decided to disband after the "Dissociation" touring cycle is complete. The band couldn't have chosen a more potent way to go out than this album, which shows the band firing on all cylinders. UGer Muser9909 couldn't have put it any better: "TDEP Motherfuckers, you release the best goddamn album of the year, and the best album of your goddamn career, and then you break up... It's impossible, is fucking sad."

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11. Periphery - Periphery III: Select Difficulty

Love that shit! Misha and the boys take a face-heel turn from the conceptual "Juggernaut Alpha/Omega" albums and crafted a simpler, more stripped-down album with "Select Difficulty," more in the vein of their first album. While I personally would have preferred the title "Periphery III: Shrek 2," there's no doubting that this band is staying firmly on top of their game! Even so, this album is still one of 2016's most varied and diverse metal albums.

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10. Tremonti - Dust

Opening the top 10 part of our list is Tremonti's "Dust," which can almost be regarded as an outtakes album of sorts to "Cauterize," but far transcends that status with its amazing songwriting and truly epic guitar performances.

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9. Opeth - Sorceress

Despite the controversy surrounding the band's abandonment of death metal elements on 2011's "Heritage," UG users have voted "Sorceress" into the top 10 of the year. But when you've got amazing tracks like the almost-classic-Opeth-heavy "Chrysalis" and the Jethro Tull-esque "Will o the Wisp," it's clear to see that Opeth still have a lot of backers among the UG community.

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8. Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence

Even though Devy had some reservations at the beginning of the writing cycle for "Transcendence," he really came through with an absolutely transcendent (ha, ha... see what I did there?) slab of prog-metal that is sure to please fans of his pre-Devin Townsend Project solo albums. And his cover of Ween's "Transdermal Celebration" is one of the most spine-tingling tracks of 2016 (in this author's humble opinion)!

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7. Alter Bridge - The Last Hero

Mark Tremonti will be absolutely thrilled to see his work make UG's top 25 (top 10, even) list twice! Like every Alter Bridge album before it, "The Last Hero" is an absolutely top-notch mix of mainstream rock, progressive metal tendencies, and all-out shredding from Tremonti and vocalist/co-guitarist Myles Kennedy.

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6. Megadeth - Dystopia

Though it seemed like MegaDave was in hot water after 2013's poorly-received "Super Collider" and the departures of Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover, having Angra guitarist Kiko Louriero and Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler step in revitalized the band enough to ensure "Dystopia" would be a deliciously thrashy, musically confident album that touches on all of Megadeth's best qualities.

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5. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

A band that has always stubbornly refused to be properly pigeonholed, the #5 spot goes to Radiohead for their album "A Moon Shaped Pool," which shows the band reigniting the "rock" side of their sound after many albums that have openly embraced ambient and electronic music. The album is still as diverse as anything in their discography, though, and there's a little something for everyone on it.

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4. Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage

At #4 on the list is Avenged Sevenfold's "The Stage," which was released as a complete surprise to fans just shy of Halloween. A much more progressive effort than 2013's "Hail to the King," the album features all of the trademarks Avenged Sevenfold fans have come to expect, but also brings in elements like longer songs, atmospheric elements, horn sections, synths, and even a guest appearance from scientist and entertainer Neil deGrasse Tyson, along with some of the band's most intelligently-informed lyrical subject matter.

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3. David Bowie - Blackstar

2016 has been called by some to be an "annus horribilis" for rock musicians, and the first sign of this was the death of rock pioneer David Bowie in early January, only two days after the release of this album. And his final work, "Blackstar," is a dark, artsy, complex work considered by even some of his naysayers to be a surprisingly chilling and emotional record, complete with some amazing songwriting and playing.

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2. Metallica - Self Destruct

Though it seemed for a while that Tool and Metallica were duking it out to see who could make their fans wait longest for a new album, Metallica pulled through in 2016 with the album that's made our #2 spot, " Self Destruct." After the disastrous production of the otherwise quite decent "Death Magnetic" and the much-maligned collaboration with Lou Reed, "Lulu," "Hardwired" is a nearly-complete return to form for the band, with some of the band's strongest songwriting and playing since "The Black Album."

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1. Gojira - Magma

And the gold this year goes to French metallers Gojira! "Magma" shows the band taking on much more melodic and simplified song and riff structures, but retains the core Gojira sound fans will immediately recognize. Taking influence from various personal tragedies (including the death of Joe and Mario Duplantier's mother during the pre-production process), the album is stirringly emotional while still showcasing the band's trademark mix of thrash, death and progressive metal. Even though the band opted to use shorter song arrangements and less complex riffs, the sounds presented here are immediately recognizeable as Gojira, and the band still remains impossible to truly pigeonhole. An absolutely deserved #1 for Gojira!

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There were just so many great albums released this year, and for all its ups and downs, 2016 may well have been one of the best years for rock and metal album releases in recent memory. And there definitely seems to be a theme of diversity among the albums on this year's list, with so many of these albums featuring sounds that go in many different directions. To all those who say good music is dead, just scroll up and be amazed. Can't wait to see what 2017 has in store!

101 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I've listened to almost half these albums. Personally The Stage really stood out to me. Amazing album.
    Badass UltraMan
    I was surprised to see Hardwired higher on the list than The Stage. I'm a huge Metallica fan but their songwriting ability pales in comparison to what Avenged Sevenfold produced with their latest offering in my opinion.
    I think a lot of people like the new Metallica album because of nostalgia. I've got it, and it grew on me. It's not a bad album, but I don't think it was super fantastic either. It was just a good listen- the first 5 tracks on disc 1 are cool, Dream No More is fucking awesome, and then after that I just kind of put it down and get bored with it. I would have liked to have seen the new Death Angel album on here- that album is one for the books.
    evil divide was fantastic, but i guess they're not really a "huge" band, at least compared to the other artists here
    People on here are overrating the stage like crazy... It is their worst album. The solos are cool, but the writing is weak.
    Been an Avenged fan for some time, and I'm personally way happier with this one than Hail to the King. More original, and more adventurous arrangements.
    It's definitely overrated if you look at the albums it beat, but that doesn't mean it's not a great album.
    I really love Blackstar and everything surround it. Would have liked to see it make number 1.
    I didnt like The Stage my first listen, but it has since really grown on me
    Transcendence is one for the ages as far as I'm concerned, perfect from start to end.
    Hey I know Revocation isn't as popular as most of these bands but their album "Great is our Sin" totally blew my mind this year!
    haven't listened to the top3 albums, none of them. just 1 or 2 songs from the metallica album, which I didn't really fell in love with... IMO The Stage and Select Difficulty are 2 REALLY SOLID albums. majority of UG just hates on Avenged Sevenfold, and this is one of their best, most intricate albums released yet. besides, the work Brooks is doing on the drums, stellar
    Lots of really good albums on this list, but Hardwired and Magma for the No 2 and No 1 spots? Hardwired is just a decent Metallica album and Magma was the most watered down version of Gojira possible. Putting Blackstar beneath either of them pretty much invalidates the entire thing.
    If I had the choice of which albums went where (I didn't when I wrote this, this is based on votes from the UG community), Magma and Hardwired would be closer to the bottom of the list, too. But then I'd put Haken at the top, sooooo... I guess everyone's just gonna have to disagree
    Sorry if your favourite band/artist isn't in here and you think this list sucks because of it. I'm not the one who chose these albums. YOU did Personally, I think this is a fine list.
    The Stage was really good. I was so pleased to hear it, especially after httk. But for me personally (even though Metallica is my favourite metal band and I was so excited for their album and it did not dissapoint) Megadeth stole the show. I can't listen to it with headphones or they're flying across the room. But then again, I haven't heard every album on here yet. I know Gojira is a fantastic band and The Shooting Star is a fucking dope track, but I just haven't heard enough of it to know better.
    Octane Twisted
    Good picks but the order is kinda fucked up IMO. The new Metallica is good but it has a few fillers. And the same goes for Gojira. On the other other hand Blackstar, A Moon Shaped Pool, Dissociation and Terminal Redux are great from front to back. And I would add Revocation and Ulcerate to this list.
    My fave this was Cough's still they pray.
    Mondo drag's occlulation of light was a closenior 2nd. Hardwired also ripped!
    Is it me or it's a huge coincidence it's almost the same artists/bands and in the same order as 'Top 25 Songs of 2016' ..... :V
    As a big Alter Bridge fan, it's great to see both The Last Hero and Tremonti's Cauterize on this list. They mentioned Gojira during one of their interviews and it's been great exploring the Gojira discography as well. All in all, a good list in my opinion.
    Not really impressed on the list although I'm glad that A7X at least made it to top 5 (which for me, it should be this year's #1). There's so many great releases this year. Periphery's P3 is my first album of theirs and can't stop listening to it since its release.
    Meta by Car Bomb really should have at least made an honorable mention, fantastic comeback and underrated band.
    They made the songs list with "Clockworks". Personally, I found the new Meshuggah album disappointing so I don't disagree with it not being here, and I guess enough people felt the same way that it didn't get enough votes. Personally, I'm a little disappointed Dream Theater didn't make it, myself, but I can understand why so many fans were against that album.
    So far I've checked out Vektor, AB and A7X because of this list. Amazing guitar playing on these 3!! Only 3 left that I haven't heard, Dillinger, Katatonia, and Architects. I also hear good things about Solange, Chance the Rapper, and Danny Brown's 2016 albums I'd suggest, for guitar albums from 2016 that aren't on this list, Modern-Rock Ensemble's "Touch the Mystery", Colin Tench Project's "Hair In A G-String"(this one reminds me of Zappa and Camel) and the latest album from Italian band Promenade.
    The statement about Tremonti's Dust being an outtakes set from Cauterize is incorrect. Cauterize and Dust were effectively a double album released almost a year apart. The songs were recorded at the same time and Mark himself has said that Dust is NOT a collection of Cauterize b-sides. The title track was his favorite song on both albums.
    I think it was rather that Mark said he didn't want the album seen as a collection of b-sides. But then I also don't think the album was really intended to be a double-album, he just had a collection of songs from those sessions that were good enough to be released on their own (and rightly so, "Dust" rocked!).
    Rename this list to "Top 25 Rock/Metal albums" Where is Tribe, Solange, Death Grips, Danny Brown ect?
    UGers are never a credible source for anything non rock/metal related. Danny Brown deserves album of the year. Atrocity Exhibition was unlike any hip hop album I've ever heard in my life.
    I'm a bit surprised by the lack of Dream Theater. I personally enjoyed the music itself and can understand if it wasn't for everyone. But the story they created behind it should surely be given the credit at least.
    That new Gojira album is a joke, doesn't even deserve to be on this list.
    Right? Weakest album of their career by far. I was okay with them decided to switch to clean vocals but goddamn they could not have made them more boring if they tried.
    All aboard the downvote train! I agree with you guys. You cannot top the atmosphere that was "L'enfant Sauvage", I didn't see them beating that one but had high hopes after all the "hardships and losses" news leading to some angry and beautiful songwriting. But, cest la vie, it is how they felt and what they wrote.
    I guess I'm in the minority. I absolutely loved Magma. Magma would be #2 on this list for me right behind ABs The Last Hero.
    Weak year for metal, but not weak for other genres. Would've liked to see Frank Ocean, Nothing, Weezer, Anderson .paak, Car Seat Headrest, and a few other great albums make the list, but not too surprised at the outcome.
    Fucking disgusting list, way too much mediocre metal bands, and "obvious picks". Childish Gambino's new album sucks ass, and the new Megadeth album is nothing to write home about. You want one of the top 25 albums of 2016? Try listening to Pup - The Dream Is Over.
    And Avenged Sevenfold? Are you fucking kidding me? One of the worst bands to "represent metal" hands down.
    Gotta love the butthurt A7X fans going and down-voting any comment here that serves to tarnish their favorite band.
    I'm sorry. In no universe imaginable is Avenged Sevenfold better than radiohead
    A7X is a joke band for plebian tastes, perfect for UGers.
    A7X isnt that bad, but it's the fact is that they pretend to be heavier than they actually are.
    If metal started as an anti-establishment genre, how has it become so overproduced and has become the reason for the birth of poser bands such as A7X? Metal is a genre is a joke today. Other genres are pushing the envelope significantly. In the 2000s, alternative rock and indie rock dominated by being the sound encapsulating bands such as Radiohead, The Strokes, The Microphones, and early Arctic Monkeys. Nowadays, indie rock is doing well with Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, and Mac DeMarco. However, hip hop is the genre with the most forward-thinking music. Kendrick Lamar's TPAB, Danny Brown with Atrocity Exhibition, Death Grips with everything they've released, and clipping with their space opera Splendor and Misery.
    Dust is most certainly NOT a Cauterize out takes album. For a start it is better than that one. But secondly it was written as one big session. There are also out takes from both. Learn things before spouting off. Also, could y'all jump of Metallica dick for a while. Yeah, it's a good album but come on, really?!?!? I feel like the "Metallica Famileeeah" have been on the attack here.
    Metallica, Opeth, Gojira, Deftones and Animals As Leaders made some of their WORST album this year ! How can they be part of any best list?? And Periphery? Please, apart from their first album, they suck. At least if you want to put that genre in your top list, put Meshuggah ! Plini should be somewhere in the top 3, the guy is a genius.
    Would have loved to see Slice The Cake's "Odyssey to the West" on here, but good list nonetheless!
    In my opinion, everyone is entitled to their opinion. The opinions on people's opinions are just opinions... Why do we have opinions on everything including opinions? Let's just all have the same opinion that all the music is good and everyone's opinion on opinions is just opinions. This is all just my opinion.
    I've listened to Dystopia and Hardwired off this list. What are three that i should check out from this list?
    surprised to see a7x at number 4, expected them to be at least number 2. but at least them made it to the top 5. It's a crime that Selves We Cannot Forgive by Black Crown Initiate isn't on this list. definitely my favorite album of the year.
    Marc Lenders
    I like Katatonia album even if is 25th in the list! For me is a very good metal album.