Top 25 Songs of 2016

As voted by UG community.

Ultimate Guitar
Top 25 Songs of 2016

Just like our top 25 albums of 2016, we also had you vote for your top 25 songs of the year. There were a huge number of very strong contenders for this list, with so, so many great bands putting out incredible songs this year, and just like in the albums list, you guys picked a strongly diverse lineup of songs.

NOTE: With all respect to David Bowie, "Lazarus" and "Blackstar" were both released as singles in 2015, even though the album itself came out in 2016, but we just wanted to give those tracks a special mention.

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

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Goodbye Angels
  • July Talk - Push + Pull
  • A Tribe Called Quest - We the People
  • Ihsahn - Celestial Violence
  • The Pineapple Thief - No Man's Land
And here's the actual top 25.

25. Every Time I Die - Just as Real, But Not as Brightly Lit

Kicking off the list this year is a track from metalcore legends Every Time I Die's latest album, "Low Teens." Featuring a bevy of hard-hitting riffs and an ever-evolving structure that never sticks to one riff for too long, this song is sure to start many chair-moshes and is a perfect way to start our top 25.

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24. Steven Wilson - Happiness III

Steven Wilson has always been a favourite of UG's user base, perhaps in part to the involvement of virtuoso extraordinaire Guthrie Govan, whose talents are used on this surprisingly upbeat prog-pop rocker from Steven Wilson's "4 1/2" EP, a collection of tracks taken from the sessions for "The Raven That Refused to Sing" and "Hand. Cannot. Erase."

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23. Iggy Pop - Sunday

This trippy rocker takes the 23rd spot on the countdown, full of angst and danceable instrumental parts, this collaboration with members of Queens Of The Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys comes from Iggy's highly-acclaimed album "Post Pop Depression."

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22. Vektor - Recharging the Void

At just over thirteen and a half minutes long, Arizona progressive thrash metallers Vektor has one of a few epic-length tracks on this list, from their album "Terminal Redux," which clocked in at #14 on our Album Of The Year list. Hints of Death and Voivod make this headbanger of an epic track a really captivating listen on all fronts, especially during the jazz chord changes and tremolo-picked guitar leads.

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21. Meshuggah - Clockworks

Meshuggah deliver brutality and organic viscera on the opening track from their album "The Violent Sleep of Reason." In a twist of the band's usual style, they recorded much of this album live off the floor, resulting in the very organic sound heard on this amazing first single.

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20. Chevelle - Rivers

At #20 is Chevelle's very nostalgic look at early-2000s alt-metal, from "The North Corridor." Beefy riffs, haunting melodies, and Tool-esque vocals and drumming bring this track together to make it a great example of a song whose style may seem dated to some, but still shows that there can be a lot of longevity and quality.

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19. Highly Suspect - My Name Is Human

One of 2016's grooviest alternative rock songs, with lots of hard-hitting vocal melodies, fuzzed-out guitars, trippy atmospheres, and a groovy-as-fuck bass and drum riff leading to one of this year's hugest choruses puts this song, from the album "The Boy Who Died Wolf," firmly into the top #20 of our list. Not bad for such a new band!

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18. Anthrax - Breathing Lightning

Proving that they're still capable of putting out some highly capable thrash metal, Anthrax's "For All Kings" has no shortage of incredible tunes to choose from, but this one, with its absolutely classic riff and trippy intro, along with its catchy sing-along chorus, make it a real special tune from one of this year's best albums.

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17. Periphery - Flatline

After a pair of highly conceptual albums, Periphery dj0nts its way back into a more stripped-down, simplified style on "Select Difficulty," and this song acts almost as a mission statement for the album as a whole, with its huge SikTh-inspired riffs buoyed by some incredibly melodic, massive choruses.

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16. Opeth - Sorceress

"I am a sinner, and I worship evil"... "Sorceress" is one of Opeth's most diverse and heavy offerings since the release of their homage to '70s prog-rock, "Heritage," and with its down-tuned riffing and absolutely evil lyrics, Opeth manages to prove that they can still be quite hard without a single death metal growl.

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15. Killswitch Engage - Hate by Design

Bringing us to #15 on the list, this single from KsE's "Incarnate" is classic Killswitch in every possible way. Their second album reunited with original vocalist Jesse Leach, his vocals have dramatically improved since the band's early days to make this one of the band's best singles in a good long time, and prove that the band still has a lot of creative steam left in them.

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14. Haken - The Architect (feat. Einar Solberg)

The second-longest track in our top 25 (by a mere *second*), Haken's "The Architect" may have divided a lot of fans of the band over its pandering to '80s prog-rock styles and the love-it-or-hate-it sound of vocalist Ross Jennings, but there's no denying that the band has hit prog-rock gold with this absolutely epic track that weaves in and out of Dream Theater-esque heaviness, King Crimson polymeters, and even some of the heaviest riffs of any song on this list (the section immediately after the guest appearance from Leprous' Einar Solberg ranks as this author's all-time favourite riff of 2016!).

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13. Korn - Rotting in Vain

Having Head back in the band has led to nothing but good things for Korn and their fans, with a lot more focus on riffs and heaviness than anything since "See You on the Other Side," and this first single from "The Serenity of Suffering" offers many classic Korn-isms, from a huge detuned 7-string riff, Jonathan Davis' huge chorus, and even the return of the scat vocals from Korn's early albums. This is probably as good of a tune as Korn has done since many of our users were children, and we couldn't be happier to have Head back in the band!

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12. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Limerent Death

What a way to go out! The Dillinger Escape Plan may have planned to disband after the release and tour cycle for "Dissociation," but this track shows a band still highly on top of its game. It's almost a shame, really, because this is a band whose albums keep getting better and better all the time, and even though the band's trademark mathcore randomness is still on display, they've continued to hone and fine-tune their sound over the years, and the result is one of the year's heaviest, most pissed-off tracks. We're gonna miss you, guys :(

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11. Animals as Leaders - The Brain Dance

From "The Madness of Many," Animals As Leaders injects its trademark brand of instrumental progressive metal with a huge dose of nylon-string guitar and, if I'm not mistaken, even a hint of '70s prog-rock (come on, couldn't you just picture Steve Howe joining the band for that intro?). With more collaboration between the members, Animals As Leaders is really coming into its own as a full-fledged band, transcending its status as essentially a Tosin Abasi solo project. Javier and Matt definitely stand with Tosin on equal terms throughout this amazing record.

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10. Dream Theater - Moment of Betrayal

While "The Astonishing" as a whole has proved to be one of the most divisive albums in Dream Theater's entire career, there's no question as to why "Moment of Betrayal" is the song kicking off our top 10. With some of the band's most propulsive riffs, epic storytelling, and an absolutely WICKED John Petrucci solo (yes, he is your GOD), many of you have declared this to be one of the best songs DT have done since the "Scenes From a Memory" days, even despite the album's propensity towards cheesy power ballads and nerdy lyrical subject matter.

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9. Megadeth - The Threat Is Real

Boasting former Angra member Kiko Louriero on guitar and Lamb Of God's Chris Adler on drums, Megadeth have catapulted away from the drab classic-rock style of "Super Collider" back into more familiar thrash metal territory on "Dystopia," and this tune evokes so many of the band's classics, especially focusing on songs from the "Rust in Peace" era, that many fans have rejoiced and called this album a complete return to form. And now, with Adler being replaced by Dirk Verbeuren of Soilwork, the band is set for one of thrash metal's biggest upward trajectories since its glory days!

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8. Deftones - Phantom Bride (feat. Jerry Cantrell)

"Gore" has boasted many amazing tracks, but this Pink Floydian ballad is one of the most progressive and dreamy songs from a band that has shown a huge propensity for experimenting beyond their established limits. Jerry Cantrell's soulful guitar solo in the middle of the track is potent enough to make a grown man cry. The ending buildup makes gratuitous use of Stephen Carpenter's use of the eight-string guitar, and closes out the track on an unsettled note befitting of the most progressive of bands.

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7. Devin Townsend Project - Stormbending

After so many albums of fart jokes, stylistic shifts into completely unfamiliar territory, and some of the metal scene's boldest live performances in history, Devin Townsend's "Transcendence" album brings him back down to earth, with a style bringing to mind his early, pre-DTP solo projects like "Accelerated Evolution" and "Terria." And with this song's epic feel and huge melodies, it's no wonder Devin has cracked this year's top 10. It's one of the most tasteful and spine-tinglingly epic songs he's done under the Devin Townsend Project banner, and wholly worthy of its place in our list.

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6. Radiohead - Burn the Witch

No stranger to experimentation, Radiohead take a surprisingly upbeat turn with this track from "A Moon Shaped Pool," with dizzying string arrangements and a fast-paced tempo lifting Thom Yorke's angelic voice for a song that is epic, beautiful, and powerful. The more rock-like arrangement of this track and its containing album has given this band a lot more leverage from the guitar playing community, and it's one of the band's best works in years.

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5. Alter Bridge - The Last Hero

Keeping the epic theme going, the title track from Alter Bridge's newest album features some of the band's most overtly prog-metal leanings since "Blackbird," and opens our top 5. Myles Kennedy's soaring vocals complement Mark Tremonti's fret-burning guitar solo quite well, and the huge, bombastic production of this song, along with the rest of the album, is sure to make this album feel like the band's "magnum opus." With two entries already on the Album Of The Year list, Tremonti should feel really proud of himself for how well-loved he is by the Ultimate-Guitar community!

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4. Avenged Sevenfold - Exist

The longest track on our list (by an entire *second*), Avenged Sevenfold takes us on a deep, cosmic journey with this closing track from their surprise-released "The Stage." With some of the band's most technical playing taking up the entirely instrumental first seven minutes of the song, it's hard not to see why Zacky and Synyster have so many fans among the guitar community. The final several minutes of the song feature a looping synth line that's atypical of the band's output, a showcase of new drummer Brooks Wackerman, and a stirring guest appearance from scientist, entertainer, and all-around-awesome-human-being Neil deGrasse Tyson. You have to hear it to believe it!

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3. Gojira - Silvera

With their album "Magma" taking #1 in our Album Of The Year poll, Gojira trims the fat from their style and breaks out their finest riffs (and even a rare guitar solo, to boot) on this concise, melodic, and dark track. Production-wise, this is one of the best-sounding metal albums released this year, and they prove to continue to be impossible to pigeonhole with their mind-bending mix of progressive, thrash, and death metal. Personal tragedies and upheavals have inspired one of the best albums and songs of the year.

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2. Ghost - Square Hammer

#2 on this list is Ghost's sole new composition from their newest EP, "Popestar." Winning a Grammy last year was already a pretty big accomplishment, especially taking into account the band's particular religious views and Satanic lyrical imagery, but this track's sultry Blue Öyster Cult-inspired riffs, pained vocals from Papa Emeritus III (who made his debut on last year's record, "Meliora"), and surprisingly adept instrumental solo section show a band that is not ready to rest on its laurels, continuing to be one of the best hard rock bands on the scene at the moment.

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1. Metallica - Spit Out the Bone

And the number one song of 2016, as voted by you, is the closing track from Metallica's " Self Destruct," and boy, is it a blistering song! Featuring some of the fastest tempos, most authentically thrash-metal riffs, James Hetfield's most brutal vocals, and even (admittedly, considering the rest of the songs) some of Kirk Hammett's best solos since their early days, this track is absolutely one of the best songs Metallica has done in a long, long time. An extremely-deserved #1, guys!

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Yet another incredible turn-out this year, with so many great bands putting out some of their best material, and a few artists that have managed to hit some incredible songs right out of the ballpark, even if their full albums were not as well-loved by UGers. You guys prove yet again that when it comes to inscrutable taste in music, there's no better community than UG. Each and every one of these songs is top-quality. Let's give it up for 2016!

77 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Shreddy Krueger
    It makes me so happy to see Ghost so high up on the list. They are truly one of the best rock bands out there right now, and to see them getting more and more recognition is very well deserved.
    While I can't get into Ghost at all myself at least they're a relatively new band compared to most of the bands on the list. It leaves me worried about rock in 10 to 15 years! Love the dynamics of Chevelle's "Rivers" though. Sometimes I just wanna rock out for 4 minutes rather than prog out for 20.
    I would not have rated Ghost so highly on this poll either. Their sound is very vintage yet different but vocals are lacking and there is a lot of good vocalists out there.
    check out Pan.Thy.Monium and the riff from 39:49 (and earlier):
    it's very similar to the "Square hammer" main theme, but it's from 1993. Cheers!
    UG community are way too devoted to 'classic metal' acts. Metallica is far from the best of the year
    Totally agree. I ruined the album for myself. The riffs and vocals are awesome but there are too many drum fills consisting only of the snare!
    Some of AB's most proggy work since Blackbird.... Umm the Fortress album? Fortress, Cry of Achilles and Calm the Fire?
    Listen to Brain Dance by Animals As Leaders and wonder how most the bands are even ahead. Deserves a top 3 for sure, same with the whole record.
    I was largely uninspired by new AaL, I think it just wasn't heavy enough for me.
    I wouldn't say it was a lack of heaviness that left the new AAL album feeling uninspiring. I would say it's the lack of their cohesive groove that carried songs on their eponymous album and especially on The Joy of Motion.
    Gojira and Ghost really deserve these spots. Truly inovative music.
    I'm not saying this to be negative, but how is Ghost's music innovative? To me, they sound like a LOT of 60's/70's, goth, and even indy rock bands. I kinda like Square Hammer, but I'm curious why you consider it innovative?
    Glad to see Ghost and Metallica topping the first two - Metallica did great this outing, and so did Ghost. Looking forward to seeing what Ghost has in store next.
    Gotta admit i'd never heard of Highly Suspect but after hearing that song i've got their latest album and booked to see them in March 17. Thanks for the new tunes UG
    Me neither. Fell in love with My Name Is Human as soon as the vocals started.
    Best song from Deftones album Gore was not the song with Jerry Cantrell (as much as I love both artists !) it was GORE !!!
    Why did I even bother to read this? I should've expected UG to continue to suck Metallica off over their new record. Bah.
    Honestly, it's their best song in a while, but if I were the one who got to choose where songs go on the list, it'd be way behind everyone else. Like, closer to #20 or so. But then, I didn't choose the order
    Yet you don't list songs that are better?
    Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize I worked here. Allow me to commandeer UG's journalism just because you feel I owe you some sort of proof. I didn't come here to rewrite the list, but after reading it, I was compelled to point out that the somewhat less-than-deserved excessive enthusiasm for Metallica's new material has been worming its way into far too many headlines lately. What's the best song of the year? I don't know, but it's probably not that one. Next week on UG : "James Hetfield talks discusses how taking a bloody Taco Bell shit inspired the new album's artwork". Followed by "Lars remembers tossing off three times the day they decided to record Atlas, Rise!".
    Quit stalling and list some songs. Oh wait you can't because you know nothing better was put out this year
    Wow. Sick burn, fanboy. The point was never that I had a cache of songs in mind that were better, but that Metallica was going to make the list whether the songs were good or not, just because they haven't released an album in so long. Similar promotional oversaturation happened when Death Magnetic was released too. Once the honeymoon stage is over, people are going to start coming back down to earth about this album too, and realize it's not at the level they think it is. Just because it says Metallica on the cover doesn't mean it's grandfathered in as the best song or album of any year. So there's some insight as to why I said what I did, but hey--if all you're going to do is insist that I list songs for argument's sake, then piss're contributing less than I am.
    Again you give no examples of better songs you just went on another Metallica hate rant claiming that everything they do is loved when that's not how it works. Metallica can't just put something out and it will be universally loved remember Lulu when it first came out? Load, ReLoad and St. Anger took years before fans started to appreciate those albums. Also people have already been able to voice their criticisms about the album mainly Kirk's lead playing and phone excuse. But most fans agreed that Spit Out the Bone is fantastic and one of the best songs of the year.
    And again YOU just come back with "list some songs", as if that's the real point. It was never a question of whether it was or wasn't the song of the year. Maybe it really is. Maybe that IS the best 2016 had to offer the listener. The point is that the high of having a new record from the world's most popular metal band drop a month ago is still rolling through everyone's heads. Once the excitement dies down from that, people will be listening with more critical ears. You can go ahead and stop thinking I'm just some hater that just wants to shit talk the album. I didn't show up here yesterday like you did--I've been a member of this site for a dozen years, and a Metallica fan since you were probably still shitting yourself, so I actually remember the buzz over Death Magnetic. It was the same talk--"album of the year, for sure" and "All-Nightmare-Long-this" and "Cyanide-that"--the same buzz as this album is getting. People rave about how great it is, and within months, they get over the "new album smell" and start actually giving their honest feedback. The music media HAS been flying Metallica's flag over this for a while now. "Spit Out the Bone" isn't the best song of the year because it isn't even the best song on the record. And whether it is or isn't the best song, Metallica is still going to claim the top spot because their first four legendary records cemented their status as rock royalty. They edged out Gojira and Ghost to claim the top spot, but was it REALLY because the song is better, or is it more likely that the name "Metallica" swings a heavier hammer than theirs does? If Elvis had a record come out this year, he probably would have the "best song/album of the year", because he's fuckin' ELVIS. This was just a popularity contest--no more, no less. I was just as excited to hear about new Metallica as you...maybe even more so. Try not to be so ignorant to the possibility that I might already be over it due to its underwhelming nature.
    *whine whine whine* Either give some examples of better 2016 songs or shut the fuck up!
    You don't even have a point anymore. Explaining my position isn't whining. You'd know that if you'd passed the seventh grade. At this point I'm convinced you can't even read. My position isn't even about the songs. I can see that you'll never get it. You're just a broken record with only one response...all day, every day. I'm through with indulging you.
    I'm not even a big Metallica fan, but you're an idiot with no respect.
    I think some artists probably pay to be promoted on various websites, Metallica has a couple of billboards here in Québec just for their new album so imagine what they can do on the internet!
    shouldn't even be in the top 100. It's their best in a while but that isn't exactly much of a compliment
    Where is the hell BFMV? The UG community don't give appreciation to the good music
    Why is it 'surprising' to hear such competent musicianship from Ghost? Has the writer of this not actually listened to them before? They're wonderful players.
    Very nice to see Ghost up there. I wasn't much of a fan until I saw a recorded show on Youtube from Hellfest. Had to get all the albums and now I can't stop listening. Looking forward to hopefully being able to see them live some time.
    Serotonia by Highly Suspect has to be the best song of the year, and easily better than My Name is Human. Incredible song, even if the album overall was pretty disapointing compared to it's predecessor.
    Highly Suspect... WHOA!!! These guys are great! Glad to discover this.
    Agent 00Awesome
    I agree, great new band. Also surprised by how good the new Chevelle album sounds. I always kind of wrote them off as genetic 2000s hard rock but I like what they're sounding like these days. Glad to see Devin Townsend in the top 10 and ETID getting some love too. I have a few new bands to check out from reading these lists. Good job UG community!
    I'm glad about most of these choices (ETID, Deftones, Metallica, Gojira, Opeth, Vektor) Don't like Ghost at number 2 however. That is a boring song...
    Was there a thing for nominating songs? I honestly did not see it. If I did I would have nominated something off the new Salems Pot or Well albums.
    Spit Out The Bone isn't even the best song on Hardwired, let alone of this year. Also, you included many non-singles here. Yet felt the need to exclude David Bowie because the 2 singles from his 2016 album were released in 2015..... I'll let you think that one over for a minute..... John Petrucci is a God though, that much I can agree on, even if I hated The Astonishing(ly dull and pretentious).
    Although I'm not a fan of that particular song, I really love how much recognition Devin Townsend is getting on this site. He's so incredibly talented, but only few people even heard about him. Phantom Bride also became my favorite of the new Deftones album pretty fast. It was pretty much the "Deftones moment" for me on the album, where a song gives you something beyond just liking it, making you immediately want to listen to it again. It's not just the solo, although it definitely is something special to hear that in a song from them, but just the overall vibe it gives off. It just screams their talent in every second with the awesome vocals and interplay of melodies. Personal top song this year: "Amalia's Theme" by Kayo Dot. Got me immediately in its first seconds and has so much atmosphere, variety and brilliance, I just can't stop listening to it up to this day. I also totally dig the cryptic lyrics - there's something new I enjoy about it with every listen and it's just absolutely fantastic.
    Oh man, Kayo Dot needs more love on UG.
    Pretty hard to get a fanbase with the drastical changes they make all the time though. Personally, I only really enjoy their latest two albums (currently?), but I've heard people complaining about their new direction and considering older albums as unrivaled masterpieces.
    Checked out the Korn video because of Tommy Flanagan. He's the best part of the song being on this list. Korn is still as terrible as they were in 1996.
    Glad Vektor made this list and the best album of 2016 list. They are a breath of fresh air in thrash metal. The lungs of the cosmic breath, if you will.
    At least for the songs I'm familiar with on the list, the descriptions are just flat out wrong at times. Anyways, there's a lot to like on this list and now I know I need to check out some new music.
    Like what, if you don't mind my asking? Admittedly, I hadn't heard all of these songs before writing this article (I didn't choose them, so a few of them seemed a little left-field for me). For the purposes of writing this list, I did give each and every one of these songs a few listens if I hadn't already, but I'll admit that it might not be enough to get the facts right.
    Reading it again, that came off a little more harsh than I meant. I also assumed this was put together by multiple people so I can understand. But I certainly wouldn't call Burn the Witch an upbeat song, or describe their new album the way you did. In The Last Hero, the first solo is done by Myles and the second is by Mark. Overall, it was a good article though.
    Thanks! I didn't take it too harshly. In fact, I rather appreciate some constructive criticism, as this is my first non-review article for UG, and I hope to improve the quality of my work, and I obviously can't do that if everyone tells me it's perfect all the time Thanks for the comments!
    There always has to be a dig when it comes to Metallica. The wee dig at Kirk is pathetic. "Admittedly". Jesus. What is it? Trying to keep the appeal to those that are too cool to like Metallica?
    as much as i love jerry cantrell on a deftones track, doomed user was the best track on that album
    Glad Alter Bridge made the cut this year. It's not their best work, but definitely a contender for 2016.