Here are music awards! Hopefully, this will be a yearly thing.
Biggest Disappointment: Tears of Tragedy - Statice
Let’s get the negativity over with first thing! I sorta liked Tears of Tragedy’s Continuation of the Dream. It was a fairly solid power metal album that had a good mix of softer and harder music. But Statice was a complete letdown. The first time I listened to it, I had to turn it off around track 5. Every song sounded exactly the same to me, and they all featured prominent yet fairly uninspired keyboard-driven melodies. I forced myself to listen to it a second time, and here’s a new rule for me to live by: never force yourself to listen to something!
Enough negativity, let’s move on to good stuff!
Best Non-2016 Album Discovered in 2016: Light Bringer - Scenes of Infinity
Yeah, this is more like it! 2016 was the year I discovered Japanese power metal, and the first album I imported was Light Bringer’s Scenes of Infinity. And it quickly became my favorite album! Every song (with the sole exception of a much-needed breather track) has hours worth of musical ideas that are compressed and layered together into uplifiting, manic perfection.
I can’t praise Scenes of Infinity enough. It’s the best.
Runners-up: Light Bringer - Genesis, Gacharic Spin - Music Battler, Rush - Power Windows, Alhambra - Fadista
Song of the Year: Gacharic Spin - “パラリヤハッピー”
Track #6 on a Gacharic Spin album is a magical place. Delicious’s sixth track is “never say never”, a slap bass showcase that remains a highlight of the album. WINNER has “運命さえも変える言葉 -ALBUM VER.-“, which is the hardest song on its album (so of course I like it). Music Battler’s “ガンバンバダンサー” is the best song of the album - Oreo Reona lays it down, jazz-scat style.
確実変動-KAKUHEN- has “パラリヤハッピー”, which is so catchy that, when the album came out, I would just listen to that track on repeat. It lept past “ear worm” territory and right into my heart, and it’s my pick for SOTY 2016.
Runners-up: n/a. Nothing else stood a chance.
Best Albums Released in 2016
5. Bewitcher - Bewitcher
Some good blackened speed metal. Bewitcher’s self-titled debut album has the least ‘replay value’ of any album on this list, but the killer lyrics more than make up for it to earn the #5 spot.
4. Alhambra - The Earnest Trilogy
Alhambra is a cool progressive power metal band from Japan, but their latest album, The Earnest Trilogy, mostly consists of songs that previously appeared in 2010’s Solitude. They’re really good re-recordings that eclipse the originals in a few regards, but they’re still songs that were on a previous album. Taken on its own, The Earnest Trilogy belongs way higher on this list, but the songs are old so I gotta dock it.
3. Fuki Commune - Welcome!
Welcome! is the debut solo album from Fuki, a fantastic vocalist who’s been in a few great bands: Light Bringer, Doll$boxx, and Unlucky Morpheus. Fuki’s solo work is more basic musically than some of the bands that she’s been in, but Fuki gives it 100% throughout Welcome! and that’s enough for me :-)
I love every song on here, but I got to say, as an album, Welcome! does not flow well at all, so that’s why it gets the #3 spot.
2. Octaviagrace - Outward Resonance
Outward Resonance is a crazy anime metal album. There’s some power metal on here, some really soft jazzy rock, and there’s a jazz song where the keyboards sound like they’re straight from a Mystery Science Theater 3000 host segment. It rarely goes hard, but it goes in so many other directions that makes it worthwhile.
1. Gacharic Spin - 確実変動-KAKUHEN-
Gacharic Spin is one of my favorite bands (we’re talking Top 5 here), and their newest album is one of their best yet. They’re still combining hard rock with dance and JPop, and they continue to do so in such a imaginative, energetic, and (at times) emotional way that it continues being exciting. This album is so full of catchy songs and cool moments that giving my top pick to other album would be a crime.