2016: A year in metal

A photograph of Bruce Dickinson on stage with fire behind him
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

January

We should have realised this was going to be a weird year when January went a bit peculiar. As the world mourned Lemmy’s passing and witnessed his genuinely moving public wake, metal’s mood swiftly soured due to Philip Anselmo’s decision to drunkenly bellow, ‘White power!’ onstage during a Dimebag tribute show. Most fans were appalled, including Machine Head’s Robb Flynn, who posted a passionate video expressing his disgust. Phil eventually apologised, but the impact of such a needless and nasty act on his career has yet to be quantified. It wasn’t all doom and gloom in January, however, as Chthonic frontman Freddy Lim was elected an MP in Taiwan, and controversial bruisers King 810 released a poignant new song, We Gotta Help Ourselves, to draw attention to the poisoned water crisis in their native city of Flint, Michigan. An admirable effort.

February

The fallout from Philip Anselmo’s racist outburst continued in February, as Down found themselves scratched from the bill of Dutch festival FortaRock and then, inevitably, their entire festival run was cancelled. Meanwhile, at the Grammys, ageing all-star crew Hollywood Vampires – featuring Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and more! – performed a boisterous tribute to Lemmy. “We started this band as a means to toast our ‘dead drunk friends’ at the Rainbow,” said Alice. “Now I guess Lemmy is involved in that, too.” Speaking of legends, rumours stirred that Slash was in the studio, working on new Guns N’ Roses material ahead of their planned reunion. Japanese superstars X Japan cancelled their Wembley Arena date when guitarist Pata was hospitalised with a blood clot, but positive news came as Slipknot announced their massive North American tour, with support from Marilyn Manson and Hammer cover stars Of Mice & Men.

March

Chaos and calamity continued unabated in March. It started with AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson’s announcement that he was to retire from live performance due to hearing problems. Then, much to our annoyance, much-loved British miscreants The Defiled decided to split up. Bullet For My Valentine frontman Matt Tuck did his best to cheer us all up by performing the first-ever gig to take place on land, sea and in the air, including a rendition of The Last Fight during a 15,000ft freefall skydive. What an absolute hero/madman. Elsewhere, it was a case of swings and roundabouts for Iron Maiden, as they played for 58,000 fans in Chile but also had to find a new plane as their original Boeing 747 was damaged at Santiago Airport. Still, better than touring in a shitty old van, right?

April

Holy shit! It really happened! Guns N’ Roses actually reformed! Well, most of ’em anyway. Axl, Slash and Duff played their first show, at Hollywood’s Troubadour. UK dates still haven’t been announced, but we know they’re coming and we’re ridiculously excited. And so are you, presumably. Over in the world of politics, Andrew WK mischievously started his own Party Party to further disseminate his ultra-positive worldview to a grumpy planet. Rammstein and Five Finger Death Punch both found themselves embroiled in legal disputes; the Germans sued their own government for temporarily placing Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da on a list of albums indexed for dubious content, while 5FDP battled with their former label’s claims that the band had failed to honour their contract. Complicated business, this metal lark, isn’t it?

May

After weeks of rumours and excitement, Axl Rose hit the stage as AC/DC’s new singer this month. Perhaps surprisingly, virtually everyone thought he did a really good job. Speaking of rumours, metal fans had long been wondering what Joey Jordison was up to – in May, he announced that his old band (Scar The Martyr) had evolved into a new band (Vimic), and that new music was on the way. That was only a small part of Joey’s story, though…

More chaos descended on the festival circuit as underground knees-up Temples was cancelled at short notice. Meanwhile, we mourned the loss of another metal hero taken too soon, ex-Megadeth drummer Nick Menza. He played on several classic albums including Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia. Legend.

June

Joey Jordison finally spilled the beans in June, revealing that he had been suffering from a debilitating neurological condition that had threatened to confine him to a wheelchair forever. Firmly in recovery mode, Joey gave Hammer the world-exclusive on his health troubles and his long-awaited return to action with Vimic and new death metal supergroup Sinsaenum, and delivered an emotional speech at our Golden Gods awards ceremony. Few returns have been more welcome, but Gojira’s new album, Magma, obviously ruled hard, as well.

Download was a giant musical swamp once again, with the terrible weather balanced out by heroic headline shows from Rammstein, Black Sabbath and the mighty Maiden. It was fairly damp at Glastonbury, too, where Bring Me The Horizon made their debut. But it was much dryer in the Icelandic volcano where Deftones’ Chino Moreno performed a brief acoustic gig, bless him.

July

The summer sunshine was making a few folk go a bit mad in July, not least Gene Simmons, who opened his trap once again to have a go at mobile phone users at gigs. Corey Taylor also had a go at mobile phone users. A fair point, perhaps, but we were trying to catch a Pikachu at the time, so we weren’t really paying attention. The insanity continued as warbling bell-end Justin Bieber unveiled a Marilyn Manson-inspired t-shirt and Metallica moonlighted as menswear models. And despite having just released one of the year’s most gloriously vicious albums, grindcore ne’er-do-wells Nails announced they were buggering off on a hiatus. Bloody typical.

August

Living in the future is weird. Ronnie James Dio was reborn as a hologram for all-star tribute crew Dio Disciples’ Wacken performance. We’re still not sure how we feel about that. Elsewhere, Twisted Sister waved goodbye to the UK with a monstrous headlining show at Bloodstock, The Dillinger Escape Plan announced they were splitting up, and Ozzy Osbourne revealed that he was to undergo “sex addiction therapy” after an affair bollocksed his marriage to Sharon. Metallica finally released a new song, Hardwired, from their forthcoming new album, and it was an absolute face-melter that made everybody really excited. Thank fuck.

However, the month ended in sadness with the news that Architects guitarist Tom Searle had passed away at the tragically young age of 28 after a long battle with cancer. He will be sorely missed.

September

Metal Hammer got a bit drunk and silly in September as we celebrated our 30th anniversary. Some of us still feel a bit sick, to be honest. We also marked the 30th anniversary of Cliff Burton’s untimely death, just as Metallica revealed that new album Hardwired… To Self-Destruct was to be a 77-minute double-album. Well, if it’s good enough for Iron Maiden…

Over in the US, Ozzfest and Knotfest were colliding for a special one-off outdoor event in San Bernadino, California, with headline sets from Slipknot and Black Sabbath and a supporting bill that had the entire metal world foaming at the mouth. Even more exciting, however, was the return of The Misfits – featuring Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, Doyle and Dave Lombardo on drums – at Chicago’s Riot Fest. Halloween came early this year, basically.

October

Another new Metallica song, Moth Into Flame, had us all banging our heads like it was 1986 (or ’91, if you prefer). Then Nails decided to change their minds and not split up after all, and Asking Alexandria ditched Denis Stoff and welcomed back their old pal Danny Worsnop. System Of A Down announced that they were back in action and heading for Europe in 2017 (they’d later be announced as Friday’s Download headliner). Assuming they don’t end up hating each other again, this should be brilliant.

But October’s biggest revelation came with the surprise release of a brand new Avenged Sevenfold album, The Stage. Big, bombastic, and madder than a skip full of wolverines, everyone loved it. Next year promises to be the band’s most successful to date. Hurrah.

November

Proof that slow and steady wins the race, Opeth headlined Wembley Arena for the first time, 25 years into their career. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of prog weirdos. In grunge news, Temple Of The Dog (Chris Cornell plus four-fifths of Pearl Jam) delighted plaid- wearers by embarking on their first-ever US tour.

But never mind that: as America voted to decide whether a robot or a psychopath would run their country, Metallica finally released Hardwired… To Self-Destruct and made a lot of heavy metal fans very, very happy indeed.

December

What would you like for Xmas? A new Tool album? Nah, not happening. But it might happen sometime next year. Maybe. We’ve had our fingers crossed since 2007 and cramp has well and truly set in.

It’s been a strange year, during which we’ve lost several revered stars of our world, but as always, music has proved to be the one thing we can all rely on. And next year we’ll hopefully hear new albums from a ton of big names, ranging from old-school heroes such as Judas Priest and King Diamond, through to legends like Mastodon and Marilyn Manson, and up’n’coming young scamps Marmozets and Turnstile. There will be loads of brilliant live shows, countless great festivals and, once our festive hangovers have worn off, an overwhelming rush of optimism about the state of the world. OK, so that last bit is stupid. But still, merry fucking Xmas!

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