The Best Metal Riffs of 2016


Meshuggah, ‘MonstroCity’
(Intro/Main riff)

Meshuggah’s eighth full-length effort was a widely well-received affair. However, it’s hard to deny that The Violent Sleep Of Reason lacked its own, distinct tone and character when compared with the rest of the Swedish overlords’ back catalogue. Yet, it’s equally difficult to deny the Deftones-come-Sepultura-ian bounce of ‘MonstroCity’.

Few would have thought that he tech-metal godfathers would dabble in nu metal but, in light of the evidence, it seems it’s just one more form over which the Swedes have shown their complete and utter mastery.


ToxicRose, ‘We All Fall Down’
(Bridge/Solo riff at 2:11)

While most of the riffs on this list form the backbone of their respective compositions, ToxicRose’s addition is almost a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ affair. The drop out of the infectious chorus into a half-timed groove of ‘We All Fall Down’, into a ripping solo, is just one of the many highlights from the Swedish glam metallers’ masterful debut, Total Tranquility.

At this point, ToxicRose are primarily know for being the band featuring the brother of Crashdïet’s Martin Sweet on drums. However, if they can keep this level of quality up, they’ll soon be replacing both their sibling act and Crazy Lixx at the pinnacle of Sweden’s rich hard rock and heavy metal scene.



Textures, ‘Shaping A Single Grain Of Sand’
(Bridge riff at 2:18)

Phenotype is an album made up of endless highlights – from soaring choruses to dazzling technical displays. Yet, perhaps the pinnacle of its impressive collection is the atypically menacing beast unleashed in the middle of ‘Shaping A Single Grain Of Sand’.

Few do soaring, modern progressive metal as well as Textures, but the above example shows the Dutch sextet equally excel when the need to get down and dirty arises.


Dawnbringer, ‘Into The Maze’
(Main riff)

A quick survey of this list should reveal a preference of mine for the heavier and groovier end of things. However, that’s not to say I don’t like a good melody when I hear it, and few melodies have ever been as instant and encompassing as that of ‘Into The Maze’.

At just five tracks long, Dawnbringer’s XX EP was more than a match for many of this year’s ‘full-length’ efforts, and one suspects that it could have been just as much on the strength of this song and its sullen main riff alone.



Artillery – Live By The Scythe
(Intro/main riff)

2016 was a great year to be a thrash metal fan, with big names like Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth releasing their best work in years, while smaller and lesser known acts such as Death Angel, Sodom, Metal Church and countless others put out records worthy of being called their best.

Artillery’s Penalty By Perception was easily the best of the lot, however, and it shouldn’t take much more than the opening salvo of the anthemic ‘Live By The Scythe’ to see why.



After The Burial, Laurnetian Ghosts
(Air-horn breakdown beginning around 2:22 or 2:37 on YouTube video)

‘Sumerian-core’ stalwarts After The Burial responded to the tragic passing of their founding guitarist, Justin Lowe, by taking a bunch of his unfinished material and putting out one of the best albums of their career.

Dig Deep is a surprisingly hopeful and upbeat affair, whose encouraging message of resilience and destructive musical approach are summed up perfectly by what has the be the best breakdown call-out in recent memory.



Architects – A Match Made In Heaven
(Main/breakdown riff)

An equally tragic story is that of Brighton’s Architects, whose guitarist, Tom Searle, passed away from cancer following the release of what will likely come to be a career-defining album for them.

Subsequently, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us has become a tough listen, with the band’s frustrated aggression and Sam Carter’s spiteful lyrics revealing a confronting and challenging meaning in the new context. This album never completely gelled with me personally, but ‘A Match Made In Heaven’ remains my favourite song released this year and the devastating drop that comes at its conclusion is arguably its finest moment.



Metallica – Now That We’re Dead
(Intro/chorus riff)

As mentioned above, 2016 was also the year in which Metallica released their finest album in at least two decades. This whole list could have been made up with moments from ‘Moth Into Flame’, but it’s the chunky foundation of the following number which serves as Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’s most distinct and rewarding moment.

Sure, the intro is more-or-less a blatant rip-off of that of their own trademark song, ‘Enter Sandman’. Yet, as the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it’, and Hetfield/Ulrich and Co. may have just improved on perfection with this one.



Mick Gordon – BFG Division
(All of it)

In today’s reboot-plagued culture, the announcement that id Software would be rebooting the much-loved and revolutionary ‘90s first person shooter Doom – hot on the heels of Machine Games’ successful Wolfenstein reboot nonetheless – was, understandably, met with much cynicism and critique.

It was a pretty massive surprise then that Doom turned out to be one of the best gaming experiences of the year. It was even more surprising that Australian-based composer Mick Gordon‘s modern take on the game’s iconic soundtrack would turn out to be one of the 2016’s best music releases as well. The whole soundtrack is amazing, but ‘BFG Division’ raises the bar to a whole new level of brutality.

Warning: Do not play in the vicinity of breakable items and/or valued acquaintances!!



Ihsahn – Until I Too Dissolve
(Intro/main riff)

Ihsahn’s Arktis is a very reserved and contemplative effort, characterised by a haunting sense of isolation. Its early numbers transition the listener through a series of reflective pieces – from expansive, jazz-infused compositions to bleak black metal encounters and minimalist electronic meditations.

…and then you hit ‘Until I Too Dissolve’, wherein the Emperor frontman channels his inner Whitesnake and lets loose with a flurry of supercharged slides, pull-offs and squealing harmonics. The track itself serves as the highlight of an already-incredible album, and a forceful reminder that the noted auteur is also one of the most talented and capable musicians on the planet.



Honourable Mentions:
Testament – ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’
Deftones – ‘Doomed User’
Keep Of Kalessin – ‘Descendant’
Every Time I Die – ‘The Coin Has A Say’
Opeth – ‘Sorceress’

…Oh, and pretty much all of Meshiaak’s Alliance of Thieves.


About Joshua Bulleid

Joshua Bulleid lives in Melbourne and enjoys reading books with spaceships and robots in them. He also likes death metal.

View all posts by Joshua Bulleid

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