Rock Music in Review: Legends May Die but Art Remains

By Nick Hession, Opinion Writer

2016 was an incredibly memorable year for rock music. Many people look at 2016 as the year of lost rock stars following David Bowie, Prince, Glen Frey and others’ deaths, but the year also brought forth incredible new material within the genre.

The year’s first major release came from David Bowie on January 8. Bowie recorded Blackstar while suffering from liver cancer, and passed away three days after its release. Bowie recorded the album knowing that he was dying, which makes the album even more personal. This is especially evident on the track Lazarus, which sounds like a posthumous letter to the listener where Bowie describes how liberated he feels in death. The album, as a whole, is well performed and serves as a beautiful end to Bowie’s incredible career.

Heavy metal also saw releases from big names this year, but none received the same hype that Metallica’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct did. Metallica’s first full-length album since 2008’s Death Magnetic, not counting their 2011 collaboration with Lou Reed titled Lulu, opens fast and heavy with Hardwired. Numerous tracks feature elements from several different sub genres within metal.

Alternative rock legends The Red Hot Chili Peppers also found success with The Getaway, which was released on June 17. The Getaway features a variety of tracks, ranging from the funky Go Robot to the heavier This Ticonderoga. The album’s best songs come when the Chili Peppers decide to slow down and play mellow songs such as Dark Necessities and The Hunter. The album’s overall more reserved nature shows a stark contrast to earlier albums such as Blood Sugar Sex Magik or Mother’s Milk, but it also shows a lot more emotion and maturity.

Green Day also saw success with their album Revolution Radio, which was released on October 7. The album features heavy political undertones in songs like Bang Bang and Revolution Radio, but also more personal sentiments in songs like Still Breathing and Ordinary World. The album has everything that makes Green Day great: hard-hitting punk rock, catchy melodies and relatable lyrics.

Other notable works from throughout the year include Megadeth’s Dystopia, Dream Theater’s The Astonishing, Weezer’s White Album, Avenged Sevenfold’s The Stage and The Rolling Stones’ Blue and Lonesome. Each of these albums is a significant contribution to their respective bands’ discographies and to the pool of great music released this year.

All of this said, the year’s best album came from progressive metal outfit Devin Townsend Project. Their album Transcendence was released on September 9 and features excellent musicianship and production value, especially on the tracks Offer Your Light and Stormbending. The writing also shines through on tracks such as Secret Sciences and Stars, which appeal to emotion.

The deluxe version also features an entire album’s worth of demos that are just as great as the album’s main tracks. Standouts among the demos include Canucklehead and Time Overload. The entire album shows that everyone involved put in a lot of time and effort to bring the album together.

This past year saw a lot of legendary bands hit the studio and release great material. 2017 has a lot to live up to, but it very well may with releases slated from Dropkick Murphys, Gorillaz and Ayreon. Even though a lot happened in 2016 that many would like to forget, it will surely go down as one of the best years for rock music in recent memory.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 10th print edition.

Contact Nick at

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