Drama Of The Year - Metal Storm Awards 2016

In years past we've seen some fantastic drama - Stratovarius and the chick who loved smearing jelly on her forearms, Sharon Osbourne pelting Iron Maiden with eggs, Gorgoroth vs. Gaahlgoroth... Some years we've had none, and others we've had so much we let you decide.

This year was far more feast than famine. So dig in.

Times have been extremely tough for AC/DC over the last few years. In 2014, guitarist Malcolm Young was forced to retire due to dementia, and later that year, drummer Phil Rudd found himself wanted by the law for a variety of unsavory charges; the band squeaked out a new album despite all that, but in 2016, things came to a halt once more when vocalist Brian Johnson revealed himself to be on the brink of permanent hearing loss. Faced with the option of taking a break from music immediately or suffering irreversible damage, Johnson opted to sit out AC/DC's scheduled tour dates - and who should show up to fill the void but Axl Rose, the natural and most perfect choice? The aging Guns N' Roses frontman drew so many raised eyebrows that the Earth's orbit shifted slightly; most graciously, AC/DC offered refunds to any fans who were dissatisfied with the lack of Brian Johnson, a generous proposition accepted by as many as 7,000 Belgian fans (which, to our knowledge, constitutes roughly 40% of the country's population). Witnesses report mixed opinions about Axl's success in his new role, but at the moment our biggest concern is what will happen with AC/DC in the long term.
Atmospheric black metal heavyweights Agalloch suffered a catastrophic meltdown back in May when John Haughm, the "founding, visionary member" (his words, our sarcasm) jettisoned the other three members of the band and announced that the future, henceforth, would be uncertain. We can safely assume that this means Agalloch will be back with a brand new lineup later this year, but for now, we're all pretending that the band is on hiatus and is still a band rather than a solo project. The statements released by Haughm and the other members left no doubt about the unilateral nature of the decision, and guitarist Don Anderson made a particularly emotional apology to fans for the devastating turn of events. Since then, Haughm has launched a new project entitled Pillorian and Agalloch has remained quiet, but after so many years of success and acclaim, a sudden breakdown in the relationship between the band members leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of fans - and the people on the receiving end of the pink slips.
Immortal's internal conflicts (well, external, at this stage) seem to be as eternal as the band's name suggests. Since winning our Drama Of The Year category last year for the soap opera split with erstwhile frontman Abbath, the remaining members of Immortal have taken to their comfy abyss to plan their first studio album in eight years and to the pulpit to cast further aspersions on Abbath's newborn solo career. Demonaz, now returning to the spotlight as Immortal's guitarist and vocalist alongside drummer Horgh and bassist Apollyon, accuses Abbath of stealing the material written between 2010 and 2014 for the follow-up to 2009's All Shall Fall, changing the names, and using that material for his self-titled solo debut. This alleged song-swiping does not seem to have slowed Abbath's progress in making an even bigger name for himself, but it does leave us all wondering yet further about internal band politics and what an Abbath-less, Demonaz-plus Immortal album will sound like.
Liv Kristine, the co-founder, lead vocalist, and face of symphonic metal mainstay Leaves' Eyes, found herself suddenly on her own after six albums and 13 years with the band, in yet another one of these games of musical members that bands can't seem to get enough of these days. The announcement of Liv's departure came as a surprise to fans, and while the initial comments from the band, Liv herself, and her replacement all seemed positive and civil, subsequent months revealed further facets of the story. Liv later contradicted the band's insistence of a mutual split, saying she was kicked out of the band, while the band reasserted its initial position and underscored the fact that Leaves' Eyes has never been a Liv Kristine solo project, evidently sensing some hostility and skepticism from Liv's not inconsiderable fan base. Legal actions of an undisclosed nature seem to have taken shape, but the most unfortunate aspect of all this is that Liv and co-founder/co-lead vocalist Alexander Krull are married and have a son together; no doubt this whole situation has put a strain on their personal relationships, something which the parties involved have asked us all to take into consideration. Regardless of what happens with these folks as artists, let's hope this has a positive resolution for them as people.

Phil Anselmo - This Isn't Libel Because We Aren't Accusing Him Of Anything

Where to begin with this one? 2016 kicked off with Phil Anselmo, the drawling Down dude, facing the heat after being spotted (and caught on film) performing a particular white power gesture (you know the one) at January's Dimebash. What followed was a confusing series of contradictions from eyewitnesses, attempts to play off the gesture as a joke and then rationalize it, a series of stuttering apologies and take-backsies, backlash from labels and governments, and multitudes of responses from fans and musicians alike (including a rather emotionally- and politically-charged video from Robb Flynn of Machine Head, which attracted no small amount of attention). Phil's actions and subsequent reactions sparked a debate about his own views, what constitutes a proper response from festivals/promoters/other people in the business, and what place racism has in metal (none, preferably). Some of the dust seems to have settled now, looking back on the incident a year later, but Down found itself at the center of great controversy, and the whole situation gave us all a lot to think about.