I still love listening to full albums. Others have made a shift away from them and towards curated playlists on streaming services. I still think they are an art form that gives a band a chance to place their music in a certain order. One that makes sense to them. So, after listening to far too many LPs this year, here are the top tracks from my 2017 favourites. This single giant playlist, features everything from electronic to rock, to post-rock to thrash. You may have your own particular beef to air with the selection so why not leave a comment, and tell me where I’ve gone wrong? Or better still what amazing album I’ve criminally overlooked.
Motherblood – Grave Pleasures
In 2013 Finnish post-punk outfit Grave Pleasures issued their great debut, Climax (as Beastmilk). Unfortunately, their sophomore album Dreamcrash only had a handful of decent songs. It wasn’t anything particularly special. So far, so average. Motherblood is the album the band needed to record. The sheer energy behind these killer tracks make this a must listen, even if post-punk isn’t normally your thing.
The Grinding Wheel – Overkill
The powerful onslaught of Overkill, in this their well-produced 19th full-length studio album, starts right from the first track. This is the epic, ‘Mean Green Killing Machine’ which sets the tone for the rest of the album. It never lets up. No-frills, energetic face melting old-school thrash, with “Blitz” in top vocal form.
Knock it back.
Crystal Fairy – Crystal Fairy
Crystal Fairy is the debut album of …. Crystal Fairy. Formed in 2016 by guitarist Buzz Osborne (Melvins) it consists of drummer Dale Crover (Melvins), bassist/guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta), and lead vocalist Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes).
Stylistically the material is heavy, with the occasional interludes of sludge and alternative rock. Twisted and quirky, the riffs are solid and the production is powerful and raw. An entertaining release worthy of your time.
Emperor of Sand – Mastodon
This their seventh album draws on the last two decades of Mastodon’s musical past, as well as their present. Doomy at times, heavy and multilayered, it has incendiary solos and tender lyrics. It’s on par with The Hunter and stronger than Once More ‘Round the Sun. It highlights their musical maturity while still retaining an ‘edge’.
Wick – Royal Thunder
With Wick, Royal Thunder have dropped their metallic and sludgy elements. Now we get a more riff driven hard rock sound. With nods towards ’60s and ’70s classic rock, it’s full of hooks which get lodged in your brain after several listens.
This underlines just how rich, and diverse their songwriting skills are becoming.
Darkness Remains – Night Demon
The Los Angeles trio uses the likes of Saxon as a blueprint: no-nonsense 80s metal. Now, this album won’t change the face of modern music. But its energetic and straightforward, nice production values, and played well by this tight power trio. For fans of classic metal, who love melodic NWOBHM from yesteryear.
Death Song – The Black Angels
With this, their fifth album, we see The Black Angels tap into a rich and powerful seam of their music legacy. Psychedelic drones combine with ferocious riffs underpinning space-rock 80s and 90s influences.
Maybe not an instant classic, but definitely a grower.
Reflections of a Floating World – Elder
This release from Elder sees extra layers of keyboards, guitars and other instrumentation. The performances of each individual and of the band as a whole is next level, when compared to previous albums. The balance is perfect, the vocals expand the songs, and the production is quietly understated. Worthy of place on everyone’s end of year list.
Classic Live – Metal Church
This is an excellent 2017 live release from the veteran metal band. Recorded live on their 2016 tour it also includes a special bonus track; a powerful new studio version of “Fake Healer”. This features a duet with Queensryche vocalist Todd La Torre. The fans make enough noise to prove ther love the classics as sung by the great Mike Howe.
Knock it back!
Hurricanes and Halos – Avatarium
This album of bluesy, 70s doom rock shows a definite evolution from Avaterium’s last effort. Jennie-Ann Smith’s vocals are warm and powerful. Touches of psychedelic and prog rock infuse the tunes.
A powerful and impressive LP which showcase the talents of all involved.
Obsidion – Barrows
Do you like instrumental progressive music? Kind of Tangerine Dream merged with vintage Hawkwind in one cosmic melting pot. Well if you do, then you’ll love this sprawling, instrumental kraut /space rock album. It’s both psychedelic and epic. Take the track, “Cocoon” as an example which clocks in at about 20-minutes.
Mind expanding stuff.
Every Valley – Public Service Broadcasting
What do middle-class Londoners know about the rise and destruction of the Welsh coal mining industry? Well, apparently a reasonable amount. Richard Burton features describing “the arrogant strut of the lords of the coalface”. A 1970s television advert suggests: “Come on, be a miner! There’s money and security!” Add a male choir, the Manic Street Preachers and Camera Obscura to give a poignant soundtrack to a lost industry.
Wireless World – Warm Digits
Warm Digits are back with their third album. Wireless World mingles analogue electronics with live drums and guitars. Plus a number of quest vocalists are involved, such as Field Music’s Peter Brewis, Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell and Devon Sproule. Touches of krautrock, shoegaze and pop combine to make this album their most confident to date.
Prophecies and Lies – Demon Eye
Sounding like a groovy, energetic version of Sabbath this release sees tight riffing mixing with old-school rock. Maybe the album could have been one or two songs shorter, but this is a minor quibble. This is well-crafted delight is definitely worth your time. Just give it enough space to expand into your mind ….
Sanctimonious – Attic
What would Cradle of Filth sound like if King Diamond was involved? Well, wonder no more, as it would probably be a little like this. Sanctimonious features occult storytelling, melodic riffs and vocal gymnastics. All of this is underpinned by tuneful thrash, classic and black metal. Sounds a little crazy? Never fears as it works beautifully.
From Fields of Fire – Argus
A new album from an old band. Argus‘ fourth LP is well produced and conjures up the likes of Sabbath, Priest and Maiden. At once familiar but able to sound uniquely like themselves, a great album for fans of classic metal.
From the Fires [EP] – Greta Van Fleet
A throwback to hard rock progenitors Led Zeppelin, Greta saw themselves riding high in most of the rock radio charts in 2017. This fun EP shows that this young band can really play solid Hard Rock, very proficiently. Sure the lyrics are cheesy, “She’s alright, she’s alright, she’s outta sight”, but so what? This band has great potential. Highly recommended.
Book of Souls: Live – Iron Maiden
Another live album from Maiden, proving they’ve still got it. A couple of songs sound even better than the album: Red and the Black and If Eternity Should Fail. Great to hear classics such as Powerslave and especially Children of the Damned. I caught them when they played Newcastle. And I can say categorically that this release manages to capture the energy is what makes Maiden’s live albums still worth buying.
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