I love going to gigs, reviewing music and interviewing bands all year round but perhaps my favourite part of doing all this is putting together the end of year review and the hours of thought and drafting that went into it makes me just as excited for next year. I kinda went off on this so apologies for the long read…
Best New Albums:
Any of the albums I go on to mention are merit-able as 10s but first of all, shout-outs to Mastodon, Converge, Havok, Municipal Waste, Stray From The Path, Hometruths, Cursed Earth, Obituary, Employed To Serve, Trivium, Justice For The Damned and Iron Reagan for making the rest of 2017’s soundtrack as heavy as it was enjoyable.
- Thy Art Is Murder – Dear Desolation
With what is perhaps the most palatable album to have ever come out of deathcore, the aussie heavyweights have really filled the gap that Lamb Of God’s absence left (as a friend pointed out to me) with Dear Desolation. To talk about them merely in terms of filling in for another band however would be a massive disservice to them. This is so much more. From the crushing first half of the record, where the band show off a far more death metal influenced sound than ever before, to the atmospheric latter half, it’s been my personal favourite of the year and an exceptional start to a new chapter for the band with CJ back on board after a time of recuperation. CJ’s guttural vocals and Lee’s rapid-fire drumming underpin the whole album and as such, it’s nothing a fan of any Thy Art album will shy away from.
- While She Sleeps – You Are We
It’s a rare occurrence when a band can marry an honestly heartfelt political and social message with an album of eleven anthems and release it themselves, though this is exactly the feat While She Sleeps have achieved here. This is an absolutely leveling album and a brilliant successor to Brainwashed, showing no shortage of massive vocal and guitar melodies and nine tracks that could easily make “Song Of The Year”. The likes of “Empire Of Silence”, “Wide Awake”, “Silence Speaks” and “Civil Isolation” are a refreshing wave of optimism and humanitarianism in an often bleak and uncompromising world and a terrific songwriting achievement for the band, seeing them go from excellent to world-class.
- Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Now here’s the perfect example of how to age with grace. In Gods Of Violence, thrash legends Kreator have created yet another stellar album to sit within their back-catalogue. This is another of the heavily power metal influenced Kreator albums that they’ve grown so well into in the latter half of their career. Cuts such as “Satan Is Real”, “Totalitarian Terror” and “Fallen Brother” exist for festival stages (yeah, we’ll get onto that later).
- Code Orange – Forever
Not only is this a bludgeoning masterpiece fusing hardcore with elements of industrial music, furthering the theme of it’s predecessor; I Am King, this has become the standout release from heavy music in 2017. With billboards in Times Square and grammy nominations, this is the band that is flying the flag for the modern era of metal. None of this would mean anything if it didn’t have the music to back it up but from the battering “Kill The Creator” to the alt-rock anthem “Bleeding In The Blur” to the dark, brooding closer “dream2”, the record’s got it all, creating a rich tapestry, painted in all colours of heavy. An incredible achievement.
- Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Of all the bands attempting to rehash the relatively formulaic genre of thrash (to varying levels of success), this Dallas quintet stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries. Furthering musical boundaries and creating something new and groundbreaking is necessarily the lifeblood of modern music, but when a band can come along and do something so tried and true to such a high degree as Power Trip have done on their newest outing Nightmare Logic… Come. On. The whole album is brimming with ripping riffs and oozes reverb, only slightly veiling the ferocity and spit coming from vocalist Riley Gale. I cannot stop listening to this.
Best New Band I Discovered:
There are numerous bands I could’ve gone for here who I’ll no doubt talk about in a bit, but the hands-down winner here is Justice For The Damned. Marrying a heavily hardcore infused death-grind, with an ongoing theme of forlorn, hopeless heartnreak, the group have created the breakup album Napalm Death never created. My introduction to the band was watching them support Thy Art Is Murder in London a few months ago where they opened to a half-capacity Electric Ballroom and flattened the place with tracks off their 2017 debut; Dragged Through The Dirt. Having picked up the record at the show and played it to death, I genuinely cannot wait to see them decimate another show on UK shores, whenever they’re next over from New Zealand. Watch. This. Band.
Best Live Shows:
This is another category that could go to so many bands, a few of which were are a hair’s-breadth off the top five (particularly Outright Resistance, Kvelertak and Every Time I Die). Otherwise shout out to Ghost, Thy Art Is Murder (with Justice For The Damned), Bullet For My Valentine, Overkill, New Tropics, Stray From The Path (with Palmreader), HIM, Architects and Venom Prison among others for countless awesome nights!
- Nails (with Helpless and Harrowed) – The Underworld, London (5th November)
I didn’t have massively high hopes for this one, having heard the band were quite sloppy on stage (largely due to the million mile per hour music), but all three records, particularly the unforgivingly searing You Will Never Be One Of Us are scene classics so, semi-reservedly, I took a chance on them. Holy. Shit. I mentioned in the review that it was not only the best gig of the year but probably the best show I’ve ever been to and, in hindsight, I still wouldn’t change that. Due to the nature of the 90 second songs, every aspect of the show was simply unbridled chaos as the band ripped through banger after banger with “Life Is A Death Sentence” and “Violence Is Forever” rubbing shoulders with “Unsilent Death” and “Wide Open Wound”. It was savage. With Nails feeding off pure aggression and brutality, there was no way they could play past 45 minutes. That was my one gripe. Seeing that on the main stage at Bloodstock 2018 is going to be an absolute spectacle.
- Gogol Bordello – Brixton Acadamy, London (14th December)
This was another show that really took me by surprise. Having caught the band at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park earlier in July, I was curious as to how that would translate with more time in an indoor environment. While they’re not my go-to band, it would’ve been criminal to leave them or their phenomenal performance off this list. Eugene Hütz is a magician fronting the “gypsy punk” outfit and the whole band live for the live environment. It was also great to see a hefty bunch of Seekers And Finders alongside their usual set.
- The Dillinger Escape Plan (with Ho99o9) – Concorde 2, Brighton (26th January)
This was set to top this list. That was until the 5th of November where Nails obliterated The Underworld. Nevertheless, to see Dillinger bow out at their last headline UK show was nothing short of an honour. With the band arguably on the best form they have ever been on Disassociate, it was a night of frantic, fevered hysteria that DEP so brilliantly embody in their music. Greg Puciato’s vocals tore Concorde 2 a new one with a power the venue has never seen the likes of. “Limerent Death” particularly was an omnipotent force and the wretched masterpiece it is (check out a vocal-only version here. It’s my favourite thingy at the moment), “When I Lost My Bet” was suitably maniacal and “43% burnt” as a set closer was unbelievable. Kicking off the whole evening with Ho99o9 exposing a raw blend of punk and hip hop in their raucous, confrontational manor was a major success too. I’m really excited to see where they go next. As for Dillinger, New York waves goodbye to them in the next few nights before they’re gone for good. Thanks for everything, guys.
- Municipal Waste – Bloodstock (12th August)
A Municipal Waste show will always be a good one and this was no exception. The Richmond, Virginia five-piece stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Havok and Power Trip as the standard bearers of modern thrash. This match made in heaven showed Bloodstock is a spiritual home for the band and with pits going even before they played a single note, this was a no-nonsense, throwback, chug-fest that also happened to break the world record of crowd-surfers with a total of 700 odd in one song (If I remember correctly). So, yeah, that was immense and a highlight of the festival which itself is a highlight of the year.
- Kreator – Bloodstock (12th August)
Bloodstock really outdid themselves this year in putting Havok, Municipal Wate, Hatebreed and Kreator on after one another. So great was the run of the bands prior to Saturday headliners Ghost that I was genuinely concerned for them. Anyways, Kreator turned up with a stage-set suitable for headliners and with a set largely coming off one of my favourite albums of the year, Gods Of Violence, it was destined for greatness. Axeman and vocalist Mille Petrozza is the prime example of growing gracefully into your vocals over time (give one listen to Gods Of Violence and you’ll see what I mean) and he commands audiences of up to Wacken size with such vigour that you’re left wondering why they’re sub-headlining. Nevertheless, they were and continue to be one of the best bands of their age and genre and that show at Bloodstock stands testament to that fact.
I’ve talked to some awesome people about some awesome stuff this year. Ben from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Paolo from Trivium, Ash from Venom Prison, Eugene from Gogol Bordello, CJ from Thy Art Is Murder, Nick from Havok, Paige (now unfortunately formerly) from Outright Resistance among many others all gave up their time and I thank them massively and their PRs for all their hard work.
The best interview I was fortunate enough to do however was with Dan Weller from SikTh earlier in December. Apart from hanging out with the band afterwards and getting onto a discussion with Mikee on the best produced albums and Jeff Walker of Carcass, what made this so special was the fact that Dan was so open in answering questions addressing all eras of the band including it’s formation, cementing and continuation whilst changing his guitar strings for the show. The interview is still to be rearranged for the feature it’s going to become so another massive thanks to Simon Glacken from I Like Press for sorting that out and his ongoing patience.
Best Album Artwork:
Now this is something I wanted to add myself because there was one standout winner and I just love talking about it whenever I can. They are Bell Witch and the album art comes from their grandiose 1 song, 83 minute Mirror Reaper. Following an empty, harrowed, grief-stricken narrative after the death of founding drummer and vocalist Adrian Guerra, who passed away in May 2016, the artwork reflects their doom-laden creation. Credit to Mariusz Lewandowski for this.
Best Thing That Happened:
To see bands like Code Orange and While She Sleeps blow up as they have been has been great. Hearing Trivium going beyond being “back on form” with The Sin And The Sentence has been an absolute pleasure. Watching Sam Carter of Architects on stage with Stray From The Path and Every Time I Die was awesome. But the best thing musically that has happened in all of 2017 (and it’s been a damn fine year) has to be watching Ed Miliband bring in Barney Greenway from Napalm Death on BBC Radio 2 and hearing Ed attempt the Napalm Death classic “You Suffer”. That was gold. In fact, I’m fairly certain it’s all downhill from there. Nothing can ever match the glory of those 10 seconds.
Worst Thing That Happened:
2017 has followed last year’s trend of taking many musical talents from us, be it Chester Bennington or Chris Cornell or Chuck Mosley, it’s been very saddening, particularly when it’s a case of taking your own life. That’s desperately sad and reaches as far as it does wide. There’s very little I can say that hasn’t already been said better before but it boils down to openness and compassion and selflessness. There’s still much change to be made but that’s where it begins I feel.
On another note, the breakup of so many pioneering bands in particular has sucked. It doesn’t feel long ago at all that Black Sabbath wound down in Birmingham in February. Letlive’s farewell was a widespread, scene-wide blow and Dillinger’s imminent finale really sucks. On a personal note, hearing the news that Paige Lee was no longer a part of the phenomenal Outright Resistance (through no fault of her own) came as a true shock. There’s probably a whole lot more to say but I’d rather move on… maybe I’ll watch Ed Miliband/Napalm Death just one more time!
Overall View Of The Year:
Judging by the length of everything written thus far (apologies for the long read), this has been an incredible year. While there have been some great bands coming back for their umpteenth album (Kreator and Obituary in particular), 2017 has felt like the year for new bands releasing great to impressive to flawless debuts and sophomore records. The best of the best I feel has come from new bands and that’s really exciting for me at least in shedding the public perception of metal, punk and rock as an elderly gents club.
The last thing I’ll add before wrapping this all up is that it’s been really interesting to see the prevailing trend in rock and metal coming from hardcore. Ash from Venom Prison spoke about it during our interview earlier in the year suggesting people becoming more attracted to the genuinely abrasive elements of harder music. The mosh call in Code Orange’s “Real” sums it up perfectly with “This is real, motherfuckers!”. It feels like the call to arms for the next wave of heavy music to come through and that’s exactly what we’re seeing with Code Orange, Power Trip, Employed To Serve, Venom Prison, Helpless, Harrowed, END, and at the other end; Every Time I Die, Architects and While She Sleeps. I could go on, but I feel like I should really shut up.
Most Looking Forward to in 2018:
- First and foremost; A NEW GHOST ALBUM
- The amount of genuinely incredible tour packages that are coming up. Some of the best include the EMP Persistance Tour (with Hatebreed and Power Trip especially) in January, Architects and While She Sleeps in February, Cannibal Corpse and The Black Dahlia Murder in March, Testament and Vader in April, Trivium AND Code Orange AND Power Trip AND Venom Prison also in April and Machine Head (alone) in May.
- Nails (and Gojira) at Bloodstock in particular.
- Carcass at Heavy Scotland 2018. I may have to make the trip to join my fellow crew members up north for that one!
- As always, everyone who reads what we create and put together. You guys make it all worthwhile so cheers.
- Everyone in the crew. You guys are awesome.
- Special thanks particularly to Donnay Clancy and everyone at Noise Cartel, Simon Glacken from I Like Press, Claire Harris and Megan Elliot at Nuclear Blast, Andy Turner from Metal Blade and everyone else who works tirelessly with us (sorry if I forgot you!)
- And perhaps most importantly, thanks to the bands who make the music that we live for. You’re the best, keep on doing your thang.
Here’s our YouTube playlist featuring many of the acts featured across all of our roundups…