I’ll be among the first to admit that 2017 is now a fading memory in long and short terms of immediate recollection. After all, we’ve reached a quarter of the year in already and only now do I find myself reflecting on and scrutinising the year past, since coming to terms with my current situation. Of which I feel is moving in a more positive direction. That said, while my own personal presence took a negative slant in the seventeenth year of the new millennium, musically, there was such a creative surge of magnificence which resulted in many, many excellent albums being released. Also one such reason for this list being delayed as it is. So, with ever-so-slightly wistful eyes, The Soundshark casts its spotlight on my ten favourite albums released in 2017, and for your listening indulgence:
10. Bad Sign – Live & Learn
Croydon’s premier purveyors of gigantic hooks and colossal riffs have built their reputation on their energetic live performances for five plus years, and last year’s Live & Learn is a more than fitting introduction, to one of the UK’s hardest working bands, finally and deservedly receiving widespread recognition. Cleverly pitting their hardcore brute force against soulful, stadium -filling choruses, Bad Sign have never made a fanfare for the common man sound so memorable and rousing, as they effortlessly have in around 40 minutes. Arguably our best answer yet to Deftones, the major stakeholders of Riff Inc. have unchained an utterly astonishing behemoth of a debut album.
9. The Sade – III: Grave
While this album cover could earn you the right to punch your fellow compatriots in the arm, The Sade have been steadily proving for years why they may just be the best hard rock band that side of the Mediterranean. Originally cutting their teeth as booze-fuelled hellraisers with a knack for writing impeccable hooks, their evolution has seen them steep deeper and deeper into murkier levels of tone, atmosphere and lyricism, and with a heavy dose of blues to boot. Grave is far more more explicit with this transformation in songs such as Afterdeath and Coachman, the latter delivered in the vein of a gothic Johnny Cash, and it makes for a compelling listen, start to finish.
8. Pijn – Tanzaro House
While less of an album and more an unscripted, half hour live studio recording, the sheer magnitude and journey of this recording more than assures its place as one of the best live performances last year bar none. Capturing the unbridled fury and intensity of a band beginning to find its feet on the UK live scene, Pijn (Dutch for pain) compose music of spellbinding calm and bitter resent, with such emotional clarity, Tectonic strength and unashamed confidence, that gravitates their name into conversation with the likes of Russian Circles and Mogwai. And on the basis of just an EP and this live recording, is a staggering feat.
7. Alex & Tokyo Rose – Akuma
While Kavinsky opened eyes, including mine, everywhere to the synthwave universe, it never truly connected with me until Edinburgh-born Alex and States-based Tokyo Rose collaborated on Akuma last year. Though considerably more sinister in tone than other 80’s imitators, it still manages to capture that vintage sawtooth-heavy, cinematic feel of electronic soundtracks and scores, while adding its own contemporary pulse of dance music influences. Both musicians, as well as a few brilliantly curated guest performances, deliver an immersive, intoxicating experience of melodic basslines, infectious vocals and inspiring atmosphere, that places you front and centre on the Devil’s dancefloor and in a moment you’ll be eager to revisit over and over.
6. Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Vulture Industries are renowned for creating music similar to that of a blackened, progressive carnival of merriment and might, but for Stranger Times, they have stripped back a lot of the complexity and overarching narratives of their previous works, whilst still delivering a premier rock masterclass. Make no mistake, their penchant for theatrics is still ingrained noticeably in the album, but it has gifted them to express a greater variety of tastes and textures than the Norwegian troupe have gone to before. Which has lead to the best two track album opener of the year and a stellar release by one of Europe’s most unique bands.
5. Anacondas – Gracer/Disgracer
(Yes, this is technically two separate albums, but being released within two weeks of one another is probably enough to qualify it as a double album.)
The quiet return of Brighton’s Anacondas, after disappearing from Prosthetic Records and live music, is definitely welcome as their blend of hardcore and sludge, with an otherworldly sense of atmosphere, still remains a breath of fresh air on a stagnating British metal scene, since pummeling the world with their sleeper debut Sub Contra Blues. Where Anacondas excel is a natural flair for weaving tales of love, loss, redemption and a darker side within us all, in often lengthy but endlessly fulfilling barrages of distortion, both melodic and mammoth, perhaps not too dissimilar to Converge. The fact they’ve managed to create an outstanding consistency across two albums, and maintain an individual identity of both, is frankly incredible.
4. The Regrettes – Feel Your Feelings Fool!
When you can write very relatable punk anthems, get signed by Warner Music within two years of starting the band, tour the States and Europe and do this all before the age of 20, you must have an unfathomable amount of talent, and your name is likely Lydia Night. Yet that’s where The Regrettes find themselves after 2017, their combination of garage punk rock, 60’s pop melodies and a frank, brutally honest account of life as a high school teen, garnering global media coverage and a fanbase swelling by the day. Truth be told, when a compendium of tunes that are delightful as they are damning sounds this good, it becomes no mystery as to how their popularity is exploding right now.
3. Riviẽre – Heal
Though quite possibly the smallest band signed to the prestigious Basick Records, they are without doubt one of their most awe-inspiring. Drawing comparisons to Karnivool, this French quartet create expansive atmospheres with progressive rock drive, time signature switches typical of Basick and impassioned vocal prowess that makes every emotion and feeling more affecting. Despite crafting music to hurtle through the heavens to, the subject matter in Heal is so grounded, it makes total absorption second nature and any and every riff feel like an earthquake at your feet. What Riviẽre have created is an evocative marvel and how more are unaware of this fact is criminal.
2. Mr.Kitty – A.I.
It’s safe to say that Forrest LaMaire, better known as Mr.Kitty, can do very little wrong at this point. Despite not releasing an album in 2016, but releasing one every year since 2011, the extra time spent on finishing A.I. definitely puts it in contention as his best work. Marrying drum machines, an 80’s inspired realm of synths and unforgettable hooks, vocals that bridge along robotic, haunting, and heavily distorted paths, and injecting a new breadth of genres into an already winning formula, A.I. boasts Forrest’s most diverse and complete work to date. Whether calming, frenetic or tear-inducing, Mr.Kitty’s music and moods are still second to none.
1. 3TEETH – <shutdown.exe>
If it’s not apparent yet, 3TEETH are changing the industrial metal game right now. Their electric predecessor may have opened many eyes, but <shutdown.exe> scorched them from their sockets. From the titanic stomp of Divine Weapon, to the defiant yet sparser Away From Me, there’s not a single misstep in their arsenal of venom and vitriol throughout and a rougher mix only aids the delivery and their message. If ever a body of work scored political discontent and the ongoing global fracture, in a scathing, volcanic package that’s as infectious as it is ferocious, then <shutdown.exe> is the album to make industrial metal formidable once more. A phenomenal sophomore effort.
I always have room to make some very honourable mentions of albums that you can call excellent on any given day, and certainly worth listening to alongside these gems:
Tsuruda – Move
BEAR – ///
Captain We’re Sinking – The King Of No Man
Neuropa – Elements
Debt Neglector – Atomicland
Gaytheist – Let’s Jam Again Soon
Harbour Sharks – A History Of Violence
Blanck Mass – World Eater
I Am The Liquor – 7 Days of Smoke
Pryapisme – Diabolicus Felinae Pandemonium
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