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:
2016, probably not just in my own personal opinion, has been a fantastic year for music releases so far depending on how far you’re willing to commit yourself to the kaleidoscopic universe out there. To name but a few of my favourites would include The Qemists, Youth Code, Autopsy Boys, All Hail The Yeti, Mask of Bees, Lowflyinghawks, Amplifighters and Weekend Nachos, and at this point, some music media outlets would like to take the chance to reflect on what has already come before and sum things up in a handy little list for you. The Soundshark isn’t some music media outlets. What The Soundshark has done has compiled a list of 30 forthcoming releases in 2016, of varying genres, and from mass appeal down to the underground to better illustrate why 2016 will remembered as a truly incredible year of music. There could be your new favourite band waiting here or an album announcement by that band you like you may have missed, who knows?
Let’s begin shall we?
Something somebody said recently struck me as it made an awful lot of sense. Exactly when do you stop saying, ‘Happy New Year,’ to one another? Or at least when does it become acceptable at the least. I honestly don’t know, but for now, I’m still considering it an appropriate time to talk about my favourite songs of last year. Seeming I’ve made a habit of it, and I finally have time to sit down and write about them.
2015 was a challenging year as it more or less marked my transition from degree student to having to fend for myself. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it didn’t. But something that I didn’t previously have was a companion, somebody that I hold very dear to me and somebody I look forward to what the future holds for the both of us. As such, she has had an impact on deciding this list, just as much as the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve gone through in the past year has. Like I’ve said before, I do these lists for biographical reasons, to show where I’ve been and what’s happened in years gone by. Music and memory are powerful things.
So my rules for the list are as follows: I don’t always pick songs from this year to put on the list, it involves literally anything I’ve listened to in the past year that I’ve enjoyed frequently enough (that said, there are a lot of 2015 entries on this list which makes a change), but I try to avoid putting more than one song by the same artist in. Some of my past lists had more than one or two. You can find them on Spotify if you want to.
I would like to make an honourable mentions list, but there were far too many to include on this year’s list, so I’ll skip that formality this time. Just so many good moments or songs to include the entire list. And if you would like to listen to this list uninterrupted, commentary-free, then head on over to the Spotify playlist instead.
Righty then, on with the show…
OK gang, time for a history-cum-geography lesson. Stoner rock. Where in the world do you reckon it originated in? I think can hear you saying America there. Correct. In the Palm Desert of California, DIY musicians and party goers hauled generators and held all-night jam sessions until the dawn, or the authorities turned up. Now, where do you reckon the scene is best right now? Europe? Yes, arguably. Where is surprisingly good right now? It may take you a while on this one, but the answer is actually Italy. I don’t exactly know what it is, or where it’s coming from, but Italy houses an astonishing underground array of psyche, blues, sludge and stoner bands that few seem to be taking notice of, at least at the moment. But their scene is absolutely thriving right now. One last unintentionally patronising question: Where do penguins live? Somewhere cold right? Yes, and no. At least if your country’s name is Ecuador anyway. But according to a Brescia three-piece, some of the angriest or craziest of this particular diving bird species like to holiday to Europe and hone their skills as a killer rock outfit, that marries punk bravado and stoner swagger with the ceremony held in a grunge mud pool. The latter become increasingly more apparent with their whack at Nirvana’s Scentless Apprentice on brand new release Radamanthys, if course guitars drowning in enough slurry to rival the Thames Estuary and heavy enough to tenderise a kitten in a matter of seconds wasn’t an indicator. Make no mistake, their music has a ferocity about it that does live up to their namesake, a real hard strike to the solar plexus of mediocrity in every possible way. One of the hardest hitters is Grindmind, detonating in your face immediately, leaving the squeals and squawks of guitar and the battering of skins to lead you into the beast’s domain, where fiery, crunching riffs and a maddening call of torment maul even the most cautious of souls. The song title is spot on, as the soundscape scrapes away at listening capacity you have, there’s almost the theatrics of the vocalist’s sanity in decline, his delivery certainly become more erratic towards the song’s climax. Perhaps a little like a certain frontman from Seattle we know and loved. You can certainly feel the vitriol spill from every syllable uttered, and only heightens the intensity on display here. This history and geography lesson didn’t intend to delve into the depths of musical darkness, but boy do Mad Penguins deliver that. For the unsuspecting, this three-piece deliver an occasionally uncomfortably heavy rock and roll tour de force, add in the lunacy of the vocals and the brazen attempts to punt your teeth down your throat and you have a legitimately dangerous musical trio, that people should get excited about.
Radamanthys only came out last week, but with 2013’s El Capretto, 2010’s When Tomorrow Hits and 2008’s When Difference Hits, all of these albums and tracks can be bought from their Bandcamp page. Depending on where you look, you can also find their albums at most respectable music retailers too.
Now I said these penguins were nasty, but all penguins like cuddles, and you can do so here:
Could I too also have a cuddle, a like follow or subscribe-shaped cuddle? You don’t have to really though:
Now people I imagine are familiar with the concept of supergroups. A band put together from existing members of other established bands to make musical output. Some famous examples of this being Led Zeppelin, Audioslave, Velvet Revolver, Roadrunner United and more recently Teenage Time Killers, the latter two bands being examples of super collectives more than super groups. But I wonder if metal bands have ever considered the scenario of being drafted into a fantasy band league, people putting their two cents in to craft the best or a totally unique band based on the calibre of the musicians chosen. Obviously it would personally be far more interesting for a league like that over say a football one, but that comes with the consequences of being a music fanatic. Adimiron to me, leap out as a result of if that fantasy metal league were to exist. Combining the courageous, but venomous roars of Machine Head, the brutal simplicity of Meshuggah’s riff onslaught and the phenomenal technicality and precision of Gojira’s sticksman, the five gentlemen from Rome specialise in a titanic and constantly evolving exercise in maximum blunt force trauma. It would go without saying that their comparisons and influences mean their music carries substantial weight behind it and boy is it heavyweight. We’re talking collapsing tower block levels of heavyweight. Having held the honour of supporting of some of their heroes only adds to their legitimacy of being an all-opposing and all-conquering demolition crew of a band. The release of last year’s Timelapse has seen them take their punishing tech-metal avalanche to a new level, gathering critical acclaim from more than several luminaries of the metal press. The instrumental force of which they strike down upon is earth-shattering and rightfully applauded with glowing words and praise. State Of Persistence, the personal highlight of the nine bone-crushing pieces Timelapse holds, showcases the very best of that musical fusion discussed earlier. Matching note for hit, the opening is a gigantic sledgehammer of guitars and drums in unison already raining hard, also teasing a little of that time signature madness later to come. Then the utterly terrifying roars burst through the gates, to the battering of double kicks and a merciless barrage of riffs, completing the wolfpack and letting chaos loose. That wolf metaphor is no joke, as the time signature, on this song alone is torn and pulled apart like a piece of meat, constantly shifting with whatever pulverising metallic force comes next. You get a fantastic vocal showing too, between some incredibly powerful growls and soaring clean bellows, not to mention the clash of light and darkness in a Thordendal-esque ambient solo against the backdrop of the other mighty guitar hammerfall. No doubt it, these guys definitely deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Meshuggah and Gojira. Adimiron are well within the top echelon of the thinking man’s metal warlords, and Timelapse is an exclamation point, executed with excellence that should mark a meteoric shift in their sphere of influence.
There are at least two other studio albums of theirs around, for now Timelapse and 2011’s K2 as well as a limited edition single can be bought from their Bandcamp page, but When Reality Wakes Up and Burning Souls can be bought from most respectable music retailers.
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When it comes to someone with the passion to actively seek out what music the world truly has to offer you, you come across many a colourful band every now and again. None seem to proving that theory any more right than roaming the rich plains of Europe’s metal scene. For every cookie-cutter metal or deathcore band out there, a weird and wonderful troupe dares to take metal and collide it with whatever exotic fruits they have to hand. Norway’s Shining are literal jazz metal and a sublime band. Sweden’s Diablo Swing Orchestra are an opera and big-band recital with electric guitars, and heavy at that. Greece’s Septicflesh are cinematic masters of scoring civilisations with a incredible string section and choir, against the backdrop of death metal. There are plenty of bands out there, like ores in the Earth’s rich crust awaiting their excavation. Then we come to Italy’s Destrage, for the most part an extremely tight tech metal quintet, but with the personality of a hyper scientist given a brand new chemistry set. They’ll take as may different components from the base materials and make it combustible in ways we could scarcely imagine. A twin-pronged guitar juggernaut, one prong more ferocious, the other more surgical, but equally as dangerous, form the brunt of their siege to their senses. But whether they rain metal hellfire, pummel with hardcore beatdowns, clash from contrasting time signatures or simmer to allow for the stunning vocal performance, the end result is nothing short of brilliance. Vocals themselves have to be given their own merits, dynamically shifting from frenzied yelps to lung-burning growls to occasionally emotionally touching and hard-hitting clean passages, sometimes all in the same breath. And drums, well, they just orchestrate the madness. Unpredictable utter madness. Last year’s Are You Kidding Me? No. is completely full of show-stealing instrumentation at literally nearly every given interval, and lead track Destroy Create Transform Sublimate is the total package. Insane tapping melodies, crunching guitar throwdowns, schizoid but terrific drum display, subtle but bone-shaking bass, an awesome rollercoaster of a vocal delivery and a pseudo-dictatorial speech complete with a rousing orchestral score that delves into dark jungle-style drum ‘n’ bass? What more could you ask for? Destrage are turning metal inside out, and for every person who signs up for their energetic brand of engineered chaos, brings them a step closer to dominating like they should be. A truly unbelievable force of a band.
There’s a few albums of theirs floating around, most of them on most respectable music retailers, but just as easy to go get them from their website directly. They’d probably appreciate it as much if you went and got a t-shirt or two from them as well. Oh, and if you’re in Germany, go see them at Euroblast in October.
If you don’t love them already, go love them now here:
And if you enjoy what I’ve written about these awesome gentlemen, maybe consider sending me some love too via whatever social networks you use, you don’t have to, honestly:
Some band names just sound like a really busy evening, not to mention a boat load of fun. Some confusion would rest on whether it’s a person we’re mourning with chilli or we’re mourning the chilli itself. Musically though, you may think this could be a mariachi death metal band judging on name alone and cool as that would be, it’s not close. The reality is Mexican Chili Funeral Party are one, of many, many excellent bands from Italy’s esteemed network of fantastic stoner and hard rock outfits. At times channelling the spirit of Kyuss, as do many bands of the same ilk, there’s a decidedly grungier tone to their work, even so far as putting fingertips in doom territory but stay integral to the original blues influences. Released at the very beginning of last year, the self-titled album is a rollercoaster of a ride featuring head charges, well constructed grooves, some spiritual sounding slower burners and even what sounds like a primal summoning, perhaps one of the more menacing psychedelic tracks around right now in Black Flower. Yet our focus lies in Ijavha, the best example of Queens of The Stone Age shining through in their work, featuring the same well-documented passion lathered into vocals and a certain danger that could signal pistols at dawn, instrumentally powerful enough to kick like a .45 too. Mexican Chili Funeral Party have what it takes to stand toe-to-toe with the biggest and greatest names in the scene today. They know their history, but add squeezes of their own zest that bring an invigorating take on the genre. And that’s something well worth buying into with a side of chilli fries.
Their debut album can only be found on their Bandcamp page, but on a pay-what you-want basis. These guys work hard so please give what you can.