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:
Witchcraft, or at least modern witchcraft tends to be more of a spiritual sensation, the roots of it lying in earth medicines and botany, as opposed to having supernatural powers. Well, at least the real life incarnation of it was. The amount of flying women on broomsticks at least proven outside of Harry Potter I believe lies at exactly zero. If anybody has or can, then I apologise and kudos to you. The practice of cursing or hexing somebody however does still exist and can be more predominant in folk communities and shamanistic societies. What that actually means depends entirely on your definition of faith and whether you choose to believe in such practices. Personally, a hex I’d certainly choose to believe in if staring face-to-face with it, would be that of self-proclaimed arctic hardcore delinquents The Hex. Emerging from Trondheim, Norway, The Hex are a sextet billowing with the ferocity of the post-hardcore crowd, so hard in cases you can hear the dead soul of At The Drive-In gushing from their vocalist. That’s no backhanded compliment, The Hex are a formidable cavalcade of riffs, vigour and tight melodies that you can bathe in as much as be beaten to death by it. The addition of an extra percussionist, who serves as a synth player also adds a richer flavour into the mix of the riotous, buccaneering guitar piledriver, especially with the extra toms during breakdowns and shakers fleshing out the sound. This Is How Razors Dance (Rage United) from fittingly-titled 2013 album Bringing Guns To A Knife Fight is actually far more progressive and turbulent than you anticipate, opening with an all bets off bare knuckle fist-fight, that builds towards a surprisingly emotionally intense climax, similar of that to a bullfight. The altitude of energy spent never really dips as there’s always something constantly keeping the blood pumping in the collective heartbeat. While The Hex are lacking in the spiritual realm that they birth their name from, there’s a whole lot more made up for to be feared yet impressed by. Compiling the yelling that could tear neck muscles, intricate yet punishing guitars, bone-shaking bass and percussion with a cavern-like depth of ability and wonder, The Hex are not so much a spell, but a force of nature that has very little hope of being stopped once momentum is in its favour.
The Hex’s two albums, Bringing Guns To A Knife Fight and 2009’s Tyrannosaurus Hex can be bought from The Hex’s webstore, or from most respectable music retailers. Trust me, they’re there. Word also is they’re working on a new studio album right now, so any money towards that can only help right?
Circumstances make me wonder if opinion polls are ever conducted on whether the world needs more metal musicals. Currently the best example may be cult classic Repo! The Genetic Opera, certainly a polarising experience at the best of times however. The music itself was very well composed, especially for the sheer scale of original songs written for the score, but the lyrics at times, came over as unintentionally hilarious. Very few bands nail that balance between theatricality and musiciality perfectly, so when a new avant-garde metal band emerges onto the fray, attention spreads like wildfire. Enter Norway’s Vulture Industries. European metal circles are quickly cottoning onto their amalgamation of styles, instruments and notably the quirky vocal menagerie of frontman Bjørnar Nilssen. While most likely not conceived in that matter, each song written by Vulture Industries takes its place as a scene or chapter in a blackened, twisted storybook, exploring the depths of emotion and the human condition. Most recent venture, 2013’s The Tower is their most ambitious tale to date. Stretching beyond an hour in running time, this five piece have taken extra cues from symphonic metal, as well as enlisting the help of various session musicians and choruses along the way. Divine-Apalling is the second track in, and from the get-go takes you into the warped pantomime of a slightly Vaudevillian landscape. There’s so many well thought out touches in what becomes a carousel, or a carnivalesque waltz of joyous and melancholy tones, but amplified like only a metal band can realise. Vulture Industries have the inner workings of utter genius, and are creatively one of the most unique bands around right now. Take the stage, this applause is all yours.
Their three albums can be purchased on their own Bandcamp page as well as their website, whereas their earlier works and demos, are no longer in print. As usual, these can also be bought at most respectable music retailers too.