These are the best ten records I heard in 2017, and I think they prove unequivocally that despite what you may have heard, nearly seventy years on rock and roll is alive and well. You may have to do a little more legwork than you’re used to to find it, but trust me, it’s there. Bands all around the world carrying on the traditions of those who came before, while also constantly rebuilding the whole thing in their own image. Hearing the evolution is exhilarating enough to make wading through all the crap worthwhile. This list was in a constant state of flux. There were another four or five records that could’ve just as easily made the cut, and half the albums here were in the top two at one time or another. Continue reading
Mindfucker, the first studio album from New Jersey speed-scuzz icons Monster Magnet in nearly five years, will hit stores worldwide March 23, 2018 via Napalm Records. The eleventh effort from Magnet mastermind Dave Wyndorf and Company, Mindfucker promises ten up-tempo, savage tunes that draw equally from the wells of early 70’s hard rock psychedelia and tweaked-out, incendiary Detroit-style garage protopunk.
Our autumnal excursion through the Garden State concludes in Jersey City, home of the Statue of Liberty, birthplace of funk legends Kool & the Gang, and for nearly four years now, home to chromium swamp creatures Black Wail. These fuzz-faced, big-muffed purveyors of doom boogie have been plying their wares since Spring 2014, over three EP releases and countless live shows, and their forthcoming effort Chromium Homes (Rhyme & Reason Records, in stores December 15) is a raw, rip-snorting blast of sharp hooks, bludgeoning riffs, syrupy-sweet harmonies, and out-and-out heavy metal anguish.
What Does This Button Do?
Dey St. Books
Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson was raised in a household where a strong work ethic was the most valued of all virtues, and “the only sin was not trying hard.” This minor revelation on page two of his autobiography What Does This Button Do? offers a clear and simple explanation as to how and why Dickinson became one of rock and roll’s true renaissance men. For most folks, being the multi-millionaire lead singer of a world-famous, well-respected, multi-platinum metal band would be enough; for Dickinson, it’s just one of his many pursuits (and it doesn’t even particularly seem to be his favorite). He’s also a commercial pilot, a world-class fencer, a novelist, a screenwriter, a brewer, a radio host, a motivational speaker, and an airline entrepreneur. What Does This Button Do? is a well-written and fast paced look at a few of the past adventures of The Most Interesting Man in the World of Metal.
The long-anticipated full-length debut from Welsh hard rockers Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, The Age of Absurdity, will see worldwide release via Nuclear Blast Records on January 26, and the band is offering fans a glimpse into the album’s creation with the first episode of their official studio diary. The brief video shows the group, led by veteran Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell, working on drum sounds with producer Romesh Dodangoda, discussing song structure and lyrics, and tightening the songs up in rehearsal.
Monolith, the stunning third album from Seattle’s Hobosexual, is a tough beast to wrap your head around. How is it that these two guys, Jeff Silva (who plays the everloving shit out of the drums) and Ben Harwood (who does everything else), are able to make a sound this lush and full? How, exactly, were they able to get their hands on my entire music collection from 1983 to 1997? And how in the hell did they figure out how to play it all at once? I’ve listened to this record over and over and over and over in search of an answer, and all I’ve got to show for it is two throbbing eardrums, a blown mind and a thoroughly kicked ass. Monolith is a jaw-dropping genre-smasher, like grinding up and snorting everything you’ve ever like about loud n’ hard heavy rock.
Band of Spice
Unlike the bloodthirsty beasts and mythical creatures that serve as subject matter for so much of the metal genre, the demons and monsters that occupy the songs on Shadows Remain are all too real. The third album from the namesake project of Kayser and former Spiritual Beggars frontman Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand, Shadows Remain is a harrowing ride that documents the darkest days of the singer/songwriter’s life, a period induced by isolation and the abuse of various substances. It’s a record that wears its soul on its tattered denim sleeve, a brooding bruiser that simultaneously kicks your ass and breaks your heart.
Since 1978 Anvil have plied their trade, churning out slab after slab of solid metal firepower and blowing out the eardrums of concertgoers worldwide. This tradition will continue on January 19, when the Canadian veterans release Pounding the Pavement worldwide via SPV/Steamhammer Records, then hit the road for a European tour that will carry them through until early spring.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
Vol 1 (Reissue)
Rise Above Records
Vol 1, the first album to carry the Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats moniker, has acquired a near-mythic status since its original release in February 2010 (not coincidentally, 40 years to the day after Black Sabbath was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world). Written, performed, and recorded entirely by then-unknown mastermind Kevin Starrs, the no-budget album’s entire production run consisted of 30 self-distributed CD-R’s. Starrs used what little profits there were to help fund the recording of the now-classic follow-up effort Blood Lust, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (now a full band) were well on their way to becoming one of the darkest stars in the stoner metal universe. As their popularity grew, so did the reputation of Vol 1; it became highly sought by ravenous collectors, and highly exploited by unscrupulous bootleggers. Despite constant overtures from fans and label executives, Starrs refused to allow its reissue until he was able to personally oversee a thorough remixing and remastering; “It was a DIY project from the beginning,” Starrs explains, “so I wasn’t going to give it up and let someone else mess with it.” After six years on the record-tour treadmill, and with Uncle Acid on a well-deserved break, he fortunately found the time to mess with it himself, and Vol 1 will finally be hitting shelves (via Rise Above Records) and streaming services this Friday the 13th.
There are those who dismiss The Darkness out of hand as little more than a one-hit novelty act doing a faux-operatic glam-metal piss-take. Those unfortunate souls are A) probably not much fun at parties, and B) missing the point entirely. Rock and roll, especially heavy rock, has become a dour and earnest beast in the past quarter-century or so, plodding along a loud but often joyless path, rife with negativity and self-loathing. Since day one, The Darkness have served as an antidote against this encroaching gloom, a glittery, sequined outpost shining brightly in a vast expanse of brutal grey. Misery and introspection certainly have their place, but so do joy and outrageousness and just plain fun, dammit, and that’s where The Darkness come in. Yes, their songs are over-the-top; they’re also expertly crafted nuggets of kick-ass rock and roll, stuffed to bursting with beefy riffs, intricate melodies, and cocksure swagger. And sure, some of their lyrics might be a little silly, but those great big jagged hooks they’re attached to ain’t no joke. Their newest album, Pinewood Smile, is a bawdy buzzsaw with peacock plumage, a devastating roundhouse right from a manicured fist. Outrageous and opulent yet fiery and muscular, it’s the finest album in their catalog so far and unless you’re a real fuddy-duddy, it’s likely one of the best times you’ll have listening to a record this year.