20 Best Albums of 2017
20 albums which filled up concert venues, personal play lists and music news. Or deserve to.
Not a top 20, in order of release.
vert:x, The Sonic Shamen, Firefang, Radament, Siberian XP, Georgio the ‘Dove” Valentino, Dead Sea Apes, Gnod, Septicflesh, Christian Wolff and Eddie Prévost, Dead Cross, Motörhead, Roger Waters, Motorpsycho, Code Orange, 7Shades, CFM, Godflesh, Cavalera Conspiracy, The Cosmic Dead
Firefang – Firefang
Firefang are garage-grunge trio from Gent, Belgium, with distorted electric guitar, socially engaged lyrics, screaming out vocals and stoner blues elements. Their eponymous debut LP shows a great deal of influences without being a tribute to any genre and moves ahead with enthusiasm and self-assurance. Fast as punk, desolated like blues, loud as rock’n’roll, Firefang smells like grunge spirit to anyone prone simultaneously to vulnerability and power. (full review here)
self-released on January 13, 2017
Code Orange – Forever
Code Orange formed in 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They have steadily made their way to the current top metal bands, with acclaimed previous releases and intense live gigs. ‘Forever’ is their third released, this time on Roadrunner. ‘Forever’ crosses over any heavy-metal genre and redefines boundaries for hardcore. As if Machine Head met Ministry, the album is both aggressive and atmospheric, challenges the classic formula of loud sound with unexpected experimentation on rhythm and speed and uses at maximum the band’s vocal resources. Sludgy riffs and brutal grooves welded in aggressive industrial beats. Once you listen to it, you will want some more.
released: January 13, 2017 on Roadrunner
Radament – Radament
Radament from Spain is a great example of melodic and harmonic capabilities when piano meets drums. This very interesting project is represented by the jazz pianist Juanjo Fernández and the drummer Giorgio Fausto Menossi. Full of lovely ideas, contemporary in approach and keeping a high-quality end throughout, Radament makes great use of the duo members’ experience in various other groups and projects, the academic background and their skills to bring quality sound and composition. Radament is one those albums that charms at first audition. It shows an outstanding capacity of incorporating slow passages with rhythmic phases to the point where each song comes as a unique surprise, impossible to anticipate and gratifying to the last bit. (full review here)
self-released on January 19, 2017
Gnod – Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
Gnod is a psychedelic noise collective formed in 2006 from Salford, Manchester UK. Their lineup is in continuous transformation, expanding or shrinking around a core group of members. ‘Just Say No…’ was released on Rocket Records together with a statement saying: “Fuelled by their militant drive and unyielding ardour, ‘Just Say No…’ refracts Gnod’s harsh and repetitive riff-driven rancour through a psychotropic haze of dubbed-out abstraction, with Paddy’s incendiary vocal delivery to the fore. ,‘Just SayNo… sounds like a record only Gnod could make – a band fiercely independent, never comfortable in one place artistically for any duration of time, always with their co-ordinates set on uncharted territory and the next challenge ahead, and delivering a monument of ire and iconoclasm.” Abrasive and heavy, trippy and experimental, repetitive and harsh, the sound of ‘Just Say No…’ carries a bag full of meanings, a thrilling anarchic statement against a world order that systematically destroys human values and hence has to be rejected.
released: March 31, 2017 on Rocket Records
Dead Sea Apes – Sixth Side of the Pentagon
Dead Sea Apes come from Manchester and have release their fourth studio album ‘Sixth Side of the Pentagon’ through Cardinal Fuzz and Sky Lantern Records. ‘Sixth Side of the Pentagon’ is an album with a strong vision behind, addressing the exploitative and oppressive economic system of today, opposing the ruling elite that seem to triumph always. The sixth side is the leitmotiv throughout the album; four short improvisations make a link between with the other tracks like a bewitched port key that will transport anyone to a pre-arranged destination. The album is dense, the tracks rely on each other and on the overall motive, merging oriental guitar rhythms and drone slashes in dense layers of persistent reverberation. Tentacles (The Machine Rolls On) is the central track of the album, accompanied by meaningful reading and built upon dark experimental dub rhythms with slashing guitars, hypnotic bass and lopping electronica. The dubby bassline is essential on the album, reminiscent of a heart still beating. The machine rolls on, keep fighting.
released: April 03, 2017 on Cardinal Fuzz and Sky Lantern Records
CFM – Dichotomy Desaturated
CFM is the moniker of Charles Frances Moothart, an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, drummer and guitarist part of the Ty Segall music world that is currently taking over the indie scene. ‘Dichotomy Desaturated’ is his second solo album, an ingenious mix of garage rock and early psychedelia, Black Sabbath-like vocals and creative fusion of acoustic and blues rock guitar. Instead of being afraid to display his influences, Moothart has successfully channeled them into an original production that pushes back and forth the boundaries between old and new music and styles to the listener’s delight. The result is an irresistible bridge between the classic old school and a very contemporary innovative twist. Enlightening and highly recommended.
released: April 07, 2017 on In the Red Records
The Cosmic Dead – Psych Is Dead
Ever since their debut, the Cosmic Dead have managed to stand out of the crowd. It’s again the case with ‘Psych Is Dead’, their sixth full length album, a continuous exploration of space and sound. The album, the label says, was the result of “a few days spent recording in a sweaty Sardinian kitchen overlooking the Mediterranean Sea”. An album that has topped many list of psychedelic music lovers in 2017.We are not really sure that Sardinia is the place where Psych died, but if so, long live the Psych!
released: April 28, 2017 on Riot Season
vert:x – from now to now
2017 has been a good year for vert:x and also the year their first full length vinyl album ‘from now to now’ was released. Their album catalogue goes back to 2007, with self-released CDr, splits, EPs and exclusive tracks for various compilations, so a vinyl record was just a matter of time. The songs selection on the album invites a further exploration into vert:x discography. ‘Space Junk’ is pure explosion of sounds built with krautrock drumbeats, guitar dexterity, hypnotic bass lines and synthesizers plus an exquisite touch of saxophone. ‘Suns of Ra’ is a track that can certainly redefine the designations for pace and loud, as what is slow pace is intense and what is fast is absolutely drifting and ethereal. ‘Planet of The Mindstealers’ benefits from the collaboration and contribution of Fred Laird from Earthling Society, and draws the journey back on side B at high speed through space and sound. (full review here)
released: May 23, 2017 on The Weird Beard
The Sonic Shamen – Tribute to Lemmy
An album dedicated to the spirit of Lemmy Kilminster. The Sonic Shamen comprise of musicians from Earthling Society, Litmus, Red Elektra 69, vert:x and Black Moon Circle and the album was recorded at the Foel Studios in Wales, famous for many earlier classic space rock recordings from the like of Ozric Tentacles, and produced at the hands of former Hawkwind bass player Dave Anderson (who also appears on a 70 minute jam CD that comes with the excellent double LP on vinyl). The Sonic Shamen are Fred – guitar and effects (Earthling Society), Jon – drums and percussion (Earthling Society), Martin – bass, mellotron, synths (Litmus), Vince – guitar and effects (RED ELEKTRA 69, vert:x, Ash Magna, Vostok, Startripper), Dr Space – modular synthesizer, kaossilator, monotron (Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle), Dave Anderson – bass (on CD track only) (Hawkwind, Groundhogs, Amon Düül II)
released: May 29, 2017 on Space Rock Productions
Roger Waters – Is This the Life We Really Want?
Since Pink Floyd’s golden age, hardly has there been an album that fused such a great range of feelings and reactions into one masterpiece. ‘Is This the Life We Really Want?’ is full of anger (“Who gives a fuck, it’s never really over”), is condescending (“If I had been God / I would have rearranged the veins in the face to make them more resistant to alcohol and less prone to ageing.”), is cohesive and convincing (“When World War II was over / We could have picked over them broken bones / We could have been free”) and is heartbreaking (“Nothing but hope at the end of the rope”). But most of all is a metaphoric lesson on never learned history that still gets repeated – “Every time the curtain falls on some forgotten life it is because we all stood by, silent and indifferent.” Roger Waters once more pours his engaged message into a world of ideas and delivers a critical inspection on a lost contemporary America whose legacy is now run by President Trump.
released: June 02, 2017 on Columbia Records
Christian Wolff and Eddie Prévost – Uncertain Outcomes
Recently, The Guardian wrote about the seemingly inaccessible nature of free improvisation in a short documentary ‘Free improvisation: still the ultimate in underground music?’ Free improvisation is a style that could be trivially described as having no songs, no standards, no sets of structures. Rising in the late 50s as an outcome of free jazz and modern classical music, it is sometimes used as a technique by musicians in different genres, but it also has its own stand-alone status, a genre in its own right. Still, unlike in other forms of arts, the improvisation in music remains very much different than anything else. Experimental and unique by nature, the experience of a free improvisation concert is impossible to replicate and the closest form of reproduction would be a recording release.
Uncertain Outcomes is a double CD with recordings of two concerts of experimental improvisation, one from London in 2015 and one from Hanover, New Hampshire in 2016. A wonderful exploration of sound and resonance by the American experimental pianist and composer Christian Wolff and the English percussionist Eddie Prévost. The CD comes with a beautiful package and musician’s notes for anyone willing to step in a not-so-well known universe.
released: August 2017 on Matchless Recordings
Dead Cross – Dead Cross
One release should not go unnoticed this year: the mighty Dave Lombardo with the mighty Mike Patton work together once more on Dead Cross, the American hardcore punk super group along with guitarist Mike Crain (Retox) and bassist Justin Pearson (the Locust, Head Wound City and Retox). The album has everything you expect from a Patton/Lombardo collaboration and more. It is highly enjoyable to listen, energetic and inventive hardcore.
As a guest on Henry Rollins radio show on KCRW, Mike Patton explains the choice of joining Dead Cross. When asked by Lombardo if he wants to sing on the album: “I had to think about it for a minute. I’m a 50 year old man, almost 50, and do I want to do a hardcore record, at this age? Can I do it? and 15 seconds later I said ‘yes’. ” Patton described Dead Cross to Rolling Stone: “To me, it is a traditional hardcore record. It is very pointed, direct and visceral. Like, I wasn’t going to play keyboards, add samples or any kind of orchestration. It was like, ‘Yo, just go for it.’ In some ways, it reminded me of stuff that we had collectively all grown up with and loved when we were like teenagers — bands like the ACCÜSED, DEEP WOUND or SIEGE, stuff that was just brutal, uncompromising and right to the point. I was listening to all those bands again before this came to be, so it was already back infused in my blood. And now I got a chance to do a pencil-in-your-eye record.”
released: August 04, 2017 on Ipecac Records
Septicflesh – Codex Omega
Along with Rotting Christ, Septicflesh strengthen the role of Greece as a significant influential leader not only on democracy and philosophy but also in extreme metal music. With more and more complex and impressive compositions as the years go by, the symphonic death metal veterans released this year their 10th album. ‘Codex Omega’ is one more skillfully constructed album, with high precision in the execution, mixing acoustics and opening vocal lines with brutal blastbeats, aggressive passages and dense dark harmonies. But there is a fine print to it as well; on the date of the release, Septicflesh commented on the album: “You are all welcome to enter Inferno in search for the last Testament. Here only the Headless prevail, as there is no godhead above. Here Martyrs died for the sake of reason and knowledge. And our Art is our Church. Our Queen is no ‘virgin’ Mary. Our Gospels are bringing fear. And at the end, the true identity of Trinity is revealed. Behold Codex Omega!” The deluxe edition features three more amazing symphonic tracks.
released: September 01, 2017 on Season of Mist
Motörhead – Under Cöver
Among the things Motörhead very much liked to do was to keep some of their favorite songs even closer by performing them in their own style. Under Cöver is a wonderful Motörhead memorabilia, a collection of 11 covers recorded by Motörhead between 1992 until two years ago, when Lemmy sadly passed away. All the songs on the Under Cöver compilation were previously released with the exception of “Heroes” and “Rockaway Beach”. It features also Biff Byford as guest on “Starstruck”, an alternate version of Ronnie James Dio’s ‘This Is Your Life’. From “God Save the Queen” and “Breaking the Law” to “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Cat Scratch Fever”, each song reminds of how uncompromising was the Motörhead signature and how everything they touched turned into rock’n’roll. And how much Lemmy is missed.
released: September 01, 2017 on WEA/Silver Lining Music
Motorpsycho – The Tower
It is absolutely impressive how much material Motorpsycho can produce and how good it is each and every time. They have never issued a bad release and each record is like the best possible Christmas present. Their latest release, The Tower, is a massive piece of work that requires all available knowledge and understanding to digest. Nevertheless, no matter how big it may seem at first, the album is remarkably easy to dive into. The founding members, Bent Sæther and Hans Magnus Ryan and the newly recruited member Tomas Järmyr (Zu, Yodok III) on drums, built a masterpiece around the allegories of Tower of Babel and Plato’s Republic Ship of Fools, and set their vessels to the direction of the progressive psychedelic kingdom. The album stands proof that even after almost 30 years and a countless discography, Motorpsycho can deliver flawless magnificent pieces of art. Something that cannot be stated about any other band.
released; September 08, 2017 on Rune Grammofon/Stickman Records
SIBERIAN XP – Animalphabet
Some albums are simply charming from the first audition and lose no charisma throughout. And SIBERIAN XP’s Animalphabet is one of those. SIBERIAN XP come from Bordeaux, France. A group of long-time friends, playing together since 2011 while being in other side projects as well, SIBERIAN XP might have taken their time to release a debut album, but the result is outstanding. Already from the title track, we’re in a universe of an alternative rock style incorporating post-rock influences and intense metal accents into a melodic combination which seems to be built on a reliable, rich musical heritage and quality background. An exceptional production, accompanied by excellent video quality for singles, and with an appealing alternative rock genre sound. (full review here)
self-released on October 06, 2017
Godflesh – Post Self
Three years ago, Godflesh released ‘A World Lit Only by Fire’ which was Godflesh’s first album in 13 years. The come back was a difficult task they fulfilled admirably.
But all that can be forgotten now as ‘Post Self’ is more than ever the brilliant Godflesh’s signature in a world dominated by post truth. Ten tracks of extreme sounds ranging from power electronics to industrial metal. Godflesh is indeed back.
released: November 17, 2017 on Avalanche Recordings
CAVALERA CONSPIRACY – Psychosis
On the day of the release, Napalm Records stated:
‘Psychosis’ is the fourth installment from the most lucent export of Brazil: The Thrash Metal-masters dive deep into the mire of human panic and anxiety states. This is the soundtrack to your worst sickness, a most sinister Thrash-psychoses that rip the scabs from old wounds. With ‘Psychosis’ CAVALERA CONSPIRACY are able to reanimate the intensity of the good old 80s thrash, black and death metal. These brothers have outlived all the crazy eras of metal and remain more stable and frightening than ever! Psychosis’ is terrific, in the truest sense of the word.
released: November 17, 2017 on Napalm Records
Georgio ‘the Dove’ Valentino – The Future Lasts a Long Time
‘The Future Lasts a Long Time’ represents a piece of art strongly interconnected with previous own works, with personal heroes’ works, with movies and literature, an artistic statement in an original, and sometimes subversive, way. No matter what the back cover reveals about the song authors, the album is not a collection of covers or of re-imagined songs, at least not in the sense of Lanegan’s ‘Imitations’ or Bowies’ ‘Pin Up’. It’s something completely different, an eternalist vision on pieces of life, erasing the boundaries between past, present and future. A legion of musicians stands by Georgio ‘the Dove’ Valentino on this release, a full circle of friends, mentors and collaborators are part of the album’s sound and also of the musical scene in which he has performed for the last decade, allowing creative musical arrangements that use various instruments such as violin, saxophone, mellotron, slide guitar vibraphone, 6-string bass, organs and more: Tuxedomoon members Blaine L. Reininger and Steven Brown with exquisite appearances on ‘Let Your Love Decide’, ‘Sobborghi’ or ‘Hier Encore’, members of the Société des Mélancoliques, members of Surf Me Up Scotty, Grey Lotus, 13 Dead Trees. (full review here)
released independently in November 2017
7shades – The Monumental Midden
7shades band initially formed to pay tribute to Tim Smith from Cardiacs. However, they are a particular type of tribute band, with original music and brilliant style and live performances. 7shades’ art is a mix of avant-grade pop, kraut-rock, progressive punk and electronica, all in one theater-like performance, with perfect execution, high-energy and not at least, great sense of humour. This year they have released their 3rd album, monumentally titled ‘The Monumental Midden’. The overall vibe is an epic mix of fairytale atmosphere with extraterrestrial eerie, with a wide range of styles on display. At the same time, this wonderful album is willfully confusing and will play a trick on you with every song – just because sounding fancy and smart is overrated.
self-released on November 27, 2017