Trivium – The Sin & The Sentence
Trivium have always held a special place in my heart as one of the first heavy bands I truly found myself drawn to, and so it’s an absolute joy to announce that after the relative disappointment of the last two records that they’re back to doing what they do best: no-nonsense, instantly gratifying & utterly glorious heavy-mother-fucking-metal.
Converge – The Dusk In Us
I saw Converge at Arctangent festival this year (as well as several other bands on this list) and the teasers they gave us of the new album were very tasty indeed. The Dusk In Us sees Converge at their furious, cathartic best, with Jacob Bannon’s signature animalistic howl & Kurt Ballou’s lithe, angular guitar licks sounding every bit the result of five years’ solid practice and honing of their craft between records.
At The Drive-in – in.ter.a.li.a
After leaving us on the peerless post-hardcore masterpiece of Relationship of Command 17 years ago, what does the latest record from one of the most legendary acts in the genre sound like? The answer: exactly what you’d expect. No more, no less. In other words, incredibly decent & like my initial introduction to them on the previous album, very much a grower.
Gorillaz – Humanz
As one of my favourite bands of all time, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for this album for seven years, and it (mostly) lived up to my lofty expectations. Designed as a party playlist for the post-Trump apocalypse, Gorillaz’ return is fun, unpredictable & has some of my favourite pop songs of the year. A few less ‘special’ guest features and a more focused tracklist (in other words getting rid of Sex Murder Party) would have improved the overall vibe, sure, but when an album contains a song like Charger who can complain too much?
Enter Shikari – The Spark
Shikari’s latest is a concerted effort to focus on the lighter end of their sound and I confess to not being too keen on it upon first listen. By the time I gave the record some breathing room & had seen some of the songs live, I had been well and truly won over by Rou Reynold’s masterful songwriting and the titular spark of pure joy the record offers in the face of such troubled times. The Spark might be one of my favourite Shikari albums now, but if you’d have told me that immediately after I finished it for the first time I would have probably laughed in your face.
Tricot – 3
The band that stole the weekend at Arctangent festival for me, Japan’s Tricot have cemented themselves as one of the all-time greatest bands in math-rock, with the tightest rhythmic interplay I have heard this year, or indeed any year for that matter. Throw in one of the world’s most talented guitarists in the shape of Motoko Kida and a near perfect, beautiful song like Melon Soda and you have this, a truly superb album.
Jamie Lenman – Devolver
This man is a true icon. Even before factoring in his contributions to Reuben and the world of British heavy music in the 21st century, not to mention being one of the biggest influences on our band, you’d be hard pressed to find a more talented songwriter, a funnier onstage presence or a better lyricist than Jamie Lenman. His second solo album is a triumph: an eclectic, challenging rock record that defies easy description. The lyrics of the title track alone tugged at my heart in a way that actually made me tear up a bit. I just have to wonder – how does he do it? A cursed Victorian artefact? Does his moustache give him powers? Whatever he’s doing it’s working.
Employed To Serve – The Warmth of A Dying Sun
The second album from this young band & they’ve already shamed a good 99% of every metalcore act to ever exist. Justine Jones’ roar is absolutely feral, the riffs are churning, grinding and shrill in all the best ways possible, and yet through the onslaught they have managed to craft genuinely awe-inspiring songs. There are hooks all over this record: I Spend My Days has a riff that drills its way into your cranium instantly and refuses to leave. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Glassjaw – Material Control
After 15 years since the last record & a (really great) teaser track that seemed to lead nowhere, I was about ready to give up on this ever coming out. Not only was I not expecting it to arrive this year, but to have it be the straight-up NASTIEST sounding album Glassjaw have ever made (that debut included) took some doing. This is a loud, dense, atonal & bass-heavy masterpiece that will take constant repeats to untangle & process for each listener, but the rewards for doing so are immense. Daryl’s harmonised wail during the chorus of New White Extremity appears like an intrusive thought now and I find myself humming along at inappropriate times, which really is the mark of a great record. Welcome back, Glassjaw!
Code Orange – Forever
If you haven’t been living under a rock this year you will probably have heard how this bunch of upstart kids from Pittsburgh have single-handedly made 2017 entirely theirs. It came out in January, and yet 12 months later is still firmly the unbeaten masterpiece of the year -what more can I add to the mountain of praise that has been thrust upon this album? Frontman/drummer Jami Morgan is the spirit of hardcore distilled, and as a manifesto for the future of the genre it’s impossible to imagine how him & his bandmates could have done better. It has the making of a modern classic which deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Slipknot’s Iowa and Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. Uncompromisingly heavy and yet filled with more variety across its 30-minute runtime than most bands can ever hope to fit into their entire career, Forever is an album I can’t recommend enough to anyone who wants to hear the platonic ideal of what bands should be striving to achieve in 2017.