Metal Hammer’s 100 Best Albums of 2017 – 100 to 96
So, my mammoth listen-through of Metal Hammer’s top 100 albums of 2017 begins. My ears have been subjected to 2,275 different artists, according to Last.fm, but I have not heard of any of the first ten bands. Embarrassing. Still, this is the point of doing this, so here we go. Who is at number 100?
100: Hey Colossus, The Guillotine (Rocket Recordings)
Well, we’re starting off with a band I have never heard of, nor listened to previously. This is a good thing! I love hearing new bands, and looking down the list there are quite a few entries for bands that have never assaulted my ears before.
The first few bars of Honest to God provide a hint of the music to come – some psychedelic guitar twangs, interesting chords and a sound that, for me, arrives straight from the 1980s. It’s a perverse 80s, though, mixed in with a massive side of sludge. It is always interesting, even though I’m not immediately taken with the vocalist Paul Sykes; his voice lacks range and warmth, but fits perfectly with the thick soup provided by the rest of the band.
Hey Colossus are variously described as ‘sludge’, ‘noise rock’, ‘stoner metal’ and ‘sludge metal’, and while these all fit they only go some way to describe the overall sound they make. They remind me of a doomy variation of some of the alternative rock bands from the 80s, and while this appeals to me rather a lot the overall approach isn’t very exciting.
There are some good tunes going on and much to admire, but I do wish it’d get its skates on and provide a bit of drama and variation to the general lack of pace. The music has plenty of impact though, and it is lyrically excellent. It is one of those albums that, perhaps, isn’t going to fully engage my enjoyment circuits. It’s me, not them – I just prefer other stuff.
If you like slow, psychedelic, sludge metal with an 80’s depressed singer then this is for you. 6/10 for me, though.
You can listen to the whole thing on this little widget if you fancy:
99: Rebirth of Nefast, Tabernaculum (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
Ooooh, some Black Metal. Now, I love a bit of extreme metal now and again, but Black Metal is a genre that generally takes me a bit longer to get into. I love the snarling and dark, fetid lyrics but there’s something about the whole style that makes it a bit more difficult to get into.
I’m not very familiar at all with Rebirth of Nefast at all. Well, they are a band I have never heard a peep from before, so hunted around on Apple Music to find Tabernaculum to listen to. It wasn’t there, nor on Spotify! Oh dear, how to listen to this recording without forking out for it (I have zero budget for this project). I found that someone had uploaded it to YouTube, so had a listen there.
It starts out in very mysterious style, with some atmospheric percussion and effects on 11+ minute opener ‘The Lifting of the Veil’. It takes its time to get going, incorporating creepy violin and voices before the first explosion of noise hits; and what an entry! I nearly had an accident in my trouser area at the 1’36s mark when a small crescendo suddenly leads to a huge vocal and guitar entry. The song continues to plod along for a while before some of the usual incomprehensible Black Metal vocals arrive. This song is probably a bit over long, but repeated listens reveals extra detail formerly overlooked. I like the variations in volume and mood, the adventurous composition and general creepiness of the song. The best bits are the quiet, moody parts while I feel less excited about the full-on Black Metal parts.
The opener is very good, and the rest of the album generally meets the same level too. I wasn’t a massive fan on my first listen, though I was encouraged enough to give it a few more goes. It’s a proper grower, and while some parts don’t always do it for me there’s enough good stuff going on that I’m very much interested in hearing their other work.
A solid 7/10 from me. Have a listen to it (legitimately) here:
Buy: Bandcamp /
Spotify / Apple Music
98: Bokassa, Divide & Conquer (All Good Clean)
Woah! What do we have here? Now here is something that gets my feet stamping and my head nodding. Another band I’ve heard nothing about, in a genre I am entirely unfamiliar with: stonercore.
What is stonercore? Well, it seems to be one of those sub-genres that pop up every now and again that actually make sense. Norway’s Bokassa provide an album chock full of solid punk tunes, have a vocalist straight from the hardcore school but then mix it all up with crushing stoner-style guitars. These riffs are consistently huge, straying into thrash territory frequently and I absolutely love it.
The album starts off with a subdued acoustic intro on ‘Impending Doom’ before those massive guitars lurch in, slowly building up to a riff of gigantic proportions. This leads into the first song proper ‘Last Night (Was a Proper Massacre)’ which has a catchy riff and tune and has me wanting to jump around like a loon.
The rest of the album continues in a similar vein. Short, catchy songs with attitude, big riffs and lots of shouting. The last track ‘Immortal Space Pirate (The Stoner Anthem)’ is an absolute monster. It may well be the song of the year for me too, it is that good. It’s a much longer song at over 7 minutes and plays more to the stoner crowd than the rest of the punk tunes on the album. It’s slower but catchy as hell, feeling almost like Metallica covering someone else, until the lyrics start and you hear some Scandinavian hair metal influences. Think Backyard Babies doing stoner metal. An outstanding way to finish an album – go and buy it.
A top quality 9/10 from me. Listen to it on this widget:
97: Forgotten Tomb, We Owe You Nothing (Agonia)
Forgotten Tomb are supposedly a ‘depressive black metal‘ band. This is a genre I am entirely unfamiliar with, and – if I’m being honest – have some concerns with. I’ve been lucky enough to have avoided any mental health issues myself and bands that focus on such things aren’t high on my agenda. However, one listen of this album shattered any preconceptions I may have had, and I found myself enjoying ‘We Owe You Nothing’ very much indeed.
It seems that earlier Forgotten Tomb albums were very much topically about depression and suicide, but recent ones are more about nihilism and negativity. In fact, album opener ‘We Owe You Nothing’ sounds rather cheerful and not at all very Black Metal. This song is almost bluesy in style, with a catchy riff and a decent swagger. In fact, the whole album seems to have more of a sludgy, groove feel to it rather than anything black metal.
I rather quite like it. Most of the songs could have been trimmed a little, but I have enjoyed the doomy approach throughout, the riffs are always big and heavy and the vocals varies (and often terrifying in their death metal intensity).
This album was a pleasant surprise. Without really jumping out as a favourite of the year this is still an album I am likely to come back to again. It’s big and bold, a little doomy, a lot sludgy and occasionally groovy.
A solid 7/10. Listen to it here:
96: Implore, Subjugate (Century Media)
OK, so I haven’t ever heard of any of these first five bands. I may have read something about them in Metal Hammer – or elsewhere online – but I haven’t remembered anything about them. This little project is introducing a whole load of new (to me) bands that I otherwise wouldn’t spend any time listening to.
Implore are a band that I’d probably scroll past on Apple Music. The Subjugate cover looks very much like your generic Black Metal style, but the music contained within is surprisingly different. It’s a punk-infused variation on Grindcore that batters you around the ears with extreme force. It’s not within my normal listening habits, but it’s this kind of band that I am glad I am starting to hear more.
It’s only 34 minutes long in total, and they squeeze 14 mostly rapid tracks onto its length. It is at its best when the band ease off a bit from the angryness – such as ‘Patterns to Follow’ which is a veritable marathon at nearly four whole minutes – but most tracks rattle on at pace with much shouting and some impressively accurate drumming. The band are clearly angry at lots of things, but I haven’t looked up the lyrics so don’t actually know exactly what irks them.
It all gets a bit samey and I do wish there were more tracks with variations in pace, and the hardcore-esq vocals are just relentlessly harsh. I guess this is the Grindcore way, and while I rather like most of this album it all gets a bit too in-your-face after one listen. Pretty good though – I’ll be looking to the follow-up.
A very angry 7/10. Have a listen:
Bandcamp / iTunes