- Whether we want to admit it or not, it was a wild and crazy year. Everything ranging from the world of politics, worldwide tragedies (e.g. The Manchester explosion), natural disasters (e.g. Hurricanes Harvey and Maria), sexual assault awareness, and the usual celebrity shenanigans made the year what it was. Music-wise, it’s safe to say that a fair amount of good albums came out this year while others either remained the in same place sound-wise and others faltered. It is the time of year where I let the people know my top 10 picks for favorite albums of the year. Don’t be surprised if your favorites didn’t make my list. It’s strictly opinion so don’t get your panties in a twist. Of course, it’ll be separated into two categories: One that includes signed bands and the other includes local talent so here we go.
GROUP A: SIGNED BANDS (in no particular order)
– Code Orange – Forever
This album went hard all year long with constant replay value. Yeah, I know people think that certain songs were a little mixed up on the tempo/style side and the lyrics weren’t “up to par”, but it definitely made for an interesting listen with an ungodly sonic assault. I first heard of Code Orange back in 2014-15 because of a video of their live set at This Is Hardcore Fest from 2014. To me, they appeared to be a young band getting their foot in the hardcore scene. Of course, the crowd reaction was great and made me want to take interest in them until the first single “Forever” dropped late 2016 and had me excited for what the album was going to deliver. Being that this is their debut full-length on Roadrunner Records, it definitely didn’t let down at all. Even though it has more of an industrial influence on some tracks and a song or two is softer than others, it still maintains the Code Orange style, feel, and energy. The grungy style song “Bleeding in the Blur” really was their top hit this year and their success had them opening up for WWE NXT in Brooklyn, opening up for System of a Down on their tour and had many people from bands like Slipknot and Lamb of God take notice with major props. While people are afraid that the success may have boosted their egos, it was definitely a great year for Code Orange and they are definitely confident for whatever 2018 brings them. And by the way, a Grammy award nomination came their way. If they should win, it’s just an added bonus because they already have their foot in the door.
– Eighteen Visions – XVIII
It’s been 10 long years since Eighteen Visions played their last show. One dark night in the spring of 2017, there was a shocking announcement on the Internet when it was announced that Eighteen Visions were, in fact, making a comeback with a new album in tow. People were interested if it was going to be a permanent reunion or just a one-off thing. Once the first single “Oath” dropped, it made people see that they were back for sure! Produced by Mick Kenney, this album really brought it sonically as it was a mixture of both “Until the Ink Runs Out” and “Obsession”. I had the pleasure of flying out to Santa Ana, California for their comeback/album release show at The Observatory to take some sick pictures of the show. Seeing how the fans reacted after years of missing the band made me feel that a re-emergence of that caliber and sound was very much needed for the scene as the scene had sort of stagnated. Of course, with bands like Martyr AD, Disembodied, Zao, Poison the Well, and Buried Alive making their returns over the course of 2016-2017, was great, Eighteen Visons made sure that their comeback lasted all year round with an appearance at Knotfest, Vanna’s final concert at The Palladium, a short run in the UK, and a short headlining run to close out the year with Knocked Loose and Old Wounds as support. This definitely set the stage for what’s to come from them in the future! Welcome back, gentlemen!
– Hundredth – Rare
After a tour to support the “Free” album and the release of the “Dead Weight” single, it has been made clear from vocalist Chadwick Johnson that Hundredth were making a change in sound from melodic hardcore to a much different sound which left fans in suspense. The first single “Neurotic” was released and the reaction was mixed from supportive by those appreciating the change, to degrading remarks from those crying “sell-out”. With 12 tracks of Shoegaze/indie rock with post-punk and new wave influences, Hundredth let it be known that they are a new band and they’re playing what they like, listen to, and have always wanted to play. Hardcore music felt like a job to them. It was a dynamic shift in sound but it worked out for them for the most part, even though when they played Warped Tour on the heavy stage, it didn’t really feel that people were very welcoming. Some tracks on the album really felt that they blended with each other but the tracks sounded different with every listen. For me, as much as I liked the melodic hardcore Hundredth, I love and prefer the new shoegaze/indie Hundredth sound. Closing out the year with a headlining tour of the US, Hundredth had a good run this year, putting eggs in the basket for the future, and going on the path they have chosen to take until the next full-length comes out a year or so from now. We’ll see what happens.
– While She Sleeps – You Are We
For this full-length album, the UK-metalcore band While She Sleeps decided to release the album independently after leaving their label after the classic album “Brainwashed”. They worked hard on their own home space so they can record the album themselves and fund the record through PledgeMusic, which was 286% of their originally set goal. The hard work had definitely paid off because it was an album made for their fans, thanking them for their endless support for the time they have been a band. While She Sleeps really delivered on this album whether it’s the melodic guitar work, the catchy choruses, the gang vocals, and even added a special guest on one of their tracks who just happens to be a Mr. Oli Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon. The track Oli guests on, “Silence Speaks”, is definitely the top hit for me because who can deny the catchiness of the chorus and the song structure. “Hurricane”, “Feel”, and “You Are We” are other examples of how this album is definitely one that can get people moving and keep their heads banging. One of the major pluses this album had was having rhythm guitarist/vocalist Mat Welsh shine on vocals as opposed to what he had done in the past by being a backup vocalist to lead Loz Taylor. Some may say that some songs sound like “Sempiternal” but it’s safe to say that While She Sleeps is definitely playing more on the melodic side of things than they have done before and it has worked out, which makes this a favorite album of this year for me.
– Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora
Back with a vengeance, Darkest Hour strikes with their heaviest since “Deliver Us” in 2007 even if they have had a couple albums 10 years in between. Like While She Sleeps, Darkest Hour took the independent route and had the album crowdfunded on Indiegogo. It surpassed the original goal for the album too, so it gave them more opportunities to make the album that much greater with added goodies (A live DVD, etc.). Other than that, I have been listening to Darkest Hour for years and they went through many members but stuck to their guns and provided their brand of Scandinavian-influenced metalcore to the masses. For this album, once they announced that they were bringing back former guitarist Kris Norris and bringing in Kurt Ballou to produce the album, I was expecting nothing short of a fire album. Especially, because they already have drummer Travis Orbin in their lineup since their self-titled album in 2014. “Knife in the Safe Room” was the first single to promote the release and fans were immediately excited about this album. This was Darkest Hour returning to form. I personally liked the self-titled album and albums before but once I heard the song, I predicted that the rest of the album would be that good especially with the riffs that Mike Schleibaum and Lonestar had written, with what crazy drumming that Travis Orbin would bring to the table, and the unrelenting vocals of John Henry. Overall, the album really reminded me of “Undoing Ruin” but much heavier, faster, and fierce. The aforementioned first single, “This is the Truth, “Timeless Numbers”, and “Those Who Survived”, are my top tracks. Better yet just listen to the whole entire thing through! Fire!
– END – From the Unforgiving Arms of God EP
A few blog entries ago, I said many times that 2017 was going to be Brendan Murphy of Counterparts’ year. One of the main examples is the supergroup END, which consists of Murphy on vocals, Will Putney of Fit for an Autopsy on guitar, Greg Thomas formerly of Misery Signals on guitar, Jay Pepito of Reign Supreme on bass and vocals, and Andrew McEnaney of Structures on drums. Once word got out of the group and their plans to release music together, the hype was real. This EP caused a lot of melted faces and broken, beaten bodies after the first listen. From the first track “Chewing Glass” until the last note of “Survived by Nothing”. Unreal. Brendan Murphy to me must’ve been possessed while recording the EP because he sounds completely different vocal-wise from other projects and instrumental wise, it doesn’t sound discombobulated even if different people from different bands came together. The EP is a perfect mix of metal and hardcore with a raw-ish feel that Putney really hit because not only is he playing lead guitar, but he’s the main producer, engineer, and mixer for the EP. They had a couple of short runs this year with bands like Knocked Loose and Stray from the Path and they ended the year with an appearance on Vanna’s final concert despite Murphy and McEnaney having trouble getting into the states. I loved this EP and I am definitely looking forward to more music they may have coming up in the future.
– Counterparts – You’re Not You Anymore
Continuing on the Brendan Murphy train, not only did he have a beast EP with his supergroup END come out early in September, he had a brand new Counterparts album come out later that month which I was looking forward to since I liked the “Tragedy Will Find Us” album released in 2015. Brendan, while being interviewed on Cayem Interviews promised that the album would consist of no filler material and is a step up musically from their past material. To me, the album is definitely more on the aggressive side after “Tragedy Will Find Us” touched on more of a softer side. When you listen to the album, you can tell that there is a metalcore influence on the songs akin to bands like Shai Hulud and even Misery Signals. The addition of new drummer Kyle Brownlee really helped kick the rhythm section into gear with his technicality and incorporating blast beats here and there. It’s the best 28 minutes whenever I give this album a listen and I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing Counterparts’ continued progression. I highly recommend the songs “Thieves”, “Haunt Me”, “Swim Beneath My Skin”, “A Memory Misread”, and the title track even though I do recommend the whole album. To be honest, I’m kinda surprised “A Memory Misread” isn’t even a single, let alone a music video.
– The Movielife – Cities In Search of a Heart
Now, this album is technically my first real taste of The Movielife after seeing Vinnie Caruana perform solo shows many times and hearing a few songs off the “Forty Hour Train Back to Penn” album in the past. This is the first The Movielife in over 10 years, so I was interested after I was recommended the album from the homies at Top Shelf Tattoo. Now for those that don’t know, I have not been impressed with the pop-punk releases nowadays except for Trophy Eyes and The Story So Far and I’m sick of the happy-go-lucky pop-punk bands with the cheerful sounds. I was in dire need of pop-punk with an edge. If I wanted happy-go-lucky pop-punk, I can just throw on an old Blink-182 or the self-titled New Found Glory album from 2000. Anyway, many people may not consider The Movielife a pop- punk band but this is an exception. During the first listen, it felt like I was on a train ride, literally, with sound effects taken from the MTA transit system. The album kicks off with the fast number “Ski Mask” and goes into my favorite track “Mercy is Asleep at the Wheel”, which had me hooked and interested in where the album went from there. Never letting down, the album consisted of a few catchy tunes (“Sister Saint Monica”), the underrated ballad (“Pour Two Glasses”), and a song with what I like to call “heavy sounding tones” in “Laugh Ourselves to Death”. The train ride ends with the upbeat “You’re the Cure” leading into the acoustic track “Hearts” to shut the door of the album. Being that this is the Movielife album that had me at hello with the edgier pop-punk bands of recent times, I was impressed with this album despite some people holding it in lower regard compared to past releases. But hey, we like what we like. Right? Alright now, it’s time to get re-acquainted with “Forty Hour Train Back to Penn”.
– The Ongoing Concept – Places
If there were one word to describe Idaho’s own The Ongoing Concept, it would be “interesting”. They’re billed as a metalcore/post-hardcore band but at first listen, you wouldn’t think they were any of those. Being that I have seen them live before gave me an incentive to give this album a listen after I got word that they were putting out new music. Their 3rd full-length album further proves that theory. Then again, this is what people admire about them even if they are a kind of a new band (they’ve been a band since 2009). They present a mixture of unique styles on this album as they incorporate funk style beats and some funky grooves, which shows on the first full track “You Will Go”, not to mention that Dawson Scholz’ vocals are a refreshing take on what’s been done in the genre for the past few years. In addition to the vocals and funk style incorporation, the guitar work is surprisingly good and the styles really mesh together well being that nobody would even think a band like that can pull those styles off. The song “Bargain”, a piano/acoustic-driven ballad, kind of splits the album even if it’s the 7th track. All in all, the album may feel like it’s a night and day thing but it’s still the same band you’re listening to from start to finish. I think people would enjoy this album if they are looking for something different within the genre. No complaints.
– Glassjaw – Material Control
Being that this album has been out for a month already (early December), it really had people talking and pretty excited since this is Glassjaw’s first full-length album since 2002 when the album “Worship and Tribute” came out. A major staple in the post-hardcore genre, Glassjaw has influenced many bands over the years so this album had me interested to see what they were going to bring after 15 years in between full albums. Also, because The Used’s new album was wack sauce, I had to give this a shot since The Used bit from Glassjaw’s style and Glassjaw still doesn’t really get the credit they deserve for creating that kind of modern post-hardcore with the distorted guitar sound. I first heard Daryl Palumbo’s voice on a song that former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison wrote for the Roadrunner United album back in 2005 and it gave a clear idea who Glassjaw was at the time. So with 2018 approaching and after years of playing shows and promises of a new album, it drops on December 1st and everyone is in love. People even went to get free Glassjaw tattoos and celebrated with a sold-out show in Brooklyn, which unfortunately I missed the chance to catch. The album overall is a representation of Glassjaw 15 years since their last full-length album while maintaining the tradition Daryl Palumbo and the experimental guitar style of Justin Beck with a little help from Billy Rymer of Dillinger Escape Plan recording the drums. Doing what they do best, Glassjaw manages to put out a pretty solid release that left their fans satisfied and talking. “Shira”, “Closer” and “My Conscience Weighs a Ton”, are the top tracks to check out.
Before I move on with this, I want to shoutout these bands that put out solid releases this year: Two legends in particular, Converge with The Dusk In Us and Zao with Pyrrhic Victory EP, which still sets them high up the metalcore rankings. Long Island’s own Stray from the Path for putting out The Death Is Real, an album that was very, very much needed in 2017 regarding the bullshit that was going on in the political world and Old Wounds for dropping the new single Only Your Enemies Leave Roses with my dude, vocalist Kevin Iavaroni, returning to the band after a one-year hiatus.
GROUP B: LOCAL BANDS
– Husbandry – Bad Weeds Never Die EP
Brooklyn’s “weirdo” post-hardcore band returns with a new EP on Aqualamb Records that continues with the Fugazi-meets-Aaliyah moniker with frontwoman Carina Zachary’s haunting vocals being as beautiful as ever and backed by the passionate and bizarre yet experimental Post-hardcore instrumentation provided by guitarist Jordan Usatch, bassist Arnau Bosc, and drummer Andrew Gottlieb. The highlight of the album is the cover of the Blonde Redhead song “Misery is a Butterfly” with a guest trumpet performance courtesy of Dave Levy. Good songwriting shows on this release and I’m definitely looking forward to their next full-length, which would take their brand of post-hardcore even further. Also, feel free to listen to the Spylacopa Remix of the lead single “Elder Spencer Deery” provided by John LaMacchia of Candiria.
– Synapses Firing – I’ve Grown Cold EP
Produced by Jay Maas (ex-Defeater), Bronx, New York’s own Synapses Firing return with a much more aggressive tone on this EP continuing with the already laid foundation of their previous full-length album Forgive. The lyrics are somewhat darker while vocalist/guitarist Sean Dowling touches on subjects such as love, personal feelings, and relationships. Whatever Jay worked on with these dudes and whatever tools he used to help the band take it a step further has paid off and it’s only the start of a whole new beginning for them, Mistakes is their heaviest track ever in my opinion.
– Marlene Mendoza – A Battle Between Two Lesser Evils
Now we all know the personal drama between this solo artist and her previous band VRSTY but aside from the drama, Marlene drops this single showing that she has no signs of slowing down or letting the lies and negativity being spread about her through the local scene stop her from dropping this single featuring John Price of the band Bad Case. Modern day melodic metalcore at its finest and it shows that she can write some good stuff with good lead guitar work and a catchy chorus to follow. Overall, the track has been receiving a lot of love and positive reviews. It has people leaving the VRSTY side, that’s for sure, and this has everyone already excited to hear more of what she has to offer in 2018. Maybe a full-length or an EP followed by a tour? Marlene, what do you think?
– Watercolor – You Asked For This
This is an up-and-coming-band from northern New Jersey. I have known their vocalist Jonathan Brophy and guitarist Bryan Olsen Santana for sometime now. Little did I know that this band were friends for years and decided to jump back into playing music together. The single they dropped is slight taste of what’s to come with brutal roars, technical yet melodic riffs, and leads with a breakdown that hits just as hard. They have also launched #MetalGivesBack, which allows them to live stream their practices every week to raise money to give to different charity organizations such as SeaLegacy, which is part of the Wildlife Foundation. Definitely cool to do and very helpful to everyone. Hope this band has a lot more to offer in 2018 and those who already love the single, keep an eye out.
– thelvnguage – Movement EP
Now this band is not necessarily what you call “scene” but they are a local band from the Bronx so I had to add this EP to the list. Not your run-of-the-mill heavy band from the local scene though, they’re actually an R&B-jazz-psychadelic-indie band, or, whatever you want to call them. This band definitely had me interested because we rarely hear music like this, so everyone should definitely give this band a listen whenever you’re chillin’ at the crib or just walking around in the city looking for some new jazzy funk music to vibe to (unless you want to count Durieux as part of that core group of local bands and artists that have that R&B-ish sound as well). Cool and down-to-earth dudes too. Don’t be afraid to try something different because thelvnguage has what you need. A breath of fresh air to the Bronx local scene.
– Restwell – Young & Weary EP
Being that this EP was released well late in the year, I wanted to hold off on giving my review on this EP until early 2018, but being that this is their last EP before going on an indefinite hiatus had me reconsider. One of the very few heavy bands I actually like that had passion, had a message, and felt like a real band made sure they left on a good note. Just 3 tracks in this EP but the sound that Restwell had demonstrated on their previous EP Humanly Speaking wasn’t too far removed. The EP, which surprisingly opens with some feedback, opens up and goes straight into the heaviness with the opening track Home taking you on a fast ride with a good song structure, with well-placed breakdowns that hit hard. Throughout this EP with tracks Aggravate and Young & Weary, the message still stands for those that are fans of Christian metalcore looking for a voice to uplift them with lyrics touching on self-preservation, finding your way out of the dark, and coming together. It may suck to see this talented band go, but at least they left music which has you remembering and thanking them for providing you some safe haven. Hopefully they won’t be away for long.
2017 has been a pretty good year. Cheers to all who have had a great year in music! Let’s go into 2018 and see what it has in store for us!
Black Sabbath – 1968-2017, The Dillinger Escape Plan – 1997-2017, Vanna – 2004-2017, Letlive – 2002-2017, HIM – 1991-2017, Trap Them – 2001-2017