ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Jess and the Ancient Ones – The Horse and Other Strange Tales
There is always a bit of worry and concern that comes along with the release of a new album from one of your favorite bands. When Jess and the Ancient Ones released The Horse and Other Strange Tales, to be honest, the shortness of the songs left me concerned. One of the things I loved so much about JATAO was their epic songs but after one listen, I was not let down. It’s almost like JATAO ate all the acid, tripped back to 1967 and tapped into a serious Doors influence. Songs like, “Shining”, “You and Eyes”, and “Minotaure” took the band into a whole new direction that I totally enjoyed. This was an album that got many repeat listens from me and made me realize that JATAO is a band that is uncompromising and unpredictable yet still manages to keep proving that they are without a doubt one of the best bands around today.
Siena Root – A Dream of Lasting Peace
Once again Sweden delivers the goods and Siena Root put out one of my favorite albums. Honestly, it was a close run between this one and JATAO for album of the year but regardless, this album is a modern classic hard rock masterpiece. Siena Root is one of those bands that I can’t believe isn’t way bigger than they are. Any fan of good ol’ peace lovin’ classic 70’s inspired hard rock will find a soft spot in their hearts for this album.
Blues Pills – Lady in Gold: Live in Paris
Blues Pills represented the best possible way : LIVE. No overdubs, not auto tune, no fabricated audience noise; just 100% live soulful, in your face rock n’ roll. Blues Pills have grown into such a powerful entity and in Europe have been selling out thousand seat venues as headliners. Why the Blues Pills Invasion hasn’t taken over here in the states is beyond me but at least I have the music. Blues Pills shows no signs of slowing down. As a matter of fact, the steeper the climb gets, the more fierce Blues Pills seems to climb and that, my friends, is what it’s all about.
Volcana – Goddess of Flame
Former Vindicator lead man Vic Stown returned in 2017 with a new album from his band Volcana. Instead of the heavy-handed thrash influence, Volcana favors the more melodic Iron Maiden/NWOBHM sound. “Merchant Lord”, “We Stand” and “Drone” are all fantastic representations of this new direction but “Glory or Doom” is, in my opinion the show stopper on this album. With its twin guitar harmonies, synchronized stop/starts and a vibe reminiscent of something we could’ve heard on Master of Puppets, this song really encompassed what I feel like this band is all about. Goddess of Flame has me anxiously awaiting what lies ahead for this talented dude and his cronies.
Wucan – Reap the Storm
Reap the Storm has Wucan truly refining their sound and coming into their own as a band that stands apart from the pack. The album kicks off with the 10 minute epic, “Wie Die Wel Sich Dreht” and while I have no fucking clue what lead singer/flautist/guitarist Francis Tobolsky is saying, this song just set the pace for what was going to be a cosmic interstellar journey of the mind. The 21 minute “Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds” is everything that I love about this kind of music as it mixes elements of folk, psych rock, and ethereal (and at times ambient) layers which combined create a song that actually takes you somewhere.
Old James – Speaks Volumes
Kicking things off with “Don’t Put it On Me” was a great move because this song is everything that is great about hard rock music. It’s gritty, it’s groovy, and the voice of singer/bassist Brian Stephenson is the thing that makes a great rock n’ roll front man. Stephenson’s attitude and emotion come through loud and clear with his expressive, soulful, and natural voice. “Words as Weapons” is without a doubt a shining moment for him but to pick just one “shining moment” on this album that outshines the other is damn near impossible. “Master Imploder” was a real facemelter sounding like the bastard child of Van Halen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the closing title track left me wanting more and then going in for another round.
King Crimson – Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind
If you would have ever told me that I would say that I loved anything about King Crimson I would have laughed at you so hard I would’ve puked. That being said, 2017 was the year that it all came together for me and clicked with this band. After seeing them live this year on the Radical Action tour, it seemed that guitarist/vocalist Jakko Jakszyk was the element that brought it all together for me. This album is a live album but with no crowd noise on it so it actually plays like a studio album of sorts. Everything about this album is pure magic and, in my opinon, is my favorite way to listen to King Crimson. I can only hope that we will hear more from this stellar lineup.
Galley Beggar – Heathen Hymns
Galley Beggar was a band that really scratched that itch that I have for gorgeous, psychedelic infused folk music and honestly, they do it better than just about anyone. Heathen Hymns is a modern, timeless album of 60’s laden psychedelic folk rock. Pulling from influences such as The Doors, Fairport Convention, Donovan, and Jethro Tull, Galley Beggar has found a way to create something that is distinctly their own and more than welcomed breath of fresh air or even a splash of cool water. Galley Beggar should have no problem finding a home in the ears of fans of anyone who loves truly good music such as Graveyard, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and/or even more traditional folkies such as Crosby Stills and Nash or even Joan Baez.
Black Road – EP
When I first heard Black Road last year, I remember thinking that they were nothing special. The vocalist seemed very unsure of herself and not too confident while the music just seemed uninspired and cliché. I figured this was the last I would ever hear of them but this year, their latest EP ended up in my inbox and I couldn’t believe it was even the same band. Black Road completely took me by surprise and reminded me that bands can grow and turn into something that even I didn’t think was possible. Black Road has definitely turned into a swan with this EP and I can’t wait to see where they take me from here on out.
Dool – Here Now, There Then
When Dool’s debut album was presented to me, I didn’t know what to expect but the minute “Vantablack” started, I knew right away that I was hearing something truly special. As a matter of fact, it was so easy to write about this album because it was that good. I generally hate writing album reviews because sometimes I just find myself searching for the words to express my feelings about a particular album. It’s the truly remarkable albums that seem to have reviews that pretty much write themselves. Dool is without a doubt a band that I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for in 2017 and beyond. If this debut is any indication of what they are capable of, I’m already looking forward to the future with this band.
Savage Master – Goddess of the Flames
Louisville, KY masters of metal Savage Master returned in 2017 with their Goddess of the Flames EP and let me tell you now, they did not disappoint. With Creature of the Flames, Savage Master really delivered the goods in a huge way and have without a doubt solidified their position in the top tier of my favorite metal bands. I always expect 100% from Savage Master they completely exceeded my expectations two-fold at least. If you ever find yourself forgetting just what heavy metal is all about and what the true, undying spirit of metal sounds like, listen to Creature of the Flames and you will be quickly reminded at just how fucking good heavy metal could be and should be.