Welcome to part 2 of my round-up of the best album releases during the first half of 2017. The choices are in no particular order because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for my end of year countdown in December.
If you missed ‘Part 1’, it can be viewed here:
Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 1
But now on to the main event:
Big Big Train
I’m not surprised that this record features as one of the best of 2017 so far. What is surprising however, is that it exists in the first place, arriving less than a year after the release of the magnificent ‘Folklore’. Despite the truncated intervening period, there is no let-up in terms of quality; in fact, this is easily one of the best from this sickeningly talented octet. Sitting here now, I can only say that ‘Grimspound’ is even better to these ears than it was at the time I reviewed it. Every time I listen to it, I hear new things and connect even more strongly with those parts that I already love. This is the very best music within the progressive rock genre right now in my opinion, without question.
“Big Big Train have always followed a path of progressive rock that veers down the pastoral route and they probably always will – it’s in their blood. But this is not a group of musicians to stagnate either. So, whilst the music here is recognisable as Big Big Train, there are some differences to be heard between ‘Grimspound’ and previous albums.”
“Just when you thought that Big Big Train couldn’t possibly get any better, they do. ‘Grimspound’ is without doubt the best progressive rock album I’ve heard since…well, since ‘Folklore’ to be exact. Big Big Train have become an integral part of my musical life, to the point where I cannot imagine what my life was like before I discovered them.”
I still cannot fathom why this band are not more widely known and better-loved. I think it has to do with the fact that the band tend to only release their music digitally but there is no escaping the fact that America’s Odd Logic are the real prog metal deal. If this record was released on a label like Inside Out or Sensory Records, it would fly off the shelves and the buzz surrounding it would be massive. As it is, only the enlightened few are aware of the excellent progressive music being delivered by Odd Logic. If you missed out on my full review, check out the quotes and the link below, and use this as your wake-up call, I urge you.
“This record is the aural equivalent of liquid gold; it is rich, lush and incredibly atmospheric. This is all the more remarkable given the overt heaviness that is displayed throughout the record at certain points, not to mention the technicality and complexity as well. Much of this has to do with a commendably clear yet meaty production but it is equally a result of top-drawer song writing.”
“‘Effigy’ is yet another step up for Odd Logic, a progressive metal band that has so far eluded many a radar. Quite how is beyond me, as ‘Effigy’ is a superb slice of prog metal that sits alongside some of the genre’s best and deserves to be heard by the widest of audiences.”
Majestic. That’s the word that immediately springs to mind when I think of the latest album from Soen. ‘Lykaia’ is the result of a band finally finding their sound and destroying the competition in the process. The confidence and self-assuredness that flows out of this record is verging on magical; the melodies are often subtle but always beautiful, the heavier parts are glorious and the dark, emotional imagery pulls you in so that you can’t help but live it alongside the band.
“The truly great thing about Soen, particularly on ‘Lykaia’ is that they don’t sound like anyone else. There are definite nods towards the likes of Opeth and Tool, but ultimately, Soen have cultivated their own sound. Given that I’m not a fan of either Tool or Opeth, that bodes well for me when listening to this.
I had come to ‘Lykaia’ hoping for an album from Soen that I could like and from which I could take some genuine enjoyment. What I hadn’t bargained on was an album that would very quickly make a profound and indelible impression on me, to the extent where I have found myself listening to nothing else for the past few days since I first heard it. ‘Lykaia’ isn’t far away from being the perfect record and I implore you to listen and to revel in its many treasures.”
Gods of Violence
A thrash metal album in my ‘best of’ list? Yes, you read that right. In fact, I like this new Kreator record so much that it has helped to rekindle my love for a genre of metal that I had moved away from over the years. Since hearing this record, I have been on a bit of a Kreator binge as well as being open to listening to new thrash records released since. I feel reinvigorated and it is a very nice feeling indeed.
“…Gods of Violence’ – oh yes, oh yes indeed. Given my general apathy towards thrash metal, it has to be something quite special to get my juices flowing. And that’s exactly what Messrs Miland ‘Mille’ Petrozza (vocals/guitar), Jürgen ‘Ventor’ Reil (drums), Christian ‘Speesy’ Giesler (bass) and Sami Yli-Sirniö (guitars) have delivered with this impressive new record.”
“I liked ‘Gods of Violence’ on a first spin. I liked it more on the second spin. And now, a week or two into my listening experience, I am loving it and I can’t stop playing it. I love the guitar tones that deliver the sharp, incisive riffs; they sound rich and full, offering the kind of primeval tone that I fell in love with all those years ago and made me realise that forevermore I’d be a slave to heavy metal.”
When Iced Earth are on their ‘A’ game, there are few better listening experiences. I love the way that their music can sound so heavy and yet so anthemic at the same time. It makes for very satisfying and very memorable music that sits at the pinnacle of the power/thrash metal tree. After a couple of more average-sounding releases ‘Incorruptible’ reinstates Iced Earth as a force to be reckoned with and demonstrates beyond doubt that they still have ‘it’, after all these years and I’m well and truly hooked.
“The accompanying press release sees the ever-confident and bullish Shafer referring to this album as one of their strongest and whilst I approached this hyperbole with caution, I now must agree with him.”
“What I like about this album so much is that it manages to blend powerful riffs and heavy music with plenty of melody and strong choruses to make the music truly memorable and rather addictive. Add in to the mix a sense of theatrics, drama and storytelling for which Iced Earth have become known and synonymous and suddenly things start to stack up in the right way.”
“This has to be the most consistent record from Iced Earth for a significant number of years. In fact, as I alluded to earlier, this is without doubt their best release since ‘The Glorious Burden’ and it pushes the likes of ‘Horror Show’ and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ as one of their best ever releases. In short, ‘Incorruptible’ is unmistakeably the sound of Iced Earth firing on all cylinders and I love it.”