Kerrang!'s Albums Of 2017

The 50 best records of the past 12 months, according to us!

There's an esoteric magnetism wired deep inside Royal Thunder’s third full-length that sucks you into the very eye of their storm. With its dark, moody atmospherics, warm fuzzy guitars and soul-baring vocals, the Atlanta psych-rockers have never sounded so sublime, disguising infectious rock songs as mind-melting meditative trances.
Rampant neo-nazism. Socio-political turmoil. Donald fucking Trump. For better or worse, 2017’s uncertain world proved the ideal hotbed for SFTP’s rabid political metalcore. The Long Island veterans certainly stepped up to the challenge, unleashing an eighth album overflowing with the vitriol our times demand. From the titanic riffage of Let’s Make A Deal to the pit-stoking attitude running through Strange Fiction (featuring a cameo from Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley), this is uncompromising, incendiary stuff.
“It feels like the right time to put something forward that’s a little different,” Alex Gaskarth told K! ahead of Last Young Renegade’s release. Though there was some shiny, three-chord pop-punk, the album also found Baltimore’s finest playing with electronic sounds and more ambitious songwriting. “Mature” was how they described it to us. They were not wrong.
La Petite mort – literally ‘the little death’ in French – 
is a euphemism for an orgasm, but could just as easily describe the sound of the Helsinki post-punks’ second album. Motherblood took the gothic romanticism of The Cure and the wired rattle of Dead Kennedys to a place where sex, death and atomic bombs are forever entwined.
You Me At Six were already one of Britain’s beefiest prospects at the turn of 2017. It’s testament to the Surrey rockers’ unquenchable thirst for grandeur that this outsized fifth LP arrived with eyes pointed upwards: its laser-sights set past arenas, all the way to stadia. That’s not to say there’s anything sugarcoated or overly-mainstreamed about Night People. It was marinated, through its recording, in the country culture of Nashville, Tennessee and plumbed a gloomier, grittier vein than before. Plus, Josh Franceschi’s brooding rockstar credentials had never-before been so nailed-on, and his band hadn’t come across more ready to cut a swathe across the world’s grandest stages.
It took the world almost a whole decade to wake up to ONE OK ROCK, and now the Japanese quartet are doing their best to make up for lost time. Album number eight aims high, replete with the kind of skyscraper- high hooks you’d expect from rock giants in waiting.
Five albums in, Paramore evidently felt they needed new worlds to conquer. This breezy about-turn into funky pop was an audacious escape capsule from their alternative roots. Despite grumblings from the more diehard sections of their fanbase, the band sounds audibly energised, with the joyous nature of this brave record proving infectious.
With vocalist CJ McMahon’s return to the fold after his much-publicised personal troubles, the Sydney deathcore merchants sounded completely revitalised across the blood-soaked fibres of this ferocious fourth album. All 10 tracks lock cold, deathly grips around listeners’ throats as the five-piece unleash blastbeats, breakdowns and apocalyptic riff storms.
‘This is temporary, I just heard I’m gonna be a dad,’ is a subtle line, but it’s the pivotal crisis in a record caught between God and neutrinos, birth and decay. Manchester Orchestra’s fifth LP proved not only their most expansive, painted in electronic textures and burnished acoustics, but also their most gracefully cathartic offering.
It almost feels as if Linkin Park released two versions of One More Light. There was, briefly, the version that came out on May 19, an album that coalesced the band’s diverse musical tastes. It sparked controversy, all of which was rendered irrelevant when frontman Chester Bennington made the heartbreaking decision to take his own life just two months later. Suddenly, pointedly, One More Light looked like a totally different album. The music’s lighter touch now seemed a mere backdrop to Chester singing lyrics like, ‘I’m dancing with my demons; I’m hanging off the edge.’
Prophets Of Rage may have the revolutionary pedigree, but sonic anarchists Ho99o9 are definite contenders for 2017’s most rebellious outfit. Case in point: their debut, combined blustering rap, revolting industrial grooves and furious hardcore into an unpredictable whole, holding up two middle fingers to spray-tanned presidents and genre boundaries alike. It should be as messy as eating spaghetti with chopsticks. Instead it’s glued together by the chemistry between partners-in-crime theOGM and Eaddy – chemistry that’s as explosive as a smashed Molotov cocktail.
Strange poetry, musical tightrope walking, and frenetic punk rock thrills. This belated follow-up to the El Paso heroes’ seminal Relationship Of Command revelled in the elements that made At The Drive In so captivating first time round. In re-bottling the lightning, they’ve made a breathtaking return.
The title of this sixth album came from Corey Taylor misreading a sign in an airport. There was no mistaking the intent of the resulting record, though. With Slipknot taking time out, and Stone Sour having previously released two covers EPs, Hydrograd was the sound of a band happily back in business.
The key to a long life in music is to constantly move on, but ensuring you give your fans a ride in the process. Papa Roach are bigger and better today than in their supposed late-’90s heyday, and it’s due to clever, turbulent albums like this that incorporate ever-changing styles, penetrating lyrics and fearsome hooks.
On one level, OHHMS’ debut LP is just another brilliant slab of British doom: Daniel Sargent and Marc George’s thumping riffage, Max Newton and Chainy Rabbit’s treacly rhythm-section, and Paul Waller’s abyssal vocals. Dig deeper, though, and there’s a well of avant-garde inspiration begging listeners to fall into it and explore.
Horror and beauty, turmoil and peace; Mareridt was a work of contrasts. While 2015’s M debut set Myrkur up as the queen of black metal, this follow-up delved further into the haunting folk and gothic mood of Amalie Brunn’s native Denmark. Inspired, in part, by Amalie documenting the nightmares she was suffering, this was a creepy, powerful return.
You ever hear of ‘the difficult second album’? Knuckle Puck have. It took them two goes in two studios to get the follow-up to 2015’s Copacetic how they wanted it, and the result was a noticeably less breezy take on pop-punk than its predecessor. But whatever doubts they had in the studio, what Knuckle Puck got here was far superior to what came before.
Album number three was a make-or-break moment for Sheffield metalcore masters While She Sleeps. After 2015’s underappreciated second album, Brainwashed, the band stepped outside the label-dominated system and entrusted their future – via PledgeMusic – to a dogged fanbase. Thankfully, logistical innovation was mirrored by artistic achievement.
With the reinstatement of Danny Worsnop, AA 3.0 (or 1.0 again) chose to take a bold leap forward. Their eponymous sixth album featured bubbling electronics, acoustic gentility and even blustering hip-hop. Did that make for a softer AA? Hell no! If anything, the rewired metallers displayed a sharper focus, with Danny on incendiary form.
You'd need to have the compound eyes of a fly to have greater vision than Brit alt.rockers Arcane Roots. Their second full-length album recognised no borders – it stepped effortlessly from ambient to heavy and from harsh to beautiful. You needed time to let this multi-faceted album work its magic – for example, the majesty of Indigo opens its wings slowly, but when it finally does, it takes flight in epic fashion. Melancholia Hymns proved Arcane Roots as one of British rock’s curious proponents, and well worth treasuring.
Many great things can be said of the 10 songs that made up LTA’s fifth album. Each was perfectly polished and carefully constructed, but more impressive was the intelligence at the heart of the noise, as the Watford quartet chopped and changed genres without distracting from the earworm melodies that fuelled arena-worthy bangers like Had Enough. Safe.
The idea of Electric Wizard making an album that isn’t grotesquely heavy is, frankly, laughable. Wizard Bloody Wizard was, however, a different kind of heavy. Acid rock, proto-metal and the sleazy garage churn of The Stooges replaced total doom, but despite the different approach, the results remained the same: blown minds everywhere.
Texan thrashers Power Trip delivered big on this second full-length, going hard and fast like it’s 1986 all over again. Eschewing the schlocky, gimmicky trappings favoured by other modern interpretations of the genre, Nightmare Logic read like a guts-spilled love letter to thrash, right down to the album’s lovingly hand-drawn, war-themed artwork.
Material control marks post-hardcore heroes Glassjaw’s first new music in six years, and their first album in 15. Other ventures may have proved distractions for Daryl Palumbo and Justin Beck, but their surprise-released third album found their chemistry intact. Spanning shivering ambience (Strange Hours) and ’90s rock nirvana (My Conscience Ways A Ton), Material 
Control consolidated Glassjaw’s status as an essential force.
In addressing the suicide of a close friend – and much more besides – Bert McCracken plumbed traumatic depths on The Used’s most challenging work to date. Grief, regret and forgiveness all played a part and, like the titular canyon, the record’s deep ravines held truths that take time to fathom, but are well worth the trip.
Blessed with one of those voices that could make even a nursery rhyme sound emotional, James Veck-Gilodi was backed here by some equally heartfelt songwriting. Deaf Havana’s first album in four years was clearly the product of troubled times and much soul-searching. But from difficult situations can come great art, and also in this case, Top 5 album success.
Here to ‘unfuck the world’, PoR defied convention by being a supergroup that lived up to their billing, and this debut served as a thunderbolt of noise in response to these times of social unrest. But even if you ignored the politics, their potent formula of Chuck D and B-Real’s rap attack, plus three quarters of Rage Against The Machine, was electrifying.
With tongues lodged firmly in cheek, and everything else crammed into tight spandex, The Darkness returned in silly but undeniably great form. Arguably worth it for the hilariously angry Southern Trains alone, Pinewood Smile packs some of the year’s funniest – and finest – rock anthems.
Frontman Conor Mason is a one-off, and the poise with which his vocals straddled the Essex rockers’ bombast on their self-titled 2015 debut seemed hard to replicate. Broken Machine, however, did just that – and then some. It showed an epic realisation of untapped potential through an omnivorous, but never obvious, blending of styles.
If QOTSA’s last album, 2013’s …Like Clockwork, proved they were still capable of the brilliance of their first three efforts, this successor relished in exhibiting a band with plenty of good days ahead. Signing up mainstream super-producer Mark Ronson could be one of Josh Homme’s most punk moves yet, and it’s clearly paid off.
June 23 was the day Royal Blood won 2017. 
About to take to Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, the Brighton duo learnt that this second album had mashed its way to the top of the UK charts. And as expected, their swagger-tastic set rubber-stamped them as the country’s biggest new(ish) rock band. This status was only possible thanks to the way How Did We Get So Dark? took its self-titled predecessor’s slinky, low-slung grooves and bolstered them with the confidence and power its creators had since accumulated.
Some things you can just depend on: the sun rises in the east, ice cream melts, The Bronx deliver raging records called The Bronx. Yet with Matt Caughthran bellowing ‘Fake news! Alt facts!’ over incendiary punk, their rage sounded like a matter of life and death. In fact, their outrage sounds more necessary now than ever.
Members of Converge, QOTSA and Isis (the band) were involved, but Chelsea Wolfe is already creating music to match most underground luminaries. As emotionally wrenching as it was musically mesmerising, Hiss Spun expressed mental torment through a medium of vicious, experimental metal. Beautifully intense.
With its spidery verses and venomous, whisper-to-a-scream hooks, Heaven Upside Down was precisely the kind of evil, slithering creature we hoped Marilyn Manson would return with. We’d had glimpses of it on recent albums, but this year’s creative and alternative take on industrial metal was the real deal. Supported, as ever, by some mesmerising and entirely NSFW videos, Manson got into your head with songs about paranoia, sex and religion. SAY10 lurched violently, while the dark electro rock of KILL4ME bobbed along, loose-limbed and enticing. Then there were odd tracks like Saturnalia, which sounded like a classic Alice Cooper song reanimated for a new generation. The God of Fuck kept everything unpredictable, provoking further listens. Once considered a genuine threat to American society, it was awesome to have old Mazza back in such insidious, devilish form.
On its release, Frank Carter described Modern Ruin as: “The best record I’ve ever made.” With his history, that’s fighting talk. Not that fighting was the Watford Wolf’s style here. While not entirely lacking in piss and vinegar, the album was notable for its open-hearted clarity, rather than bare-knuckled attitude. We still wouldn’t want to be rude to his face, mind.
Even amongst 2017’s thriving hardcore fraternity, Higher Power seemed Heaven sent. Cast your eye along this list and you’ll notice innovation in abundance amid the spin-kicks and circle-pits. Few, however, managed to do it with the sheer effortlessness shown on the Leeds quintet’s smashing debut. Built on gritty NYHC foundations, we got shades of pure-punk energy, groove-metal swagger and alt. cool running from concussive banger Four Walls Black to Between Concrete And Sky’s bruising expanse. A killer record that marked the arrival of a staggeringly vibrant new Britcore force.
If Arkansas heavyists Pallbearer were ever a straight-up doom band (and they weren’t really), they definitely outgrew that limiting description on Heartless. There was still a funereal weight here, but it was mixed with more prominent prog sweeps and emotional ebbs and flows. The result was hypnotically, almost ludicrously good.
Few bands pulse with such vigour 10 albums in as AFI did this year. As if tracing their own bloodline over 26 years, The Blood Album was a crystallisation of the goth-punk kings’ strengths, presented in a flawless package. Nerve-stricken punk, heart-pumping anthems and a healthy(ish) lyrical flirtation with mortality coagulated into 14 tracks that reasserted AFI as the masters of shadowy cool. It just would’ve been nice if they’d done more than a handful of UK gigs in support. Just saying…
Picking up the acerbic emo trail opened by last year’s Death Deserves A Name EP, Fail You Again saw New Jersey punks Can’t Swim reaching their potential. And the depth of emotion on display – worldly resentment boiling over into hellish self-loathing – bound this album of rough edges into a brilliant, impactful whole.
Having reeled us in with a series of EPs and frantic live shows, nothing save a studio full of garlic and crosses was going to stop Creeper making a great debut. There’s a touch of frost in the thunderous Suzanne and impressively-layered opener Black Rain, but it was the warmth of Will Gould’s emotion that helped make Creeper one of the hottest bands of 2017. (SB)
Writing a critically-acclaimed debut album is all well and good, until you have to follow it up with something even better. Just ask Lynn Gunn, who found herself alienated and disconnected from her true self after three years of non-stop touring and back-breaking work. The second PVRIS full-length didn’t disappoint, using heavy synths and twisted electronica to shine a light into the darkest of corners. It was less playful than their White Noise debut, but no less addictive. As Lynn put it herself to K! earlier in the year, “It has the same heart and soul, it’s just got new clothes on.”
The Menzingers have long documented their lives with heart-on-sleeve zeal. Yet After The Party is the point where they best managed to get the personal and the universal to connect. Like a coming-of-age novel, their fifth album looks back on life in a band, and by telling their own story, they frequently told that of their fans, too.
Plenty of bands responded to our troubled times with passion and defiance in 2017. Of them all, it was Rise Against’s dissent that hit hardest. Whether it’s the unstoppable drive of The Violence, the skanking wake-up call of Bullshit or the protest anthem Wolves, this was the sound of a band refusing to back down.
If life's Not Out To Get You was Neck Deep’s shot at the title, this was the knockout blow. And at the heart of this record’s appeal is, well, its heart, especially on 19 Seventy Sumthin’, where Ben Barlow chronicled the relationship of his parents, from first dance to last rites after his father Terry’s passing last year. Mature, deep and brilliant, this was a proud victory.
After 2014’s exhaustive Sonic Highways album and TV series, Dave Grohl needed a rest. Foos took a little holiday. But when they returned, the results were spectacular, full of inventive arrangements (Run) and atmosphere (The Sky Is A Neighborhood). La Dee Da, meanwhile, is among the most propulsive things recorded by the band in years. Welcome back, gentlemen.
As autumn made way for winter chill, it was time to hunker down with Converge for another long, dark night of the soul. This being one of modern hardcore’s most legendary outfits, however, there was no shortage of rage against the dying of the light here. Sixteen years on from their landmark Jane Doe album, the Massachusetts demolition crew have lost none of their destructive force, still capable of both dizzying precision and soul-aching emotion. There may have been an unprecedented five-year gap between releases, but approaching middle age has evidently done little to mellow this furious foursome. If anything, it’s sharpened their focus, while providing new lyrical inspiration on tunes like the opening A Single Tear, a powerful message from parent to child. It was a fiery outpouring that illuminated the flickering twilight of an all-too-often dark year.
Great art doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Like 2009’s magnificent Crack The Skye, Emperor Of Sand was, on the surface, a fantastical concept album. This one centred around an individual’s attempt to outrun a death sentence handed down by a tyrannical desert sultan, but, as with Crack The Skye, it was a fable rooted in strong emotion and personal pain. It serves as an allegory for the cancer that blighted Mastodon’s lives, taking guitarist Bill Kelliher’s mother and afflicting bassist Troy Sanders’ wife and drummer Brann Dailor’s mother. This background gave the sweeping imagery a grounded emotional resonance, and the music was as weighty as the themes deserve. That didn’t mean it had the heaviest riffs or screamiest screams Mastodon have ever mustered – it contained some of the most gorgeous, accessible hooks the band have ever written, in fact – but they were embedded into a wonderfully complex, multi-layered structure that was as eager to challenge the listener as to soothe or lead them by the hand. It was an album that worked on an emotional, intellectual and visceral level, and another masterpiece from a band who have always chosen their own path.
Hardcore is changing. It’s being driven and distended from the inside out by a new breed of band: committed to the old ethic, but not beholden to its traditional aesthetic. On December 28 and 29, Code Orange will support The Dillinger Escape Plan at the mathcore legends’ final gigs. In terms of passing the torch, those shows’ meetings of the last and next generations’ most ferociously creative firebrands promise to deliver for the ages. It’s a position in which the steely Pittsburgh quintet landed themselves through unfettered experimentalism and caustic execution. 

While 2014’s I Am King heralded the band’s rabid arrival, Forever benchmarked their savage ascent. Easing us off the mark with the familiarly barbaric title-track, it quickly revealed itself as a record rammed with left-turns and rampant transformations. The Mud was bisected by ambience of a mid-song interlude Nine Inch Nails could be proud of, while The New Reality packed the blistering mania of Converge.  Bleeding In The Blur’s moody alt.rock sounds like Thrice at their abyssal best, and one of the skull-crushing highlights promised that No One Is Untouchable. True, and in 2017, Code Orange came pretty close to that.
Enter Shikari’s fifth studio album came at a time when life wasn’t so good for frontman Rou Reynolds. However, rather than caving in to personal issues and the crumbling world around him, pandering to one downbeat news headline after the next, he instead chose to channel his energy and feelings of confusion, loss and depression into a bold, creative record that tapped deep into its creator’s emotions and looked for the positives. A spirit of radiant defiance was laced throughout the St Albans quartet’s latest offering, most evident on the build-up in the middle of Airfield, where Rou sings, ‘Yeah you’re down on your luck, you’re down / But that don’t mean you’re out.’ 

It’s hard not to believe him – the eccentric frontman and his bandmates stand today as the British rock heroes they are because of the passion driving everything at the heart of what they do. When it comes to addressing the world around them, Shikari’s message has never been clearer, nowhere more than on Take My Country Back. Addressing the post-Brexit confusion that hung over 2017 like a cloud, and with words to inspire a place that offers fairness and equality for all, it neatly called for unity and positivity in the face of unpleasantness. And that sums up The Spark: from corrupt governments to mental health and social media, this was a band saying there is hope, and the positivity was infectious.
From humble beginnings, great things grow. At the start of 2017, Woking’s Employed To Serve were already a name in British heavy music, thanks to their excellent 2015 debut Greyer Than You Remember, as well as impossibly wild live shows. But this was the year they broke out of the underground and, very loudly, made themselves heard with their second album. Not just heavier, sharper and more creative than their debut, The Warmth Of A Dying Sun easily outgunned everything else this year, a work of genuinely exciting, explosive brilliance.

Opening with the incendiary Void Ambition, there’s nothing on the album that doesn’t go straight for the jugular. That song is like Converge turning the anger up to 11, while the bass-heavy Good For Nothing could give Gojira pause for thought. Platform 89’s snarling attack spills chaotically into moments of terrifying harsh noise, and I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away) toys with an incredible tech-metal groove before avalanching to its own cataclysmic end. And when Employed To Serve unleashed them all at a powder-keg launch show at London’s Old Blue Last in June, you could barely see band members for stage-divers. In fact, at points, they were the same thing. It broke the K-rating system, as we gave the show an unheard-of six-Ks. ETS themselves will point out they’re just part of a British underground revolution. While this is true, TWOADS underlined their status as leaders of the pack.

From pop-punk to black metal, 2017 gave us a ton of killer albums. It wasn't easy, but we've whittled it down to the 50 most essential you absolutely need to hear. And we crowned the best of the bunch...

Below, we made a Top 50 Albums Of 2017 playlist, featuring one track from each album. That'll give you a little taster, before you dive into your own favourites. Give it a listen and give it a follow below:

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?