Some years it’s hard work selecting the best 10 albums from the past 12 months, some years it’s easy, but this year has been like pulling dragons’ teeth through the eye of a needle with a rope made of butter, that is to say tough damn work. In a year that has seen outstanding releases in pretty much every genre you care to mention, choosing favourites from across the spectrum is the most thankless of tasks, and one that we have rightfully agonised about for many hours. So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 albums that have shaken the foundations of Casa Hammer and pissed off the neighbours the most in 2017. Let’s go:
10: For The Demented – Annihilator
One of the biggest surprises of the year came late on from thrash veteran Jeff Waters and the latest neck-wrecking, whipersnapping incarnation of his long-running band. Inspired by mental health, cannibals, scene loyalty and good old fashioned fret-board wankery, For The Demented proved loud and clear that old dogs don’t necessarily need to learn new tricks.
9: few – He Is Legend
Tortured tales of mythical creatures go in and out of fashion, but when they come on a platter of beefy, wretched rock and roll stickier than pectin and tastier than MSG it’s hard to put them down. Special bonus points for the absolute hands-down riff of the year on Vampyre, crashing the party with all the finesse of a rhino in a clown costume but sporting the biggest shit-kicking grin of the night.
8: Skullossus – Gurt
As a complete work, is Skullossus better than the albums in 9th and 10th place? Arguably not, but when that adorable little skull-bat soars, it soars higher than anything else you care to mention, and one simply cannot underestimate how many beers Battlepants, Jon Garseeya Later, Broken Heart Heroin Man and Double Barrel Shot-Pun have soundtracked this year, meaning its placing is more than deserved. For one band to give one man so much pleasure is unhealthy, as is the amount of money spent on Battlepants merch this year.
7: Trouble Maker – Rancid
Rancid’s latest opus doesn’t seem to have made its way into many end of year lists, which is a real shame since there are few bands capable of boshing out summer anthems as bouncy, catchy and unreservedly joyous as those found on Troublemaker. Proving their status as the elder statesmen of punk, the band find their fire again with the likes of Farewell Lola Blue and Make it Out Alive, growing old with style while keeping just enough bite to remind us all why they are so revered. Trust me, you’ll miss em when they’re gone!
6: Infinite Punishment – Get The Shot
Is it metallic hardcore? Is it hardcore-infused metal? Who gives a tiny rat’s ass when it rips this hard. Absolutely unrelenting in its battery and aggression, Infinite Punishment is an album that reminds you, often forcibly, of how brilliant it is every time you come back. The unhinged solos, crunching guitars and simply thunderous drum patterns are all more than enough to push the album into the Top 10, but it’s the combination of those caustic vocals and the little Hetfield/DVDA/Naughty Elvis clean bits that raise it this high. Sing along with MonkHammer now: ‘you’re fucking dead to meeeeeeee’
5) Wick – Royal Thunder
What felt like a surefire Top 3 at the time of release is pushed into 5th place purely by virtue of the astronomical quality of what follows, but Wick could have easily have topped the list in a previous year, such is the brilliance of the songwriting and the cathartic emotional vanquishing it shrouds. The ultimate expression of the “journey” album, Wick is impossible to listen to in chunks, every song a potential single but also the sum of the tracks that surround it. Phenomenal performances abound, but none more so than Mlny Parsonz, who weaves joy, sorrow, elation, horror and relief into a searing vocal delivery that bleeds heartache and passion. The absolute pinnacle of everything that makes Royal Thunder so wonderful.
4) Cult Drugs – Blood Command
Without a King Kong-sized shadow of a doubt the most satisfyingly inventive album of the year, Cult Drugs proved that there is a place for trumpets, electronics, funk, hip hop and sugary sweet pop melodies in the world of punk, with Norwegian scamps Blood Command throwing every kitchen sink they could get their hands on into a huge melting pot of lunacy with not a single fuck given from start to finish. With so many ideas it could so easily have been a cacophony of terror, but somehow the mish-mash of styles gels, better than they have any right doing, to create the most effortlessly enjoyable and fun album of the year. A pop classic in the clothes of a punk ne’er-do-well.
3) The Bronx V -The Bronx
Ask for a list of anything (albums, isms, laxatives, ways to butter a crumpet) and The Bronx will probably appear in MonkHammer’s Top 3, such is their Stockholm Syndrome grip on our psyche, so it’s no surprise to see them here. What is surprising however, is how perpetually underrated this most brilliant of bands continues to be. Pissing more riffs and punk rock glory than most can manage in a lifetime before they’ve even poured out the cornflakes, the band are unequivocally the greatest rock and roll outfit that ever lived, Bronx V hammering yet another nail into that plaque. Taking head on anyone that thought Bronx IV was a little shiny, the band erupted back into our lives with a punked up fury, on their terms, and simply better than anyone else, every song a potential live classic. Other punk bands, this is your benchmark. Outstanding.
2) Devolver – Jamie Lenman
Where does one start with Jamie Lenman? Cherry picking from every conceivable genre and wrapping the results in open-heart lyricism, the best harmonies Trent Reznor never wrote, and an oh-so British sensibility, the man is a national treasure in the purest sense, Devolver marking the high point of a peerless career so far. A treasure trove of inspiringly weird and wonderful glory, every song offers its own individual treat, like a box of M&S’s finest chocolates. Hardbeat in particular stands out not just as one of the best album openers of all time, but one of the most welcoming songs ever, inviting the masses into Lenmanland in the most heartfelt way. Eccentricity is something Brits do better than any other nationality, and in this respect, Jamie Lenman is King.
1) Nightmare Logic -Power Trip
Although the Top 3 was a closely fought fight, it simply couldn’t have been anything else considering the sheer number of times Nightmare Logic has been spun this year, phenomenal brutality, city-leveling riffs and all-round MVP performances clearly making MonkHammer a very happy boy indeed. Crushing absolutely everything in their path, Texan thrashers Power Trip released one of the best crossover albums of all time before we were even two months into 2017, a windmilling tour de ferocity delivered without a single shred of irony or pretense, just a love of old-school thrash metal. The album comes ready-drenched in sweat, and is at times terrifying in its single-minded approach to devastation, challenging anything and anyone that gets in its way. Executioner’s Tax is without doubt the popular favourite, but for MonkHammer, the Metallica-Vs-Slayer gut-punching Firing Squad wins the Song of the Year prize, with a bonus Lyric of the Year award for the opening “peace be unto thee, unless you want a piece of me”. Absolutely outstanding, and an album that is destined to go down in thrash metal history as one of the genre’s best ever.
And honourable mentions also go out to outstanding albums from the following, all of which are well worth a shufty:
All Pigs Must Die, Blackfield, Bokassa, Comeback Kid, Grave Pleasures, Iron Monkey, Iron Reagan, Jagged Vision, Mutoid Man, Municipal Waste, Quicksand, The Obsessed, The One Hundred, While She Sleeps… and many, many more.
Bring on 2018!
PS don’t forget to check out the original reviews of all (most) of these under the Album Reviews tab.