It’s that time of the year again where Rock Sins team members make their choices of the good, the great and the questionable from the last twelve months. First up for 2017 is one of our newest contributors, Sam Savigny. Take it away Sam!
Album of the Year 2017: Employed to Serve – The Warmth of a Dying Sun (Holy Roar Records)
2017 has been truly outstanding for music hasn’t it? Trying to whittle down an album list to under 30 is a challenge, let alone choosing a top spot. One band however, has stood well and truly out from the crowd: Employed to Serve.With their sophomore effort, The Warmth of a Dying Sun, the Woking-born five-piece have made a quantum leap in quality, bringing the world crushing, angular riffing with shockingly catchy shout-a-long moments.
The new material is obscenely brilliant live, as they proved whilst supporting Milk Teeth in September, as well as on their recent headlining tour to round out a phenomenal year. This is absolutely a Kill ‘Em All to Ride the Lightning improvement, so let’s bask in the fact that soon, we’ll be getting their modern hardcore equivalent of Master of Puppets.
Jamie Lenman – Devolver
Converge – The Dusk in Us
Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
Zeal and Ardor – Devil Is Fine
Song of the Year: Jamie Lenman – Hardbeat (Big Scary Monsters)
Opening with a monotonous drawl that straddles the line between Leonard Cohen and Fat Les, the first song of Jamie Lenman’s new album is grounded in its subtlety of emotion juxtaposed with a playful tongue-in-cheek candour. Hardbeat however doesn’t bask in understated melancholic poetry as it grows into a full-on stadium anthem, and isn’t about… well, curry and football.
The production of the percussion is so loud it sounds as if the skins are going to break, while an atonal Primus-esque guitar line creeps through the background as the track reaches its crescendo; a chorus you will have stuck in your head for the rest of your life.
Jamie Lenman is almost certainly the greatest British songwriter around today, and this meta-textual ode to the craft of an album is undisputed proof of that.
Converge – Under Duress
Code Orange – Bleeding in the Blur
Mastodon – Sultan’s Curse
Stray from the Path – Goodnight Alt Right
Trivium – Betrayer
Gig of the Year: Rammstein – Arènes de Nimes, Nimes, France
Well it’s hardly a surprise, but Rammstein are the best live band on the planet. It’s not just the incredible use of pyrotechnics and stunts performed by the bands, the mechanical precision with which they play, or the incredibly well crafted live sound they employ; all of their songs are absolutely incredible.
Strangely, their final show of the year seems relatively rough around the edges – the band are far more playful than normal, and seem to be having fun with the performance. Of course, even the most ramshackle of Rammstein shows are so well rehearsed that it makes a NAVY SEAL team look like the incumbent government, so it is professionalism personified. And their merch stand had its own pyro. There’s no one quite like Rammstein.
Black Peaks – Firebug, Leicester
HECK – Firebug, Leicester
The Dillinger Escape Plan – O2 Institute, Birmingham
Gojira – O2 Academy, Leeds
SikTh – Sound Circus, Bournemouth
Malevolence – Mama Roux’s, Birmingham
Festival Performance of the Year: The Dillinger Escape Plan – Download Festival
The final UK show of one of the greatest bands to ever grace the planet was always going to be a special one, but Dillinger’s last performance at Download was beyond belief.
For a band that have never compromised at any point in their career, the set was shockingly wall-to-wall greatest hits delivered with all the intensity and aggression one would expect from the most dangerous live act of recent memory.
It wasn’t necessarily as wild as they have been in previous years, but they sounded amazing, actually looked pleased to be there and the audience greeted and bid them farewell with all the reverence that they deserved. Plus, an encore of Sunshine the Werewolf immediately into 43% Burnt; every other act may as well have stayed at home.
Napalm Death – HRH Hammerfest, Pwlhelli, Wales
Boss Kelloid – HRH Hammerfest, Pwlhelli, Wales
Biffy Clyro – Download Festival
Music Video of the Year: Jamie Lenman -¬ Hell in a Fast Car (Big Scary Monsters)
We’ve already covered what a brilliant songwriter Jamie Lenman is, but his artistry doesn’t stop there. Having spent most of his life as an illustrator, it’s hardly surprising that his music videos are so fantastical, as well as tonally apt.
Lenman’s lyrical miming is exaggerated to charming comic effect and the whole video has a deliberately lo-fi feel – generally just Jamie with a stark, flatly coloured background, interspersed with him French-kissing and dancing with various people. It’s great fun, utilises great cinematography with its blend of soft-focus and fixed perspective and accompanies an equally brilliant song.
Puppy – Demons
Dead Cross – Church of Motherfuckers
Silence Speaks – While She Sleeps ft. Oil Sykes
Mastodon – Steambreather
Code Orange – Bleeding in the Blur
Most Disappointing Album of the Year: At the Drive In – In•ter a•li•a (Rise Records)
To be honest, it’s still unclear if this is the most disappointing album of the year, or just the outright worst. Expectations were always pretty limited In•ter a•li•a, At The Drive In had the unenviable task of following up 2000’s Relationship of Command – a watershed moment for post-hardcore, and one of the greatest releases of all time. For many, this album was approached with caution to say the least, but while it’s not quite as bad as Powerman 5000 or Alestorm’s releases for the year, but it is truly dreadful.
The departure of Jim Ward was an early warning sign, and his absence is notable: Without his punk influence, Cedric and Omar have disappeared up their own arses into a sub-par continuation of The Mars Volta, with lyrics that are apparently taken from the Ladybird book of ‘My First At The Drive In Song’. Heartless, uninteresting and a smear on their legacy, this is a truly dreadful piece of work. It’s like if Converge followed up Jane Doe with an album of Slade covers. Awful.
QOTSA – Villains
Favourite New Band of the Year: Svalbard (Holy Roar Records)
The last time I saw a support band of whom I didn’t know the name before entering the venue was 2006. A now-defunct ska-thrash 4-piece from Keighley named Random Hand, made Reel Big Fish look like they’d only just picked up an instrument. Wandering into Employed to Serve’s incredible headline performance at The Bodega in Nottingham, I’d not heard of Svalbard. I have not stopped listening to them since.
Elements of straight-up Minor Threat hardcore, Emperor-esque black metal all atop the expansive riffing of Tool, as two vocalists who could hold their own on a line up with any screamer you care to mention. I mean come on, how can that prospect not be exciting? Their sound was barely contained in the 150-cap club, the band were unduly humble – they can be as arrogant as they like with songs that utterly mesmeric – and they teased their second full length album; tentatively slated for a Summer 2018 release.
Svalbard are fucking incredible. Buy their music, and see them while you can, because they’re not going to be in small venues for much longer.
Wren (Holy Roar Records)
Nothing Clean (Unsigned)
Band of the Year: Code Orange
It was really close on this one, so as a precursor, a little shout out to the runners up here; HECK. An absolutely incredible hardcore band who showed so much potential for greatness, and whose music transcended the best of the genre – in years to come Instructions should be held in the same regard as Black Flag’s Damaged and I Against I by Bad Brains. HECK are no more, and anyone with even a shred of respect for this genre had their hearts broken this August. Goodbye HECK – you will not be forgotten.
But enough mourning, let’s get to first place: Code Orange. While the hype for Forever may have been overstated, they have won the hearts and minds of the press and the people. They were the main talking point for many after their stint supporting Gojira here in the UK, and by all accounts completely decimated System of a Down at the Festival de Nîmes. They have had a meteoric rise, and deservedly so. Whether or not Code Orange are the future of heavy music is yet to be seen, though they have more than earned it, and very few people can legitimately argue otherwise. In the meantime, 2017 is theirs.
Employed to Serve
Record Label of the Year: Holy Roar Records
We’ll keep this brief; Holy Roar Records are the best label around today. They have the best bands – see Employed to Serve, Svalbard, Ohhms, Gallows, Wren, Conjurer etc. – the best work ethic, the purest of loves for music, and they made a beautiful beer with Good Chemistry Brewing.
Holy Roar are just the best label around, and I personally cannot wait to see what they have in store for years to come.
Sam has kicked us off – stay tuned for awards from many more of Team Rock Sins!