7 Surprisingly Good 2017 Albums
Who doesn't love a pleasant surprise? Everybody has a band or two that they find groan inducing and when new material is announced from that artist eye rolling is sure to follow. But for those willing to take a chance you may find yourself singing along to a song from an artist you thought you hated. The following records exceeded expectations due to their previous work being considered sub-par, a big change in sound or members, or coming out of left field with something unexpected. Regardless these are all records worth giving a chance.
"Judas" By Fozzy
To be fair, I never gave any of Fozzy's previous albums a listen before hearing the hype around Judas. But come on...it's Chris frickin' Jericho! Who's expecting a pro wrestler to make a quality album of music? Judas wound up being one of my favorite rock albums of the year. It's got a lot of old school hard rock fun with anthem after anthem of fun tracks. And Jericho's performance is pretty solid throughout the whole thing. I still have the title track stuck in my head and have yet to tire of it. Talk about a jack of all trades.
"The Madness" By Art Of Anarchy
Creed were pretty much the Nickelback of the late 90's. The band had immense commercial success but a large number of critics who didn't approve of their infamous power ballads or allusions to Christian themes. Adding to this hate train was front man Scott Stapp, who's yarling baritone and offstage antics due to substance addiction earned even more ire. So when previous Art Of Anarchy frontman Scott Weiland died of an accidental drug overdose in 2015, replacing him with Stapp, recently sober from his own addictions, seemed like the band was begging for failure. However as of this writing Stapp is still reported sober and used the demons of his past as inspiration for The Madness. The result is a through and through quality hard rock record. Stapp still has his vocal ability and writing chops and the album leans more towards the heavier side. If there were ever a record that could win over Scott Stapp haters it would be this one.
"The Long Road Home" By Danny Worsnop
Nobody expected this to be good. Nobody. If you're not familiar with Danny Worsnop, he's best known as the front man for melodic metalcore band Asking Alexandria. While he has shown a love for non-metal musical styles with his hard rock band We Are Harlot, a country album is still a very unexpected move. Even more unexpected is the level of quality the record has. Drawing from the older, more respected styles of country before the current "pop country" movement, the tracks are heartfelt and diverse with emotional ballads such as "Anyone But Me", country rockers like "I Got Bones", and a dash of humor in "I Feel Like Shit" and "Don't Overdrink It". Asking Alexandria is seen as a gateway band for people to get into metal and with The Long Road Home Worsnop may be a gateway artist for country as well.
"Devil Is Fine" By Zeal And Ardor
Black metal and American slave spirituals are two musical styles that no one would expect to cross paths. But multi-instrumentalist Manuel Gagneux blends the two beautifully in his latest musical project Zeal & Ardor. The songs are built around originally written slave chants that portray Satanic and anti-religious messages. A theme common for black metal but unique in its perspective with the songs portrayed from a slave's mind set. The mix of electronic elements and a big focus on haunting atmosphere make Devil Is Fine one of the most unique releases of the year by far. A refreshing take on the black metal genre that's well deserving of its praise.
"Look At Yourself" By Emmure
Nu-Metalcore band Emmure has been subject to a lot of criticism throughout their career. A lot of it directed at their breakdown centered musical style. And even more towards controversial front man Frankie Palmeri. In my eyes, Emmure is a band that has a number of good songs but not so much good albums. When all of the band's instrumentalists exited Emmure and left Palmeri on his own it seemed like a nail in the coffin for the band. Instead Palmeri soldiered on, acquired the instrumentalists of the band Glass Cloud, and released Look At Yourself this past March. The album holds all the familiar traits of an Emmure record but with more polish. And is filled to the brim with catchy tracks like "Flag Of The Beast" and "Shinjuku Masterlord" that have been winning over even their harshest critics.
"Gossip" By Sleeping With Sirens
Sleeping With Sirens is a band I've always held a distaste for. While technically being a post-hardcore band the group has flirted with pop rock to a higher degree than many of their contemporaries. Also the childlike tenor range of vocalist Kellin Quinn came off as annoying and overly soft for a band with "core" in their genre tag. So ironically when the band went major label and released a pure pop album in Gossip the group finally started sounding appealing to me. Quinn's voice sounds enjoyable when not trying to find a place in hard rock instrumentation. And the songs are well composed for pop music with its gracious use of live instrumentation and infectious hooks. Sleeping With Sirens sounds pretty comfortable wearing the shoes of their new sound and can make for a guilty pleasure listen for those unafraid to give a pop record a chance
"Suicide Silence" By Suicide Silence
Stick with me here before you break out in "tee hee's". Metallica's St. Anger is the only other album I can think of that has received this level of backlash from a band's own fans. When I first listened to this record I wasn't too big on it either as I found the atmospherics a little overdone and Eddie Hermida's vocal performance sub-par. But something kept me coming back. While the band does wear their Korn and Deftones influence on their sleeve they put their own spin on it. The record has a distinctly dark vibe that is aided by the raw production compared to the more polished approach on You Can't Stop Me and The Black Crown. The album takes multiple listens to understand because it is experimental. Not only compared to Suicide Silence's previous efforts but in general. There's melody without commercialism. Aggression that comes from anguish rather than anger. All tethered by the same songwriting craft the band has made its name on. It's an interesting listening experience that one learns to enjoy through patience. And one I recommend to the curiously willing.