Best of

Pure Rawk’s Top 10 Albums of 2017

Yup, it’s that moment you’ve all been waiting for, the votes from our writers are in, the choices have been made, the punch-ups have been quietly resolved over a pint down the pub, it’s time for Pure Rawk’s Top 10 albums of 2017! Enjoy…

Words by Andy Close, Nick Spragg, Steve Brixey, Tom Mimnagh and Siobhan Hogarty

10. THE SCARAMANGA SIX – “Chronica”

Have a go at pigeonholing The Scaramanga Six. Go on I dare you. Evil prog? Sinister cinematic rock? No, I’ve got no idea either, and matters were thrown even more up in the air this year with the release of the fearsome foursome’s Chronica double album extravaganza. It’s actually terrifying how The Six can bang out so many epic, humorous, inventive and catchy tunes with each release, but Chronica could well be their finest collection yet. From the galloping Somehow to the filthy punk of Dirty Subaru, this ambitious slab is simply incredible from start to finish. Double concept albums may often be seen as an ego-trip, but here, with synth flavours that would get Vangelis licking the CD, The Scaras have well and truly nailed it. Chronica should come with a health warning; once you’re in, you may never leave. (NS)

9. GINGER WILDHEART – “Ghost In The Tanglewood”

While it’s a well-established fact that the folks here at Pure Rawk are long-time followers of Ginger Wildheart’s many musical guises, his foray into country/folk/roots was still a slightly unexpected step. That said, we couldn’t be more delighted that Ginger once again showcased his versatility and willingness to open up his vulnerabilities on Ghost In The Tanglewood. There is an honesty and sincerity to the music that makes for a genuinely eye-opening, emotional listening experience on this album, with Remains, The Words are Going to Have to Wait, and My Old Friend the Blues being the big standouts for me. Ghost In The Tanglewood is essential listening, and easily one of the affecting albums of 2017, and shows how much innovation Ginger is still capable of, even this far into his career. A genuine revelation and one of the best genre crossover albums of recent years. (TM)

8. MUTATION – “Dark Black”

It’s 2017, and Mutation, this time a three-piece of Ginger, Scott Lee Andrews (Exit International / Jaws of Death) & Denzel (Vennart/Young Legionnaire), have unleashed a third beastly brainchild, as soft in its approach as a throat punch. Dark Black is a lurch to extremes untouched even on Error 500. A chronically heavy rhythm section, fuzz filled riffs & choice samples grind throughout as it meanders in style & sound. Ginger spits each line of Skint & calls out all the cunts in Irritant, a brief respite is offered in Devolution (Devin Townsend making a special appearance) before it all comes crashing down with the quite filthy boom of closer, Deterioration. This record is gritty & cathartic, just what you would expect from this lot. Life is good with this much noise. (SH)

7. CREEPER – “Eternity In Your Arms”

I’ll admit this one took me by surprise as I thought I’d be too old for cultish emo-goth records, but to describe Eternity In Your Arms as such does it a massive disservice. Resplendent with themes that resonate with all ages, Creeper have produced a blinder of a record full of mournful odes to times past, love, loss and despair, yet somehow made it supremely euphoric, confirming that it’s okay to not be okay. Owing a fair amount to AFI, Creeper have still nailed a look and a sound that’s very much their own and in Black Rain and Crickets produced two of the most emotionally charged songs you’ll hear this year. This is a band who deserve absolutely all of the credit they’re getting, even this early in their career. (NS)

6. ROLE MODELS – “Dance Moves”

Hats off to Role Models. Three albums in three years is a pretty impressive work rate by anyone’s standards, the fact they’ve made it to their third long player and have produced a record of the quality of Dance Moves is something else entirely. Fans of Role Models’ Replacements flavoured rock ‘n’ roll won’t be disappointed by tracks like the rousing Manette Street or the raucous Wizard Van, while other songs such as the sombre piano ballad Obituary Writer see Rags and Co. continuing to expand and develop their sound. Same time next year then, lads? (SB)

5. CJ WILDHEART – “Blood”

Coming out of a gnarly health episode, CJ promised to deliver some serious heaviness with latest solo record Blood, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Opener Tea Leaf is low-slung Wildhearts swagger through and through, whilst Kiss It and Lazybones err towards Mutation-style violence, with thrashy riffs and staccato drum work. Compared to previous record Robot, CJ’s voice shows some extra husk that gives Blood even more urgency and power, but fear not melody is still well and truly in the mix, even if it is battered about by the bullying riffage. He might have surprised a few fans with just how crunching a record Blood is, but it’s a great bit of catharsis for anyone that likes a bit of punky attitude with their hooks. (NS)

4. THE GREAT MALARKEY – “Doghouse”

You’d possibly be forgiven for wondering if we were ever going to hear from the Great Malarkey again, given that there was a five year gap between their debut Badly Stuffed Animals and this, their sophomore effort. However, Doghouse was more than worth the wait, taking all the best elements of their debut and building to create something genuinely special – while old favourites like Duck ‘n’ Dive and Beware The Temptress showed plenty of the fiery folk-punk that they made their name with, the more reflective likes of Shame and Running Endlessly definitely showed another side to the band’s dynamic and did so in fine style. Quite simply, you need this album and this band in your life. (AC)

3. THE DARKNESS – “Pinewood Smile”

Pinewood Smile‘s predecessor was an album which pretty much split the Pure Rawk team down the middle with some enjoying its added heaviosity while others bemoaned the lack of the sense of humour that had often been The Darkness’s calling card in the first place. However, for those of us in the latter camp (including your correspondent), Pinewood Smile was the return to form we’d been hoping for as Justin Hawkins and Co. kept the riffs intact on the likes of Buccaneers of Hispaniola and Japanese Prisoner of Love but added a bit of light to go with the shade, not least on the gleefully foul-mouthed singles Solid Gold and Southern Trains. Elsewhere, Pinewood Smile saw the group even going all new wave on the likes of Lay Down With Me Barbara and I Wish I Was In Heaven before the wonderfully silly campfire singalong closer Stampede Of Love. The sound of a band well and truly getting its mojo back, this might just be their best album since their debut. (AC)

2. RYAN HAMILTON & THE TRAITORS – “The Devil’s In The Detail”

That Ryan Hamilton, he knows his way round a tune. Ryan’s first solo outing, 2015’s Hell Of A Day, was an absolute gem. If anything, The Devil’s In The Detail is even better. Eschewing the trendier elements of its predecessor and bringing an authentic country tinge to his masterful pop-rock, of the twelve tracks on offer here there isn’t a duff one in the bunch. Every song comes laden with irresistible melodies, lyrical wit, catchy-as-fuck choruses and bucketloads of heart. The fact this album is a band effort, with Ryan being ably backed by The Traitors, only serves to make the sound more cohesive, and the whole thing is wrapped up in some truly glorious production courtesy of Dave Draper. The presence of Ginger Wildheart on this album (adding guitar and backing vocals) is just the icing on the cake and his musical flourishes can be heard sprinkled throughout, adding a little extra magic to Ryan’s songwriting genius. A truly special record. (SB)

1. CHRIS CATALYST – “Life Is Often Brilliant”

Although not Chris Catalyst’s first adventure as a solo artist, Life is Often Brilliant is his best work to date. As a big fan of Eureka Machines, and the lyrical depth of their music, I never had any doubts that the album would be excellent, but no-one could have predicted how brilliant (pun intended) it would be. From the off the album sets the tone with opener No Regrets, before moving on to the expected big choruses and clever verses on standouts like Cracking Up, Far, and How Do You Sleep, while still having time to keep things reflective on more thoughtful offerings like I Hope We Always Stay the Same and Distance Over Time as well as album closer Able Seaman. However, perhaps my favourite moment of Life Is Often Brilliant is the near eight minute odyssey that is You Die At The End, which has an almost Beatles-esque quality to it. Life is indeed often brilliant, and so is this album, making it one of the absolute must own LPs of 2017. (TM)