misc2

“Miscellaneous Albums 2017, Part 2”? What is this? Where is “Part 1”? And why is this sort of an article being published a third of the way into 2018?

Those are all valid questions, so let me answer them.

On November 11, 2017, I published an article entitled “Miscellaneous Albums 2017, Part 1,” briefly touching on twelve albums that E.D. hadn’t featured in any way up to that point. I hoped to get this “Part 2,” covering albums from July to December 2017 (except for a couple that I missed putting in “Miscellaneous Albums 2017, Part 1”), published in January. See, in 2017, I had a goal to have someone here at E.D. write some kind of a review, no matter how extensive or brief, about every single 2017-released movie and album I consumed in 2017. This article is my completion of that, and I’m exhausted.

OK, I’m not really exhausted, but I’ll tell you what, since Mr. Malone and I don’t run this site as our main gig, it’s difficult for us to actually discuss every album and movie on which we want to give you our opinion or start a discussion. I tried to do that for 2017, and look where that led me, after, in 2017, watching about 50 2017-released movies and listening to 100 2017-released albums!

Needless to say, with my busy life, both personally and in my thankfully blossoming career, I can’t continue trying to keep up with such a goal. So, from now on, and I know Mr. Malone has already been going by something like this, the following will be my new modus operandi:

Every release I watch or hear that falls within the current year, I will review if I can in a regular post. If I can’t, so be it. I will also continue to write articles on E.D. that aren’t just straightforward reviews, and those might be on any topic or work within the motion picture and music worlds. Then, at the end of the year, I’ll still talk about my favorite releases, and there you will see featured movies and albums E.D. never covered. This isn’t to say I’ll never do a “collection” review like this one again, but it is to say I won’t be trying to catch up. I think this method will help me and the quality of articles I produce.

If you , I will often talk about more than what I write about here on E.D., though I won’t do that on our Facebook page, since that is for E.D. overall, whereas Twitter is just my personal place, though still representing the blog.

Thank you, all of you wonderful E.D. readers, for bearing with me. Now, without further ado, let us dig into these 2017 releases.

☆☆☆☆

Ghoultown’s Ghost of the Southern Son
Released April 25, 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal

Ghoultown is a difficult band to describe. I would say they’re Gothic Rockabilly Metal. They’re Tex-Mex Metal. They’re a mix of traditional heavy metal, current metal, rockabilly, country-western, Americana, hard rock, blues rock, and punk.

They evoke the sounds and styles, all rushing in at once, of Hank Williams, Roy Rogers, George Strait, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, the Eagles, ZZ Top, The Oak Ridge Boys, Elvis, Soundgarden, The Misfits, Volbeat, The Doors, The Ramones, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Enico Morricone, Elmer Bernstein, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Bill Conti. They are what Chris LeDoux would have been if he had suddenly decided to become metal. Ghoultown embodies what I had hoped Volbeat would be when I first heard about them. Ghoultown, with their vivid Western mythology and horror-tinged lyrics, possesses an inherent charm for anyone like me who is a huge fan of both heavy metal and the mythos of the American West. Does all this sound intriguing to you? If so, you need to go check out Ghoultown now! This unique band will plant a smile on your face.

It would have been nice, however, if they could have worked with a better producer, because there are some poor choices here, and though they are actually rare, they are also unfortunate. For instance, one of the songs, “Dirty Sanchez,” has some really good and interesting music and an interesting story but some of the worst lyrics on the album, while other more bland songs get better lyrics. Overall, the group as a whole is good but inconsistent. Though Lyle has a good voice, it’s unnecessarily a little rough at times. That, and other things, could have been polished up in production. And the song choices could have been reduced and/or reworked just a bit.

Ghoultown is pretty unknown right now. We should help remedy that.

Grade: 7/10

☆☆☆☆

Elders’ Reflections of a Floating World
Released June 2, 2017
Genre: Progressive Metal/Doom Metal

Elder has produced here a fantastic record, don’t get me wrong. It is most definitely worth your time. But a lot of the reason I’m going to give this album a B as opposed to an A is that the lyrics and overall ideas of the album, two of the things I value most in an album, never truly engaged or connected with me. If they connect with you, you’ll probably love this album.

Another thing is, kind of like with much of Baroness’ music, the vocals take a back seat to the instrumentation. Which is fine. That is not an objective knock, I want to be clear. It is a subjective issue I have personally. I like to hear vocals, and I love well-used vocals. I can appreciate more instrumental albums and ones that don’t necessarily elevate their vocals (Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder’s Instrumentals and Eric Johnson’s Ah Via Musicom are two albums I love, for instance), but if you look at my absolute favorite musical works, those kinds won’t be there.

I feel like I should have loved this album. After all, I have been getting into the sludgy/stoner-type music here lately, since I think that stuff sounds great when mixed with other genres of music. And this is well-made, heavy, psychedelic, progressive, sludgy, stoner rock-influenced doom metal that sounds like the more laid-back portions of Mastodon’s Blood Mountain or Crack the Skye, except that lasts more or less for the whole album.

I’ll just say this, I have a very conflicted opinion on this excellent album. Also, of course, since it appears in this group of reviews, I don’t have a ton to say about it, and my opinion has ended up lower than the album deserves. Check it out for sure. It’s just not necessarily my favorite thing. I appreciate it but don’t love it. The sheer instrumental and compositional ability on display is certainly amazing, though.

Grade: 8/10

☆☆☆☆

Bison’s You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient
Released June 23, 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal/Sludge Metal

You Are Not the Ocean is worth checking out if you’re a sludge fan or a Bison fan, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. It’s decent but unmemorable.

Grade: 6/10

☆☆☆☆

Foster the People’s Sacred Hearts Club
Released July 21, 2017
Genre: Psychedelic Synth-Pop and Rock

Look, I don’t really know exactly what to say about this one. I have friends who love the latest record from Foster the People, a band I used to really enjoy, a band whose early material I can still revisit with no problem. Yet I just didn’t find Sacred Hearts Club engrossing like I hoped I would. Sure, it’s better than the majority of the fluff on pop radio. It’s just that I don’t find myself desiring to revisit the album, and none of the songs pop into my mind ever. It also feels unfocused and scattered as a work. If you like Foster the People, you’ve already checked this out. If you don’t, don’t worry yourself with this release.

Grade: 4/10

☆☆☆☆

Rex Brown’s Smoke on This
Released July 28, 2017
Genre: Hard Rock

Smoke on This shows that Rex Brown has variety to his instrumental and vocal skills. He’s not only an overlooked previous member of Pantera. He can put together a decent group of musicians and a decent number of songs. Even still, every time I listen to Smoke on This, I forget most of it within hours. It’s some fun, gravelly hard rock and southern rock, but it’s too worn and tired and familiar to be interesting. However, I doubt Rex cares what the critics think of this album. He’s doing what he wants and having a good time with it. Smoke on This is worth checking out for that reason.

Grade: 6/10

☆☆☆☆

Accept’s The Rise of Chaos
Released August 4, 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal

Accept’s 1983 album, Balls to the Wall, is a heavy metal classic, as is their legendary 1982 track “Fast as a Shark” from Restless and Wild. Their output from during this time is a standout example of grimy and dirty yet still glamorous, in many ways, heavy metal, like you might hear from Judas Priest, except even more ironically dirty, or even grimily erotic, strangely enough. So we know they can give us awesome metal. And Accept has seen a comeback with their new lead vocalist, Mark Tornillo. However, this German band can’t overcome a weighing down feeling of ’80s heavy metal genericism on The Rise of Chaos, except for a couple of moments, like the track “Koolaid.”

Grade: 5/10

☆☆☆☆

Marty Friedman’s Wall of Sound
Released August 4, 2017
Genre: Instrumental Heavy Metal

Marty Friedman is easily my favorite Megadeth guitarist. He’s the most versatile and technically skilled all around, the most well-rounded. He shows off a lot of what he can do on Wall of Sound, a good, mostly instrumental album with a few neat guests.

Grade: 7/10

☆☆☆☆

The Script’s Freedom Child
Released September 1, 2017
Genre: Pop Rock

I originally wanted to do a full review of this, mostly to make fun of it. Then, I just grew too tired of the album to do that. This is pop rock at its most generic. Too bad. I used to enjoy The Script.

Grade: 3/10

☆☆☆☆

Ringo Starr’s Give More Love
Released September 15, 2017
Genre: Rock ‘n’ Roll/Country

It’s country and good ole’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll from Ringo Starr himself. It’s decent sometimes. And that’s it.

Grade: 5/10

☆☆☆☆

Caligula’s Horse’s In Contact
Released September 15, 2017
Genre: Progressive Metal

More good prog rock and metal from Caligula’s Horse, one of my favorite current bands. So why am I only writing a few words about In Contact? Because though the prog is excellent here, I found very little of it to be memorable, which is a shame, considering Bloom was one of my favorite albums of 2015. If you’re a prog fan, check this out. And certainly check out Caligula’s Horse’s discography, especially The Tide, the Thief & River’s End and Bloom.

Grade: 6/10

☆☆☆☆

Prophets of Rage’s Prophets of Rage
Released September 15, 2017
Genre: Rap Rock

One of the most disappointing albums of 2017, not because it’s the worst but because it is far, far away from living up to the potential these old Prophets of Rage members most certainly possess.

Grade: 4/10

☆☆☆☆

Robert Plant’s Carry Fire
Released October 13, 2017
Genre: Folk Rock

Robert Plant is back with more folk and folk rock. It’s all good, but, to be honest, it was a little hard to sit through for me, a little . . . boring.

Grade: 6/10

☆☆☆☆

Beck’s Colors
Released October 13, 2017
Genre: Pop Rock

Fun pop, and one of 2017’s best pop records, but I don’t think anyone will remember these Colors for long. Actually, have they already forgotten?

Grade: 5/10

☆☆☆☆

Dori Freeman’s Letters Never Read
Released October 20, 2017
Genre: Indie Country

A little bit lightweight, but a joy in songwriting and vocals. Good Americana.

Grade: 7/10

☆☆☆☆

Sons of Apollo’s Psychotic Symphony
Released October 20, 2017
Genre: Progressive Metal

Psychotic Symphony gave us a pretty good debut record from what could turn out to be a really good new band. It is a Mike Portnoy project, though, so we’ll see. As great a drummer as he is, he has a bad habit of too-quickly leaving the projects he starts. But we might see Portnoy stick with this one. It’s certainly in his wheelhouse, progressive metal, and, after all, Portnoy helped start Dream Theater way back in 1985, staying with them for twenty-five years.

Sons of Apollo features some other remarkable band members, too: keyboardist Derek Sherinian, a one-time member of Dream Theater and founder of Planet X; vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, who’s worked with Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra; guitarist “Bumblefoot” Thal, who’s worked with Guns N’ Roses and has his own full career; and Billy Sheehan, a bassist who’s worked with such legends as David Lee Roth.

The album these guys have put together is a fun, worthy listen for prog fans, but it’s also a rather flawed release. It features a poorly organized, inconsistent track listing that seems to indicate a band that doesn’t know exactly what they want. For instance, “Alive” and “Lost in Oblivion” sound like Foo Fighters tunes performed by Symphony X, which is cool to think about, but it doesn’t necessarily mesh well. I like the track “Labyrinth,” but its production sounds slapped together. There is some cool stuff, though. “God of the Sun” is a very proggy track that excellently introduces us to the album. “Coming Home” is the best the band does at trying to make a forward-driving, rock ‘n’ roll tune. “Signs of the Times” is a solid entry with relevant material. “Divine Addiction” is a good Deep Purple tribute. And “Opus Maximus” is a fantastically soaring prog instrumental.

Grade: 6/10

☆☆☆☆

Annihilator’s For the Demented
Released November 3, 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal

Lyrically, this is an inconsistent album, and its song choices are bloated and uneven. Still, when it’s strong, it’s Herculean thrash and heavy metal, and, instrumentally, it’s one of the most technically proficient old-style thrash records of 2017, featuring amazing guitar and drum work, and it has excellent thrash mixed with some classic heavy metal, prog, and the melodies of ’70s hard rock. In addition, it’s still uniquely Annihilator in sound. They’ve worked carefully here to make sure their riffs and melodies sound like their own.

Jeff Waters is doing all the lead vocals here, after dealing for years with contrary lead vocalists. Problem is, he is a baritone who contains some strength but comes off as very derivative of Mustaine, Hetfield, and Cooper. He makes a greater effort here to make his vocals unique than he has previously, but, in some ways, he can’t help it.

“Pieces of You” is an odd, almost Cooper-like detour. “Phantom Asylum” has some nice timing changes and a Spaghetti Western guitar riff throughout. The album should have ended at “Altering the Altar.”

Annihilator’s 1989 debut album, Alice in Hell, is underrated as heck and, in my opinion, one of the absolute best thrash albums ever recorded. The followup to that, Never, Neverland, is good thrash, too, and they have a few other really good records. I had high hopes for For the Demented. It didn’t live up to those, but it is a worthy thrash entry in the recent thrash resurgence.

Grade: 6/10

☆☆☆☆

Tommy Emmanuel’s and David Grisman’s Pickin’
Released November 3, 2017
Genre: Acoustic Instrumental Folk and Jazz

If you see that Tommy Emmanuel and David Grisman made an instrumental album together and get excited, you’ll enjoy Pickin’. I sure did! However, if Tommy Emmanuel and David Grisman don’t really mean anything to you, you probably won’t care.

Grade: 7/10

☆☆☆☆

Walk the Moon’s What If Nothing
Released November 10, 2017
Genre: Pop Rock

What if Walk the Moon had been able to live up to their last album? They didn’t. However, about half of What If Nothing is decent at least.

Grade: 4/10

☆☆☆☆

Cavalera Conspiracy’s Psychosis
Released November 17, 2017
Genre: Groove Metal/Thrash Metal/Death Metal/Industrial Metal

These days, we essentially have three versions of Sepultura. We have the band that maintains the name Sepultura but doesn’t have the founding Cavalera brothers; Sepultura released the excellent Machine Messiah earlier, in 2017. Then we have Soulfly, which does have the Cavaleras. Finally, we have Cavalera Conspiracy, who released this album and also has the Cavaleras. If you’re confused, do some googling and have fun. What’s most interesting to me is that Machine Messiah is, for me, Sepultura’s best album since 1996’s Roots, which was the last time any of the Cavaleras were involved in Sepultura, and Psychosis is, again for me, the Cavaleras’ best post-Sepultura work.

Psychosis will appeal to anyone who is a fan of Sepultura and/or the Cavaleras’ various projects. Psychosis combines the thrash and death sounds of Sepultura’s Arise and Beneath the Remains, the thrash and industrial sounds of Chaos A.D., and the Brazilian groove metal of Roots. And the instrumentation here is great. Marc Rizzo’s lead guitar is varied, alien, and unhinged; Igor Cavalera’s drumming is strong, fast, and tribal; Arthur Rizk’s bass is solid and foundation-laying; and Max Cavalera’s rhythm guitar is solid. On top of these, Max’s lead vocals are guttural and mean.

The only problem is, Psychosis can’t shake the tendency of sounding a bit derivative of those past Sepultura albums I mentioned. It is derivative in the best of ways, but it still is derivative. And, beyond that, the compositions aren’t quite as powerful or as memorable as the material on those four Sepultura masterpieces. Neither are the lyrics.

Instrumentally and vocally, Psychosis is on the level of Sepultura’s Machine Messiah. Yet I found Machine Messiah sticks with me far better than Psychosis. I also found Machine Messiah more interesting and creative, while Psychosis‘ songs feel almost par for the course for the Cavaleras.

Grade: 7/10

☆☆☆☆

Chris Stapleton’s From A Room, Volume 2
Released December 1, 2017
Genre: Country/Folk Rock

An excellent sequel to From A Room, Volume 1, and it might even be the better of the two. Yet what I have to say about Volume 2 is more or less the same as what I said about Volume 1 earlier, in 2017.

Grade: 8/10

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