Friday, December 15, 2017

The Worst/Most Disappointing Albums Of 2017

Here's a tautological truth; not everything can be above average. Just by basic logic, and the definition of the word, a large amount of any product is going to be of lesser quality. When it comes to music, that is certainly the case. If anyone seems to like nearly everything they listen to, either check to see if they have the best luck you've ever seen, or disregard their opinion. There are people I listen to who are of such mind, who will be able to list a hundred or more albums at the end of a year that they enjoyed. I don't trust them for a minute. First of all, I find it impossible to listen to and properly digest that much music to be able to say such a thing. Second of all, I don't believe there is that much good music being made in a given year.

In a busy year, I will listen to approximately one hundred and fifty albums, in addition to hearing plenty more singles, and sampling many other albums. Based on my those numbers, my success rate is low enough that collecting my top ten albums at the end of the year wil encompass the majority of the records I will still remember a year from now. Tapping my toe for forty minutes isn't the same thing as truly liking an album enough to put it on your shelf and commit much of it to memory. Most albums don't make any impact. Only the good ones do, or the truly terrible.

This year has been special in the number of albums that have given me real emotional stress, where the act of sitting down and listening to them even once created real distress. Whether it was because the records were so bad they never should have been released, or because they murdered my hopes, bad records can leave just as deep an impact on you as a great one. Here are the five worst, and five most disappointing, albums that I was unfortunate enough to hear in 2017:

The Most Disappointing:

5. House Of Lords - Saint Of The Lost Souls
The previous House Of Lords album, "Indestructible", has become one of my favorite melodic rock albums of recent years. The more I've listened to it, the more it has grown in my eyes into a true highlight of the genre. Their raw guitar tone and huge melodic hooks made the songs irresistible, and marked what I believe to be the long-running band's career best. That gave me high hopes that their next album would continue where they left off, but that was not the case whatsoever. This time out, everything about the album is flatter and less exciting. The guitars are pushed back in favor of more keyboards, and James Christian's melodies lack the spark and bite I was expecting. After hitting a home run, House Of Lords hit a line drive single this time, which isn't bad, but it doesn't get the crowd roaring.

4. H.E.A.T. - Into The Great Unknown
Likewise, H.E.A.T.'s previous album was phenomenal. "Tearing Down The Walls" hit everything right on the mark, with heavy guitars that bristled with rock attitude, and hooks upon hooks that rivaled anything pop had to offer. It was about as good as a modern-styled melodic hard rock album could be done, which pointed the arrow in the right direction for the future. This time, the approach changed entirely. While half the album follows suit, half the album pulls back on the guitars to take the 'rock' approach that has a chance to cross over on the radio; ie, not rock at all. Those songs are cheap, fluffy filler that doesn't even sound like the same band, and it was these tracks used to sell the album. H.E.A.T. made it clear with this record where they intend to head in the future, and it's not anywhere I want to go.

3. Fastball - Step Into Light
Fastball has been criminally underrated for years. While people may remember their two hits, they have been consistently making good to great pop-rock albums all along. Their catalog includes dozens of catchy songs that fit an updated spirit of Beatles-esque hookiness. After each member of the band made solo records, they reconvened for their first collaboration in several years, and it shows Fastball as much more of a change-up. There are two classics on the record, "Just Another Dream" and "Secret Agent Love", but the rest of the record lacks any of their bounce, fun, or knack for writing timeless melodies. In all honesty, this record is the worst they've ever made, and Tony Scalzo's solo album easily outshines it.

2. Jorn - Life On Death Road
Jorn is someone I know I shouldn't expect much from, yet I do anyway. With his massive voice, he should be standing atop the metal universe. And after contributing to the writing of both the very good fourth Allen/Lende album, and the "Dracula: Swing Of Death" album that won Album Of The Year from me, I thought he had finally ingrained the lessons from his myriad guest roles into his own work. I was wrong. This album is just another Jorn album, which means it has one great track, a couple decent ones, and far too many cheesy attempts to recreate the legacy of Dio. Jorn is so much more talented than this that it hurts to hear him wasting his voice on such mediocre material, especially when an entirely new band was put together to make this the best Jorn album yet. It's not, not by a long shot. Jorn crashed back to earth with this release, and I don't know how to explain his bizarre career.

1. Incura - Incura II
But the most disappointing album of the year is this one. A few years back, Incura released a debut album that made my list of favorites, and did so with a theatrical style of rock/metal that fused heaviness and cheesiness akin to a metal tribute to Meat Loaf. That was right up my alley, so I was hoping they would grow even further, take their music up a notch, and deliver a magnum opus of overblown melodrama. Instead, after what I can only assume were issues with their label, this album fell from the sky one day without warning, and it's not hard to hear why. Everything that was great about Incura is gone from this album. It lacks the energy, the glamor, the pizzazz of their debut. Instead of merrily embracing their ludicrous sound, it's toned down here to the point they sound like a rather average rock/metal band. The metal meets Broadway approach is gone, replaced with melodies that sag, limply moving just enough to let you know they're alive. Incura had the style and substance to be something special, but "Incura II" is a pale imitation of their potential. I wasn't let down more all yeaer than the first time I listened to this record.

The Worst:

5. Danzig - Black Laden Crown
Danzig is a legend, and for good reason. His first four records set a standard for bluesy heavy metal that few bands have ever matched. But even legends can fall, and Danzig surely has. While he has been trending downward for years, he has (maybe) hit bottom this time. After a covers album that was torn apart by everyone, he returns to original material, to the same end. The problem for Danzig is that he one thing that set him apart is now gone; his voice. These songs are boring, and terribly produced, but that isn't out of the ordinary. The issues with Danzig's ears go beyond the production, and extend to himself. It boggles my mind how he was able to listen to the perforances he gives on this record and signed off on them. He sounds like a hollow shell of himself here, struggling to get notes out without croaking like a movie zombie. He is not the only one to be going through this (Meat Loaf sounded the same way on his last record), but it's painful to have to listen to. Like a quarterback who held on too long and had to be stretchered off the field, Danzig is just waiting for someone to take his career behind the woodshed and put it out of its misery.

4. Operation:Mindcrime - The New Reality
We all saw this one coming. The first two chapters of this unnecessary trilogy were both relative disasters, so it would have been foolish not to expect the final entry in this series to deliver the knockout blow. Three albums written and recorded at the same time had no chance of every being good, but Geoff Tate continues to find new depths to fall to. This is a concept album that, even after three discs, is indecipherable, but that's not the worst part. Tate's band provides long instrumental backdrops that are poorly recorded, lacking riffs, and overpowered by keyboards mixed too loudly. With that awful base, Tate paints not in sepia, but in the colors of rot, decay, and dirt. His voice is shot, and he has no idea how to write melodies that work with the little range he has left. This album is an embarrassment, but that's part for the course for Geoff Tate. What makes it even worse is that I bothered to give all three albums a chance, just to see if he could get even a slight bit better. He couldn't.

3. Quiet Riot - Road Rage
If ever there was a band from the 80s that shouldn't have come back, it would be Quiet Riot. A band that made history largely by covering someone else's material, they very well might have the biggest gap between name recognition and actual accomplishment in the history of metal. Never a good band, they have only gotten worse as age has inflated their egos. Combine that with a situation where the album's PR campaign had started before the band decided to kcik out the singer and rerecord the entire thing with a singer who once competed on American Idol, and you can already see how this was going to turn out. "Road Rage" causes said condition if listened to in a car, because this is inexcusable from anyone, let alone a band that has been around as long as Quiet Riot. The songs are bad, the vocals are even worse, and the entire thing sounds like a rough demo produced on Windows XP. I only wish the band lived up to their name, because the quiet is much preferable to listening to this album ever again.

2. Steel Panther - Lower The Bar
I kind of liked Steel Panther when they came out. They mocked glam metal, while writing some songs that were better than most of what they were making fun of. Unfortunately, the band has run through their best musical material, as this album sees them writing the least fun, debaucherous, and memorable songs of their career. The bigger problem, however, is that the joke has run its course. It was funny the first time to hear them more explicitly talking about the sexual exploits many of the old hits were hinting at, but after dozens of these songs, there's no humor left in hearing them talk about banging strippers and floozies. Plus, as the culture around sexual assault has shifted rapidly, their 'jokes' come off more and more like a defense of awful human behavior. The jokes aren't funny, and the topics no longer feel appropriate. Steel Panther is going to have to change their ways, because after this abomination of a record, I don't know how they can make another one all about taking advantage of women. It's become very creepy.

1. Dead Cross - Dead Cross
I struggle when musicians are afforded huge legacies when they are not the driving force behind the music that made them famous. Dave Lombardo is rightly credited as one of the great metal drummers, but what did he really contribute to the records he played on? In the grand scheme of things, not much. That's why I didn't understand the hype for a new band featuring him and Mike Patton, another figure not known for being the strongest of songwriters. I was right to fear. It turns out Dead Cross is an unlistenable mess of noise, the kind of album that you would expect to be made by two people who think that screaming and banging on things constitutes music. On a record that lasts less than half an hour, they tear through what is supposed to be crusty, punk hardcore, but the results sound more like a group of angry teenagers starting their first band two days after getting their instruments. The songs are loud, ugly, and devoid of anything that would make you want to listen to them again. There is so little structure to the songs, and so little message behind the lyrics, that it's hard to tell the difference between the proverbial blender they through their influences into, and an actual blender. In fact, given the properties of white noise, the real blender might be more enjoyable. It would certainly be more useful. Dead Cross is a band with no past, no present, and certainly no future. Bah Humbug, guys, you've just made the worst record of 2017.

No comments:

Post a Comment