Riff Relevant 2017 Releases: Brian Halsey Shares 10 Favorites

Article By: Brian Halsey ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway

Oh, Brian Halsey. One day, after what I presume was a rather overly festive Independence Day on his part, I received a random e-mail from this New Jersey Demon. He stated: “I write weird, sarcastic horror novels that name drop a lot of heavy music and I wanted to get into writing a bit more frequently.” This was his opening line.

Weird.  Sarcastic.  Horror novels. He integrates heavy music bands into his writing? SOLD. I could not think of a single downside to this adventure. There was no fucking way on this entire Earth that I was saying no to Brian Halsey’s offer. He’s like a gift from Satan-Bro himself.

It took three emails for me to realize I could heave throw the most heinous, decrepit, chaotic noise factory of rampaging riffage at him, and he’d come out word-guns blazing, ready to dropkick 17 fifth graders every time. So I did exactly that. He’s continued his reign of wordly terror ever since.

RiffRelevant.com now presents Halsey’s Favorites of 2017! Halsey chose a selection of 10 rippers from the year, and a mini-review of each to boot. We have them all streaming for you below. See his list, check out these bands, then go buy his new book! – Leanne


10 – GRAVEHUFFER – ‘Your Fault’  (Halsey’s review)

I’m starting this list by taking you on a field trip into the gutter. GRAVEHUFFER offers up a raunch-filled piece of thrashy, hardcore metal that sounds a lot like dirt, piled on top of grime. ‘Your Fault’ will throw some fists and kick some ass, with no break in the action. Not only does this album have punk rock sensibility written into the sound, but it’s engraved in the ethics as well. I’ve seen a disturbing trend at shows, where bands are asking $27+ for a t-shirt. I’m always down to support, but sorry, you can fuck off.

GRAVEHUFFER is dropping their product fair and square, year-round; $10.- gets you a CD, cassette tape, record, patches, stickers, guitar picks, and I’m pretty sure for $15, they’d send a member of the band over to your house to make dinner. Capitalism at its finest. If you don’t like GRAVEHUFFER, then you don’t really like America. ‘Your Fault’ is an orgy of heavy sub-genres and it bangs from start to finish.


9 – LEDGE – ‘Demo’

Listen, if you wanna read End of the Year lists about all the pseudo-mainstream metal they play on Sirius XM, Rolling Stone probably did a great job of covering it. I’m not even being sarcastic, I heard they really did a thorough job. I’m here to make a serious point. LEDGE. From the ruins of powerviolence legends, Weekend Nachos, comes a doom/sludge offering so heavy, it’s frightening. This is straight-up EyeHateGod X Chicago hardcore on steroids, and in the weight room with the lead singer from Harm’s Way.

Let’s be real, I’m putting a two-song demo here for a reason. They also did an eight-song album and a split EP (all in 2017), which are equally devastating. I promise you a fight will break out wherever you put this demo on. Especially if I’m there. If you want to fight me. Find me, and put on any song by LEDGE. Heavyweights only. FUCK!


8 – GLASSJAW – ‘Material Control’

The first time I saw Glassjaw live was in 2002, just after ‘Worship and Tribute’ was released. They opened with “Stuck Pig” and before lead singer Daryl Palumbo could scream a single word of the opening verse, he dove headfirst into the crowd and landed directly on top of me. The entire set was equally magical. I left feeling like I had just seen the birth of my generation’s NIRVANA. Then they went on a 15-year hiatus. There were two EPs and a variety of side projects, but overall very little activity from the band.

And then this; ‘Material Control’. The return of this enigmatic band is both refreshing and depressing at the same time. GLASSJAW is back on the scene right where they left off, one step ahead of the competition. Daryl’s voice sounds more refined on the largely ‘catchy’ choruses, but still just as unique. While some are lamenting the lack of an entirely original lineup, I think it’s more important to note that they just flat-out sound great. They sound like GLASSJAW.

As far as post-hardcore, avant-garde metal is concerned, it doesn’t get any better than what these guys are putting out. It just feels weird listening to them after all this time and wondering what position they’d be in with a consistent workload.


7 – CANNIBAL CORPSE – ‘Red Before Black’

Life just feels right when a new CANNIBAL CORPSE album comes out, doesn’t it? They are not just important to metal, they are important to the heavy metal culture. Better movie cameo, CANNIBAL CORPSE in Ace Ventura or WHITE ZOMBIE in Airheads? Tough question, but there is a right answer. It’s CANNIBAL CORPSE.

Bathed in blood and covered in guts, this band has been pushing the heaviness of extreme music since forever. As true as ever to their formula for destruction, the Corpsegrinder and company keep finding small ripples of nuanced grindcore to keep the masses banging heads and breaking necks.

I could go into specifics about how phenomenal this album sounds, but you already own it. I’d rather reiterate this simple, yet colossal fact: CANNIBAL CORPSE made it! Listen to their music, think about that shit for a second. This band is as crazy and extreme as anything new out there, and they are a household name in the metal community.


6 – HORSENECK – ‘Heavy Trip’

HORSENECK is the new breed of weird metal. Spacey, screamy, doom, metal, punk rock. It’s kind of like Refused mixed with stoner rock. The end result is super original and thoroughly awesome. ‘Heavy Trip’ is the most appropriate name conceivable for this gem. You don’t know what’s gonna happen next, but there comes a point where you trust it will just blow your mind.


5 – EMPYREAN THRONE – ‘Chaosborne’    (Halsey’s review)

Death metal, heavy metal, gang vocals, Omega Ritualis, occasional folk instrumentation, not so occasional epic symphonies of destruction… Clandestine black metal. EMPYREAN THRONE made a lasting impression on me in 2017. This album is as diverse as it is well crafted. ‘Chaosborne’ is not the product of good luck, but rather a well-thought-out and masterfully executed display of symphonic black metal, with an American death metal twist. Ready yourself on the battlefield, EMPYREAN THRONE delivers war.


4 – ACID WITCH – ‘Evil Sound Screamers’

YES! ACID WITCH made their triumphant return on October 31, 2017, and I don’t think we could have asked for anything more. Has it really been seven years? On ‘Evil Sound Screamers’, the band takes their not-so-subtle Halloween undertones and turns the amp up to 11. Unlike ‘Stoned’ and ‘Witchtanic Hallucinations’, their latest work doesn’t just smash you in the face until you are baked into submission.

This album is insanely catchy, and somehow you come away feeling like you just watched an awesome horror flick, but instead of watching it, you listened to a violent interpretation of what it would have looked like, but it all just took place in your mind. For that last run-on sentence to make any sense, you’ll just have to listen to the album. Headbang and watch 80’s slasher movies on silent to see if they link up in a satanic way that I didn’t notice.


3 – CONVERGE – ‘The Dusk In Us’

Kings in the realm of breakdowns and feedback, CONVERGE isn’t one of those bands who embarrassingly cling to their glory days. Today IS their fucking glory day. ‘The Dusk In Us’ has the trademarked production seal of Kurt Ballou written all over it. If you want your band to sound dirty, heavy, raw, and somehow graceful at the same time, you go to Salem and take it to Kurt. And when it comes to his own brand of music, he pulls out every trick in the book.

After 27 years and 9 studio albums, you’d think this band would be winding it down and passing the torch. WRONG! (in pompous voice) They’re only getting more creative with their unique style of heaviness. It’s been a true pleasure to listen. The spirits of John Proctor and Giles Corey are still roaming around Salem, and you can bet your ass they are drinking stale hard cider and raging to CONVERGE.


2 – CODE ORANGE – ‘Forever’

This is the new standard for heavy. Just deal with it. Metalcore has always been a pissing contest for who can drop it the hardest, and this year the crown goes to CODE ORANGE. Their opening/title track, “Forever”, is a pure slaughterhouse of angry music. Clench your firsts, get in the weight room, hit the pit, do whatever you have to do to burn off the energy this album is going to bring.

Start to finish it’s a pure killer, with a few catchy songs for good measure. We’re talking the commercially accessible insanity of Slipknot’s ‘Iowa’, combined with the nostalgic viciousness of Bleeding Through’s ‘This Is Love, This Is Murderous’. I can’t imagine anyone reading this doesn’t already know what I’m talking about. The expectations were high for this band and they delivered.


1 – TAAKE – ‘Kong Vinter’  (Halsey’s review)

10/10. ‘Kong Vinter’ is a winter ripper that will have you drinking Dansk Mjød Viking Blod and throwing your horns up to the moon on the coldest of nights. Norway’s weapon, Hoest, is at his very best, shredding solos, growling vocals, and banging out a unique brand of rock n’ roll infused black metal that has become synonymous with Scandinavia.

A lot of bands do it, but no one does it better than Taake, and judging by the reviews of their Oslo release party, this is just the beginning for a band that already has some serious miles behind them. I reviewed this monster when it came out, so rather than repeat myself, I’ll attach what I consider to be the best album of 2017.


There, it’s official. I gave you 10 good ones. I’m sure some of my Riff Relevant comrades are struggling to narrow their list down to 500. I have enjoyed the hell out of writing for this site over the last few months, and 2018 looks just as promising. Harm’s Way, Phil Anselmo & the Illegals, and Watain all have new music coming out soon.

In the name of good old-fashioned shamelessness, I have a new book out! Check that too, I listened to all the aforementioned albums while writing it. Thus, it has to be awesome.

(Editor’s Note: Below is a summary… go read yourselves a book.)

“Cape May, New Jersey is best known for its scenic beach sunsets and picturesque Victorian architecture. When the small, sleepy town is rocked by a ritualistic suicide that unlocks the presence of an advanced and ancient evil, no one is prepared to combat it. The bizarre sequence of events triggers a hysteria of media involvement, thirsty for a story, and eager to instigate a dramatic showdown. No holds are barred in this epic deconstruction of modern societal norms. ” – High Nineties, Brian Halsey

Many thanks to Halsey for sharing his favorites for the year, as well for all his contributions to Riff Relevant.  – Leanne

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