(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
The AVL (Asheville) based band Temptations Wings recently wrapped up an incredibly beneficial year for them, 2017, with news of their enhancing the band’s line up (here). That move, along with some upcoming live shows, their first as a quartet, also recently came to light.
The band itself released their breakthrough conceptual opus, “Skulthor Ebonblade“, as well last year. The remarkable recording landed on my own Favorite Albums Of 2017 list (here) and if you haven’t heard it yet, you need to do so as soon as possible. It is a fantastic mythical tale-weaving yarn presented in the guise of molten Appalachian Power Doom music
The drummer for Temptations Wings, Jason Gardner, and I have been good friends for several years now (along with TW’s Micah Nix and Chad Barnwell). He was even gracious enough to allow my contributing help with his now-annual heavy fest in AVL, Steel & Stone Festival as far as promoting, etc. Riff Relevant was a proud media sponsor of the 2017 edition and I know firsthand he is currently working on the ’18 gathering as we speak.
I’m sure that, by now, you have seen many of the recent Riff Relevant Best Albums Of 2017 compilings. So you probably know Leanne implemented a plan to invite many prestigious musicians to guest contribute their own lists to us here at RR this year as well. That plan was a popular one that resulted in many of them taking her up on the invite too so we may be running them ’til the time for 2018’s lists, ha!
One of the sonic superheroes to throw his faves our way was none other than the aforementioned Jason Gardner. He kept his revelation of noteworthy recordings to a nice, lean 10 albums and so, without further ado, Riff Relevant is pleased to share his selections with you here and now, today. Jason takes it from here so, dig in!
Jason Gardner: “Being deep in the underground music community, I see and play with a lot of bands. Some well known, most not, so a lot of releases don’t get the attention [they deserve]. Here is my top 10 releases to definitely check out or revisit if you forgot about them.”
“Croweater 2: The Last Wishes Of Kings” – Fall Of An Empire
The pride of Spartanburg, SC released an amazing follow up EP by this band from their previous EP Croweater – An Echo In The Bone released in 2016. Both of them together is a perfect mix of metal, soul and blues that no other band I know of could pull off. Unfortunately the band parted ways with their phenomenal singer this year but hopefully it’s only temporary. Definitely buy this EP and Part 1 for that matter. You wont be disappointed.
“Raw ‘N Dirty” – The Shrünken Heads
Straight forward, no frills Rock and Roll by this Asheville, N.C. band. If only the EP had more songs, but this is a good taste of what is to come in the future. I know these guys personally and this is how they live life. If you like your metal 80’s style, this may be your new favorite band.
Raw ‘N Dirty EP streaming here.
“Straw In The Wind” – The Steel Woods
So this one isn’t metal, however, before you quit reading do yourself a favor and check out their “Hole In The Sky” (Black Sabbath) cover. It’s amazing and very faithful to the original with their own spin thrown in. The whole album is atmospheric with really good lyrics and fantastic production. No BRO country on this album, this is country / southern rock with metal roots, and since Jason “Rowdy” Cope, the lead guitar player and fellow Ashevillian has stated in interviews he is a huge metal fan, I will be anxiously awaiting the follow up album.
“Darkness Remains” – Night Demon
This band did not disappoint with their follow-up to the debut Curse Of The Damned and they are on fire! Opening for Accept in Europe and playing Wacken Open Air this year, I’m enjoying witnessing their ascension to the top. Instant classics are littered all throughout this album, my favorites of them being “Dawnrider” and “Flight Of The Manticore“. They recently released an Expanded Edition of this album as well so grab it if you don’t already own this. Hell, grab it even if you do!
Stream “Darkness Remains” at this location.
“Incorruptible” – Iced Earth
This band needs no introduction and came back to form from the previous album “Plagues Of Babylon” with this album. The return of Brent Smedley and addition of Jake Dreyer (Witherfall) on lead guitar made this album one of my favorites and stayed in my CD player for months. Many different styles and themes made it an enjoyable listen but the real reason this album was so good for me was the song “Clear The Way”. Incredible groove and melody in that song. Amazing stuff from the veteran metal masters.
“Doom Side Of The Moon” – Doom Side Of The Moon
This one went against my criteria for this list of new albums and songs somewhat, but the re-imagining of this classic Pink Floyd album with down-tuned guitars was a pleasant surprise. Though I thought it was more a stoner metal take than doom, stoner side of the moon just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I’m a huge fan of The Sword so ¾ of the lineup playing on this was enough to sell me on the idea. They also released another EP of select PF tunes from other albums this month, titled Encore and out now.
“Rise Of Chaos” – Accept
This was actually the second release by Accept in 2017. The other was a live CD/DVD featuring the current lineup called “Restless And Live” which I enjoyed very much as well. Where I thought the previous album “Stampede” started strong and limped to the finish, this one simply did not. Every song has that classic Accept feel to them but with the Andy Sneap polish added to it is just that much better.
“Emperor Of Sand” – Mastodon
To be honest, I had pretty much written this band off my radar but when I heard rumors things were going back to the “Crack The Skye” era of writing, I was stoked. While not achieving the heights of their albums before The Hunter for my tastes, it did renew my faith in the band but the EP that followed may have slightly diminished my hopes a bit.
“The Grinding Wheel” – Overkill
The wheel keeps grinding solid releases from one of the most underrated thrash bands in the world. The longevity of this band is nothing short of astonishing when a lot of their peers have seemed to slow way down, these guys are speeding up. I very much look forward to the next album with the solid drumming of Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall, Flotsam & Jetsam) now in the fold.
“Strange Highness” – Mothership
Another band on a solid climb to top is this one. All their albums are just full of bong water soaked riffs played to max volume and this one is no different. The production is much cleaner this time around though. They are touring machines so expect to see them in your area before the year is up. You will not regret seeing Mothership…ever.