Heroes of 2017: The metal bands promising to make this year matter

A press shot of Iron Maiden in 2015

Legends Arise!

The scene’s true flagbearers ain’t done yet…

Iron Maiden

The Book Of Souls is finally being taken on the road across the UK!

How will you be preparing for your European tour?

Steve Harris: “As this is a continuation of The Book Of Souls tour, we won’t need as much rehearsal time as we did when we were preparing to play these songs live for the very first time. However, we’ll still want a few weeks’ practise beforehand, just to make sure everything is exactly as we want it to be, to give the best show for our fans. I’ve recently finished touring Europe with British Lion, which was pretty demanding physically, but it’s kept me in shape, or match-fit as I call it!”

What can we expect when the band play in May?

“We’re still deciding on the final setlist – we’ll work that out once we get into rehearsals and get a feel for the songs and the flow of the show. As we only played one UK date in 2016, obviously there’s a lot of our fans who couldn’t get to Download, and we want to ensure they get the full experience of The Book Of Souls show we took around the world, so it’s unlikely we’ll change much, maybe a couple of songs.”

How will your headline shows differ from your Download set?

“We will be bringing the full production, including all the Eddies and the Mayan-themed stage sets – the full theatrics! We’ve had a really good reaction from our fans to this tour’s theme, everyone seems to love it, so it’ll be great to bring it to Maiden fans right across the UK and see if they agree.”

It’s the first time you’ll be hitting Liverpool since 1990, and Leeds since 2005! What’s stopped you playing there in all these years?

“Tour-routing is a pretty complicated, logistical procedure, and we also have to make sure that any venue we book has the capacity to cater for everything a Maiden tour involves, which is a lot! Our manager Rod works out the routings with our agent and the local promoters. They start planning literally years in advance of the actual tour, they have to, because it’s so involved. The whole band is really pleased we’ll be getting round to the entire country on this leg of the tour. It has indeed been too long, and we’re excited to see if our fans still have the passion and energy we remember, especially in those Northern cities we haven’t been to for a very long time.”

What other plans does Maiden have for 2017?

“We’ve always got loads going on! The Legacy Of The Beast mobile phone game has been doing great, and I think the interactive player vs player element is due soon, so that’ll be fun. On the beer front, there are certainly plans to do some others. That’s more Bruce’s area and I’m sure he’s got something up his sleeve for 2017!”

Judas Priest: leather rebels

Judas Priest: leather rebels

Judas Priest

Defending the faith with album number 18

Since Rob Halford returned to Priest, metal fans have joyously welcomed three albums of gloriously heroic anthems. Now they’re back in the studio again, making the follow-up to 2014’s triumphant Redeemer Of Souls. “The sessions have been solid with tons of ideas – loads of energy and vibes from reflecting over the life of Priest,” Rob Halford tells us. “Expect riffs and screams from hell!”

It’s their 18th album, in a rollercoaster career that’s seen lineup changes and personal turmoil, yet Priest continue to defend the faith and stay loyal to metal’s steely heart. “We have remained dedicated and proud to do our best in metal through the decades – it’s in our blood,” Rob smiles. “The enthusiasm has never waned. We are and always will be metalheads!”

This year will also see them reissuing Turbo – the synthesizer-fulled album that polarised metalheads upon its release in April 1986. “You can’t beat having another listen to the journey you’ve been on in your musical life, and Turbo is halfway through the 80s decade of metal decadence, and shows Priest in a sound that reflects that time,” Rob considers. “For our maniacs around the world, Turbo carries something special we want to focus on and relive.”

Metallica

UK dates incoming?

The only people more stoked on Hardwired…To Self-Destruct than the fans and critics who lauded it a decided success were Metallica themselves, and the metal giants look set to waste no time in taking the new material out on the road. The States, South Korea, China, Singapore, Mexico, South America and Denmark are all already on the itinerary in clutches of dates that run from this month up until the end of May, and fans should expect that list to get much, much longer as 2017 rolls onwards. As Hammer went to press, there were no UK dates confirmed, but with all the major festival headline slots on these shores now filled, we’re pretty sure we’ll be getting a proper UK tour come year’s end.

Beyond The Black

Beyond The Black

The Future’s Bright: The young bands repping for old-school values

Beyond The Black

We’ve been going on about the German symphonic/power metal mob for ages, and they’re coming back to the UK this month in support of Powerwolf and Epica. We predict dramatic crescendos that make you feel like you’re in a gothic movie.

Power Trip

Mixing a fearsome thrash attack with sick hardcore grooves, Texan crossover crew Power Trip are what beer and headbanging were made for. Their punishing record, Nightmare Logic, is out in February. Prepare to lose your shit.

Bearfist

The winners of London’s 2016 Metal 2 The Masses competition to play Bloodstock, Bearfist are just metal AF, combining weighty riffs with throat-shredding screams. Check out new EP Foundations and look out for tour dates near you.

Grove Street Families

These skate thrash revivalists are bringing the grooves and riffs of Suicidal Tendencies to a whole new generation, and their album, due out by the end of 2017, will be soundtracking parties across the UK.

Wild Lies

The riff is king for these rising UK stars, who take the sounds of 80s hard rock giants and add a polished sheen. Think loads of attitude, with some lighter-waving moments thrown in. Expect new music later this year.

The Main Eventers

The big guns are coming back swinging in 2017

Steel Panther: coming to a space station near you?

Steel Panther: coming to a space station near you?

Steel Panther

Despite lowering the bar, the LA posers are rising higher

You’ve headlined Wembley Arena – twice! How are you going to top that this year?

Michael Starr (vocals): “Hopefully our new record, Lower The Bar, will be well received and we’ll gain a bunch of new fans. I don’t know how you top playing Wembley, unless you go to the Stadium, and I honestly don’t see us jumping from the arena to the stadium in the next year. But, if that were to happen, that would be how to top it. And we’re coming to play the festivals next. That always goes well for us.”

Do you think you’ll ever headline a festival?

“It’s a lot of pressure to headline one. I think it’s better to go on just before the headliner. That way, if there’s nobody there, it wasn’t our fault! I think we should go on at Download right before Aerosmith, and then during Dream On Steven Tyler should invite me out to help him sing it, and then afterwards he and I could bone some chicks. That’d be a way to top Wembley.”

If you had your own Panther fest, who would come and play?

“Oh man. In Death To All But Metal, we sing about Papa Roach. I think they’re such a great band, they’ve totally flipped the switch, they’re playing metal now. So I think them on the bill, Stone Sour would be pretty rad, Van Halen could open the show. Then we’d get Mötley Crüe to reunite and come out of retirement and break their contract to play.”

What can we expect from Lower The Bar?

“We’re putting it out in February, and I feel like we’re evolving as a band and we’re getting better with every record. On the first three records, we sung about partying, fucking and doing drugs, which is totally killer. But on this record now we’re talking about fucking, partying and doing drugs, so we’ve switched up the order. And without getting all philosophical, the fucking record’s bitchin’. It’s killer just like our other ones, and if you’re worried we’ve changed anything of our formula, we haven’t. Same shit we always do, just a bunch of different songs. Imagine this, if you went to the Rainbow and they’d changed their recipe for their pepperoni pizza, you’d be bummed because it wasn’t the bitchin’ pizza you’re used to.”

What’s your biggest ambition for 2017?

“Right now, I’m about 195 and I want to get down to 181. I want to grow my hair a little longer – maybe two inches and a little more blond. And I’d also like to get a new car. I’m thinking of trading in my mom’s station wagon. I want to get a Hummer, ’cause it’s so American and so obnoxious, and if I drive that then everyone will know I have money. And I want to have sex with a bunch of chicks. And I also want to be the first band to play on the moon, but Satchel said you can’t, ’cause you can’t hear anything. But now they’re building all these space stations, we could just build one on the moon and have the first festival there, and just invite millionaires. Think about how many t-shirts we’d sell. It’d be killer!”

Stone Sour: no Root, but still raw

Stone Sour: no Root, but still raw

Stone Sour

Corey Taylor’s getting his hands dirty

After an intense two years touring Slipknot’s .5: The Gray Chapter, Corey Taylor is temporarily hanging up his mask to focus on Stone Sour. The relentlessness of the road and his emergency spinal surgery may have made life difficult for the frontman in recent months, but he’s keen to stay active. “I do always need a bit of time to recharge, but then I’m ready to go!” he enthuses. “I’ve had two months off, but seeing as I have a huge family… no, no time off, really! My neck is still a work in progress, but it’s feeling better every day.”

The band have already written the follow-up to House Of Gold & Bones, their double concept album released in two parts during 2012 and 2013, and are recording it this month. It’ll be the first full-length since guitarist Jim Root was dismissed in 2013, after sitting out a tour to focus on writing the Slipknot record. But for fans worrying that his departure spells a descent into cleaner, more radio-friendly material, Corey has some comforting words. “It’s a fucking raw, hard rock’n’roll album,” he tells us. “It’s dirty, it’s got rock, metal, punk – I think it’s probably the best material we’ve ever written.”

Don’t expect two discs this time around, though. The ambitious set proved to be fruitful but incredibly stressful. “The double album almost killed me!” he reveals. “We’re going back to one album – but a lot of tracks. We’ve got some cool ideas for the release, too, but I can’t give away too much right now…” Hmmm, sounds interesting. Can we expect any guest stars? “Shit, well, you never know!” he cryptically winks.

Yet another reason why 2017 is going to rule so much harder than the last 12 months.

Devin Townsend And The Serious Band Photo

Devin Townsend And The Serious Band Photo

Devin Townsend

The eccentric musician births new brainchildren

Devin can’t stop creating. Besides releasing his autobiography, Only Half There, and hitting the UK in March in support of latest album Transcendence, he’s also working on “surreal and dark” Casualties Of Cool material. In September, he will mark the 20th anniversary of Ocean Machine: Biomech by performing it with an orchestra at an ancient amphitheatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. “Ocean Machine represents a lot to me – a type of innocence, and an archetype for a sound that I still participate in with The Devin Townsend Project,” he explains. “It helps my creative process to be able to deconstruct these things. It had such a traumatic birthing process, so to be in a position where I’m provided an opportunity to revisit it… we are putting a significant amount of energy into making it really awesome.” But it must be awkward listening back to your younger self… “Yeah! When you’re writing a massive epic song about some sort of childhood neurosis that you look back on in your 40s, you’re like, ‘Really?!’ But it’s like Harry Potter – the characters grow. As the books go on, they become more dense, and it becomes a little more adult. So if I can be so bold, I’ll be the Harry Potter of metal from now on, and happily so!”

He’s also developing a brand-new project. “It’s either gonna be a meditational ambient thing, or a soft rock thing, or a combination,” he reveals. Expelliarmus!

The Atlanta foursome are digging deep for album no.7

The Atlanta foursome are digging deep for album no.7

Mastodon

The prog-metallers explore the emotional territory of cancer

How’s the new album coming along, Brann?

Brann Dailor (drums/vocals): “Well, we’re done. We’re super-proud of it – it’s got all the things that are hallmarks of the band in it. It has super-proggy bits, these straightforward riffs, and then some surprises on it, too. As we like to do. It will be out in April, we hope.”

Where do you think it sits in your back catalogue?

“For me, this one sits closer to Crack The Skye. There’s a little more to it; it goes to these unexpected places. But it maintains the pop sensibilities of the earlier albums. It tells a story, too – we went back to the concept thing. It makes it easier for me to write lyrics if I have a movie playing in my head. I know what I want to write lyrically in a literal sense, but I like to cloak what I’m saying in metaphors. So I need a story to be that metaphor, just to govern my lyrics. We discuss that in a way that I imagine someone would a film or a play, ‘Why is this character doing this? What would lead someone to doing that?’, and go away and write our own ideas. We’re reluctant lyric-writers, and reluctant singers, but our singer left just before our first-ever tour so the other guys have been picking up the slack ever since. It’s hard to explain what something sounds like, but I just know that we really love it.”

What’s the story about?

“It’s about the desert. The whole thing is a metaphor for going through cancer. Surviving cancer and not surviving cancer. There’s been a lot of it within the band this past year, so I knew it was on my mind and I knew it would be on everybody’s mind. Bill’s mom passed away a couple of months ago, my father-in-law passed, Troy’s wife has been through breast cancer and she’s just come out the other side. So we wanted to incorporate that. It’s about this guy that’s been handed a death sentence from a Sultan, and he’s running from a band of the Sultan’s men. He’s trapped in the desert and the sun is this radiation that’s killing him. It’s a big, long story…”

Why did you decide to work with Brendan O’Brien again, who produced Crack The Skye?

“I feel like Crack The Skye was a very special album and a very special time. This new one sort of goes into that territory. From an emotional standpoint, it’s got those feels as well. I feel like that’s relatable. We felt like the music lent itself to Brendan; he likes a very decorated Xmas tree. As do we. We both like it so much that you can’t see the branches because of the amount of ornaments on there. He’s also very good at growing a song. If you have three verses, the first one you’ll hear will be a very stripped-down version, the next one will have an extra tambourine or guitar part, and then on the third one you’ll hear all the bells and whistles on it. It’s almost subconscious, but it adds so much to the sound of the record. He’s a great producer, we like working with him, and he makes us laugh. It’s nonstop jokes with him.”

Prophets Of Rage: disgustingly heavy

Prophets Of Rage: disgustingly heavy

Prophets Of Rage

It’s time to take the power back

From closing down the New York Stock Exchange to shouting about political wrongdoing, Rage Against The Machine were a vital voice of dissent in the 90s. In these uncertain times of Brexit and Trump, this Rage/Public Enemy/Cypress Hill supergroup are vowing to carry on that mission. “Firstly, this election result means nothing,” guitarist Tom Morello begins. “Whoever was elected, there will continue to be grave injustices perpetrated on the people and the planet. The other thing you can be sure of is that there will be a backlash and resistance against that injustice, and there will need to be a soundtrack to that resistance. We intend to provide it.”

Besides inciting chaos at Download, they’ll be releasing an album of original material. Rest assured, it’s going to slam. “We wanted to take the energy of the live shows that we played, and make a record that lives up to that,” Tom explains. “Initially we leant pretty heavily on our bands’ back catalogues, but now we’re going to find out just what sort of a band Prophets Of Rage are. That’s very exciting to me. It’s certainly some of the heaviest stuff we’ve played in a long time – surprisingly heavy, shockingly heavy, disgustingly heavy!”

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson

The Challengers - here’s what your other favourite bands are up to this year

The Amity Affliction will be writing more introspective metalcore this year, while Arch Enemy are bringing out their 10th record. Things are looking quiet for Behemoth, but Nergal is busying himself with his new country (!) side-project, Me & That Man. Meanwhile, fresh from supporting Architects, Bury Tomorrow will be laying waste to our venues in April. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Decapitated are creating a load of unearthly new sounds, and Electric Wizard are expected to release another mind-warping, doom-laden record. Five Finger Death Punch were also on course to deliver new material, but with Ivan Moody dropping off tour due to illness, the band’s plans are currently unclear. Limp Bizkit have been touring, but will they ever put out Stampede Of The Disco Elephants? And, more importantly, do people still care?

Meanwhile, Marilyn Manson will release the wordplay-tastic SAY10. If its video teaser is anything to go by, he’s up to his old, Bible-tearing tricks again. Megadeth aren’t likely to release another album so soon after 2016’s Dystopia, but Dave Mustaine has told of a “secret project”. Hmmmm. And you can expect more catchy confessions from Jacoby Shaddix with Papa Roach’s forthcoming album Crooked Teeth.

Aussie bruisers Parkway Drive are coming to crush the UK in April with Asking Alexandria. Expect all the pits. Sepultura release Machine Messiah this month, closely followed by Suicide Silence’s self-titled album in February, which marks something of a left turn for the band. Tesseract head to the studio soon, with a break in March supporting Devin Townsend, and our favourite northerners While She Sleeps are back with DIY third album You Are We in April. Welcome home, lads. Later this year, Within Temptation will be penning new songs. Expect symphonic greatness and a corset-load of hooks. Bring it on, 2017…

Comeback Kids

Some big names are making a grand return this year. Here’s who we’re most stoked on

Make sure you catch AFI on the road this year – you won’t be sorry!

Make sure you catch AFI on the road this year – you won’t be sorry!

AFI

The goth punk kings are finally returning to the UK with Deftones and at Download

You’re coming back to the UK for the first time in seven years. What took you so long?

Davey Havok (vocals): “Nothing really prompted us not getting there, per se. It was just the natural progression of things.”

Are you looking forward to your first Download?

“I’ve not spent a lot of time in England, so I don’t know too much about Download and I have never been there, but I hear that it’s a very revered festival, and I know that people are very excited about it. So I’m very much excited to play it, because, from day one, the UK’s been so good for us.”

Since you last came here, bands you have clearly influenced, like Creeper, have moved up the ranks. How do you feel about that?

“I never look at our ‘legacy’ or ‘influence’ unless someone says it to me, or if an artist approaches me and outwardly tells us that. It’s a very flattering and touching thing. I grew up being so moved and so inspired by so much music, and I still am actually, so it’s kind of insane that I could have a similar impact myself. But, in all honesty, it’s not something that I ever really think about!”

You’ve also evolved a lot as a band in those seven years…

“We’ve been so lucky to have a fanbase that is willing to go with us from record to record, because we have changed and we have made lots of dramatic shifts within our music. We might lose some people on each record, but we gain the same amount from somewhere else. Mostly, though, we have managed to have an audience that grows with us. How we feel when we begin writing an AFI record is just to follow how the music takes us. And The Blood Album is the natural progression after Burials.”

What are you singing about on The Blood Album?

“It’s just whatever I’m feeling at the time. It’s a very honest process, much like the music writing process, it’s not pointed. I never sit down with a concept. I’ll take notes away from the music, little lyrical ideas, and when I go back to them I just see a snapshot of the person I was at that time. If people relate to my lyrics it’s because they are truthful. The new record does touch on themes of connection and the misperception of human connection. That’s really all I want to say…”

Dimmu Borgir: bare-faced sleek

Dimmu Borgir: bare-faced sleek

Dimmu Borgir

No corpsepaint? Old-school riffs? WTF are Dimmu up to?

When we were sent the new Dimmu Borgir promo shots, one thing immediately struck us: gone were the extravagant, pimp-my-black-metal attires of the Abrahadabra era, and with them the iconic corpsepaint that the band have worn throughout their career. Is this a sign of the Norwegians leaving their extreme metal heritage behind once and for all?

“With time, you evolve,” shrugs frontman Shagrath when we ask him about the change in aesthetic. “You should never be afraid of trying out a new approach and themes – it’s all about moving forwards, not backwards. On the previous album we had white clothes, which was terrifying for some fans. People will be complaining no matter what we do, and the only thing we can do is move forward in the direction we feel is right. We have to be true to ourselves.”

Shagrath also reveals that there are 10 songs written for the new record. It’s been seven long years since the last Dimmu album, and while Shagrath acknowledges the lengthy wait, he’s confident it’ll be worth it.

“I understand that people have been frustrated by us not giving out too much news about the future,” he says. “The truth is that this band has been going fast forward the last 15, 20 years and at some point you need to take a break. What I can say, is that the new album has ingredients from all the periods of Dimmu Borgir. It has the riffing that we were known for in ’94, and it has the stuff we did on Abrahadabra. It’s like a combination of different things, so I’m very excited. It’s some of the best material we’ve ever written.”

If the dramatic change in look is anything to go by, we can at least assume that we should all expect the unexpected.

Underoath

Post-hardcore heroes return

Three years after seemingly calling it a day (which, in fairness, is bloody ages by modern break-up-make-up standards), Underoath officially made their return last year, and will be continuing their comeback with a UK tour in May, and, possibly, some new music come year’s end. Watch this space…

Serj and co will release more songs our poor brains/mouths can’t keep up with. Hurrah!

Serj and co will release more songs our poor brains/mouths can’t keep up with. Hurrah!

System Of A Down

NEW ALBUM! NEW ALBUM!

SOAD revealing that they were working on a new album was one of our favourite jaw-droppers of 2016, and with festival sets around Europe pegged for summertime, including a return to Download, our money’s on new System material emerging within the first half of the year. We cannot fucking wait.

Maynard: definitely maybe

Maynard: definitely maybe

Maybe Come Back? The bands we’d like to see get back in the ring in 2017

Tool

Look, we say this every year, they mug us off, and then we say it again. But we have a funny feeling we might actually, maybe, just maybe, get some new Tool music in 2017. Maybe.

Rammstein

The German giants have announced more European dates, but we’re not having that – it’s been fucking ages since Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (nearly eight years, in fact). Give us an album already!

Black Veil Brides

We heard back in December 2015 that Black Veil Brides were starting work on a new album, but things went on the back burner for Andy Black’s solo project. Will BVB rise again this year?

Nine Inch Nails

The Rez has been working on soundtracks for the last couple of years, but admitted he’s started writing new NIN stuff. We can’t wait to hear where his head’s at.

HIM

It’s been suspiciously quiet on the HIM front in recent years. We’re defo down for another injection of soulful, gothic metal splendour, though. Sort it out, Ville, yeah?

Young Guns Blazing

The revolution starts now. Here are the young bands reshaping heavy music in 2017

Marmozets: selling out? Not a fucking chance

Marmozets: selling out? Not a fucking chance

Marmozets

Can the Yorkshire firebrands deliver the goods again?

Who are you recording your new album with?

Becca Macintyre (vocals): “We’re recording with Gil Norton, who’s well known for doing Foo Fighters, Pixies – all the best bands, really! What’s awesome is, every band he’s worked with on their second album has done really well. So we’re hoping we’re gonna have that luck!”

How have the studio sessions been so far?

“We’ve been sampling drums and it’s already sounding better than Foo Fighters’ drums. I’m allowed to say that – ’cos it’s true!”

What can we expect the album to sound like?

“Obviously it’s going to sound huge, and we want it to sound huge. All the boys know how they want their sounds and with Gil, it’s so beautiful having someone there, just to have another head in the room. He’s been doing it for 30 years, so it’s incredible! I also think that people who haven’t given us a chance might give us a chance now. Lyrically it’s better, everything’s better. It’s been a pretty shit year for the world, and I really feel like the songs we’ve been writing are going to be able to help people.”

Why did it take so long to get recording?

“At Leeds festival, which was the highlight of my 2015, I dislocated my knee. I was told it had to be operated on before it was too late and I damaged it even more on the road. I couldn’t get my operations done at the same time, so that’s why it took longer. Recovery has taken a long time; it’s like learning to walk again. It was frustrating.”

Has that frustration fed into these songs?

“Completely, dude! You know, half the time you go through shit and think, ‘Why did this have to happen to me?’ But all the shit I’ve learned this year has made me so ready to go back on the road and handle situations better than I did before. I’m a lot stronger – it really was a blessing in disguise.”

How can Marmozets help our scene in 2017?

“By being obedient to people that need music, and not fucking selling out and trying to get where we want to be in some disgusting way, like people do in the music industry. We’re bringing real fucking music back, and that’s what the revolution is gonna be. That’s what people need. They don’t need any of this fake shit anymore. That’s why everyone’s losing the plot.”

What are your personal ambitions for this year?

“I’ve got a big heart for people in general. Everyone is an individual and I just want to show people that it’s OK to be yourself. You can do amazing things if you stay true to yourself.”

Creeper are coming out of the shadows

Creeper are coming out of the shadows

Creeper

Can their first album live up to those EPs?

“We’ve only just begun to realise how significant what we do as a band is.” Few bands have captured the imaginations of young rock fans like Creeper in recent years, and 2017 will finally see the release of their debut full-length album, Eternity, In Your Arms, courtesy of Roadrunner. “People have really got into the idea of the band,” adds frontman Will Gould. “It’s amazing to look out and see so many people, and the impact that we’ve had on them. It’s quite overwhelming, and I think we’ve had to learn how to become comfortable with a lot of those things very quickly.” Whatever media hype is thrown their way, the band know that it’s their relationship with their fans that means the most as they head into their most important year yet. “People have been getting more and more sick of the shit that is getting pushed at them,” Will muses. “People don’t want the things that the machine was telling them they had to like. If we’re a conductor for that movement, then I really welcome it.”

Code Orange: painful and jarring goodness is on its way

Code Orange: painful and jarring goodness is on its way

Code Orange

Pittsburgh crushers make their major label debut

Code Orange aren’t in two minds about where they stand in our world in 2017. “We are a real motherfucking band,” growls drummer Jami Morgan. “We’ve been doing this since we were 13 and we’ll keep doing it at the highest level. We’re here to offer our alternative to metal fans.” After uniting fans of both the metal and hardcore scenes with two ferocious, genre-mashing offerings on Deathwish, the Pittsburgh crew will be blowing a hole in 2017 with their major label debut, Forever, via Roadrunner. As Jami explains, however, we shouldn’t expect catchy pop punk bangers. This is music as visceral and angry as ever. “I wanted this record to be experimental, focused, painful and jarring,” he reveals. “It’s something new, but also a part of this era of hardcore and metal. Other bands are worried about making a quick buck. It’s dull as fuck.” ‘Dull’ is one word you won’t attribute to this band in 2017.

This Irish quartet are monstrously good

This Irish quartet are monstrously good

Making Monsters

Frankenstein had nothing on these guys

Their brilliant Bad Blood EP, which melded punk, grunge and alt-rock to make a catchy, raucous new breed of noise, was one of our highlights of 2016. This year the Irish foursome will be looking to build on their momentum. Look out for tours, festival sets, and, if rumours are to be believed, a full-length album.

SHVPES: they’ll fuck with your head

SHVPES: they’ll fuck with your head

SHVPES

Genre-mashers continue their rise

Mixing metalcore, tech, nu metal and elements of hip hop and jazz, Shvpes most certainly aren’t scene also-rans. After impressing with their ace Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. debut last year, they’ll be using 2017 to boost their profile further, with extensive touring and some festival shows come the summer. We’re pumped. You should be too.

Brutai: sofa, so good

Brutai: sofa, so good

Brutai

It’s the anthemic tech-core crew’s time to shine

Merging the post-djent chug of modern metalcore with plenty of ambient flourishes, Brutai ended 2016 as one of the underground’s most hotly tipped names, and are looking to break into metal’s big leagues this year with a ton of shows. “Up first is our tour of the UK with Devil You Know, which is a step in the right direction,” enthuses keyboardist/vocalist Alex Lorimer. “We’d love to get out around Europe, and a huge goal for us is to play Download.” With the modern metal scene often accused of being splintered, Brutai believe they have the chops to help bring us all together. “We’re a metal band, but whether you love it heavy, poppy or proggy, we’ll have something for you,” Alex says. “We let the emotion of our music do the talking, and if you have a good live show it’s hard for people to argue they didn’t enjoy it, even if it’s not necessarily their cup of tea. It would be good to see heavier music break back into popular culture like in the late 90s and early 00s, and help metal get the global recognition it deserves.”

Rap-rock-electro-metal mash-ups FTW!

Rap-rock-electro-metal mash-ups FTW!

The One Hundred

Moshpits and glo-sticks at the ready

After making serious waves while supporting everyone from Crossfaith to Papa Roach, The One Hundred have been locked in the studio putting the final touches to their much-anticipated debut album, out soon via Eleven Seven. If the raggo-rave assault of their work so far is any indication, expect a rap-rock-electro-metal monster heading our way come spring.

Wars: come on, guys, just deliver that album already!

Wars: come on, guys, just deliver that album already!

Wars

Post-hardcore heroes tease great things

One of our favourite EPs of 2015, And So The Sea Will Claim Us All left us expecting big things from Wars last year. But they decided to instead bide their time, playing a few select shows before signing with Spinefarm for the release of their much-anticipated debut album. It lands imminently, and we are Very Excited Indeed.

As Lions: new album, more tours, fresh start

As Lions: new album, more tours, fresh start

As Lions

It’s time for Austin et al to prove their worth

It feels like an eternity since Rise To Remain bit the dust and we were told that a new band was rising out of the ashes. As it happens, two years isn’t a particularly monstrous time to wait for a band’s debut album, but when you’ve spent that time releasing little in the way of new music while touring with some of metal’s biggest names, the pressure is most definitely on to deliver. “This is a brand new start and a brand new band,” reaffirms Austin Dickinson. “As far as ‘making it’ goes, it’s out of our hands. That’s totally up to the fans. The only people I truly have to prove anything to is myself and the guys. If we are happy and excited about the music we are making and the shows we are putting on, then I would consider that ‘making it’.” The frontman is also loving the touring life, and as well as As Lions’ debut album, Selfish Age, landing this month, we can expect to see plenty of live action around the world this coming year. “Whether 200 people or 20,000 people turn up, we’ll know we’re in good company!” Austin grins.

Puppy could be a bone fide success story in 2017

Puppy could be a bone fide success story in 2017

Puppy

2016’s ultimate outcasts could be 2017’s surprise success story

They were the first to admit that they didn’t fit readily in any subgenre, but what made Puppy’s EP rule our stereos last year was its amazing slicing of influences as varied as Ghost, Deftones, Weezer and Black Sabbath. A flurry of well-received shows followed, including a memorable (and fucking sweaty) headliner at Camden’s intimate Black Heart in the summer. And they’re just getting started… “We’re gonna smash it! That’s the plan,” beams guitarist/vocalist Jock Norton. “We’re working on new material. We still think of ourselves as these weird guys that are just in the corner, and that’s served us really well so far, so we’re really trying to fight against doing what people might expect from us.”

The Pups’ debut album will see the light of day sometime in the second half of the year. Bank on metal’s ultimate misfits to become one of the most interesting – and potentially vital – bands of 2017. You have been warned.

It’s metal, but not as we know it

It’s metal, but not as we know it

Ocean Grove

Get ready for the weirdest band of 2017

Dropping one of the catchiest songs of 2016 in Lights On Kind Of Lover (with a hysterically 90s video to match), Ocean Grove’s groove-heavy rap metal bludgeoning marked them out as the latest in an ever-growing line of bands harnessing the best bits of nu metal to create a thoroughly modern noise. On February 3, the Aussies drop their loudly eccentric new album The Rhapsody Tapes via UNFD, and we can reliably inform you that it’s a genre-spanning banger-thon. Get ready for the Aussie metal revolution to take a bizarre fresh turn.

Generation Games - five Hammer heavyweights pick the names you need to watch in 2017

Sylar

“They bring a lot of 90s sounds into their music without making it cheesy, and I really respect what they’re doing. They’re going for it, and they have a lot of hype right now. We’re really stoked on those guys.” - AUSTIN CARLILE (OF MICE & MEN)

Skeletal Remains

“You’ll love them if you’re into Florida death metal. They remind me of Obituary a little bit. Check out their song Beyond Cremation from the album Condemned To Misery!” - JAMEY JASTA (HATEBREED)

Old Wounds

“We toured with Old Wounds at the end of last year. They’re really rad. They’re from New Jersey and their music is basically just pissed-off hardcore, but they do it very, very well.” - CALEB SHOMO (BEARTOOTH)

Danny Brown

“He’s a rapper, but he raps over very avant garde and unorthodox beats, and it’s so not hip hop. It’s one of the more interesting records I’ve heard in a while.” - CHINO MORENO (DEFTONES)

Farmikos

“Joe Holmes, who played with Ozzy Osbourne in the 90s, has been working on some music over the last 10 years or so for this band, and it’s very cool. It’s definitely below the radar!” - ROB TRUJILLO (METALLICA)

New wave of extreme

The underground is full of rad new music. Here are the young bands pushing things forward in ’17

World politics will be adding fuel to Venom Prison’s fire in 2017

World politics will be adding fuel to Venom Prison’s fire in 2017

Venom Prison

The death metal warriors are fighting for change

How are you going to build on the momentum you gathered in 2016?

Larissa Stupar: “We have a few things planned. Last year was overwhelming for us; we signed to Prosthetic, released our album Animus, and played tours with Trap Them. We’re hoping to play more festivals like Damnation, which was really fun. We have several tours planned, but I can’t really tell you who they’re with or when they’re going to be. We want to start writing new material really soon, so there will be new songs out at some point this year.”

Animus is lyrically very confrontational, particularly on the subject of rape culture. Will you be focusing on the same themes?

“I don’t really know. I think there’ll be a lot of things to talk about politically and ethically, especially after the US election. I think it’s going to be a mix of personal stuff and political stuff. I’m going to try and make something interesting out of that.”

How have the Brexit result and American election result affected you?

“It was a good year for us as a band, but if you look at other things, it’s been really shit. There have been a lot of things politically going wrong all over the world, like Brexit, the far right just rose everywhere, the Syrian refugee crisis… we can’t just erase it all, so I think this year might even be worse than last year. This can be really inspirational in terms of lyrical content.”

How will you personally try to make a change?

“I don’t think I can change the world by myself – the only thing that would help is education. And if I write about things that concern me, I might be able to open someone else’s eyes and maybe make them feel inspired to educate themselves in some form.”

What mindset are you hoping to change?

“I would like to make people realise they have privileges on other people and other groups. We have a privilege of being human, one of the songs on Animus is about that [Desecration Of Human Privilege], so we enslave other species, and stand upon them, and think we are the kings of the world because we are human, but it doesn’t matter if we’re black, white, Asian, female or males – we need to realise that no matter what group we belong to, we have some kind of privilege and, of course, as white males and females we have privileges upon other people.”

What is Venom Prison’s ambition for next year?

“We want to do as much as we can and see how far we can get. This year has been really good to us, and we’re really excited to see how next year will be. I want to graduate and leave uni behind, finally. I’m hoping all of us will be able to do Venom Prison full time.”

Tub prepped, Ghost Bath just await the spirits

Tub prepped, Ghost Bath just await the spirits

Ghost Bath

Between angels and anguish

On first listen to Ghost Bath, you might think you’re struggling to make out the lyrics under the crashing noise. But there are no lyrics, only depressive vocal sounds. At Bloodstock last year, the daytime crowd affectionately wailed back to their singer, Nameless, making for a memorable set. “I think laughing is a perfectly legitimate response to hearing something as out-there as my vocals,” he says today. “I’m not the first band to do this – Silencer were one of my big influences in that, and Austere and Germ. Overall, any type of reaction is better than nothing.”

Following 2014’s Funeral and 2015’s Moonlover, they’re about to release another record to form a trilogy. Confusingly, Moonlover is the first part of the story, and the new record is the second. He describes it as the most joyful sounding. “The concept explores Jewish Angelology, which is the study of the hierarchy of angels,” he explains. “There are different types of angels and they’re all ranked differently as you get higher to heaven or closer to God. On the album, I explore free will and how it would be to be forced to worship or do certain things.”

Oathbreaker: toe-twinging goodness

Oathbreaker: toe-twinging goodness

Oathbreaker

The Belgian crew turn their guts inside out

With 2016’s Rheia, Oathbreaker produced a heartbreaking and ground-breaking document of emotion. Sometimes Caro Tanghe’s voice roared through the blackened hardcore squall, and sometimes it soared vulnerably above. Her lyrics are oblique, but touch on personal subjects such as her fractured relationship with her father, and the death of her grandma. The band are hitting the UK this month, and it’s going to be intense.

“Some days, when the vibe is right, my mind, body and the words I’m singing are so connected that I can feel every little word coming out of my mouth as a twinge through my backbone, and then all the way to my little toe,” she says. “But the only way of coping with it is to go through it every night and give everything.”

They plan to tour as much as they can this year, including playing Roadburn. There are no plans for new music yet, but they’re feeling inspired. “We have some weird stuff lying around that we might try to combine and release,” Caro reveals, “but I’m also getting excited to start writing new stuff.” We’ll be waiting.

Calligram: a cheerful bunch

Calligram: a cheerful bunch

Calligram

Bleak blackened sounds

This London mob sound like they practise in the darkest basement imaginable, surrounded by murderous ghosts. They’ll be recording more music in February, with Lewis Johns (Rolo Tomassi, Svalbard, Employed To Serve), before releasing a mini-doc and going on tour. Prepare to have your mind fucked.

Manuel Gagneux: the coolest one-man band ever?

Manuel Gagneux: the coolest one-man band ever?

Zeal & Ardor

The most unique noise of 2017 has arrived

A one-man project from Manuel Gagneux, Zeal & Ardor already have the extreme metal online community talking. Mixing icy blasts of extremity with soulful, bluesy acoustics and chain gang chanting, the album is unlikely to be like anything else you hear this year. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Show-Stealers!

Heavy music and theatricality go hand in hand, and this lot are keeping metal’s showy spirit alive

Papa and the Ghouls: plotting their world takeover

Papa and the Ghouls: plotting their world takeover

Ghost

Sweden’s resident phantoms are aiming to usurp Rammstein

What does the new year hold for Ghost?

A Nameless Ghoul: “We will do some pre-production of the new album, go out for a European tour [in March] and, depending when it happens, we will have to find some time to record the new album. Hopefully we will get some time off for the holidays. But the new album should come out in the autumn, and then we all start again…”

Do you have a clear idea of where the album is going?

“Stylistically, yes. I have a pretty clear idea of the imagery, the themes and the lyrical standpoint. The music is not so clear. But thematically, I want a darker album. Where [2015’s] Meliora was meant to be a dystopian, futuristic album, this will be a much more medieval backlash of a thriving society. But on the other hand it will be about survival, about the little human and the big god. From a working point of view, it’s a big thing to undertake, but I have high hopes.”

Do you think 2017 will be the year you break into the mainstream?

“I think that any band that receives any kind of success, and then say they don’t think about it, are liars. In the back of your mind, for one example, the bigger the venue you play the more it affects your songwriting. Look at Metallica, they were playing arenas on And Justice For All. And they were great. But they realised they needed simpler and groovier songs. And that’s true of many bands. It doesn’t mean that they are desperate to be played on the radio, it just means that they are looking to fill that space and make sure those people have a good time. Certain types of songs just feel better in certain environments. In any sort of relationship, unless you’re a sadist, you start to do what the other party likes, because it feels good to make them happy.”

How has success affected your songwriting?

Square Hammer [from 2016’s Popestar EP] was necessary because we needed a big opening song. In the past, I feel like we’ve… I wouldn’t say tormented our crowd, but we haven’t had the opening song that we need. It will feel good when we first get out on the stage, rather than hitting people with a big, weird, prog song.”

Are you guys getting closer to festival headliner status?

“As a live act, our goal has been to be… for want of a better word… big. The show is very entertaining, I want people to have big demands on us, and I want people to consider us in the same way as they do Rammstein. We aren’t there yet, but if we make another good record again then I feel we will be on the right trajectory for the festival promoters to give us that chance. You need new bands up there, and only a few are really reaching for that spot. And I gladly accept that challenge!”

Ash and co: new level-headed

Ash and co: new level-headed

New Years Day

The Californians have been reborn

Ash describes 2016 as the year New Years Day “levelled up”, and they’re set to continue bossing 2017. Work has already begun on their fourth record, which reflects her newfound sense of positivity. “I was pretty pissed-off [on 2015’s Malevolence],” she confesses. “If this album’s going to have a theme, it’s going to be about rebirth; shedding the old to become the new. But it’ll still have a dark metaphorical veil, because I can’t just say things nicely! I fell apart and put myself back together, and that feels good to look back on.”

MIW: on a mission to headhunt new fans

MIW: on a mission to headhunt new fans

Motionless In White

Slap on the factor 50 – they’re festival-bound

Marilyn Manson’s bastard sons are rising from the dead again in March, to release fourth album Graveyard Shift – their first for Roadrunner. It’s set to have all the darkness of 2014’s Reincarnate, but with a heavier shift that Chris Motionless hopes will breathe new life into metal. “This record has had an unintentionally heavy outcome, and I think the fact that it was unintentional speaks to the fact that our band has felt a detachment from that world over the past couple of years,” he explains. “We want it to bring in some new fans to show what our unique version of metal is – and to keep that genre alive. A lot of bands are dying out – they’re getting older and doing the same things. We’re always trying to push the envelope and reinvent ourselves.”

The band will be hitting the festival circuit hard, and play Download’s Main Stage for the first time in June. Chris promises it’ll be a proper spectacle. “We have eight months to prepare, so we’re going to do all that we can within our budget and means to make sure we put a real Motionless main stage performance on – regardless of the fact that it’s gonna be daylight outside!” he laughs. “I’d love to headline one day.”

Cradle Of Filth: bringing Victorian back

Cradle Of Filth: bringing Victorian back

Cradle Of Filth

The arch-goths return

Ipswich’s finest Satan-lovers have been getting their claws into 19th-century literature on record #12, drawing on the stories of H Rider Haggard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. MR James and more. “The album has a decidedly Victorian theme interlaced like arsenic between all songs,” Dani Filth explains. Intriguing.

Ice Nine Kills: all set for a punderful 2017

Ice Nine Kills: all set for a punderful 2017

Ice Nine Kills

They’re here to slay

The pun-loving Boston horror-fiends will be coming over for festival season this summer. Expect rhyming references to Dracula, more screams than a rollercoaster heading for hell, and, um, maybe the odd Adele cover. A fifth album of murderous music will materialise later in the year.

Avatar: clowning around a field near you soon

Avatar: clowning around a field near you soon

Avatar

The circus is coming to town

Roll up, roll up! Avatar are likely to be bringing their freakshow back to a muddy field near you this summer, with Johannes twirling his cane and commanding us to hail the apocalypse. We’re hoping for a surprise rendition of their South Park cover, I’ve Got Something In My Front Pocket For You.

World Domination

Presenting the global metal bands who are set to conquer the next 12 months

Demonic Resurrection are putting their faith in international audiences

Demonic Resurrection are putting their faith in international audiences

Demonic Resurrection

Mumbai’s blackened death metallers delve into Hindu mythology

What can we expect from Demonic Resurrection’s fifth album?

Demonstealer (vocals, rhythm guitar): “With our last album [2014’s The Demon King], we dropped hints about veering towards Hindu mythology as our subject matter with the artwork and concept. Well, this album has taken a step in that direction, and we’ve got great stories that will intrigue our fans and pique interest from people who haven’t heard our music before. The music has evolved too, with the departure of our keyboard player Mephisto. This’ll be the definitive Demonic Resurrection album – the riff is strong with this one!”

What are your hopes for the Indian scene next year?

“Unfortunately, I’ve lost hope in the Indian scene. While it does grow, with more bands being formed and more music being created, I feel the audience has not grown enough to sustain that. We have a cyclic audience that vanishes after every three to four years with a new bunch of kids coming to take its place; venues and festivals come and go; and even the festivals like Deccan Rock and Bangalore Open Air, which have survived more than a few editions, are unable to see any growth in attendance. So I can only hope to string together a decent tour to promote our album, hope to see a few friendly faces at the gigs, and perhaps I’ll live long enough to see a decent scene evolve in 10-15 years from now.”

Have Demonic Resurrection got any plans to tour the UK?

“Given that we’ve made quite a few trips to the UK in the past, more than any other international destination, we really are looking forward to coming back and kicking some ass. I just wish you guys didn’t have that ridiculous visa which costs a band about 1000 quid just to get into to the UK to play shows! Having said that, we’ll make every effort to get back and play, because we love the UK. It’s like our second home, honestly.”

What are your predictions for the world of metal?

“I expect a lot of great music. It’s staggering the sheer volume of awesome music available to us today. I never understand people who say there isn’t enough music out there. Sure, there might be tons of generic, boring, terrible bands, but there are plenty of absolute gems, too.”

Any bands we should be getting excited about?

“There are a lot of bands with promise. Godless from Hyderabad, Primitiv from Mumbai, Kryptos from Bangalore, and this band called Mute The Saint, which features Sitar wizard Rishabh Seen. I do hope that more people come out to shows, more tours happen, and perhaps we’ll get a chance to be out on the road playing and meeting metalheads the world over.”

Orphaned Land will continue to preach peace in 2017

Orphaned Land will continue to preach peace in 2017
(Image: © Amy Bornstein)

Orphaned Land

Israel’s peacemakers drag us into the light

Fresh from their 25th anniversary tour, Orphaned Land show no signs of slowing down. They’ve almost finished their sixth record, a concept album influenced by Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave. The philosopher imagined a group of prisoners in a cave, one of whom escaped and became enlightened, and went back down to the cave to tell the others – but was blinded by the darkness on his return. Plato theorised that the other prisoners would conclude the world outside the cave was dangerous, and would kill anyone who attempted to drag them out.

“It’s a very interesting story, and it shows the pattern of violence and darkness we are all addicted to, and we have been in this loop for thousands of years now,” says vocalist Kobi Farhi. “Every time we have a revolutionary who actually succeeds in making a change and raising hope, he ends up dead. From Socrates, to Jesus, to Martin Luther King. The music will be progressive, with long songs, great riffs, deep stories – and of course it’ll be more oriental-sounding than ever!”

The band will be on the road, aiming to play as many places as possible, still on a mission to spread togetherness. “It’s our life project now,” Kobi tells us. “We’re proud of our way, and the fact that we can make people joyful and full of hope.”

Rudra: twenty-five years in and still going strong

Rudra: twenty-five years in and still going strong

Rudra

The ‘Vedic metal’ band celebrate life

Rudra have just released their eighth album, Enemy Of Duality, which fuses the sitar, flute, tabla and even a didgeridoo. But 2017 is all about celebrating two-and-a-half decades as a band. The Singaporeans have a wealth of celebrations lined up: they’ll be releasing a covers EP featuring bands who inspired them (such as Slayer, Death, Sepultura, Black Sabbath, Bathory and Led Zeppelin), a compilation record, and an album of unreleased tracks. They’re rightly proud of making it this far.

“To us, our anniversary means success and survival,” says vocalist Kathir. “It’s not easy for a band from this part of the globe to survive this long and to keep releasing albums with minimal lineup changes. It also means that we will look forward to a future filled with more albums. Lots of bands in Singapore and in neighbouring countries don’t survive beyond 10 years, but we are testimony to the fact that you can survive 25 years and beyond.”

They haven’t played in the UK yet, but hope 2017 is the year they finally make it over to these shores. Beyond touring plans, their hopes are modest but noble. “We do not have grand ambitions,” Kathir explains. “All that we really want to do is to keep putting out great extreme Vedic metal, as we oscillate between conventions and innovation.”

Hammer faves Burgerkill: unstoppable

Hammer faves Burgerkill: unstoppable

Burgerkill

Bandung’s finest return

Indonesia’s biggest metal band will complete work on the long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s Venomous in the New Year, with a release tentatively planned for March. With their entire native scene willing them on, the Ujung Berung groove machine also aim to do more international touring in 2017. Burgerkill fucking rule, so don’t miss them.

Mongolian throat singing metal… don’t say Hammer doesn’t cover everything

Mongolian throat singing metal… don’t say Hammer doesn’t cover everything

Voodoo Kungfu

New Mongolian menaces

Growling is so last century. Nan Li, Chinese-born frontman of Voodoo Kungfu, employs traditional Mongolian throat singing to unleash an inhuman, intense sound that turns your intestines to jelly. They supported Orphaned Land last year, and will return to the UK in May, while pursuing a label for third album Celestial Burial.

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