The mid-year preview: The albums we can't wait to hear in 2017

a collage of 2017 preview artists

Robin Trower

Projected sales might be modest, but Trower’s power remains undimmed. “This is the best thing I’ve ever done,” he tells us

The challenge facing every 60s guitar god is to stay relevant in the modern age. And yet on August 4 Robin Trower will release what he considers some of his best music to date on Time And Emotion, its title a fair indication of the weighty themes within.

“I liked the title, because I’ve been around a long time,” chuckles the 72-year-old, whose breakthrough came with Procol Harum in 1967, “and emotion is the key to what I do. The Land Of Plenty is my reaction to the riots in America and an overview of poverty in the West. You’re The One is about my late wife. Bitten By The Snake is about people being hooked on drugs, basically. It’s a little bit preachy, that lyric, I know, but these are the things I feel strongly about.”

Did he consider including a few lighter moments? “When something is fundamentally blues-influenced, I’m not sure how positive it can be. But it can still be uplifting, that’s the key to it. There’s always a certain amount of joyfulness to my guitar playing, whatever I’m doing. It’s the most fun you can have – at my age, anyway.”

Despite his ‘music before fretwork’ outlook, Trower doesn’t spare the Stratocaster on these 11 tracks, many of them cocksure, wah-drenched power-blues with a hint of 1974’s solo benchmark Bridge Of Sighs. “I think there may be elements to this album that surprise people,” he says, “but there is what I would call some vintage stuff on there.

Returned In Kind,” he says of the Hendrixian, seven-minute, slow-blues centrepiece, “is the best thing I’ve ever done, I think. It’s got all the things you’re aiming for: groove, funk, soul. My other favourite on there is What Was I Really Worth To You, which harkens back to the stuff I did earlier in my career, back in the 70s. As a guitar player, I think I’m always trying to be more soulful. It’s not about speed or anything like that. It’s all about: how soulful can you make one note? For me, it’s more about making great music than ability on the instrument.”

Soul, admits Trower, doesn’t sell like it used to. There will be just one UK concert on the back of Time And Emotion – he doesn’t anticipate ringing tills. “There’s not enough places to play where it’s worthwhile doing,” he says.

“But,” he brightens, “the most important thing with this album is that it satisfies me that I’ve done something really good. That’s the driving force. I’m trying to make better records. You’re driving for something that’s up ahead. You never get there, but you keep working at it.”

ETA: August 4

Queens Of The Stone Age

News that Josh Homme had plumped for pop poster boy Mark Ronson to produce QOTSA’s new album Villains had us checking the calendar in case it was April 1. A surprising choice it may be, but the early signs are pretty good: lead single The Way You Used To Do has the band’s trademark sleazy swagger.

Recorded at United Studios in LA, and without a single guest appearance, Villains sees Homme evolving the band’s dirty desert sound. “The most important aspect of making this record was redefining our sound,” he said. “If you can’t make a great first record, you should just stop. But if you can make a great record, and you keep making records and your sound doesn’t evolve, you become a parody of that original sound.”

ETA: August 25

The Cadillac Three

With a plan to deliver new music every year, unlike their namesake, they don’t have cruise control

Clearly not ones to let the grass grow beneath their feet, Nashville’s Cadillac Three return with new album Legacy in August, just over a year since releasing their last one, Bury Me In My Boots. And if you think that’s speedy work, consider that half of the album had been laid down within days of its predecessor hitting the shops.

“We had a few songs written, like Dang If We Didn’t and Ain’t That Country, when we finished the last record,” explains drummer Neil Mason. “We were excited to get the last record out and get right back in the studio. We had shows the week the album came out last August, and then we had a few days off the following week. We booked some studio time and cut the first half of this new album, then finished it in December.”

Comprised of songs written while the band were out on the road, the self-produced Legacy was recorded in two Nashville studios 20 or so miles apart: the bulk of it in Ronnie’s Place, plus one track at The Castle – a building rumoured to have been a hideaway for legendary 1920s gangster Al Capone. And according to Mason, the band came away with a real mixed bag.

“Stuff like American Slang falls in line with things like Graffiti and White Lightning from the last record, which are similar vibe-wise. The title track is the most stripped-down song we’ve ever done, and then there’s Tennessee, which is more old-school, and we have Take Me To The Bottom that’s more soulful.”

With a UK tour in November, you would imagine that the Three (completed by frontman Jaren Johnston and bassist Kelby Ray) won’t be back in the studio any time soon. But it turns out you might be mistaken.

“We’re already starting to think about the next album!” Mason says. “We have spent a lot of our career feeling that we had more music to put out than we were putting out. We made a pact to try and put music out every year. That’s a good challenge and it keeps us creative.”

ETA: August 25

Alter Bridge: preparing to play with quite a few more strings than usual

Alter Bridge: preparing to play with quite a few more strings than usual

Alter Bridge

With a live-plus-rarities album, Albert Hall shows and solo Myles Kennedy material on the horizon, it’s a busy 2017 and beyond

Myles Kennedy has a ‘to do’ list that would make lesser rock stars blanch. Between his duties as the frontman with Alter Bridge and his long-gestating solo career, Kennedy has made sure his diary is clear for the rest of 2017 and beyond.

Last year Alter Bridge played their biggest ever headlining show, at London’s 18,000-capacity O2 Arena. In October the band release a live album recorded at the gig, the not-so-cryptically titled Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities. An old-school ‘greatest hits’ set in all but name, it’s the sound of a band reaching a new pinnacle.

“There was a lot of weight before that show, a lot of gravity knowing we were playing our biggest show,” says Kennedy. “You tend to go in with a certain amount of anticipation. It was just a huge sigh of relief when we hit the last chord: ‘Okay, I think we made it through this unscathed.’”

The Rarities part of the package brings together tracks that Alter Bridge have recorded for various international versions of their five albums to date, as well as a pair of previously unreleased tracks: Cruel Sun and Solace.

“We had all these songs hanging around in different places, so we figured we’d collect them all together,” the singer explains. “We put together the book for it, and I’m thinking: ‘I don’t even remember the lyrics to this one.’ I had to sit down and try to decipher them all.”

The new live album coincides with two shows the band will play at London’s Royal Albert Hall, for which they’ll be joined by an orchestra, in the grand tradition of Deep Purple’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra and Metallica’s S&M. While Kennedy is excited about experiencing the “sonic assault” of a live orchestra, he concedes that there are potential pitfalls.

“It’s tricky every time you bring an orchestra into a rock environment – you have to be careful how you treat it,” he says. “There will probably be a fair amount of deeper cuts in the set-list, some that we’ve never even played live. We’ll probably start to incorporate some of those into our set, just so the band is familiar with them. It would be disastrous if we don’t have our act together.”

Alter Bridge certainly won’t be the only thing occupying Kennedy’s time in 2017. The bad news is that he’s scrapped the solo album he’s been talking about for the past few years. The good news is that he’s written another one entirely from scratch.

“As a songwriter, songs have a shelf life in terms of where you were in life when you wrote them. I decided back in December that I wasn’t going to put it out. That’s when I started working my ass off doing another one. So I assembled another twenty-five songs that I’m sitting on.”

According to Kennedy, the new tracks are more stripped-down and organic. “I set out parameters in terms of what I could use as a writer. I had my 1944 Gibson J-45 and an early-30s National Triolian Resonator – they were pretty much the two guitars I used for inspiration. There’s definitely a blues vibe to it, but at the same time I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake.”

He’s cagey about details – no album or song titles – but he does reveal that it will be based on a very specific theme: “It’s documenting what my mother and brother and I went through when my father passed away when I was a kid. It talks about that journey, and our exodus from Boston. It’s a very personal record.”

ETA: Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities is released on September 8

Living Colour: a long time coming, but worth the wait

Living Colour: a long time coming, but worth the wait

Living Colour

Politically charged and potent, their new album is attuned to events in the present while inspired by music from the past

When Living Colour started work on their sixth album, Shade, the world was still the right way up. Barack Obama had been in the White House for three years, and Donald Trump was just a billionaire reality TV star with political ambitions. That was 2012. Since then, well… you know the story.

“You start on a project with all these grand ambitions, and things go sideways,” says guitarist Vernon Reid. “We started making this record when Obama was President, but we were still talking about certain concepts. We knew that the idea of ‘post-racial’ anything was inherently bogus. I actually think a lot of things have happened that have helped make this record weirdly prescient.”

The New Yorkers may have started Shade half a decade ago, but it’s perfectly attuned to everything that’s happening today, from the Black Lives Matter Movement (on the jagged Come On) to the unhealthy agendas of sections of the US media (Program). Singer Corey Glover has described it as a “blues record”, and it is, in spirit as much as sound.

“I don’t see it as a blues rock record,” says Reid. “I see it as an attempt to reconnect hard rock and metal to the blues roots. The blues has to be a vibrant, living, changing entity. What has been lost to tradition is that the blues was a wild-eyed, contentious idea. It was extraordinarily sophisticated and avant-garde at the same time.”

The spark for the album came from the cover of Robert Johnson’s Preachin’ Blues which the band played at a 2012 tribute gig to mark the centenary of the blues legend’s birth. “We’d been scattered to the four winds, and we went on stage having had so little preparation,” says Reid. “Not only did we manage to not get in the way of the moment, it also became this magical coming together. It was so well-received that night that we thought maybe this is what the next record is about.”

Preachin’ Blues is one of three politically charged covers on Shade, alongside Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) and a rocked-up version of late hip‑hop star The Notorious B.I.G.’s gangsta-rap anthem Who Shot Ya?.

“During sound-check, Corey would routinely go into the rhyme for Who Shot Ya?,” says Reid. “And so we said: ‘We should record that.’ Corey decided to sing the song rather than rapping it, cos he’s not really a rapper. The song is not at all an anti-gun polemic. It’s very unapologetic in the idea of ‘I gotta do what I gotta do’. The irony, of course, is what wound up happening to Biggie.” [The rapper was shot and killed by unknown assailants in 1997.]

The album’s closing track, Two Sides, features a guest appearance from another legendary figure, Parliament/Funkadelic ringleader and all-round gonzo-funk icon George Clinton (“We have a long history with the Maggot Overlord”). Reid’s guitar playing on the track evokes the fluid brilliance of late P-Funk genius Eddie Hazel, whose 1972 showcase Maggot Brain remains one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded. “That wasn’t intentional,” says Reid. “But there’s a vibe of it. It was just one of those guitar soliloquies that had a huge impact on me.”

The lengthy gestation period of the album may have, as Reid puts it, “validated” Shade, but it’s not something they want to repeat. “I really hope not,” the guitarist says, laughing. I can’t even begin to guess what’s going to happen in America.”

ETA: September 8

Lionize working on their biggest-sounding record yet

Lionize working on their biggest-sounding record yet

Lionize

Maryland’s funkiest reggae-rock crew return with their most stadium-friendly songs yet

For more than a decade, Lionize have travelled the world taking their unique brand of funked up, reggae-infused rock to the masses. This experience has shaped them into a tight, vibrant band live and on record. It has also attached them fairly firmly to the ‘reggae-rock’ label, although that looks set to change with their sixth studio album.

“To step into new territory sonically we had to steep ourselves in The Beatles and Thin Lizzy and Parliament, and not really subscribe to the ‘reggae-rock’ thing,” says singer/guitarist Nate Bergman. “The record has a really nice flow to it – it’s a vibe thing and a real journey.”

Co-produced by Clutch drummer Jean Paul Gaster (together with J.Robbins and the band themselves), Nuclear Soul has hints of their fellow Marylanders, alongside whiffs of Deep Purple and heavy soul. It promises to be the biggest-sounding thing they’ve done, musically and lyrically. Ongoing political tensions in the US have fuelled this to some extent. This new focus has added more topical energy to the sci-fi-infused lyrics they’ve become known for. Not that they’ve totally abandoned their otherworldly elements, but rather streamlined them into fiery, present-day-flavoured numbers like Darkest Timeline and Ain’t It A Shame.

“We’ll always be in love with sci-fi,” Bergman says, “but there’s a lot of intersection on the album where it’s not really fiction any more – it’s exactly where we are at.”

With appearances at Ramblin’ Man Fair and London’s Black Heart drawing closer (July 29 and August 5 respectively), Lionize are more than ready to get their songs out there.

“This is the first album where we are excited about playing every track on the album,” Bergman enthuses. “I am as happy and proud of the album as I could possibly be. I love it and can’t wait for everyone to hear it. It’s the best thing we’ve done.”

ETA: September 8

Foo Fighters

Fresh from their acclaimed performance at this year’s Glastonbury, the Foos are set to release a new studio album, titled Concrete And Gold, in September. The band have also lined up a show at London’s O2 Arena on September 19.

Concrete And Gold, produced by Greg Kurstin, is the band’s ninth album. It will contain 11 songs, including The Sky Is A Neighborhood, Run, Happy Ever After (Zero Hour) and Make It Right. Dave Grohl believes that it sounds like “Motörhead doing Sgt Pepper by The Beatles”, thanks to “some of the most insanely heavy Foo Fighters riffs ever, with lush harmonic complexities”.

Grohl told the BBC that the new album features “a bunch” of guests, including “the biggest pop star in the world. They sing back up on one of the heaviest songs on the record, and we’re not telling anyone who it is.”

ETA: September 15

King King

The blues-rockers look to their early-70s heroes for inspiration on their ambitious fourth album

These days we have no choice but to write on the road,” King King frontman Alan Nimmo tells us just before he heads into the studio to finish work on his band’s new album, Exile & Grace. “We used to fit in writing when we were at home and were a bit idle, but that doesn’t happen any more. It’s more singing ideas into a phone on the road.”

It’s a situation born out of the success that King King have notched up over the last few years. Support slots with John Mayall and Thunder have helped them amass a loyal following, putting the band out on the road for longer periods and ramping up expectations for this, their fourth album. Nimmo’s reaction to that pressure has been to write a record true to the band’s roots. He explains that this basically means it’s King King, just even better than before.

“Every time you make an album it’s stick or twist,” he says. “You bite your nails wondering how it will be received. Whatever we do, we manage to find the King King sound – it always sounds like us! It sounds like King King but just with a step up in quality.”

Not that there aren’t some changes. Exile & Grace sees some of Nimmo’s 70s rock leanings come closer to the surface than they have done on previous albums. “The more comfortable I get as a songwriter, the more my early influences come to the fore,” he explains. “That’s bands like Free and Bad Company.”

King King clearly have faith that the new record, which was self-produced and mixed by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Feeder), will connect with fans – they’ve already booked what will be their biggest UK headline shows at the back end of this year, including one at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

“We’re taking a chance on [bigger venues] and hopefully it will work. If we’ve overstepped the mark then so be it. I’m pretty confident, though, that we’ll do alright out of it. We want to keep going and take this band to wherever we can by moving forward all of the time.”

ETA: Early September

It’s alive: recording at EastWest Studios in Hollywood

It’s alive: recording at EastWest Studios in Hollywood
(Image: © Kevin Shirley)

Black Country Communion

Love. Death. Dolphins. Black Country Communion’s fourth album is full of surprises – not least that the derailed-but-now-reconvened supergroup made a new record at all

When the end came, four years ago, it seemed terminal. After three well-regarded albums, Black Country Communion’s two principal members, Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa, had reached a very public impasse. The bassist seemed desperate to fill the tour diary; the guitarist spoke of feeling “bullied” by “King Hughes” on a rainy-day project that was spiralling out of control. The last time I interviewed Bonamassa, he didn’t mince his words: “I can tell you this. The original line‑up of Buddy Holly And The Crickets – including Buddy Holly himself – has a better chance of a reunification than Black Country Communion.”

But here we are, talking to a chipper Hughes, whose patter darts between the Anglo-American supergroup’s excellent fourth album (our world-first interview comes with the caveat that we’re not allowed to reveal its title) and breezy assurances that all those whispers of bad blood were so much hot air. “I’ve no reason to fib,” he shrugs. “There was never a big falling out with Joe and I. I think it was pretty much invented by members of the press. You guys want to sell magazines. Joe and I are as tight as you can get right now. There’s love on this record.”

With respect to BCC drummer Jason Bonham and keyboard player Derek Sherinian, the dynamic between Hughes and Bonamassa is BCC’s main event. Hughes recalls the moment their dance resumed: “I’ve been so busy in my world. Since the last album, I’ve had open-heart surgery, a couple of new knees. I got inducted into the Hall Of Fame last April. First person that called me up when I got home was Joseph. So we meet for dinner and get to talking: how great it would be to make another album. Things are meant to happen in life. And this record was meant to happen. If I may be so bold, BCC has made some great music. The key was to make sure the new material was worthy.”

Whereas Hughes claimed to have written the bulk of past albums (let’s not open that can of worms), last summer Bonamassa visited the Hughes’s California home for multiple co-writing sessions. The resulting 11 songs include strings, piano and Celtic motifs, without sacrificing the hard-rock crunch of old. “Our fans are musical and they’ll get into it,” Hughes says. “We made sure there weren’t many slow songs, although there are some. There’s one really dense song about the dolphin project that I’m involved with. I think the album is going to get a lot of radio play, a lot of push.”

In January the quartet were ready to go to EastWest Studios in Hollywood with producer Kevin Shirley. “That’s where Sinatra recorded, back in the forties and fifties,” Hughes says. “It’s the biggest room in LA, and we wanted that, for the Bonham influence. The chemistry was immediate. When I’m standing in front of Jason, the game is on. This is a band that plays live. Even Joe’s solos are recorded live. That’s unheard of for a band of this generation. But that’s the way it should be done.”

However, on day three of the recording sessions came black news.

“I got a call that my mum was sick,” Hughes explains. “Day four, I had to fly back to the UK. I’ve had both of my parents die within nine months. My dad died as I was getting my award at the Hall Of Fame, then my mum died on February first. I had to sing this album after my mother had passed away. And the band were all feeling what I was going through. The way that Joe played – very dramatic, heart-wrenching – just tore me up.”

This time around, Hughes handles all the vocals on the album, Bonamassa apparently preferring the simple pleasures of playing blistering guitar.

“I got to pour out my heart about life and what happens before people die,” says Hughes. “It’s not a solemn album, but I don’t shy away from anything. I have no fear in what I write. I’m not going all divine on you here, but I think it’s a very spiritual rock album. Let’s be clear, man, without becoming too morbid, we’re all getting older. We’ve lost Bowie, Chris Cornell, Gregg Allman – three good friends. You never know who’s going to be next. You never know what’s around the corner.”

The same goes for BCC: “What I’ve learnt from reading my spiritual books is that I can’t stop anybody from doing what they want to do. All I can say is that the cards are on the table for Black Country Communion to continue the path. It’s our desire to make music and play live as much as we possibly can. And we will. We will play.”

ETA: September

Kadavar

After seven years recording in a dank Berlin basement, Kadavar decided to construct their own studio. “We spent four months knocking down walls, doing all the wiring,” recalls frontman Lupus Lindemann. “When we were able to play music again it was like being released. We were so happy.”

It’s ironic then that fourth album Rough Times is “darker and more evil”, with a Sabbath-style heaviness, Hawkwind trip-outs and a post-Trump social conscience. The actual recording saw the band break new ground in that they used overdubs, and even added a dash of organ. “We just wanted to try other instruments, other shades and sounds,” explains Lindemann.

The album has a striking cover image, too: a sunbather with a skeleton face and a scar from a heart amputation. “It’s our generation,” Lindemann says. “We’re lying in the sun, not doing anything about the evil that surrounds us.”

ETA: September

Gregg Allman

Rock lost yet another great back in May when Gregg Allman passed away. But it seems that despite his failing health he kept himself hard at work in the months prior to his death by putting the finishing touches to a brand new record. The fruits of his labour will be released in September.

Southern Blood was pieced together over the course of a couple of years, under the watchful eye of producer Don Was. The record is Allman’s first solo release since 2011’s Low Country Blues. Details of exactly what we can expect from the album are sketchy at present, and Allman’s manager Michael Lehman reveals that that is how Gregg wanted it. Lehman told Variety magazine that the album is a mixture of covers and originals, but “I really can’t say much more beyond that. Gregg really wanted to keep [information about the album], tight and I have to respect his wishes – he wanted to surprise his friends and his fans. But I think it’s a record that everyone’s really going to be excited to hear. His vocals are so compelling, and hearing them and knowing where he was in his life’s journey, it’s just chilling, honestly.”

ETA: September

Von Hertzen Brothers

As Mikko Von Hertzen fills us in on the Finnish band’s new album, VII: War Is Over, we’re taken all over the map. The frontman kicks off the journey by revealing that the new record’s roots can be traced back to its hard-hitting predecessor, 2015’s New Day Rising.

“With the last album we had a clear vision of making a killer rock album with ‘America’ written all over it,” he says. “Maybe as a rebound, we now felt like turning back to more proggy and landscape-y expression.”

Mikko went India to work on lyrics. “I lived for many years in south India. I go there for better concentration and vibes.”

He then conjures up images of Scotland when choosing his standout track from the new record. “The main theme of New Terrain is played with bagpipes. Took us a while to learn how to play bagpipes, but we nailed it.”

ETA: October

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

Having learned a few things from the big boys, they’re back with a blend of old-school and modern rock

Tyler Bryant is fired up. But then so would you be if you’d recorded an album that never came out. That’s what happened to the Texan hotshot and his band The Shakedown last year. But they not letting it get them down.

What exactly happened with the album you finished but wasn’t released?

Tyler Bryant: Our record label at the time, Republic, wouldn’t put it out. It was the same old bullshit: “You guys don’t have a radio single, so therefore we’re not going to do anything.” So we decided to write another full-length album and put it out on a different label.

What does the new album sound like?

TB: A lot of the songs were developed after we toured with AC/DC. That gave us a better understanding of what works in bigger venues.

Noah Denney (bass): After the AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses tours, you go: “How do you write a song to get the crowd really rabid?” I think it’s the best blend of old-school rock and modern rock we’ve done.

TB: We’re going to call it Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown – for us it’s a defining record.

What’s the biggest tune on the record?

ND: There’s a song called Don’t Mind The Blood. That song’s basically: if it takes me bleeding to achieve something for the greater good of humanity, then don’t mind the blood if it gets the job done.

TB: Jealous Me is maybe my favourite song on the record. It was written at a time when I was feeling protective of my girl: “Who’s that asshole hanging out with her while I was away?” But then I’m the asshole for thinking that.

Will we ever get to hear the unreleased record?

TB: I think we’ll work things out. My plan is to start a revolution. I want to get enough people together going: “We demand this music!”

ETA: October/November

Saxon

In 2015, South Yorkshire’s original NWOBHM forerunners proved their ongoing value with the powerful Battering Ram. Their next album, titled Thunderbolt, is being completed as we speak.

Several songs are finished, including a tribute to Lemmy that’s fittingly named They Played Rock’n’Roll, in which the band look back on their days spent touring with Motörhead. “I asked bassist Nibbs Carter to write me a song that was similar to Motörhead,” said frontman Biff Byford. “I just put some lyrics to it. It’s about the Bomber tour – we first met them when we supported them on that tour – and the album No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith, and the subsequent 80s scene.”

Byford says we can also, potentially, expect a duet with somebody “quite hardcore”.

The album release will be followed by a world tour. If you can’t wait until then, you can catch them headlining Ramblin’ Man Fair on July 28.

ETA: January 2018

The Truck: going for the big one this time

The Truck: going for the big one this time

Monster Truck

It wasn’t broke, so there was nothing to fix with album three, says their guitarist. “We want people to get what they expect”

Our sound today is close to what it was in the inception of the band nine years ago and we’re sticking to it,” says Monster Truck guitarist Jeremy Widerman. “Sometimes my favourite bands have changed too much too fast. We are careful to avoid that. We want people to get what they expect.”

And why not? The chest-beating, southern-tinged rock all over their debut album Furiosity and the 2016 follow-up Sittin’ Heavy won the band plenty of fans, plaudits and career-boosting support slots (more on that last one later). But while the Truck’s as-yet-untitled new record might be in the same vein as Sittin’ Heavy, Widerman is confident that it’s also a step up.

“I hate saying stuff like this,” he says, “but everyone is saying this will be our best record yet. I’m not sure I could have confidently said that before we released Sittin’ Heavy. We liked it, but we weren’t sure it eclipsed everything else we had done. It wasn’t worse than the first album, but it wasn’t decidedly better. It was more of a case of it being just another Monster Truck record. We want to go bigger this time. We want everyone to go: ‘These guys aren’t fuckin’ around.’’’

Widerman enthuses that the band recently hit a creative purple patch, writing more than 30 songs in a rare three weeks at home between tours. The plan was to record in the early summer, but then the matter of a support slot on Deep Purple’s European tour came up. In fact, when Widerman speaks to Classic Rock, he’s deep in the bowels of Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena where they will be playing the penultimate show of the tour.

While Monster Truck may have fallen a little behind schedule, he says the band will enter the studio in the coming weeks to work on the new record, with SikTh’s Dan Weller the somewhat surprising choice of producer.

“It’s a left turn for us to go with someone younger and outside of the continent,” Widerman admits. “A lot of people expected us to go with a gigantic, Grammy-award-winning name. We decided to go with someone that’s hungry and is willing to go the extra mile every night with us.”

And what rewards does Widerman envisage being in store for going that extra mile?

“We want to quadruple our fan base with this album,” he says. “We want to do that to the point where the majority of people getting into the new record don’t realise we’ve been together for almost a decade, and they can go back into our back catalogue and get into that as well.”

ETA: Early 2018

Shinedown

Following their recent European support slot with Iron Maiden, the American modern rockers are getting ready to begin work on their sixth studio album.

“We’re still writing, but twelve songs are demoed and ready to record,” reveals frontman Brent Smith. “We’re looking to start that process by October, with a release set up [via Atlantic] in March 2018. It will be preceded by a single.”

As yet untitled, the new record is set to be the band’s first ever conceptually themed album.

“Because we’re so early on [in the cycle of things] it’s kind of hard to explain what it will be about,” Smith explains cautiously. “The best I can say is that it’s about the fight between a person and his or her depression, almost as if that depression takes a form of its own… It’s about someone who must learn how to live with their disorder. It’s quite cerebral but, believe me, the songs are still badass and catchy.”

ETA: March 2018

Tax The Heat

_**After “the boldest and brashest debut” of 2016, the sharp-dressed men suit up for their second album of rhythm and blues-infused rock’n’roll**_If there had been a competition at this year’s Download Festival for the event’s sharpest dressed men, West Country blues rockers Tax The Heat would have strolled off with the title. Clad in tailored threads, with immaculately sculpted hair and the finest of leather shoes, the band stood out like Savile Row regulars in a field full of bedraggled rockers. After opening the Second Stage in 2014 with barely an EP under their belt, they returned this year a much more experienced band, and are now preparing to release their second album.

Second albums are supposed to be difficult, but after the reception their first, Fed To The Lions, received, Tax The Heat aren’t fazed by the prospect of following up a record we described as “arguably the boldest and brashest debut” of 2016. For that follow-up, they headed back to The Chairworks studio in Castleford, and producer Evansson was once again in the driving seat. If it ain’t broke…

“He was a massive part of the first album,” says frontman Alex Veale, “and it made sense for him to be a big part of this one as well. It feels like a complete unit in the studio when we have him around. It all flows naturally.”

“It’s much more cohesive than the first album,” he adds. “Your first album is taken from years of being in a band, so it’s all your best bits and your strongest songs. But you’ve got a short amount of time to write a second album, so it’s more about a snapshot in time. It’s about where you are at that moment, and I think it’s caught us at a really good point.”

“I definitely felt the pressure,” says guitarist JP Jacyshyn. “But it’s good pressure. It helps your creativity. You’ve got to do it.”

Who knows where this album might take them. Royal Blood can’t be the only band to ‘do a Royal Blood’. And for all the spectacular noise about the Brighton duo’s spectacular noise, Tax The Heat’s own brand of explosive R&B is less reliant on effects pedals and more inclined to strap a giant chorus on to one of those thundering riffs.

The band are clearly having fun. They joke about releasing a cauliflower-themed concept album, about learning to drink, about riding the chilli highs from the studio’s jerk chicken dinners, and about a bizarre night out at a local karaoke-cum-pub-quiz night, where a father and son duo sang Elton John songs to each other. They also talk with pride about the album they’ve just made, about how good it sounds, and about the thing that happens when four young men in a band spend a lot of time together and the alchemy that ensues.

“Everything we want to do is about that classic tradition of rock’n’roll,” says Veale. “The album is the sum of us. We’ve found out who we are.”

ETA: Not yet scheduled

And in other news…

With a remarkably sunny Download and Glastonbury in the bag, the rest of 2017 looks similarly bright on the live front. One of our favourite rock festivals, Ramblin’ Man Fair, returns to Maidstone on July 29-30, starring ZZ Top, Saxon, Black Star Riders, Rival Sons and UFO, with loads more on the bill. Then in Derbyshire on August 9-12 it’s the turn of the world’s happiest heavy festival, Bloodstock, where Megadeth, Ghost, Skindred, Black Moth and many more likeminded beasts will be vying for your attention. In October, Seether and Kentucky Headhunters both play shows in the UK, while Royal Blood, Michael Schenker and Opeth embark on tours here in November.

Before that, 80s hero George Thorogood releases his first ever solo album (August 4), bonkers gypsy-punks Gogol Bordello have their new album Seekers And Finders coming soon (August 25), and Paradise Lost release their fifteenth LP, Medusa, in September.

Looking further ahead, British heavy metal titans Judas Priest are quietly working on their eighteenth studio album. “We’re still doing what we love to do,” singer Rob Halford told Planet Rock, of their as-yet-untitled record. “Priest is a working band more than anything else. It’s that Midlands ethic, the work ethic of anybody that goes to work… And now we’re moving through into other stages, we’re preparing for another big world tour, getting stage designs sorted, lighting designs sorted…”

Meanwhile, over in the US, Pennsylvanians Halestorm are hard at work on the follow-up to 2015’s Into The Wild with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Mastodon, Ghost et al). “It’s been pretty epic so far,” singer/guitarist Lzzy Hale has said. “We have a lot of tracks.”

Grunge veterans Alice In Chains are also in the studio making a new album. No titles or precise details – in fact nothing at all – had been revealed as we went to press, but it’s expected in early 2018. Also in 2018, Megadeth are expected to release a new record, and Steven Wilson will return to London’s Royal Albert Hall, among many other UK venues, to showcase his upcoming new album To The Bone, which hits the shops next month (August 18). Even further ahead, most likely in the second half of 2018, Muse are hoping to have a new album, but have also said fans can expect new songs before then.

To keep abreast of all the music news as it comes in, head to classicrockmagazine.com

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