25 Best Hard Rock Songs of 2017
2017 is almost complete, with a majority of what will be heard on the airwaves or on record already arriving for the year, so it’s time to take a look back at the year that was and pick out the standout hard rock songs of 2017.
There’s a wide spectrum of artists represented in our list — with ’90s vets like Marilyn Manson, Foo Fighters and Korn earning entry, while fresh-faced acts like Greta Van Fleet, I Prevail and the Royals — Blood and Thunder — both getting looks.
In 2017, we got Queens of the Stone Age to swing, got more political with Papa Roach and had some poignant moments in music accentuated by tragedy. We don’t want to give away the whole list, so head below to see the Top 25 Hard Rock Songs of 2017 and find out what was our staff No. 1.
Billy Corgan, billed as William Patrick Corgan for his Ogilala solo effort, opted for a more stripped back sound on the disc, often letting the vulnerability of his voice truly power the music. With a jangly acoustic guitar and shimmering string and piano backing, Corgan beautifully delivers “The Spaniards,” which comes across in its most soul-baring form as he repeats the longing sentiment “Take me as I am” in the chorus. While “Aeronaut” may have been the lead single, the sentimentality of “The Spaniards” could be most remembered by listeners years from now.
Incubus started off as a harder rocking band before becoming a prominent force on the radio airwaves throughout much of the 2000s with well-crafted and delivered melodic, mid-tempo radio-ready rock. And while they have issued heavier songs on occasion over the years, it felt fresh to hear the Calabasas crew pumping out something a little grittier in “Nimble Bastard” as the lead single off their 8 album. Chugging, string-scraping guitar work, a catchy beat, a subtle groove and the unleashing of Brandon Boyd‘s more aggressive side made our ears perk up and take notice. This track reminded us of how great Incubus can be when they rock it out a little more.
“Betray and Degrade”
Is there such a thing as a dark and bouncy song? If so, Seether found it in their 2017 hit single “Betray and Degrade.” The quiet-loud dynamic comes into play, opening with Shaun Morgan solitary chugging eventually giving way to full-on band aggression. The singer’s delivery almost sounds gleeful as he belts the darker lines, “Betray and degrade me now / I’ll savor how / This emptiness defines you / And take from this tortured soul / My hands are bound / This shallowness confines you.” It’s an intriguing contrast in style, but one that was catchy enough to pull in most listeners.
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes have come in contact with a dark force … the disintegration of a love that’s become so cold and dreary that vampires could dwell there. Carter addresses this sentiment against the backdrop of a driving beat with snarling and sinister sounding guitars and the ferocity and catharsis of someone looking to vent their frustrations.”I feel like I’m breaking under the heaviest weight / I don’t belong here, but here I wait,” conveys Carter, seemingly conceding his defeat. Rarely has resignation sounded so triumphant.
“The Sinking Chair”
Psych / folk rockers Royal Thunder have delivered one of the most emotionally pained records of the year in WICK. While most of the songs wade in hazy atmospheres, drowned in the agony of Mlny Parsonz‘ impassioned voice, “The Sinking Chair” reverses the central notions of the album as an uptempo, door-smashing breakaway jam. By far the speediest track on the album, the sense of urgency is a welcome relief in the pacing of the album.
In This Moment continue to evolve as a band, with 2017 showing the group dipping into a bluesier vibe with their lead single “Oh Lord” off the Ritual album. The stomp-clap opening is hard to resist, feeling like it was birthed in a sweet southern honky tonk. The song slinks along with Maria Brink addressing the Lord, seeking salvation while fearing she’s been laying with the devil. “Oh Lord” got the Ritual album off on the right foot and ranks as one of the band’s most accessible and best songs of their career.
Not content with the status quo, Papa Roach changed a few things up with their latest album Crooked Teeth. While many will point to the return of a rap-style delivery on certain tracks and dabbling in poppier territory catching their attention, it also feels as though Crooked Teeth has more of a political voice than most P-Roach releases. Adopting a more worldly view, Jacoby Shaddix analyzes the concept of the American dream and the disillusion of what it has become in the song “American Dreams.” This driving rocker comes with serious bite. “We’re trying to see through the smoke in our eyes / So give me the truth / Don’t tell me know lies,” implores Shaddix, suggesting that there’s something wrong with the wars, the violence, the prevalence of guns and more in modern day America. Yes, it’s anthemic and will likely draw you in through the sound alone, but Papa Roach’s timely social commentary makes this one of their stronger tracks.
Circa Survive have one of the year’s standout albums with The Amulet, and while many of the songs on the disc are heavier rockers reflecting the loss of innocence, while seeking out signs of hope, it’s the lilting title track that grabs our attention. Singer Anthony Green channels his concerns about death into this gorgeously poetic and atmospheric rocker track that ebbs and flows like waves crashing into and retreating from shore, with a slow burning build toward a heavier and more angst-filled conclusion. Within the album itself, “The Amulet” is part of a musical journey, offering a bit of a respite from the heaviness that surrounds it, which makes the song stand out even more.
2017 started with a bit of uncertainty for Of Mice & Men, with singer Austin Carlile stepping away from the band due to continued physical issues brought on by Marfan Syndrome. Whether planned or not, the band were prepared for this moment when they added Aaron Pauley to their lineup as a second vocalist in 2012. The singer, who had handled most of the clean vocal parts, stepped up to the challenge of fronting the band, and their first statement without Carlile was a powerful one. The song “Unbreakable” was a hard-hitting cut showing the band still had some bite minus Carlile. The lyrics “And I’m not afraid / I’m not afraid / I’m not afraid / I’m unbreakable / Can’t defeat me, though I’m bleeding / Unbreakable / Though I’m bending, I’ll never break” serve as their mantra. Of Mice & Men were sticking around and were ready to embrace this new chapter for the group.
Stone Sour offered a double-shot of new music, releasing “Song #3″ and “Fabuless” simultaneously at the beginning of their Hydrograd album cycle, but it’s the latter track that piqued our curiosity. The band came firing out of the gate with plenty of attitude, as muscular guitar licks and Roy Mayorga forceful drumming set the stage for Corey Taylor‘s verbal assault. The singer bemoans the things that have weighed on him, but the passage that’s garnered the most attention is the status of social media celebrities “spreading your legs for TV time.” Taylor also manages to offer Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones nods in the track before his eviscerating message takes hold.
“The Way You Used to Do”
Put on your dancing shoes! That’s not a phrase that frequently came to mind prior to Queens of the Stone Age‘s Villains album, but a pairing with pop producer Mark Ronson has taken their fuzzed out sounds in a more groove-filled direction. This is most obvious on the Villains single “The Way You Used to Do” which swings with undeniable catchiness as Josh Homme belts about a longing for a more youthful, passionate time with his mate, fending off the “monsters who terrorize normalcy.” Though the song has made its presence felt at radio, it’s arguably even more effective in the live setting, where Queens of the Stone Age bring the energy of the room up and send their fans into a dancing frenzy with this rocking little ditty.
Is “KILL4ME” a Marilyn Manson twisted love song or a veiled threat, as the rocker recently referred to the track in our recent interview? Perhaps a bit of both. Seeking a sign of ultimate devotion, Manson offers the ultimatum, “Would you kill, kill, kill for me? / You won’t be kissing me unless you kill for me.” Taking inspiration from ’80s new wave and cinematic music, Manson’s Heaven Upside Down standout slinks along with bluesy guitars licks, a stomp-clap beat and subtle usage of industrial sounding keys. It’s a darkly sexy track fitting perfectly into the vibe and sound that Manson has been crafting since his later career resurrection with 2012’s Born Villain.
“Black Is the Soul”
Remember Korn‘s earlier days? The band has evolved their sound over the years, but it was the pulsing, low-end heavy aggression that caught the ears of many fans and with “Black Is the Soul” off of late 2016’s The Serenity of Suffering disc, there are hints of their earlier work. The 2017 release of “Black Is the Soul” chugs away with a tortured feel, pausing briefly for Jonathan Davis‘ nimble scatting over a highly percussive drum breakdown. The singer lets listeners pull back the curtain, vulnerably singing about being pulled away from the right path in life and the emotions that come with that. “Just give me back my life,” bellows Davis at one point, expressing the torment of his ordeal in full guttural glory.
After releasing The Boy Who Died Wolf in late 2016 and enjoying huge success with “My Name Is Human,” Highly Suspect continued their moment in 2017 with their second single, “Little One.” The song oozes with heartbreak, as singer Johnny Stevens infuses this “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” lament with his emotional raw wound vocal. The slow build accentuates Stevens’ growing tumult over his loss, until, like the open, it’s all stripped back to reveal the shell of what’s left in the aftermath. Like its predecessor, “Little One” enjoyed a lengthy and lofty stay on the charts, peaking out a No. 2 at Mainstream Rock radio.
Fozzy have seen a steady climb in their career over the last decade or so, but they finally served up the rock radio hit that had so long eluded them with the title track to their Judas album. The muffled guitars and Chris Jericho whisper vocals build to a powerful explosion. But it’s the diversity of the song that likely has pulled in listeners. After some initial head-banging licks, the song pulls back to more melodic verses, building back up again to an anthemic, fist-pumping, sing-along chorus. This tortured love song about a man fearing he’ll become his own worst enemy, dragging down his mate into his drama, peels back the layers in Fozzy’s songwriting while delivering one of their most radio-ready songs to date.
Royal Blood pick right up where their debut left off, delivering two-man fuzzed-out rock with a vibrant immediacy that pulls in the listener. As the lead single off their How Did We Get So Dark? album, “Lights Out” set the tone for what turned out to be one stellar sophomore set. Singer/bass guitarist Mike Kerr lays down a somewhat repetitive lick against Ben Thatcher’s steady drum beat, setting up the listener for a more muscular chorus with sharper licks and attention grabbing bang-crash beats. Kerr sings about an elusive beauty so unforgettable it turns his life into chaos. The uneasiness and frustration permeates the song’s heavier moments, making for an unforgettable track.
Thrice have entered the eye of the storm and found something beautiful with their song “Hurricane.” The track portends an upcoming conflict between lovers as they attempt to navigate their way through the forthcoming storm. Meanwhile, the music soundtracks the discussion, ebbing through a journey of buzzing guitars and crashing drums. Dustin Kensrue’s weathered voice works perfectly with the melancholic sentiment, locking into the pain of the situation while later offering hope for a future after the storm passes.
As a final musical statement, Chris Cornell‘s “The Promise” is a pretty moving one. The track was penned as the end credits theme for the film of the same name, which chronicled the lives of two men and a woman just prior to the Armenian Genocide. The song speaks to the power of love in the aftermath of a conflict, reflecting on a “promise to survive, persevere and thrive, as we’ve always done.” Cornell lays his soul bare on the track, with the toll of the emotion heard in the vocal, which is given the space to be felt and understood even when backed by the late Paul Buckmaster’s 24-piece orchestra. It’s a beautiful song that earned Cornell a Best Rock Performance Grammy nomination and could be recognized at the Oscars as well.
Foo Fighters surprised us all at the beginning of June with “Run,” the lead single from their Concrete and Gold album. Like several of their biggest hits, the song opens on a more hypnotically melodic feel, giving enough space for the power moments to feel that much more impactful once they kick in. “Wake up / Run for your life with me,” implores Dave Grohl, longing for a different reality. Eventually the spiraling guitars give way to full on fury, with the rebellious nature of the song taking hold and continuing to shake the listener out of their dream world into that perfect light of what could be.
“One More Light”
Linkin Park have helped many through troubling times with their lyrics over the years and at the time it was released, the title track to One More Light seemed like another poignant song for those struggling in their fight to continue in the world. Who knew how impactful it would be as the year continued and we lost two music greats – Chris Cornell and one of the writers of the song Chester Bennington – to suicide. Bennington delivered an emotional rendition of the song after Cornell’s death in the spring and it later became a source of great strength for fans upon Bennington’s death in the summer. “Who cares if one more light goes out? / Well I do,” sings Bennington in a truly powerful lyric that has helped open more discussion about dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.
While many had hoped for Tool to end their lengthy delay in recording new music, it was actually Maynard James Keenan‘s other band A Perfect Circle that made a triumphant return to the music scene toward the end of the year. The more melodic project will release their first original album since 2004 next year, but got the ball rolling on the project with the new song “The Doomed.” The track provided a welcome return, complete with rapturous atmosphere and the ability to toggle effortlessly between electronic-driven verses and more metallic instrumental measures. Adding in a noticeable xylophone and piano accompaniment only enhances the Keenan vocal.
Post-hardcore outfit I Prevail stripped things back for a heart-wrenching tale about the aftermath of a relationship turned sour and managed to find the greatest success so far in their young career. The arrangement of “Alone” allowed Brian Burkheiser’s vocals to come to the forefront, with a musical backing that never overpowers despite hints of a heavier chorus. The use of heavier pianos fill in perfectly for what a guitar would normally fill and give the band a fresh take on the idea of a rock ballad. This Lifelines favorite had plenty of supporters, becoming the band’s first Top 10 hit and being voted by Loudwire readers as the Hard Rock Song of the Year at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards.
Issued after our cutoff for 2016, Starset‘s “Monster” dominated the airwaves early in the year and became one of the most-played songs at rock radio for 2017. The track addresses the question of what remains after a deeply felt relationship has turned bad and whether anything that can be salvaged. Sings Dustin Bates sings of the hurt inflicted and the feeling imprinted, begging, “You’re the pulse in my veins / You’re the war that I rage / Can you change me? / Can you change me? / From the Monster you made me? / The Monster you made me?” The melodic lament plays out over cello strings, a steady beat and muscular synths. This angst-driven track does offer a ray of hope through the sheer act of communicating the pain and giving the former love a chance to provide a lifeline.
One of 2017’s biggest breakouts features a trio of siblings (and a friend) barely out of high school pulling from a movement well beyond their years that likely resonated more with their grandparents. The band is Greta Van Fleet and their love for the late ’60s / early ’70s British Invasion reinterpretation of the blues can instantly be felt throughout their sound. The band’s breakout single “Highway Tune” had listeners thinking that young Josh Kiszka had been inhabited by the spirit of the still living Robert Plant, while his brother Jake appears well-versed on Jimmy Page’s bluesy catalog. The buzz on Greta Van Fleet eclipsed their output, with only a four-song EP for fans to digest until late in the year when From the Fires arrived. But “Highway Tune” was an inescapable little ditty that shot straight to the top of the charts and gave these fresh-faced upstarts the kind of start to their career that most bands dream of.
“Go to War”
From the moment Nothing More‘s “Go to War” came booming through our speakers for the first time, it felt like the band hit on something special. The group mastered the quiet-loud dynamic perfectly, with singer Jonny Hawkins have a chance to frantically alternate between the restrained vulnerable moments of the track and the more primal catharsis of letting his frustration over eroded trust be unleashed within the song. This “relationship gone wrong” song is clearly still in the raw wound stage and Hawkins nails it. Musically the track swings with Depeche Mode-esque beats and hammered down guitar licks. The song is responsible for two of the three Grammy nominations the band earned, looking to pick of trophies for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. Look for the accolades to continue for this song, including it being our staff choice for the Loudwire 2017 Hard Rock Song of the Year.