Time for a year end review. I'm late again this year. Ho hum. Anyway...
In the studio
- Audrey Horne — "Youngblood"
- Battle Beast — "Battle beast"
- Powerwolf — "Preachers of the night"
- Týr — "Valkyrja"
- Motherload — "Black and blue"
- Sirenia — "Perils of the deep blue"
- Tristania — "Darkest white"
- Ancient Bards — "The alliance of kings"
- Lacuna Coil — "Dark adreneline"
- Civil War — "Civil war EP"
- Sabaton — "Carolus rex"
- Queensrÿche — "Queensrÿche"
Another year where there are two contenders for the top spot that are too close to separate. As before, this is a list of albums that I first heard in 2013, even if they'd been released earlier. I'd seen Audrey Horne at Sonisphere a few years back, and they'd impressed despite being a bit too close to alternative rock. But the new album is amazingly good. I'd been vaguely aware of Battle Beast for a while and heard rave reviews about the eponymous second album. I picked it up to see what the fuss was about and they were right. Female fronted heavy metal at its best.
In other years, Powerwolf might have been in the top spot with another strong album. Týr have produced the best album of their career. Motherload are a band I discovered at a festival and loved their performance. They have a great debut album. A welcome return to form from Sirenia and another good album from Tristania (although for me, not quite up to the standard set on "Rubicon"). Ancient Bards are fantastic, although I later got their second album which is OK but not as good as this, their debut. Civil War are the band formed by the rest of Sabaton when they split, with Nils Patrick Johansson on vocals. That was always likely to work out well. Sabaton themselves released a solid album, but it wasn't as good as some of their previous efforts. Queensrÿche had finally got around to kicking out Geoff Tate and as a result, they managed to record their first album in 20 years that sounds like Queensrÿche. Again, it's a solid album, but I'd have liked to see a bit more oomph to it. Still, it's a step back in the right direction and new vocalist Todd La Torre is fantastic.
On the stageAll the shows that I rated 4/5 or better in 2013:
- Last In Line — Bloodstock
- Triaxis — Asylum 2, Birmingham
- Powerwolf — The Underworld
- Rammstein — Download
- Battle Beast — The Underworld
- Uli Jon Roth — Islington Academy
- Therion — Islington Academy
- Accept — Bloodstock
- Audrey Horne — The Underworld
- Delain — MFVF, Belgium
- Iron Maiden — The O2 Arena
- Skid Row — The Electric Ballroom
- Dalriada — MFVF, Belgium
- Dyonisis — The Underworld
- Satyricon — Islington Academy
- Motherload — Bloodstock
- Queensrÿche — Islington Academy
- Evil Scarecrow — Bloodstock
- Eve's Apple — MFVF, Belgium
- Darkest Era — The Garage
- Pain — The Borderline
- Absolva — Bloodstock
- Motherload — The Black Heart
- Avantasia — Bloodstock
- Uli Jon Roth — Mother Live
- Pretentious, Moi? — Nambucca
- Triaxis — Fuel Club, Cardiff
- Evil Scarecrow — Face Bar, Reading
- Tristania — The Underworld
- Tigertailz — The Underworld
- Grifter — Bloodstock
- Gamma Ray — The Forum
- The Faces Of Sarah — Mother Live
- Primtai — The Black Heart
Last In Line were Vivian Campbell back playing Dio songs again, along with Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Claude Schnell. I was expecting it to be OK but nothing special, but I was very wrong. Absolutely fantastic, and vocalist Andrew Freeman does justice to the man himself. Triaxis are unsurprisingly up there again. They've always a great live experience. But their show at The Asylum was probably the best I've ever seen them. Powerwolf had impressed at Bloodstock a few years back and there was no way I was going to miss them when they returned to the UK. Particularly given Battle Beast were supporting. Great performances from both. Uli Jon Roth put on a show of old Scorpions classics in a performance that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, ably assisted by the vocal talents of Nathan James. Iron Maiden were back on form and gave the best performance I've seen from them for many, many years. Dalriada came out of nowhere at MFVF. I'd never heard of them before but they were one of my highlights of the festival. Similarly, Darkest Era were very good supporting Gloryhammer, and I'd never heard of them before the show either.
On the screen
I watched much less this year than previous years. Not entirely sure why.
- Swordfish (2001)
A Travolta thriller, with Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. Apparently this tanked at the box office but I always quite liked it. It's not outstanding and some of the IT is cringeworthy. But it's enjoyable enough.
- Sherlock Holmes (Series 2)
Cumberbatch is without doubt an amazing Holmes. Probably not quite as good as the first series, but outstanding nonetheless.
- The devil rides out
Hammer House Of Horror at its best (or should that be worst?)
- The X-Files (Series 5)
Starting to tail off a bit by this point, but still worth watching.
- Learning Hebrew (2012)
A "gothsploitation movie". Directed by and starring several people I know. It's quite a bizarre experience watching a film where you know the people and locations involved.
- The Wolverine (2013)
Disappointing. Cashing in on the success of the X-Men films rather than making a film about the character because they had a story to tell.
- Man of steel (2013)
So so. Cavill makes a reasonable enough Superman. The story isn't fantastic but it creates an OK world and I'll give the subsequent sequels a go.
- Star Trek: Into darkness (2013)
Scotty doesn't deserve to be played for laughs like this. Kirk is good and works well. Spock less so. The other characters are average but largely forgettable.
- Bergerac (Series 2)
Carries on from where the first series stopped. Celia Imrie works well here and really adds something. I'd forgotten how good it was.
The printed page
- Paul J. Willis — "No clock in the forest"
Poor. A sort of Narnia like story of the modern world interacting with some strange goings on in the mountains. I found it very dull.
- John Wyndham — "Sleepers of Mars"
John Wyndham — "Wanderers of time"
A couple of collections of Wyndham's short stories. He came up with some fantastic ideas.
- David Lee Roth — "Crazy from the heat"
I have a soft spot for rock star autobiographies.
- AE van Vogt — "The weapon shops of Isher"
AE van Vogt — "The weapon makers"
It's been a long time since I last read this. One of my favourite authors and a couple of his better stories.
- Kevin J. Anderson (ed.) — "Tales from the Mos Eisley cantina"
- Rowena Cory Daniells — "The king's bastard"
Rowena Cory Daniells — "The uncrowned king
Rowena Cory Daniells — "The usurper"
Not a bad little fantasy series. Nothing outstanding and the writing's a bit lightweight at times, but I enjoyed them.
- Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Dauntless"
Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Fearless"
Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Courageous"
Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Valiant"
Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Relentless"
I'd decided I needed to read more science fiction, and found the first of these books in a bookshop and gave it a go. I enjoyed it so I picked up the rest of them too. It's military SF verging on space opera at times (which is a good thing in my book). I didn't like the main character's self loathing, and there were times when I had "but they wouldn't do that" moments. But on the whole, not bad.
- Robert A. Heinlein — "Take back your government"
Heinlein's practical advice on running for local government. The world has changed since this book was written. Some of the advice probably still holds. Much of it doesn't.
- Edgar Wallace — "The council of justice"
OK, I suppose, but it's over 100 years old and it hasn't aged well. The writing style feels awkward and I think the art of storytelling has improved since then.
- Melinda M. Snodgrass — "Circuit breaker"
A nice little story about politics and legal wrangling in the space
- Mike Hally — "Electronic brains: stories from the dawn of the computer age"
The book of a Radio 4 series about the beginnings of the computer era. Much of it I already knew, but there was certainly some I didn't. The early Russian computers, for example, were completely unknown to me.
- Gail Z Martin — "The summoner"
Gail Z Martin — "The blood king"
Not bad at all. A promising start to a high fantasy series.
- John Varley — "Steel beach"
John Varley — "The hall of the Martian kings"
John Varley — "The Ophiuchi hotline"
"Steel beach" is a novel, albeit a somewhat longwinded and rambling one that didn't really work for me. Varley is much better at short stories, and the other two showed that perfectly. I'd avoided his work for a very long time, largely because he'd been given the "cyberpunk" tag, which is a genre I really don't like. But it turns out that Varley is exactly what cyberpunk should be, not the clumsy writing of Gibson. The only blot in an otherwise excellent collection was "The persistance of vision" which I found to be a very weak story. The rest, though, are superb.
- Vernor Vinge — "The children of the sky"
"A fire upon the deep" is one of the finest novels ever written, and its sequel "A deepness in the sky" was fantastic as well. This is the third in the series, and as such I bought it as soon as I became aware of it. It's by far the weakest of the three, and for me focuses too much on the human interaction (or should I say, character interaction) rather than the technology and loses out a bit because of it. I want to read more about the zones of thought, but this is entirely set in the slow zone.
- Alexander Tchaikovsky — "Empire in black and gold"
Wow. Another impulse buy and a very successful one. The strongest start to a fantasy series I've read in a very long time. I'll definitely be buying the rest of this series. My one complaint is that certain races are claimed to be incapable of operating even the simplest of machinery, which seems unlikely. But other than that, it's excellent.