In the studio
- Powerwolf — "Bible of the beast"
- Poisonblack — "Of rust and bones"
- Poisonblack — "Drive"
- Wolf — "Legions of bastards"
- Rhombus — "Open the sky"
- Delain — "April rain"
- Dyonisis — "Intoxicated"
- Van Canto — "Hero"
- Pretentious, Moi? — "Pretentious, moi?"
- Megadeth — "Endgame"
- Sanguine — "Live consume drive EP"
- Crimfall — "The writ of the sword"
- Rise To Addiction — "Some other truth"
Poisonblack had a couple of solid albums that grew on me over time, and I was lucky to get "Drive" at all, as it hasn't been released in the UK and the import prices are extortionate. Fortunately, I happened to spot it in a second hand record shop in Soho. But that apart, it really was a year of everyone failing to live up to their previous high standards, with Wolf, Megadeth, Rise To Addiction and to a lesser extent Dyonisis all falling well short of where I'd hoped and expected.
Rhombus were a nice surprise, with a decent if not earth shattering album. Pretentious, Moi? were much the same, although I'm still baffled at how Tim has such a different singing voice to his normal everyday speaking voice. I do feel the album is lacking Rachel's vocals, which worked very well live. Hopefully the next album will remedy that (assuming we don't have to wait another decade for that album!). Crimfall are another band that came over better on stage than in the studio. That just leaves Sanguine, of whom more later. I really shouldn't like them. But I do.
So, 2011 wasn't a great year musically. The only caveat is that I have a rather large stack of albums that I haven't got around to listening to yet. Maybe there are some gems there that would have raised the overall level. I guess we'll see when I get to do my summary of 2012!
On the stage
- Manowar, Birmingham O2 Academy
- Dio Disciples, Download
- Sabaton, Koko
- Dio Disciples, Islington Academy
- Mötley Crüe, Wembley Arena
- Blaze Bayley, The Underworld
- WASP, Bloodstock
- The Sisters Of Mercy, The Roundhouse
- Tigertailz, The Underworld
- Hanging Doll, MFVF
- Therion, Bloodstock
- Rock Sugar, Download
- Epica, The Scala
- Triaxis, The Unicorn
- Blaze Bayley, Monto Water Rats
- Brezno, Bloodstock
- Delain, Islington Academy
- Doro, MFVF
- Twisted Sister, Download
- Diabulus In Musica, MFVF
- Poisonblack, Bloodstock
- Tristania, Islington Academy
- Turisas, Islington Academy
- Roger Waters, The O2 Arena
- Primitai, The Underworld
- Within Temptation, Brixton Academy
- Hell, Bloodstock
- Grave Digger, Bloodstock
- Wolf, Bloodstock
- Alice Cooper, Download
- Lacuna Coil, ULU
- Therion, MFVF
- Battlelore, MFVF
- Amaranthe, Bloodstock
- Blake, Bloodstock
- Amaranthe, MFVF
- Primitai, Bloodstock
- Kreator, Bloodstock
- Beholder, Bloodstock
- Primitai, The Purple Turtle
- Manowar, Brixton Academy
2011 was my favourite Bloodstock for a very long time, and certainly the best of the outdoor era. A strong lineup was enough to tempt me to Belgium for MFVF for the first time, and I wasn't disappointed there either. Tigertailz were on top form at The Underworld, and it had to happen sooner or later that The Sisters Of Mercy put on another good show, and The Roundhouse provided the venue for that show.
Roger Waters put on an impressive show, but for me not quite the gig of the century that some were making it out to be. Admittedly I didn't go on the night where he had Gilmour guesting. Lacuna Coil's set list is still criminal in its omission of their early material, but the new album sounds very promising indeed and their ULU show was something of a return to form. I don't understand why they aren't playing bigger venues, though. The same accusation can't be levelled at Within Temptation who are now huge and sold out Brixton Academy. Last years underground band that are making big waves were undoubtedly Primitai. The list is every band I saw where I rated the performance 4 stars or higher. Sanguine aren't on the list (I gave them a 3.5), but deserve an honourable mention anyway. I saw them at Bloodstock, having never heard of them before. I came away from the stage unable to describe what I'd just heard. A rare thing indeed. With the bizarre mix of clean and extreme vocals, on paper I really shouldn't have enjoyed them. But sometimes logic goes out of the window when it comes to taste, and this is one such time.
On the screen
- Dog Soldiers (2002)
Somehow I'd managed to avoid seeing this at release. A low budget British horror film that works better than most.
- Timeline (2003)
A waste of a good story. The book was significantly better.
- Convoy (1978)
A classic. You can't go wrong with this film.
- The Full Monty (1997)
Low budget British comedy. I'm not sure why this became such a big hit. It's OK, but for me it's very definitely filler rather than something I'd go out of my way to watch.
- The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
What's not to like?
- Stardust (2007)
I'd never have watched it if I'd known it was Gaiman's story. I'm not a fan. But I loved this film.
- Hot Fuzz (2007)
- Bill Bailey: Part Troll (2004)
Mostly unamusing. He's better than this.
- The Animatrix (2003)
Weak. A selection of short cartoons, but only a couple capture the feel of the original film.
- Valhalla Rising (2009)
Terrible. How did this film ever get made?
- Edge Of Darkness (2010)
Not as good as the TV series. But not as bad as I was expecting.
- Ghost Town (2008)
- Black Death (2010)
I quite enjoyed this one. A medium budget British medieval history/fantasy film. With Sean Bean.
- Dollhouse (Series 1)
So far, Joss Whedon hasn't managed to make anything I haven't liked. Dollhouse continues that trend.
- Doctor Who (Series 4)
I'm not keen on Donna as a companion. At all. But nonetheless, series 4 seems to work pretty well.
- 24 (Series 1)
Annoyingly skips time where there would have been adverts on American television, so not actually 24 hours. Also riddled with "but they wouldn't have done that" moments. Still enjoyable. But...
- Farscape (Series 2)
I'm intrigued to see where they go with this.
- Babylon 5 (Series 1)
When this was initially aired, my commute was such that I couldn't get home in time to see it. Consequently, I'd only seen a couple of episodes of this series. Much better than I'd remembered. I'd thought the first series was quite dull. But I was wrong.
- True Blood (Series 1)
More "but they wouldn't do that" moments. But otherwise enjoyable.
The printed page
- Jim Butcher — "White night"
Jim Butcher — "Small favour"
Jim Butcher — "Turn coat"
Jim Butcher — "Changes"
Jim Butcher — "Side jobs"
Still treading a fine line, but staying just the right side of getting too repetative for me. A bit of a cliffhanger at the end of "Changes". Will have to wait and see what happens next.
- John Scalzi — "Old man's war"
I liked this. It's reminiscent of "The forever war". But it has the feel of being a one hit wonder. I'll look into his other work anyway, in case I'm wrong about that.
- George RR Martin — "A storm of swords 1: Of steel and snow"
George RR Martin — "A storm of swords 2: Blood and gold"
George RR Martin — "A feast for crows"
After a slow start, this series is really starting to pick up by these books. It's going to be a long, long wait until "A dance with dragons" is released in a sensible sized paperback, though.
- Robert Ulichney — "Digital halftoning"
Rereading this one just to refresh my memory. As Pozkanzer says, it really is the only book you'll need on the subject.
- Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Thieves' world"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Shadows of Sanctuary"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Storm season"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "The face of chaos"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Wings of omen"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "The dead of winter"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Soul of the city"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Blood ties"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Aftermath"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Uneasy alliances"
Robert Asprin (Ed) — "Stealers' sky"
A shared world fantasy series. Started out reasonably well, but the later books are a definite departure in style, being a single narrative with different authors writing each chapter, rather than the collection of vaguely interlinked short stories found in the earlier books.
- Yasunari Kawabata — "The master of go"
A dramatic retelling of a famous Go game. An interesting insight into the mind of a Go master, but not very entertaining.
- Patrick Rothfuss — "The name of the wind"
A very accomplished début novel. I'm looking forward to reading the next part.
- Elizabeth Moon — "Hunting party"
Not bad, but not in the same league as her "Vatta's war" series.
- Brent Weeks — "The way of shadows"
Another excellent début novel. I love his writing style.
- EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "The imperial stars"
EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "Stranglers' moon"
EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "The clockwork traitor"
EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "Getaway world"
EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "The Bloodstar conspiracy"
EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "The purity plot"
EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "Planet of treachery"
EE Doc Smith & Stephen Goldin — "Revolt of the galaxy"
Although I didn't know it when I started reading them, only the first book in the series was written by Smith. The rest were all by Goldin, but set in the same universe. You wouldn't know it, though. He has an amazing knack of mimicing Smith's writing style. As you'd expect, this is pure space opera.