I'm not always prompt with my end of year reviews, but even by my own low standards, not getting around to this until April is a pretty poor show! Nevertheless, here we are. Better late than never...
In the studio
As before, this is simply a list of the best albums that I first
heard in 2015 (although some were released in previous years). The
Ancient Bards album took a while to grow on me. It wasn't quite as
immediately compelling as their first two. But after giving it a
chance, I really warmed to it. The Fall Of Eve were far and away
my best new discovery of the year. Triaxis once more delivered the
goods. Nice to see a return to form from Gamma Ray. Perhaps also
notable this year were the number of albums from smaller, largely
unsigned bands. Joining Triaxis and The Fall Of Eve in the category
are Judicator, Control The Storm, Absolva, Dendera and Metaprism.
- Ancient Bards -- "A new dawn ending"
- The Fall Of Eve -- "Calls from the horizon"
- Triaxis -- "Zero hour"
- Gamma Ray -- "Empire of the undead"
- Bloodbound -- "Nosferatu"
- Blind Guardian -- "Beyond the red mirror"
- Battle Beast -- "Steel"
- Judicator -- "At the expense of humanity"
- Orden Ogan -- "Ravenhead"
- Battle Beast -- "Unholy saviour"
- Control The Storm -- "Beast inside"
- Accept -- "Blind rage"
- Bloodbound -- "Stormborn"
- Evergrey -- "Hymns to the broken"
- Absolva -- "Anthems to the dead"
- Dendera -- "Pillars of creation"
- Metaprism -- "The human encryption"
- La Ventura -- "White crow"
- Nightland -- "Obsession"
- Messiah's Kiss -- "Get your bulls out"
- Wisdom -- "Marching for liberty"
- Serious Black -- "As daylight breaks"
- Dynamite -- "Blackout station"
- Diabulus In Musica -- "The wanderer"
On the stageAll of the shows I rated 4/5 or higher in 2015. I saw 320 performances
at 69 events, both new records. Which was somewhat unexpected given that
at the start of the year I'd been wondering if I should cut down on the
number of gigs I went to this year.
Every year there are a few shows that stand out above the others.
This was a particularly good year for live music, with the top 10
probably all falling into that category. But the top spot went to
Evergrey. They had no stage show, no pyro, no anything to detract
from the music. Just a band at their very peak playing superbly
to a receptive audience. On the basis of performances like that,
it's hard to understand how they never hit the big time. On merit,
they should be playing Wembley.
- Evergrey (The Underworld)
- Sabaton (Rockstad Falun)
- Triaxis (Fuel Rock Bar)
- Triaxis (The Cellar)
- Triaxis (Boston Music Room)
- Uli Jon Roth (Wacken)
- Powerwolf (Wacken)
- Ancient Bards (Wacken)
- Judas Priest (Brixton Academy)
- Falconer (Rockstad Falun)
- Mötley Crüe (Download)
- Ancient Bards (The Underworld)
- Hanowar (Bloodstock)
- Devilskin (The Borderline)
- Blind Guardian (The Forum)
- Sabaton (The Forum)
- Rock Meets Classic (Wacken)
- Accept (The Forum)
- Doro (The Garage)
- Bloodbound (The Underworld)
- Metaprism (Wacken)
- Snowy Shaw (Rockstad Falun)
- Delain (Islington Academy)
- Scorpions (Ramblin' Man)
- Civil War (Rockstad Falun)
- Powerwolf (Islington Academy)
- Sabaton (Bloodstock)
- Mötley Crüe (Wembley Arena)
- The Sisters Of Mercy (The Roundhouse)
- Sirenia (Dames Of Darkness)
- Triaxis (The Carlisle)
- Copper Garden (The Face Bar)
- Delain (The Forum)
- Control The Storm (The Haunt)
- Satyricon (Scala)
- Triaxis (Bloodstock)
- Queen + Adam Lambert (The O2)
- Wolf (The Underworld)
- Gloryhammer (Islington Academy)
- Judas Priest (Wacken)
- Tom Keifer (Islington Academy)
- Nightwish (Wembley Arena)
- Falconer (Wacken)
- Control The Storm (Firehouse)
- The Poodles (Wacken)
- Wolf (Bloodstock)
- Delain (Bloodstock)
- Alice Cooper (Wembley Arena)
- Gamma Ray (Islington Academy)
- Serious Black (Islington Academy)
- Epica (The Forum)
- Leaves' Eyes (Islington Academy)
- Operation: Mindcrime (The Underworld)
- Messiah's Kiss (Bloodstock)
- Black State Highway (12 Bar Club)
- Dendera (Upstairs At The Garage)
- EnkElination (Barfly)
- Orden Ogan (Islington Academy)
- Wolf (The Underworld)
- Xandria (Islington Academy)
- The Poodles (The Underworld)
- Monument (Barfly)
- The Mighty Wraith (Bloodstock)
- Freedom Call (The Borderline)
- Jizzy Pearl (The Underworld)
- Battle Beast (The Forum)
- Blaze Bayley (Barfly)
- Dynamite (The Underworld)
Sabaton were surprisingly weak at Wacken, but they made up for it with
strong shows at Bloodstock, headlining in London and particularly
at thier own Sabaton Open Air festival in Sweden. Triaxis continued
their remarkable run of outstanding performances. If I had to pick a
single best guitarist that I've seen play live, it would probably be
Uli Jon Roth. He just makes it all seem so effortless. Powerwolf were
outstanding in front of their home crowd, and Ancient Bards put on two
very strong shows. It was also the year that Control The Storm came of age, with some vastly improved shows (which makes it all the more sad that at the time I write this, the band are in disarray, lacking a drummer, bassist and singer).
On the screenI watched virtually nothing this year, in part because the television
broke, and we never got around to replacing it.
- Little red riding hood (2011)
Surprisingly good, for an adaptation that I wasn't even aware existed, and we picked up the DVD in the bargain bin.
- Grimm (series 1)
Made it part way through this when the TV broke. Nothing outstanding, but enjoyable enough nonetheless.
- Blade runner (1982)
I generally don't like giving money to cinemas. But they were showing Blade Runner, one of my favourite films of all time, and I'd never seen it on the big screen before.
The printed page
- Elizabeth Hand and Chris Carter -- "The X files: fight the future"
Where the previous "X files" novelizations I'd read had been relatively poorly written, this one was much, much better. I suspect Carter's involvement may have helped there.
- JRR Tolkien -- "Unfinished tales"
Nothing much to say about this, really. Tolkien remains my favourite author of all time, and I hadn't read this one for ages, so decided to revisit it again.
- Randall Munroe -- "XKCD volume 0"
Humorous geeky comic strips.
- AE van Vogt -- "The changeling"
AE van Vogt -- "Mission to the stars"
AE van Vogt -- "The undercover aliens"
AE van Vogt -- "Earth's last fortress"
AE van Vogt -- "The third eye of evil"
A selection of van Vogt's lesser known novels, and it's easy to see why. Most of the stories here are largely forgettable, with poorly thought out and presented plots. The exception being "Mission to the stars", featuring van Vogt's "mixed men" theme that he used in a few other novels. That one stood head and shoulders above the others, and is highly recommended. The rest are really only for completists.
- Robert A. Heinlein -- "Beyond this horizon"
A friend mentioned it, and I remembered very little about it, so I decided to re-read it. One of Heinlein's weaker novels for me.
- Robert Jordan -- "The eye of the world"
Robert Jordan -- "The great hunt"
Robert Jordan -- "The dragon reborn"
Robert Jordan -- "The rising shadow"
Robert Jordan -- "The fires of heaven"
Robert Jordan -- "The lord of chaos"
A huge, epic fantasy series. These had been sat on the shelf for nearly 20 years before I finally got around to reading them. The first few books are pretty strong, but they definitely start to tail off as the series progresses. There is, however, enough to keep me going and I will no doubt get around to finishing the others off in due course.
- Carl Sagan -- "Contact"
Another book that's been on the shelf for decades, but that I've only just got around to reading. It turns out that Sagan was not only a scientist, but quite a reasonable author, too.
- T. Sharper Knowlson -- "The origins of popular superstitions"
A vanity published book from a century ago. Some interesting snippets, but very poorly written and in desperate need of a good editor.