The hardest thing about writing this end of year review (as I’m sure everyone has said), is narrowing it down to my absolute favourites. To make my brain hurt less I will be choosing bands that I’ve reviewed personally. This has been my first full year writing for The Moshville Times and I’m utterly proud to be working with a team of such quality writers and photographers, reflected by the gargantuan amount of quality bands sending in albums, EPs, videos and gig invites.
I’ve also hopped on the proof reading team which has helped me develop my writing skills and knowledge of music outside my own genre – who knew NWOBHM was a thing? (no seriously, I had to look it up) As a predominantly grunge / hard rock / punk fan, it’s been great to delve into an eclectic mix of rock music and step outside my comfort zone and I’ve discovered some great bands by doing this, as well as continuing to champion those in their very infancy and local to my home town in the West Midlands. So here are my top picks, but to be honest I’ve found something to love in every review I’ve done this year.
Best Albums / EPs
In no particular order – if you’re here it’s because you’re awesome!
Get used to this name, you’re gonna be hearing a lot about this Leeds band in my end of year review and no doubt in the future! Hard garage-rock and grunge numbers on this album intertwine beautifully with psychedelic soundscapes. Fuzz-filled heavy riffs, thunderous drumming, punk and at times dark, stirring vocals and a cluster of distorted guitar tones deliver a “super massive” post-punk smoothie. Still firmly on my record player and sounding heavenly on vinyl, this album blew me away.
Ones to watch (and also from Leeds), this five piece are on a mission! This EP is laden with shoegaze-heavy guitars and agile, crashing drums blended with rousing lyrics, this is everything I want from an alternative rock band. The sounds swell into some raucous crescendos that I can just visualise being smashed out on stage.
This monstrous beast of an album from the Italian three-piece left me speechless! A gargantuan noise fest that does exactly what it says on the tin (Fvzz Dei literally translates as Fuzz of the Gods). This eight track debut packs in a dense onslaught of pure fuzz laden filth, the bass brings a bluesy funk, gradually layered by gritty guitars and crashing drums. Psych-heavy soundscapes, hard hitting garage rock and more fuzz than you can throw a razor at consummates this album exquisitely.
This Birmingham two-piece produced a record abundant with beefy riffs and punk screams – this EP is a real ear pleaser. Laced with dark and at times hilarious lyrics, these two had me moshing around the kitchen and laughing out loud all at the same time! Only these guys can get away with guttural screams and giggles all on the same record, dark and deliciously fun – I loved it!
Just when I thought the year couldn’t deliver any more, this album knocked me off my feet! Heavy, distorted and explosive tracks, this album was an aural assault and pleasure all at the same time. This sludgy rock from Zac Gehring’s latest project was as heavy as they come but lyrically beautiful and profound, a masterpiece in my eyes.
Best Live Shows
Each I love for very different reasons. Music is so personal, as you know, and we all want different things from a gig. The reason I joined Moshville Times in the first place was to just try and convey the experience of going to a live gig and to encourage people to get out there and support their local scene. The quality of musicianship on everyone’s doorstep is epic right now, often free or for a minute ticket price, and it kills me when there’s just a handful of people shuffling around the room. I think this is at the very heart of this website, and why I love being a part of that. I’ve reviewed a dozen gigs (and attended many more) and they were all special. So, some of my favourites running in date order, just click on the links for full reviews…
Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam spewed out a vibrant punk set. Punchy vocals and hard rock riffs were complemented by their fun, energetic stage presence. Their music brewing the most immense drone sounds that could fill any arena.
Goat Girl were a grungy and dark, post-punk act. Scuzzy guitars, catchy hooks and haunting snarly lyrics, this band are angry at the world and are not afraid to say it.
Dublin’s Girl Band are one of the most creative and harshest punk rock bands I know. They delivered an explosive set. I was spellbound by the tortured squalls that emanated over perfectly timed, miss-fired, feral drumming. Fear, angst and pain oozed through frontman Dara’s every pore. It was the most passionate, visceral execution of vocals that I’ve seen to date.
Hosted by FOMA records in a lockup in the backstreets of Digbeth somewhere, with just a photo of the studio to help find the place, this was it for me. You couldn’t get more underground than this, in the very heart of Birmingham’s rock scene.
Matters, an instrumental three piece were eerie and dramatic. Their set laced with intricate, melodic guitar sounds and a tight, trance drum beat that evolved into a synth-punk sound.
Grain Death (now sadly disbanded), a heavily 90s influenced garage band, threw out their grunge infused sounds and had a party on stage, and quite rightly so.
Mutes powered through a melodic, punk-infused set. Distorted guitars mashed sublimely with James’ urgent, Bowie-esque vocals entwined with provocative bass lines. Intense and evolving songs, the band took out all their frustrations on their instruments coming to a thrashing crescendo that left me breaking into a sweat. Bravo, guys!
Hoopla Blue produced a captivating and, at times, quite a dark set. An alternative, progressive rock sound fronted by melancholic vocals, the musicianship was outstanding. Songs were catchy and thought provoking, this band totally seduced me.
Yonaka provided an alternative, brooding rock set. Their tunes were catchy with groove-laden riffs that really captured the audience. Vocalist Theresa Jarvis was instantly mesmerising with her compelling, soulful expression.
Strange Bones smashed out a visceral punk rock set. It was not long before front man Bob was over the barrier and on his knees belching out guttural squalls against an assault of noise. Feral, highly emotive and intrusive, these were the perfect openers for the headline act, quintessential punk.
Extra special having a tattoo inked by Frank before the show, this was always gonna go in the history books for me. Thrusting on us a ferocious yet melodic punk rock show, Frank was soon crowd walking, performing headstands and taking to the bar to perform rather than the stage. The crowd were hugely up for it that night, there was no mosh pit, the whole room was bouncing, it was a case of mosh or die. It was the most passionate performance I’d seen to date. An electric atmosphere with so much love and respect in the room that you could visibly see Frank took great comfort from. This is a man completely on top of his game right now.
This was always set to be a special show. To celebrate the release of latest EP Sitting Ducks (reviewed by Ross), this hometown gig as expected, sold out in thirty minutes.
Completely unexpected, frontman Ally Dickaty stepped out initially alone to huge applause and picked up an acoustic guitar. No support acts tonight, this was all about the band, their music and their irrefutable close relationship with their fans. We were treated to a sublime, five-track stripped back set. Haunting and powerful lyrics left everyone with goosebumps, a spine tingling performance.
The whole band then smashed through a huge set spanning their whole career. They didn’t come up for air as they launched into track after powerful track. The room was bouncing; the band and crowd feeding off one another’s passion. Danny was repeatedly in his signature standing position, hovering above his kit with Ally’s huge riffs inspiring head banging to a non-faltering crowd, the place was on fire.
One of their best performances to date (ok, so I say that at every gig! Because it’s true!) There was so much love in the room, as there is at any of their live shows. This is what makes them stand out from the rest, there’s no hierarchy, no them and us, no fan bigger or better than any other fan, just immense passion, caring and mutual respect.
Blank Parody have had a great year and I’ve caught them on more than one occasion. Screaming vocals and a confident balls-out rock performance, these are ones to watch.
The Kontours, also a must see, deliver an audacious, hard-hitting, blues rock set. Hailing from Coventry, this band are full of punk attitude and groovy riffs.
Weirds (I told you you’d be hearing about them again) put in a belter of a performance. This being the third time I’ve seen them live, they just get tighter and tighter with each performance. A superb set, frontman Aiden more than once in the crowd, with just enough intimidation, rounding up punters with his mic lead and dragging them towards the stage. Shoegaze rock drenched in sludgy bass tones and scuzzy guitar riffs was delivered in abundance; cacophonous drums and eerie synth waves giving it that psychedelic grove which meant you could rock out, head bang and shake your ass all at the same time.
Tigercub I’d been wanting to catch live for a while now, I’ve heard so many great things about them. The band launched in to a grungy alt-rock set, the crowd immediately started dancing and singing along and I was instantly swept away by their psychedelic rock. Fuzzy, distorted guitars, melodic vocals and punk attitude in abundance, this Brighton trio blew me away.
Bounding onto stage, Heavy Lungs were on a mission to make their mark, and make it they did! A ferocious yet addictively dancy punk rock set. They were a tight, boisterous punk rock outfit and I loved them! Remember their name, I feel this band are about to take off.
Post-punk band Drahla, performed an intense, atmospheric show. Grungy riffs, frenetic drumming and melodic unassuming lyrics, these were the perfect outfit for me. Often gritty and urgent in nature, their music left me wanting for more.
Metz, what can I say? This was one of the most difficult reviews for me as I could just not find the words to describe the incredible sound and performance that emanated from this Canadian noise rock three piece. A barrage of sound was thrashed out and it was like nothing I’ve heard before! I felt every drum beat, every guitar note and every bass tone reverb off every inch of my skin; every fibre in my body was vibrating as I was slammed against the wall by the sheer intensity of sound. Through the distortion and cacophony came visceral melodies and acrid lyrics, urgent and ferocious were the vocals I was utterly aghast!
This was hands down gig-of-the-year for me, I’ll say now what I said then; if I never see/hear another band again, I’ll die happy.
Ok, so I cheated! I didn’t review this one but I attended with fellow reviewer Ross, so it still has The Moshville Times stamp of approval all over it! I just had to mention the awesome The Hyena Kill gig at Manchester Academy 3 in September. This raucous duo blew me away with their high velocity noise rock set! Their passion and performance was second to none, an intense barrage of noise had us slammed against the wall and gagging for more, superb!
Best new bands I have discovered
- Frown Upon, this hardcore punk band from Cardiff instantly blew me away back in July.
- Table Scraps when this local garage punk band sent in their single for review, I was instantly hooked by their deliciously dark grungy sound.
- Wax Futures Alternative quirky rock with oodles of fun, these are definitely ones to watch!
I’m not a photographer, but ever encouraged by the team here, I dusted off my DSLR and plucked up the courage to take a few shots, here’s Barbikan rocking out at Dave’s World podcast event in Coventry, showcasing local bands.
Worst thing that happened
Regardless of what genre of music you’re into, the Manchester arena bombing earlier in the year was just about the most heinous act I’ve witnessed. Not the first (and I’m sure not the last) terror attack on music fans, what the sick bastards don’t realise is; it makes us stronger! We pour out more love, more determination, bigger crowds and bigger acts of selflessness. Outstanding everyday heroes are born, helping all those affected at the time and for years to come, because that’s what we do as humans. Our love and thoughts to all those affected.
Best thing that happened
On the back of the tragic and sad deaths the music industry has witnessed this year through depression and suicide; a new helpline has been set up with those in mind. Help Musicians UK have launched a 24/7 Mental Health Support Line and service for all those involved in the music industry. Whether you’re at the top of your game, management, roadie or writer, this helpline is for you, no-one should be alone.
Things I’m Looking forward to in 2018
So much! New music coming from;
- Table Scraps – I’m lucky enough to have been sent a preview, review coming soon!
- The Red Paintings – after a huge and extremely successful pledge campaign this album is in the mixing stage and if their debut is anything to go by, it will be epic!
- The Hyena Kill – spending most gigs open mouthed at the new tunes these two are producing, I can’t wait to get my hands on their new album.
- The Virginmarys – after a Christmas gig to end all Christmas gigs last week, the boys promise to back with new tunes next year.
- God Damn – this hard rock duo are locking themselves away and working on new stuff, after two incredible albums, I can’t wait to hear what they have in store for the next.
So to summarise, I’ve had an amazing year musically. Just when I think I’ve witnessed the best gig I’ve ever seen, another one comes along and blows it out of the water. My local music scene continues to grow and I’m coming across new and exciting bands every day. I’m continually challenging myself to write and hope to dig out the camera more next year.
As ever huge thanks to everyone here, it’s a great team to be part of! Special thanks as always to Ross and Iain (Mr Mosh himself) who have to deal with my appalling IT skills and who continue to push me into new ventures.
Thank you to all the bands who send in their music, videos and gig invites, if only we could cover them all! If you’ve taken the time to read even just a small part of my reviews, that makes me feel all squidgy inside, thank you.
And of course to you the readers, it’s why we’re here. We are all ultimately music fans, writing for music fans who share our passion for music, you’re all awesome!
Here’s our YouTube playlist featuring many of the acts featured across all of our roundups…