I said this last year but it seems like only yesterday I put this together for last year. It’s something I always look forward to – the chance to draw the line under the year and look forward to the next. For me, I didn’t review quite as many albums as last year for a few reasons but I still made sure I was catching as many bands live as I could. In other news, right at the top of the year, after being his number two (snigger) for a couple of years, Mosh finally made an honest man of me and asked me to become the Deputy Editor in Chief of this mighty website. Elsewhere, I put on a couple of gigs and promoters earned even more respect. But all in all, it’s been a strange year but that’s for later on. Let’s get on with it!
With several bullets next to it, it has to be The Wildhearts’ Renaissance Men. If you say anything else, you’re either wrong or a liar (I don’t make the rules, sorry). As potent as Earth Vs The Wildhearts, full of big, bouncy numbers which looked at the problems we sadly face with mental health and taking politicians to task – they may be a bit older but The Wildhearts are as vital as ever. Quite frankly this topped everything else which was already out this year and every album released since got slapped with the phrase “It’s good, but it’s not quite Renaissance Men”. There’s just something about it. Something so wonderful that you simply can’t describe.
Top Albums (in alphabetical order):
- Aaron Buchanan & the Cult Classics – The Man With Stars on His Knees. Yeah, I know this album is two and a half years old. And I reviewed it when it originally came out but the special edition added a new track (“Fire in the Fields” has been out there as long as the band has, don’t @ me). But it’s still every inch the masterpiece. Plus it’s my list.
- Phil Campbell – Old Lions Still Roar. One of the most varied albums, Campbell showed his guitar prowess to the fullest here and drafted in a whole bunch of great names to help him, to give some great songs and some surprises.
- Crobot – Motherbrain. Crobot are back. What else needs to be said?
- The Damned Things – High Crimes. Having stumbled across this album as I saw a few people on social media raving about it, I checked it out. Blending metal with pop, punk moments, rock moments, this was an addictive listen and one of the best discoveries I’ve made in recent years. Add in the calibre of the musicians involved and you were always going to be onto a winner.
- Deever – You Need This. Essentially, this is the album and band I’ve been looking for for a number of years. After having seen them once, I was suitably unimpressed. But every band gets a second chance, in the hope they’ll prove me wrong. I never would have bet this would be the band to do it but they bloody well did. The first album of the year which I knew would feature here, it’s everything great about modern hard rock with a slight alternative slant.
- Killswitch Engage – Atonement. Repping my metal tendencies with this behemoth. All you need to know about it is that it’s Killswitch’s finest moment and the best metal album of 2019.
- Matt Mitchell & the Coldhearts – Matt Mitchell & the Coldhearts. As soon as this landed in my inbox, I was excited. It was so great to hear Matt Mitchell with some new music. It’s righteous, uplifting with heart and tenderness, blurring the lines between classic and modern. Like most of the albums on this list, once it was on, I never stopped listening to it.
- Duff McKagan – Tenderness. Possibly not what you’d expect from Duff McKagan given his past exploits but it shows that whatever he turns his hand to, it’s nothing short of exceptional. Taking a look at a number of issues the world is facing, McKagan doesn’t offer the answers, instead simply appealing to us all to re-think and help those in worse circumstances than ours. While it tackles a number of dark subjects, there’s a sense of hope buried in all of those songs.
- Slash ft Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators – Living the Dream Tour. Don’t bother with the DVD, you’ll just see a typical lethargic London crowd but go straight for the album. It’s Slash and pals battering out two hours of the last decade of music they’ve given us. It’s nothing short of incredible.
- Wayward Sons – The Truth Ain’t What it Used to Be. Ain’t that the truth? The Toby Jepson-led outfit returned with their second album; more grandiose, more complex, more varied. Very much a grower of an album but feels like it was meant to be to get the most out of it.
Best Live Shows (in chronological order):
- Clutch – O2 Academy, Birmingham (22nd December 2018). Yeah, I know that wasn’t in 2019 but the 2018 list was already up before I’d seen them twice on their UK run right before Christmas. Glasgow was good but by three songs in and as the last night before they headed back to the US for a couple of days off for Christmas, this beat it hands down. One of the best, friendliest pits I’ve been in, it’s what was needed after one of the busiest years ever.
- Slash ft Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators / Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons – SEC Centre Hall 4, Glasgow (17th February 2019). After having witnessed it the night before in Manchester, just when you thought they couldn’t have done it better, Glasgow blew it clean out the water. Almost four years since I last saw them and with good support for a change, the Conspirators gave a performance as if they’d never been away with the main man re-energised after having looked bored when I saw him with Guns N’ Roses.
- Brian Fallon – St George’s Church, Brighton (23rd February). Two shows in one day from Brian Fallon was an absolute treat. Different sets with some crossover of songs, each had their own special moments.
- The Hyena Kill – Camden Rocks 2019, Saturday. One of two bands on the “absolutely must see, will kill anyone in my path who tries to stop me” list for this year’s Camden Rocks. They utterly slayed it with their filth and one of their best performances I’ve seen from the duo (now foursome).
- The Virginmarys – Camden Rocks 2019, Sunday. Come on, you didn’t think this post would be free of them, did you? Perhaps the sweatiest gig ever, it was an hour of unadulterated hard rock and by the halfway point, we were all fit to drop. But we powered through and once again, The Virginmarys came, saw and conquered the only worthwhile reason to be in London.
- Deadland Ritual – The Garage, Glasgow (15th June 2019). What do you get when you put Frank Perez, Steve Stevens, Geezer Butler and Matt Sorum in a club in Glasgow? Bliss. Playing each other’s music and a good helping of original material, if there was ever an “I was there” moment of 2019, this was it.
- The Wildhearts – Bloodstock 2019, Saturday. As a last minute replacement, The Wildhearts may seem out of place on a billing like Bloodstock. But they came and obviously, smashed the ever-loving shit out of Catton Park.
- Parkway Drive – Bloodstock 2019, Saturday. Easily the best of the three headliners at Bloodstock this year, they didn’t even have all of their stage show due to the winds and still silenced the doubters. Now that’s how you do it.
- Dee Snider – Bloodstock 2019, Sunday. Does this really need an explanation? It was Dee Snider playing a whole bunch of For the Love of Metal songs alongside all your favourite Twisted Sister songs and a whole lot of humour.
- Duff McKagan / Shooter Jennings – Academy 3, Manchester (1st September). While this was McKagan showing off his acoustic songs from Tenderness in a live setting, with a handful of covers, easily switching from acoustic twanging to full-on rock and backed by Shooter Jennings and his band, it was punk rock as fuck.
- Anchor Lane / Tomorrow is Lost – G2, Glasgow (11th October 2019). As the headliners of the night hit their second song, the familiar “Annie”, the feeling that we were witnessing something special hit. I knew it was going to be ahead of the gig but it doesn’t always come to fruition. Here, it did. And having been following these guys for a number of years, I had nothing but pride for them.
- Black Star Riders / Wayward Sons – SWG3, Glasgow (18th October 2019). With a new line-up and adding this date last minute and bringing along Wayward Sons for the ride, Black Star Riders continue to deliver in a live setting. Because when have they not?
- Ghost – SSE Hydro, Glasgow (18th November 2019). Because it’s fucking Ghost.
Best New Band I Discovered:
This has always been a Glasgow band. 2015 gave us Mason Hill, 2016 had Anchor Lane, 2017 was Black King Cobra and 2018 was Darkness Divine. But this year, it would appear the trend has been bucked. I discovered a whole host of new bands this year again, many of which were at Bloodstock. On the non-Bloodstock side, it has to go to Haggard Cat – the first truly good support act The Virginmarys had in, quite literally, years. Right in the middle of December, for four nights, they combined blues, punk and sheer noise to produce a visceral set which was the perfect opener. A special mention has to go to Blue Nation who opened for The Virginmarys in Birmingham in February. They blew main tour support, Florence Black, clean off the stage (mind you, a one of those little fans you plug into your phone’s charge port to cool you down could do that) and frankly should have been on the entire tour instead of them.
Best Thing That Happened:
Honestly, I’m not sure. There’s been a lot of great things to happen in 2019, especially on a personal level. Probably the fact we endure and continue to grow, getting thanked by bands on an almost daily basis is something we never take for granted. For me, interviewing Toby Jepson was a real highlight. Especially as I know him first and foremost as the man who produced The Virginmarys’ King of Conflict and we got to talk about a whole lot of different things in his present career – being in a band, continuing to produce albums and his music management consultancy agency, Lightning in a Bottle.
Worst Thing That Happened:
That Volbeat album. What an absolute travesty. Also, seeing Stone Temple Pilots. Scott Weiland’s legacy is forever tarnished thanks to Wannabe Scott (or to call him by his real name, Jeff Gutt). Again, there’s a lot of bad things to happen this year. While we knew the day was coming, Slayer taking their final bow has to be up there. Because it made it real.
Overall View of the Year:
Since 2014, the years for rock and metal have gotten better and better. While 2019 was another great year for the genres, it wasn’t quite the lofty heights of 2018 but it wasn’t a failure by any stretch. Once again, there was a whole load of great albums by big names like Alter Bridge, Slipknot and Beth Hart and none of them were bad but it says a lot about where we are that so many smaller names are making great music too. They don’t have to be monumentally massive and on the live side of things, give me a small, sweaty club over a soulless arena any day. And give me the bands too because I could put money on them delivering far better performances.
That said, some of my favourite live acts do fill these bigger rooms and because I love their music, I’ll still go. But the fact it’s the smaller, newer bands that continuously excite me more is something to hold onto. I’ll continue to listen to the new bands and when they graduate to the bigger rooms, that’s fine, I’ll be pleased for them but you’ll still find me checking out the next new band. As for the decade itself, the 10s for rock and metal have been great. It’s been a period of growth and rebirth, pulling itself out of the doldrums and we’ve had so many great bands and albums in this decade that I think we’re going to look back and view it as one of the best decades musically.
Most Looking Forward to in 2020:
- A new album from The Virginmarys
- The Hyena Kill’s new album – growing to a four-piece, I’m keen to see what they’ve produced
- The upcoming Slipknot tour
- God Damn’s new album – going by the singles, it’s going to be filth
- There’s probably more but I can’t think of anything more
- As always, top of this list is our Editor-in-Chief, Mosh. For some reason, he keeps this site going, year after year.
- Rachel Hasnip, Katie Frost, Gary Cooper, Ricky Fleming and the rest of the Moshville Times crew.
- Kirsten and Michelle at Cosa Nostra PR
- Rob Town for so many reasons
- Valeria at Duff Press
- Rage PR
- SaN PR
- Lastly, and by no means least, you, dear reader. As I’ve always said, if it wasn’t for people reading this and bands sharing our ramblings, we’d be nothing. I mean, we’d still do it but nevertheless, it’s always warming to have our reviews and everything else shared and be given thanks.