OK, then so it’s time to draft some words about 2020 and try to make out that it’s not been a cataclysmic shitstorm caused mainly by political ineptitude and a hyperactive microorganism. But I can’t. Because it was. So I won’t.
Instead I’ll focus mainly on the music side of things, which is surprisingly limited for me given that I actually run the site. You’d think I’d be exposed to more new music than anyone else on here, but in honesty between real life and the day-to-day upkeep of the Moshville Times I don’t actually get much of a chance to enjoy the many albums and singles that get thrown our way. In fact, I’d like to kick off the music-y bit by apologising to the countless acts, bands, labels and PRs who we didn’t publish anything about this year. And apologise in advance for doing so again next year.
See, the thing is that there are so damn many of you and we’re only a small publication that it’s just impossible to keep up. This is a two-edged sword: it’s amazing having so much quality music to choose from, but it means that all these great acts are struggling to get a bite from the same cherry in terms of crowds, money, and publicity. Very, very little of what we get sent would go into the “good grief, that’s crap” bucket. Very little. There is so much talent out there that it amazes me and the events of this year have given more people the chance (or need) to push themselves to be more creative as they can’t get out and tour. But more of that later…
Album Of The Year
This is really tricky as I’m working from a very limited selection due, as mentioned before, to not really covering or listening to as much as I’d like. However, I’ve gone through the albums I reviewed this year (all 109 of them) and in no real order other than the first one…
Ward XVI – Metamorphosis takes top spot. Just. I admit I’m showing a little bit of favour to the “small guy” here, but even taking that into account this is a phenomenal release. Absolutely filled with atmosphere and intellect alongside the great music and performances, it’s not just a decent album. It’s part of an ongoing story, a whole mythos, and the band have managed to push ti out and support its release despite this year basically going to shit in terms of live performances. To then follow it up with the recent acoustic EP as well… icing on the Christmas cake.
Paradise Lost – Obsidian come a close second. I think it’s the lack of filler more than anything else that has me hopping back to it, and the fact that they’ve been going for so long and yet can still produce an album full of originality. If it weren’t for Psychoberrie…
A pair of piratical albums hit us amidships as well – Alestorm’s Curse of the Crystal Coconut and Rumahoy’s delayed Time II: Party. Both are full on silly party albums, and all that we expect from both acts. No surprises, but great fun and worth additions to my playlist.
Another pair, this time live albums, also made the grade this year. Dee Snider’s For The Love Of Metal Live, mainly due to the “I was there” factor, and Skálmöld’s 10 Year Anniversary Live In Reykjavík was simply a joy to review (and I’m sure everyone else enjoyed it when it finally came out!).
Seeing as I seem to be on a roll of doubling albums up, two more highlights passed through my earholes in the rough genre of dance-y/keyboard-y rock and metal. Amaranthe have grown on me over the last couple of years and I really found myself enjoying Manifest when I had the chance to review it. A lesser-known, but every bit as good, act called Rave the Reqviem released Stigmata Itch and they deserve to be taking it to the same stages as their fellow Swedes.
And finally onto the final few who are fairly eclectic. Thundermother released on of the best all out rock albums of the year with Heatwave, bringing back memories of their superb performance at Sabaton Open Air 2018. Annihilator, like Paradise Lost, continue to churn out great album after great album. This year’s addition to the collection was Ballistic, Sadistic and it was another career highlight. A contentious inclusion, but I’m going to focus on the music, is Marilyn Manson‘s We Are Chaos, the only album in his long career that I’ve enjoyed all the way through. Rounding things off, an honourable mention to the awesome Coltcrusher who merged My Little Pony with death metal to produce The Plot Sickens and it’s amazing artwork!
Best Album Art
As always, there have been some superb images splashed onto album sleeves this year, but there was one that caught my eye early on and I wanted to make sure I gave it some credit when we got to the roundup. The wonderful “skull meets house” artwork on Haunted from The Other (reviewed by Rick) just worked for me. The colours, the simplicity of it… I liked so many album covers this year, but I loved this one.
There is a runner up, though, and it’s one I mentioned earlier on. Coltcrusher‘s The Plot Sickens just tickled me with its My Little Pony death-fest. You can see that one pictured further up, but I don’t want you to miss out on the back cover as well!
Best Live Show / Stream
Live shows were in short supply this year, and I confess I don’t go to that many gigs anyway for various reasons. However the absolute top of the pile was without a shadow of a doubt the fantastic show put on at Wembley by Sabaton, Apocalyptica and Amaranthe. As well as a superb night’s entertainment (hosted by the most caring and forward-thinking publicists and management in the business), our Photo Editor Katie got to watch the set being put together and interviewed a load of the crew. To top it all off, I got to take my son with me for a nice trip to London town and he was also invited to the after-show party. Good going for an 11 year-old!
I did catch a few live streams as well. In terms of really making a show of it, Wacken World Wide took some beating with its production values, though it was a shame that so many of the interviews were in German without any subtitles in other languages. Ice Nine Kills did a great job of mixing horror with comedy for their livestream back in October, and Bowling For Soup had to delay their two-show extravaganza for health reasons, but it was worth the wait!
Best Thing To Happen
Bear with me. Please. I’m one of the lucky ones who ended up with more work to do, but didn’t have to worry about their job. What lockdown meant was that I got to spend a lot more time with my kids than I otherwise would have. I’m separated, for those who don’t know, and usually get to see them at the weekends and holidays for work/logistical reasons. With me working from home and then being off for so long (I’m a school teacher in “real life”) it meant that I could take them on a 5 days on / 5 days off rota for weeks and weeks and it was amazing.
We did jigsaws, we played games, we talked, we baked, we did crafts, we went for walks and we watched a pair of swans build a nest, fill it with eggs, hatch one… and then lose the cygnet. OK, so that ended on a bit of a downer but it was a journey, and one that wouldn’t have happened in a “normal” year.
Site-related, we had an amazing and unexpected spike in activity when I shared a twitter post from some Irish DJ (I think) on our facebook page. 11 million views later… A shame it was only a facebook post that got the attention and not our website!
Worst Thing To Happen
While I know I wasn’t adversely affected, many of my friends were. And you lot were – bands and fans alike. Outside of the site I know people who work in catering, entertainment, nursing, dentistry… so I know how lockdown and other associated issued hit home. I hope I was of some support to those who needed it, and that we helped in some way with publicising various fundraisers for venues and bands. I know that a handful at least have managed to secure themselves in the medium term… but we have lost many more.
Thing I’m Most Looking Forward To In 2021
Live gigs. I don’t go to many, as I said, but so many of you out there rely on them for your livelihoods. This website is all about you and your music, and the live sector is a massive part of it. So from the tiny 50-caps to the 100,000 strong festivals – I can’t wait to see those rooms and fields fill up again!
I hope this year hasn’t been too bad to you all and that you’ve managed to find some positivity somewhere. There are good things around if you know where to look for them, and always remember that there are people you can talk to if it seems as if those good things are out of reach.
This website wouldn’t be possible without the input of a lot of people, from the writers and photographers we have in-house, to the musicians, publicists, venue staff, technical staff, and so on who make our scene viable. And the people who spend their time clicking our links and reading what we publish. I’m not going to name anyone because I want to thank all of you. Yes – including you.