Now that was hard work trying to narrow down a top ten of shows I attended this year from over 70 shows. In front of me now I have a list scrawled out of 17 memorable shows for one reason or another and enough scribble on the page to fill a small diary.
Some of the shows that I had to cut included debut UK shows form Belgium’s Bloodrocuted and Vektor from the United States. AC/DC rocking the foundations of Wembley Arena. The mega line up of Carcass, Obituary, Napalm Death and Voivod on the Deathcrusher tour. Intimate shows by Anthrax in Brighton and Iron Reagan in Manchester. And the merging of my teenage years and some of the newest bands on the Slam Dunk Festival (PVRIS, Beartooth, H2O and Millencolin). Finally, a honourable mention to Discharge, the inovators of D-Beat, playing a home town show to a packed venue with their new vocalist JJ.
So here it goes…
10 – Bloodstock Festival (Catton Hall 7-9th August)
I was going to steer clear of lumping a festival as one, but there were some superb performances this year. Finally seeing Dark Angel was a huge plus. Nuclear Assault’s last UK appearance. Sepultura, Overkill and Re-Animator showing everyone the old bands still have it, and overlooking the technical difficulties, Within Temptation’s headline slot had everything you wanted.
A flying trip to Holland to catch the Killfest tour. The second time I’d seen Sanctuary, but the first time with a roof. They were flawless and Overkill were as solid as ever. An added bonus of the Hedon venue being so good.
I could have picked their debut show at Hammerfest a few days earlier, but after the initial disappointment of seeing what part of the venue they were playing, it was so pleasing viewing a band playing in such a small space with so much enthusiasm.
I could have picked anyone of the three shows I attended on this tour, but by the time they sailed into Dublin they had all hit their stride, especially the returning Acid Reign after a quarter of a century away from the stage, who were as much fun that night as they were in 1990.
The reason I didn’t include Deathcrusher on the list is thanks to this headline set from Florida’s finest. I had reservations about it being upgraded to the much bigger Ballroom from the comparatively tiny Underworld. By the start of their set any misgivings were put aside as the place was pretty much full. They were on top form that night, plus there was the added bonus of seeing German thrashers Dust Bolt on the same night.
Another disappointing turn out in Nuneaton, but that didn’t deter the legendary Arizona thrashers. Tonight was a complete master class of thrash metal. Such a tight performance and compared to when I saw them last year the live vocals were much better.
Metallica are my favourite band and can really do no wrong in my book (well maybe LuLu!), but they couldn’t make my top three this year. This tour didn’t have to may surprises in the set list, but I got to see Frayed Ends of Sanity performed live and I had tickets for the Golden Circle so we managed to get pretty close and ended up with a few off stage souvenirs.
Again, I could have picked either date of the tour that I saw, but with the added size of the stage in Brixton you got more bang for your buck. Two bands who are most definitely getting better with age. Slayer were just Slayer, no banter, no jokes, no roller coasters, no prolonged solos – just pure, unadulterated, evil, thrash metal (and dancing inverted crosses!) What more could you want?
Finally the missing piece for me from the German Teutonic Big Four. If Tankard won’t come to me then I’d better go to them! After Kreator these Frankfurt beer swilling maniacs are my next favourite band of the four. Much like Anthrax or Acid Reign, they are often classed as the clowns of the bunch. That night in January they were on top form. The track (Empty) Tankard was superb sing-a-long, and seeing Gerre singing from on top of the bar right in front of me is something I won’t forget in a hurry. They were so much fun to watch.
So my favourite gig of the year happened to be the last gig I attended. Nightwish owned the cavernous Wembley Arena that evening. We were promised the full European stage show and that’s what they delivered. Metal fans have a weird preoccupation with fire in all forms and we had it all tonight! We also had smoke, ticker tape and giant video screens. The visuals were well and truly backed up with some stunning songs performed to perfection by Floor Jansen who breathed life into tracks from the departed vocalists before her. Fantastic sound too in a place so enormous, and it only cost £25. A real bargain. A truly superb evening.