18th January, 2020, at the Waterfront in Norwich, UK. Starting the photographic year with an evening of Finnish metal; loved the show and you can find the review here. Little did I know that it would be the one and only concert that I would photograph this year. Apart from the odd phone snap of a video stream on the TV... and that's where all our live music was, on screens. At least once people began to realise that the pandemic wouldn't just disappear within a few weeks.
Two online events that were wonderful: first, Marillion's Couch Convention in September, a three-day event with not only streamed concerts but support acts, interactive sessions, merch... and confetti: I kid you not, I'm still digging bits of confetti out from under the rug and behind the TV. Sheer genius... it really helps that the worldwide fans are like one huge family and it was a chance to catch up with people that, in a normal year, we might have bumped into at a show. But 2020 was never going to be normal - the Couch Convention showed just how some planning and ingenuity and some wonderful music can make so many people happy. (Through this, and other things like this prize draw, the band has been raising funds to help all the road and stage crew that have been badly affected by the halt in performances and touring.)
The second of my favouite online events: Steve H's wonderful H Natural live stream from St John's in Oxford. Just beautiful. (To find out more, and to listen to his podcasts, go here: http://www.stevehogarth.com/.)
My favourite new album of the year? This... Mother from In This Moment. I've listened to it - a lot - throughout the year.
Just a few best bits... next year will have more. Happy new year to you all!
Not been writing much: who wants to read about lockdowns and misery and lack of live music? Instead, we keep busy (or not) with other things; tending the garden, walking for miles, working at jobs - those of us lucky-enough to have work that we can do from home, or essential jobs (thank you, all of you) - finding other creative outlets (I spent much time stripping wallpaper and organizing a full refurb of a Victorian property in a seaside town, much less time than usual listening to my usual escape, music, because the lyrics were playing again and again in my head at 3am rather like too-much Tetris, though that seems to have passed, thank you Universe).
Chris "Motionless" Cerulli, Motionless In White
We may look back on 2020 and reminisce, how many concerts did you miss? How many tickets bought, yet still held for next year, or the year after? How many books did you read or TV shows did you binge? How much weight did you drop, or gain?
Joe Cotela, DED
How many people did you lose? (That's going to be the hardest. As a world, a country, a community, a family, as a human being and a humanity.)
No, I didn't want to write about 2020. So I took a look through the photo archive, and found a few that I had missed editing at the back end of 2019. A little editing burnout; a lot of work to catch up on; some close-to-the-pandemic business trips and heck, just plain forgetfulness. So now here they are; a reminder of festivals past (they are from Aftershock 2019 - this year's festivals were, of course, postponed to 2021).
Joe Duplantier, Gojira
Here's to the new year; may it bring hope, health, happiness, and music. I hope to see you in the crowd and in the photo pit many more times yet!
New single from Lamb of God, taken from their upcoming new album. Lamb Of God, planned for release May 9th via Epic Records and available for pre-order now. Memento Mori has a gentle start... but take a listen... watch... wait for it....
“There is a vast amount of indisputably real and depressingly negative occurrences happening across the globe,” vocalist D. Randall Blythe explains. “Currently, at the forefront of everyone’s mind is the global COVID-19 pandemic. This is a very real concern, and proper precautions need to be taken by EVERYONE in order to protect those most at risk - the elderly, infirm, and immunocompromised. It is indeed a scary time, but in this hyper-connected age with its 24/7 never-ending news cycle of atrocity, outrage and lurid click-bait headlines (not to mention ill-informed lunatics running amok and spreading misinformation and panic on social media), it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that life is still carrying on, and good things do in fact still happen.”
Lamb of God are D. Randall Blythe (vocals), Mark Morton (guitar), Willie Adler (guitar), John Campbell (bass) and Art Cruz (drums).
Five Finger Death Punch, touring Europe and supported by both Bad Wolves and Megadeth - yes, that Megadeth - zoomed into the UK to play two dates, mid-tour: Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena and London's Wembley SSE Arena. Cardiff was a bit more of an adventure - hadn't been there since many, many years - and a little more personal, with a capacity of 5,000 versus the SSE's 12,500. I'm used to seeing them in front of tens of thousands at USA festivals so the smaller venue would be cool; Cardiff is reachable by train, road, bus, and plane, accomodation is more affordable than London... and there are dragons... who can resist dragons! So for this tour, Cardiff was my choice, though I'm sure Wembley was stunning and those who were able to experience both shows must have been ecstatic and there was a teeny, weeny bit of green monster wriggling in my thoughts after the Cardiff show - and a question: why didn't I plan on going to both? (Must not be greedy. Must not be greedy. Must not be greedy. Let everyone have their turn.)
Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, Wales, 2020
With show-openers Bad Wolves (so much more than their excellent cover of Zombie), and mega-metal-stars Megadeth playing too (with Dave Mustaine now happily cancer-free), this was a not-to-miss tour.
Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, Wales, 2020
Five Finger Death Punch opened with Lift Me Up and the crowd erupted. A full, high-energy, more-up-than-down FFDP setlist including an acoustic Wrong Side of Heaven and ending with The Bleeding. Accompanying the music; visuals including a giant skull and crossed bats, lasers, blasts of pyro that heated the entire arena; two, yes two, explosions of wonderful confetti; Jason Hook rising way, way up into the sky on the pointy end of a vertig-inducing, tiny platform; dreadlock swirling from Chris Kael's beard and Zoltan Bathory's hair; epic drumming from the new boy, Charlie Engen; and in front of it all, Ivan Moody. Love the hat, Ivan. Love the hat.
Jason Hook, guitar, Five Finger Death Punch
Five Finger Death Punch have a way of involving every person in the audience; whether it's shining flashlights for a birthday song, celebrating sobriety, or simply singing along to the songs. This, together with knowing just how much they do for military veterans and other causes, make the show is a moving experience; if you haven't seen them yet, a) why not and b) it's about time.
Confetti... Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Sometimes I'm at a show with an official photo pass and pro cameras; sometimes I'm there to embrace the fan experience. This was definitely the latter - the photos are all phone pics taken from the crowd. Atmospheric maybe - zoomable, poster-size quality, definitely not! You'll find a more photos here. I'm very happy to have shared the experience with one daughter who travelled in from France, two best friends from the East Midlands, and a whole slew of fans from all around the UK and further. Music tourism is great - we should have added on a day, and tickets to the Wales-Italy rugby match too (I'm sure some FFDP fans did just that!)
Here's a preview from the new album: Inside Out, available now:
Just a couple of nothing-to-do-with-the-performance-or-the-band niggles:
Timing: people were at the venue early, patiently waiting for 6.30 pm: snaking around the building for what felt like miles. Security clearance was rapid and efficient, and yet so many folks missed part, if not all, of Bad Wolves set - including those who were there specifically to see them. Maybe Motorpoint Arena should have opened the doors thirty minutes or an hour sooner. Someone must have known how long it would take to bring a capacity crowd into the venue - it's not rocket science.
Beer: I have been to many, many concerts over many, many years, in many countries and venues, and never have I seen so much spilled beer - and dumped plastic cups - all over the floor, in my hair, and over other people and left in puddles at the end of the show. Back in the day, you wanted to drink (and talk loudly), you stayed in the bar and consumed from oft-reused glass mugs; the venue floor was for the music and the music alone. Would I be a party-pooper to say I preferred that?
Vocalist Niilo Sevänen's growls flow like warm honey over a bed of rusty nails, entwined with the melodic riffs of guitarists Markus Vanhala and Jani Liimatainen (Ville Friman is not touring), and the throbbing, drubbing heart of drums driven by Markus Hirvonen. And headbanging is a must, a must.
Insomnium, The Waterfront, Norwich, January 2020
Heart Like A Grave is at the same time melancholic and beautiful; the hour-long album is one to be listened to many times to hear all the nuances, the layers, the depth... and to explore Finnish poetry and folklore. Here's a taster, the title song, in case you haven't heard them yet:
If you have seen the "Scandinavian death metal" categorization of Insomnium, (I so detest genre labels), don't let that label define they for you nor dictate whether-or-not to listen. Check out the band's influences and a picture will form... whether you like your metal progressive, or your prog more metal, or your hard rock melodic, or your folk heavy-as-hell: Insomnium should fit well with your collection. (And note: the artbook version of the CD is a sombre collection of bleak, gorgeous photos and the lyrics to all the songs. It's a keeper.)
Hailing from Bridgend, South Wales, Those Damn Crows not only have an intriguing, listen-to-me-now name, evocative of a horde of persistent, characterful creatures who once you've noticed them are ever-present, no matter where you look... they have a distinctive sound with songs well worth a listen. Hard rock but very melodic - with wonderful vocals.
While they've been making their presence known here in the UK, with appearances at Download last year and other festivals, they'll no doubt appeal to a worldwide audience - are they on a Sirius XM Octane playlist yet?
Those Damn Crows are Shane Greenhall (vocals), Ronnie Huxford (drums), Ian 'Shiner' Thomas and David Winchurch (guitars) and LLoyd Wood (bass). Find out more on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also - several interviews with the band on YouTube, including this one with Total Rock Radio.