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Articles Home » Best Of » Best Of 2013 - 2014 Englandashes Best Of 2013
 
Best Of 2013 - 2014 Englandashes Best Of 2013



ARTIST: Best Of 2013
ARTICLE: Englandashes Best Of 2013
YEAR: 2014

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:


Background
Professionally, I seemed to have had a shadow behind me for a good 11 months and when it finally appeared recently it was confirmation of the inevitable; ironically as during the year I probably achieved one of most fulfilling objectives, career wise. At the moment the shadow is still with me, although positively I feel this is beginning to fade and the future will be brighter. Remember if you fall, make sure you are falling forwards.

Well this year I have managed to submit 31 articles, yep not astonishing, but if you bear in mind that only Ben Stokes have reached a higher batting average for England in the recent Ashes debacle then it's pretty good, in fact still near my personal best. The brain is still ticking and still have the enthusiasm to write, as every time I listen to a piece of music, the pencil in my head is still scribbling thoughts and witty (well I think so) remarks, some fall out of my ear when turning the corner, but the good ones stay and get written down eventually.

One big achievement is that I managed to get GDM mentioned in Record Collector, although the request for an in depth feature on AOR has not been forthcoming, there again I'm not that surprised, but they were quite genuine in their apologies for the misuse of the autism condition in a feature.

Of course the end of year summary gives us all time to reflect (not sure if that sounds like the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Queen or one of those awful politicians speeches), of the music I have heard this year. While of course I am buying the AOR and melodic rock releases from the usual suspects (and at various times during the year the following did grab my attention for part of it, the likes of Niva, Pretty Maids and Fergie Frederiksen) I am more exciting by not necessary new music, but from artists that I have discovered, they have always been there but ignorance is an awful thing. A quick run-down first the old would include Elvis Costello, (please listen to the tune, 'A Man Out Of Time'), Sparks, Staind (Chapter V, could well make an appearance in this year's articles), 10cc, Roxy Music, Midlake, Michael Chapman and Soil. The new releases which just missed the top 10 are Jonathan Wilson, Matt Berry, Black Spiders, The Feeling (every time I keep playing 'Boy Cried Wolf', it just grows in my estimations), Free Fall and White Denim, I suppose the message is, don't keep the blinkers on, discover and research all kinds of music, (although maybe that should still be pre-fixed with 'rock') some will stick, some less so.

Concert wise; I managed to witness the likes of Asia, Uriah Heep, Panic Room, Paramore and the excellent Royal Southern Brotherhood, whose album would have appeared in my best of 2012, although Devon solo album 'Turquoise' released this year could have easily featured. As Devon was good enough to acknowledge 'Thank you for attending, even though it's a school night', one of the best performers I have ever seen, and he was only 10 yards away.

Buying wise, 2014 looks pretty bad, which is surprising as we keep being told how things are improving. So with on line purchasing, well play.com fell years ago, eBay I just can't get used to browsing their new systems and tend to stick with the same dependable sellers, and with Sainsbury Entertainment they have took the decision to stop selling physical cds from February, so I am afraid that Amazon have finally killed off all the opposition. Interesting to see if the prices for new releases rise, and we are become more reliant on Amazon traders. I was feeling good that I noticed if you pre order the Rock Candy stuff via Amazon, it's usually priced at 7.50 to 8.50, but news flash, any order below 10, you now get an automatic extra postage charge, are they really providing what their customers want? No! Looking at the High Street, my favourite HMV shop, being in Kettering is due to close, due to arguments between the multi-national chain and the local shopping centre owners over the rent, which seems to be a lot more important than the poor shop assistants and manager who managed to survive the first cull and to lose their livelihoods on this issue is awful, which only leaves the small monthly record fair to carry on visiting the town.

OK, if you are at a crossroads in your life remember two things, the strength and inspiration of Wilko Johnson and the following lyrics, 'Falling is easy, it's getting back up that becomes the problem, and if you believe you can find a way out, then you've solved the problem', taken from 'Falling', by Staind.


The Selections
Difficult to put in order, places 3 to 5 were as interchangeable as the Manchester City squad and would still get a win, but here goes?..

10 - Blackfield - IV
Most people listen to many different types of music, so why can't musicians be able to produce and perform likewise. Mr Wilson seems to be one of those guys who can excel in playing to different audiences whether that is here in Blackfield, Storm Corrosion, solo and his Tree stuff. But in saying that, let's have no doubt, the main hero of this album is Ari Geffen, he plays a blinder and even to the point of downplaying his senior position in this partnership, is any partnership ever equal anyone? And does it really matter.

Orchestration crawls all over this album, like football agents crawl over the latest football wonder kid, and this is a much more beneficial result, however I regret not in as monetary terms compared to musicians and hear today, gone tomorrow football stars. I love the use of different vocalists, and for once this experiment really works, but surprising it's the contributions of the likes of Brett Anderson from Suede, coming over as a young Bowie, I even brought their impressive 'Coming Up' from 1996 it's great, plus of course the astonishing Vincent Cavanagh from my favourite group Anathema, incidentally there 'Universal' live album and accompanying DVD is breath-taking, location and music wise.

The place could have easily been taken by the likes of Spocks Beard or Subsignal, but I have gone with this, yes fairly a small offering if we are talking length, but who needs 70 minutes of extended drivel, what is the optimum length of an album? At only 31 minutes long there is less fat on this album than there is on Jessica Ennis. Avoid this album is you lack a musical heart.

9 - Orphaned Land - All For One
I not entirely sure that this on its own merits a top ten placing. However just like a player gets booked for repeated fouls over the course of a game, this group over the course of the year has been a marvellous revelation. This album really just makes that last crunching tackle to warrant a placing. However how I came to really appreciate this group comes from the fact that sometimes that you can buy too many albums. This group has been the ultimate sleeper in my collection, as it wasn't till recently that after a good 5 years I re-engaged with the 2004 album, 'Mabool' which had been sitting in my collection, so impressed I went out and brought their 2010 album,' The Never Ending Way of ORwarriorOR', which I can upmost recommend the songs, 'The Path Parts 1 and 2'. Well stupid bugger as I am, after an afternoon filing, I realised I already had this album in the racks, of course unplayed.

Anyway, what they have achieved on 'All For One' should not be sniffed at. Incredible musicianship, the opening salvo of the title track sweeps most of the opposition under the carpet. If your only taste of music from the Middle East, is Queen's, 'Mustapha', then try a bit harder, like these guys from Israel. They have managed to cross many boundaries, not just of a border, but religion. It's amazing that here in the United Kingdom; we get so worked up about Scotland breaking away.

They have manage to create a successful career in the most difficult of situations in the world, let this help explore, probe and illuminate the deeper depths of your musical senses, it may give you a different outlook on life.

By the way, other reviewers the world over, the harsh vocals are not totally absence they appear on the track 'Fail' this may give the odd bit of pain to the ear, but it's a long way from the heart to do any permanent damage, I personally thrive on it.

8 - Alter Bridge - Fortress
Maybe due to his success with Slash (although I always enjoyed the Mayfield Four) I have warmed to Alter Bridge, surely there would be few people who wouldn't identify with the impressiveness of their anthem, ' Open Your Eyes' from their album 'One Day Remains', but I've struggled to find anything to meet this on subsquenent releases. It doesn't happen a lot when it's takes the fourth album from a group to display a substantial jump in maturity, song writing and quality. The Classic Rock reviewer hit the nail on the head when he mentioned 'the songs don't go where you expect them to'. The likes of 'Cry Of Achilles' really clips your heel and you fall into a swamp of heavy rhythms, it provides the perfect opening ceremony, with its final parting gift of 'something beautiful, is still alive' and the just downright supreme 'Peace Is Broken' and my soundtrack to my winter running schedule of 'Addicted To Pain'. While 'Calm The Fire' which slightly duplicates an earlier mentioned lyrics, but this time its 'something good, something beautiful' but see if you can notice the AC/DC, 'Heat seeker' riff massaged into the song. Just these tracks have already gained a 90% approval rating (in your dreams Mr Cameron and Cleggy) in my view. While previous albums just trundled along, this skips on and off the rails, it takes wonderful detours. This is not a rickety building as the album cover leads you to believe, this is a bridge of size, hard, iron and foreboding, its metal Jim but not as we know it. Contained within these walls is an outright assault of torrential riffing power, extreme streams of fluent memorising riffamania.They have certainly built an impenetrable fortress.

7 - Michael Monroe - Horns And Halos
I do find it frustrating how this album has been largely ignored when hype was piled onto his album 'Sensory Overdrive released in 2011. This latest release is some much more superior, the ancestry of the Sex Pistols in the guitar riffs can be heard melting the guitar strings from the likes of 'TNT Diet', and Michael doesn't look like stopping, full pelt into the glorious looks and hooks of the title track, the playful reminiscing of 'Ballad Of The Lower East Side', the melodic vibe is certainly here, this best shown with 'Stained Glass Heart', may even have a tint of Bon Jovi about this track, but Bon Jovi colours has certainly faded over the last couple of releases whereas Michael still maintaining enough colourful schemes and a range of hats to keep going for years to come. Of course it's all been done before, by whom? By himself and the boys of Hanoi Rocks of course, but maybe not to this level of consistency but like all of us who enjoyed those mascara days, Michael has finally grown from those days on the rocks, into a fully-fledged legend.

6 - Fall Out Boy - Save Rock And Roll
Yea kidding right?, I have two images of Fall Out Boy, the video with the kid with horns from his head with a vocalist who seemed to look and have the mannerisms of a young Dave Bickler (pretty absurd?but I do) plus the guy seemed to be getting bigger in statue every time I saw him. So sitting there one day, the video for 'The Phoenix' was on, well obviously on first thoughts they brought in a new singer, well wrong, Patrick Stump must had shed a shedload of pounds, he looks great and he sounds great. The sound, well at least on the first song, a cross between Adam Lambert, Lady Ga Ga, and Kiss, it just burns, it explodes. They even managed to cram in some orchestra, so that enough to suck me in. Amazingly it gets even better with 'My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Me Up)', written by Butch Walker, so you know it's going to have multiple hooks, great song title, great song, and the bit with 'On Fire', is going to be used in every wrestling TV show, In fact it has already been used on BBC sports personality, when boxer Karl Froch was introduced.

Maybe I am having a mid-life crises and a 44 year old with a beard (temporary measure only due to keeping my warm at night while out running), should not be jigging up and down and lots of bloody pointing. I haven't pointed some much since listening to Saxon!

At this point I am gonna stop, as I am going to finish the story for this album in my first article of the year, that's either a good thing or a bad thing, depending if you have an accepting soul of something different, we will wait and see.

5 - Anneke Van Giersbergen - Drive
I never took much interest in The Gathering, where Anneke once lived, and it was not until she appeared sparingly on the Devin Townsend album 'Addicted' that I woke up, incidentally that was part of my top ten of 2009. Since that point while I have struggled to show the same affection for Devin later albums I have been utterly obsessed by Anneke career since this fateful day. With the odd hint of Paramore in the likes of tune 'She' and 'Drive', you would have thought a career entertaining countless teenagers with what is downright the best in popular music I've heard in years, would have beckoned, but poor marketing and inability by the record label Century Media to fully tap into different markets seem to have failed, in the United Kingdom anyway. The poignancy displayed on 'My Mother Said' is touching, while the complete brilliance of 'We Live On' is uplifting and the Orphaned Land stillness of the glorious of 'Mental Jungle'. Incredible singer with credible song writing skills.

4 - Houston -II
Well if you believed the review of this in Classic Rock by his holiness Geoff Barton, then you would have thought that Houston have a major problem, a pretty pointless view, that was out of touch and if he is already got bored with AOR, why does he continue with the AOR specials?, probably due to them being cheap to produce but still governing a high purchase price.

It was another case of the press building a group up and then hammering down into the ground, well Mr B didn't bank on the AOR lovers thinking for themselves, just look at the feedback this has received here at GDM. Their debut appeared in my best of 2010, while the new release is an album I have enjoyed even more, OK my favourite track may be the re-engineering of 'Return My Heart' that first appeared on the Prisoner II in 2001, but I don't see anything wrong in hearing this again. (I wonder why Prisoner has yet to be covered in these walls?). Looking back, this CD arrived at my abode the same day as Degreed; even Australia hasn't had such a successful day, than I did in that 24 hours.

Just the opening keys to this album speak volumes, and the buyer has unlocked a goldmine of true AOR nuggets. Beautifully composed, sang, played, produced album. Swedish music has always set an intolerable high standard and I am happy to judge that they have reached; actually they have jumped well clear over the mark. Take 'I'm Coming Home', yes incredibly cheesy, but cheese is great, and I would take cheese any day over chocolate.

During the ten tracks they are continuing squeezing the orange, to get every last ounce of brilliance out of their performances and as songwriters. Immaculate AOR, which has arrived on time. This could have the shortest lead time before re-issued on Rock Candy, and for the second time, Houston we still don't have a problem.

3 - Therion - Les Fleurs Du Mal
I am partial to the combination of opera and downright over the top orchestration with rock. Many groups have attempted to take aspects of metal and tried to merge it with opera. Initially Nightwish made a pretty good stab at it, but whatever way you look at it, they never totally succeeded at the opera element, and by losing Tarja it really fell out of their primary objectives.

This year saw the Italians, Fleshgod Apocalypse with 'Labyrinth' mixing this to extremes and nearly found its way into my top 10, talk about blasting symphonies. Just a shed more subtle is this inclusion. Overall it's a more joyous feel, majority of the vocals are by females, with the odd male vocal when of which is provided by Thomas Vikstrom yes him of no less, the likes of GDM favourites Talk Of The Town. In the hands of Therion, the combination which appears on a large proportion of the album works magnificently. The fundamental difference is that this is all sang in French, as they are a collection of original French songs, from the likes of Serge Gainsbourg. I was quite young when I soon realised and the teachers that I was never going to master a different language, however if they had used this album as a training tool, then things might have turned out differently, French is a beautiful language. It's a wonderful album, it's melodic, it's interesting, it has frilly shirts and Charles I moustaches and downright pompous and that's why its appeals to me so much. It's an album so obscure, so original, it's gratifying that after all these years you discover something totally different, new and exciting. Amazing album. Want pomp? Listen to those horns on the track 'Initials B.B', perfect. Is this the best French inspired record, since the Trust anthem, 'Anti-social' or Plastic Bertrand? you choose! Essentially it's a thundering herd of goodness.

2 - Buckcherry - Confessions
The snarl, the sweat, and the downright fidgetiness this band puts the listener through. I get real frustrated when I read a reviewer state how the listener want them to revisit what they peddle since the debut, what nonsense, the debut was never as good of what this group has since issued, at least the last 4 albums. It infuryfriates me when a promo grabber does that, have you listened to this album. I want something new, fresh and exciting and Buckcherry deliver every time, if I wanted to stay in the past, recycling the same old clinches I would be listening to the last couple of Whitesnake albums and reading Kerrang.

This from the outset provides all that a melodic rock person would want. The brutal, hip shaking 'Gluttony', the sordid 'Nothing Left But Tears'. We even find those rarest of things from a rock album, originality in the picture 'Pride', the spoken style of this is fresh, beautiful and honest, then pitch it to the melodic of 'Envy', this made me feel like a teenager again, lyric wise, 'She's got everything, I hate it cause I envy him, and he doesn't care like I do', this easily sets next to The Undertones 'Teenage Kicks' in expressing those feelings.

1 - Degreed - We Don't Belong
Plain and simple, this is the album I have played the most this year. This hooks the current sound of 30 Seconds To Mars with 'Inside Of Me' and still manages to capture in its nets the brilliance of a bygone era of the Champlin inspired tracks of 'In For The Ride', the White Wolf of 'Black Cat', which shreds anything I have heard this year as an opening statement. This re-energizer's my feelings on melodic rock music. Like with the Anneke, I really think that this album should be pushed down the necks of other listeners, because I feel that these two albums would appeal to a larger market than they are only been currently picked up by. It has the necessary amount of juice to get there.

Some of the tunes here for instance like ' In For The Ride', would had appeared on Chicago 65, that's the number the Chicago boys would had been at if they had continued recording albums, given each one the next numerical. But that's only a small snatch of what is covered here, they have shown the ability to include a wide range of musical rock styles, again I'll pick up mentioning the influences of the more modern sound of 30 Seconds To Mars falling from this time of 'Follow Her Home' and 'Access Denied', and the downright pleasures of 'What If' and 'Here I Am', you know what?, I don't even feel they have stretch themselves, they should be full of positive arrogance.

More best bits, well there are more diamonds than you will find in a South Africa diamond mine, in my opinion they sparkle with the piano plonking of 'Broken Hearted' or the wretched emotion best displayed on the title track, they even draw out my favourite lyric of the year with 'love is only a four letter lie' plus the From The Fire inspired 'Coming Home'. Absolutely perfect.

Thank you for staying with me!


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